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Soup Wisdom

Sadaf Soup Mix, One of the Indispensable Ingredients

Soup Wisdom is the name of a little book by Frieda Arkin that was produced by Consumer Reports back in 1980. It is one of the two sources of what I know about making soup. It is the lesser source: The main one is my mother, Sophie Paris, to whom this blog posting is dedicated. For the duration of my childhood and well into my adult years, my mother taught me that soup can make for a great meal. Just recognizing what a great soup can do for you is half the battle: The rest, like sex, consists of experimenting with a willing partner.

Here I will attempt to give away my secrets to making a delicious soup. Some of what I say will be general, some specific.

Take Your Time. Soups are better when you take several hours to make them. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat and slowly add the ingredients one by one.

Using Your Blender. A mistake that many neophytes make is to make the soup too thin. There are several ways to avoid that. The Hungarian method is by making a rántás, or roue, using butter; minced onion, garlic, and parsley; Hungarian (not Spanish) paprika; and a couple tablespoons of general purpose flour.

What I usually do is, as the soup nears completion, ladle some of the mixture—liquids and solids together—into my blender and add a chopped-up bunch of Swiss Chard, which gives the broth a wonderful flavor along with the thicker texture. If you don’t have Swiss Chard, some other greens could be substituted—but note that the Chard is a really great flavor booster!

“Soup Mix.” Living as I do in an area where there are numerous Persian, Armenian, and Middle Eastern markets, what I always do is buy some “soup mix,” which consists of small pieces of green and yellow split peas, pearl barley, rice, and alphabet macaroni. I add this to the soup as soon as the liquid begins to boil and let it basically cook down to form a nice and very healthy background flavor and texture. I am partial to the brands put out by Sadaf and Springfield Foods.

Soupercharging Your Soup. If you have more time than I have, you might want to make your own beef, chicken, or vegetable broth to use as the base of your soup. Here’s where I cheat a little: I buy some soup broth of the desired variety from Trader Joe’s or my local supermarket. This week, I made a vegetarian minestrone using Swanson’s canned vegetable broth, which was quite good. I love the Trader Joe chicken broths, of which there are a couple of varieties.

Salt at the End. Some ingredients tend to get a little tough if you salt the soup too early. Since Martine doesn’t like salt very much, I don’t add any salt until the soup is served.

I know I said at the outset to take your time, but one of these days, I’ll post a blog about what I do to cheap ramen mixes to make them tastier and healthier without taking more than 5-10 minutes of my time.