Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Bowl Full of Comfort: Soothing Soups from around the Globe

It has been a long, cold winter. And to cheer body and soul I have found myself making a lot of soup. It is not just the eating of the soup that warms and nurtures me but the making of the soup feels so good as well. Sophia Loren famously said “the most indispensable ingredient for good home cooking: love for those you are cooking for”. Making soup (and bread) gives me that feeling – like I am really taking care of my family. 
Soup making usually starts with a Mirepoix. Sounds fancy but this is simply the French name for the classic combination of onions, carrots and celery that is sautéed and used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, and soups. After that soup making is as easy as adding stock, more vegetables, protein and spices. Voila! Comfort in a bowl!
If you are looking for a creamy texture without adding too many high fat ingredients try pureeing the cooked vegetables and stock.  Now you can add lower fat milk rather then whole or cream milk.  I often slightly puree vegetable soups as well.  However, my husband often begins to suspect that I am covertly trying to feed him some vegetable he doesn’t like. He is right, of course, but shhh! he doesn’t need to know that. The quickest and easiest way to puree the soup is to use a hand held immersion blender.  This way you don't have the fuss of transferring hot soup to a food processor or blender.  It is easier to control the texture as well.
Adding a garnish to your soups gives it another layer of flavour and texture to your soup. Think opposites such as crunchy on smooth (croutons on a creamed soup) or smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht) or salty on sweet (peanuts on Thai Soup) or cool on hot (sour cream on a spicy Mexican soup)…  Quick garnishes include croutons, a dollop of sour cream or pesto, grated cheese, crumbled feta cheese or bacon, chopped chives or other herbs, crushed potato or tortilla chip, or even silvered almonds.
Soup is one of those dishes that you can easily experiment with.  Adding ingredients you have on hand and tweaking the spices to find the perfect combination for your family. I often start with a recipe or even a couple of recipes for a soup that I want to make and then change and tweak until perfect (for me).
I have done just that with several of my favourite comfort soups from around the globe. Here are 5 soups that I have been making and tweaking for years. They stay essentially the same but every time I make them I add different vegetables and protein depending on what I have on hand! Enjoy! Dorothy

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme
This recipe adds a twist to Mirepoix as rather then sautéing the vegetables you roast them! This soup is so yummy and so flexible.  Change up the vegetables or the protein. I made it with chicken this time but I often make it with black beans or lentils. I have even tried it with tofu.
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped carrot 250 mL
1 cup chopped celery 250 mL
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch (2.5 cm cubes)
1 large turnip, chopped into 1 inch (2.5 cm cubes)
2 zucchini, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic 15 mL
2 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL
8 cups chicken broth 2 L
1 can (28 oz/ 796 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 Tbsp dried parsley 15 mL
1 tsp dried rosemary 5 mL
1 tsp dried thyme 5 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 1 mL
1.    Preheat oven to 450 F (220 C).  Toss onions, carrots, celery, sweet potato, turnip, zucchini and garlic with canola oil.  Place on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.
2.    Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, heat chicken broth and tomatoes over low heat. Add parsley, rosemary and thyme. 
3.    Add roasted vegetables and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes to develop flavours. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm!
Yield: 12 to 14 servings.

Chicken Thai Soup
This is one of my favourite soups.  Again, I switch up the proteins and sometime make it without meat.  If I don’t have mushrooms then I add cauliflower, sweet potato or squash.  I love the depth of flavour that the red chili paste adds but if you don’t have it use red pepper flakes or, if you really like the heat, a hot pepper sauce like Sriracha.
1 Tbsp canola oil 15 mL
1 cup chopped onion 250 mL
1 cup chopped carrot 250 mL
1 cup chopped celery 250 mL
1 cup chopped red pepper 250 mL
2 tsp minced garlic 10 mL
4 cups mushrooms, chopped 1 L
1 Tbsp grated ginger 15 mL
1 tsp cumin 5 mL
1 tsp ground coriander 5 mL
1 tsp curry powder 5 mL
4 cups chicken broth 1 L
1 can (14 oz/398 mL) coconut milk
¼ cup peanut butter 60 mL
1 – 2 Tbsp red chili paste 15 – 30 mL
1 Tbsp brown sugar 15 mL
1 Tbsp lime juice 15 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 1 mL
1 lb cooked shrimp, tails removed or cooked, cubed chicken breast  500 g
2 Tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro 30 mL
2 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil 30 mL
1. In a large stockpot, heat canola oil over medium high heat.  Add onion, carrot, celery, pepper and garlic.  Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms, ginger, cumin, coriander, and curry powder. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring to a bowl and reduce to simmer.  If you want, you can use an immersion blender to slightly puree the soup.
3. Stir in peanut butter, red chili paste, brown sugar and lime juice. Add shrimp or chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for another few minutes. Garnish with cilantro and basil. Serve.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Rice) Soup
My Uncle Frank gave me one of my first cookbooks, which included a ‘real’ Avgolemono Soup that started me off on trying to perfect this recipe. I am a partial purist to the traditional recipes that usually only includes chicken stock, eggs, lemons, orzo or rice and pepper. I use eggs to thicken rather then cornstarch but I also add in onions, garlic, lemon zest and sometimes dill for added flavour.
2 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL
½ lb boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces 250 g
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced 125 mL
1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth 1.5 L
1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh) 60 mL
3 eggs
2 cups cooked orzo or rice 500 mL
½ tsp lemon zest 2 mL
2 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh) 30 mL
¼ cup chopped dill or flat leaf (Italian) parsley 60 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
1 tsp freshly ground pepper 5 mL
1. In a skillet, sauté chicken in canola oil until just about cooked. Add onion and garlic and cook until chicken is completely cooked.
2. Meanwhile in a large stockpot, heat broth until simmering.
3.  Separate eggs. Place egg whites in a non-reactive, heatproof mixing bowl and beat using the balloon whisk attachment for you mixer. Wisk until frothy and the volume increases by several times. Continue whisking and add in egg yolks, then slowly add in ¼ cup (60 mL) lemon juice.  The egg mixture will have lost some volume and will be a light yellow color.
4. Gradually add 1 ladleful of hot chicken broth into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk all the time. Add a second ladleful in the same way.  Return the egg broth mixture back into the soup, whisking continuously.  Add cooked chicken, rice lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Stir and heat for two minutes. DO NOT bring to a boil or the eggs will curdle. The soup may be foamy – just continue to stir and this will subside as you serve it.
5. Serve warm with chopped green onion or dill to garnish.  If reheating the soup the next day check the flavour and add more lemon juice if necessary.
Yield: 8 servings.

Sopa Mexicana Deliciosa
The bacon really adds a smoky flavour while the jalapenos add just a nice amount of heat! Sometimes I sometimes use canola oil rather then bacon and add chicken as  the protein.
4 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onion 250 mL
1 cup chopped celery 250 mL
1 cup chopped red pepper 250 mL
3 cups corn 750 mL
6 cups chicken broth 1.5 L
1 can (28 oz/ 796 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (19 oz/ 540 mL) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (4 oz/114 mL) diced jalapenos
1 tsp cumin 5 mL
1 tsp dried rosemary 5 mL
1 tsp dried oregano 5 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 1 mL
½ cup sour cream 125 mL
1.    In a large stockpot, cook bacon until almost crispy. Add onion, celery, red pepper and corn. Sauté until vegetables are soft and the bacon can be broken into small pieces. About five minutes.
2.    Add broth, tomatoes, beans, jalapeno, cumin, rosemary, oregano, slat and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes to develop flavours. You can use an immersion blender to puree soup.  I like mine a little chunky so I just blend for about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Yield: 12 servings.

Vietnamese Vermicelli Rice Bowl
Technically, this is not a soup but it does go in a bowl and it is totally comfort food to me. This time instead of bean sprouts I used micro greens from a local greenhouse – Lower Shannon Farms. For a more substantial meal add chopped strips of leftover chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.
Noodle Sauce:
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar 30 mL
2 Tbsp fish sauce 30 mL
1 Tbsp lime juice 15 mL
1 Tbsp water 15 mL
1 Tbsp granulated sugar 15 mL
2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 2 mL
Vermicelli Bowl:
1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL
½ small shallots or onion, sliced
2 oz rice vermicelli noodles 60 g
2 cup finely chopped lettuce 500 mL
1 cup bean sprouts 250 mL
1 English cucumber, cut into 2-inchmatchsticks 60 mL
1/4 cup finely sliced carrots (like matchsticks) 60 mL
1/4 cup finely sliced red pepper or Diakon radish 60 mL
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 60 mL
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro or Thai basil or fresh mint 60 mL
1/4 cup crushed peanuts 60 mL
1. To make Noodle Sauce: In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Set the sauce aside.
2. In a small skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened and lightly brown, about 6 minutes. Using a heat proof slotted spoon, remove onion to a paper-lined dish. Set shallot oil to one side.
3. In heatproof bowl, cover vermicelli noodles with boiling water and soak until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water and return to bowl. Toss with 1 – 2 Tbsp (15 - 30 mL) of the reserved shallot oil. You should have about 2 cups (500 mL) of vermicelli noodles after soaking
4. To assemble the vermicelli bowl, divide lettuce and sprouts between 4 bowls. Top with vermicelli noodles, then cooked shallots.  Then arrange cucumber, carrot, peppers or radish, cilantro or Thai basil or mint, and peanuts.  Just before serving add 3 to 4 Tbsp (45 – 60 mL) of sauce.
Yield: 4 servings.

No comments:

Post a Comment