There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ (1988)
“From time immemorial, soups and broths have been the worldwide medium for utilizing what we call the kitchen byproducts or as the French call them, the ‘dessertes de la table’ (leftovers), or ‘les parties interieures de la bete’, such as head, tail, lights, liver, knuckles and feet.”
–Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)
AND MY FAVORITE, FROM LEWIS CARROLL:
BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!
Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP!
After writing a poem about soup for my poetry group, I was asked to post something on my Blog about making homemade soups. Soup is probably my forte–what I do best under the best or even the worst of conditions; when the pantry is well stocked or when I am scrounging through the frig for any leftovers suitable for a soup pot. My sister Becky had a name for the latter; she called it “clean-out-the-refrigerator-soup”. But here’s the thing –You can buy dozens of cookbooks devoted to soups/stews/chowders/bisques–a soup by any other name…but you don’t really need any cookbook or recipe to make a good pot of soup. All you need are some ingredients. One of my favorites is a leftover pot roast. The next day I dice up any left over meat, discarding fat, bones, gristle. I put it into the pot with the leftover gravy- and add some water. Then I add whatever leftover vegetables are in the frig. If there AREN’T any, I begin peeling potatoes, onions, and carrots, dicing everything to add to the pot. When it’s a beef soup that is cooking, I love to add a cup of dry barley a few hours into the cooking period. It makes such a great hearty soup. And for a little more heartiness, I like to add about a cup of burgundy wine. But if you don’t have any barley, you can add some rice – leftover or otherwise. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Clam chowder is definitely hard to beat, especially if it’s made in a healthy way. This Hearty Clam Chowder from Eater’s Digest and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health in Baltimore also contains only 380 milligrams of sodium, not bad for a “soup” dish.
Hearty Clam Chowder
Makes 9-10 servings
5 medium potatoes, pared and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped green onions, including tops
1/2 cup diced celery
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 diced red or green bell pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 cups water
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot pepper sauce
Two 6-1/2 oz. cans of minced clams
1/2 cup flour
2 cups unsweetened soymilk
Place potatoes, green onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper and garlic in large pan. Mix in water, butter, salt, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce.
Bring to a boil, cover, and cook 15 minutes over medium heat or until potatoes are tender. Drain clams, reserving liquid and adding water, if necessary, to make 1 cup. Combine clam liquid with flour and stir to make a smooth paste. Pour flour paste into vegetables and cool, stirring, until mixture thickens. Add clams and soymilk. Continue cooking until chowder is hot.
My Clam Chowder:
5-6 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, shredded
1 cup sliced celery
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz) (you can buy evaporated skim milk if you are counting calories)
1 can undiluted Cream of Mushroom Soup (this can also be the light)
2-4 cans of minced clams, including broth
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, if you have it, otherwise dried parsley flakes
Cover the potatoes, carrots, celery and onion with water in a medium size pot until tender, then add the undiluted cream of mushroom soup and evaporated milk. Add the clams (I like a lot of clams. I see recipes using one 6 ounce can of clams and wonder – where’s the fun in that?) If you can get BIG cans of minced clams, like they have at Costco, all the better. Cook it all and add seasoning to taste. If it’s not thick enough by dinner time, add instant potato flakes to make it thicker. Another great addition is clam stock which is sold in small round jars, about 6-8 ounce size. It will last a long time and adds infinite flavor to the clam chowder. Leftover mashed potatoes can be added to the pot or even some leftover carrots, if you have them. I also like adding fresh sliced mushrooms to the soup (but feel free to add a couple of cans of bits & pieces mushrooms if you have them around).
This soup is really good with hot garlic bread. I remember one time, my brother Bill & I returned from a trip to Oak Glen to buy apples – and I made a quick pot of clam chowder when we got back home. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. The apples became applesauce.
GINGERY PUMPKIN SOUP (this is very low in fat)
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced (2 TBSP)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger*
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups reduced-sodium defatted chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp minced orange zest
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
A pinch of ground cloves
2 TBSP minced fresh parsley (optional) -but if you don’t have fresh, use dried.
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (also optional)
Heat oil in soup pot over low heat; sauté the shallots, onions, and ginger in the oil until the onions are soft and golden. Be careful not to scorch the ginger. Add the pumpkin, orange juice, broth, salt, zest, pepper and cloves. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
(Sandy’s cooknote: *Fresh ginger can be purchased in small jars and comes already finely minced. But if you buy fresh ginger–I have a tip for you. I’ve heard Rachel Ray tell viewers to freeze it. But I peel the ginger and pack it into a small clean jar and then cover it with cooking sherry. It keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator this way and the sherry takes on the flavor of ginger and can also be used in other recipes.)
3 medium potatoes
1 quart milk
1 small onion, sliced
2 TBSP flour
3 TBSP butter or margarine
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery salt
few grains cayenne pepper
1 tsp chopped parsley
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Mash until smooth. Scald the milk with the onion, remove the onion and add the milk slowly to the potatoes, stirring constantly. Melt half the butter or margarine, add half the dry ingredients & stir until well mixed and add to the hot soup. Boil for 1 minute, strain and add the remaining butter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 6-8 servings (You could easily top this off with a bit of bacon and grated cheese!)
FAST & FIT POTATO CHOWDER
1 TBSP butter or margarine
1 cup chopped leeks or onions
1 cup diced red or green bell peppers
2 lbs (6 medium) potatoes, peeled & diced 1/2″
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup low fat milk
1 package (10 oz) frozen corn, thawed & drained
1/4 cup cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
In microwave, melt butter in a 2 to 3 qt casserole dish on high 1 minute. Add leeks and bell peppers; microwave on high 3 minutes. Stir in potatoes, broth, thyme and bay leaves; cover and cook on high 17 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Remove 4 cups cooked potato with a slotted spoon and put into blender; add milk and puree until smooth. Return mixture to dish. Stir in corn, parsley and cayenne; season with salt and pepper; heat on high for 3 minutes. (If desired, pass bowls of shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, drained canned clams or cubed cooked chicken or ham to stir into soup). Makes 6-8 servings.
CROCK POT DOUBLE CORN AND POTATO CHOWDER
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 can cream of corn
1/2 to 3/4 bag frozen corn
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups diced ham or 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, or 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, cut to bite size, plus a pinch of crushed rosemary.
Put all ingredients in the slow cooker; stir and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.
MEXICAN POTATO SOUP
3 slices bacon, diced
3 large potatoes peeled and cubed
5 cups water
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Can (7 to 8 ounces) diced green chilies (buy the mild unless you are used to the hot or jalapenos and can handle the heat)
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
In large skillet, brown bacon. Add potatoes and stir to coat. Add water, tomato sauce, onion and salt. Reduce heat to simmering and cook 1 hour. Divide chilies and cheese among bowls. Spoon hot soup over chilies and cheese and serve. Makes 6 servings.
MOM’S POTATO SOUP
(This is an old recipe from my mother’s collection)
2 ½ cups diced peeled potatoes (about 6 large)
2-4 cups water
1 TBSP salt
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 TBSP butter
¼ tsp pepper (white is best but not necessary)
¼ tsp celery salt
¼ tsp garlic salt
4 cups milk
Place potatoes in large heavy pot with 2 cups water. Add salt and cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook potatoes until almost tender. While potatoes cook, sauté the onions and celery in 4 TBSP butter. Add pepper, celery salt & garlic salt. Stir onion mixture into the undrained potatoes. Add milk and more water if needed or desirable. Soup should be only slightly thick. Heat mix to boiling and reduce and simmer gently until flavors blend and mellow. Serve with either chopped chives or parsley afloat the steaming soup. Add a dollop of butter too. Serve with crisp crackers.
Mexican Tortilla Soup
Weight Watchers style
8 ounces cooked, skinless, diced chicken
1 cup sliced or diced carrots
2 cups sliced thin celery
2 cups shredded or chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup mild chilies
1 cup green beans
1 can whole kernel corn
½ cup diced bell peppers
1 qt tomato juice
1 qt V8 juice (or 2 quarts tomato juice)
1 qt tomatoes
2-3 chicken bouillon cubes
Water, if necessary, to make 6 quarts
Cook until all the vegetables are done. Add salt & pepper and any other seasonings you like. I added chili powder to give it a little kick. You could also add tomato sauce or tomato paste. As listed, total is 16 points. One cup equals 1 ½ points
To make tortilla strips, cut 1 or 2 flour tortillas (I like to dry them out on a cookie sheet in the oven – but my old stove has a pilot light that is always “on” so there is just enough heat generated to dry out herbs or tortilla strips).
(Sandy’s cooknote: Until a few years ago, we had never heard of Mexican Tortilla soup -I think it’s a relative newcomer to the culinary landscape – like cilantro. Twenty years ago you couldn’t find cilantro anywhere; nowadays, most supermarkets carry fresh cilantro and if you can’t find that you can buy freeze-dried cilantro. I have to admit cilantro is an acquired taste. As for Mexican tortilla soup, now you can find dozens of recipes. I began experimenting with making this soup, after the first time I tasted it in a Mexican restaurant. Living in California, we have a lot of exposure to good Mexican cuisine).
This next recipe is El Torito’s Tortilla Soup recipe from the LA Times SOS column 1990-91 and it may have changed since then. The point I am trying to make is that you can make Mexican tortilla soup a lot of different ways and if you leave out the shredded cheese, it’s a fairly low-calorie, low-fat recipe.
To Make EL TORITOS TORTILLA SOUP
4 CORN TORTILLAS
2 ½ cups fish stock
¼ cup tomato sauce
2 TBSP diced celery
2 TBSP diced onion
2 TBSP diced green pepper
2 TBSP diced tomato
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1 bay leaf
¾ cup shredded Jack cheese
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cut tortillas into strips. Deep fry in hot oil until crisp*. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Combine fish stock, tomato sauce, celery, onion, green pepper, tomato, white pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and bay leaf in saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Bring to boil and simmer 20-30 minutes. To serve, place tortilla strips in bowl. Cover with shredded cheeses and add broth. Makes 4 servings.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: I would not, personally, deep fry tortilla strips – I always cut them into strips and dry them in my oven. I also prefer flour tortillas over corn. If you can’t oven dry them without heat, I would suggest – cut the tortillas into thin strips and spread them out on a cookie sheet covered with foil. Dry them on the lowest oven temperature until crisp. We also prefer to put the tortilla strips on TOP of the bowl of soup, not under it – and then top it off with a little grated cheese – and, if you have it, a slice of avocado makes a nice presentation. Tastes good, too. Also, if you don’t have fish stock and don’t know how to make it – use a vegetable stock or even chicken broth made with bouillon cubes. It all works. One of these days I will write something about making your own basic stocks – which can be frozen until you are ready to use them).
Here’s one more recipe for Tortilla Soup and it’s pretty simple and straightforward:
10 CUPS strong chicken broth
2 cups diced onion
¼ cup oil
6 cloves garlic
2 cups cooked chicken
2 tsp ground cumin
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
1 15-oz can stewed tomatoes
1 ½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
¼ cup grated cheese per bowl
tortilla chips or corn chips
In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add broth and other ingredients except cheese; bring to a boil and simmer at least 30 minutes. Before filling bowls, put a few tortilla chips or corn chips in the bottom of the bowl. Add soup and top it off with a bit of grated cheese.
T.G.I. Friday’s French Onion Soup
3-4 medium to large onions
3 cans of beef broth
Sargento cheese (Italian blend) 8 oz. bag (recommended)
2 bay leaves
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of both salt and pepper
Slice the onions into rings and sauté in butter in a skillet until tender. Turn crock pot on to low and put in the cans of beef broth, bay leaves, dash of garlic powder and salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and 3/4 cup of water. When the onions and butter mixture is tender then also add them to the crock pot. Cover and cook for at least 3-5 hours on low. At this point you may want to taste the soup and see if you would like it a little weaker–if so add a little water or chicken broth. Also, at this time remove the bay leaves and discard them. When about ready to serve, slice bread into thin slices and toast in oven on 350 or in toaster oven until just crusty. Put toasted slices (1-3) in bowl and cover with the cheese (adjust cheese to your liking). Then cover bread and cheese with hot soup. The cheese will melt and the bread will rise to the top. Source: The Secret Recipe Forum.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: Personally I like to add about a cup of burgundy wine to my French onion soup. But then I like Burgundy wine in a lot of my soups and stews. I have a big jug of Burgundy wine in the pantry that is used exclusively to cook with).
Here is my favorite recipe for Cream of Broccoli Soup. When you buy a head of broccoli, peel the stems and cut them up and cook them along with the florets. After dinner, put the cut stems and the leftover florets into a blender and puree. You need about 2 cups of puree to make the soup. (Save a couple cooked florets to add to the soup bowls). Then, next day, melt 3 TBSP butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Blend in 3 TBSP flour; add 2 cups milk, and 2 cups broth (chicken, beef or vegetable). Heat, stirring until mixture boils; turn heat to low. Blend in the broccoli puree, and add 1 tsp salt and a dash of white pepper.
Optional: pinch each of cardamom* and mace or ¼ cup grated mild Cheddar or Gruyére.
Using the same proportions of butter, flour, liquid and puree – you can also use this same recipe for cauliflower, onions or leeks, or cabbage. For carrot or green pea soup, use only 2 TBSP Butter and 2 TBSP flour – adding 1 tsp grated orange rind, or 1 tsp of nutmeg for flavoring. This soup lends itself to most any vegetable, or combination of vegetables, that can be pureed and can be enhanced with your favorite seasoning.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: Cardamom! If you don’t have this spice in your kitchen cupboard or the spice rack – you are missing out. Cardamom–per Spice Islands–enriches diverse cuisines from Indian to Scandinavia. Its exotic flavor complements sweet cookies, breads and pastries as well as savory meat stews and curries. One of my favorite ice-box cookie recipes is a cardamom cookie. And from Google: “Once considered one of the world’s most precious spices—reserved for holidays, weddings and other special occasions—cardamom is captivating a new generation of admirers. With a hint of clove, the spiciness of ginger, and overtones of vanilla and citron, cardamom can add layers of complex, subtle flavor to any dish…”)
I thought I’d close this with MY poem about soup.
A BOWL OF SOUP
What is as fine as a bowl of soup
In a tureen, carried hot to the table,
Or a beef stew simmered with veggies and meat,
As wondrous as an old Aesop fable;
I love noodle soup or a tomato bisque,
My chili falls into this category,
French onion soup with melted cheese,
Russian Borscht served in all its beet glory.
Mushroom soup! PepperPot!
Or a Consomme!
Won Ton Soup! Morel Soup!
Cream of Pea and crackers on a tray!
Black Bean Soup! Cabbage Soup!
Or a pot of New England Chowder!
(Not for me Manhattan style–
For that I’d have to take a powder!)
Perhaps some Mulligatawny Soup,
Or some Minestrone!
I’d even eat some Bouillabaisse,
As long as it’s not boney!
Bring me a bowl of Orleans gumbo,
Or any soup that’s bold,
Or let us have gazpacho that’s
Always served up cold.
Serve me cream of celery soup!
Carrot soup with Curry!
Bring me soups that cook all day
But dish up in a hurry;
Serve me spicy peanut soup
Or turkey soup with rice–
I’d gladly eat green lentil soup
But meatball soup is also nice.
Soup for breakfast! Soup for lunch!
Soup for a late night supper;
Let me have a cup of soup,
For a pick-me-upper.
Let me have War Won-Ton Soup,
Or Tortilla soup that’s spicy,
Let me have a cockle soup
Or lobster bisque that’s pricey!
Serve me cock-a-leekie soup
Or Egg Drop soup from China,
Serve it fancy, serve it plain,
I’m never going to mind-a,
Soups can be hearty or else light –
Feed one or feed a troop –
I’ll never tire or get enough
Of delicious homemade soup.
–Sandra Lee Smith
Happy Cooking! Sandy