Soup, wonderful soup! Served hot or cold, it’s surprisingly satisfying. And when paired with a whole grain bread and a simple green salad, soup can be an easy, complete meal.
Most soups starts with cooked aromatics (some combination of onions, garlic, celery, carrots), some stock (either homemade or from your pantry) and the main ingredient, which can be a fresh vegetable or a meat.
Last night, I made up a delicious soup using leftover cooked fish from my refrigerator. For aromatics, I included sweet and red onion, celery stalks, garlic, and carrots. I sautéed my finely chopped veggies in some light olive oil, then added thyme and Old Bay seasoning.
Next, I added a quart of low salt chicken stock, which I let simmer until the celery was completely soft. I then cooked three cubed red potatoes until they were tender and added them, threw in last night’s firm white fish (it was striped bass, but you could use cod or halibut) and simmered the pot for about five minutes. I served the fish soup with a sprinkle of crispy crumbled bacon, a side platter of sliced summer tomatoes, a ripe avocado, and some French bread. Voila!
You can whip up summer soup using whatever fresh vegetable you happen to have, or whatever good leftovers are in your fridge. Some traditional combinations:
- Broccoli and cheddar cheese
- Potatoes and leeks
- Corn with a shrimp and/or avocado garnish
- Black beans, tomatoes and cumin
- Cucumber and dill
- Tomato and thyme
With these basics, you can make a soup that’s tasty, unique, and includes exactly what you love. Depending on whether you serve your soup blended and creamy, or crunchy with lots of chopped ingredients, the taste experience will be surprisingly different.
Here are four simple steps for creating a quick summer soup:
1. Slowly cook the aromatics (onion, celery, garlic) until tender.
2. Add a liquid or stock (chicken stock, milk, water, beef stock, clam juice, etc.). The better quality the stock, the better quality the soup.
3. Add the main ingredient (either vegetables or a meat/fish).
4. Correct the seasoning by adding fresh chopped herbs, dried spices, and salt and pepper.
After a while, you won’t need a recipe—just invent your own combinations!
For a little more structure, try this “south of the border” version of chicken soup. You can use a store-bought rotisserie bird, or roast whole chicken breasts yourself.
If you buy chicken that’s already cooked, pull the breast meat off the bird and shred it. It’s perfectly okay to use the dark meat (leg, thigh and wing) in the soup. Always remember to wash your hands for twenty seconds before you begin to cook, and ALWAYS after you handle raw meat.
CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
- One whole chicken breast (12 to 16 oz) or 2 skinless, boneless halves
- 1 medium diced onion
- 1 diced pepper, green or red
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (10 oz.) tomatoes and green chilies
- 32 ounces low sodium chicken stock (College Inn or Swanson’s are both good)
- 1 can (15 oz.) low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can corn kernels, rinsed and drained
- Juice from 2 limes
- 3 whole corn tortillas, cut into one inch wide strips
- Toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped avocado, shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1. Mix up the spices. Fun for a young kitchen helper!
2. Rub a little olive oil on two half chicken breasts. Then sprinkle the spice mix on top of the chicken, and bake uncovered in a 375 oven for about 25 minutes.
3. When cooked and cooled, tear the meat apart into shreds using two forks or you fingers. You can use meat on the bone or buy skinless boneless. It is very easy to pop the meat in the oven, and then pull off the bone with your fingers when cooked and cooled. Just pull!
4. Cook the aromatics by sautéing the finely chopped onion, garlic and red or green pepper in the remaining olive oil. Cook until tender—about 10 minutes on low heat. If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, add your spice mix into the pan with the onion, garlic, etc.
5. Add the low-salt chicken broth. Heat until simmering.
6. Add the corn, black beans, and canned tomatoes.
7. Add all the shredded chicken to the pot last. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. (Never boil chicken—it makes the meat tough.) Add lime juice to taste.
8. Add sliced tortilla strips to soup. Let soup sit off heat for ten minutes. Serve with choice of garnish—sour cream, cheese, cilantro, or avocado.
Easy tasks for children:
- Mix the spices.
- Pull cooked chicken meat off the bone.
- Shred meat with two forks.
- Wash the can tops.
- Rinse the canned vegetables in a sieve.
- Pull the leaves off the cilantro stems.
- Fill four bowls with the various garnishes, or top each soup bowl with a little of each.
- Help taste the soup for seasoning.
Robin is a certified professional chef and 2011 graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Prior to that, she enjoyed a career as mom, director of adult education for her town and director of religious education for her church. She can make puff pastry, classic French food, Italian peasant food, ice cream and really good PB&J. A devout believer in lifelong learning, she loves to try new foods, recipes, and techniques, and invite her friends and family to come over for a bite.