Is it soup yet? If it isn’t, it will be in just a few minutes.
After several months of heavy-duty eating and complicated cooking, from pumpkin pie to potato latkes, soup, with all its nutritional good stuff, sounds like a healthy and simple plan to get back to normal.
Start with fresh vegetables, canned beans, whole-grain pasta and optional poultry or meat and just add water. With a few hints and tricks, a delicious first course or main course bowl of soup can be created before you can say, “Mmm, good.”
A few notes:
• Almost any soup can be lightened with a little judicious handling.
• Sauté vegetables in a bit of water and a nonstick pot instead of using oil or butter.
• Soups can be thickened to a “creamy” consistency (without the cream) by adding puréed cooked potato, rice, bread or beans to the soup mixture.
• You can almost always substitute yogurt for sour cream.
• The most valuable tool for slim-down soups is an immersion blender (stick blender) for puréeing in the pot. Cleanup is a breeze.
• If a recipe calls for canned beans, rinse them well.
• One or two chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes added to the soup give a richer taste. I use Ossem brand from Israel.
These “slender soups” are a guilt-free start to the new year.
Creamy Tomato Soup
(Without the Cream)
1 Tbs. oil or 2 Tbs. water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
hot red pepper flakes to taste
1⁄2 bay leaf
1⁄2 Tbs. brown sugar
11⁄2 slices good sandwich bread (I use brioche), crusts removed, torn into chunks
2 Tbs. olive oil
28-oz. can high-quality crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth or water with 1 bouillon cube
salt and pepper
chopped chives for garnish
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Using a Dutch oven or deep pot, sauté the onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes in oil or water until onions are soft and translucent. Add bay leaf, crushed tomatoes, sugar and bread. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer while stirring until the bread starts to break down. Take out bay leaf.
Process half the soup in the blender with about 1 Tbs. olive oil until smooth. Place puréed soup in a bowl, then repeat with remaining soup and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Return soup to pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes to meld the flavors. Season with salt and pepper, garnish, then serve.
Broccoli Buttermilk Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄2 lb. broccoli, stems sliced and florets left whole
1 cup (4 oz.) toasted, chopped almonds
2 Tbs. canola oil
2 cups vegetable stock or water with 2 bouillon cubes
1⁄2 cup watercress leaves
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil and stir in broccoli stems and all but 4 of the florets. Add almonds. Cook until broccoli is tender, about 8 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, purée soup with watercress. Return to pot and stir in buttermilk. Reheat gently. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve garnished with reserved florets.
Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to firstname.lastname@example.org.