While there are categories of food that encompass such a vast and delicious array of options that the category in question could never possibly get old — I’m looking at you, sandwiches— there is one that sloshes high above the rest.
Soup, our humble champion, is content to serve as appetizer or fill tums as a main dish. It can be hot or cold, creamy or clear, chunky or thin.
Put simply, soup is here to serve. It will be whatever we want it to be and can feed any number of people. If you build it, they will come — and it will serve everyone.
Remember the folktale “Stone Soup”? Some travelers came upon a village. They were hungry, but all they had with them was a pot. They filled it with water from a nearby stream and plopped a rock in it, suggesting to the townspeople that if they had a “garnish” for the soup, it would be top notch.
Word got out about these traveling so-and-sos with a big pot of soup to share, and folks were coming out of the woodwork to throw their offering in the pot in order to have a taste. Before they knew it, the soup included all sorts of veggies, butter, milk, meat and, well, a big rock.
The moral of the story is about sharing and whatnot, but what I really see is that those travelers were doing what they had to do to get a meal. They turned to soup, the reliable underdog of food.
In a month dripping with good intentions, soup is the answer. Want to cook at home more often in order to save money or eat healthier? Soup. Intend to drop some pounds? Soup. Eat less or no meat this year? Soup. Eliminated carbs, so you’re hungry and sad? Soup.
Clear soups packed with veggies can be the bridge to healthier eating. Your tummy will be sloshing, but it will be full. Lean on soup. It’s stronger than it looks.
Try these recipes for healthy soup options.
Simple red lentil soup
3 large carrots, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 pound split red lentils
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
Cilantro, for serving
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery, and sauté until the carrots are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broth, water, red lentils, smoked paprika, lemon zest, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Bring to a low simmer, then cover halfway and gently simmer until the lentils are just soft but before they start to break apart, about 7 to 10 minutes. Watch closely and taste to assess doneness. The finished soup should be brothy with the lentils just soft; cooking past this point yields a very thick stew which is just as delicious but less souplike. (If you’d prefer, you can add handfuls of greens in the last few minutes, such as chopped spinach or kale).
Taste and add additional salt to taste, and a few grinds of black pepper. Leftovers can become very thick, so you can add a little water or broth when reheating.
Adapted from acouplecooks.com
Spicy cabbage soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped poblano or green bell pepper
4 large cloves garlic, minced
8 cups sliced cabbage
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
4 cups water
2 15-ounce cans low-sodium pinto or black beans, rinsed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons lime juice
Crumbled queso fresco, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and/or diced avocado for garnish
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, poblano (or bell pepper) and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add cabbage; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 10 minutes more.
Add tomato paste, chipotle, cumin and coriander; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add broth, water, beans and salt.
Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime juice. Serve garnished with cheese, yogurt and/or avocado, if desired.