Creating Your Own Hearty Winter Soups Is Easy If You Know the Short Cuts!

By  0 Comments

Soup, for many, is the ultimate comfort food, especially when the weather turns cold. Our ancestors started preparing soups as soon as they invented cooking pots; soon after, soup became regarded as more than just food. Soup became love, easy to eat and nutritious.

You can cook from scratch for some great soups, hearty enough for a main course. And, you can take culinary shortcuts using commercially produced broth, canned tomatoes, nutritious high-fiber canned lentils and beans. Soup is a great way to repurpose leftovers from meat to vegetables to starches.

If you like to start from scratch, it’s not hard to make your own broth. It takes time, but not much effort or culinary expertise. You can use a slow cooker or a stovetop, but you can always just use supermarket broth or stock, from cans or boxes.

Yes, supermarket canned meat broth is a good alternative to making soup from scratch. For vegetarian broth, you can make your own and avoid adding to the food waste dilemma.
Just save a few cups of your vegetable kitchen scraps (yes, you can freeze them), such as onions (including the skins), celery (including tops and bottoms), carrots and their peels, summer squashes, radish tops, parsley and whatever else you have in the house. Fry gently in some olive oil, add a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Add water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer, then cook for about 40 minutes. Strain and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Once you choose your broth, you can add ingredients that will take a plain soup and make it elegant or ethnic. Don’t be afraid of using canned items or leftovers from a day or two ago, either.
Southwestern style beans can take a regular soup south-of-the-border. Good choices include black, pinto or canary (Peruvian) beans. You can add a little extra meat such as cooked chorizo, pork, chicken or beef. If you like a little heat, throw in some canned or fresh green chilies and maybe a few tablespoons of leftover salsa. Top with some chopped fresh cilantro and some tortilla strips.
Chicken broth can be the base of a great Italian-style soup. Throw in some fresh zucchini or greens, such as spinach or chard, and chopped up leftover supermarket rotisserie chicken or cooked Italian sausage. A can of drained chopped tomatoes adds flavor, as does fresh or dried basil. Canned lentils, cannellini or Great Northern beans are a flavorful addition. Or, drop in some mini-ravioli, tortellini or even gnocchi, available at most grocery stores.

For a more Asian touch, substitute Asian dumplings for the ravioli. There are huge varieties from which to choose, filled with meats and vegetables. And, of course, this is a great way to use last night’s takeout fried rice. Vegetables such snow peas, chopped bok choy or shelled edamame add flavor and nutrition. You can also add few splashes of soy or a little hoisin or oyster sauce, but remember, when adding prepared sauces, less is more. And, of course, cubes of firm or extra firm tofu are not just for those avoiding meat. They will absorb the flavorful broth and be delicious.
Craving some old European potage? Start with a rich broth with bite-sized pieces of cooked beef or lamb and add carrots, celery, sautéed leeks and sweet peppers. Other additions include pre-cooked chopped potatoes, egg noodles or spätzle. Or try some filled dumplings with exotic sounding names such as pierogi, pelmeni and kreplach, filled with meats, potatoes or cheese. Barley, an ancient grain, is also a great addition. Cook barley in broth directly, throwing in some carrots during the last few minutes. Choose either medium barley or quick barley.

Other possible ingredients to add extra flavor are a couple of tablespoons of olive bruschetta, Middle Eastern dips such as harissa, pesto, mushrooms, which can be dried, canned or fresh, a squeeze of citrus, a shake of hot sauce and maybe a splash of wine. You can even add a little heavy cream or sour cream. And you can always top off your steaming bowl of soup with your favorite shredded cheese.

The best thing about soup making is that exact amounts aren’t necessary. Throw in what you’d like or how much you have in your larder. Also, if you have a leftover stew or chili, just add more broth and a few extras and voilà, it’s soup. These are just basic ideas and each cook can use whatever additions and flavors they think might be delicious. It’s hard to go wrong.

Serve your winter soup with a side salad and a good hunk of bread and you’re got real home cooking that will, as they say, keep ’em coming back for more. ■

Sources: and