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Falling For Soup



In my family, Saturday night suppers were soup and freshly baked buns. The soup was often cabbage borscht from our Mennonite heritage – beef bones, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes, no beets. There was a hint of heat from the dried chili pepper and the flavors of bay leaf and onion. The buns were soft and white with speckled tops and slightly chewy. We spread them with butter to eat with the soup and then for dessert with homemade jam. The meal was simple and we left the table replete in body and soul.


When delight in the salads and grilled meats of summer wane, I long for soup. The ultimate comfort food, soup soothes, warms and satisfies, not only an empty stomach, but also emotional and spiritual holes. Soup is not something that can be gobbled down in a hurry or packed in a napkin to take along on the bus. Eating soup is a civilized procedure. When a bowl of steaming soup is set before me, I take a moment to inhale the fragrance, closing my eyes for a brief second to enhance the moment. All the ingredients combine in one savory aroma that gives me a taste of what is to come before it touches my lips. I look at the soup – it might be a clear broth with lovely cubed vegetables, or a creamy puree of gorgeous green or vibrant red.


I unfold my napkin, place it on my lap, and pick up my spoon. Gently I tilt the spoon and dip it into the soup, bringing it to my mouth slowly, giving it time to cool slightly. Aahh, the flavors fill my mouth, keeping the promise made by the sight and smell. Rarely does a soup that looks and smells wonderful not taste the same.


Eating soup is a year-round, clock-round adventure. Soup can be the main dish, accompanied by bread and salad, or the prelude to an elegant dinner. It’s fine for breakfast, lunch or anytime. When I’ve over-indulged in rich food, or feel blue or achy, soup starts to set things back in order.  Every culture has soup – most cultures wouldn’t think of letting a day go by without soup. In Japan, miso soup is eaten for breakfast. In Ecuador, after giving birth, a woman is fed chicken soup for 40 days. There is Russian borscht, Italian minestrone, French pot-au-feu, New England chowder and African peanut soup. Everywhere, the local ingredients are combined to make soup.


Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than eating soup is making it. Unlike a delicate cake, soup is most forgiving of inaccurate measuring and ingredient substitution. No chicken broth? Use vegetable broth instead. Vary the amounts and types of seasonings. Soup is your opportunity to be creative in the kitchen. Leave out a vegetable or add an extra one in. Use up leftovers in the fridge. Abraham Maslow once said, “A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.” So, let’s make soup!


Spinach Sausage Soup


12 spicy sausage links

¾ cup diced onion

1 T olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

4 cups chicken stock

2 medium potatoes, cut into small slices

2 cups spinach leaves, or 1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 carrot, coarsely grated

1/3 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste


Bake sausages for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and then into ½ inch slices. Saute the onions until soft, then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and carrot. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage, spinach and cream. Heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.





Broccoli-Cheddar Soup


1 ½ lbs of broccoli, coarsely chopped (use stems as well, peeling if necessary)

2 onions, chopped

5 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup white rice

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ cup cream

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1 T spicy brown mustard


Simmer the broccoli and onions in the chicken stock, along with the rice and salt and pepper. When the vegetables are tender, puree the soup using a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and reheat gently with the cheese, cream and mustard, stirring well (use a whisk) to incorporate the mustard.





Beef and Barley Soup


1 lb stewing beef, cut into small cubes, gristle and fat removed

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup dry red wine

6 cups beef broth

½ cup pearl barley

1 ½ cups sliced carrots

1 cup green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 8-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice

¼ cup snipped parsley

salt and pepper to taste


In large pot, brown beef in oil with garlic and onion. Add beef broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Add 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Simmer for one hour or until beef is almost tender. Add the barley, carrots and green beans. Simmer 30 minutes to an hour. When barley is tender, add the diced tomatoes with their juice and heat through. Add the parsley and correct seasonings. Remove the bay leaf before serving.



Vegetable Soup with Basil Pistou

(from a recipe by Jacques Pepin)


1 ½ cup sliced leeks or scallions

1 ½ cup diced eggplant, with peel

1 cup diced kohlrabi

¾ cup diced onion

¾ cup diced celery

¾ cup diced carrots

1 cup diced butternut squash

¾ cup diced potato

1 cup diced zucchini

½ cup cut green beans

salt to taste

5 cups chicken stock

2 cups torn spinach

basil pistou (or pesto)


Combine all ingredients except spinach and pistou in a large pot. Simmer until tender, about 35 minutes. Add spinach, cook uncovered for ten minutes.

Place soup in bowls and swirl in 1-2 tablespoons of pistou.



Roasted Potato Soup

(from Better Homes and Garden)


6 medium potatoes, cut up

1 large onion, cut up

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 T melted butter

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 cup cream


Toss potatoes, onion and garlic with melted butter. Spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with black pepper. Roast at 425 degrees 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a large pot. Stir in the chicken broth and water. Simmer 25 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Mash with a manual masher, leaving chunks of potato. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add cream and heat through. Delicious served with a sprinkling of minced chives and crisp bacon.