IT’S TIME FOR SOME SOUP

AUTHOR: HARPER

IT’S TIME FOR SOME SOUP

Soup’s on! Soup has been so popular for so long, it earned a place in this informal announcement calling folks to come to the table while the food is hot. Though some soups can be served hot or cold, a bubbling pot of hot soup can make a delightful supper on a cold wintry evening.

Soup can be pretty much as formal, or as informal as you want to make it, depending on whether you serve it as an appetizer or as a whole meal.

My cooking theory is that a spoonful of sophistication can turn cold potato soup into vichyssioise, especially if you add a little garnish to the top, and serve it in your best individual soup bowls or a fancy soup tureen.

Potatoes both kinds were as much a staff of life as bread for our farm family when I was a child at Fawn Grove. We called the white ones “Irish potatoes,” and the sweet yellow ones were merely “potatoes.”

Soup made with Irish potatoes always has been one of my favorites, followed closely by vegetable soup, which was made with a tomato base and a variety of other vegetables and seasonsings.

During the recent freeze, I made a big pot of meatless vegetable soup using canned tomatoes, plus several kinds of canned vegetables that included kidney beans. Adding brown whole-grain rice turned it into a one-dish meal.

Seasonings for vegetable soup can be added to suit your family’s taste and I’ve used everything from bay leaves to oregano, thyme, marjoram, cumin, chili powder, garlic depending on the kind of vegetables.

Potato soup can be made many ways, and so can chowders and gumbos, and there is hardly an end to the variety of tastes you can create in vegetable soup.

Some of the following recipes can be mere suggestions. Place a saucer and spoon by the pot while you’re cooking, ladle out a taste or two, and add seasonings accordingly.

The famous Capitol Bean Soup is in the “Congressional Club Cookbook” that the late Rebecca Whitten, wife of Congressman Jamie Whitten, gave me years ago. It has been on the menu in the Capitol Restaurant since early in the century. The next two recipes are from “The Art of Creole Cookery,” a book I’ve used since the early 1960s.

CAPITOL BEAN SOUP

2 pounds white beans

1 smoked ham hock

Water

Salt and pepper to taste

Cover beans with cold water and soak overnight. Drain and cover again with water. Add the ham hock and simmer slowly for about 4 hours until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, bruise beans with a large spoon or ladle to cloud the soup.

CURRIED SHRIMP SOUP

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1 quart chicken broth (bouillon cubes may be used)

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup nonfat dry milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 to 2 cups canned or frozen shrimp, drained and chopped

Simmer celery, onion, and seasonings in 3 cups broth until tender. Mix flour, nonfat dry milk, and melted butter. Add to remainder of broth and blend to a smooth paste. Add this mixture to vegetables and broth, and cook until slightly thickened. Add shrimp. Serve hot.

OYSTER SOUP

4 tablespoons butter

1 pint oysters

4 cups milk

Salt/pepper to taste

Paprika for garnish

Melt butter. Add drained oysters and cook 3 minutes or until edges curl. Add milk, salt and pepper. Bring almost to boiling point. Pour into bowls, garnish with paprika, and serve immediately.

POTATO SOUP

Boil 2 or 3 potatoes until tender. Mash coarsely into cooking water. Mix 2 tablespoons flour to 1 cup milk and add to soup. Cook briefly to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can cook chopped onions with the potatoes, if desired. A dash of oregano or curry powder adds a different taste. You can add chopped boiled eggs, or bacon pieces, if desired.

VICHYSSOISE

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons margarine

4 medium potatoes, cut into chunks

4 cups chicken broth (or water if you prefer)

1 cup milk or cream

Sour cream for garnish

2 or 3 green onions, or chopped chives

Cook first 3 ingredients in chicken broth until tender. Place in blender and process, or beat with mixer until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in milk. Chill and serve very cold. Garnish with sour cream. Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions, using a small amount of the green blades, or with chives.

QUICK POTATO CHEESE SOUP

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons margarine

1 can condensed cream of potato soup

2 soup cans milk

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Cook onion with paprika in margarine until tender. Add remaining ingredients. Heat, stirring occasionally. (You can dress this up by garnishing with sliced avocado that has been tossed with lemon juice to prevent darkening.)

EASY CORN CHOWDER

1 tablespoon margarine

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 can condensed cream of potato soup (or an equal amount of homemade)

1 12-ounce can of Mexicorn, drained

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Melt margarine and saute onion. Stir in soup, corn and milk. Heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in cheese until melted. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

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