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Nov 14, 2011 09:59 AM

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:

        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


          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


          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

              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

              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


                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".