Kitchen Shrink: A hearty fall line-up of Alphabet Soup
Last week when I heard the raspy voice and phlegmy cough of my dear friend over the phone, I offered to bring her some homemade chicken soup. I then realized that the authentic, hard core “Jewish penicillin,” which actually originates from ancient Greece and China, takes over a day to prepare, so I ventured to find a good substitute. I had to make several pit stops to finally locate some home-style chicken noodle soup as flu and cold season has descended upon us, and we’re all craving some comforting broth to clear the sinuses, ease the sore throat pain, boost the immune system, and soothe the soul. Although we all have our handful of go-to soups that herald the autumn chill, I’ve compiled an A to Z list of some hum-dingers to help you expand your soup repertoire to warm the cockles of your heart.
Asparagus, the caviar of vegetables, makes a divine soup with tender spears of green, purple or white varieties. Grassy nuances are balanced with minced garlic and lemon zest, then blended with butter and cream for a silky indulgence.
Bone Broths, as the name suggests, are made from bones of chickens, turkeys, duck, geese, or other wild game, as well as lamb, cows, pigs, or fish. Like soup stocks, these bones can be pre-roasted, and usually have some tendons or connective tissue still attached. For an even richer broth some cooks use marrow, feet, fins, hooves, beaks, or even the whole carcass. These Herculean healing soups are simmered for several hours with an acid such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added to the mix to break down the connective tissue’s collagen, releasing gelatin and important trace minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and silicon. They’re also packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients to relieve achy, creaky joints, promote healthy nails, skin, and a restful sleep, detoxify, hike the immune system, improve digestion, and pump up hemoglobin production. So bone up!
Cioppino, a more robust version of bouillabaisse, has Northern Cal origins as Italian immigrants living in the San Francisco bay area lay a solid claim to the creation of this rich, tomato-based seafood stew with a splash of red wine, chopped garlic and fresh basil or Italian parsley (see recipe below). Traditional cioppino has a mother lode of firm fish and crustaceans (usually still wearing their armor) with regional variations. West Coast cioppino is chock full of seasonal delights including Dungeness crab, spiny lobster, spot prawns, California halibut, and Chinook salmon, while East Coast seafood offerings include Maine lobster, blue mussels, cod, and haddock.
Dahl, a variety of lentil-based soups, which hails from the subcontinent of India, blends ghee butter and warm, ayurvedic spices like cumin, turmeric, and coriander seeds. A steamy bowl provides a rich store of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for an oomph of immunity.
Egg Drop is a classic Chinese soup with wispy threads of egg blended in a chicken stock base, topped with slivers of bright green scallions.
French Onion is the piece de resistance in the soup world. A toasted round of crusty bread layered with melted Gruyere cheese floats atop of a rich beef stock loaded with butter, sliced onions, and a splash of dry white wine and sherry. Bon appétit!
Gumbo, a southern Louisiana delight, is prepared with either a seafood or chicken and sausage base, laced with Cajun spices, a dollop of long grain rice smack in the middle, and plenty of soul throughout.
Hot and Sour, from the province of Szechwan, China seamlessly blends white pepper, garlic chili sauce, ginger root, perky rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. It also has many soft, chewy, and crunchy add-ins like bamboo shoots, wood ears and shiitake mushrooms, ribbons of beaten egg, and cubes of tofu. Keep a pitcher of ice water on hand to extinguish fire.
Italian Wedding Soup, which is traditionally served at--well, Italian weddings, really earned its romantic, celebratory name from the marriage of harmonious ingredients, including chicken stock, leafy green escarole, dainty meatballs made of either beef, pork, or poultry, along with beans, chunks of tomatoes, and pasta.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup is a creamy mash-up of the delicate, starchy tuber from the sunflower family called sunchoke, and onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, along with choice spices for a silky smooth, vegan indulgence.
Kale Soup is a Tuscan creation offering both vegan and carnivorous versions. Spicy Italian sausage can be added to the vegetable or chicken broth for a hearty zing, along with the staple cannellini beans, onion, garlic, celery, lemon juice, and leafy parts of the mighty kale for an immune boost.
Lobster, bisque translates from the French bis cuites, meaning, “twice cooked.” The lobster shells are first simmered in a soup pot with a tipsy fish stock loaded with cognac and white wine, shallots, celery, garlic, and fresh tarragon. The broth is then strained through a colander and simmered again with the addition of heavy cream and chopped lobster meat for a fragrant and sublime special occasion soup.
Manhattan Clam Chowder, a sophisticated and elegant broth enlivened with Marsala wine, smoky pancetta, and zesty tomatoes can surely rival its northeastern coastal competitor.
New England Clam chowder (pronounced “chowdah” by folks
from these parts), a rich and rustic blend of littleneck clams, salt pork, heavy cream, and cubed potatoes has become a dish of great regional pride for over two centuries.
Oxtail Soup is a misnomer as the tail of an ox is no longer used for the base of this rich, fragrant stew that braises a fatty cut of beef adding tomato for the base, and hearty chunks of potatoes and carrots for a satisfying meal.
Pasta e fagioli (fazul), which translates to “pasta and beans” is a staple in Italian kitchens. This traditional vegan dish is loaded with cannellini beans, macaroni, garlic, and parsley in a zesty tomato broth.
Quinoa Vegetable Soup starring the mother Incan grain that’s not only gluten free, but doubles as a rich protein store and carbohydrate source is also studded with autumn’s bounty of squashes, garbanzo beans, collard greens, and sassy Meyer lemon juice.
Ramen Noodle is an easy, frugal fave throughout Asia, America, and especially college dorms. Pork, beef, chicken, or vegetarian broth is filled with mounds of long, spiraling noodles, and a variety of add-ins from hard-boiled eggs, sliced chicken strips, and shiitake mushrooms to dried nori flakes, spring onions, and a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds.
Split Pea Soup, a nostalgic comfort food harks back to our childhoods when our moms were hunched over giant soup pots braising ham hocks with onions, carrots, split peas, and aromatic thyme and bay leaves in a savory chicken stock.
Tortilla Soup is a spicy, smoky, southwestern fiesta in a bowl that does a fandango in your mouth. Crispy strips of fried corn tortillas are blended in a zesty chicken and tomato broth enlivened with dried ancho chiles and shredded chicken breast, topped with chunks of avocado, fresh cilantro sprigs, jalapeno rings, shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream, and lime wedges. Ole!
Udon Noodle is a traditional Japanese soup prepared with dashi broth, thick, slippery noodles, and tricked out with seafood and vegetables of all manners.
Vietnamese Pho, the national dish of its homeland has become beloved in America with a pile of translucent rice noodles floating in a beef bone broth, enhanced with charred onion and ginger, and a handful of warm, aromatic spices from cardamom and cinnamon to star anise and fennel seeds.
Wild Rice and Turkey Soup makes a wonderful post-Thanksgiving creation using the leftover turkey carcass. Shred breast meat into the broth for a thicker, heartier main meal dish, along with onion, garlic, fresh autumn herbs, especially Simon and Garfunkel’s harmonious blend of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and a bunch of earthy roots like carrots, celeriac, and parsnips.
Xavier is an Italian version of chicken matzo ball soup with Parmesan parsley dumplings floating in a clear chicken broth traditionally served on the feast day of St. Francis Xavier (December 3), but can be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter months.
Yam Peanut Soup originates from African kitchens as the sweet, starchy tuber is native to the continent. This creamy, protein-dense soup has a load of warm, anti-inflammatory spices that give it a real kick, including ginger, cloves, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Finally, Zucchini Soup made from the summer squash that belongs to the cucumber family is a low-cal winter warm-up with a vegetable or chicken broth base, caramelized onions, choice herbs and spices, and a splash of heavy cream (or coconut cream to keep it vegan).
Alphabetically speaking, I’m starting with C for this quick and dirty Cioppino recipe to tantalize the taste buds and soothe the soul.
Kitchen Shrink’s Cioppino A-Go-Go
½ pound wild-caught salmon fillet (or sustainably farm-raised), cut in 1-inch cubes
½ pound firm white fish (halibut, tilapia, cod, your choice)
½ pound wild-caught, jumbo shrimp, tail intact
½ pound diver scallops or lobster tail, cut in chunks
1 26-ounce jar or can strained tomatoes
1-cup fish stock or vegetable broth
1/3 cup red wine
1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 handful fresh chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt, cracked black pepper, and cayenne to taste
In a large stockpot heat oil on medium and sauté red pepper, garlic, celery, and fennel until tender. Add fish, and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add remaining ingredients (except crustaceans). Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add shrimp, scallop, and lobster. Cook until shrimp and lobster turn pink and scallops are cooked but still tender. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with grilled garlic toast spears.
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