Soups to warm the soul
When the weather turns cold, the aroma of homemade soup simmering on the stove is instantly comforting. Make soup when the spirit moves you – gather ingredients from your fridge and pantry, turn on the stove and free your imagination. Hearty soups make a great main dish, rounded out with a salad and some crusty bread. Broth-based soups, or consomms, are healthy, satisfying and nothing tastes better when you have a cold. Cream soups are rich and decadent, a perfectly elegant way to start a meal.Chef Armando Navarro of Larkspur Restaurant believes a taste of soup extends hospitality.”When friends come in out of the cold, I love to offer a demitasse of hot soup to welcome and warm them up,” he said. “And if it’s not cold outside, a chilled soup is equally enjoyable. A little vichysoisse topped with a touch of caviar is smooth and salty and whets the appetite.”Making a rustic soup can be an easy and thrifty way to feed a group. Take chili for example – ground beef, canned beans and tomatoes, all spiced up becomes a crowd pleaser. Or try dried beans of any sort, soaked overnight then rinsed and simmered the next day with a ham bone from Sunday night’s dinner. Add some veggies and herbs and you’ve provided another meal without much expense. These types of soups are best created without a recipe, using whatever is on hand and letting the flavors meld in the pot.Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Avondale, offers some tips on making endless varieties of soup from one basic technique (see classic vegetable recipe).”Learning to get comfortable creating soups is beneficial in many ways,” Kittelson said. “You’ll not only save money, but will save time, too. Make a large enough batch that you can freeze half for another meal. Soup is a great way to enjoy leftovers.”
11⁄2 pounds Italian sausage links, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces2 cups chopped onions1 cup chopped celery stalks1 cup chopped carrots2 garlic cloves, chopped2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves1 bay leaf4 cups (or more) chicken broth11⁄4 cup lentils, rinsed and drained1 14-1⁄2 ounce can diced tomatoes in juiceBalsamic vinegar (optional)chopped celery leaves (for garnish)Brown sausage in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute until vegetables start to soften. Add thyme and cook another minute. Add four cups broth, lentils, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes, checking for desired consistency. Transfer two cups of mostly solids to blender and puree, add back to soup. If desired, thin with more broth. Season with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with celery leaves. Serves 6.
2 carrots, peeled and sliced1⁄2 onion, diced2 celery stalks, diced1 clove garlic, minced1 teaspoon dried whole thyme1 teaspoon dried basil1⁄2 teaspoon dried marjoramSalt & Pepper to taste3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock1⁄2 cup barley1 15-ounce can peeled, seeded tomatoes1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) green beans1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) broccoli florets1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) cornSaute carrots, onion, celery, and garlic in a large pot till translucent and fragrant. Add thyme, marjoram, basil, salt and pepper and stir for another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add barley and tomatoes (add green beans and broccoli if fresh) and boil gently on medium high heat for 20 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and continue to simmer until barley is tender. Add salt and/or pepper to taste. Makes 4 quarts and freezes well.Chef’s suggestions: There are unlimited additions and substitutions to make this soup different every time. Try adding turnips, parsnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables to the carrot mixture. Vary your herbs and spices. Substitute rice for barley. Add canned cannellini (or other) beans. Add or substitute any quick-cooking veggie at the end – spinach, zucchini, red peppers or peas. To make your soup more hearty, add cooked chicken, pork or beef. If you are planning to freeze part of your soup, do not add cream or dairy products.
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced1 bunch leeks, cleaned and chopped (white parts only)1 clove garlic, minced1 shallot, minced3 sprigs fresh thyme1⁄2 yellow onion, chopped2 tablespoons butter4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock1⁄4 cup creamSalt and pepper to tasteSnipped chives for garnishSweat potatoes, leeks, garlic, shallots, onion, and thyme in butter till fragrant. Add stock and enough additional water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add cream. Simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs. Puree soup in blender, strain, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with snipped chives. Serves 4. (For vichysoisse, chill the soup before serving.)Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur (larkspurvail.com), at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and features a West Coast-inspired, market-driven menu.
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