As I have written elsewhere, soup is my favorite food. Almost any kind, really, although if pressed I would have to admit I am partial to vegetable-based, or at least veg-intensive, preparations. Not that I eschew soups containing meat, I hasten to add. Or seafood or fish either, for that matter.
All soups have a chance with me.
And I make ‘em a lot, all sorts. Just turned an overage of New Year’s Day black-eyed peas into a wonderful soup, sautéing an onion and a couple cloves of garlic, adding a big pinch of chili flakes, judicious salt & pepper, and some water to get the resulting purée to my desired consistency. The chili flakes I used this time were a little souvenir from San Francisco’s Pizzeria Delfina—the restaurant dries its own chiles de árbol and offers the flakes as normal pizzerias offer the familiar red chilies. The árbol pack quite a punch—in a very, very good way—over and above the usual pizzeria Regulation Chili Flakes. (Such a simple thing, and kind of a great idea, for a California restaurant serving Californian heat-tolerant palates.) Doubly virtuous, leftover sourdough, another vestige of our short post-Christmas trip, made exemplary croutons. A drizzle of very green new olive oil, from the bottle brought home after trying it during a Zuni Café lunch, finished the dish.
Waiting in the wings (in its Huntington Beach-made Cambro), chicken soup whose simmering drew every last molecule of essence from a roast chicken carcass. Its destiny is to support matzo balls, carrots in dice, and the rest of the roast chicken. Hausbrot, a rye bread from San Clemente’s Bread Gallery, who sell at many Orange County farmers markets, will accompany.
Not all soups are virtuous, of course, but lots are. And even those that aren’t seem so—all part of the magic of this comforting dish. I hardly make it without having a long-ago line from Judith Martin’s “Miss Manners” column flit across my mind: “You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor or sick, do you?” How true is that?
To limit soup’s role to amelioration of poverty or illness would be a gross injustice, even if it is up to the task. Better to reflect on recent Orange County temps toying with the low 30s (verging on the 20s in the canyon where I live) and let that thought carry you singlemindedly to soup.
So many possibilities—infinite, really. How do you fill the soup category?