World flavors in a bowl
Miso, minestrone and mulligatawny. Avgolemono, dal and borscht. From delicate broths to light, cool fruit purees and hearty potages, soups have been nurturing and satisfying people all over the world for centuries.
Their origins are wide and varied, as is the global appreciation for them. America is a land of immigrants, after all, and we have a taste for foods of cultures beyond our own. You can put world flavors in a mug or a crock or a bowl and travel the globe by simply lifting a spoon.
For instance, when I want a taste of Asia, I make a pho (a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with meat) or tom kha gai, a Thai chicken and coconut soup that satisfies intensely. If I want to savor New England, I make a clam chowder, and mulligatawny, which reflects the British colonization of India, is a double pleasure. When I want a taste of Mexico, it's tortilla soup, and Tuscany brings out my favorite bean soup, ribollitta. You see what I mean?
A soup pot can hold a lot of ingredients, so don't be deterred if there's a long list with a recipe. A sharp knife, cutting board and large spoon are all the tools you'll really need to create a hearty dish. And with so many ingredients available in the international aisle of your grocery, it's easy to rustle up what you need.
But soup can also have as little as four ingredients and be made in a manner of minutes to equally satisfy. The aforementioned avgolemono, the traditional Greek egg and lemon soup, is so surprisingly simple and convenient to make, it has become my new go-to soup. Made with nothing more than chicken broth, rice, eggs and lemon, it's perfect when I'm pressed for time or when I'm feeling under the weather. The flavor and texture is so appealing, that it never fails to perk me up or fill me up.
On the weekends, when I have more time and am feeling more adventurous, I often pull out the soup pot and open the fridge to see what I can create. Often it's a minestrone or mushroom bisque, and in the summer it's a chilled vichyssoise. Of course, a pot of chili never disappoints, and bean soup studded with ham and served with cornbread is a family favorite. But sometimes I want to step out of the familiar and travel to distant lands to savor a different cuisine.
Whether thick or thin, spicy or mild, soups warm us in the winter, cool us in the summer and can end a meal on a wonderfully sweet note. With added dumplings, noodles, rice, meatballs, beans and myriad vegetables, you can easily spend the rest of winter roaming the culinary globe.
These recipes will get you started on your travels:
Norwegian Fruit Soup
This makes a lovely and light dessert after a heavy meal. From allrecipes.com
1 quart water
½ cup uncooked long grain white rice
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 (15-ounce) can pitted dark sweet cherries
1 (12-ounce) package unsweetened frozen raspberries
Sweetened whipped cream
Simmer water with rice and cinnamon sticks for 20 minutes. Discard the rice and cinnamon, reserve the water. Return the water to the stove and add the apple; simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the cherries and raspberries, then bring to a boil before removing from the heat. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes before refrigerating. Serve cold, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 4.
Per serving: 132 calories; 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 14 percent calories from fat); 29 g carbohydrates; 13 g sugar; 6 mg cholesterol; 12 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 4 g fiber.
A classic Greek soup that's thickened with eggs and spiked with lemon. Add some shredded rotisserie chicken and call it a meal. Recipe from Gourmet magazine
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup uncooked orzo (or rice or pastina)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.
Add the orzo, rice or pastina and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes (20, if using rice). Season with the salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; simmer.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth.
Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, then whisk to combine.
Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve. Serves 4.
Per serving: 116 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 31 percent calories from fat); 12 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 159 mg cholesterol; 668 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 0.2 g fiber.
Senegalese Peanut Soup
This African nut soup of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peanut butter and curry will have your kitchen smelling divine and your mouth watering. Recipe from Emeril Lagasse
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
12 Roma plum tomatoes, halved, stems removed and seeded (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 quarts chicken broth
10 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped peanuts and cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly coat the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until fork tender, turning once, 35 to 45 minutes. Toss the tomato halves with 1 tablespoon of the oil and spread in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Lightly season with salt and pepper, and bake until shriveled, 20 minutes. Remove both the potatoes and tomatoes from the oven. Peel the potatoes when cool enough to handle.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a small stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and toast until aromatic, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Season with the cayenne, then add the peanut butter and stir well. Add the tomatoes, peeled potatoes, chicken stock and coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, and puree with a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot, garnished with peanuts and cilantro. Makes 2 quarts or 8 servings.
Per serving (per 1 cup): 730 calories; 53 g fat (17 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 49 g carbohydrates; 20 g sugar; 5 mg cholesterol; 936 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 10 g fiber.
Traditionally served at Christmas, this thick Mexican soup is full of complex flavors. Recipe from the Culinary Institute of America
4 poblano chiles
4 teaspoons corn oil, divided
1 ancho chile
10 ounces smoked pork chops, diced (about 2 ½ cups)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ¼ cups diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced
3 tablespoons masa harina (optional) (See Note)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ quarts chicken broth, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¾ cup canned hominy, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime, or as needed
½ cup grated jalapeno jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup diced jicama (optional)
1 tomatillo, papery hull removed, washed and diced (optional)
2 to 3 radishes, diced or cut into matchsticks (optional)
Preheat the broiler. Brush the poblanos with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Place poblanos under the broiler and turn as they roast so that they blacken evenly on all sides. Put the poblanos in a bowl and cover.
Let the poblanos steam for 10 minutes, then remove them from the bowl and pull off the skin. Use the back of the knife to scrape away any bits that don't come away easily. Remove the seeds, ribs and stem from the poblanos. Chop the flesh coarsely. Set aside.
Heat a cast iron or other very heavy skillet over high heat. Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho and straighten it into a single layer. Toast the ancho by placing it in the hot skillet and pressing down hard with a metal spatula until it crackles and a wisp of smoke rises, 3 to 5 seconds. Flip over and repeat with the other side. Chop the ancho coarsely and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Season the pork cubes with the salt and pepper and add to the pot. Cook until the pork is well browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the onion and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook 1 minute more. Add the masa harina (if using) and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add 4 ½ cups of the broth, along with the oregano and dried thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 ½ cups of broth and the ancho chile in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chile is quite tender, about 15 minutes.
Puree the ancho and broth mixture in a blender or use a hand-held blender in soup pot. Return mixture to soup pot. When the soup has simmered for at least 20 minutes, add the ancho puree. Continue to simmer another 15 minutes. Add the poblanos and hominy. Simmer the soup 10 minutes more.
Just before serving, season to taste with the lime juice, salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls garnished with the cheese, cilantro, and jimaca, tomatillo and radish (if using). Or put the garnishes in small bowls and pass them on the side. Serves 6.
Note: Masa harina is a Mexican corn flour. Look for it in Latin groceries. Bob's Red Mill is also a brand available in most supermarkets.
Per serving: 273 calories; 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 52 mg cholesterol; 693 mg sodium; 22 g protein; 3 g fiber.
Paraguayan Dumpling Soup (Bori-Bori)
Bori-Bori is a hearty soup from Paraguay made with meat, vegetables, and cornmeal-cheese dumplings. Just a few threads of the optional saffron will give the soup a rich golden color. From globalgourmet.com
1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon minced scallions, white portion only
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons canola oil or bacon fat
1 pound boneless beef shank
Salt as needed
Freshly ground black pepper as needed
8 cups chicken broth, plus as needed
1 ½ cups minced onion
¾ cup small-dice carrot
¾ cup small-dice celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
2 or 3 crushed saffron threads (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Make the dumplings: Combine the cornmeal, Parmesan, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, egg, scallions and oil in a mixing bowl. Cover the batter and let it rest at least 45 minutes and up to 3 hours before shaping and cooking the dumplings.
Make the soup: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Season the beef shank with salt and pepper and add it to the hot oil. Sear the beef on all sides, turning as necessary, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and simmer over low heat until the beef is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the beef to a plate and let cool. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and reserve.
Return the soup pot to medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the strained broth to the soup pot, along with additional chicken broth, if needed, to make 8 cups. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the bay leaf, clove and saffron threads, if using. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the broth is flavorful, 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and clove and discard.
Trim the cooled beef and cut it into medium dice. Return the beef to the soup. To form the dumplings, pinch off small pieces of dough (about 1 teaspoon) and roll them into balls. Add the dumplings to the soup and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately in warmed soup bowls sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Serves 8.
Per serving: 219 calories; 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 41 percent calories from fat); 14 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 56 mg cholesterol; 743 mg sodium; 19 g protein; 2 g fiber.
This Indonesian chicken noodle and potato soup may be just the cure you need in time for flu season. Recipe from taste.com
1 whole chicken, cut into 4 pieces
8 cups water
2 stems lemongrass, quartered
4 kaffir lime leaves (See Note)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
3 shallots, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ounce package bean thread vermicelli noodles
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
1 cup bean sprouts
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
Place the chicken in a saucepan. Add the water, lemongrass, lime leaves, half the garlic and salt. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked. Transfer the chicken to a plate, reserving the poaching liquid. Cool slightly. Remove and discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
Use a mortar and pestle to pound shallot, ginger and remaining garlic until a coarse paste forms. Add the cumin, ground coriander and peppercorns. Pound until peppercorns are coarsely crushed. Stir in turmeric.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the shallot mixture, stirring, for 3 minutes or until aromatic. Add reserved poaching liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes to develop the flavors. Strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Season.
Cook the noodles following packet directions. Drain. Divide among bowls. Top with the chicken and shallot. Divide the broth among the bowls. Top with egg, bean sprouts and fresh coriander. Serves 8.
Note: Kaffir lime leaves have a very distinctive aroma and taste. Look for them in Asian groceries, either frozen or dried.
Per serving: 195 calories; 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 26 percent calories from fat); 7 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 132 mg cholesterol; 434 mg sodium; 21 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.
Tom Kha Gai
Thai chicken coconut soup. Recipe from Saveur magazine
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled
10 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tablespoon lime zest and ¼ cup lime juice
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into bite-size pieces
13.5-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 teaspoon sugar
Chili oil, cilantro leaves with tender stems and lime wedges (for serving)
Using the back of a knife, lightly smash lemongrass and ginger; cut lemongrass into 4-inch pieces. Bring lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8–10 minutes. Strain broth into clean saucepan; discard solids.
Add chicken and return to a boil. Reduce heat, add mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20–25 minutes. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar.
Divide soup among bowls. Serve with chili oil, cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 6.
Per serving: 327 calories; 25 g fat (17 g saturated fat; 69 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 52 mg cholesterol; 495 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 2 g fiber.