The Oak Park Farmers Market’s 45th season is underway from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October. Vendor stalls are moved from the usual Pilgrim Church parking lot site on Lake Street to nearby streets to allow room for safe social distancing and preorders offered via an online app as part of a pilot program.

Before we get into today’s main topic, soup, I just want to mention that Pilgrim Church will have chocolate donuts, while supplies last, on the last day of the market (Halloween!)

Saturday, October 31st is the last day of the 2020 Farmers Market Season and I am incredibly grateful for the bounty of our 45th season. Given all of the challenges thrown at us during the pandemic, I’m especially proud of our vendors, volunteers, and staff who made this all possible, and especially grateful for the OPFM shoppers who come out week after week, rain or shine, even during a pandemic. This is a community of people who know the value of good, fresh, local food, and support the farmers wholeheartedly.

Traditionally, we celebrate the last day of the market by hosting a “Stone Soup” event. The vendors donate ingredients and we ask a local chef to come and prepare big pots of delicious, warming soup to share with the vendors and the customers. This year due to COVID-19 we had to cancel our end-of-market Stone Soup celebration, but ironically, I think the story of Stone Soup is more relevant than ever as it is a tale of the community coming together to provide food for each other in time of need. Therefore I still wanted to celebrate the bounty of the season by sharing some of my favorite soup recipes with you.

Today, I bring you a Virtual Stone Soup!

First of all, the base of any soup is the soup stock. To make soup stock I first make bone broth. I typically save the bones from other meals in the freezer until I am ready to make a big batch of bone broth in the instant pot. I put a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, to help pull the nutrients out of the bones. I usually pressure cook the bones for about 45 min to an hour and then let the broth slow cook all afternoon or even overnight. I put the finished bone broth in mason jars, let them cool completely in the fridge, and put them in the freezer. They keep quite well for up to 6 months but I usually use it up much more quickly than that. When I make bone broth I often incorporate several different types of bones into one batch, so I don’t always have a “pure” flavored bone broth. But, typically one flavor will predominate. For the recipes below, I list my preferred “dominant” flavor first, and other flavors that complement the recipe in parentheses. However, you could experiment with chicken stock for borscht or beef stock for potato leek soup, and it might turn out fantastic. Just know that mixing it up will alter the flavor of the finished product.

Once I have my bone broth I typically add veggies and herbs to make the soup stock and either pressure cook or simmer on low for several hours until the veggies are soft and the flavor is nice and rich. Depending on the texture I want from the final soup, I either strain out the veggies, blend them into the soup with the blender, or leave them in as chunks of vegetables.

I’ve recently started making my own dried soup mix in the dehydrator. My most recent batch has dehydrated carrots, onions, ginger, parsley, cabbage, green peppers, dill, carrot tops, mushrooms, celery, and salt; everything except the salt is from OPFM vendors. This dried soup mix has made pulling together a warming pot of soup really fast and easy! The recipes below can all start with a stock made of bone broth and this dried soup mix. You could also purchase beef bone broth from Finn’s Ranch and experiment with dried spice mixes from Herbally Yours!

A final note on soup stock. I haven’t tried any of these recipes without bone broth, BUT you should be able to adapt any of these recipes to using a vegan soup stock. I have heard that if you save your clean veggie scraps, such as carrot ends, onion tops, potato peeling, etc. you can simmer them into a veggie broth the same as you can with bones. If you do this I would pack the pot with a variety of veggies and herbs and give it a flavor boost with extra mushrooms and maybe some soy sauce or coconut aminos. Strain the veggies out of the broth and proceed with any of these recipes, I’ll bet it would be tasty!

If you aren’t up for making your own soup from scratch, or if you just really love soup and are looking for more flavors, Finn’s Ranch has some delicious soups like Butternut Squash, Creamy Carrot, and Peruvian Chicken. Tomato Mountain also has Tomato Shallot soup that I just ordered and will be trying out soon. The possibilities are endless!

Feeling Under The Weather Soup

  • 1 cup of bone broth, any kind
  • 2-3 tbsp dried soup mix
  • Himalayan pink salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

In a large mug, mix the bone broth with the dried soup mix. Heat in microwave for about a minute, let sit another few minutes for the veggies to rehydrate. If desired, add a dash of salt and pepper. Crawl back under the covers and sip on this while binging your favorite Netflix show. This pairs well with a box of tissues, as well Three Bees elderberry syrup or Bee Well cold salve.

Laura’s Borscht*

  • 5 cups beef broth (duck, lamb, goat, rabbit)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried soup mix
  • 3-4 beets, chopped in large chunks or fine, your preference
  • 1 large tomato or 4-5 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • large sprig of fresh dill or 2 tbsp dried dill
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1 tbsp Herbally Yours apple cider vinegar

A tablespoon or so of sauerkraut or other ferments such as Bushel & Peck’s pickled beets, sauerkraut, Immunichi, or Curtido.

A dollop of sour cream (optional, but traditional)

Add all ingredients except the ferments and the dill into a stockpot and cook until the vegetables are soft. in the last 5 min or so of cooking, add a generous helping of chopped dill. Next, serve up the bowls of soup and allow to cool until just the perfect temperature for eating. Then, add your preferred fermented veggies. It is important not to add the ferments when the soup is too hot as it will kill off the probiotics. You want to enjoy this soup while it is warm but still holds the maximum health benefits. If so desired, top it all off with a dollop of sour cream. This is good served with hearty artisan bread from Katic or Breadman.

*Here is a traditional recipe for BARSZCZ (POLISH BORSCHT) My recipe deviates from this one, so if you want to go with the original here it is.

Potato Leek soup

  • Chicken broth(turkey broth)
  • 1-2 leeks from Prairie Wind or Nichols Farm and Orchard
  • 2-3 yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried soup mix
  • garlic cloves Chanticlare Farm, Prairie Wind, Bushel and Peck’s
  • salt
  • pepper
  • celery or celeriac Prairie Wind Autumn roasting kit
  • carrot Prairie Wind Autumn roasting kit
  • zucchini This actually came from my garden, but I’m sure many vendors have this!
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • Parmesan, Romano or similar grated cheese (optional) Brunkow Cheese or J2K Capario

Coarsely chop all vegetables, and add all veggies and soup stock to the pot. Cook until the veggies are soft. Add soup to a blender and slowly add the milk while blending until your soup is the desired consistency. Add a sprinkle of cheese if you like. Top with a dash black pepper. This is good served with a hearty slice of toasted wheat bread from Breadman.

Chicken Noodle Soup (with cardoons)

  • Chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp dried soup mix
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved, or regular tomatoes cubed
  • oregano, fresh or dried
  • Basil, fresh or dried
  • 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup of bow-tie pasta
  • 1/2 cup pre-cooked cardoons*-If you don’t have access to cardoons you could substitute canned artichoke hearts
  • Parmesan, Romano or similar grated cheese (optional) Brunkow Cheese or J2K Capario

This is my take on the classic chicken noodle soup, only with cardoons. Mix all of the ingredients except the bow tie pasta and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Add the bow tie pasta in the last 10 minutes of cooking. When the pasta is al dente, ladle the soup into bowls and if desired, sprinkle with grated cheese. This soup is best with a baguette from Katic.

*If you don’t know what a Cardoon is, it is an Italian vegetable in the artichoke family, and cooking them is a tradition in my family. They are a striking silvery-green plant that you may have seen used in landscaping. It will produce purple flowers similar to an artichoke only a bit smaller. However, cardoon is harvested for its spiky stalks, not its flowers. It is quite a process to clean and prepare this seasonal treat, but my garden isn’t complete without it. It must be cleaned, peeled, and boiled a long time in lemon water or white vinegar to remove bitterness. It resembles a celery stalk once cooked and tastes just like artichokes.

Spicy Ramen Soup

  • 5 cups Beef broth (Pork or duck broth)
  • stew meat, beef or pork
  • ramen noodles such as Hakubaku organic ramen
  • hot sauce (homemade or your favorite from Bushel and Peck’s)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar or Thai pepper vinegar from Herbally Yours
  • 1 tbsp dried soup mix
  • shitake mushrooms River Valley Ranch
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ginger root Prairie Wind or Nichols
  • turmeric root
  • 1 tsp Astragalus root
  • soy sauce or substitute, such as coconut aminos
  • snow pea pods

Pre-cook stew meat until the outside is seared and meat is cooked most of the way through. Add all ingredients except the ramen to a stockpot and cook 10-15 min. Add the ramen noodles and cook until the noodles are done (follow instructions on ramen package for time). This may not be a traditional ramen recipe, but it is very satisfying when I have a taste for ramen!

Butternut Squash Soup

  • Duck broth (chicken, turkey)
  • 1 butternut squash, cooked until soft (about 45 min)
  • 1 cup of milk or cream (I used coconut milk)
  • 3 tbsp. dried soup mix
  • black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a pot and cook on medium heat for 10 min or so. Serve with blue cornbread from Severson Organic Grains.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • Beef or chicken stock
  • 3-4 cups of soup stock
  • 1 cup of milk or cream (I used coconut milk)
  • 3 tablespoons of dried soup mix
  • 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms from River Valley Ranch, any kind
  • 1 tbsp butter, dairy or dairy-free

Quickly sauté the mushrooms in butter until they start to caramelize. Add all ingredients to a stockpot and cook on medium heat for 10min. Serve with sourdough bread from Severson Organic Grains.

Throughout the season, I’ve tried to sample the bounty from as many farms as I can and share the results with you. Each and every vendor has treasures and specialties worthy of your table. There are so many other great items I’d like to highlight in this last blog post of our 45th season that have nothing to do with soup, but as it is this blog post is turning into a cookbook instead of a blog post. I would encourage you to visit the village’s website page where there is information about all of our vendors under the “meet the farmers” tab. Some of the farmers have Facebook pages and websites where they share their favorite recipes, too.

Many of them have other outlets and you can continue enjoying their wonderful produce all winter long.

As chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission, I’d like to thank you all for coming to the market this year and I wish you a wonderful holiday season. Bon Apetit!

*Guest blogger Laura Lencioni is the chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission.

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