Winter is time for bowls of hot, steaming, comforting soup. That’s probably why January is National Soup Month.
On a cold winter day, a pot of simmering soup will warm your house. A pot of boiling soup puts steam in the dry winter air indoors, which is a good thing.
Soup is healthy. Because it has plenty of fluid, it is moisturizing. It includes fiber and vitamins from vegetables and protein from meat or beans. Potatoes, grains or pasta provide carbohydrates for energy.
This prehistoric one-pot dish dates back to the time of the discovery of pottery more than 8,000 years ago. As soon as people made pots to cook in, they made soup. In these modern times, every culture and country serves some form of traditional soup.
A pot of soup is a cheap way to feed your family. Serve delicious soup with a nice bread and a salad. You can buy canned soup, order soup at your favorite restaurant or make your own delicious soup in your kitchen.
Soup is a versatile dish that can be made with almost anything. Look in the closet to see what you have available. Cereals, pasta, beans. What vegetables are in your fridge or freezer? Do you have any meat to add? What herbs and spices are there in your spice cabinet? Almost anything can be put in your soup. Even things that are generally discarded, such as bones or onion skins, can be boiled first to add flavor and nutrients to the broth.
Soups can be customized to your liking. A borscht recipe requires cumin seeds, but you do not like cumin seeds? Put in another herb, e.g. dill, or omit them – it will still taste delicious.
Here in the US, the mix of many cultures has given us lots of different soups. Minestrone. Borsjtj. Ribolita. Squash and apple bisque. Beef barley. Chicken rice. Vegetable beef. Crab. Mussel soup. Mulligatawny. Won-Ton. Cream of broccoli. Chicken noodles. Corn juice. Broccoli with cheese. french onion. Tomato basil. Potato soup. Spicy chicken tortilla. Navy bean with ham. Chile. Juk. Harira. Locro. Vichyssoise. Cabbage soup. Hummerbisque. Chairo and peanut soup. Lentil soup. Creamy onion and garlic. Sausage tortellini. Mushroom cream. Tom Kai Gai. Flaky (with or without ham). Gnocchi sausage soup. Pasta Fagioli. And so 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 meatless Polish Vigilia (Christmas Eve).
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter (or 1 strip of bacon if not vegetarian)
2 large onions (about 2 cups in cubes)
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 or 4 cups, diced)
2 medium-sized potatoes
1 small head cabbage (approx. 4 cups, chopped coarsely or shredded)
4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups 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 a large saucepan. Peel and cut the onions into cubes and add. Sprinkle with salt, turmeric and pepper. Kog ca. 5 minutes until transparent.
While onions are cooking, cut carrots and celery into slices; core and chop apple if using; stir in. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes.
Clean or peel and chop 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 simmer and cook approx. 40 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
Stir in beans and apple cider vinegar. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and serve.
Pour hot soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with chopped fresh dill or chopped chives and a blob of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Option: For a meaty non-vegetarian soup, replace chicken broth with vegetable broth and add a little cooked ham diced at the end when adding the beans.
Middle Eastern hummus soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion (approx. 1 cup diced)
1 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cloves garlic
1 liter of broth (or 2 cups of broth, 2 cups of water)
1 can chickpeas
Optional vegetables: Kale, spinach, winter or summer squash, corn kernels
Ingredients for garnish: chopped cucumber, crumbled feta cheese
Heat oil to medium-low in the bottom of the soup kettle. Chop carrot, and add. Peel and cut the onion into cubes and add. Cut celery into slices and stir in. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Arrow and chop the garlic, and stir in. Boil it for approx. 5 minutes.
Add broth and 2 cups or more vegetables of your choice: diced winter squash or zucchini, kale or spinach, corn kernels or creamy corn. Or something else you dream of! Cook until the vegetables are soft – 15 or 20 minutes for winter squash or kale, 5 or 10 minutes for corn kernels, zucchini or spinach.
Drain 1 can of chickpeas, rinse and add.
To get a smooth, creamy soup, blend with a stick blender (or a regular blender, in batches).
Taste and adjust spices. Peel a lemon and add the peel; Squeeze some juice in and garnish with lemon slices, chopped cucumbers and crumbled feta.
Serves 3 to 4.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh and Amazing Meals from Your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.