Fool-Proof Soup

Medieval Borscht

Soup for All Seasons

Don’t relegate your soup suppers to late fall and winter, soups make excellent meals year-round, can be made with just about anything and are virtually fool-proof to boot!

Often when you hear someone reference soups in summer it’s cold soups they’re talking about: vichyssoise or fruit soups used as an appetizer light lunch with salad. Frankly, cold soups leave me… cold; they often have odd textures and incomplete flavors. Instead, we have hot soups once a week or so, paired with warm rolls, a salad or sandwiches depending on the soup.

One of the most common reasons for making soup is a what-are-we-going-to-do-with-this vegetable from the farmers’ market. Frequently it’s the quart of field peas or beans that seemed like a good idea until you get home and make your menu. But plenty of other vegetables–fresh, frozen or dried–make excellent soup starters.

I like to make my soups in the slow cooker whenever possible (which is most times)–it’s convenient and doesn’t heat up the kitchen very much, not to mention the great feeling of having dinner ready when you get home from work or wherever you’ve spent your day. Left on high for 8 hours or low for 4 is all it takes.

The other awesome thing about soups is that, really, you don’t need much of any sort of recipe. It’s pretty difficult to screw up a batch of soup, but having some pointers certainly won’t hurt:

  • Start with your primary ingredient: beans, lentils or dried peas, chicken pieces or stew meat are good places to start.
  • Add flavorings: an onion, a couple of garlic cloves (minced), salt, pepper and a bay leaf are my go-to flavor choices for almost all my soups.
  • Finish with enough stock to cover all the ingredients. When setting up your soup the night before and using anything that sucks up liquid (e.g. dried beans, pasta or grains), wait to add your broth or stock until just before starting  the soup.

Now that’s just the basics. You can add any number of additional ingredients that you have on hand. Toss in some diced tomatoes, carrots and green beans. Try hard squashes or potatoes added to your basic soup with a bit of nutmeg or garam masala. Maybe some kale or spinach towards the end of the cooking time, or barley or quinoa. Sliced-up sausage adds amazing flavor, as do some smoked chicken wings or ham hocks–perfect when you want the flavor without meat being the main course.

So go ahead and ignore the “conventional wisdom” of anti-soup summers and toss together a soup for an easy meal this week.

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