By Cinda Chavich
In case you haven’t heard, souping is the new juicing. If that verb isn’t in your vocabulary, here’s a translation — combine vegetables and herbs in your blender and purée, then drink, all goodness intact.
It’s not hard to add “souping” to your home-cooking routine. Piggy backing on the smoothie and bone-broth revolutions, it’s another way to put that expensive high-speed blender to work without over dosing on fruity carbs, and adding the nourishment of nutrient-dense vegetables to the equation.
Soups are super nourishing and loaded with vitamins and minerals that are easily digestible, so it’s not surprising that “souping” is the latest health-food trend. The very act of simmering ingredients in water releases soluble nutrients, an extremely simple, convenient and delicious way to get the most from whole foods, whether you’re six or 60.
Souping is also the latest diet trend, but the idea that soup contributes to a healthy, low-calorie diet plan is not new. Dieters first embraced ideas like the Cabbage Soup Diet in the 1950s, and soup diets have long been prescribed to cure everything from cancer to the common cold.
Whether it’s chicken soup (a.k.a. Jewish penicillin) or a beefy barley soup, you can literally live on good, homestyle soups. And, as all French women know, starting every meal with a soup course helps control your appetite and your calorie intake.
But with today’s focus on functional “super foods,” a regular bowl or bottle of vegetable soup gets even more credit for maintaining good health. According to acolytes, a soup diet can help heal your digestive system, reduce inflammation, increase circulation and support your liver. A typical day on a California soup cleanse might include a soothing chicken broth, a chunky lentil and chickpea soup for healthy fibre, a zucchini-basil soup and a calming lemongrass consommé. Fresh, low-calorie and conveniently gulpable, these cleansing soups are designed to provide about 800 calories daily, and be augmented by one healthy 400-calorie meal of lean protein and veggies.
Even if you’re not aiming for a complete cleanse, adding fresh soups to your daily routine is an easy way to improve your diet.
But unlike that fresh fruit smoothie, making a truly a great soup requires more than a blender. It’s always best to start with an aromatic mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery, sautéed until tender, then simmered together with water or broth, chunky vegetables, tomatoes, beans or lean protein, herbs and spices.
All goodness remains intact, and you’ll draw deep, delicious, homey flavours from your ingredients too.
The Art of Souping
Smooth, puréed soups are easy to make and consume and a great way to use up leftover vegetables. In fact, making soup is always a wonderful way to creatively use up leftovers of all kinds and reduce food waste at home.
The basic formula for creamed soup is quite simple. Start by sautéing a chopped onion and a clove of minced garlic, add four cups of chicken or vegetable broth for the base, and puree with anything you like (think canned white beans and rosemary; a tin of tomatoes with fresh basil and cream; a bunch of sautéed mushrooms with evaporated milk; sautéed greens like spinach or kale with herbs). Heat everything together to meld the flavours, and serve.
It only takes a little chopping and some simmering on the stove to make a chunky soup or a silky purée that can be chilled or frozen for quick, convenient and healthy lunches or suppers.
Make soup on Sunday, then portion and refrigerate for lunches all week or freeze for longer storage.
To kickstart a healthy soup diet, the experts recommend recipes that are big in vegetables and broths, low in fats and cream. Vegetable purées offer richness without added fat. Clear soups made with bone broths or savoury mushroom bases — think classic hot-and-sour soup or a healthy potage of leeks, garlic, onions and kale — are loaded with detoxifying nutrients. Bean and lentil soups help digestion with a dose of healthy fibre.
And always save bones and vegetable trimmings in the freezer so you can make your own healthy stocks for soups from scratch. Clean out the fridge and repurpose your leftovers in creative soups.
If You’re Not the Cooking Type…
Commercially, soup is trending big-time, with companies like Splendid Spoon in Brooklyn or Soupure in L.A. offering their plant-based “soup cleanse” selections delivered daily to customers’ doors.
Here in British Columbia, Kits Kitchen makes soups with locally sourced organic ingredients and sells them in returnable glass jars or freezable pouches in more than 30 stores from Whistler to Victoria. Kits Kitchen offers weekly home delivery in Vancouver and has designed a $90 “48-hour Soup Reset,” a kind of quickie cleanse to “heal and recharge” your digestive system. The reset features eight soups and four broths, from butternut squash and ginger to sweet beet and cabbage, garlic and kale, cremini mushroom, and hearty chicken and curry stew.
It’s all based on Kits’ philosophy that “the gut is the doorway to the health of our brain and immune system.” By supporting it, the company suggests, we are ultimately supporting the health of our bodies.
You can buy Kits Kitchen soups at Lifestyle Markets in Victoria, find homemade bone broths in the freezer at Ottavio and Vancouver’s Soup Etc! soups at Whole Foods Market, or check out Dad’s Soups and Sangys café, where the monthly “soup calendar” announces three new homemade soups to try every day.
Any day is a good day for soup, regardless of whether you make your own soup or source it from a local soup maker. Think about sipping it every day as a new healthy habit.
To get you started, here is a simple and super-healthy soup from The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavich. For a hearty soup supper, look below for Cinda’s creamy coconut soup, her Tuscan white bean and greens soup, or her corn chowder.
COOL PINK SIP
Sour cream turns cold beet broth pure pink — fun to sip cold from a cup or a bowl.
• 2 pounds beets, scrubbed
• 2 red onions, quartered
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp salt
• White pepper to taste
• 4 cups water
• 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• Chopped fresh dill
Arrange beets and onions in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beets and onions are tender. Cool.
Peel the beets and grate using a box grater (or food processor). Chop the onions and combine with the beets in a saucepan. Add the water, vinegar and sugar, and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. Purée with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor).
Whisk in the sour cream and chill for several hours or overnight. Adjust the seasoning and serve topped with dill.
TUSCAN GREENS AND BEANS SOUP
Too many greens in the garden? Make a pot of this rustic Italian soup. In Italy, home cooks never waste the rinds of expensive Parmesan cheese — add them to the soup at the beginning of cooking for flavour and discard before serving. You can also use two small cans of white beans for this soup. Rinse and drain them well before adding to the soup, reduce the liquid to 6 cups and simmering time to 20 minutes.
• 2 cups dried white beans
• 3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only)
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• 8 cups low-salt chicken broth or water
• 1 bay leaf
• 3 cups fresh kale, chard, spinach, or beet greens, washed well and chopped
• 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp Asian chili paste
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp basil pesto
• Shavings of Parmesan for garnish
Soak the beans overnight in cold water (or quick soak in a pressure cooker: bring beans and water to full pressure then remove from heat and let stand until pressure drops naturally.) Drain.
Halve the leeks lengthwise, wash thoroughly, and slice thinly. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the leeks and sauté until softened. Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook together for 2 minutes. Add the drained beans and bay leaf to the pot with the broth or water.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, partially cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until the beans are tender.
Discard the bay leaf. Remove a cup of the soup and purée in the blender until smooth then return to the pot. Add the chopped greens to the hot soup and heat through, stirring just until the greens wilt.
Stir in the fresh rosemary and balsamic vinegar. Season the soup to taste with chili paste, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Top each serving with a little basil pesto and some shavings of Parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to create them).
Makes 8 cups: 6-8 servings
Cream makes this colourful chowder decadent, but evaporated milk makes a creamy soup that is lower in fat and calories.
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 stalk of celery, chopped
• 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen), divided in half
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp pepper
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• Dash of chili powder
• Dash of cumin
• 4 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup whipping cream or evaporated milk (unsweetened)
• 1 large potato, diced
• Dash of Tabasco
• 1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the onion, celery, half the corn, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes, until tender.
Cool the mixture slightly then purée in a food processor and return to the pot. Stir in the oregano, chili powder cumin and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, just until the potatoes are tender.
Stir in the cream or milk, Tabasco and red pepper and remaining corn kernels. Return the soup to a boil and cook together for 5 minutes, just until the corn is tender. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve immediately.
CREAMY COCONUT SQUASH SOUP
Here’s a rich, colourful soup to start a special dinner or simply serve it in a big bowl for lunch. Squash is packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fibre and B vitamins, and this is a great way to make this healthy and inexpensive vegetable both exotic and addictive.
• 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil
• 1/2 red bell pepper, minced
• 2 large shallots, minced
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
• 1 tsp Asian fish sauce
• 2 tsp sugar
• 3 cups chicken broth
• 1/2 tsp Asian chili paste (sambal olek)
• Pinch of white pepper
• 3 cups cubed butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
• 1 2/3 cups light coconut milk (one 14-oz.can)
• 2 tsp lime juice
• Chopped cilantro
• Lime ginger cream (optional):
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 1 tsp fresh lime juice
• 1 tsp finely grated fresh lime zest
• 1/2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger (use a garlic press to release the juice)
To save time, combine the pepper, shallot, garlic and ginger in the food processor and pulse to mince.
In a soup pot, heat the oil and sauté the minced red peppers, shallots, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the fish sauce, sugar, chicken broth, chili paste and white pepper, and bring to a boil.
Peel the squash, removed and discard the seeds, and cut it into cubes. Add the squash to the pot, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the solids to a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the liquid in the pot and add the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Season to taste with salt the pepper.
For the garnish, in a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lime juice, zest and minced ginger.
Serve the soup with a dollop of the lime ginger cream and garnish with a little chopped cilantro.