Which means it’s time to stock up – no pun intended – on ingredients for quick-and-easy weeknight soups. Because let’s face it, this time of year, there’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup at the end of a long workday. Assuming you have some basic components on-hand, it can be amazingly simple to prepare.
The next time you’re gearing up to hit the grocery store, add these basic pantry items to your list: onions, quart-sized boxes of broth (chicken or vegetable) and canned vegetables (tomatoes, corn, black beans, green beans, carrots, green chiles, etc.). These are the base ingredients from which literally hundreds of different soups can be made, depending on what you might have hanging around in the refrigerator. There are four basic steps to preparing any soup.
1. The sauté step. Using a few tablespoons of butter or oil, sauté a finely diced medium onion in a large saucepan over medium-high heat with a few pinches of salt and some pepper. This will be the flavor foundation of your soup. Want more pizzazz? Add a chopped clove of garlic to the pan. A carrot and/or a stalk of celery also brings some nice flavor to the party. Cook about 10 minutes until tender.
2. Adding the broth. Chicken stock makes a great base for a wide variety of soups, including vegetable soups or soups that feature other meats like pork or turkey. Pour in a quart and bring it to a simmer.
3. Adding the main ingredients. Here you can really go wild, since at this point you’ve already got a nice basic soup in the pan. Add a cup or more of cooked chicken (shredded or diced), some ham, a can or two of any vegetable you wish (drained and rinsed), cooked rice, cooked sausage, cooked pasta, tortilla strips…the sky is really the limit. Taste your creation and add a little more salt or pepper if necessary.
4. Finishing. Once the main ingredients are in, the soup is mostly done. However there’s nothing that says you can’t add an extra little flourish to really make your creation shine. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (dill, thyme, parsley). A few tablespoons of cream can be nice for a simpler vegetable or noodle soups. You can sprinkle on some chives or bacon bits, squeeze on some fresh lemon or lime juice, or drizzle on some good-quality olive oil.
So there you have it: a basic blueprint for building your dream soup. As a general rule, simpler is better, but if you can’t resist the creative urge, feel free to indulge yourself. Your soup masterpiece is waiting to be created!
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