Simple Comforts: Sharing Heartwarming Soups

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No matter what we call it or how it may be defined, we love it all -- soup, broth, consomm, gumbo, chowder, bisque and more. We enjoy soup made with vegetables or fruit, fish or fowl, meat, or not. We've gotten adept at eating soup by the bowlful with a super size spoon, or if it's very rich, by sipping it, with refinement, from a demitasse cup. I've seen canned soups ladled into fine china with hotel silver and the most elegant of soups enjoyed, with pleasure, from a Styrofoam cup. Eating soup changes us, for the better. It warms, nourishes, soothes and fills our stomachs and souls with a deep sense of contentment, literally. Soup is good family food, good for sharing with friends and good for bringing to new neighbors or to someone who is sick. Soup makes chefs out of Moms and Dads, celebrities out of chefs and best sellers out of cookbooks. As a fundraiser, soup can engender more cash than cake and serve more folks than planned. Yes, we love soup and should be committed to making it more often, maybe even two pots a week. One pot for our comfort and the other, for another's.

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Stirring pots of gumbo and Brunswick stew, Chef Ken Ballard, owner of Hilton Head Island's Kenny B's French Quarter Caf, is pictured upper left at Sunday's 19th Annual Volunteers in Medicine Soup Challenge held at Hilton Head Island's Mall at Shelter Cove. A perennial favorite for years, Ballard's gumbos consistently snag top honors -- first place last year, second place this year. Ballard's Gumbo Ya-Ya (pictured lower left with fried green tomatoes cornbread and jambalaya beignet) placed third in 2009s competition. Gumbo Ya-Ya, along many other recipes, including those for breads and sandwiches, can be found in the "Volunteers in Medicine Presents 15 Years of the Low Country Soup Challenge" cookbook, pictured right. For cookbook ordering information, call Volunteers in Medicine (www.volunteersinmedicine.org), at 843-681-6612.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com

Tomato Soup with Saffron Cream

Recipe courtesy "Simple Comforts: 50 Heartwarming Recipes," compiled by Sur la Table (www.surlatable.com); Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC (www.andrewsmcmeel.com). Cover design by Ren-Whei Harn, cover photography by Johnson Rauhoff

2 large tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped

1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon saffron threads

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped, about 6 cups, or 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, with juices

2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the olive oil, leek, carrot and garlic in a large Dutch oven or saucepan, place over medium heat and heat, stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to sizzle. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened but not browned.

Meanwhile, put the saffron threads in a small, dry skillet, place over low heat and warm for about 1 minute.* Remove from the heat. When the vegetables are ready, add 1/2 teaspoon of the heated saffron threads to the pan and reserve the remaining saffron in the skillet for the garnish. Heat the saffron in the vegetables, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, broth and salt and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the side of a spoon. Add the pepper, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. While the soup is cooking, make the saffron cream garnish: Add 1/2 cup of the cream to the saffron remaining in the skillet, place over low heat, stirring until the cream is hot. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand until ready to serve. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for about 20 minutes. Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to pure the soup in the pot. Set a fine mesh sieve over a large, deep bowl. Ladle the soup in the strainer. Let stand for about 45 minutes. Press on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Scrape the pure from the outside of the strainer into the broth. Rinse out the pot and return the soup to it. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup cream to the soup, stirring gently with a whisk until blended. Reheat, whisking gently over low heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Do not allow to boil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into warmed soup plates. Strain the saffron threads through a fine mesh strainer and drizzle a scant tablespoon of saffron cream into each bowl of soup. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

*Kitchen Ade Note: Saffron scorches easily, so watch carefully while warming.

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Recipe from "Volunteers in Medicine Presents 15 Years of the Low Country Soup Challenge," courtesy Chef Ken Ballard, owner Kenny B's French Quarter Caf, Hilton Head Island, 843-785-3315

Gumbo base:

2 cups chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1/2 cup coarsely chopped and peeled stewed tomatoes (beefsteak)

3 pounds chopped smoked Polish sausage

2 pounds whole fresh shrimp, tails off, peeled and deveined

1 pound gumbo crabs, broken in half

2 pounds fresh okra, stems and tips removed, sliced 3/8-inch thick

2 pounds boned chicken thigh meat

Roux:

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Liquid and Seasonings:

2 1/2 quarts cold water

3 whole bay leaves, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 teaspoons salt

8 whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon blackening spice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 whole allspice

After you have assembled the ingredients for the gumbo base, heat the oil in a heavy 7- to 8-quart pot over medium heat. Make the roux by gradually adding the flour to the oil, stirring constantly until a brown roux is formed. (This will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes.) Immediately add the onion, green pepper, parsley and garlic. Continue cooking for approximately 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. The vegetables should be lightly browned at this time. Add the tomatoes, sausage and chicken; mix. Add 2 quarts of the water, 1 pound of the shrimp, crabs, okra and seasonings. Raise the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add the remaining water and stir. Remove the pot from heat and let stand at room temperature. Before serving, bring the gumbo to a boil, add the remaining shrimp and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, then let simmer 15 minutes before serving. Serve in gumbo bowls over a mound of boiled rice.

Smoky Corn Chowder

Recipe courtesy "The Good Neighbor Cookbook," by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg; Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC (www.andrewsmcmeel.com). Cover design and illustration by Erin Jang

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups whole milk*

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 medium) cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen corn or 4 cups (about 4 medium ears) fresh corn

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped*

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, paprika and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the broth, milk, potatoes and corn and bring to a boil.* Decrease the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Using a blender or an immersion blender, pure half of the soup, then return it to the pan. Stir in the cilantro, black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Reheat if necessary. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

*Kitchen Ade Note: To help prevent milk from curdling, add it at the end of the cooking process, when the soup is simmering. For the purposes of this recipe, I peeled the potatoes. Also, I found it helpful to add the cilantro gradually to the soup, adjusting the amount according to preference.



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