Why, when I think of soup, does the "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld immediately come to mind!? I don't even like Seinfeld! Anyways, I hope my soup is that good, though I wouldn't want the same status :-)
I love making soup, I find that it the easiest thing NOT to screw up. Just need good base vegetables (onion, celery, and carrot is considered the "trilogy"), water (or broth), and salt & pepper. Whether it is a pureed soup, or a hearty one, you just can't go wrong. "Invest" in this handheld immersion blender which will make your pureeing job that much simpler. There are more hi-tech ones (like this one by Breville- pro: cordless, con: $$$), but I have found that this one works just perfectly. Plus it's a breeze to clean, the bottom part disconnects with the push of a button. And, with the price of $29.99 (don't forget your trusty 20% off coupon!), you can spring for 2, one for meat as well. I don't have concrete recipes for any of the soups I make, but they basically all involve the same process, just using different vegetables each time. Typically any vegetable you think of can be blended into a delicious soup.
Two weeks ago, just as the weather was really turning, as I was shopping for my produce, I decided to buy wares for different soups that just kept coming to my mind. Soup of the day? Yes, I literally made a different soup everyday! So I will go through my week, or so, of soups. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of my soup- I DON'T KNOW WHY!!!!!! I eat with my eyes first. But, sorry, just imagine that they all looked silky good, and tasted even better...
-S&P, and dried Italian seasoning (blend of oregano & thyme)
-Low sodium vegetable broth (preferred brand: Trader Joe's)
1) Monday: Cauliflower Soup
-Salt & pepper
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 head of cauliflower, cut into individual florets (the smaller you cut them, the faster they'll cook)
-2 big red potatoes, peeled & cubed
-Vegetable broth & water
-Saute one onion in a few tbsp. of olive oil until translucent & then add the garlic
-Add the seasonings salt (1/2 tbsp.) pepper (1/2 teaspoon) & 1 tsp. italian seasoning (tip: it's important to season in every step of the process; just adding s&p at the end won't suffice)
-Add the cauliflower florets & potato
-Add 4 cups of broth & 2 cups of water (better to add less at the beginning, & add more if it's too thick once pureed; it's easier to thin a thick soup, then to thicken a thin soup!)- you can use all water or all broth- the proportions are up to you.
-Add a little bit more salt & pepper
-Bring to a boil, and then turn to low heat until vegis are soft enough to puree with the hand blender.
-Add more water if needed, or you can add milk, or any milk equivalent if you choose. I never use anything but water or broth, I find it's good enough without!
**The versatility with this soup (& any soup for that matter) is that you can substitute the cauliflower with broccoli, for broccoli soup. The potato just acts as a thickening agent**
2) Tuesday: Roasted Potato Leek
-3 leeks, white & light green parts only
-4 cloves garlic
-8 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes (or a 2 lb. bag)
-Salt & pepper
-6 cups of liquid: vegetable broth + water
-Cube the potatoes, toss with olive oil & garlic salt and roast at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. That extra step really makes the soup taste better, but you can do without if on a time crunch.
-In the meantime, slice the leeks down the center, and then chop up. Soak in water and a tbsp. of vinegar (helps release the sand- leeks are notoriously sandy/dirty)
-Once drained, saute the leeks in olive oil (rule of thumb with the olive oil is use just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pot), and add the garlic
-Add the roasted potatoes, salt & pepper
-Add the liquid- the same rules apply- the less the better, and add more later
-Bring to boil & then lower heat to medium-low
-Cook about 30 minutes, until the vegis are all soft enough to puree
3) Wednesday: Butternut Squash
-1 onion, chopped
-1 stalk of celery, chopped
-2 small carrots, chopped
-Shortcut!!! : 2 lbs. peeled & cubed butternut squash (Trader Joe's has this, & at a great price)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt & pepper
-6 cups liquid
-7 fresh sage leaves
-The process is the same as above- saute all the vegetables, add the butternut squash, season throughout, & then cover with liquid and cook until soft
-As far as the sage leaves though, I love the flavor of sage with butternut squash- it is very apropos for this time of year, especially. You can add the sage leaves whole at the beginning with the onions, and then fish them out afterwards, or you can chop them up and add them with all the rest of the vegetables. Either one is fine.
4) Thursday: Roasted Tomato Basil
-1 onion, chopped
-1 stalk celery, chopped
-1 carrot, chopped
-1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
-1 lb. plum tomatoes
-6 garlic cloves, sliced
-1 can cannellini beans (white beans), drained
-1 container of Pomi Chopped or Stewed Tomatoes (I recommend using boxed tomatoes. They sell them at pretty much every supermarket. I try to stay away from canned tomatoes, studies have shown that the acid from the tomatoes mixed with the metal can is not a good combination).
-1/2 cup marinara sauce
-2 tbsp. tomato paste (I use the Israeli brand that come in little peel back containers, 4 connected)
-2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed well
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half the long way, and scoop out the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt & pepper, and lay on a baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, and put garlic slices in each tomato cavity.
-In the meantime, saute all the vegetables, add Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.
-Add marinara, boxed tomatoes, and tomato paste
-Add the roasted tomatoes
-Cover all the vegetables with water + broth (whatever combination you prefer)
-Mash the beans with the back of a fork until it forms a sort of paste (this thickens the soup without adding any extra fat or carb)
-Bring to boil, and then lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes until everything is soft. Add the basil & the beans, cook 10 minutes, and then puree.
5) Friday: Meat Soup
This is basically a basic chicken soup recipe made with flanken instead. Ok, it's not all that original but nonetheless good.
-1 onion, quartered
-2 stalks celery
-1 sweet potato
-1 large red potato
-A few sprigs of fresh dill
-Chunks of flanken, trim the fat as much as you can
-Cover all the vegetables with water, and a little salt (I didn't use pepper, or a lot of salt because I made this with the plan of pureeing some for Rosie--> she LOVED it)
-I let it cook for about 3-4 hours.
There are so many variations for soup. I made zucchini soup this past Thursday, recipe thanks to Naomi's mother in law!!! It was a hit, but again, you don't need recipes to make delicious soup. You have all the basic tips & ingredients, so just EXPERIMENT! Add any vegetable you like.. well, I'm not sure if bell pepper soup would be a success, but who knows!