Baby, it’s cold outside! Why not come in and enjoy a big bowl of comforting and warming winter soup? If you’re looking for me on a Sunday in the winter, look no further than my kitchen. More specifically, look in front of my hot stove where I’ll be found making soup for my family. Sometimes I enjoy using whatever I have on hand to make a pot of soup, and other times I prefer to follow favorite traditional recipes. I think of soups as one pot wonders. A good soup melds broth, vegetables, spices and herbs to create a delicious aroma and depth of flavor. Add in your favorite meats, beans and seafood as well as your starchy favorites such as potatoes, rice or pasta for your own soup miracle.
I also count on soup as a great help to busy families because you can make your soup in large quantities without a lot of extra effort. I typically double most recipes. The leftovers will last a few days. This makes for quick packing of lunches, maybe with the addition of a small salad into your lunch bag. It’s much more enjoyable on a winter day to have a warming meal for lunch rather than a cold sandwich. Be the envy of all of your co-workers as you enjoy your “Not Sad Desk Lunch!”
Soups can be packed with healthy ingredients. If you’re looking for a creative way to get your family to eat a type of food that they might not otherwise go for, soup is your best bet. For example, I find that some picky eaters find millet, farro and quinoa more palatable in a soup. This makes sense, as these grains are literally surrounded by the delicious taste of herby, spiced up broth. Soups are a great place to add some protein packed beans into the mix. Also, you can substitute peeled chunks of sweet potato for white potatoes with great results.
Making soup is like building a house, and the broth is the foundation. Here are a couple of tips for a successful soup creation:
• Use a good quality soup broth. Homemade stocks and broths are better than store-bought, and highly recommended for special soups such as Vietnamese Pho or Italian Tortellini en Brodo (Tortellini in broth).
• Start your soup with a mirepoix or other vegetable mix to add flavor to your soup. I like to start many of my soups by sauteeing a generous amount of chopped celery, finely chopped carrot, diced onion and pressed garlic in an equally generous amount of olive oil. This is where a food processor comes in handy if you don’t want to tackle all the chopping and save yourself some time. Make your “veggie soup starter mix” your own by adding in your favorites. Red, yellow and green bell peppers are great additions.
• If you’re going to be adding meat to your soup, this is the time to cook your meat in a separate pot.
• Add your spices and dried herbs at the tail end of cooking your vegetables. This will impart more flavor into your broth through the sauteing in olive oil.
• Now add in all of your other ingredients such as meat, seafood, beans, potatoes, rice and chunks of vegetables. I typically cook vegetables by steaming, sauteing or boiling and then adding to the soup. Be sure to cook your soup for some time on low, allowing the flavors to come together. Mushrooms add great flavor to soups, particularly chopped dried porcini and porcini broth. I also really enjoy adding sausages, as the flavors of the sausages impart very well throughout the soup.
•If using fresh chopped herbs, add them at the end of your cooking time. You can also add some after cooking for a garnish and to add more pop to the herby flavors.
• When your soup is done, it’s time to dress it up! Garnish your soup with ingredients like herbs, chopped onions, parmesan cheese, or a dollop of Greek yogurt. Ramp up your soup a little more by garnishing the Greek yogurt with nutty, herby, spice mixes such as Italian Gremolata or Egyptian Dukkah. Another great option for a soup garnish is fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchee, which add a delicious sour flavor, and are beneficial to your gut health.
• Soup is fun to make and provides home cooks with lots of opportunities to get inventive. Once you have mastered a few recipes, you can make your own soups and get creative with your ingredients. Consider exploring the world through your soup-making, trying new recipes from various cuisines.
There are some great soup cookbooks available to get you started. Here are a few I highly recommend:
The Best Soups In The World by Clifford A. Wright
The New England Soup Factory by Marjorie Drukker and Clara Silverstein
And, here are five wonderful Mediterranean Living soup recipes:
Pasta and Garbanzo Beans Alla Toscana (between a stew and a soup)