A soup for every occasion

Like it or not, the cooler days of fall are just around the corner, followed by those blustery days of winter. Nothing warms the body, and gives that warm and fuzzy feeling like hot soup prepared with fresh vegetables in stock. Sound like a lot of work? Get ready, I've got some fast and easy soups for you that will fit every meal-- make it the main course served with bread, or balance it with pasta or a sandwich.

Soups can be very creative, cost effective and nourishing. You can make an excellent tasting soup usually from what you have available in your kitchen without running to the store. The most creative meals, and many times the best tasting meals are put together in just this way. If you have a few spices, a few vegetables, rice, dried or canned beans, tomato paste, you've got soup. If you have a few frozen chicken wings, or necks, turkey or other inexpensive pieces of meat, a piece of fish, not only do you have soup, you have a meal.

Let's talk stocks! Make a few cups, or make a couple of liters and freeze it for use later. Besides a large pan, you'll need water, (fish, chicken, beef or turkey optional) 2 each carrots, onions, ribs of celery, and about 10 whole black peppercorns, plus a bouquet garni. To make a bouquet garni, which adds a very deep full body to the stock, tie together 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, a bay leaf and 5-6 stalks of parsley with white string. Don't skin the onions, their yellow skin adds color and flavor. For beef stock add a garlic clove and 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste. For fish stock, add extra bay leaf and 1 cup dry white wine, or the juice of 1/2 lemon. Meat or fish stocks are always better with the bones. For vegetable stock increase the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and reduce the water. Other good herbs for stocks depending upon your likes are parsley, basil, tarragon and mint.

Boil your stock slowly covered for up to three hours adding more water if necessary skimming the top to remove excessive fats. Meat and fish stocks become more flavorful with more cooking, while vegetable stocks are better if not over cooked, normally one hour. Remove the stock from the heat allowing it to cool, then strain. Now, let's make soup!

White Mushroom and Rice Soup

1lb button mushrooms

1 celery rib, carrot, onion, bay leaf and garlic clove

6 sprigs fresh thyme

4 Tbsp clarified butter

4 cups chicken stock

l cup long grain white rice

1cup light cream

2 Tbsp cut chives

Slice and roughly chop mushrooms. Dice celery, carrot, and onion, Crush garlic clove and discard the skins. Strip all thyme leaves from sprigs. Cook rice in boiling salted water until tender- drain and set aside. Remove bay leaf from the broth and puree broth until finely chopped but not smooth. Return puree mushroom soup to heat and stir in drained rice and cream. Heat until very hot but do not boil. Stir in cut chives, and season to taste.

Light Vegetable Broth

1 each large leek and small fennel bulb

2 each celery ribs, fresh basil sprigs, and flat leaf parsley

3-4 small carrots

1lb Tomatoes

6 cups vegetable stock

Trim and slice leek, dice celery. Trim stalk and root ends of fennel bulb, discarding any tough outer pieces from the bulb- cut lengthwise into quarters and thinly slice. Peel and trim carrots. Cut grooves in side with a small sharp knife, then slice thinly. Tear basil and chop parsley leaves. Peel and coarsely chop tomatoes. Bring stock to a boil and add vegetables and simmer until tender, 5-7 minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes. Do not over cook.

Hearty Borscht

1small grn cabbage

2 Carrots and 3 onions

3 sprigs parsley and dill

1 1/2lb tomatoes

6 beets, 4 Tbsp butter

8 cups chicken or beef stock

1 Tbsp sugar Juice of 1 lemon]

2-3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2cup sour cream

Slice cabbage, carrots and onions. Chop herbs and tomatoes. Cook beets with skins on, when cooled peel and grate. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add carrots and diced onions. Cook until soft but not brown, 3-5 minutes. Add sliced cabbage, grated beets, chopped tomatoes, stock and sugar to saucepan. Bring to a boil simmering for 45-60 minutes. Add salt or more sugar if required. Add more stock if the soup remains too thick. Just before serving, reheat the soup, stir in chopped parsley, dill, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Garnish with sour cream.

When creating your own soup blend, be creative with fresh or nearly fresh spices. Don't forget the fresh or dried chilies, cloves, juniper berries or cinnamon sticks. Don't be afraid to experiment, or just start over. Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 22, 1999

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