Cooking Soup

Cooking soup is one of the basics of kitchen skills. Soup is definitely comfort food. It has the universal power to warm and nourish our souls as well as our bodies. As ancient as cooking itself, there is no other food type that is both simple and sophisticated, practical and transcendent.

Made from the simple act of combining a variety of ingredients in one pot with water, the development of a myriad of satisfying combinations was inevitable. There are few dishes that turn such economical use of whatever raw ingredients one has on hand into a filling, easily digestible, nutritious and delicious meal.

For most it begins with a pot of water. In the culinary world, that pot of water is first turned in stock. Defined best as a strongly flavored liquid made from bones, meats, vegetables, fish and herbs, a good stock has also become the basis of stews and sauces as well. Even its etymology is simple, as stock derives its meaning from something one keeps in stock for later use. Early soups were broths that were poured over bread in a bowl. The bread, called sop, is where our modern word from soup was simmered up.

Modern soups fall in the following general categories:

Broths and consommés are clear soups that are considered the essence of their ingredients. Broths are thin clear soups to which rice, barley, meat or vegetables can be added. Consommés are cooked down broths and are richer and thicker than broths.

Chowders are traditionally fish or shellfish soups with vegetables such as potatoes and onions in a milk or tomato base. Corn chowder is an example of a non-fish chowder. Its name comes from the French word ‘chaudree’ which means fish soup.

Bisques are thick cream-based soups made from shellfish, and get their strong flavors from being cooked with the shells. The seafood is pureed and can be thickened with rice or roux. It is a method of extracting every bit of flavor from its crustaceans.

Purees are created by blending the cooking liquid with its solid ingredients. Vegetables and fruits are most often made into a pulp in a blender or food processor, and added back into the broth.

Cold soups are made from either cooked and cooled or uncooked fruit or vegetables. Gazpacho and vichyssoise are two of the more well-known cold soups.

Today, we have soups that are served as appetizers, entrees and desserts. And our choices o f meats, vegetables, beans, grains and fruits make it possible to create an incredible variety of flavors and textures. Together with a hearty piece of bread, sandwich or salad, soups remain one of the healthiest comfort foods around.