simmering harvest-flavor soups, and a book

soup 5I AM COOKING UP MY NEXT BOOK, deep in the throes of it, and I guess my dear literary agent Kris Dahl wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the house, not ever, until it’s done, so she sent a care package. In the mail arrived “Love Soup,” a new cookbook by another of her clients, Anna Thomas. Now I am watching a literal pot come to a boil, too, day in and out, as I turn the sweet and white potatoes and kale and chard and all the other cool-season goodness left in the garden into a coming winter of feasts.

love soup coverThomas’s first book, the million-plus-seller “Vegetarian Epicure,” came out when I was first experimenting with vegetarianism, in the early 1970s. The experiment eventually stuck about 30 years ago, just before my lifetime habit of gardening did, and with the two combined practices I’ve have a lot of vegetables on my hands, and plate. As many ways as I know how to process and store a harvest, though, I’m always left with “too much” of something, or something that just won’t keep until I finish all of it—but not now, owing to the simple genius of the way “Love Soup” is arranged: by season, and within each season largely by ingredient.

Now I have a third way to put up my annual bounty of parsley (the first two are here): three “bunches” will go into each batch of “Parsley Soup” that Thomas says is like “a rustic leek and potato soup that’s been taken over by a gang of parsley, but in the nicest way.”

A double batch of “Green Soup With Sweet Potatoes and Sage” (top photo, in the bowl on the right) is already in my freezer; a whole section of “green soups” (using leafy greens as a key ingredient) is a particular delight, since I seem to have mastered their growing this year and have more than I thought I could ever otherwise use.

The “Roasted Turnip and Winter Squash Soup” in the video (above) is next on my list; you can see from it how un-fussy and can-do Thomas’s approach is. I’ve already made a vat of lentil soup (top photo, left-hand bowl), one of my standards, but updated with inspiration from “Love Soup.” If you have some measuring cups, a big pot, a ladle and a sharp knife, you’re about to be an expert soup-maker; some really good olive oil and soft goat cheese make the ideal finishing touches, she advises. More than 50 recipes in the 160-recipe book–breads and salads and sides and even sweets–help make soup into a meal, Thomas-style.

I’m counting it as an omen to have an author as successful as Anna Thomas “here” with me while I cook and work—yes, my next book is being brewed in the dining half of my kitchen, at the old Swedish harvest table. I know when I am done and allowed to think about plants again, Thomas’s presence will re-invigorate my vegetable gardening, too; don’t be surprised to find me planting a soup garden come spring.

“Love Soup” is a must companion for everyone with a vegetable garden, or a kitchen (this means everybody). Just ask my sister, Marion–agent Kris sent her a copy, too. Our entire family’s now cooking at the stovetop and keyboard alike. You?


  1. Oh, you’ve now given me the inspiration for the last of the CSA turnips. No one else will eat them in the house, unless BBQed and I’m not doing that in today’s snow.
    Now, on to that stock.

  2. Judy says:

    I’ve used Anna Thomas’ recipes for years. Great to hear that she has a new book. And you too Margaret. Can’t wait. I’ve been a fan of your columns for years and feel so blessed that you are going this blog.

  3. Amy says:

    Margaret, you are the best! Just when I was wondering how I was going to survive another New England winter, you give us something new and interesting to think about. And I still have leeks in the garden. Maybe leek and potato soup with a handful or two of arugula…….

  4. Renie says:

    Hi Margaret. I’m usually a lurker but couldn’t resist jumping in because I love Anna Thomas, too, and have already cooked from her new book. Whoever thought of soup being seasonal? But of course she’s right: I make lots of borscht in the summer. Did you know that she wrote the first book to raise money for making films?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Renie. You do seem like the lurker type. :) Funny you mention the motivation of the first book – that she was an aspiring filmwriter and wanted to fund films. Our shared agent just told me that yesterday when I called to ask her more and thank her for sending me the cookbook. So Anna Thomas, accidental cookbook author! I am going to try one of the winter-squash concoctions today. Maybe we will have a soupfest?

  5. There’s no one like Anna Thomas! My roommate and I each bought a copy of her first book the year it came out and cooked our way through it. We were thrilled at a book that spoke in such a personal voice. I just made her apple crisp the other night. Most memorable thing about that book (other than the recipes) were Anna’s remarks about “smoking grass socially at your house” after dinner which resulted in the “two-hours-later-course.” Those were the days. How lovely to have a new Anna to look forward to and to put beside its three siblings on the shelf.

  6. Pat (Patricia) More says:

    Margaret, I cannot come up with the words to express how ecstatic I am to have discovered your website and blog. It simply and honestly lifts my spirits that I have access to it. Gardening is my passion, but having just recently discovered that vegetarianism is for me, your cooking messages are just thrilling me no end. Soup always appealed to me as a better way to eat, but until I discovered your passion for it, including the book tips, I never really did anything with soup. I am on fire now, and I love you to pieces for your generosity.

  7. This blog has become my all-time favorite garden cozy-up-with, more like a visit with a pal instead of a great resource, but it’s wonderful at both. You’re a bit north of us here in the Ozarks, so I even get a peek into the future. If you’re on the hunt for cozy DVDs, my all-time favorites are “Waking Ned Divine” and “Antonia’s Line.” I’m not sure the latter is on DVD, but it won an Oscar for best foreign film in, I think, 1995. It’s delicious. Excuse me, I gotta go make some soup.

  8. Margaret says:

    Welcome, Pat. What a sweet comment, thank you, though I hope we don’t need to call 911 to cool you off. :) I am here, and you and the other visitors mean at least as much to me as I do to you/them, so thanks for making the circle complete. See you soon.

    Welcome, Marideth. I am off to Netflix to look for those, thank you. I am do appreciative that you answered my call in today’s email newsletter for help with winter-cozy dvd’s. Hope you visit soon again anytime.

  9. deb says:

    We just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and I made Roasted Red Pepper Soup, a not so traditional tradition.
    We are a soup family!
    Thanks again for so many inspiring posts.

  10. Anna Thomas says:

    Margaret, what a wonderful column — thanks for the love, and back at you! What is the book you are writing at the old Swedish harvest table? And how do you find time to write the book when you are cooking ALL MY FAVORITE SOUPS? You are my kitchen sister. And I love the comments, too. Yes, Johanna, “call in soup.”

    But the idea of a soup garden, that touches my heart. After all, it is the gardeners and farmers who do the real work, and make us look good in the kitchen….

    Thank you, Margaret.

    Anna Thomas

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Anna, and thank you for the kind words (and for writing the book just at the very right time). Last evening, after roasting two more 20-plus-pound winter squash, I went out with my bucket and rubber gloves and dug around by hand in the sweet-potato row and the white-potato row for just enough of each to try two more soups today.

      How do I find time? My hyperactivity knows no bounds, especially where there is writing to procrastinate about. I am one of those people who has to be up, be doing; my grandmother (who inspired me to cook and garden) always said “busy hands are happy hands” and it stuck and then some. I have always been a juggler; having the soup to stir across the room makes the time at the table more productive, and as I pace (which I do when I write) I just pace over to the kettle, or to chop another round of onions for the next batch.

      The book is a sort of dropout memoir, about moving to the woods at peak career and trading all that in for some peace. It is about solitude and nature and also a lot about magic, I suppose. We shall see. I am thrilled to “meet” you and expect our paths will cross again. Now if I can just find some epazote at the local food coop today…

  11. Anna Thomas says:

    Oh Margaret, how well I know it — the hyperactivity of procrastination! Once I was speaking at a conference about writing — I think it was about screenwriting — and someone asked me how I begin. I said, I begin the way everyone does: first I clean out all my closets and re-design the front yard and return 3 dozen phone calls that have been waiting…. But having a good “pacing destination” does help.

    Epazote can be found at any Mexican or Latin American grocery store. And your book sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to have a copy in my kitchen library.

  12. Kit says:

    That looks so easy and so good! I just made a wonderful soup this week using garden kale and chard and spinach (along with some savory vegies and herbs). Feels like a blood transfusion full of b-vitamins! Thanks for the book recommendation….hmmm… I’m tempted to go out right now! I need more ideas for using vegies although our garden here in zone 4a has had it (except for some kale and parsely!)

  13. Lisa says:

    I have not stopped cooking from this book since it arrived in my hands. Today I took potato pizza and kale salad (with the roasted squash substitution) over to a friend’s house for an extended lunch and everybody raved. Returned home to make winter squash soup plus a cucumber & rice salad so that there was something in my own fridge to start the week off. So delicious and so satisfying.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Lisa. Me, too. I have now tried four or five of the soups and the freezers are full. Not sure what to do next…buy another freezer? See you soon again I hope.

  14. Carole C says:

    Had to buy Anna Thomas’s book after reading the story and all the exciting messages. In the past week I’ve made 3 soups, applesauce, pesto and tomato sauce. I have three kinds of potatoes, kale and onions still to use although I’m sorry to say they came from a nearby farm stand rather than my garden. (not enough sun) I’m searching the house for more containers and rearranging my freezer to accommodate more soup. The cool temperature here on Long Island and at my second home in the Berkshires make cooking soup a comforting way to spend an afternoon!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Carole C. I am into Soup #5 at this point from Anna’s book; so far every one has been great. And as you know, my tomato sauce, pesto and applesauce are already tucked away here, too, so I guess we are looking a lot like twins. See you soon again, I hope.

  15. lynn druskat says:

    I adore soups as a vehicle for using all of those things in the garden that are still going, hello, it is December here in Southeastern New England, still harvesting the chard i started in April, the leeks are great, the beets getting sweeter by the day, the kale is going crazy, and i have a huge crop of cilantro that reseeded, how lovely!!!! Is there anything more comforting than holding a hand made bowl full of warmth and delicious soup? I hope i can find the book, great gift for my kids and a great way for them to use the fall CSA treasures. enjoy, all of you!!!! Lynn

  16. Carolyn says:

    Try wrapping each asparagus spear in a half slice of bacon wrapped spirally. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or so, or until bacon is crisp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.