Soup variations have evolved according to local ingredients available and personal tastes. It can be prepared with any combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked usually in water with stock or broth to boost the flavor. Fresh and dried herbs further enhance the flavors as does smoky meat products.
Soup can be thick like gumbo, thin as a consommé, smooth and creamy like bisque or chunky as in a chowder or bouillabaisse. Soup is cherished by all for its health benefits and easy digestion properties. Some soups are even eaten cold. Soup actually was the beginning of fine dining and was and still is used widely by chefs and restaurants to flavor dishes and make sauces. It is said that a restaurant’s menu is based on soup.
There is no formality or top secrets to creating a soup in your own kitchen with a basic base then adding whatever you have on hand to add flavor and body.
And let’s not forget the word "soup" probably derived from the use of bread to sop up the broth. Originally bread was used more as a utensil than a garnish. History also reminds us that the use of the bread to sop up the leftover liquid at the end of the meal is how the word supper was created.
The following soup is a my mix between a Meaty Minestrone and a South American Pork Soup since it has all the components of minestrone with the addition of sweet potatoes and peppers from the pork soup.This is what I had on hand and here is the recipe.
Meaty Pork Minestrone
2 thick lean rib pork chops with bone
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut in 1-1/2 inch lengths
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of water
24 ounces (3-cups) of *homemade stock
1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 cups of greens such as baby spinach, chopped Swiss chard or escarole (optional)
2 tablespoons of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1-2 basil leaves, torn (optional)
Serve with Parmigiano cheese
Crostini made from Italian bread or French baguette
Rinse the pork chops and carefully remove the extra fat. Remove the meat and cut into cubes. In a large Dutch oven with a lid, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the pork and the bones. Remove to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the water and stock and bring up to a boil; lower heat to a simmer. Add the pork and the bones back into the soup, half cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the meat cooks and the vegetables are tender. Add the green beans and the butter beans and rosemary and simmer for another 15-20 minutes occasionally skimming the surface of any impurities and extra oil.
Add the greens if using and cook until wilted; 10 minutes or so.
Remove the bones and bay leaf. Using a fork, shred whatever meat falls off the bone and return to the soup. Discard the bones and the bay leaf.
Stir in 1 tablespoon of Parmigiano cheese and sprinkle with fresh parsley and basil. Serve in warm bowls with thick slices of toasted crusty bread. Makes approximately 8 to 10 servings.
1 loaf of crusty bread, sliced on an angle to create larger slices
Olive oil or melted butter for brushing
A sprinkle of Parmigiano or other cheese
Brush the bread slices with olive oil or butter. Toast the bread on a sheet pan for 10 minutes at 375 degrees; depending on your oven temperature. Add fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dried oregano before serving.
Cook’s Note: Crostini is a platform that's open to many toppings and is sturdy enough to hold cheese, meat, spreads or vegetable toppings.
*Homemade stock: gives a full bodied flavor to this soup and ties the knot with all the other ingredients to create a delicious unification.
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The Greenwich Adult Continuing Ed Spring Catalogue is out and classes will begin Feb. 20, 6:30pm to 8:30pm. See the schedule and register for the new Spring series, "The Secrets of Italian Cooking" classes at www.greenwichace.com/coursecatalog