Friday, January 3, 2014

Soup really is good food

Ok, so are you bursting at the seams from all that holiday food? If you are like most people at this point, you are probably about to explode, so it's time to eat lightly again. And there's nothing better than soup for that.

Soup is soothing, satisfying, and nutritious. Yes, soup really is good food - except that the jingle is from a popular soup company I'm not a fan of. I think these canned things lack the flavor and freshness that make soups so enjoyable. Plus the sodium content is way too high. I'd rather have more control over the sodium I add to a dish. I think better tasting creations can be made at home from scratch. (I'll save the canned soups for my Earthquake Preparedness Kit, thank you very much.)

Composer Ludwig von Beethoven once said that "only the pure of heart can make good soup." I'm sure he meant well, but soup is really simple to make. So, if you are not pure of heart, or if you're new to cooking, soup is a great way to begin your culinary journey. In fact, it's one of the first things I began with and it gave me the confidence to move on from there. It's also very forgiving. If you make small changes to the ingredients you are not going to make any huge mistakes and you'll likely still end up with a great soup.

There are basically 2 types of soup: broth-based and cream-based. Those with cream are richer, naturally, and are good, but I like the simpler, cleaner flavors of broth-based soups. They are more versatile, because you can puree the soup, either all of it, or just 1/2, and leave it as such, or if you want, you can add some creme fraiche or a dollop of sour cream to the top for a little creaminess. But I like them best because they are healthier without all that fat. And during the holidays, we could use a little less fat.

The soup recipe I wanted to share with you was dictated to me by my mother many years ago. She has been making this soup for as long as I can remember. It's simply called Potato Soup in German, but it contains a variety of vegetables, not just potatoes, and I love it. Hearty, satisfying, and completely vegetarian, it makes for a great meal on a cold evening, like tonight. Serve with a mixed green salad and some warm, crusty bread, or alongside some sausages. Or you can cut the sausages into slices and put them in the soup at the end just to warm them up.

Kartoffelsuppe (Potato Soup)

Saute onions and garlic in a soup pot along with a little oil. Add raw, peeled, sliced potatoes, 2 chopped carrots and 2 stalks of celery, some leek, chopped (not too much of the green part), 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, and enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Cook 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender, then puree the whole thing in batches in a blender. Pour the pureed soup back in the pot and gently reheat. Add a pinch of ground marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste.

As you can see, the recipe is written in paragraph form, instead of an itemized list with exact quantities. This is how she dictated it to me, in a conversational style, which showed me at a young age that good cooks don't need exact quantities of things. With a lifetime of experience cooking for a family, they just get a feel for how much of each ingredient is needed. This comes only with time spent in the kitchen.

If you feel better making this with some quantities provided, I'd do the following:

1 large onion, or 2-3 smaller ones
2-3 garlic cloves, depending on size
4 medium rose potatoes
1 large leek
the other items have quantities listed.

Happy Soup Making! I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know if you make it and what you think. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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