Soups and Variations
Winter almost calls for a bowl of steaming soup. Soups can be made from just about anything. Substitution of ingredients is easy. Allergic to dairy? Use unsweetened soy milk instead of cow's milk. Allergic to onions? Throw in leeks or shallots instead. Vegetarian? Use miso instead of chicken broth. You can do almost anything to soup and it will still turn out delicious.
Soups are energy efficient. They are easy to make in quantity on the days you have time and energy. Cooking for a family? A big pot can last for two or three meals. If different family members have different allergies, individual frozen portions of soup can take some of the stress out of mealtimes.
Soups are perfect for the single person too. One batch can be divided into five or six single portions and frozen. Having three or four different soups in the freezer can help you eat well on those days when you just don't have the energy to cook. And it cuts down on dishes.
Take advantage of harvest times to buy fresh organic produce at good prices and turn it into soup. Homemade tomato soup with onions and a few cloves for spicing can bring you the taste of summer in the middle of winter.
Beans and grains give soup bulk and nutritional value. Think beyond pasta! Black, romano or white beans, barley, lentils and chickpeas can all find a home in soup. In Nicaragua, where beans are a staple, I tasted a hearty soup based on kidney beans, tomato, chili powder and whatever vegetables were available. I've since seen a recipe which seemed similar, called Chili Soup. It uses the basic ingredients and spices of chili, with extra liquid - tomatoes, beef stock or miso.
If you are on a rotational diet due to food allergies (as I am), you can invent your own soups based on the foods you can eat on a particular day. My turkey-barley-chinese cabbage and beef-tomato-swiss chard-onion-oregano experiments have become staples in my diet.
If you are hesitant to experiment, here are two tested favourites, with variations.
Carrot Soup Supreme
4 Tbsp. butter or oilSaute onion in oil or butter for 5 minutes. Blend in tomato paste. Add rice and stir to coat. Whisk in chicken broth. Add carrots and simmer uncovered until tender, about 40 minutes. Puree in blender until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Gently add cream. Reheat and serve hot. If you are freezing this, you can omit the cream and add it just before serving. You can omit the tomato paste and/or rice. The taste will be good but a bit less wonderful.
Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime
2 cups dry black beans.Variations: If you like your soup spicier, or with more substance, you can add a selection of the ingredients below.
1 hot sausage, cooked and thinly slicedFor a lighter soup, substitute chickpeas for half the black beans and miso or chicken broth for some of the bean liquid.
Rinse beans, and then soak overnight
in 5 cups of water. Rinse, add 5 cups fresh water, bring to a boil
uncovered, reduce heat and simmer covered until soft, 1 1/2 hours or more.
Add more liquid if needed Makes approximately 4 cups cooked beans. Save
bean liquid. (Beans and chickpeas can be made ahead and frozen. Remember
tofreeze the cooking liquid too.) In large pot, saute garlic, celery,
onions and anything else you want in oil for five minutes. Then add
cooked beans, spices, lime juice, sausage and liquid. Simmer gently
for 30 minutes. To thicken, when almost done take 1/2 cup of beans out
of the pot, mash them and mix into remainder of soup. If adding orange
sections, spinach or chard, do this a few minutes before the soup is done.