January 13, 2010 9:19:00 AM
Jan Swoope - email@example.com
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:
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 bbc.co.uk/food 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 www.simplysoups.com to broaden your horizon.
Hopefully the recipes included in today''s food pages will help make your 2010, ahem, soup-per.
BAKED WINTER SQUASH SOUP
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
(Source: Anne Freeze)
FAMOUS SENATE RESTAURANT BEAN SOUP
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
(Anne Freeze note: This is also delicious puréed without the ham and garnished with chopped fresh rosemary.)
BRIE AND CRAB SOUP
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)
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
n Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with biscotti, raspberries and mint leaves.
On the Web:
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.