I am always in the mood for soup—especially in winter, when I’m desperate to warm myself up from the inside out.
In the dining hall, I always make a beeline for the soup zone, and at home, you can catch me finishing leftover chili for breakfast.
Speaking of leftovers—this is a great way to use them. Soup is the contortionist of the kitchen—you can twist it into whatever shape you like best.
Of course, I prefer to envision a scene with more willing cooperation. I’d rather turn it into a game, with everyone contributing their favorite ingredients (as opposed to being manipulated into surrendering something from their hoard).
And making soup is another great way to apply the “by guess and by golly” approach I love so much.
It’s easy to improvise around this template I devised from a favorite basic recipe.
Begin with slow-cooking vegetables, like celery, peppers and carrots, and finish with quick-cooking ones, like peas or corn.
In between, you can choose between broth or water, meat or beans (leftovers are great)—or even throw in some rice or pasta.
It’s your dinner (or breakfast)—you decide!
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 C slow-cooking vegetables, chopped
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 quart broth or water
- 1 C cooked meat or beans
- 1 C quick-cooking vegetables
- Salt, pepper and herbs to taste
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and saute onion until soft. Throw in some minced garlic, too, if you want.
Add your other chopped veggies and cook for a few minutes.
Add tomatoes, meat, beans and liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add quick-cooking veggies at the last minute, cook till heated through and season to taste.
It’s easy to twist this recipe for different ethnic flavors. Try fresh herbs and Parmesan for Italian, or trade some of the canned tomatoes for Mexican salsa. With fewer veggies, you could turn this into a sort of egg drop soup—or add pepper and vinegar to make it hot and sour.
Just pay attention, keep tasting and learn from your mistakes. You may need more than water and a rock, but you don’t need a recipe.