Here in the northeast, it is warm soup time, and with the abundance of autumn vegetables, sweet squash and tree fruits, the possibilities for exciting recipes ignite the imagination. The essential ingredients for making great soup may vary from culture to culture, but they each work magic in very simple ways. Slow cooking yields the best results, while soup pots, as well as quality ingredients, can make the difference between a great or a mediocre soup.
1. Soup Pots
- Use a heavy saucepan, or soup pot (enamel on iron), that allows for long, slow cooking.
- A crock pot is great when you are busy, plus you can arrive home to the delicious aromas.
- A pressure cooker allows for quick cooking of beans, lentils and root vegetables, while preserving flavor.
2. Soup Stock Base
- Vegetable stock can be made by simmering chopped vegetables and herbs in water, then straining.
- Store-bought vegetable broth can taste overly strong and contain high amounts of salt, so use less and add more water.
- Vegetable bouillon cubes vary in quality, and the oil used can go rancid over time. Choose wisely.
- A shiitake-kombu dashi is the simple broth used as a base for miso and other Japanese soup recipes.
3. Vegetables and More
- Long-cooking sweet vegetables: winter squash, carrot, parsnip, turnip, sweet (and white) potatoes.
- A mixture of sweet vegetables and bitter greens: kale, collards, chard, dandelion, turnip.
- Pungent vegetables to round out and deepen the flavor: onion, garlic, ginger, leek, shallot.
- Beans, lentils, tempeh and tofu for added protein.
- Tart and sweet apples or pears combine well with winter squash soups.
- Aromatic herbs to enhance and accentuate the flavors: basil, parsley, sage, tarragon, cumin, oregano, thyme, rosemary.
4. Quality Oils: Olive, Sesame, Toasted Sesame, Roasted Walnut, Coconut.
5. Salty Taste: Sea salt, Miso (dark or light), Soy sauce (Tamari, Shoyu), Soy or Coconut Aminos.
For the finishing touch, once the the soup has been ladled steaming into the bowls, you can top it off with any of the following:
6. A drizzle of oil infused with a combination of herbs: Basil/Parsley, Mushroom/Sage, Herbs du Provence, Tuscan Garlic, Chipotle.
7. Condiment toppings: Diced green onions; toasted walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin or sesame seeds; minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or basil; fried sage.
8. Cream toppings: Wasabi mayonnaise; dairy or non-dairy sour cream or yogurt.
How to Make a Simple Vegetable Stock
- When preparing a day’s worth of meals, save all the ends, skins and discarded parts of the vegetables you are using. Make sure to clean off any dirt or rotted pieces. Not enough in a day? Then refrigerate the cuttings and continue to gather the odds and ends until you have enough to fill a medium to large saucepan or soup pot.
- When ready, place all the pieces in the pot and cover the vegetables with water to about 2 inches above the top. At this point, you can add your favorite herbs, garlic, onion and sea salt to make a richer flavor. Cover the pot, heat to a low boil, and reduce to a simmer.
- It is best to simmer the vegetables in the evening, right after dinner, so the stock can cook for a good 2-3 hours. Then, just before bedtime, turn off the heat, leave the pot covered and let it sit overnight. In the morning, strain the stock through a metal strainer, discarding the vegetables. You can do a final strain through cheesecloth placed inside the strainer.
- Pour stock into containers and refrigerate what you will be using, and freeze extras for a future soup.
How to Make Japanese Dashi
- In a large stockpot, soak one piece kombu sea vegetable and half a cup sliced (or 3 whole dried) shiitake mushrooms in 8 cups of water.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, turn off heat and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes. Remove kombu and add vegetables. Use dashi to make soup or as a base for rice and noodles.
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