How To Make Great Soups
This post is written by guest blogger – Chef Kirsten Helle
Soups can be a fabulous lunch or dinner, one of my favorite options in fact. I see soup as an opportunity to get more vegetables into my diet in a satisfying, soul soothing, comforting and warming fashion. But lets face it… they can also be pretty bad!
Bland and boring – this describes many well-intentioned attempts at a wonderful soup dinner. So what do many people do? They turn to canned soups, which are often full of processed ingredients and chemicals.
You deserve better than that! Soups can be an easy, quick and healthy meal. We can pack them full of ingredients that enhance our health in a delicious way. I want to help you make your soup supper something to look forward to with some simple tricks to help you achieve soup success! I’m also going to give you a “souper” simple recipe to prove it!
Start with a flavor base
Even the simplest soup like a tomato-basil soup should start with a flavor base. A mirepoix is the classic mixture (celery, carrot and onion), a Latin inspired recipe can start with a sofrito (finely chopped peppers, onion and garlic), you can even start with something as simple as just sautéed onions and garlic to enhance any soup. Beginning with this simple step helps ensure your recipe will have balance. The onions, celery and garlic add savory flavor. The carrots and peppers, even the onions, when sautéed, add natural sweetness.
Salt your soup as you’re building your flavor base
Unless you are on a severely sodium restricted diet, add a pinch or two of Kosher or sea salt as you’re sautéing your flavor base. This will help draw out the moisture in the vegetables and helps your soup taste seasoned, not salty, as it can when you season just at the end.
Layer the flavor with dried herbs and spices
While you’re sautéing your flavor base, add some dried herbs and spices that enhance your soup recipe to infuse even more flavor from the base up. I am not a fan of spice blends, as many have additional salt, chemicals or stabilizers added. I prefer using homemade blends that are simple and keep my spice cabinet down to a minimum! I like to buy my spices and dried herbs in the bulk department so I can buy just what I need. Black pepper or a sprinkle of cayenne are classic of course. They will “wake up” the taste buds on the first bite. From here, get creative! Mexican inspired? Add some oregano, chili powder and cumin. Italian? Dried basil and oregano. French? Tarragon, lavender, rosemary and thyme. Savory comfort food classics? Thyme is always a good option.
Use flavor enhancers to “lift” the flavor
After you’re done sautéing your flavor base and spices, use some sort of acid to “lift” the flavor. This is something missing in many recipes I find. You know when you taste a recipe and it is missing something, it has plenty of salt, plenty of pepper, you just can’t put your finger on what is missing? Usually an acidic component to balance the flavors is what is missing. My go-to acids are lemon or lime juice, wine or vinegar. Not much is needed, but the difference is amazing.
Finally, use fresh herbs to enhance at the very end
This step is the final chance to add more flavor, freshness and nutrition to your soup. A flourish of fresh chopped parsley, basil, cilantro or tarragon just as the soup is served brightens the flavor.
Try these simple steps the next time you make your soup! Hopefully you’ll find you enjoy your soup even more. Careful though, it may make you become a soup-a-holic just like me! Here is a simple soup recipe I hope you’ll enjoy! Packed with a ton of vegetables, this is rich, hearty and one of my favorites!
- 2 Tb healthy oil/fat of your choice
- You can add meat at this point if you wish, such as a natural, organic chicken sausage.
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 zucchini, finely chopped
- 1 bulb fennel, finely chopped (optional)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 pinches Kosher/sea salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 28 oz canned or fresh diced tomatoes, with juices
- 15 oz cooked garbanzo beans
- 2 small potatoes, finely chopped
- 6 cups vegetable broth, homemade or high quality organic
- 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 cup fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 cup fresh basil, sliced or chopped
- Fresh parmesan for grating if you like
- Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, when hot add oil, swirl to coat.
- Add the meat (if using), onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, zucchini, fennel (if using), garlic, salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano.
- Stirring often, sauté for about 8 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften.
- Stir in the lemon juice, cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, beans, potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the green beans and asparagus, simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Serve garnished with the basil and parmesan if you wish. Enjoy!
Chef Kirsten Helle is a personal chef, nutrition consultant and lifestyle and weight management specialist. She is the CEO of Mesa de Vida…Table of Life, facilitator for the American Heart Association BetterU campaign, and Nourishment Coach for the Mrs. Washington International pageant. www.MesadeVida.com is where Kirsten shares hundreds of recipes, more about her weight loss and information to help create a healthy family legacy as well! Kirsten lives near Bellevue, WA, enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, 2 kids, friends, family….and of course bringing more life to the table!