‘Tis the Season
Even at Lettuce Networks headquarters in sunny Central Texas, winter weather has arrived (hey, 45 degrees is cold to us!). And frigid evenings all but demand soup for supper. Not only are soups the perfect antidote to the cold, they are deceptively easy to prepare. Soups can be made hearty or light, chunky, brothy, or pureed. Cooking up a pot can also lend itself to cleaning out the fridge–just about anything can go in a soup. Never mind that the more veggies you pack in, the more nutritious the soup becomes. No need to be intimidated by developing your own recipe or tweaking a traditional favorite. Making soup is a snap.
Most soups have a humble beginning. The traditional trio of vegetables known by the French as mirepoix includes diced onion, carrots, and celery, sweated in olive oil over low heat until translucent and fragrant.
This can be adjusted depending on preferences or on other ingredients. A pureed cauliflower soup, for example, might mean substituting the carrots for parsnips to maintain the creamy white color. Too, garlic is almost always a smart addition to the start of any soup.
Herbs, spices, and sea salt come next. Sprinkled over the mirepoix, stirring constantly to avoid burning, the aromatics let you know that you are well on your way to something delicious. Next in line are vegetables, with roots first to allow for more cooking time. Hold back on any leafy greens you plan to add until just before the soup is done, which keeps them bright and avoids any mushiness. Stir to coat the vegetables with the olive oil and aromatics.
Any meats come next, and then the water or broth. If time allows, use water, which means all the goodies will magically turn it into a broth as the soup slowly simmers. If rushed, a box of organic broth does the trick, making it a staple pantry item. Bring it all up to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. When your toughest vegetable is fork tender and any meats are cooked through, add the leafy greens you may be using. If you include pasta, cook it and even store it in a separate pot or container and add it at the end of cooking or as you heat leftovers. Pasta tends to get puffy and less delicious as it sits in broth.
If you are a soup lover, consider adding an immersion blender to your equipment collection. To get a beautifully smooth, pureed soup, simply immerse the blender in the tender, cooked vegetables and broth and blend until smooth. No need to drag out the heavy duty blender. Besides, using an immersion blender means only one pot to wash! Pureed soups often call for less broth or water to keep them from being too liquidy. When adding the water or broth, add just enough to cover the vegetables as they cook. Then as you blend, you can always add more to thin a too-thick puree.
Divide your soup among bowls and serve. Cornbread, a tortilla, or a piece of grainy bread are perfect partners for soup. Or make a heartier meal by pairing it with a sandwich or leafy green salad. Follow these basic steps, and you are limited only by your imagination or what may be hanging around in the refrigerator crisper. Soup’s on!