FOOD: Soup

by Rebecca Dumais

What comes to mind when you think of soup? A hearty liquid dish that warms your soul on a cold day? The chicken noodle variety your mom made for you when you had a cold? A cool, creamy dish served before the main course? Soup is most often served as a starter but depending on the type and quality of the dish, it can be the highlight of the meal.

The word soup originates from the Vulgar Latin, suppa (“bread soaked in broth”) and  from a Germanic source for the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew. Many soups are peculiar to certain localities, e.g., the pot-au-feu of France, the borscht of Russia, the mutton broth of Scotland, the minestrone of Italy, and the chowders of the seacoast or Louisiana's famous gumbo.

Soup itself is divided into two categories of consistency, considered either clear or thick. Clear soups are made from a liquid stock (meat, poultry or vegetables) to give it flavour. The main varieties of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are also made from stock but are thickened with milk or cream, vegetables, eggs, rice or grains. Thick soups can often be so hearty that they can be the foundation of a meal.

Cold Soups

Cold soup may sound unappetizing to some, but think how refreshing a chilled bowl of freshly-made watermelon or zucchini soup would be. From traditional gazpacho to a strawberry broth, cold soups are like a smoothie in a bowl.

Gazpacho is a Spanish, cold tomato-based soup made with fresh summer vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers, celery and onion. Parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and garlic are usually added for flavour.

Vichyssoise is a classic French cold soup and this is what many people think of when considering eating cold soups. The main ingredients are leeks, onions, broth and heavy cream. There are many possible variations of vichyssoise. Potatoes and carrots may be added. Grated carrot or chopped chives may be used to garnish the vichyssoise.

Of course many other types of cold soups can be made, such as chilled tomato and avocado, strawberry, chilled cucumber yogurt, or cantaloupe.

Storing Soup

Preparing a large batch of soup to store in the freezer is a great way to have quick meals in minutes on a cold winter's day. There are some precautions to take in order to store and save your soup for a snowy day in order to prevent food poisoning (which can happen if the soup doesn't get cold soon enough to prevent bacteria from forming). Follow these steps to properly chill and store your next batch.

Fill the sink halfway with equal parts of ice and water to create an ice bath just enough to cool the bottom half of the pot. Put the soup pot into the water and stir the soup to chill it evenly. While the soup chills, use a ladle to spoon it into shallow storage containers, leaving about half an inch at the top. The shallow containers will allow for more heat to dissipate from the soup. The faster the soup cools to below 40 degrees in the fridge, the less chance for food-poisoning bacteria to grow. Place the bottom of each of the uncovered storage bowls into the ice water to allow them to continue chilling.  Make sure the water level is low enough so it doesn't spill into your containers. Use a cooking thermometer to check each bowl. If the soup in the container reads 40 degrees or lower it's ready to be covered and frozen.

Homemade soups can be kept in the fridge for up to three days and up to three months in the freezer.  Remember: when creating tomato-based soups, remember to store them in containers that don't react to the acidity of the ingredients.

Did you know”¦

Frank Sinatra always requested soup in his dressing room before performing. And if you were curious, he liked both chicken noodle and tomato.

Andy Warhol made Campbell's soup iconic. When asked why he created the now-famous Campbell's painting, Warhol replied, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.”

When was the earliest evidence of our ancestors enjoying soup? About 6000 BC, apparently they had enjoyed a few bowls of hippopotamus soup.

Thai Coconut Sour Soup
“¢ 4 oz canned coconut milk
“¢ 1 cup (250 mL) water
“¢ 1 (1/2 inch) piece galangal ginger, thinly sliced
“¢ 1/2 stalk lemon grass, bruised and chopped
“¢ 1 Kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced
“¢ 1/4 oz Kaffir lime juice
“¢ 2 tsp (10 mL) tamarind spice powder
“¢ 1 tsp (5 mL) curry powder
“¢ 1/4 tsp (2 mL) dried red pepper flakes
“¢ 1/4 tsp (2 mL) chicken stock powder
“¢ 1/4 tsp (2 mL) sugar
“¢ 2 button mushrooms, sliced
“¢ 3 tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined

Pour the coconut milk and water in saucepan; bring to a simmer. Add the galangal ginger, lemon grass, and lime leaf; simmer for 10 minutes, or until the flavours are infused. Strain the broth into a new pan and discard the ginger, lime leaf and lemon grass pieces. Stir in the lime juice, spices, sugar. Add mushrooms and simmer for five minutes. Add shrimp and cook for one minute, serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Serves one.

““ Courtesy Chef Anhtuan Phung, Spice Avenue

Parsnip Soup with Mini Grilled Cheese
“¢ 2 Mutsu apples (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and chopped
“¢ 3 tbsp (45 mL) butter
“¢ 5 large shallots, sliced
“¢ 1 1/4 lbs medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
“¢ 1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
“¢ 5 cups (1,250 mL) chicken stock
“¢ 1/4 vanilla pod
“¢ salt and pepper to taste

Peel and core two apples, then cut into one-inch pieces and set aside. Heat butter in large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots, sauté three minutes. Add white wine and reduce. Add parsnips, sauté three minutes. Add apple pieces, stir one minute. Add five cups stock, season with sea salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat and add the scraped out vanilla seeds from the pod. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth, thinning with more broth by 1/2 cups as desired. Return soup to pot; bring to simmer. Correct the seasoning and serve as is or with mini grilled cheese.

Serves six.

Mini Grilled Cheese
“¢ 2 slices brioche
“¢ 1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
“¢ Niagara gold or Cheddar cheese of your choice
“¢ Cured ham, thinly sliced
“¢ 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
“¢ Cracked black pepper

Brush brioche with Dijon mustard. Layer your cheese cured ham between the bread. Butter the outside of the bread and place in a skillet over medium heat. Gently press down with a spatula during cooking. When one side is golden brown, turn the sandwich over and repeat the process until golden and crisp.Serves one.

““ Courtesy Executive Chef Chris Haworth, Spencer's at the Waterfront