Cozying Up to Soup

All of a sudden there’s a real chill in the air, especially
after the sun goes down. Cool weather and days that will be busier
and busier with school activities, possible travel and other
holiday preparations make this a perfect time for soup.
All of a sudden there’s a real chill in the air, especially after the sun goes down. Cool weather and days that will be busier and busier with school activities, possible travel and other holiday preparations make this a perfect time for soup.

Although there are dozens (probably hundreds) of prepared soups available – from microwaveable, drink-on-the-go versions to packets of ingredients you combine yourself – making soup from scratch is easy. Cooking your own soup fills the house with delicious aromas, and it can pay dividends well beyond the first meal in the form of a quick microwave meal or a lunch to pack for work or school.

My “Larousse Gastronomique” defines “soupe” (as opposed to “potage”) as a “peasant-style soup, of which the principal examples are … various thick vegetable soups usually garnished with bread.”

And the Dutch cookbook I brought back from my years in the Netherlands says (in a rough translation) that “no dish is as much a symbol of warmth, security, homey coziness and comfort as soup.”

That’s what I’m talking about. So, let’s start with the Dutch and their national soup, if not national dish: split pea soup.

This is a hearty, nourishing meal-in-a-bowl that I associate with warming up after ice skating. But with frozen ponds rare in our part of California, split pea soup will be perfect to serve your trick-or-treaters after they’ve made the rounds and before they dive into their bags of sweets.

Dutch Split Pea Soup

(from the Margriet Kookboek)

2 cups dried split peas

10 cups water

1 pound ham hock

1/2 pound bacon, coarsely chopped

1 medium celery root (celeriac)

4 leeks

1 bunch celery leaves, or leaves from 1 bunch regular

celery

1 large onion

butter

salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/2 pound (about 2) garlic sausages

freshly chopped parsley

Step 1: Put the split peas, ham hock and cold water in a large, heavy pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and skim the foam off the surface.

Step 2: Add the bacon, cover the pan and let cook over medium low heat about an hour. Depending on the thickness of your pot and the heat of your stove, give it a stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent sticking.

Step 3: Chop the onion and sauté in the butter over medium heat until transparent and barely golden.

Step 4: Finely chop the celery root, celery leaves and leeks and add with the sautéed onion to the pot. Add salt and pepper and the sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks. Let the soup continue to cook over low heat for another half an hour.

Step 5: Remove the meat and mash the peas with a wooden spoon against the side of the soup pot, until mostly smooth.

Step 6: The Dutch recipe calls for cutting the ham and sausage into pieces and serving separately, but I like them in the soup itself. Either way, cut the ham off the bone into bite-sized chunks. Then return it and the sausage to the pot or not, as you prefer.

Step 7: Ladle into soup bowls or mugs and sprinkle parsley on top.

Another Dutch tradition is to serve this with the very dark, moist pumpernickel bread that is available thinly sliced in cellophane packages.

Turkey Soup

(from the Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl)

1 meaty carcass from a 12- to 14-pound turkey

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups turkey meat

2 Tbs.. olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced

2 large carrots, sliced

2 celery ribs, sliced

1/4 cup raw long-grain rice or 1/2 cup dried noodles or

mashed potatoes

2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Step 1: Break up turkey carcass as described above.

Step 2: Put turkey wings, skin and bones in a 5- to 6-quart pot and add enough water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth.

Step 3: Simmer gently, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hours. Remove from heat and cool completely, uncovered. Refrigerate, uncovered for at least 8 hours.

Step 4: Remove congealed fat from broth and discard. Reheat broth over medium heat until liquid, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour broth through a colander into a large bowl; discard solids.

Step 5: Heat oil in a 3- to 4-quart heave saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Add broth, bring to a simmer and simmer until vegetables are tender, 15 to 17 minutes.

Step 6: Stir in rice (or noodles or potatoes) and simmer, uncovered until rice or noodles are tender or potatoes have thickened soup, about 15 minutes.

Step 7: Just before serving stir in turkey (and any other cooked ingredients) and parsley and heat through.

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