Last-Minute Soup Solutions
It is my personal goal to make sure no food ever goes to waste in our house. Every carcass is saved, every canned good is used, every heel of bread is cubed or crumbled into something useful. This past week, in an omigosh-where-did-all-the-groceries-go? moment (not uncommon in our house full of boys), I was forced to flex some serious creative muscle with half a box of chicken broth and a can of black beans. In an effort to satisfy my ongoing goal, I drained the beans, simmered them in the stock, seasoned with a little heat and lime juice, and blended it altogether into a creamy black bean soup. And with a couple dollops of Greek yogurt, I was able to turn impromptu into perfection.
A last-minute kitchen scramble need not turn into mealtime panic. Here are my best tips for transforming odds-and-ends ingredients into a last-minute soup:
- Have liquids on hand. I always make sure I have at least one can of chicken broth and one can of beef broth on hand. Broth is always on the grocery list, right next to bread and eggs. It’s an important base for soups, but it is also great for boiling your grains, and it helps make more delicious sauces and gravies. Play with non-traditional liquids, too, as bases for your soups — tomato juice, tomato soup, cheese soup are yummy places to start, and flat beer can make a killer chili or stew.
- A little acid goes a long way. Oftentimes the answer to the question of “what is that missing something?” is ACID. The tartness of acidity helps cut the richness and saltiness of a soup, while adding another layer of flavor. Keep handy fresh lemons or limes at all times. There’s nothing better than a squeeze of fresh citrus, but bottled juices work and keep in the refrigerator for a longer portion of time.
- When in doubt, ROAST. Leftover bones from last night’s whole chicken dinner, tomatoes that are starting to turn soft, an onion which is starting to sprout, fresh herbs that are a little too wilted — throw them all onto a cookie sheet and roast in a high oven until they turn brown and become tender (roughly chop the produce first). Roasting veggies removes extra moisture, and roasting bones caramelizes them to intensify flavor; adding them all to store-bought broth will add layers of flavor to your soup AND make sure nothing goes to waste.
- Try some heat. Not temperature heat, kicky heat. Spice is like acid, it can often be the answer to what’s missing. Try adding a dash of hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne. Add just enough so you taste the heat, but not too much to kick your butt. Add a little at a time, tasting with every dash and pinch, until your soup is to your liking.
- Sneak in a spoonful of yogurt. Keep some amount of Greek yogurt in the fridge all the time. It’s the perfect add to a creamy soup, and a zippy garnish as well. The tartness and creaminess of the yogurt will help cut the saltiness of any store-bought product, and also add the velvety mouthfeel you seek.
- Keep a well-stocked spice cabinet. The many flavors of a fully-stocked spice collection make endless soup possibilities. Cumin and coriander are like magic to a can of black beans, and chicken soup goes from simple to stellar with just a pinch of dried oregano. When your options are open, no two soups will ever taste the same (and that’s a good thing).
–written by Caitlin
–edited by Kelly