By Lori Rodgers –
There’s nothing like a steaming, fragrant bowl of soup or stew to warm you up on a cold winter’s day. A hot meal is so satisfying, and the potential combinations of flavors and textures is virtually endless. Pureed butternut squash, hearty beef stew accented by generously sliced potatoes and carrots, delicate broths with strips of ginger and lemongrass floating on top. Delightful!
Soup has been on our ancestors’ menus from just about the dawn of time. Putting readily available ingredients such as roots and grasses into a cooking vessel, adding water and perhaps if you were lucky that day some wild game was (and still is) an efficient method to make a little go a long way. Of course, over the centuries and across continents more sophisticated recipes evolved. Almost every country has a national soup: Russian Borscht, Greek Avgolemono, Italian Minestrone, French Petite Marmite (literal translation “little pot”) are good examples. I just had an idea! How about making a different nation’s iconic soup each week for a year? Hmm…I’ll have to give that some thought. Tempting!
A little bit of research into soup’s history revealed some interesting tidbits. In mid-18th century France, innkeepers would dole out bowls of broth to weary travelers to revive them for the next phase of their journey. These “restoratifs” as they were called gave rise to the word “restaurant”, a place to restore one’s health, energy and strength. Today’s popular trend of “bone broth” is based on this concept. The modern word “soup” is derived from the Old French words “sope” and “soupe”. The French word was used in England toward the end of the Middle Ages as “sop”, usually a piece of bread over which broth was poured, providing both nutrition as well as a means of eating the meal, sopping up the broth.
Ever wonder what the difference is between soup and stew? While there are many culinary differences…stews tend to have less liquid, contain larger pieces of vegetables as well as less expensive cuts of meat that become tender when simmered for several hours. One contrast I discovered really struck me…soups can be served hot or cold while stews are always served hot. Never thought about it before but unless you eat cold leftover stew for breakfast, I suppose that is true.
My collection of favorite soup and stew recipes is extensive…I’m a bona fide soup lover regardless of the time of year. It was difficult to narrow my selection to down to only four. I chose a longtime favorite from The Silver Palate, tweaked a traditional lentil soup, mushroom soup made the cut because I LOVE ‘shrooms. I always enjoy trying new recipes and I thought everyone would appreciate a healthy and easy recipe. And it’s chilled!
First up is Santa Fe Pork stew, a mouthwatering one dish meal that combines the tang of red wine vinegar and cumin with the comfortable blend of sweet potatoes and black beans, all simmered with boneless pork roast in broth and white wine. Credit goes to the lovely duo Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, proprietresses of The Silver Palate from 1977 to 1988, the savvy women responsible for ushering in the era of New American cooking and authors of my all-time favorite cookbooks.
Santa Fe Pork Stew
A perfect meal to impress that special someone or perhaps your in-laws, it is surprisingly easy to prepare. Choose a beautiful casserole dish for baking and serving.
Include a side of cornbread, a green salad, and the rest of the bottle of wine and you will instantly be declared a gourmet cook!
3 T olive oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
2 ½ T flour
2 sweet potatoes (1 ¼ lbs), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ cups chopped onions
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 T tiny capers, drained
1 T plus 1 t ground cumin
2 cups cooked black beans
½ t freshly ground pepper
½ cup chopped cilantro
Preheat the oven to 350. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large skillet and brown the pork in small batches. Add extra oil if needed. Transfer the cooked meat to a 5 quart flameproof casserole. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add potatoes, wine, stock, vinegar, onions, parsley, half the garlic, 2 T capers, and 1 T cumin to the casserole. Mix well, cover, and bake for 1 hour.
Remove the casserole from the oven and add the remaining garlic, 1 T capers, and 1 t cumin. Add the black beans and pepper, stir, and return to the oven. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.
- You will need a very large flameproof casserole dish with a lid for this stew. All ingredients need to be covered by the liquid to cook evenly.
- Red garnet sweet potatoes are always my first choice when they are available. So flavorful and the color is gorgeous.
- I chose Kendall Jackson’s Sauvignon Blanc for the dry white wine.
- I did not add the black pepper at the end, just a personal preference.
Wild Turkey Lentil Soup
Despite the title, there’s no alcohol in this soup! Adding wild rice and ground turkey to a traditional lentil soup up the “yum” factor, making this a true one-bowl meal.
2 T unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and bottom third of greens, thinly sliced
1 medium celery rib, strings removed and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 t dried
½ cup wild rice
6 cups chicken stock
¾ cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 ½ cps ground turkey, cooked
In a large soup pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add leeks, carrot, and celery. Cook until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bay leaf, thyme, rice, and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in lentils, cover and simmer an additional 25 minutes or until both rice and lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Add turkey and 2-3 cups of filtered water (varies depending upon how thick you prefer your soup) and heat through. Enjoy!
- Cut off the top 2/3 of greens from leeks and soak the remaining pieces in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to help rinse out any sand.
- I like the Texmati brand Wild Rice blend. Flavorful and cooks nicely, tender but not gummy.
- If you don’t have brown lentils you can use green. It’s best not to use red lentils, they tend to get too soft when cooked as long as needed in this recipe.
- If you use fresh thyme (fresh will always provide the best flavor), when you remove the thyme sprigs you will only find the “branch”; the leaves will have combined with the soup ingredients which is exactly what you want!
- You may substitute chopped, cooked turkey or chicken for the ground turkey. Perfect way to dress up leftovers!
Mushroom Brie Soup
After discovering this soup at a local lunch place, I experimented with several recipes. You have the good fortune of benefitting from the lessons I learned through trial and error! As you can see from my photos, I roasted the mushrooms in the oven a little too long. Fortunately they plumped back up once they were added to the stock. I used pre-sliced mushrooms to save time. Next time I’ll choose whole mushrooms and quarter them. The larger pieces of mushroom bring a more satisfying texture. Definitely a soup for mushroom lovers, you can make this the day before and allow the flavors to meld and intensify overnight.
1 ½ pounds Portabella mushrooms
2 T unsalted butter
2-3 large shallots, peeled and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T flour
½ cup Marsala wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 T fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream
6 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed and cut in chunks
- The mushrooms can be r=browned on the stove in a skillet. Another method I discovered after the soup was cooling and the kitchen was clean and closed for the evening(?) was dry roasting the mushrooms in the oven. I’m going to try that next time. Sue, author of the blog The View From Great Island, recommends no oil or moisture of any king. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer and roast at 400 for 20-25 minutes.
- Instead of Marsala use a dry white wine such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer an alcohol-free version, simply substitute broth.
- Be sure to remove the rind from the Brie before you add it to the soup. It took me about 20 minutes to fish all those little bits out of the broth!
Chilled Avocado and Yogurt Soup
Okay, here is a FAST and Healthy soup recipe. I made this in 10 minutes. Honest! In my Vitamix. And it is sooo good!
2 large or 3 medium ripe but firm avocados
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt, full fat
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
½ chopped and seed jalapeno or serrano chili
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill, optional
Reserve ½ of large or all of one medium avocado for topping. Place all remaining ingredients in a blender and turn it on. Its that simple! If it’s too thick, add a ¼ cup of filtered water a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. When ready to serve top with cubed fresh avocado, a lemon or lime slice and a sprinkling of fresh dill if you have it on hand.
- Seriously, this soup is so easy I don’t have any suggestions to make it easier.
- Well, maybe one. You can sub lime juice for lemon!