My mom has always made soup; perhaps it’s the one thing that I most associate with her cooking. It’s a homey dish for me, comfort food that I’m going to turn to when I need a little comfort. A hug in a bowl.
Soup, for her, was gathering food. If we were having people over after church or hosting some group, she would make a big pot of soup, bake a sheet pan’s worth of buns, and people would gather in the living room or wherever they could find a seat, sitting on floors and couches with their precariously balanced bowls. It was food to share, her way of showing love and building community.
As we became teenagers and ate at more sporadic times, or even as college students who would come home to eat, my mom always had soup in the freezer. You could select from one of her two or three tried and true classics – like potato soup or turkey noodle – that were frozen in plastic containers, defrost it and have a homemade meal ready in minutes.
Over the past few months, I’ve been making and sharing soup too. Through an online group for those who need something to get through a week, as well as with friends, I’ve been sharing the vats of soup as I recipe test.
Soup, in its rawest form, is water and whatever you choose to cook in that water to add flavor. It doesn’t get simpler than that. You can make it with whatever you happen to have in the house.
That’s likely why the cookbooks of most cultures are resplendent with soups: they’re easy to make, easy to customize, and can make use of a wide range of ingredients, including scraps and leftovers. Soup is for everyone, in any time.
And, as COVID19 and the responses to it reshape our worlds in mere hours, what I am struck by is how we need the lessons that soup has to teach us.
It’s sharing food, so let’s continue to share with each other (just don’t share the virus!). It’s good food to prepare ahead of time for a time of need, so let’s do that. It’s simple and doesn’t need a lot of ingredients, perfect for times when we might need to simplify our lives. It’s comforting and warming, and we need food like that in these times. It’s easy to package up and give some to those who need it, so let’s keep doing that too.
I hope these recipes inspire you to cook them, to try some new flavors alongside other more familiar and comforting ones. I hope they warm your tummy and your home.
Mung beans are a staple legume in South Asian and Indian pantries and for good reason: they’re cheap, nutritious, and easy to cook (no long soaking/cooking time like many legumes!)
And, pairing the mung beans with spinach and coconut milk in this recipe, you’ve got a nutritional powerhouse of a bowl that’s also packed with flavor (thanks pork! Ok, thank you garlic & fish sauce too!).
Quick Tip: I enjoyed the consistency of the mung beans, but they could easily be blended up for a creamier soup!
Soup is a common way to use winter squashes, making a sweet, silky bowl of deliciousness. But this recipe takes squash soup down a different road, mashing it up with classic Japanese miso soup flavors to balance the sweetness of the squash with the umami of the dashi broth and miso.
The soup process is straightforward, but the result is a smorgasbord of flavors. Sweet, earthy squash is balanced by sea-tinged, smoky umami, complimented by nutty miso, and then pureed silky smoooooth. And, then, the topping! Crisp apples are offset with sesame and ginger, scallions add a contrast in flavor and color, and a small sprinkle of shichimi togarashi (a 7 spice blend that includes chilis, orange peel & sesame) finishes it all off.
Quick Tip: If you can find it, red kuri squash is an often used Japanese variety and helps give this the bright orange color!
This is a traditional Haudenosaunee soup that has a deep connection to their agricultural practices, lifeways, and worldviews. While it originates with the Haudenosaunee, it has been adopted and spread throughout North America and you will often find a version of this served at pow wows and other gatherings. It was traditionally made with smoked fish as the flavor base, but more commonly today pork is used – this recipe uses a smoked pork hock for extra flavor. It is a starch heavy soup, and part of its appeal is how well it fills you up – it’s hearty and comforting at the same time. It is also a simple recipe, so use the highest quality ingredients you can to let each element shine; the simpler the recipe, the more each ingredient is amplified.
Quick Tip: If you can’t find dry hominy (or beans) or don’t have the time to soak them, canned will work just fine!
There’s lots to love about this recipe: it’s healthy, adaptable (and easily made), vegetarian, quick to make, and DELICIOUS. Frozen dumplings save you the time of hand making these delectable pocket treats, and then they are bathed in a creamy coconut and turmeric broth, accentuated by loads of fresh herbs like mint and cilantro. It’s bright, fresh, and nutritious!
Quick Tip: Your local Asian grocer likely has a WIDE selection of frozen dumplings to choose from, from vegetarian to pork or chicken.
Pumpkin/squash, beef, noodles – it’s hearty and delicious. And, there’s some serious history and story that goes with it. As I write in the post:
“This is history: history of the Americas, Black history, history of freedom struggle. This is a dish of the Haitian Revolution, of Haitian independence. It is Haitian history in a bowl.”
Quick Tip: If you are looking for a vegetarian version, this recipe can also be made without the beef, and by swapping out the chicken bouillon cube for a vegetable alternative.
Soft, silken tofu in a fishy, garlicky, fiery broth – a level of spice that awakens your senses without overwhelming them. Juicy prawns and meaty shitakes swim around too, and I topped mine with dried seaweed, red pepper threads and scallions. Served with banchan (side dishes) and that ubiquitous white rice, it was one of the most perfect meals I’ve had in a while.
Quick Tip: Make the stock ahead of time and freeze it, so that when the urge hits to eat this, it comes together quickly!
This is the soup that is perhaps the most like something my mom would make, a take on her classic potato soup (and she often added sausage to it!). The addition of the kale (or collards!) makes this a more nutritious option though, without losing the comforting, homey qualities of it.
Quick Tip: For a twist, add a tablespoon of ras el hanout spice blend while cooking the onions, it adds a nice warming richness that compliments the flavors!
A healthier, Middle Eastern twist on the classic corn chowder, this recipe is both vegetarian and vegan! It’s also loaded up with turmeric and all its antioxidant and inti-inflammatory qualities. It’s creamy, satisfying, easy to make with pantry and freezer items, and is DELICIOUS!
Quick Tip: When corn is in season, roast cobs on the grill and freeze the niblets in a bag for uses like this soup: the extra smokiness adds a nice flavor compliment to this!
This soup mashes together two classic soup genres: lentil soup with butternut squash soup! It’s creamy and hearty, sweet and savory, and the croutons add a nice textural ‘crunch’! instead of making classic bread croutons, I used za’atar pita chips for the croutons and that worked well too!
Quick Tip: Any winter squash would work well in this soup, and often there are local varieties that aren’t the ubiquitous butternut squash. Support local and also support diverse foods!