Soup makes an effective base for a wide variety of other dishes. Whether you use your own soups made from scratch or select canned or packaged soups as a base for other entrees, you can add complex flavor to your meals with the simple single ingredient of soup. You can also make new soups from your meal leftovers to turn them into filling lunches for next-day dining.
Concentrated soups, which are premade soups that are condensed and require adding water, milk or other liquids, make excellent sauce bases. Instead of adding the recommended liquids, use the thickened texture and condensed flavor to create a base for your own seasonings. For example, add Parmesan cheese or ranch-style seasoning mix and just a dash of milk to cream of mushroom soup concentrate for a simple Alfredo-style pasta sauce. Use undiluted cream of celery or cream of chicken soup as a sauce for simmering chicken breasts or thighs. Add fresh herbs like basil leaves, oregano and parsley, or a green onion dip mix, to condensed tomato soup and use it to baste meats before roasting or barbecuing. This is a great way to give your kids a chance to help you cook, since the hard part is already done; all they have to do is add a few spices and stir.
Dry soup mixes such as French Onion or nearly any other flavor without noodles can make excellent seasoning packets. These soups are often heavy on salt, so read the labels carefully and use them sparingly if you're watching your family's sodium intake. Rub the dry seasoning powder on meats or fish before baking, or stir the packet into sour cream, plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a flavored dip. Noodle soups may require adding a small amount of hot water to soften the noodles first, if they aren't packaged separately from the seasoning.
Whether you have packaged ready-to-serve soups or are looking for a new way to dress up homemade soup leftovers, whole soups can add moisture to your other dishes or become a new dish by themselves. For hearty, meaty soups, drain off the liquid, then heat a small amount of it up and whisk in some whole-wheat flour until it thickens. Stir the thickened liquid back into the soup solids and bake it in a pie crust for a simple pot pie. You can discard or freeze the excess liquid for later use. You can also use liquid-based soups instead of water for cooking flavorful rice or couscous. Use blended soups like tomato, squash or split pea to baste cooking meats, or brush them on thick-sliced bread and sprinkle with cheese, then toast and serve as an appetizer or side dish. Parmesan or mozzarella cheese works well with tomato soup used this way, while feta or other goat cheeses go well with squash or other vegetable-based soups. Try white cheddar or Gouda with split pea.
When making your own soups, remember that the thicker the soup, the lower you should keep the heat while cooking. Thick soups will burn to the bottom of the pan while the upper parts remain uncooked if the heat is too high. In general, use medium heat for thin soups and low heat for thick soups. Add liquids to your soups a little at a time, mostly at the beginning of the cooking process. Adding water to thin your soup after cooking will result in a less flavorful soup, as the seasonings will have less time to blend. The same goes for spices or seasoning mixes, unless the package states otherwise: the earlier you add it, the more time the flavors have to blend.
Cool soups in small portions in the refrigerator if they aren't to be eaten immediately. Pour thick soups into shallow casserole dishes so they are less than 2 inches deep, and keep thin soups to 4 inches deep or less for cooling. To make a fresh soup from dinner leftovers, remove any bones or skin from meats and combine the remaining meat with leftover vegetables like carrots, corn, potatoes and green beans. Saute some onions and celery in a soup pot with a small amount of oil, then add your leftovers and some water and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring often. For fuller flavor, add your favorite spices or seasoning mix and additional vegetables to your soup. You can also toss in leftover rice or pasta and a can of beans for a hearty next-day treat.
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- "The Joy of Cooking"; I. Rombauer and M. Rombauer Becker; 1973
- FDA: Food Safety Manual
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