I'd started the Soup Project partly to save our food budget and partly to see if it could be done. Sure books of soup recipes exist, but every one of them depends on meat, poultry or fish soup stocks and soups for variety. I wondered if I'd hit a wall doing all vegan soups (some had a bit of cheese for garnish) but it turned out, I didn't hit a wall, I could have kept going.
As I look back over my year of soups, I figured the best post for today would be a wrap up of all the things I learned about soup making this year.
Here are ten things I learned from making soup this past year:
1. It's incredibly easy to make soup. Homemade soup doesn't even even require a cookbook, just ideas jotted down from recipes that catch your eye. Anyone can create soup, just let your imagination go.
2. Mind the season. Make asparagus soup in the spring, fruit soups in the summer, and kale, potato and carrot soup in the winter.
3. Go with local choices because the flavors are better, you support local farms and doesn't it feel good to say this dinner came from a local farm.
4. Create layers of flavor with homemade stock. The prepackaged stock is usually loaded with sodium and will give your soup a "boxed" or "packaged" background flavor. If time is short, do a faux layer by adding carrots, celery, onion and parsley to the soup. Toss in a bay leaf. Sample as you cook. Before serving, ladle a cup of soup out and puree it. Return to the pot and season to taste with salt, pepper and add a bit of lemon juice to brighten the flavors.
5. Use a heavy soup pot, pressure cooker or crock pot. No need for special or expensive equipment, just the basics makes soup a great food budget meal. It really is a budget meal. Other things you might need include a colander for pasta and beans, measuring spoons and cups, a ladel and a few good knives.
6. Add less ingredients. I'd always thought if one carrot is good, two will be better. This is not always true with soup. It can become overcrowded and too many vegetables can be distracting. It takes practice to the perfect consistency for soup, but in the meantime it's all edible.
7. If you catch burned soup right away, carefully ladle the soup into another pot, avoid scraping the burned part. I've rescued many burned soups this way. FYI if you get a heavy soup pot, you won't have the "burned soup" problem very often.
8. Don't double hot peppers or salt in recipes. One folk remedy for too much salt in soup is to add a chunk of potato, bring the soup to a boil, then remove the potato.
9. Think of the bowl as a frame for your soup. The colors on our plates influence how we feel. I found most soups look best in black or white bowls. Red was a loser soup bowl color, and green or yellow didn't fare much better. Blue came in second to black and white. We instinctively eat with our eyes first so be aware of how your soup looks.
10. If the flavor is bland and you're near the end of cooking, consider the five flavors our taste buds experience--sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and spicey. Balancing these flavors isn't as tricky as it sounds. Often a squeeze of lemon, a dash of salt or a pinch of sugar is all the soup really needs.
Soup really is good for the food budget. (Except for the fruit soups of summer.) You can savor soup one day with warm crusty bread and the next day ladle leftovers over quinoa or rice another day.
Stay tuned for my new recipe project next Monday. I have a few ideas and my Assistant has more than a few. In the meantime, check out this collections of soups and take your pick.
The 2011 Soup Project
1. Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
3. Basic Soup Stock
4. Locro Guascho Argentino (white beans, sweet potatoes and hominy)
12. Masoor Dal
16. Red Velvet Soup (with beets)
24. Creamy Broccoli and Arugula Soup with Caramelized Zucchini and Avocado
37. Hot Apple Soup