By Roberta Bailey
Every season has its soups. In summer, soup is light, often fruity or chilled. Autumn brings us corn and tomatoes and minestrone. In winter, soup is at its best; slowly cooked beans and grains and root vegetables offer warmth and satisfaction. And spring is a fickle time, one day a dark onion soup using up the soft, sprouted onions; a week later, a bright asparagus purée.
Making soup is easy and so much better than anything that comes in a can. Soup is all about flavor. Flavor comes from the soup’s base or stock, the meat and vegetables that are added to it, and the seasonings that complement them all.
The foundation of any soup is stock or broth. Save your vegetable cooking water in a container in the refrigerator or freezer for use as stock. Stock can be made in quantity and frozen. (See recipe below.) If you are caught without stock and need to use water as your base, add any of the following ingredients to enhance flavor: grated potato, parsnip, or carrot; mashed potato or squash; miso, bouillion, nutritional yeast, seaweed, garlic or garlic powder, or other spices.
I make a big potful and freeze the leftovers. Leftover soup makes a busy day’s lunch into a small feast with little effort.
2 large carrots
1 head celery without leaves
1 to 4 cloves garlic
1 small zucchini
5-1/2 qts. water
Peel and roughly chop vegetables. Vegetables may vary according to what you have. Add ginger, herbs, corn, seaweed. Avoid brassicas as they can be strong flavored. Place ingredients in a large pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain, removing solids. Use what you need and freeze the remainder in 1 pint or quart containers.
Sopa De Lima
(Tomato, Lime and Tortilla Soup)
1 c. chopped onions
4 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 to 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 to 2 minced chilies (1″ long) or to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3-1/2 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1 c. cooked and diced chicken meat, optional
1/3 c. fresh lime juice
salt to taste
grated Monterey Jack cheese
chopped fresh cilantro, optional
tortilla chips (or cut tortillas into strips and fry them quickly in very hot oil, about 1″ deep, then drain on paper towels.)
In a medium soup pot, sauté onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chiles, cumin, and oregano and sauté a minute longer. Add the tomatoes. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock and optional chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt to taste. Serve topped with cilantro, cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. Serves 4 to 5.
Steam until tender:
2 to 4 medium zucchini or summer squash, cubed
2 medium onions or 4 scallions, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic
Purée in a food processor, blender, or sieve. Add 1 to 2 sprigs of fresh basil and blend until smooth. If using a sieve, add finely minced basil. Season with salt and pepper. (A dash of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos adds more depth to the flavor.)
Tom Kha Talay
(Bangkok Fishermans Soup)
3-1/2 c. chicken stock
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 oz. unpeeled ginger root, cut into 4 large slices
14 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp. chili-tamarind paste (or chili paste to taste)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2-1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce (num pla)
1/2 lb. scallops
10 to 20 medium shrimp
1 to 5 small Thai chilies, lightly crushed
sprigs of cilantro
Put the stock, lemon grass and ginger in a soup pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk and return to a boil. Add the chili paste, lemon juice, sugar and fish sauce. Stir until blended. Bring to a boil and add the mussels, scallops, and shrimp. Return to a boil and cook until seafood is done, about 1 minute. Float the chilies on top and turn off the heat. Serve with a sprig of cilantro in each bowl. Do not eat the lemongrass or ginger. These can be removed beforehand, if desired.