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Easy Fall Soups
Create a Home-Cooked Meal in Under 30 Minutes
By Kirk Leins
Fall is officially here. In my house, that means one thing… Soup, and plenty of it. I'm not exaggerating when I say I truly love soup. From the endless varieties to the way it warms you from the inside out, soup transcends every culture and unifies the world gastronomically. But my love for this "perfect food" goes way beyond its universal appeal.
Throughout time, soup has been an effective means of putting food on the table. It has sustained entire societies during times of strife while simultaneously gracing the menu of many a formal dinner. Soup is commonly given to the sick, providing sustenance as well physical relief. A thermos full of soup travels well to either work or school and is envied by co-workers and schoolmates alike. It is the perfect leftover and the ultimate compliment to a grilled cheese sandwich. To say soup is dynamic is somewhat of an understatement.
For me, soup conjures up fond childhood memories. It reminds me of Saturday nights at my grandmother's house and the sumptuous smells that swirled around her kitchen. My grandparents, you see, immigrated to this country in the 1920s from Germany; and soup was their food. These were people who not only lived through two world wars (one from each side of the Atlantic) but also the Great Depression – and soup helped them do it. When it came to feeding their family on a budget, soup was a logical choice.
My grandmother often joked that if you gave her a couple of chicken bones, an onion, and a potato, she could make soup. Although the claim was made in jest, we all knew she could probably pull it off. Many of the soups my grandmother did make consisted of either minimal ingredients or cost-effective ones. In terms of "cost-effective", this usually meant using ingredients that no one wanted, such as "stewing" chicken or oxtails. Not that there's anything wrong with either of these ingredients, they just require longer cooking times.
The good news for meal preparers nowadays is that making soup doesn't have to be a marathon. Due to advancements involving key ingredients, many soups can be prepared in less than 30 minutes and for very little money. In my opinion, the biggest improvement is canned (or boxed) stock. This product may never replace its homemade counterpart, but the various versions do a great job of getting a healthy dinner on the table fast. What I plan to show you in this article is how keeping canned broths (primarily chicken and vegetable) on hand will open up a world of quick, inexpensive, and delicious soups.
The two recipes I'll be giving you fall under the category of "blender" or "pureed" soups and the reason is obvious. The appliance required to make them is a blender; but a food processor or immersion blender (also known as a wand blender) will also work. Truth be told, the immersion blender is my favorite method because of its no-hassle cleanup. If you don't own one, you can pick up a perfectly good version at any Target or K-Mart for around $20.
The first recipe I'd like to share is for one of my favorite blender soups. I'm talking about Carrot-Ginger, and it's perfect for the transition from summer to fall. Carrots are normally thought of as a springtime veggie, but with today's growing methods, sweet carrots are available throughout the country all year long. This soup is light and delicious and can serve as an elegant starter or the perfect accompaniment to any sandwich or salad.
Combine butter and a 1/4 cup of the chicken stock in a soup pot, and place over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add onion, ginger, and curry powder. Once onions are tender, add remainder of chicken stock, orange juice, and carrots. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Add cream, and return to simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve. A dollop of crème fraiche and snipped chives make an excellent garnish.
To make an even quicker version of this dish, substitute a one-pound bag of baby carrots for the unpeeled carrots. They'll cost you more money but will save you time since they are already peeled. The same can be said for buying fresh-squeezed orange juice in the produce section as opposed to squeezing your own. Just make sure that the orange juice you buy is fresh-squeezed and not from concentrate.
Now that you've learned how to make a pureed soup, the world is your oyster! The reason is most pureed vegetable soups utilize the same method and roughly the same proportions of ingredients as the Carrot-Ginger soup. In other words, by merely substituting the recipe's ingredients you can logarithmically increase the soups in your repertoire.
Broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, and potatoes are just some of the veggies which can be turned into soup utilizing the puree method. Simply combine 1 to 11/2 pounds of any one type of the aforementioned vegetables, a chopped onion, and 4-5 cups of liquid (either canned broth or water). Let this mixture cook for 20 minutes and puree. Add a touch of cream, season with salt and pepper, and you've got soup!
You may want to play around with the veggie-to-broth ratio depending upon the density of the vegetable and how thick or thin you like your soup. You may also want to experiment with ingredients, perhaps substituting leeks for onions or adding fresh herbs right before serving. The point is you'll be getting dinner on the table quickly while simultaneously improving the chances of your kids eating their vegetables.
Here's one more recipe for a pureed soup which I absolutely love. Don't be afraid to serve this one at Thanksgiving or all winter long for that matter.
In a soup pot, melt butter together with oil until hot. Add onion, leeks, and garlic, and sauté for five minutes. Add curry powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, a dash of salt and pepper, and stir. Add pumpkin, chicken stock, and bay leaf, and stir to combine. Simmer for 15–20 minutes. Remove mixture from stove and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Return pot to stove top and add half and half. Adjust seasonings, and simmer for another five minutes. Serve in bowls, and top with fresh cilantro.
Hopefully, this article will inspire you to make lots and lots of soup! Not only will you have a nutritious and delicious dinner on the table quickly, it will be inexpensive as well. My grandparents would be proud.
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