While banished to the appetizer section of most menus, soups, in fact, can transcend traditional menu divisions–from starters to the entrée to the grand finale. And why not? Diverse in form, from smooth purees to chunky stews, and a host to all food groups, soups fit readily into most any meal. Equally as pleasing served hot or cold, a spoonful of flavor goes a long way as a soothing supper with crusty bread on the side or a tastebud tickler before or after the main meal. Whether you’re a super souper or a stranger to the kettle, there’s more than one way to make your next pot boil over with flavor.
- Start with stock. Chicken, veal, veggie, or fish–whatever you use make sure it’s fresh and natural. Boil the bones and vegetables yourself, or better yet, take advantage of the surge of gourmet grocers carrying fresh stocks made on the premises just for these occasions.
- Sieve for smoothness. When making a pureed soup, go beyond the blender or food processor for a truly silky texture. Work blended soups through a fine strainer or sieve to remove any lingering lumps or fibrous strands.
- Let Mother Nature create the menu. With access to a garden in full swing or a produce market bursting with this month’s finest, use ingredients when they’re naturally at their peak and your final product will need little seasoning in the end.
- Make it chunky. Count on cuts of meats, vegetable pieces, bite-sized pasta, and beans to give soup texture and heartiness, especially when presenting it as the entrée of the day. Remember, varying sizes and shapes of your selected ingredients creates increased appeal.
- Give it bite. When preparing a chunky soup, make sure to add vegetables and pastas at the end of cooking time so that they are tender, not mushy, when they reach the table. If you aren’t familiar with cooking times, simmer these separately and add to the soup just before serving.
- Garnish your bowl as you would a plate. Wonderful alone, soup is also well accented by crunchy croutons, creamy crème fraiche, grated cheeses, or even fresh herbs. Treat it to an appropriate topping that says it’s as special as the next dish.
- Soup can seal the meal. If you can’t get enough of savory soups, treat yourself to the decadent twist of sweet soups. Kissing cousins with crème anglaise and simple syrups, soups made from chocolate, fruit, and cream might make the end of your next meal the beginning of a new obsession.
Still thinking that soup’s just a starter? Stir it up a few times and the taste is destined to change your mind.