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Soup’s on!

• Jan 6, 2016 at 10:30 AM

Soup, beautiful soup! My exposure to the beautiful world of soup began when my mother discovered the versatility of canned soup and we became the Campbell’s Soup Kids. She and her friends became very creative during this era and frankly, the tricks my mother used to jazz up canned soups made you wonder if they were straight from the menu at The Ritz — a bit of sherry, some baby shrimp, grated cheese, added veggies and maybe a slice of lemon or lime floating on top.

She loved nothing more than waking us up on a cold winter morning to her famous “doctored” tomato soup with a hint of orange juice. Combinations of several canned flavors always resulted in something rather extraordinary. Her favorite was corn chowder — a can of tomato soup mixed with a can of beef consommé, a can of corn, sautéed onions, diced potatoes, cheddar cheese and some of her own seasoning. Perfect with a grilled cheese.?

And then there was my grandmother’s perfect homemade vegetable soup and our family favorite, the hearty and warming Main Course Soup known in our family as the Atomic Bomb. Gomie, as my grandmother was known to us, was not of the Campbell’s Soup Generation and preferred to make her soups from scratch. The smell of finely chopped celery, carrots and onions simmering in perfect homemade stock made her kitchen a most welcoming place after a day of sledding.

The old saying that soup is good for the soul is right on target as far as I am concerned. Through the years, I have realized how magnificent soups are — they can be comforting, exotic or energizing. Soup seems to calm the tensions of the day and clear the cobwebs in the mind. It can be both healing and cleansing. Louis P. Degouy, author of “The Soup Book” and well-known chef at the Waldorf-Astoria, declared that “soup can do more to lift the spirits than any other one dish.”

Soups are multigenerational, multicultural and are loved by both millionaires and paupers. They are usually easy to fix, high in nutritional value and offer more flexibility than any other dish. You can change the basic recipe to suit your taste, budget or whatever is in the refrigerator at the moment. You can cook it overnight in a slow cooker or simmer it to perfection before your meal. 

 I prepare soup at least twice a week. I feed my family, share with neighbors and freeze for later. I make it piping hot in winter, chilled in summer and try to use what is seasonal and local. I have a passion for putting new ingredients and seasonings together, but tend to go through life without writing down the recipes! 

 These winter months are the best time to pull the stock pot out and create some beautiful soups of your own! If you love to sample soups, the place to be on Feb. 20 is the Great Winter Soup Cook-Off at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon. With the help of The Soup Nazi from the “Seinfeld” series, over 40 amazing area chefs and soup makers will be ladling up their signature recipes. Visit www.swcenter.edu/​cooking for information on competing or attending as a guest.

I am sharing some of my favorite soup recipes to get you motivated — one borrowed, one handed-down and one created. I guarantee that they will warm up your body and soul while you wait for spring!

Me & K’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Me & K’s won the first Great Winter Soup Cook-Off in 2014 with a truly gorgeous and healthy soup. Me & K’s and their food truck are regular favorites at the Kingsport, Johnson City and Abingdon Farmers’ Markets and are known for their wonderfully fresh salsas and amazing lunches. She will be entering the soup cook-off again for the third year and also have her products to sell at the Cook-Off Café.

2 cups shredded organic chicken
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion (1/​2 chopped, 1/​2 slithered)
4 cloves minced fresh garlic
1 finely chopped jalapeño
2 Tbsp. squeezed fresh lime juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups (2 ears) corn kernels
1 each slithered red and green bell peppers
2 chipotle peppers
1 cup organic wild rice
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Garnish: 2 cups tortilla strips or crushed, 1/​4 cup chopped cilantro, 2 diced tomatoes, 2 cups cheese blend, 1 diced avocado

Pour chicken stock into soup pot and add olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, jalapeño and chipotle peppers. Cook on medium-high until boiling; turn down to medium heat and add slithered peppers and red onion with lime juice.

Add 3 cups water, stirring thoroughly. Add chopped cilantro to taste, leaving some for garnish. Add shredded chicken (for those wanting a faster version you can use rotisserie chicken from your local grocer that you have shredded). Add organic wild rice and cook for 40 to 45 minutes on medium heat. Pour corn into soup last so you don’t blow out the kernels.

Turn off soup and let sit for about 5 minutes before ladling into bowls.

Layer the following on top of soup once in bowls: Place tortillas in middle of bowl, next diced tomatoes, then diced avocado. Sprinkle cheese around the middle and lightly sprinkle with diced cilantro.

Gomie’s Main Course Soup (Atomic Bomb Soup) 
By Genevieve S. Shivell

My grandmother’s family favorite soup recipe can be found in the original Netherland Inn Cookbook. This is a great winter soup for large crowds and easily can be doubled.

1 package large white navy beans
6 cups boiling water
1 shank end ham, fully cooked (about 3 lbs.)
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 large onion (1 cup) chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 packages (12 oz.) smoked sausage links, thinly sliced
1 can (about 1 lb.) tomatoes
6 cups water
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 cup small-sized elbow pasta
Fresh parsley

Pick over beans and place in large bowl. Pour boiling water over and cover. Let stand 1 hour. 

Trim several pieces of fat from ham, melt in heavy pan or Dutch oven. Stir in cabbage, carrots, onion, celery and garlic. Sauté slowly, stirring often — about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. 

Pour beans and liquid into kettle and add ham, sliced sausage, tomatoes, salt, pepper and 6 more cups of water. Heat to boiling and simmer 1 1/​2 hours. Remove ham from kettle and cut meat from bone, adding lean part diced to soup. Cook 30 minutes or until beans are tender; stir in pasta and cook until tender. (pasta can be cooked separately and added just before serving). 

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley. If soup is too thick, chicken broth may be added.

Turkey Confetti Soup

For this soup I always make my own stock using the leftover turkey bones. Any of your favorite homemade stock recipes will work or if you are in a hurry you can use boxed stock. I add celery, carrots, onion, fresh parsley and thyme, and orange and lemon wedges to the pot while I am making the stock. I call this confetti soup because the carrot, pepper and zucchini make it very colorful. The recipe will serve 6-8 and is even better a day or two later.

5 Tbsp. olive oil (for a different taste try Blood Orange Olive Oil from Abingdon Olive Oil Co.)
1 1/​2 cups chopped leeks
1/​2 cup diced red pepper
1 cup diced carrot
1/​2 cup diced celery
1 clove garlic pressed
8 cups turkey stock
Juice of 1/​2 an orange (about 1/​3 cup)
2/​3 cup long-grain rice
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups diced zucchini
2 cups diced cooked turkey
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt, ground pepper to taste
1/​4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/​4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, pepper, celery and garlic, and sauté about 10 minutes. Add the rice, turkey stock and orange juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil on medium. Add the mushrooms, zucchini and thyme, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the turkey and mushroom medley to the large pot and continue to cook until all the ingredients are heated, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish each bowl with fresh parsley and cheese.

Jennifer King Ferreira grew up in Kingsport, where she received her first cooking experiences from her grandmother, Genevieve Shivell. She is owner of the Abingdon General Store and Plum Alley Eatery, a gourmet store and restaurant in Abingdon, Va., and serves as Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and the Cooking Along the Crooked Road Culinary Program.