Soup for the Solstice

A crackling bonfire flickers with light, and hot, nourishing soup warms the soul on the shortest day of the year.

This year, the Winter Solstice occured at 6:03 p.m. on Sunday, December 21. That’s the moment when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year and daylight lasts less than 12 hours.

In ancient times, people gathered together to mark this celestial event and lit bonfires to evoke the brightness, warmth and life-sustaining powers of the sun on what is also the longest, darkest night of the year. While the modern suburban illumination of stringed lights and inflatable characters began just moments after the Thanksgiving turkey was cold, at Restoration Farm in Old Bethpage, the Winter Solstice affords a final burst of light and energy as the 2014 growing season fades. It is a time to feast on the final fruits of the farm and to huddle by the fire enjoying the company of others, before the fields finally slumber and we move inside and our thoughts turn to hearth and holly.

Soup has been the key menu item for the farm solstice celebration for several years. Simple to prepare, a bracing pot of soup is the ultimate community meal and a metaphysical inoculation against the winter doldrums. The soup buffet consists of pumpkin and sage, potato broccoli leek, chicken vegetable spicy pumpkin and vegetable lentil soup. Members gather together under dappled gray skies and share our light, BYOB (bring your own bowl), and enjoy soul-sustaining soup, reveling in the spirit of the season.

Restoration Farm head grower Caroline Fanning is a master of the soup pot. Her kid-friendly, fool proof, vegetable and lentil soup recipe will warm a stormy winter night, and makes good use of remaining storage vegetables left from the autumn harvest such as onions, carrots and potatoes.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup for the Winter Solstice (courtesy Caroline Fanning, Restoration Farm)
1-2 cups yellow onions, diced
1-2 cups carrots, diced
1-2 cups celery (with leaves), diced
1 cup potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 cup dry lentils
1/2 cup dry brown rice
1 quart crushed tomatoes, with juice
3 quarts liquid (Caroline suggests 2 quarts chicken stock and 1 quart water)
Salt and pepper to taste
LOTS of dried herbs (Caroline suggests a combination of oregano, thyme and basil)

In a large pot, sauté onions, carrots, and celery until onions are translucent. Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil, and simmer 2 hours or more.