Soup is one of the comfort foods that awards nostalgia, indulgence and physical comfort. (Chicken Soup is served as an elixir for countless ailments) But many of us would like to add convenience to the list of benefits we glean from soup.
Here are the ABC's for making a delectable, yet simple, Soup.
There are four basic things you need to make great soup:
- Thickeners and starches
Like I said when we started, we have loads of vegetables. We've been doing canning, drying, freezing and all manner of storage methods over the last few months. Hopefully we even have a few fresh things still hanging around that we can use. Here are a few ideas that you may not have thought of:
- Tomatoes - always wonderful fresh, can also be stewed, canned or roasted. Add some flavor with garlic, herbs and salt and pepper.
- Roasted Carrots - Puree or dice and add to any soup.
- Roasted Veggies - Chop potatoes, celery, onion and carrot; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs of your choice. Roast at 300 degrees for about 2 hours. Puree and use to flavor any soup. (Can also be used to flavor stock)
Leeks, beets, cabbage and other vegetables can be used in similar ways. Don't let anything go to waste!
Stock is made by boiling meat, fish or vegetable in water until the flavor of the meat, fish or vegetable is concentrated in the liquid. Often it is the scraps and left overs from previous meals that make for a great stock. Pop them into the pot, add some water and let it simmer - the longer it simmers, the more intense the flavor. Stocks fall into four basic categories:
- Vegetable - fresh vegetable stock is generally used in lighter soups, roast the vegetables first for a more boisterous flavor.
- Chicken - a boost of flavor! You'll never go back to those dice-shaped salt pellets. Use left over parts - not the good stuff - like the carcass left after Thanksgiving! Makes great stock - very frugal.
- Meat - remember soup bones? Yeah, same thing. Don't buy T-bones to make stock.
- Fish - excellent for seafood soups. (you wouldn't want chicken stock for clam chowder!)
*Valuable Tip - Stock can be frozen and kept in the freezer for use when needed (Ice cube trays work great - pre-measured stock!). You can also use a freezer bag to keep ingredients until you have enough to make stock!
Start saving peels and trimmings while you cook - washed of course. They will convey a scrumptious flavor to your stock. You strain your stock before using it so all of those beastly peels will be gone.
Cover your ingredients with water, ~ Rule of Thumb: equal portions water to solid ingredients ~ bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour. Cool and strain. Easy Peasy! You've just made stock.
With any of the meat stocks you will get some fat in the stock. When the stock cools the fat will rise and congeal at the top - simply skim it off.
THICKENERS AND STARCHES
Thickeners add substance and body to soups.
Pastas, potatoes, rice, beans, even bread can be used as thickeners. Pastas and rice hold together, while potatoes will break down into a paste-like substance. A good way to thicken soups is to add grated starchy vegetables, or to puree the vegetables.
Variety is the spice of life! We all need to spend a little more time enjoying the food we put into our mouths - you only get three meals a day - make them count!
- Pesto - can be added to a soup at the table.
- Pistiou - (a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and salt & pepper) Provence's (Southeastern France) answer to pesto. Soup Du Pistiou is generally a hearty vegetable soup with Pistiou added for additional flavor. "Pistiou" means "Pounded" - you add all of the ingredients together and crush them in a mortar and pestle. Delicious.
- Roasted pepper puree - need I say more? Yummm.
- Herbs and spices - add when the soup is almost done - or place on the table for everyone to try their hand at flavoring their own soup.
There are countless ways to mix the four basic building blocks into a tasty comfort food that we call soup. Give it a try!
P.S. I know this is a garden blog - but for goodness sakes, what good is growing it if you don't know how to use it!
Get your hands dirty!