Sunday, November 29, 2020

Our Favorite Soups

DEBORAH CROMBIE: A few weeks ago some of our readers suggested that we have a SOUP DAY, to give us all a chance to share our favorite soups. Tis' the season, to be sure!

But, boy, did this take some head scratching on my part. So many soups, so much to love. I'd already posted my most often cooked WHITE BEAN AND SPINACH SOUP.  Hmm, what should come next on my list? BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP WITH ARKANSALSA from Crescent Dragonwagon's beloved DAIRY HOLLOW HOUSE SOUP AND BREAD BOOK? Oops, I've done that one, too.

After much more deliberation (and stomach rumbling) I decided on a classic minestrone. This could alternately be titled Clean Out the Fridge Soup, as it uses lots of stuff and is very adaptable.




4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped (I never both to peel, loses vitamins)

2 medium celery ribs, chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables (potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, or green beans all work. If using green beans--my fave--I first blanch for a minute, then cut in 1 inch pieces. A combination of any of the above is good!)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp thyme

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid. (I use San Marzano tomatoes and just squish them with my hands.)

6 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp sea salt

2 bay leaves

A pinch of red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whole grain small pasta

1 can Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups baby spinach or other tender green

2 tsps fresh squeezed lemon juice

Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Once oil is shimmering, add chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add seasonal vegetables, garlic, oregano, and thyme. Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Pour in diced or smushed tomatoes with their juices and broth. Add salt, bay leaves, and red pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper.

Raise heat to medium high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add pasta, beans, and less tender greens, if using, like kale or chard. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender. If using spinach, add when pasta is done, stir just enough to wilt.

Remove pot from heat and remove the bay leaves. Add lemon juice and extra olive oil. Taste and season with more salt, until the flavors really pop. Serve with extra lemon and a drizzle of top-notch olive oil. Garnish with grated cheese. (The soup will be vegan without the cheese.)

Serve with a green salad and crusty bread. Delish!! I can't tell you how good this soup smells!

REDS AND READERS, now it's your turn!


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  2. Oh, this minestrone sounds delicious! Thanks for the recipe.

    Favorite soup? That’s difficult to say; We like soup and have several of favorites. How about baked potato soup?

    Bake three potatoes [usually I bake extra when I’m making them so I have them for the soup]
    Cook six slices of bacon; drain; crumble
    Slice two leeks and dice one Italian frying pepper [or green pepper]; cook in a bit of the bacon grease [or a drizzle of olive oil if you prefer] until almost soft
    Add 1 clove of garlic, minced, and continue cooking for another minute. Remove from heat.

    Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan; stir in 1/3 cup Wondra flour until well-blended; cook for one minute.
    Gradually add four cups of milk, stirring constantly.
    Season with white pepper.
    Cut the potatoes into small pieces; add to the hot milk.
    Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
    Smoosh the potatoes a bit with a potato masher until your soup is the desired consistency [you may need to add a bit more milk].
    Stir in the crumbled bacon.
    Sprinkle some snipped chives on top of the soup just before serving.

    Serve with warm bread.

    1. Wow !!! I am swooning—that sounds fabulous!

    2. Joan, I'm definitely making this!! I will bake potatoes just for this! That sounds amazing. But what is Wondra flour?

    3. @Deborah Crombie Wondra flour is super finely milled and mixes into liquids with minimal clumping.

    4. You can certainly use regular flour . . . I always use Wondra when I'm using flour as a thickener for soup, sauce, or gravy because it never clumps up . . . .

  3. I'm here to tell ya, Deb's minestrone is absolutely delicious. Every now and then, in these days of social distancing, the Minestrone Fairies arrive while I'm napping and leave a container of Deb's minestrone on my front porch. I sprinkle grated parmesan on top, and eat it with good, crusty bread. So wonderful!

    I don't make a lot of soup myself, and my best thing is Gottago soup, which doesn't really have a recipe. I throw everything I need to use up into the big pot with either beef or chicken stock, depending on what kind of meat I'm finishing off. Usually it's the last chunk of a pot roast. Tomatoes, corn, carrots, dehydrated celery and onions because I rarely use enough to keep the fresh on hand--it all goes in. Season to taste with garlic, salt, pepper, savory, dill, chili powder. It's "to taste," right? Make it taste good! Let it simmer for a couple of hours. Toss in some sturdy noodles or pasta just at the last 10 minutes. It's pretty darn good for a woman who doesn't make a lot of soup.

    1. Thank you, Gigi! And I'm sure your Gottago soup is delicious, too! Boy do we have a soup day here today.

    2. Today is actually going to be chili day for me. That's how cold and miserable today is.

  4. These all sound so good! I'll be doing turkey soup tomorrow after I boil down the bones. I like to add lots of garlic, lemon juice, start with sauteed onions, celery, and carrots. My secret ingredient is floating one habanero pepper in the broth - or enclose it in a tea ball to be sure it doesn't get lost. The flavor it adds is marvelous, and because you float it whole, it imparts only the mildest of background spicy. I'll add rosemary and fresh parsley, too, and either rice or orzo toward the end.

    1. Love the pepper idea, Edith. I'm going to try that. I've got some ripe hot peppers in the garden that I've to harvest today before our first freeze tonight. I also have a bunch of green San Marzano tomatoes. So sad!

    2. What a great idea on the pepper, Edith! Don't let any of those seeds escape, though!

  5. Pea soup. Orange squash soup. Broccoli potato soup. Minestrone with Italian sausage soup. Turkey mushroom noodle soup. But a luxurious favorite is lobster bisque. A lot of work and I hate killing the lobsters... anyone have a great recipe for clam chowder? I make it but it’s never clammy enough.

    1. Yes, yes, copy me on the clam chowder!!

    2. I use Better Than Bullion Lobster flavor for the broth and evaporated milk instead of cream (similar mouth feel without the mega calories and fat)
      The best Haddock chowder I've had was in Maine and she said the trick is to cook some bacon fist, then add the onions and celery.

  6. Pasta fagiole. Cream of broccoli soup. Creamed French vegetable soup. Leek and potato. Yesterday John made shrimp and sausage gumbo for the first time ever--his father always made it with the turkey carcass. It was an ambitious project that took all day, but delish!

    1. Love pasta fagiole. And cream of broccoli. Do you have a recipe for Creamed French Vegetable Soup, Lucy. And I have been wanting to make gumbo but it is so much work!

  7. This is our favorite lentil soup of all time, found by Julie on the internet years ago. It is very important to use both kinds of lentils. The DuPuy are green French lentils, available in most sizable grocery stores. The regular are those brown lentils that get mushy when cooked.

    For my vegetarian friends I leave out the bacon, no harm no foul. And I usually add a diced potato, just because. But that's not required.

    Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme
    serves 4
    Lentil SoupINGREDIENTS

    1 tablespoon butter
    2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into lardoons (matchsticks)
    1 medium carrot, finely diced
    1 large shallot, finely diced
    1 small celery stalk, finely diced
    2 cloves garlic, crushed and whole
    5 stems thyme
    3/4 cup du Puy lentils
    3/4 cup regular lentils
    8 cups liquid (water or vegetable stock or a mixture of the two)

    Be sure to rinse your lentils, and check for any stones.


    Melt the butter in a stock pot, and add the bacon. Sauté on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
    Add the carrot, shallot, celery, and garlic, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.
    Add the lentils, thyme, and stock or water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the soup, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
    I like to blend part of the soup to slightly thicken it, but that is up to taste. If so, remove the thyme stems and the whole garlic cloves and discard, and use an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached.

    1. Ann, we love lentil soup, but I've never mixed the lentils. I've had a hard time getting Puy lentils even from the upmarket grocery, so I'll see if I can order from Amazon.

    2. How can you lose with a recipe that starts with cooking bacon in butter! This sounds delicious, Ann.

  8. Yum, sounds great Deb.

    My go to soups? Potato leek, Italian Wedding, and something I grew up with called Manast. It's easy and so good - 3 lbs Italian Sausage hot or sweet, 3 pounds escarole washed and ripped into chunks, 3 cans Italian white beans, six peeled cloves of garlic. Saute the sausage and garlic in a large fry pan until done. When done, drain the beans (hang on to the cans), add to the pan with the sausage and stir to mix. Put the greens in a large pot and fill with water until the water shows when the greens are pressed down. Cook the greens. Drain reserving 3 cans of cooking liquid. Cut Return the greens to the pot, add three reserved cans of cooking liquid and the sausage bean mixture. Simmer until heated through. Serve with crusty bread for dunking. That's it. Great on a cold winter night. This was a depression recipe passed down from my grandparents, any fatty meat will do, beef or pork. To keep the soup going if liquid or meat run low, simply add plain water and more meat if needed and simmer to heat through.

    1. I love this, Kait, and had never thought of using escarole in soup. And I will eat anything with white beans--my favorite--so will have to give this a try.

    2. What can you sub for escarole, if you can't find it in the store? Cabbage? Spinach?

    3. @Deborah - it is addictive.

      @Gigi - I haven't had the problem...yet. I would think kale would work well, both are strong flavors or if you don't like kale, definitely spinach.

  9. I really love to make soup. This morning I had turkey tomato garnished with cheese for breakfast. No need to eat again for a coupla hours. When I fix tomato based soups, I usually add one quartered mandarin orange. It adds brightness to the flavors. Remember the lard making from a few weeks back?
    Another use for the "fatback' and pork bones is making tongatsu broth from scratch. This is a true pandemic recipe as it takes about 12 hours to make the broth. Here is a link:
    Yes I have made this, and yes I have a lot of time on my hands and I cheated and used an instant pot. Now that you have the broth, the next step is the noodles and the actual ramen meal.

    1. Coralee, I love the idea of the mandarin orange. It's like adding the lemon juice to the end of the minestrone. It's amazing how it brightens the flavors. As for the lard and the tonkotsu broth, you are an adventurous cook! But now I have to look up the recipe....

  10. Great recipe! I've been looking for a minestrone recipe for a while.

  11. These are all so hearty! I’m big on chicken and brown rice soup—with carrots and corn and a splash of cream.
    In my youth :-) one of my specialties was the Julia Child French onion soup with cheese and a toast of French bread broiled on top. Oh it was amazing—and I think I remember it took HOURS. But worth it. I’m going to look for the recipe now....

    1. Hank, I am pretty sure I remember watching Julia make that soup on her TV show. But I can't remember now if I ever tried it myself. There was a deli we used to go to and they had the best French onion soup, gooey cheese and all.

    2. Hank, my friend Franny (she of the turkey carcass soup) made French Onion in the Instant Pot a few weeks ago and said it was really good. I know Ann Mah has a recipe in her Instantly French book (for the Instant Pot) but I haven't tried it yet.

    3. Hank, I once stumbled upon the TV show America's Test Kitchen while they were making French onion soup. I've made it several times, and is so amazingly good.

      It's not much of a surprise that you don't see this on restaurant menus much any more, knowing how labor intensive it is, right?

  12. All of these soups sound so wonderful! I'll be trying some of these very soon, starting maybe with the baked potato. Do you all find that soups are even better the next day? That was always my experience.

    And as a former reading teacher I have to add Stone Soup!

    1. Judi, I always think soups are better the next day!

    2. Stone Soup is a classic! I still remember it, and I probably read it last when I was in kindergarten.

    3. I actually made stone soup twice when I was a pre-school teacher. I brought in my mom's old cast iron Dutch oven, it has a bail so it was a great prop. Each child was asked to bring in a vegetable, pot was put in the center of the circle, I had the stones, book was read and as each item requested was read in the book, that was added to the pot. I don't remember asking for any meat and I was aware of any dietary restrictions. The pot was carried to the little kitchen and put on the stove with water, put on a low simmer and a served with everyone's lunches they brought from home.

  13. Beef Barley Soup: Usually, I just cut 1 lb. of stew meat into 3/4 inch cubes/pieces. Brown the meat in batches in a 8 quart pot. While the meat is browning, I dice an onion (I use one huge sweet onion), at least 3 medium carrots and 3 stalks of celery, and wash and slice or dice about 8 oz. of mushrooms (Debs, they are optional). Add onion to pot first and cook until soft. You may want to add a bit of oil before you cook the onion. Then add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to darken. Spices, hm-m. I usually just use pepper (Kosher meat is already salted so I don't add any) and thyme and sage. They are subtle and don't take over the beefiness. But, experiment if you want to try other herbs in here. I add the herbs with the veggies during the sauté stage.

    (In a separate pot, make broth using the trimmings and peelings from the veggies in the pot. You could add a beef bone here, too. Make about 6 - 8 cups of broth. If it bubbles for 1/2 hour or more, that's plenty of time.)

    Add other veggies to onions and mushrooms and sauté until they start to soften then return beef to the pot. (This is not rocket science so if you want to add other veggies or garlic, please go right ahead. Adding too much garlic may change this soup quite a bit, but it's fine.)

    When sautéed veggies have softened, strain the hot broth into the pot and stir. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of barley (I pour it out onto some wax paper to inspect it to be sure it's all barley, then I rinse it, then I add it to the bubbling soup pot.) At this point I also add a peeled diced potato or two. Reduce heat to simmer. Come back every half hour to stir it, I cook it about 1-1/2 - 2 hours before I consider it ready and it tastes better the next day, too. Depending on the amount of barley and potatoes and broth, your spoon might stand up in the pot.

    I confess, I never make it the same twice but once you have done it, you can adjust the amounts to your liking. It's a great soup for winter.

    1. Thanks, Judy! I've been wanting to make a beef and barley soup, and that's just the ticket!

    2. Now I want to make this soup, too!

  14. Thanks for the recipe. I like minestrone but have never made it.

  15. Soup, beautiful soup! I love to have a container full for quick meals, and try new recipes all the time. This week of course it is turkey. Still haven't made good broccoli soup, but here's a hot weather treat I've been making from the first year I was married!

    Iced Cucumber Soup.
    Peel,slice lengthwise, scoop out seeds/pulp of 2-3 cucumbers. Slice thinly, crosswise (you need 4 C.)
    1 C. chopped onion.
    Melt 2 T butter and cook onion and cucumber till tender (20 min?) Add 1 13 oz. can chick broth, 3. T fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 t. salt and 1/2t. fresh ground pepper or more to taste. A little garlic powder
    Cover and cook until very tender, about 20 min or more. Cool and then puree in blender or food processor. (can be either a little chunky or very smooth, to taste).
    Pour into large bowl, whisk in 1 1/2 C. sour cream. Chill 4 hours or overnight
    Nice to serve with dab of sour cream and a slice of cucumber on top.

    1. Yum, Triss, that sounds delish! Next summer!

      I made a broccoli and cheddar soup a couple of weeks ago that was a copy of Panera's, but much better. It was SO rich, however, that I wouldn't make it all that often.

  16. We’ve been on a soup making binge: carrot apple and ginger, curried parsnip, leak and potato and asparagus! I think my favorite is an old fashioned chicken stew with a bit of everything thrown into the pot!

    1. There is nothing as good as chicken soup or stew made from scratch. When I'm feeling industrious, I poach the chicken, remove the meat, then make stock from the carcass. I'm glad we can by good organic chicken stock by the carton these days, but really nothing compares to homemade.

  17. A bowl of homemade soup and a hunk of good, crusty bread is my favorite supper, sheer comfort food.

    My repertoire includes my mother's chili, Senate bean soup (still served in the Senate cafeteria, for over 100 years), 10-vegetable soup, mushroom (luscious), white chicken chili, creamy butternut squash, butternut squash and black bean chili, turkey rice, and potato leek, which I think is my favorite. Gazpacho in the summertime.

    When Jay Leno still had his nightly show he once griped about people inviting him to dinner and serving him soup, said with lip-lifted disdain. He just had nothing good to say about soup, and I had to think he'd never really had wonderful, homemade soup in his life. Campbell's has a lot to answer for.

    1. Yes, Campbell's does have a lot to answer for, but they bring lots of jobs to Paris, Texas, which would otherwise have no particular reason to exist, so there's that. No question that homemade soup is better.

    2. To be honest, Gigi, I was practically made out of Campbell's soups! Growing up and well into adulthood I sure ate a lot of it.

  18. My favorites are ones I don't make: seafood gumbo, lobster bisque, turtle soup with sherry, etc. All the wonderful soups you can get at restaurants with New Orleans roots. Here is one I do make:
    Pumpkin Soup #1
    Saute one large onion, chopped, in 1/4 cup butter until tender; sprinkle with 1/2 tsp curry powder and saute an additional two minutes. Stir in one can (16 0z) pumpkin and 1-1/2 tsp salt. Add 2 cups half-and-half, stirring constantly. Stir in 2-1/2 cups chicken broth and heat thoroughly. Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt.

    Pumpkin Soup #2
    In saucepan cook one medium onion, grated, in 2 T olive oil on med-high 3 minutes, or until soft. Stir in one (29 oz) can pure pumpkin, 4 c. chicken broth, 1/2 c cream, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to simmer, stirring 3 minutes.

    Different spices as you can see.

  19. Though I am not a big fan of soup, however there are several that I love:

    Italian Minestone Soup

    French onion Soup

    Carrot Ginger Soup


  20. I'm making split pea soup today.

  21. I love soup, but soup for one means a great many leftovers, no matter how much I try to cut the recipe down and then I lose the leftovers in the freezer. As a kid, soup was the go to dinner item, at least once a week in the winter. We had homemade dry beans or split peas and always with a ham hock in it and corn bread on the side. The corn bread would do double duty as dessert with butter and strawberry jam. These were very thick, not brothy soups, in fact no broth was used, just plain water. One of my favorite was an old potato leek soup recipe that had the potatoes and onion/leeks cooked in water and then drained and milk was added and heated up for the final assembly, I think.

  22. Minestrone is my very favorite soup in the whole wide world! Thanks, Debs. I will definitely be making this one. I don't really have a soup recipe of my own to share, but now I see that I must develop one! Will get right on that - so much more fun than writing!

  23. I was going to say that I only have two soups I fix, but then I Googled "is chili a soup" before posting here, and was informed that chili is not a soup because it "doesn't usually have broth or stock." So, I fix one soup and chili and stew. The soup is vegetable soup from my mother's recipe. I just ordered a new pot to fix it in from Macy's Black Friday online sale. It's a simple recipe, but I do love it.

    My mother named the soup Mommy Hen's Vegetable Soup, and here are her directions:
    Step 1: Cook your soup meat (My mother preferred two thick short ribs. I use at least 4 or 5 boneless soup beef strips that Kroger's has just for such use.) Salt your water. Cook for at least an hour. If water boils low, add some more hot water. When meat is tender, take out and set aside to cut up.
    Step 2: Add a beef bullion cube.
    Step 3: Add vegetables to the broth. My mother's recipe calls for cut-up onion (I can no longer read the amount on the recipe card, but I usually add at least a cup), r cut-up carrots, 4 potatoes, and 2 large stalks of celery. Now, I like to make a really big pot of the soup, so I add more veggies, just according to how much I want.
    Step 4: When vegetables are tender, add 1/4 (or a little more if you are fixing a big pot) cup of macaroni if you like.
    Step 5: Add a large can of tomatoes. You can use the tomatoes you prefer here. My mother added stewed tomatoes with onions and other spices in them. I usually do, too, and get the diced. Although I use whole peeled tomatoes for my chili. I think I sometimes use the whole tomatoes in the veggie soup, as well.
    Step 6: Add V-8 juice or tomato juice. Like with my chili, I mix them, using more V-8 juice, around 2 cans V-8 juice and 1 can tomato juice.
    Step 7: Cook at least 20 more minutes. You can add hot water at any point if the soup is too thicko. Stir often.
    Step 8: I usually put the meat back in during the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. Of course, if you don't want it to be vegetable beef soup, you could leave it out and give your doggies or kitties a great treat.

  24. Deb, your minestrone sounds delish. My Mom's recipe for French Beer Stew is also great on a really cold day. A real stick-to-your-ribs treat.
    Roll 2 lbs stew meat (she used beef chuck) in flour. Brown in 3 tbsps oil on all sides.
    Add 1 chopped red onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp. salt. Saute.
    Add 1 can beer, 8 oz sliced mushrooms, 5 carrots (sliced) and a bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ hrs.
    Add 2 cans (or fresh) red potatoes, diced. Simmer another ½ hour.
    Remove bay leaf. Pour into serving dish for 4-6 people.