It’s the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we’re hungry. Like, “can’t-think-straight” hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner’s Ready, her monthly column on weeknight wonders, she shares three simple, flavor-packed recipes that are connected by a single idea or ingredient. Stick with Emily, and you’ll have a good dinner on the table in no time. Today, Emily shows us how to dust off our Dutch ovens and make crave-worthy soups fit for fall.
In Northern Virginia where I live, we had a stretch of chilly September weather that immediately put me into winterizing mode. I pulled sweaters from the back of my closet, piled blankets on the bed, and researched heat lamps for our patio in the hopes that we can pull off a few socially-distant visits with friends as the temperature drops. (My husband, who never gets cold even in the dead of winter, isn’t convinced we need one. “Just layer up!” is his motto.)
But the best thing I did? I dusted off my Dutch oven and fully commenced soup and stew season. I’m determined to find as many cozy, comforting dinners as possible for the challenging months ahead. That’s why, in this second week of fall, I already have a lineup of soups and stews in my weeknight rotation.
Beyond their warming vibes, there are so many good reasons to start simmering up big pots of hearty soups and stews right now.
First, these recipes make excellent use of early fall produce: freshly dug sweet potatoes; plump cabbages; dark, leafy greens. They’re adaptable and forgiving no matter what’s in your pantry and fridge. And with so many flavor combinations and textures to work with—from smooth and creamy to thick and rustic—there’s a version for practically every mood and craving.
But most compelling, to me, is their ease. Most soups and stews come together in one pot, and aside from a little prep and sautéing time upfront, they’re mostly hands-off. Even better, most can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen until needed. At the end of a long day, these types of simple, satisfying dinners are not only convenient, they’re essential.
Below are three of my favorite go-to soups and stews for busy, chilly nights. While distinct in personality, each is ready in about 30 minutes and will warm you from the inside out, even without a heat lamp nearby.
This is not your ordinary tomato soup. It’s got a Spanish tilt, thanks to the combo of tomatoes, roasted red peppers, smoked paprika, and sherry vinegar. It’s also lusciously creamy without any dairy—all thanks to canned white beans that get simmered and blended into the soup. To gild the lily, crisp-up a few more white beans in olive oil, then scatter them and some snipped chives on top of each bowlful. It’s a full meal in and of itself, but a grilled cheese sandwich for dunking wouldn’t be out of place.
It’s impossible to go wrong with the combination of sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and hearty greens. But the real star of this stew is the broth. It’s flavored with maple syrup, soy sauce, and lime juice (inspired by Carla Lalli Music’s Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter)—which impart beguiling salty-savory-sweet notes to the veg-packed stew. But my favorite part? Swirling hummus (yes, hummus!) into the stew when it’s done simmering to boost the rich chickpea flavor and nicely thicken the broth—a new-to-me trick that I can’t wait to extend to other soups and stews, as well.
This super cozy, rib-sticking soup is layered with umami from the bottom-up—from aromatics sautéed in sausage fat, to a rich, caramelized tomato-Parmesan broth, to lots of grated Parmesan that’s showered over the soup before serving. Better yet, it’s completely adaptable based on what you have on hand. Reach for different vegetables, proteins, and small pastas or rice, and marvel at how these simple ingredients come together to make something so soul satisfying.
What’s your favorite fall soup recipe? Let us know in the comments.