Soup secrets

Here in Colorado, we’ve had an extremely cold week. It’s the perfect weather for soup. I love to spend some time on the weekend preparing homemade soup. It fills the house with delicious aromas and the flavors are rich and comforting.

Here is my list of do’s, don’ts and other soup secrets:

Soup the season
Soup is always best using vegetables and products peaking at that particular time of the year. Remember, you can freeze most soups, so you can still enjoy them out of their prime season.

Season the soup
Fresh herbs are the best, but in a pinch, dried spices will work since soup is a liquid. Remember to give the flavors time to develop. Cooling and reheating soup condenses flavors.

Think ethnic
In a rut with flavor? Try cultural soups from various countries such as borscht from Russia, fruity soups from central Europe, gazpacho from Spain, smoked cod and okra soup from Ghana, and hot and sour soup from China. Do an Internet search on soup recipes – a Google search lists 16,600,000 sites for soup recipes!

A soup by any other name
Get to know soup lingo – gazpacho, gumbo, potages, broths, chowders, coulis, stews, garbure, bisque, bouillabaisse and consommé.

Garnish is a soup’s jewels
Professional chefs know how to enhance the soup’s appearance with the right garnish. Remember, a soup is never finished without the garnish. Be particular and be sure to save extra time to carefully plate your soup.

Be aware of food preferences and allergies
If you are having a party, ask your guests if they have allergies or food preferences such as being a strict vegetarian or vegan. A party could be a disaster if you serve a soup with a fish stock base to someone who has a violent shellfish allergy.

Secrets to quick soups
Consider using a prepared soup such as a roasted red pepper soup as a stock base, but then add fresh chopped tomatoes, corn or pasta. For a carrot soup, use an organic, pure carrot juice, add sliced cooked carrots, thicken with carrot puree in the baby food section and spice it up with curry. Use your imagination…any soup can be a hit when expanded with extra ingredients. Need to jazz up tomato soup? Grill a cheese sandwich (crusts removed) and plop it in the center. Wow!

Beans, beans, beans
Legumes are a great source of protein, the main protein source for vegetarians. The problem with beans is in the preparation – selecting, sorting, soaking, and cooking. Dried beans are the best. Just save some time for preparation, it’s well worth it. To speed up the process, use a pressure cooker. To reduce gas, try the double soaking/washing secret: soak, drain, cook, rinse, and drain again. The intestinal discomfort is due to the non-digestible complex carbohydrates. Beano® provides enzymes that help to break down these carbohydrates. Beano® is available as a capsule or liquid. Be sure to take just before having beans. It does work!

Off the shelf soups
Go to the organic section for prepared soups. Almost any soup base can be augmented with corn, vegetables, spices, pasta, and rice. The cup-of-soup variety is quite tasty (just add water) and Campbell Soup has a number of lower sodium and fat reduced soups.

Take some time this weekend to try out a new soup recipe or an old favorite – maybe my Cuban Black Bean Soup or a different one from my cookbook. Try swapping out meat for a meat alternative to reduce the fat and cholesterol. Your delicious soup will make a satisfying meal on a chilly weekend.