What is it about soup? I might define it as: A powerful liquid food adaptable to most any food situation or mealtime, including dessert. A comfort food to most people, it is also a food to cure illness and to inspire music and literature. Do you remember the Maurice Sendak song/book “Chicken Soup with Rice?”
If you’re “in the soup,” you’re what? You’re in trouble. If you “soup up” anything, you’re making it more powerful; if you go from “soup to nuts,” you’re going from beginning to end. Nuts have not been the end of a meal at my house ever, but I somewhat vaguely remember my colonial culinary history, where the tablecloth was removed for the dessert course which might be or include unshelled nuts.
Up next in the blog is a simple, yet incredibly tasty soup I made out of on-hand ingredients to preface a meal of steak with oven-browned potatoes accented with burnt onions and roasted asparagus. If your meal is easy and nearly instant, as was this, what a good time to make a first-course soup. Get ready for, “Oh, you made SOUP?!”
Bowls: I served this soup in small, square off-white china bowls made by Mikasa; these bowls could be used with almost any everyday dishes or china and I bought them just for first-course soups. At one time, many china patterns were available with “cream soup” bowls, which were tiny bowls with small handles on each side that typically had matching saucers. Now available mostly in antique or consignment shops, we must buy our china there or improvise. Lotus bowls are mostly too small and the typical bowls that come with dishes today are for cereal, green salad or chili.
Wine: If you’re having a separate wine with a first course, by all means serve an Italian Falanghina or a Spanish Albarino. An un-oaked Chardonnay might be a dog that would hunt here. We made do with a California Petite Syrah we were having with the steak—and loved it, but could imagine a light Italian red as well if you’re an only-red-wine-drinker.
For a soup/ sandwich meal: Grill Swiss, Gouda or Brie on ciabatta.
Bread for first course: This soup is lovely with a salt and pepper and/or parmesan crostini; I include directions.
Serves 4 as a first course or 2-3 as a main course
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and minced
- 4 celery stalks, trimmed and minced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
- 1 15 ounce can tomatoes
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (garnish)
- 4 slices baguette
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan, optional
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In four-quart saucepan, melt butter and add carrots, celery and onion. Sauté five minutes, adding garlic half-way through. Stir in fresh herbs and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with fork or knife. You could food-process the tomatoes beforehand if you’d like. Cook briefly, one-two minutes to marry flavors. Add broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer until veggies are tender, 10-15 min. Add extra broth or water if soup becomes too thick. Check seasoning. Ladle into small bowls and pass feta cheese at table. Serve w/ salt and pepper crostini.Crostini:
Drizzle baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and/or grated parmesan cheese if desired. Bake at 350 F on a cookie sheet about 10 minutes or until toasted through.
Sing a new song,