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First-Time Sure-Thing Easy and Flexible Soup Recipe?

I have never made soup. I've never closely studied a soup recipe. I'm not even really sure how soup is made (I'm presuming some sort of liquid's involved).

So here's my highly specific request: please give me (or refer me to) one single soup recipe which is:

1. surprisingly simple to make
2. surprisingly delicious
3. able to give me a sense of the fundamentals of soup making
4. flexible - i.e. I can branch out with the recipe to make different sorts of soups.

If you have more general thoughts about soups, that's fine, but please let's keep this particular thread super narrow. Please: only replies which fit all four of the above!

If there's been a similar thread (and I'm imagining there has been, though I've not been able to find it), I'd love a link!

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  1. Can it be assumed that good stock/broth is on hand?

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      Good question!

      No! Trader joe's boxes of stock is as good as it gets!

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Then the soup will only be as good as TJs stocks--or you might go vegetarian and skip the stock all together on many soups....I only use water in my minestrone but then I do use bacon to make up for it.

    2. 1 can diced tomatoes
      1 can Pinquito beans
      1 3 ounce can green chilis
      3 1/2 cups chicken stock (broth)
      1 tsp Cumin
      1/2 cup plain white long grain rice
      1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
      3 medium boned/skinned chicken breasts
      1 medium onion, chopped
      3 cloves garlic
      corn starch

      Mix tomatoes, broth, cumin, green chilis, and rice in 6 - 8 quart pot.
      Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to simmer until rice is done (about 20 minutes)
      Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite size pieces and saute in olive oil until it begins to brown.
      Add onion and garlic; reduce heat and continue cooking until chicken is completely cooked.
      When rice is done, add chicken and Pinquito beans. Simmer 10 - 15 minutes or until the beans are hot.
      Prepare a slurry of corn starch and water and stir it into the simmering soup a little at a time if you want to thicken it.
      Hearty, delicious, and easy ....
      Try serving it with corn chips (tortilla chips) floating on top.
      You can use the basic mixture, sans rice, as a base for many other soups the include broccoli and slices of bratwurst or other sausage, etc.
      Note: Ortega markets the green chilis in 3 ounce cans and S&W foods markets the Pinquito beans.
      Use the chicken pasteurized broth that comes in boxes. It's easier to use and you can get it with lower sodium content if you want a healthier soup.

      1. I think I posted this before, on a thread specifically about squash, but Fabio's Creamless Creamy Squash Soup from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        This was one of the first soups I ever made and is still one of my go to recipes because it's delicious, easy and fun to announce to a room full of people. I always use chicken stock (either homemade or bought) instead of water and I like to have fun switching out the peperoncino for various other peppers (chipotle, for example, adds a whole new dimension). This is definitely a flexible recipe, and gives a pretty good overview of fundamentals for a blended soup, so I think it fits the bill.

        1. This is one of my favorites, surprisingly delicious and very easy.

          Mushroom-barley soup

          Ingredients:

          4 - 5 cups chicken broth
          1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
          1/2 onion, chopped
          1 carrot, chopped
          1 stalk of celery, chopped
          2 cloves garlic, chopped
          1/4 cup pearl barley (pearl or quick-cooking)
          1/2 oz dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped (comes to 4 oz)
          1 t salt
          1 T fresh thyme
          black pepper
          butter

          Directions:

          1. Saute onions, carrot, and celery in butter until nicely softened.

          2. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes.

          3. Add the reconstituted wild mushrooms until they start releasing liquid, and then gradually add the rest of the mushrooms.

          4. Add the barley and stir to coat. Add the salt and some black pepper, then 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover, letting it simmer.

          5. Check on it frequently, gradually adding more broth until the barley has cooked and the consistency is to your taste. If you use quick-cooking barley, the soup only needs to simmer for about 20 minutes. If you use pearl barley, it will take quite a bit longer, closer to 45 minutes.

          6. Stir in the thyme near the end. Taste, taste and taste again, adjusting the salt and pepper to suit your taste.

          7. If you like, you may add some cream, a dollop of sour cream, or sherry just before serving, though I like it as is.

          8 Replies
          1. re: BabsW

            I make almost the same exact soup, but have starting adding a head of chopped up escarole, some fennel and/or bok choy, and a small can of tomatoes: either plain, Rotel if you like spicy or even V8. Besides being delicious, it is low calorie but filling at the same time. I also like to soak the mushrooms in sherry to rehydrate, and throw the sherry into the soup, but that's just me, being myself.

            1. re: coll

              I may try soaking the mushrooms in sherry next time, that sounds good. :)

              Sometimes I use beef broth instead and add a piece of meat for a beef mushroom barley soup.

              1. re: BabsW

                I have just starting subbing beef broth for chicken and am finding quite the improvement in simple soups like this. Even though my chicken is home made and the broth is boxed. My latest discovery in soup making!

                1. re: coll

                  Wait until you try homemade beef broth! I just made a batch of it yesterday. It's amazing stuff. :)

                  1. re: BabsW

                    I made it once but think I added too much water. Should have researched more, I only knew to bake the bones awhile before, but then I made it like my turkey soup. I will try again, once I have the necessary roasted bones....I don't want to actually go out and buy a bunch of bones at today's prices!

                    1. re: coll

                      In my experience, the beef stock cooks down for a much longer time than chicken stock, so I think that "too much water" can be dealt with just by cooking it down further, but that's just my amateur opinion. lol

                      Beef marrow bones can be got for pretty cheap, and soup bones, though they've gone up in price lately (I got some for $4/lb.), are still pretty good. I also like oxtails for this.

                      1. re: BabsW

                        also, beef shank is very inexpensive ($1-$2/lb). If you look through the rack, you can find some pieces with more bone than meat.

                        Ox tails make my favorite stock, I wish I could find them for under $6 a lb.

                        My market also sells what they call "Dog bones". They're just miscellaneous bones with a little meat and cartilage still attached. Most times they are from near the joint, the short rib, or the chuck. They're pretty inexpensive too, and make decent stock.

                        1. re: tbradt

                          OK now you've inspired me. I'll check my local market, where I just saw chicken feet; which I would have snapped up but my freezer is chock full of everything, including chicken stock already made. But I don't want to pay more than $2 or so a lb. What I think I did wrong was putting in lots of water, instead of mostly bones just barely covered.

          2. My suggestion would be to master homemade chicken soup. You can take that master recipe and turn it into chicken and rice soup, Italian wedding soup, all sorts of chicken and vegetable combos, Pho, Asian chicken soup, or tortila soup just by changing seasonings and ingredients.

            2 Replies
            1. re: foodie06

              Just made this this past weekend. So good !

              Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

              Ingredients
              1 tablespoon olive oil
              1 small onion, diced
              3 stalks celery, diced
              3 cloves garlic, minced
              2 carrots, shredded
              1 pound cooked, cubed chicken breast
              4 cups chicken broth 1
              (16 ounce) package mini potato gnocchi
              1 (6 ounce) bag baby spinach leaves
              1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
              2 tablespoons cold water (optional)
              2 cups half-and-half cream
              salt and ground black pepper to taste

              Directions
              Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, garlic, and carrots in the hot oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in cubed chicken and chicken broth; bring to a simmer.
              Stir gnocchi into the simmering soup and cook until they begin to float, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in spinach; cook until wilted, about 3 additional minutes.
              Whisk cornstarch into cold water until smooth. Stir cornstarch mixture and half-and-half into simmering soup. Cook until soup thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

              1. re: foodie06

                http://allrecipes.com/recipe/grandmas...

                I can't know what you mean by "surprisingly" easy, but this is very basic, what most USA people would call chicken noodle, no frills, just right flavor. Definitely "first time sure thing".

              2. Basic cream soups, using homemade chicken broth.Clean, dice and saute leeks in butter until soft. Add peeled, diced potatoes and broth to more than cover. Once potatoes are tender, puree with immersion blender and add cream as desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with swirl of cream on top. Using same techniques, swap out onion for leek, add tablespoon of grated ginger to saute and substitute acorn squash or carrots for potatoes. Finish with swirl of yogurt. Using same technique, start with mirepoix, use frozen peas as vegetable and season with curry powder.

                2 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  this.

                  and you can also sub parsnip or turnip or celery root (or even sunchoke if you're not "sensitive") for the potato.

                  1. Learn to make a good beef/chicken stock. That will be the base for most soups you will ever make, and the process involved in stock making is pretty much everything you will need to know for basic soup making.

                    Michael Ruhlman has a great recipe for a basic chicken stock http://ruhlman.com/2011/04/easy-chick.... It's just chicken bones, bay leaf, onion, carrot, pepper, and salt. It doesn't get much easier than that! I would probably start there. Once you have the stock, you can throw in the garnish of your choice and make a great soup.

                    add some corn, cumin, black beans, onions, peppers, and chicken and you have a good basic tortilla soup. Add some egg noodles, chicken, and veg of your choice; best chicken noodle you have ever had.

                    Beef, lamb, and even fish stocks are right at your fingertips once you know how to make chicken stock. It's the same process really. Once you have stocks down, nearly any soup is just a few ingredients away.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: tbradt

                      The only thing I would take out of that recipe is the salt and pepper. I use stock in all sorts of recipes, some of which reduce the stock, and I'd rather be able to control the salt level without guessing how much is already in there.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Good point. I missed it before, but the recipe I linked has no salt in it. I generally do add salt to mine though, as I use it for rice, soups, or couscous where the salt is welcome.

                        1. re: tbradt

                          Basic chick stock is the way to learn. Good call.

                          I make my stock the same way as the link, but living in SW FL makes the on the stove a no no for the souring reason. So, I make mine in small batches, reduce to demi glaze like & freeze in small containers.

                          The one thing I do different - after removing all the meat from the chicken carcass, I freeze it, along with onion skins, celery & cabbage root (not used in other cooking) until I have enough to make the effort worthwhile. After simmering for at least 6 hours, it goes in the fridge overnight, gets reheated to loosen up & then I strain & reduce. The skins method I learned from a chef while in the high end restaurant biz early in life. Think he was trained in Germany in the 70's.

                    2. The simplest and "purest" soup I've ever made is Julia Child's Leek and potato soup- essentially vegetables cooked in salted water and then pureed or left chunky.

                      Of course it tastes best with top-notch produce, but it has also allowed me to make a surprisingly tasty meal from the scrapings in my produce bin. The variations are endless- sweating vegetables in flavorful fat before adding liquid, changing liquid from water to broth, adding fresh or dried herbs, etc. But I was shocked at how tasty the most basic version is.

                      You'll note that there's lots of variations listed as well.

                      http://www.publicradio.org/columns/sp...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        This is my recommendation also. It's shockingly easy and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. Making it will likely make you feel so confident, you'll want to dive deep into the world of sou[ making. 4Snisl is right that the variations are endless. I always like to puree it with a stick blender and gild the lily with a little cream. I think I'll make a batch tomorrow.

                      2. One of my own creations that's SUPER easy, SUPER quick, SUPER healhty, SUPER hearty, & you can use either canned beans or potatoes. Plus it freezes & reheats well without any loss of quality.

                        BREEZY PORTUGUESE KALE & TURKEY SAUSAGE SOUP

                        One medium onion, peeled & chopped

                        One pound of kale, de-ribbed & roughly sliced/chopped

                        1-1/2 quarts or so of chicken stock (if not homemade, I usually use one carton + one can of Swanson's)

                        Two medium potatoes, peeled & diced -OR- two cans of cannelini/white kidney beans, undrained **

                        One package (usually 12 to 16 ounces) turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced

                        Extra Virgin Olive Oil

                        Salt & Pepper to taste

                        In a large soup pot add enough olive oil to coat the bottom & saute onion until starting to soften, but not brown. Add sliced sausage & continue sauteeing until everything is just starting to brown a little. Add chicken stock & diced potatoes (if using) & simmer until potatoes are tender - about 15 minutes or so. Add kale & continue cooking until kale is tender. (** if using beans instead of potatoes, add chicken stock & bring to a simmer. Add kale & cook until tender; then add beans & stir gently until beans are just heated thru.) Add salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste & serve.

                        1. TORTELLINI VEGETABLE SOUP

                          1T vegetable oil
                          1/2 c sliced carrots
                          1/2 c chopped onions
                          1 clove garlic, crushed
                          2 cans vegetable broth
                          1 can Italian diced tomatoes
                          1 can tomato paste
                          1 c water
                          1 zucchini, diced
                          1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
                          12 oz cheese tortellini
                          1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
                          salt and pepper to taste
                          Grated Parmesan cheese

                          In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Stir in broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Simmer 10 minutes. Add zucchini, beans, tortellini, and seasoning. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan.

                          I like to puree it a bit with a stick blender. Even without the tortellini, this makes a nice vegetable soup.

                          1. Great stuff, everyone. Thanks very much!

                            1. Tom yum soup. 1 can chicken broth 1 can coconut milk. Add in ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes, Then add in sliced chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions, premade dumplings. etc and cook another 10 minutes.

                              1. My all-time easiest favorite is definitely this one:

                                http://thewhiteplates.wordpress.com/2...

                                However, this is one I tried recently and absolutely loved.

                                http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe...

                                1. Meat plus Beans plus Greens

                                  Start with a meat to make broth/stock. It can be a smoked turkey leg, a chicken carcass, oxtail....generally something with bones works well.

                                  At some point add some beans. You can be flexible and change this to potatoes or barley or pasta or squash or rice....

                                  Towards the end, add some greens...spinach or kale or cabbage or bok choy....

                                  That's the basic skeleton of a lazy soup recipe. I usually start out with a saute of some combination of onions, leeks, carrots, bell peppers, celery, garlic, etc. I will add various herbs that I like with the meat. If I am using poultry as a base, I sometimes add sausage. It's a very flexible outline that often has me starting to make the soup and then searching the pantry and fridge for ingredients I can add. If someone else is home, I can even run out to the grocery quickly to pick up a couple of ingredients.

                                  One common variation I use is to start out with a saute of onions/carrots/celery/garlic. Brown some chicken thighs. Add water (or often chicken stock). Add some chorizo. Simmer for at least a couple of hours. Add some canned white beans about halfway through. Maybe add a handful of macaroni 20-30 minutes before done. At some point taste and season as desired. Towards the end, add kale, and wait until kale is cooked. Serve hot, sometimes adding cheese on top.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                                    Food Populist, if you cut way back on the liquid and skip the chicken, your last dish makes the most wicked stew---serve with garlic toast and a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

                                  2. Basic soup is pretty easy. Start with a cup each of diced carrots and celery, 2 cups diced onions. Saute for a few minutes, a couple cloves of minced garlic. Add 6 cups of chicken stock. Add a pint of salsa, add a cup of diced cooked chicken and a can of rinsed pozole (hominy corn). There, you have a latin type soup. Add potatoes and noodles and skip the salsa and pozole and you have chicken noodle soup. Skip the potatoes and noodles, add a cup of lentils and you have a low carb soup. Add more vegetables, ie. diced rutabaga, parsnips, turnips etc. for a healthy, vegetable heavy soup. Add more stock if you wish, Season to taste. None of the above soups takes much more than a half hour to make but they will all taste better if made a day ahead, cooled and eaten the next day, as with all soup.

                                    1. Since it's the season--cut sweet potatoes and butternut squash, mix in olive oil and roast (high temp 450 at least 20-30 minutes until they're melt in your mouth delicious--I lose about half o them here from snacking). Puree. Add stock (vegetable, chicken, whatever you like--Trader Joe's boxed is fine) until you get the consistency you want. Stir and season. Add a dollop of creme fraiche. Pure fall goodness. You can change this for any roast vegetables.

                                      The other good skill is to make chicken stock--many ways (a lot of threads on this) but the easiest is to put chicken wings/drumsticks (Costco has them in big quantities), add celery, onions, carrots, a couple of bay leaves, salt, peppercorn and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove chicken parts, take off meat and skin, put bones back in. Simmer for a few hours, strain. Refrigerate and it'll turn into a chilled gelatinous goo and can be used as a base for most soups.

                                      1. I made this recently - http://kitchengrooves.blogspot.com/20... - with water instead of stock, no onion. Ridiculously good for such little effort.

                                        1. I'm still learning how to make good soup. I generally wing it with whatever's in the kitchen and have been getting progressively better.

                                          My personal favorite is pretty healthy, but there's no set recipe, just a process. Ground turkey breast, whatever veggies I have, white wine and herbs de provence.

                                          I start with the onions and minced garlic, saute them. Then add in shreds of carrot and cabbage (if I have it) and continue sauteing. Then I take ground turkey breast and dump it in in little pieces and cook until it's lost it's pinkness. Then shredded zucchini if I have it. I add in the herbs de provence here (I like a lot) and then dump in the white wine to taste. Next the broth and then let it simmer. At the very end I'll dump in spinach. Though if I have chard, I stick it in right when I would stick in the cabbage. I don't use tomatoes in this soup. Sometimes I'll boil up some orzo dump it in.

                                          I'm probably doing all sorts of stuff wrong and out of order, but I really like this soup. The herbs, turkey and white wine are a perfect combo to get me to eat my veggies.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Heatherb

                                            I really don't think there is a wrong way to make soup, it's supposed to be for using up what you have available. At least to my thinking. I keep a bag of leftovers in the freezer to throw into my next pot. Radish greens, bits of cabbage, parmesan rinds, that kind of stuff.

                                          2. Potato leek soup:
                                            sweat leeks in butter until they are soft.
                                            Add potatoes, water (yes, water) and salt and pepper.
                                            Simmer until they come together.
                                            Puree.

                                            Split pea soup:
                                            Simmer 1# of split peas in water (yes, water) with a smoked ham hock or two for about 30 minutes.
                                            Add minced onion, carrot, and celery. Season, and let go for about another 30 minutes.
                                            Check seasoning, and add a little lemon juice to finish.

                                            French onion soup:
                                            Sweat 3 to 4 pounds of sliced onions in butter. This might take an hour or so. They will look pretty close to dead by this time.
                                            Deglaze your pan with some sherry, then add water (yes, water). Season.
                                            Stick in a broiler with a toasted crouton and some shredded gruyere on top.

                                            Mexican caldo de res:
                                            Simmer two to three beef shanks with a few cloves of garlic in about half a pot of water (yes, water).
                                            After about an hour, add carrots, celery, and onion, chopped as roughly as you prefer.
                                            After about 30 minutes later add your choice of the following: cabbage, squash, corn (cut up to make it easier to eat).
                                            Serve with Spanish rice, and some lemon squeezed on top. Corn tortillas are nice here, too.