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Soup Cook-off - Help!

I've entered a soup cookoff fundraiser for a soup kitchen and I need help with what to make. I think a good strategy is to wow people with a tiny taste of soup that may be too intense, rich, etc. to eat a whole bowl full. The problem is that most of my soup recipes (lentil, chicken noodle, etc.) are not exactly flavor sensations.

I'd like some ideas for soup bases and garnishes that will really knock everyone's socks off in a 2 oz tasting cup. Thanks.

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  1. Here's one that I really love, from Gourmet magazine, for Leek, Potato & Sausage Soup. It was originally published in 1993, I think, and I've kept it in my repetoire ever since. I usually serve it with a couple of slices of toasted & lightly buttered baguettes.

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

    Another one, Black Bean with Salsa, comes from an unknown source. I've tried it a couple of times and been very happy with it. You can make it as hot or as mild as you like, depending on what kind of salsa you choose to mix in. The final garnish is a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of sliced green onion but you could change that up to just a few thin slices of avocado and a lime wedge.

    Black Bean and Salsa Soup
    Makes 4 servings

    2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
    11⁄2 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup chunky salsa
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    4 tablespoons sour cream
    2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

    1. In an electric food processor or blender, combine beans, broth, salsa and cumin. Blend until fairly smooth.

    2. Heat the bean mixture in a medium saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated. To serve, ladle soup into 4 individual bowls and top each bowl with 1 tablespoon of the sour cream, and 1⁄2 teaspoon green onion.

    1. There's a recipe in Diet for a Small Planet for a Turkish Barley-Buttermilk Soup. Okay, it sounds kinda iffy, but it's really, really good! The author says she made it for a cooking demonstration and the initially skeptical host couldn't stop eating it through the whole segment. It basically involves barley, onions, buttermilk, and dill, with a pat of butter melting over the top.

      1. This recipe gets raves from my family and friends.

        ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP (so easy and so delicious)

        Ingredients:
        1 pound sweet Italian sausage-removed from casings and broken up
        1 clove garlic, minced
        2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth (I use Swanson)
        1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style tomatoes (I use diced)
        1 cup sliced carrots
        1 (14.5 ounce) can great northern beans, UNDRAINED (I use S & W brand and the label says "small white beans")
        2 small zucchini, cubed
        2 cups FRESH baby spinach - packed, rinsed and torn into smaller-sized pieces (the baby spinach in the clear bags)
        1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
        1/4 teaspoon salt

        Directions:
        In a stockpot or Dutch oven, brown sausage with garlic. Drain the sausage well to remove the grease). Stir in broth, tomatoes and carrots, and season with salt and pepper.
        Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.
        Stir in beans WITH liquid and zucchini. Cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.

        Remove from the heat, and add the spinach, pushing it down, into the hot broth.
        Replace the lid, allowing the heat from the soup to cook the spinach leaves.
        The soup is ready to serve, 5 minutes after adding the spinach.

        Adapted from Allrecipes.com

        1. A rich and creamy corn chowder comes to mind. Garnish with freshly fried crisp bacon bits

          2 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            Ina Garten's cheddar corn chowder would work nicely. You'll get bit of corn, potato and onion in each serving and the topping of fried bacon will really put it over the edge. This is one of my favorite soups.

            1. re: Candy

              I was going to suggest something similar--Southwestern chicken corn chowder, made with cayenne, poblanos, and heavy cream.

              A Mexican pinto bean soup with bacon and cilantro would also be good.

              Agree with Candy that rich will help make the impression you want.

            2. Peashoot, You might also research ideas at www.soupsong.com

              1. How about a Thai-flavored butternut squash bisque made with coconut milk and some Thai red curry paste? You can garnish with deep fried shallot rings and a sprinkle of minced cilantro and basil.

                1. Barbara Kafka's Spice Peanut Butter Soup from her "Soup: A Way of Life" would be perfect for this. It is a rich spicy soup with a smooth creamy texture, and can be served hot or chilled. You could garnish it with a tiny mince of colorful chili peppers, or a single chili powder roasted peanut.

                  Spicy Peanut Butter Soup

                  1 tbs unsalted butter
                  1 small onion, very finely chopped (I use shallots)
                  1 tbs chili powder
                  2 1/1 cups chicken stock (+1 cup if serving cold)
                  1 cup peanut butter (I use organic fresh ground from the local health food place)
                  1 cup milk, light cream, or half and half ( I like whole milk)
                  kosher salt to taste
                  1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
                  8 drops hot red pepper sauce (I usually add more, I like it spicier)

                  Saute the onion and chili in the butter over medium heat until very soft and transparent - it shouldn't be crisp at all. Try not to burn chili powder while doing this.

                  Add the stock at this point, and let simmer gently for 15 minutes. Now whisk in all the remaining ingredients until it's a nice smooth soup, and simmer another five minutes or so.

                  Serve hot, or chill overnight - if you chill it, stir in the additional chicken stock so it isn't too thick.

                  1. Thanks everyone for your ideas! They all sound wonderful. I will definately have to try the peanut butter and barley buttermilk soups, they sound unusual but very tasty. Corn chowder is a fav in the summer.

                    For the cookoff I'm leaning towards something based on Black and White soup from Epi. I'm going to make a pureed black bean soup based on Deborah Madison's Black bean chili from the Greens cookbook and a white cheddar soup, then serve them side by side in the same cup with a colorful garnish, maybe three different colors of finely diced bell peppers.

                    I still need help with the white cheddar soup. I like the looks of this recipe from epi http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec.... I'm thinking of subbing diced jalapeno and other mild green chilis for the bell peppers, vegetable broth for the chicken broth (the vegetarian vote at the cookoff is critical) and possibly adding some light beer to the broth (full sail american ale). Any other suggestions or modifications?

                    I don't think that this type of soup re-heats well so I was going to make it ahead up to the point where you add the broth, milk and cream, then store it in mason jars for a day or so. At the cookoff I will add the cheese to the broth in the crock pot that I'm serving from. Will this method prevent the soup from curdling as long as I don't let it boil?

                    Does anyone have any experience plating a soup like this? The soup is servde in 2 oz plastic cups like the ones that salsa comes in at a taqueria. I'd like the soup to be served so that the black and white portions are side by side on the surface of the cup. I assume you do this by jamming a rubber spatula into the cup and pouring the soups in on either side of it. Will this work or is there an easier way? I'm still looking for exciting garnishes too.

                    I sure appreciate all the help from you hounds. I'm doing a test run on the cheddar cheese soup tonight and I will report back. Thanks!

                    9 Replies
                      1. re: peashoot

                        Isn't it accomplished if you pour both at the same time?

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Yes, that's what they say on Epi, but I doubt I'm coordinated enough to simultaneously pour two soups into a soup bowl. I know I'm not coordinated enough to simultaneously pour two soups into a 2 inch diameter tasting cup.

                          1. re: peashoot

                            I think you will have to do it with 2 spoons, or better, 2 small ladles with pouring spouts if you can find them. Perhaps pyrex glass measuring cups with spouts.

                            1. re: coconutz

                              That's a good idea. I think I might be able to manage pouring two soups at the same time out of small pyrex measuring cups.

                              1. re: peashoot

                                i have these minature little gravy like boats with a long spout.Holds maybe a half cup, but the long spout would work as you pour both in.
                                My gosh you're ambitious!

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  How about teapots? You could go to an Asian grocery store and get two of those cheap metal teapots with long spouts.

                                  And you could set the teapots in a pan of hot water to keep them warm between pours. (As long as you remember to use a hot pad to pick them up - those handles would get hot.)

                                  Anne

                        2. re: peashoot

                          My only worry about your moving the soup to smaller vessels to pour, is that this will increase likelihood that the soups get cold. Just something to keep in mind. Also, you'll probably have the best luck if the thicknesses of the soups of similar. I like the idea (from gridder, below) of pairing the bean soup with corn chowder. Maybe a vegetarian version of epi's corn and cheddar chowder (using white cheddar to keep the color light). http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                        3. My absolute favorite black bean soup comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. It is vegetarian, quick and can be made ahead. I'd garnish it with a bit of sour cream - maybe a sprinkle of cilantro.

                          Found online:
                          http://fooddownunder.com/cgi-bin/reci...

                          1. Ok, so I tried the white cheddar soup recipe from Epicurious. It definately satisfied my requirements for being strong flavored; the first sip was tasty, but a whole bowl was way too rich and intense. Reheating the soup without the cheese, then adding the cheese to the hot soup went well; the cheese didn't curdle.

                            My main complaints are: 1)the soup isn't white. In fact it's downright orange from the red bell pepper coloring the oil on the soup's surface. This could probably be remedied by adding only green pepper but I don't think I'm going to bother because of complaint 2)I just don't think that this soup has the flavor profile that I'm looking for. I'm looking for something that will compliment a very thick spicy chili. I don't think that the savory white cheddar soup will work as well with the chili as something sour cream or cream cheese based.

                            If anyone knows a good sour cream or cream cheese based green chili soup I would love the recipe. I'm looking for one like the Chile Con Queso soup that they serve at Munchies in Ashland OR. It basically tastes like melted cream cheese with a few green chiles and green onions in it. I'm thinking that this might be a similar recipe: http://www.recipegoldmine.com/swsoup/...
                            Thanks!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: peashoot

                              not as heavy creamy as a cream cheese based soup (which I agree would be terrific with a spicy chili) . . . but a good colour option . . .

                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec... (Anthony Bourdain's mushroom soup recipe

                              )

                              It's pretty light coloured if you use button mushrooms and blend well (it's light beige). Super easy, heats up well and is amazing with a drop of truffle oil (not that most things aren't).

                              1. re: peashoot

                                You could do a potato and leek soup, fairly thick, with a white cheese added - it would be great to set off the spicy chili, it would look good with the multi-pepper garnish, and it would be white. And it couldn't be easier - cook the peeled potatoes and the thinly sliced white parts of the leeks in water or vegetable broth, puree, stir in cheese and adjust the thickness with milk, potato water, butter and cream...

                              2. I love intensely flavored soups - even in huge portions. My three favorite soups are:

                                Avgolemono (Greek egg-lemon soup)
                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec... (I add garlic, too, and more lemon juice

                                )

                                Caramelized leek soup
                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                Red lentil soup with spiced oil
                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                Anne

                                1. Maybe a white corn chowder? (Is that possible?) It wouldn't be bone white, but I think the two together would be nice.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gridder

                                    Yes, you could use white corn ... and corn & beans are a complete protein ;)

                                  2. I love the carrot soup with red pepper puree from the Chez Pan cookbook (the one by Bertolli and Waters). It's a carrot soup served with a puree of red peppers that have been sauteed in, I think, butter...I've also used roasted red peppers (freshly made or jarred) to great effect. Will post recipe if anyone wants it.

                                    1. Creamy Onion Soup with red onion&chive, and creamy turtle bean with corn/jalapeno relish