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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Soup's On!
By Deirdre Cooper

 

 

 
Chicken Vegetable Soup
 

Around this time of year I always feel like it is time for a "cleansing" in the eating department. We have had our fill of big, rich meals with all the trimmings and please let us get rid of all those cookies! A great soup is the answer. There are so many varieties that are easy to make, as well as healthy. You can start from scratch or make one from the leftovers that you probably already have in the frig.
 
Soup must be one of the oldest forms of cooking. I have read that French peasants during the Middle Ages provided the inspiration for soup as we know it. Since they did not have utensils for eating, they mopped up every last drop with bread. Originally, the evening meal in France was known as La Soupe. The first restaurant in France was opened by a Parisian soup maker in 1765 and he served only soup.
 
Surely soup is the ultimate comfort food. It is warm and nourishing and can be the start of a meal or the meal itself. Most of us probably have a memory of watching their Mother or Grandmother standing over a steaming pot of homemade soup and the way the smells just filled the house. Growing up in Brooklyn, I remember that Monday night was soup night, following the Sunday gorging of a three hour mid-day dinner. Today with excellent stocks and broths readily available at the market, it is easier than ever to produce a wonderful soup.
 
A "cream" soup doesn't have to be full of calories. The creamy effect can be achieved by blending the soup in a food processor or using an immersion blender. Caution: ALWAYS UNPLUG the immersion blender before lifting from the pot. Only a small amount of half and half or milk needs to be added, both of these can be the low fat variety. Measurements are not exact in the following recipes, you can judge for yourself how much quantity you will need, you almost can't make a mistake.
 
Fresh Tomato Soup
 

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  •  
  • 2 cups chopped onions

  •  
  • 1 cup chopped celery

  •  
  • 1 cup chopped carrots

  •  
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  •  
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

  •  
  • 8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (any variety of tomatoes available)

  •  
  • 2 quarts chicken stock

  •  
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half

  •  
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

  •  

    In large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, celery, and carrots until wilted, adding the salt and pepper. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often until ingredients are blended and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for approximately one hour. Puree the soup either in a processor or with an immersion blender. Correct seasoning if necessary and add the cream or half and half. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. This recipe serves approximately 8 to 10.
     
    Potato and Leek Soup
     

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  •  
  • 3 Leeks, green tops removed, sliced and rinsed clean

  •  
  • 4 large potatoes, any variety, peeled and cut in chunks

  •  
  • 6 slices cooked bacon or equivalent amount of cooked pancetta, cut in small pieces

  •  
  • 4 cups chicken stock (approximate)

  •  
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  •  
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half

  •  
  • 3 Tbsp butter

  •  
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

  •  

    Heat the olive oil in large saucepan and saute the leeks until soft. Stir in the potatoes and mix with the leeks, add the butter, season with salt and pepper and cook together for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked bacon or pancetta pieces and add chicken stock to cover. Cook covered until the potatoes are soft. Remove from heat, stir in cream or half and half and process until almost smooth, but with some potato pieces remaining to add some texture. For a thinner soup, use more stock, less if a thick soup is desired.
     
    Adjust seasoning and garnish with chopped parsley.
     
    Cream of Mushroom Soup
     

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  •  
  • 1 cup chopped onions

  •  
  • 10 oz any variety of mushrooms, chopped coarsely

  •  
  • 3 cups chicken stock (approximate)

  •  
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  •  
  • 3 tbsp butter

  •  
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half

  •  

    Saute the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil until soft, add the butter, season with salt and pepper. Cover with stock and cook until onions and mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat, stir in cream or half and half , process with blender leaving some chunks of mushroom, adjust seasonings if necessary. For a thicker soup, use less stock.
     
    "Sick Soup"
     
    This is a favorite quick soup for someone under the weather and in need of some TLC.
     

  • 3 large eggs

  •  
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

  •  
  • 6 cups chicken broth

  •  
  • 3/4 cup orzo pasta

  •  
  • Chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

  •  

    Whisk eggs and 3 tbsp cheese in small bowl to blend. Bring broth to simmer in large pot and add pasta. Cover and simmer until pasta is tender, about 6 or 8 minutes. Gradually add egg mixture to soup, stirring constantly until egg ribbons form, about 1 minute. Simmer 1 minute longer and ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and pass remaining cheese for topping.
     
    Chicken Vegetable Soup

    This is a soup you can make to your own liking. The nice part about this one is everything is roasted in the oven first, giving it a full, rich flavor. The basics follow, but you can add your own touches, quantities, etc.
     
    On a large cookie sheet spread chicken legs, thighs, any pieces you like, along with large chunks of celery, carrots and onions, and one clove of garlic cut in pieces, toss all with a bit of olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and cut chicken from bones in chunks. Put all ingredients in a large pot and cover with stock. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Adjust seasoning; add chopped parsley, stir and you are done.
     
     

    Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
     
     
     
     

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