As thin as the homeopathic soups that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death –Abraham Lincoln
In the depths of a gray winter or even in the soft light of a new spring, I’ll sometimes open the silverware drawer and find there are no spoons. And then I realize I’ve been cooking soups and stews all week.
There’s something undeniably comforting about spooning up dinner, no matter the season. And soups are so fantastically varied that a glassy, fine consommé can serve the most elegant dinner party–or, as M.F.K. Fisher writes–served in a pitcher for a pick-up supper after “a late meeting of Puzzled Moms and Dads, Ltd.”
Once you make and taste your own home-made soup, there’s no going back to canned versions. You can make the chowder as thin or as thick as you like. You can dress it up with thyme and white wine or keep it honest with cream and potatoes. Soup is a very personal thing.
Authors Druker and Silverstein know this. They are the proprietors of The New England Soup Factory, a local chain of just two shops, that have been sustaining Bostonians with pure-at-heart soup since 1995. Many of their recipes are preceded by childhood memories and in this book, they start you off with a good base and a kick of inspiration.
The book starts with solid stocks–chicken, beef, fish, vegetable, and lobster (this is New England, after all) and range through seasonally inspired recipes, childhood favorites, classy starters, and ethnic inspirations. And just to round out the meal, there are recipes for sandwiches and salads–casual but thoughtful combinations.
Roasted Tomato and Rice Soup sounds simple and it is, but layering flavors in a few steps make a difference. Aromatics are slowly sautéed, tomatoes are roasted to a sweet char, and the broth is bolstered with tomato juice (I used V-8) and worcestershire sauce. I can be a lazy cook and often tell myself I prefer chunky soups, but the final puree smooths the ingredients into thick spoonfuls. The added cooked rice was all the chunk I needed.
I used the book’s Boston Fish Chowder recipe as inspiration for my own Blue Marlin Smoked Fish Chowder. I can’t abide a pasty chowder, and Druker’s recipe keeps the broth simple–clam juice, thyme, and cream. My added smoked mahi-mahi was a little bit sweet, and played off well against the salt pork sautéed with onion and celery.
And because spring will come, even in Boston, there are cold soups. Cucumber, Avocado, and Lime Soup is green and creamy and perfect on a warm day–vaguely tropical and silky with cream and avocado.
But just to give those forks a workout and because who doesn’t love soup-and-sandwich, the book includes a chapter of sandwiches and salads. Israeli Chopped Salad spans both when stuffed into pitas. Again, the layering of flavors makes the difference–mint and scallions, and just-right vinaigrette.
Save the knives and grills for another day–sometimes only soup will do.