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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Last Night's Soup

Last Night’s Soup

I love soup. Love to make it, love to eat it. Always have. In my very early childhood, we used to visit “Old Grandma,” who was my mother’s grandmother. Grandma McKinnon, who was born in Denmark. I remember her living all alone in what seemed to be an enormous, dark old house in San Francisco, and it was always fun to visit. Old Grandma would make us Swiss cheese sandwiches and potato soup, which I was told was a very Danish lunch.


I even loved Campbell’s soups when I was young. Chicken gumbo, chicken rice, and chicken noodle, in particular. And always clam chowder, particularly Manhattan style (the red stuff).


But I didn’t tackle soups until I was a seasoned cook. They seemed to be a mystery, and something best left to an expert. I probably started off with chicken something, and maybe moved into minestrone after that. Undoubtedly, all of them were over-seasoned and had way too much “stuff” in them, but at least I was trying.


Once you get the knack, soups are generally easy, and always a crowd pleaser for those of you who like to please crowds with your culinary wizardry. The California Culinary Academy classes certainly helped with the basics, but a lot of soup making is just experimenting. What do you like to eat? Make it! What’s a worst case … it won’t be perfect the first time? Make it again, or ideally, find a recipe that you can work “from” and personalize it to your taste.


Minestrone and pasta e fagioli (bean and pasta vegetable soup) are a couple favorites, and good places to start. White clam chowder is classic, but the ingredients are ridiculously fattening. Red clam chowder seems to be a little less common, and it’s great. Chicken anything, French Onion (Julia Child’s recipe is the classic), coconut milk based Thai basil, and on and on.


There are undoubtedly more soup cookbooks than there are soups. New Basics and any of Julia’s books of course, will probably suffice for most anything you want to tackle. If you can afford it, The Silver Spoon, which is the bible of Italian cooking. Pick up a copy in a bookstore and look through it – I dare you to try and NOT buy it.


Last night’s soup

Chicken broth: homemade stock is best, but 6 cups of “store-bought,” a tablespoon of chicken broth concentrate, and 2 cups of water works fine.

3 ribs of celery, sliced at an angle

3 carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle

1 large, sweet onion, chopped

1 medium leek, sliced thin

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes 

2 14-ounce cans of drained light kidney beans

2 14-ounce cans of cannellini beans with the juice

1 bay leaf

2-3 sprigs of chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan crisps (see below)



Sweat the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Medium heat, cover the pot, 10 minutes

Add the leek, celery, carrots, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes

Add the tomatoes, increase to high heat

Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, broth

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer 

Add the beans

Simmer over medium heat for another 30 minutes, make the parmesan crisps …


Parmesan crisps:
These will impress your guests. Use good cheese … this one’s easy … read the label, make sure it says Reggiano Parmesan, and you’re good to go.
Preheat the oven to 300. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper (or tin foil if that’s what you have handy).
Grate about a 1/2 cup of cheese
Divide into 6 equal piles, spread them into thin 3″ rounds
Bake for 6-8 minutes, watching that they don’t burn
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes

Serve the soup with a parmesan crisp garnish, and a sprig of parsley adds to the festivity.


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