Monday, January 23, 2012

Sopa de Sunday


It is the season for soup - and we have been eating buckets of it. Literally. It is hard to find something else that satisfies the chilly temps with the same warmth and bright fresh flavor. The fact that it can either come together in a snap or simmer for hours makes it incredibly flexible and easy to pull together in a pinch. Also most everything tastes good in soup. Ok that's a lie, but within reason, you can throw in what you have and end up with something pretty tasty - like that book you may have read as a kid; Stone Soup. 

I'm not much of a recipe follower - which makes me not so successful of a baker, but luckily soup is an improv meal. As such, I was hoping to provide instructions for this stockpot of deliciousness in a different form than normal. Less of a specific list, more of a rough formula for something tasty and easily adapted to what you love.  We love Mexican, so the below formula tilts that way. 

Sopa de Sunday

What makes good soup? 
  • Broth - low sodium is your best bet, we went with chicken, but you could easily do veg
  • Aromatics - these are your onions and garlic - how much to use? Half an onion and a couple cloves is a good place to start
  • Protein - shredded chicken in this pot which could easily be omitted or replaced with beans or maybe shrimp? We pulled the meat of a rotisserie chicken, but if you wanted to be fancier you could cook up your own chicken breasts, maybe in some spices to compliment your soup. 
  • Vegetables - What do you have on hand? Carrots, celery, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans all went in this soup. Stuff in cans too, corn and hominy made our soup a little more Mexican.
  • Canned tomatoes - We went with Rotel for the green chile kick.
  • Citrus - To add a bright note - a little lime juice.
  • Spices - We went without, but a bay leaf, chili powder or oregano might work nicely.
  • Toppings - Fresh jalapenos, shredded cheese, avocado and sour cream round out the bowl. 
So as you can see, you could easily change directions. This could be a more Italian wedding style soup just throw in some pasta, or a traditional chicken noodle, if you have lemongrass and ginger on hand, something a little more Asian approaching Pho. This is the soup for turning what you have on hand into what you want to eat. 

How do you cook it? 

Decide what you're doing with the protein - do you need to cook it? Shred it? Get it ready and set it aside. 

In the bottom of your soup pot - start with some olive oil or butter and sauté the onion until translucent. Add in the garlic. Now start adding your veggies with the hardest ones (slowest to cook) first. That means carrots in first along with some celery. Potatoes as well (if you feel like using those). Move on to some softer veg after a few minutes - bell peppers, green beans, asparagus and zucchini. Save the softest for last with just a quick saute for mushrooms and light wilting for greens like spinach. Add the broth, maybe add some water with it and season away. Using a bay leaf? Stick it in. 

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BUT HOW MUCH VEGGIE?

Think about how much you are making. How many people are eating it? For the two of us I wanted a lot of veggies, but not a lot of any one kind. Think one stalk of celery, two-three carrots, a few handfuls of green beans, a pepper, a zucchini or two. Don't go crazy, but don't hold back. You want it chock full of goodness and the leftovers are even better. 

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Bring this all to a boil. Taste, adjust. Add your protein in along with the canned goods - corn, tomatoes and hominy (One can of each, but two of Rotel)

Return to a boil. Taste again. Adjust. Put the lid on and let it simmer a while. Unless you're starving.

Keep tasting, keep seasoning. Right before you're ready to eat - stir in the citrus - just a 1/4 cup or so (if you want to). Ladle up big bowl-fulls and top with what sounds good. 

I hope you'll try this and remember that it's soup, not science. Forgiving, flexible and totally delicious. 

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