The earthy sweetness and hearty texture unique to fall vegetables can be coaxed to delicious perfection in many ways—but it’s in a puréed soup that those wonderful qualities really shine. For the velvety, satisfying fall soups that follow, all you have to do is brown some vegetables, add broth, simmer until everything is tender, and then purée. It’s that simple.
To create even more depth and dimension, I layer on an interesting flavor or two, adding ingredients to the sauté early on, as well as stirring them in after puréeing. A garnish just before serving adds texture and flair. And if you want, you can enhance the texture by puréeing only part of the soup, for a silky-chunky counterpoint. I get especially good results when I do this with the Wild Mushroom & Sherry Soup.
On a weeknight, why not try Butternut Squash Soup with Apple & Bacon or Parsnip & Parmesan Soup. I like these soups with a green salad and a baguette, or with grilled cheese sandwiches. But they’re also ideal for weekends and entertaining because they make an easy and elegant first course. Also, all of these soups can be made up to two days ahead and then reheated before garnishing and serving.
Tips for the best puréed soups
Cut your vegetables small for faster cooking. A 1/2-inch dice needs no more than 10 minutes of simmering before it’s soft enough to purée.
Don’t stir the vegetables too often during the sauté; once every two minutes or so is good. This helps them brown, and that, in turn, will flavor your soup, giving it nuance beyond simply simmered vegetables.
Use a blender to get the smoothest soup. If you use a stand blender, be sure to let the liquid cool slightly, work in batches, and hold a towel over the lid to avoid overflowing. An immersion blender works well, too, and is even more convenient.
Don’t be afraid of salt—it can make all the difference. Taste your soup before serving and add salt to taste. The flavors will get brighter and more pronounced.
Add an attractive garnish: It can really give the soup pizzazz. Use a sprig of an herb that’s in your soup, a drizzle of a flavored oil, or a sprinkle of shredded cheese. A dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche can also enhance a simple puréed soup, making it party-fancy in both flavor and appearance.