The blustery weather that ushered in 1989 brought to mind a former neighbor who, whenever it turned cold and rainy, would telephone to announce that he was "committing soup" and we were invited to dinner. This man created the most delectable steaming medleys from practically anything in his refrigerator. We used to believe he could make soup from a rock.
Now, whenever the temperature drops or it begins to drizzle, it seems only natural for us to put the stockpot on the stove and see what there is in the larder to fill it. Our soups may not rival those our neighbor created, but throughout the years we've come up with some we certainly enjoy.
With literally no end to the repertoire, soup making can certainly bring out a cook's creativity. Begin with a well-flavored stock and the sky's the limit. Those featured today are one-dish meals, needing little else than some bread for accompaniment.
M. B.'s Arroz con Caldo de Pollo is Staff Writer Minnie Bernardino's version of a soup served often in the Philippines. The key to its success is simmering the chicken to make the broth. Garlic and ginger root provide flavor accents; rice turns this into a substantial, yet light soup. A squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of chopped green onions add the finishing touch.
Our Vegetarian Minestrone begins with a meatless seasoning broth, but chicken stock may be substituted. Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, adds substance. However, this is a soup that may be served very thick, or thinned with seasoning broth.
We added tomatoes, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini and carrots to the base of leeks, garlic, onion and celery, but any vegetables may be used. Add those requiring longer cooking first, others later. Oversized Garlic Wheat Croutons sprinkled on the soup make a good alternative to bread.
A country-style cassoulet was the inspiration behind another of today's soups. This, too, is a recipe that may be served very thick, or thinned with water or chicken stock. Ham hocks and Polish kielbasa add smoky flavor. A combination of chopped red onions, fresh thyme and oregano is sprinkled over just before serving.
"Hot and Sour Soup can be a complicated affair, full of assorted dried fungus and other ingredients," says Martin Yan in his cookbook "A Wok for All Seasons" (Doubleday: 1988, $12.95). He developed the simpler version featured today, designed to go with sizzling rice crusts. The step-by-step photos on Page 12 should assure recipe success.
The Italian-flavored Hearty Fish Soup features chunks of firm-fleshed fish. Choose whatever is available or happens to be on special at the supermarket. The soup is ladled over slices of toasted Italian bread just before serving.
Cream of Mushroom Soup rounds out today's soup recipes. Here again, the consistency may be varied by the amount of flour that is added. This version of the old classic is enhanced with fresh thyme.
M.B.'S ARROZ CON CALDO DE POLLO (Rice With Chicken Broth)
1 (3-pound) whole chicken
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup rice
Chopped green onions
Place chicken in large stock pot and cover with 3 quarts water. Add few celery leaves and peppercorns. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer about 1 hour or until tender.
Remove chicken, strain and reserve broth. Cool chicken enough to handle, then bone and skin. Chop or shred meat and set aside.
Saute garlic in oil in large stock pot until light golden. Remove 1 teaspoon and reserve for garnish. Add ginger to remaining garlic in pan and saute about 1 minute. Add onion and saute until tender.
Add rice, stirring to coat with oil. Add reserved broth. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and heat through.
Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze into soup as desired. Garnish with reserved garlic and green onions. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
2 cups chopped leeks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 (.13-ounce) packets golden seasoning and broth
9 cups water
3/4 cup orzo
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup small cauliflorets
2 cups cut green beans
2 cups sliced zucchini
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
Garlic Wheat Croutons
Grated Parmesan cheese
Saute leeks, garlic, onion and celery in olive oil until tender. Stir in contents of seasoning packets. Add water, orzo and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes and continue to simmer about 20 minutes. Add cauliflorets. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add green beans, zucchini, shredded carrots and chervil. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until beans are tender. Add more salt, if desired.
Garnish each serving with Garlic Wheat Croutons and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Run under broiler until cheese melts. Makes 10 to 12 servings.