Did you know that January is National Soup Month? Neither did I, but I am certainly glad that someone decided to honor and highlight this quintessential comfort food. As I sit here writing this, I know I am brewing another cold. My throat is scratchy and my head feels huge. I have just started sneezing. Despite the lack of snow, winter is here.
So, last night I rummaged through the fridge and pulled all the veggies I thought would be good for some soup. I always keep boxes of all kinds of broth on hand, so I was good to go. I also keep cans of organic beans and frozen peas, corn and baby Lima beans. Within 45 minutes I was breathing in the aromatic steam of some delicious soup and 20 minutes later, after some serious seasoning, I was sipping the hot, healing meal. No recipe, just great ingredients and a meal is served.
Soup is the ultimate sign of food love; if someone makes you soup, they care. The term “soup kitchen” came about during the Great Depression. We served bowls of hot soup to the poor and homeless to sustain them through their hard times. In Chicago, even legendary gangster Al Capone got into the act. Right after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, Capone, allegedly to improve his image, opened many soup kitchens to feed (and clothe) the hungry.
Soups help our bodies in so many ways. Healthful, healing broths and soups, loaded with veggies and meats are the often the first food given to recovering patients. Hot soups loosen congestion and soothe sore, irritated throats.
There really is a reason why chicken soup has been likened to penicillin for so many years — it has been shown to lessen the symptoms of colds and the flu. In addition, sipping soup also aids in weight-loss efforts; subjects who ate a bowl of light soup before a meal consumed 100 fewer calories per meal than did those who ate solid appetizers. In addition, eating soup seems to trigger happy memories, so people’s emotions brighten when they eat soup.
In the kitchen, soups are a cook’s best friend. With a well-stocked cupboard, freezer and fridge, soups can be made in no time. Recipes are really not a must — just look at your ingredients and with some stock, veggies, beans, and seasonings, you are all set.
It’s great if you can make your own stocks and keep them in the freezer (it saves money). But few of us do that and the boxed stocks are excellent. I love dried beans, but for unplanned soups, organic, canned beans and frozen beans and veggies are superb. Even fresh veggies that are a tad too old for eating fresh (a slightly limp carrot) can make terrific soup.
So, stock the kitchen and always be prepared to make soup, especially in the winter. It will sustain you through this stressful winter.
Easy Vegetable Soup (Pareve)
This is my go-to veggie soup all winter. I always have a quart or two in the freezer for anyone who gets sick or needs some comfort soup. Even my year old grandson loves this soup (I puree it for him)!
This is a very forgiving recipe and you can use any and all veggies you like. I frequently add zucchini and, sometimes, a can of diced tomatoes. Cook times and amounts can vary to your liking.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 to 3 large leeks, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1 to 2 bay leaves
6 to 12 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 small sprig each: rosemary, dill, parsley (tied together)
3 oz. several kinds of mushrooms
3 to 4 cartons vegetable broth (32 oz. each) OR equivalent amount of water OR homemade vegetable broth
2 to 5 Tbsp. vegetable bouillon low sodium (I use an organic paste form)
1 package frozen organic baby lima beans
1 package frozen organic baby peas
1 package frozen organic green beans
1 package frozen organic corn (I like roasted)
Organic Kosher vegetable broth paste
Pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: 1 can well-rinsed red kidney beans, white cannellini beans, gigante beans. Baby spinach leaves, tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets, etc.
Place a large stock pot on the stove. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmery. Process the onions and add to the oil. Sauté the onions until translucent.
Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the leeks and the celery and sauté until tender, 6 to 7 minutes over medium low heat. Add the herbs and bay leaf and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth and bouillon, carrots and mushrooms, and bring to a low boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Taste and add more bouillon if needed, salt and pepper to taste and the lima beans, peas, green beans, and corn.
Cook for 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove the herbs and bay leaf and serve hot. Serves a crowd.
NOTE 1: I use a 12-quart stockpot for this. If your pot is smaller, use half packages of the frozen veggies and enough stock to fit the pot comfortably. I use organic vegetable broth packed in the sterile boxes. It is delicious and enriches this soup.
NOTE 2: You can divide this in half and make it in a 6-quart Instant Pot set to “soup” and 9 minutes. Let it naturally depressurize for 20 minutes. I saute the veggies on the saute cycle first.
Creamy Mushroom Soup with Sherry Wine (Dairy)
Sometimes a rich, creamy soup is the perfect dish on a cold winter’s day. Indulge, add a skinny salad and enjoy the decadence!
2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
3-1/2 cups boiling water
1 lb. white mushrooms
1/2 lb. fresh shitake mushrooms
2 Tbsp. butter
3-1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 small to medium onions finely minced
3-1/2 Tbsp. unbleached flour
4 to 5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock or no-chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
1/8 to 1/4 cup dry sherry wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley, or fresh chives
GARNISH: 1/4 cup finely minced mushrooms for garnish • Truffle oil
Bring 3-1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once it reaches a full boil, turn off the heat and add the mushrooms. Press them down with a spoon so they absorb the water. Set aside. Let soak for 30 minutes. Place a coffee filter in a strainer and pour the liquid into the strainer set over a large bowl. Set aside. Chop the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
Thinly slice the white mushrooms and the shitake mushrooms and set them aside. Heat a large saucepan, Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the sliced mushrooms and stir. Let heat until the mushrooms are softened and begin to exude liquid, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove about 1/4 cup of the mushrooms and reserve for garnish.
Sprinkle the flour evenly over the mushrooms. I place it in a strainer over the pan and shake it evenly. Mix the mushrooms for 1 to 2 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked and well incorporated.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the reserved mushroom liquid. Mix well. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms to the mushroom mixture and whisk to keep the mixture smooth. Add the veggie stock and heat over medium-low heat. Simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often.
Turn off heat and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it reaches the desired consistency, from velvety smooth or very chunky- your choice. Add the sherry, mix, taste and add more if needed. Add the half and half and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the minced parsley and mix. Continue to heat until very warm, but not boiling. Ladle into bowls and garnish with minced mushrooms.
For garnish: Slice the 1/4 cup reserved mushrooms. Heat a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms exude liquid and then absorb all the liquid, 3 to 6 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
Place a half-teaspoon of the mushrooms on each bowl of soup. For a really decadent treat, drizzle a half teaspoon of truffle oil over the top of the mushrooms and the soup. Serves 6 to 8.
Leek and Potato Soup (Dairy)
I love Leek and Potato Soup. Many of the ones I have tasted are scrumptious because they have very rich cream bases. In my efforts to “lighten up,” I created one that is rich in flavor, not calories and fat. You must use a good vegetable broth for the base or the soup will be too mild.
8 leeks, white part only, about 6 to 8 inches long, cleaned and chopped
1-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes
4 Tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1/3 lb. shallots, peeled and diced, 4 to 7 shallots
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH: Fresh snipped chives
OPTIONAL: 1 cup heavy, medium, or light cream, or half and half
Cut away the dark green part of the leeks and the root end and discard. Discard the outside layer or two. Cut the leeks lengthwise in half and cut into half-moons. Place in a large bowl of cold eater, swish vigorously and drain. Repeat and drain well.
Peel the potatoes and dice them. Place them in a bowl of cold water.
Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions, garlic, and shallots and cook until translucent and soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the leeks and sauté for another 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes, add them and mix well. Add the bay leaf and thyme and the stock. Simmer, partially covered for 35 to 45 minutes, until the potatoes are almost dissolved into the soup. Remove the bay leaf and thyme.
Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until it reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little more broth. Garnish with some croutons (homemade are best) fresh, snipped chives and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6 to 8.
Simple Thai Vegetarian Soup (Pareve)
Sometimes, a light vegetarian broth is the perfect soup for a cold day lunch or simple light supper. The flavor comes from the veggies and is light and fresh.
4 tsp. Tbsp. canola oil divided in half
4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 to 2 Tbsp. grated ginger
3 to 6 scallions, sliced
1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped lemon grass (purchased in a store like Whole Foods)
1/2 lb. mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 lb. broccoli, cut into small florets, save the stalks for broth or discard
2 carrots julienned
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
OPTIONAL: Red or green pepper, cut into small chunks • 1 quart vegetable broth, more if needed • Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH: 1 pkg. fresh straw mushrooms • 1 leek, white part, thinly sliced into rounds • Red onion, thinly sliced, pea shoots,
OPTIONAL 1 to 2 tsp. Thai red curry paste (in the Asian section of the supermarket)
Heat a wok and add the canola oil. Stir fry the garlic until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove to a plate. Add the broccoli and stir constantly until it turns bright green. Add the celery and stir for one minute. Add the carrots and stir for 45 seconds. Scrape the veggies onto another plate and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the wok and add the ginger, scallions and lemon grass. Stir for 45 to 60 seconds and add the mushrooms. Stir for one to two minutes, until the mushrooms stop releasing liquid. Add the broth slowly. Bring to a boil and add the vegetables back into the soup.
Season and reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes until very hot and steaming. Ladle into each bowl and garnish with the leek rounds, fried garlic pieces and a few straw mushrooms on each bowl, red onion pieces, pea tendrils, etc.
NOTE 1: For a lemony soup, thinly slice a lemon and float the slices on top of the soup while it simmers. Serve a lemon slice or two in each bowl.
NOTE 2: For a hot and spicy soup, add the curry paste to the wok immediately after removing the garlic. Stir it constantly for one minute before adding broccoli. Continue as directed. Serves 4 to 6
Joni’s Signature Zucchini Leek Soup (Pareve)
This is one of the easiest soups I have ever made and has become my most requested. It is thick and creamy yet has nothing fattening in it. Serve in a pretty bowl with some frizzled leeks or croutons as a garnish.
NOTE: Use enough veggies to fill the pot about 2/3 to 3/4 full.
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 to 10 long leeks white/light green part should be about 7 to 12 inches long
6 to 10 zucchinis about 7 to 8 inches long
2 to 3 carrots
2 to 3 stalks celery (Optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 quart boxes Vegetable broth (Imagine No Chicken- Chicken Kosher)
1 to 2 Tbsp. Kosher Better than Bouillon vegetarian paste, to taste
Discard the dark green part of the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, discard the outer layer, and wash thoroughly, running cold water through the length of the leek. Cut the leeks into thin slices by hand (leeks cannot be sliced in the food processor as they are too fibrous) into half-round pieces. If you like, reserve 1 cup for Frizzled Leeks for garnish. Place in a large bowl of cold water, swish and drain and repeat. Leeks have a lot of fine sand in them so need thorough washing.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and the leeks, stir and cover. Leeks should fill about 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot Peel the carrots and cut into thin slices. Add to the pot and stir. If using, add the celery. Wash the zucchini and trim the ends. Cut into thin slices and add to the pot. Remember, the veggies should fill at least 2/3 to 3/4 of the pot. Add 2 cups broth and cover. Heat over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes to let the veggies begin to steam.
Add enough vegetable broth to barely cover the veggies and then cover the pot. Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until all veggies are really mushy. Add more broth if too much evaporates. Turn off heat, partially uncover, and let cool for 10 minutes.
Use an immersion blender and emulsify the soup until smooth. Soup will be thick. Add a generous tablespoon of the bouillon paste and mix with the immersion blender. Taste, adjust bouillon, and ad some pepper, if you like. This recipe serves a crowd.
FOR THE FRIZZLED LEEKS: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/4 inch Canola oil. Heat for 15 to 20 seconds. Separate the reserved leeks into half circles and fry until deep golden and crispy. Place on a paper towel to drain. Serve soup in a small bowl and garnish with a few frizzled leeks and maybe some snipped chives or scallions.