Winter is the time for hot, steaming and comforting soup dishes. That’s probably why January is National Soup Month.
On a cold winter day, a boiling pot of soup will warm your home. A boiling pot of soup puts steam in the dry indoor winter air, which is good.
The soup is healthy. Because it has a lot of fluid, it is hydrating. It includes fiber and vitamins from vegetables and protein from meat or beans. Potatoes, cereals or pasta provide carbohydrates as a source of energy.
This prehistoric one-pot dish dates back to the discovery of pottery more than 8,000 years ago. As soon as humans made cooking pots, they made soup. In these modern times, every culture and country serves some kind of traditional soup.
A pot of soup is an inexpensive way to feed your family. Serve a delicious soup with a good loaf of bread and a salad. You can buy canned soup, order soup at your favorite restaurant, or create your own delicious soup in your kitchen.
Soup is a versatile dish that can be made with just about anything. Look in your closet to see what you have available. Grains, pasta, beans. What vegetables are in your fridge or freezer? Do you have any meat to add? What herbs and spices are in your spice cupboard? Almost anything can be put in your soup. Even things that are usually thrown away, like onion bones or skins, can be cooked first to add flavor and nutrients to the broth.
The soups are customizable to your tastes. A recipe for borscht calls for caraway seeds, but don’t you like caraway seeds? Substitute in another herb, like dill, or just leave them out; it will still taste delicious.
Here in the United States, the combination of many cultures has given us many different soups. Minestrone. Borscht. Ribolite. Pumpkin and apple bisque. Beef barley. Chicken rice. Vegetable beef. Crab. Clam soup. Anglo-Indian curry soup. Won-Ton. Cream of broccoli. Chicken with noodles. Corn chowder. Broccoli with Cheese. French onion. Tomato basil. Potato soup. Spicy chicken omelette. Bean with ham. Chili. Juk. Harira. Locro. Vichyssoise. Cabbage Soup. Lobster soup. Chairo and peanut soup. Lentil soup. Creamy onion and garlic. Sausage tortellini. Mushroom cream. Tom Kai Gai. Split pea (with or without ham). Gnocchi sausage soup. Fagioli pasta. And many more.
What is your favorite soup?
This vegetarian borscht is loosely based on a recipe from chef and restaurateur Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbook. I made it for our Polish Meatless Vigil (Christmas Eve).
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter (or 1 strip of bacon if you don’t make it vegetarian)
2 large onions (about 2 cups, diced)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon or more freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk of celery
1 apple, optional
2 large beets (about 3-4 cups, diced)
2 medium potatoes
1 small head cabbage (about 4 cups, coarsely chopped or shredded)
4 cups of vegetable broth plus 2 cups of water or apple cider
1 can Great Northern beans (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Chopped fresh dill or chopped chives
Heat oil or melt butter in large soup pot. Peel and cut the onions and add them. Sprinkle with salt, turmeric, and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until transparent.
While the onions are cooking, slice the carrots and celery; remove the core and chop the apple, if using; stir. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes.
Clean or peel and chop the beets and potatoes. Core and chop the cabbage. Add beets, potatoes, cabbage, and broth to the kettle. Bring to a boil; Lower the heat to a simmer and cook about 40 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
Add the beans and apple cider vinegar. Cook 2 to 3 minutes and serve.
Serve the soup hot in bowls. Garnish each serving with chopped fresh dill or chopped chives and a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Option: For a meaty non-vegetarian soup, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth and add some diced cooked ham at the end when you add the beans.
Makes 8 servings.
Middle Eastern hummus soup
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion (about 1 cup, diced)
1 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cloves of garlic
1 quart of broth (or 2 cups of broth, 2 cups of water)
1 can of chickpeas
Optional vegetables: kale, spinach, winter or summer squash, corn kernels
Garnish toppings: diced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese
Heat the oil over medium-low heat in the bottom of the soup pot. Chop the carrot and add. Peel and dice the onion and add. Slice the celery and add. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and turmeric. Peel and mince the garlic and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add broth and 2 or more cups of veggies of your choice: diced winter squash or zucchini, kale or spinach, corn kernels, or creamed corn. Or whatever else you can think of! Cook until vegetables are tender: 15-20 minutes for winter squash or kale, 5-10 minutes for corn, zucchini, or spinach.
Drain 1 can of chickpeas, rinse and add.
For a smooth and creamy soup, blend with an immersion blender (or regular blender, in batches).
Taste and adjust seasonings. Grate the lemon and add the zest; squeeze some juice and garnish with lemon wedges, chopped cucumbers, and crumbled feta cheese.
Makes 3-4 servings.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh and fabulous meals from your garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market”, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. You can find her at www.yvonafast.com and contact her at email@example.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.