Soup is one of those foods that is invariably satisfying. I have always wondered why. Whether soup is warm or hot it nourishes and replenishes. When it’s cold it revitalizes and quenches our thirst. Perhaps soup’s satisfaction is merely because it’s made of nutritious and delicious ingredients. But of course so is grilled ribeye steak, roasted Dover Sole, Quinoa and eggplant, or macaroni and cheese among many other foods I love. Or, perhaps soup’s satisfaction is a regional thing like New England Clam Chowder, Borscht, Miso Soup, Tortilla soup or Matzoh Ball soup.
Sometimes I think soup is so darned good because soup is so simple, flavorful and easy to digest. But friends tell me that the wonderful flavor of soup is not so easy to capture, nor is that special taste so easy to create. Some key ingredients and techniques are more important than others and not to be taken for granted like adding a small but essential pinch of white pepper, or nutmeg, or saffron, or thickening soup by adding pureed beans and greens, or escarole and garlic.
I do know that soup’s popularity is universal. It’s enjoyed by rich and poor from one side of the planet to another, from Asia to America. We know these soups by different names. For example, in the Far East soup goes by the name Congee in China, Gour Bah in Taiwan, Chao Bo in Vietnam, and Kanji in Southern India.
Evidence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Its popularity seems to have grown with the invention of waterproof containers and the use of hot rocks to boil the water. In modern times, this appreciation for soup grew in 1765 when a Parisian entrepreneur opened a soup shop that followed the success of street vendors who sold concentrated, inexpensive versions.
Today there are many food emporiums that sell soup exclusively. I am reminded of the character on TV’s Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi who only tolerated well behaved patrons. He kicked you out if you were too demanding or asked for something they didn’t have that day. It seems you had to earn the right to enjoy the soup of the day.
Here are three of my favorite spring and summer soups, which feature leeks and potatoes, roasted carrots, and green peas. All of these simple yet lovely treats can be eaten hot or cold. In every case you can’t go wrong— in season or out. In fact these soups are so good that they deserve our appreciation. My grandmother used to say that hot soup was excellent even in hot weather while cold soup had its place as well.
Soup #1 Leek – Potato Soup — Known as Vichyssoise if served chilled Serves 6
1. In a large, heavy bottom pot, melt butter over low heat. Once butter is melted, add the leeks and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure they do not take on any color.
2. Add potatoes and cook for two or three minutes, stirring a few times.
3. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat, gently simmering for 40 minutes, or until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
5. Slowly, and in small batches, puree the soup at a high speed in the blender. Lean on the top when you turn on to avoid spilling accidents.
6. Return soup to the cooking pot and whisk in cream and nutmeg. Season with salt and white pepper. Return to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 5 minutes.
7. Transfer soup to the mixing bowl and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. When soup is at Room temperature, cover in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to cool for 2 hours. If served hot, return to pot and reheat until simmering.
8. Check seasoning, sprinkle with chives and serve in chilled bowls. Bon Appetite!
Soup #2 Roasted Moroccan Carrot Soup Serves 4 Chilled or Hot
1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion slices; sauté 4 minutes.
3. Roast carrots on sheet tray covered with light coating of olive oil at 425F for 40-45 minutes. Remove when blackened in spots and lightly wrinkled.. Cool and cut into 1/2 inch rounds.
4. Add roasted carrot rounds to saucepan with sauteed onions.
5. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes.
6. Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.
7. Remove soup from heat. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, allspice, cumin, salt and pepper.
8. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. If serving cold, place pot in refrigerator for 2 hours.
9. Ladle soup into bowls. Stir the yogurt so that it is smooth and top each serving with a swirl of yogurt. Enjoy!
Soup #3 Green Pea Soup – Chilled or Hot Serves 4 – 6
1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over moderately-low heat. Add the sliced onion, cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the broth, tarragon, mint, salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil.
3. Add the peas and cook at low temperature for 7 minutes.
4. In a blender, puree the soup in 4 batches until very smooth. If serving hot, return the soup to the pot and bring just to a simmer. If serving cold, transfer soup to the mixing bowl and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. When soup is at room temperature, cover in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to cool for 2 hours to chill.
5. If served hot or cold, ladle into cups or bowls, and drizzle with yogurt. Enjoy!
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