Soup is so ensconced in our society that it has trickled its way into our pop culture, literary world and humanitarian hearts. Andy Warhol, legendary pop artist of the 1960s, painted prodigious canvas silk-screens of
Campbell’s soup cans. The “Chicken Soup for the Assorted Souls” series has become a blockbuster of motivational and inspiring books for all ages. “The Soup Nazi” is a fairly regular character on “Seinfeld” providing a culinary education on popular gourmet soups. Soup Kitchens have been feeding the hungry since their inception during The Great Depression. Some restaurants dedicate the bulk of their menus to a smorgasbord of soup entrees.
A steamy soup — whether a cup of clear broth or a hearty bowl chalk full of veggies, fish, chicken, legumes, grains and other goodies — not only warms the cockles of your heart, but soothes the achy, flu-ridden soul.
Here’s a roundup of traditional to trendy soups to help melt away the chill as the winter blues set in.
Traditional Louisiana gumbo with a kick of spice, andouille sausage, shrimp, crabmeat and okra is about as comforting as it gets. Other Southern soup delights include crawfish bisque, corn and crab chowder, oyster and fennel, pecan and spinach and sweet potato.
Turtle soup, although a delicacy in those parts, is considered a taboo by many because the snapping variety of reptile used in this dish is an endangered species.
Chicken and matzo ball is now a mainstream soup that has crossed cultural and religious boundaries, and is a favorite flu-buster, especially this time of year. Try the deli “mish mash” that serves a steaming pot containing a whole stewed chicken with noodles, matzo balls, carrots and kreplach, which are like Jewish won tons.
Other deli faves are sweet and sour cabbage soup, and chilled beet borscht served with a dollop of sour cream and steamy boiled potatoes.
A Yen for Asian
Chinese soups run the gamut from the Americanized egg drop, won ton, hot and sour, corn crab and sizzling rice to the more exotic shark fin, pig’s organ, bird’s nest, lung fung and Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a delicacy once used to entice monks to cross over to the carnivorous world.
Japanese suimono or soups, stews and noodle dishes are so hearty and satisfying, they are a complete meal. Miso is a lightweight broth, but udon, ramen and sukiyaki served traditionally in a cast iron bowl or hot pot with thick noodles and thinly sliced meats and veggies simmered tableside soothes body and soul on chilly nights.
Exotic Thai soups seduce the senses with the flavors of curry, coconut milk, fish stock, lemon grass and kaffir lime. Tom Yum Goong, a domestic fave and great flu remedy is a sour and spicy lemon grass shrimp soup; another popular choice is Tom Kah Gai, a chicken coconut milk soup, and glass noodle soup that usually accompanies a throbbing chili dish to soothe and cool the palate.
The Wild West
Black bean and corn, spicy chicken tortilla, blue corn posole stew, chorizo onion, Santa Fe stew with chipotle cream, border avocado soup and stompin’ Texas chili top this list.
Pasta e Fagioli, pasta and beans in a tomato-based broth, is a traditional rustic mainstay with many regional variations, and hearty enough for a meal.
Other classics include vegetarian minestrone, chicken tortellini, and Italian Wedding Soup, a recipe with roots in ancient Rome, a robust blend of mini meatballs of beef and pork in a chicken stock with grated cheeses and chopped escarole or spinach leaves.
The name of the soup is derived from the marriage of the wonderful flavors, but I surmise the etymology comes from the heavy-duty protein load this soup packs, for fortification and sustainability for the wedding night.
Italian Wedding Soup
(The Kitchen Shrink’s healthier version)
8 cups of organic chicken broth
3/4 pound lean ground chicken
1/3–1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 fresh head escarole or spinach, cut in strips
Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Simmer the broth in a soup or stockpot.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and seasoning. Form into small meatballs, about 1/2 inch, adding more breadcrumbs if needed. Add meatballs and escarole to the soup pot, and continue to simmer or about 8 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
In a small bowl, blend 2 eggs with 1/2 cup of cheese, and drizzle into the simmering soup. Cook for another minute and enjoy immediately.
For the authentic Italian Wedding Soup recipe, email me at