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GOOD COOKING

Ah! Spring: A Time for . . . Soup

May 02, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

You might think of soup as just the salvation of a winter meal, but it works the same miracle in spring. The secret is to add vegetables--especially greens--to the soup at the last possible minute. This way you can adapt your favorite hearty winter soups to warmer weather, when they serve marvelously for lunch or a light supper, especially on the spur of the moment.

As always, the important thing to remember when serving soup is to preheat the bowls so the soup stays nice and hot on the table. You may want to add a salad with a dressing that is compatible to the soup.

For quick baking from scratch, nothing beats popovers. They are easily mixed in a bowl with a whisk, and after 40 minutes in the oven, they puff up in the most impressive way. The popover recipe below is flavored just enough to make perfect partners for the soups.

VIETNAMESE NOODLE SOUP WITH SALAD

This soup may sound odd--a salad is tossed into the boiling broth at the last minute--but it's light, great-looking and delicious. In Vietnam, it's typically made with beef, but shrimp is also used--try 12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and split lengthwise in place of the beef. The beef will come out pink in the center, the shrimp just cooked. Despite the number of ingredients, it's easy to make (while the broth is cooking, get the rest of the soup ready for the pot). Thinly sliced pickling cucumbers in a ginger dressing would make a nice side dish with the soup.

3 (14-ounce) cans reduced sodium chicken broth

1 (2-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 ounces rice noodles, soaked in warm water 20 minutes and drained

2 cups bean sprouts

2 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced small

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

1 (6-ounce) beef fillet, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 1/4-inch wide slices

1/2 cup cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, cut in strips

Simmer broth, ginger root, onion, fish sauce, salt and red pepper flakes in 3-quart uncovered saucepan 10 minutes. Remove ginger. Taste and adjust seasoning. Can be made 1 day ahead to this point and refrigerated.

Bring broth to simmer and add noodles. Cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Bring to boil. Add bean sprouts, lettuce, tomato, green onions and beef. Cook, stirring often. As soon as soup boils again, about 20 seconds, add cilantro, reserving several leaves for garnish. Serve hot. Garnish soup with reserved cilantro and mint.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Each serving contains about:

172 calories; 1,244 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 1.25 grams fiber.

WHITE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

This bean soup is lively; fresh garlic is added at the end of cooking along with the greens. Serve with a mixed green salad tossed with a chunky goat cheese dressing.

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup coarsely chopped smoked ham

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 red bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch dice

2 (14-ounce) cans reduced sodium chicken broth

1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 teaspoon salt

Red pepper flakes

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, leaves only

2 cups young spinach leaves

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add ham, onions, celery and red pepper. Cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth, beans, salt and pinch red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Can be made 1 day ahead to this point and refrigerated.

Return soup to boil. Add parsley, spinach and garlic. Stir. Adjust seasoning. Immediately remove from heat. Serve hot. Pass grated Parmesan cheese separately.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Each serving, without Parmesan, contains about:

215 calories; 1,375 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 3.08 grams fiber.

GREEN ONION POPOVERS

These popovers are crusty on the outside with a thin layer of soft dough within. The chopped green onions end up on the top of the puff. If you want to make popovers for breakfast, decrease the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and omit the green onions and pepper.

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups 1% milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1/4 cup very thinly sliced small green onions

1 cup flour

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and green onions in 2-quart measuring cup or mixing bowl. Stir flour into egg mixture. Set aside few minutes to rest. Stir once more to absorb more flour lumps (it's OK if some lumps remain).

Ladle batter into greased 6-cup popover pan, or 6 individual oven-proof custard cups on baking sheet. Fill about 2/3 full.

Bake at 400 degrees until deeply browned, about 40 minutes. With toothpick, pierce each popover several times to release steam. Remove from pans and serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

213 calories; 544 mg sodium; 216 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

* Don Ryan bowl from Freehand on 3rd Street, Los Angeles.

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