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January 6, 2010 > Soup - versatile, tasty and healthy

Soup - versatile, tasty and healthy

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

It's January; time to make resolutions. Here is one more: make soup weekly. As January is National Soup Month, this will be timely. Winter is here. The weather is colder. Soup will "hit the spot." Keep in mind, soup is nutritious hot or cold and can be a substantial meal or a light snack. This month, hot is preferable.

Soup was known, even back in 6000 B.C. The origin is obscure but logically it began when humans learned to boil water. Human ingenuity prevailed. Imagine an ancient Neolithic habitant adding lentils, peas, and beans to heated water. (During that era, the development of agriculture and the manufacture of pottery began.) From this humble starting point, soup originated and is now popular worldwide. Spanish gazpacho, Italian minestrone, Chinese won ton, New England chowder, Russian borscht, French onion, and universal tomato, to name a few, add to the global palate of soups.

Colonial Americans ate soup. In 1742, William Parks published the first colonial cookbook in America that included several soup recipes. Thirty years later, a cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, had an entire chapter on the subject. English cooking dominated then, but as immigrants arrived more national soups grew in popularity. One noteworthy example is German potato soup. A French Revolution refugee opened a cafˇ in Boston that eventually was known as the "The Prince of Soups."

Soup is simple to make; just cook the chosen varied ingredients in a large pot with stock, juice, or water. It is easily digested, filling, and nourishing. Homemade soup, if made with fresh ingredients, will be free of additives, colorings, and preservatives. Stock, either chicken, beef or vegetable, is easy to make. From the varied textures, flavors, and colors of the ingredients, soup combinations are endless. Expensive ingredients, such as lobster, and inexpensive ones, such as beans or root vegetables, are equally tasty. Remember if you make a large batch, it is freezable Think of fruit soups for dessert!

Soup is healthy. Chicken soup is famous for its curative value, as grandmas believe. This is not a folk tale! In the 12th century, Dr. Moses Maimonides prescribed chicken soup as a cure for asthma and colds. Current thought in the medical field equates chicken soup to an anti-inflammatory agent. Breathing in steam from any soup facilitates breathing and assists with clearing congestion. Any soup with broth is a healthy choice. One more advantage to making one's own is the amount of salt and the fat used can be controlled.

Start the New Year right. On a cold evening, settle down with a delicious and aromatic cup of hot soup, a thick slice of bread, and just relax. A 'soupy' life is a good life!

Years ago, a friend mentioned to her grandmother that she planned to try a new soup recipe. She looked at her quizzically and exclaimed, "You need a recipe for soup!" If you need one, here's a hearty choice.

Chunky Italian Bean and Pasta Soup:
Serves 4 - 6.
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely diced
2 - 3 celery stalks, chopped
1 - 2 carrots, chopped
1 Tbs. tomato paste
5 cups beef stock
1 -15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
3 oz. seashell pasta or other small pasta shapes
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings - Freshly ground Parmesan cheese to taste and/or 2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, celery, celery and carrot(s). Cook gently while stirring for 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste, stock and beans. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in pasta and cook 7 more minutes or until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Add toppings if desired.

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