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Mm. Mm soup: National Soup Month celebrates America’s comfort food


What better than a soul-warming, flavorful bowl of soup to ease a January chill? Anne Freeze of Columbus is pictured with, from front, her homemade creamed spinach, potato and butternut squash soups.

What better than a soul-warming, flavorful bowl of soup to ease a January chill? Anne Freeze of Columbus is pictured with, from front, her homemade creamed spinach, potato and butternut squash soups. Photo by: Kelly Tippett


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With a garnish of chopped bacon and pesto, Freeze adds to the visual appeal and flavor of her potato soup.



Jan Swoope


From rich cream soups like bisques and chowders, to lower-calorie broth-based consommés, wonderful soups are a great way to warm up through the long, cold days of winter. So it''s no wonder the soup industry taps January as National Soup Month.  


Soups can be hot or cold, savory or sweet, simple or gourmet. Starters, side dishes or a one-pot meal. All good reasons why Americans consume an estimated 10 billion bowls of it every year. 


Whether from the can or the cupboard, soups can offer a wide range of nutritional benefits -- and a cozy feeling of home. And the more exotic varieties, such as amuse bouche gourmet vichyssoise or brie and crab soup, can star at your most elegant dinner party. And how about a chilled blueberry or chocolate soup for dessert? The possibilities are endless, as any Internet or cookbook search will prove. 




You can do it 


Anne Freeze of Columbus once had a business selling just soups. She was also a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Mississippi.  


Always resourceful, The Dispatch contributing food columnist whipped up three soups using leftovers and says these are simple enough for anyone to do. 


For potato soup, "I took leftover mashed potatoes, heated them, added them with heated chicken broth to the food processor," she explains. "I just tasted it and seasoned the soup, then garnished it with chopped bacon and store-bought pesto." 


Anne notes, "A garnish not only makes the bowl more attractive, but it also adds another layer to the flavor." 


For creamed spinach soup and roasted butternut squash soup, her process is similar. 


"I heated leftover creamed spinach, added warm chicken broth and a dollop of cream and blended it. I garnished this one with Parmesan cheese. For the squash, I heated leftover roasted butternut squash, added it with heated chicken broth to the blender, with a dollop of heavy cream, and puréed it." This soup is topped with small croutons (she made herself) and nutmeg.  






The connoisseur of the kitchen willingly shared a few tidbits of advice:



  • Flavor each layer. If the potatoes for potato soup are bland from not having salt in the water, then the soup will be bland, no matter how much salt you add. 


  • If you make homemade chicken stock, be sure to flavor the water the chicken is cooking in. I use peppercorns, parsley, onion, carrot and lots of salt. 


  • If you don''t keep homemade stock around, keep a few cans of chicken broth in the pantry. 


  • Coconut milk makes a great soup, especially with puréed sweet potatoes, winter squash or roasted carrots. 


  • Sautéing onions, carrots, or garlic until caramelized adds a natural sweetness to soups like tomato bisque. 


    For serious soup-mavens, online sites agree that good soup comes from using good stock. Dried or fresh mushrooms, carrots, celery, pumpkins, corn cobs, meat bones and cuts of meat make excellent bases for stock, according to writers for the Web site. For flavoring stock, they add, herbs like parsley and thyme add depth, and bay leaves are "practically a must" for background flavor.



But, even for those whose current expertise begins and ends with opening a can of condensed soup and adding water, there are plenty of step-by-step recipes at sites such as to broaden your horizon.  


Hopefully the recipes included in today''s food pages will help make your 2010, ahem, soup-per. 






Serves: Six 




One large acorn squash (about 2 pounds) 


One butternut squash (about 2 pounds) 


4 tablespoons unsalted butter 


4 teaspoons dark brown sugar 


Two carrots, peeled and halved 


One-half large onion, thinly sliced 


5 cups chicken stock or broth 


1/3 teaspoon ground mace 


1/3 teaspoon ground ginger 


Pinch of cayenne pepper 


Salt, to taste 




  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 


  • Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. 


  • Place halves, skin side down, in a shallow roasting pan. Place 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in each half. Arrange the carrots and onion around the squash. Pour 1 cup of the stock in the pan, cover it tightly with foil and bake for two hours. 


  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop the squash pulp out and place in a soup pot. Add the carrots, onion and cooking liquid. 


  • Add the remaining chicken stock and seasonings. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. 


  • Purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche on top and a sprinkling of chives.


(Source: Anne Freeze) 






Serves: Eight 




2 pounds dried navy beans 


4 quarts hot water 


1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks 


One onion, chopped 


2 tablespoons butter 


Salt and pepper, to taste 




  • Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water.  


  • Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool.  


  • Dice meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter and add to soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.


(Anne Freeze note: This is also delicious puréed without the ham and garnished with chopped fresh rosemary.) 






Serves: Eight 




Eight pea pods 


Eight pieces fresh crabmeat 


1 tablespoon butter 


2 tablespoons onion, minced 


2 tablespoons flour 


1 cup chicken broth 


1 teaspoon lobster base 


1 cup heavy cream 


1/4 cup Brie cheese (rind removed) 




  • Trim and remove any strings from the pea pods and slit them open; remove and discard peas. Fill the pods with fresh crab meat and set aside. 


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in butter until tender. Do not let it brown. Whisk in flour and continue stirring for two minutes.  


  • Add chicken broth and lobster base, mixing well until thickened. At this point, the soup can be covered and refrigerated, then finished before serving. 


  • Before serving, heat the mixture and stir in heavy cream and Brie cheese. Do not boil. Taste for seasoning; add Kosher salt if necessary, or more cream if too salty.  


  • Spoon 2 tablespoons into a demitasse cup; straddle a crab-filled pea pod across the rim and serve.










4 1/2 cups whole milk 


1 cup sweetened condensed milk 


One vanilla bean, split and scraped 


10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped 


5 tablespoons cornstarch 


5 tablespoons cold water 


Mini chocolate biscotti, for garnish 


Fresh raspberries, for garnish 


Fresh mint leaves, for garnish 




  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla bean. Bring the mixture almost to a boil, stirring constantly. 


  • Remove from the heat and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. (Rinse and dry the vanilla bean and save it for another use.) 


  • Put the pan on low heat, add the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate melts.  


  • Combine the cornstarch and water for form a slurry. Add the slurry a little at a time, whisking constantly, until the soup is thick and smooth. (You''ll know it''s ready when the bubbles are gone and chocolate has thickened, about five to seven minutes.) 


    n Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with biscotti, raspberries and mint leaves.







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Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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