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Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter and Soup and the Why of it All

Calico Bean Soup: Ground Beef base, Beans, Barley, Tomato. 
We all love soup, warm and dense winter soups. I am partial to the soups with veggies and grain in them. I'm not as fond of soups with pasta. So Chicken and Rice, Beef Barley,Vegetable Beef, Corn Chowder, and Calico Bean are all at the top of my soup list. These are the soups that have a dark savory multilayered flavor system that make them so very satisfying.

Soups are easy to make. There is a little secret, of course,  to the spices and vegetables that add the multi layers and healthful support to soup. If you remember the song Scarborough Fair, by Simon and Garfunkel, you have most of it. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Add to that sautéed onions and minced garlic you have the rest. Below I have listed what they bring to the soup. I have also listed the vegetables common to soups and how they fit in the sweet, savory, pungent, and acid of soup.

Parsley -Parsley is a good source of antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Proclaimed health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and a boost to the immune system.
Sage - It's uses as an anti-sweating agent, antibiotic, anti-fungal, astringent, antispasmodic, estrogenic, hypoglycemic, and tonic are documented.  In a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial, sage was found to be effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. See, those ancient folks knew what they were doing. 
RosemaryRosemary contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds that are antioxidants. It has been used for centuries to improve memory. 
Thyme  It has antiseptic and anti fungal properties. Oil of Thyme or Thymol is the active ingredient in Listerine. It also has antibiotic properties and before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages.
Onion (Leek) - They are known for their anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. For a more delicate and warmer flavor, substitute Leeks for Onions. You will be amazed at the subtle over and under tones. 
Garlic - This is a virtual pharmacopeia. It is an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent. Thought to lower cholesterol and remove plaque to name some of the cardio-vascular healing properties. 

Wow, no wonder soup is a "souper" - healthy food!  And it's so easy to make. So let's get started!

General measurements:
1/2 gallon water (two cups less if you do not use any grain such as rice or barley)
1 lb of meat (do not count bones)
1 C grain
1-4 C vegetables
Base of 1 C diced onions, 1T minced Garlic 1 tsp each of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Salt and pepper to taste (begin with 1 T salt you will need more. (You can also use 4 bullion cubes instead of salt for a richer flavor)

All soup begins the same way. For every 1/2 gallon of liquid: sauté 1 cup onions, 1T minced garlic in oil (I like Pompeian light olive oil  ) till onions are transparent. Add to liquid along with 2T Parsley, 1tsp each of Sage, Rosemary, Thyme. 

A word about raw and cooked meat.  
Raw beef needs to be seared on all sides. This greatly improves the flavor of the meat. Soups that start with raw meat will need to cook all day long so they are good crock pot candidates. Raw Chicken: It is best to cut up the chicken or start with cut up chicken. Remove parts that have tiny bones like the back and wing tips. This will save you lots of time fishing them out of your soup. Blanch the chicken before you add it to the soup pot. I like to put my cut up chicken in a colander and pour boiling water over the pieces. That is enough to remove excess blood and fat that will be unattractive in the soup and it will improve the flavor of the chicken. Then add the Chicken to the soup pot and again, cook it all day long. 

Add the cooked meat to the soup pot as is. There is not need to do anything other than cut it into chunks.  The time the soup cooks is greatly reduced to an hour. 

Ground meat is browned and added to the soup pot. Cooking time will be the same as for the Cooked Meat soup. 

Vegetables - 1 cup of each chosen
I like to divide them into two categories: sweet, pungent and neutral. The sweet vegetables for soups are peas, parsnips, carrots and squash. The pungent vegetables are Brussels sprouts, peppers, broccoli, and celery.  The neutral vegetables are corn, green beans, lima beans, spinach, and okra.  Use only one sweet vegetable and pungent vegetable in any soup. You want them to own their flavor layer. 

Grains - 1 cup
Grain adds thickness and personality to soups. My favorites are rice, potatoes and barley. Quinoa and whole oats are two other options. They add texture and chew to the soup. 

Acid - about 2 T do it to taste These are added last, just as the soup is ready to serve as they are the most fragile of all the flavors. 
Yes, a good soup needs a source of acid. Tomatoes, lemon and lime are the three acids I like to use. It is the pairing of the Acid with the meat that makes the soup distinctive. (If you use Tomatoes as your acid source, use one can of chunk fruit.

For a beautiful Chicken Rice soup use 1 C of chopped spinach for your neutral vegetable, diced carrots for your sweet and 1/2 cup of finely chopped celery for the pungent. Use 1 tsp of lime juice with a little lime zest. When you serve it, float a dollop of sour cream with grated ginger . This is a elegant soup and very colorful. It tastes great and is eye candy as well. 

There you have it. The basics for soup. Try it out and mix and match the ingredient lists for soups that are your own. 

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