My most ardent questioner (Elizabeth) asked me about my favorite soup recipes over a month ago, and I procrastinated this answer long enough. To me, soup is a way to use leftovers. I make at least one huge batch of chicken stock each month in the fall and winter because I buy whole chickens, and I hate to waste any part of them (plus, I drink hot chicken broth like tea), so it’s easy for me to just throw a pot of leftovers together to make a soup.
One thing I know for sure is that soup tastes better when it’s pureed. I have a Cuisinart Smart Stick, and I know how to use it! Also, in terms of general guidelines, if you’re adding parsley, add it right before serving and whatever you do, do not over-salt!
I start most soups by sweating onions in a tiny bit of chicken fat or olive oil and then adding chopped carrots and celery and whatever fresh herbs I’m using (usually rosemary or sage). I believe this is called a mirepoix.
I keep sautéing that over medium heat until the onions are just starting to brown, then I add hot chicken broth and whatever else I have laying around (leftover chicken, leftover beans, rice, vegetables I’m trying to use up, leftover pasta, etc.) I cook it until it’s all hot and salt to taste and voila, soup!
If you’re going to bother making soup, though, make sure you make a lot! It doesn’t take much more effort to make a ton of soup as opposed to making a little bit. Keep eating it for days or give some as a gift. I use washed out jars from Gia Russa pasta sauce to store my stock and soup. (Yes, back in the day, I made my *own* pasta sauce — as well as hand-made pasta — and as an Italian, it shames me to purchase it, but hey, family life, blogging, and improv take up a lot of time, ok?!)
Tonight, I made a lovely soup that was incredibly simple. I just cooked some frozen baby lima beans in chicken stock for the requisite 15 minutes, then added some frozen chopped spinach and a spoonful of Whole Foods original humus and it was pretty spectacular. The stock I used was incredible, though. I made it earlier today, cooked it down for 8 hours and it hadn’t been defatted yet.