Our traumatized community has some recovery to do. Even those of us who suffered no lasting damage won’t soon forget the emotions we felt about possibly losing our homes and the stressful days of not knowing what the future might hold.
Food, beyond what’s needed for sustenance, can seem like a ridiculous concern at such times, but sharing a meal with friends and neighbors is one way to heal.
Soup is comfort food, easy to make in quantity and easy to transport to people in need. This is the week to get your biggest pot out and make a hearty minestrone or chowder for the family or the neighborhood. Nourishing others will make you feel useful.
The Napa Farmers’ Market has everything you need to make all manner of vegetable soups. Simmer some rice, butternut squash and kale in chicken broth and you have a satisfying and restorative meal. Add a can of chick peas or other beans to make it more substantial.
Legumes like split peas and lentils make a rib-sticking base for autumn soups. Simmer them until soft in salted water, vegetable stock or chicken stock. Add sautéed onions and mushrooms, ribbons of chard and some chopped tomato. Season with cumin or fennel seed, or with rosemary and parsley. A little bacon or pancetta never hurts, and a drizzle of olive oil on top is always a good idea.
Some people think of the soup pot as the last resting place for all the sad and withered veggies from their fridge. You can make decent soup that way, but just-picked autumn vegetables from the farmers’ market will produce a result you are proud to share. Open a bottle of Napa Valley red wine and call some friends who could use a boost.
Chef Demo: Chef Greg Cole will demonstrate a pear cake at the Napa Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. The demonstration is free and a recipe will be provided.
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Autumn Squash and Kale
From “Fresh from the Farmers’ Market” by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books).
As most farmers’ market shoppers discover, some of the best recipes are created spontaneously from items you find at the market together. In Northern California in autumn, that could mean tomatoes, squash, rosemary and kale—fine flavorings for a split pea soup.
Like all soups based on legumes, this one thickens considerably as it cools. If you make it ahead, you will need to thin it with a mixture of broth and water in equal amounts.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, minced
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried yellow split peas
1 fresh rosemary sprig, 4 inches long
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed for thinning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound peeled hard-shelled squash such as Kabocha or Butternut, in 1/3-inch dice
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/3 pound kale or green chard, ribs removed
Heat olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add pancetta and saute until it renders some of its fat, about 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft and sweet, about 10 minutes. Add split peas, rosemary, 4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer, cover and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until split peas are completely soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Taste often and remove rosemary sprig when rosemary flavor is strong enough. (It should be subtle.)
Season soup with salt and pepper. Stir in squash and tomatoes. Stack kale leaves a few at a time and slice into ribbons about 1/4 inch wide. Stir them into the soup, cover and cook until squash and kale are tender, about 20 minutes. If soup is a little thick, thin with chicken broth. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.
Janet Fletcher is a Napa food writer and a member of the Napa Farmers’ Market board of directors.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May through October, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about participating vendors at the information booth. For more market information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit NapaFarmersMarket.org or visit the market on Facebook.
The Farmers Market accepts WIC, CalFresh EBT cards and the Senior Nutrition Program (available through WIC). CalFresh EBT users can receive double the value of the withdrawal from their EBT account at the market’s information booth.