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On Cooking Southern: Simmering Southern Soups

Rustic summer squash soup
Rustic summer squash soup

By Laurie Triplette

ldtriplette@aol.com

Southernism of the Week:

Poor mouthing:  A verb that describes how a person moans and groans in self-deprecation about lacking funds or capability … different from bad mouthing, which is what a person does when talking disparagingly about another. Both are unacceptable for well bred Southern ladies and gentlemen.

SIMMERING SUMMER SOUPS

I know, I know, it’s crazy to talk about HOT soups when the thermometer has been perched well above 90˚F for the past week.  But frankly, my dears, a lovely vegetable-based soup accompanied by an antipasto platter is as close to cooking a dinnertime meal as The Old Bride wishes to get this time of year. The hot soup satisfies MY desire for a legitimate meal, while providing nutrients about as close to the garden as one can get without covering one’s toes with loam.

For both of the soups I’m listing in this week’s recipes, the vegetables’ flavor is heightened through roasting or grilling. When planning your meals for the week, make up the soup the day after grilling out. Grill the veggies while you’re firing up your grill food, and refrigerate ‘em till the next day when needed!

RUSTIC SUMMER SQUASH SOUP

rusticsummersquashsoup-DSCN7670This soup is fabulous and elegant when pureed before serving. But it feels more like a meal when left “chunky.”

2 to 3 tender medium-size yellow squash, or 6 small yellow squash

2 medium zucchini

1 large white onion

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters

1/2 c (1 stick) butter or 1/2 c extra light olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and chopped fine

1 rib of celery with leaves, chopped

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

26-oz carton of chicken stock

1 c of sour cream, crème frâiche or plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp kosher salt, to taste

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 c dry white wine, optional

Peel the squash and cut into chunks. Cut the onion in half, lengthwise. Deseed and remove core from the bell peppers before quartering them. Spray a large oven pan with nonstick cooking spray and position the squash evenly, cut sides down, along with the onion and peppers, cut sides down. Roast in oven preheated to 400˚F for about 20-25 minutes, until soft enough to stick a fork into the onion. Remove pan from oven and allow the veggies to cool. 

While roasted veggies are cooling, chop the carrots, celery and garlic. Melt butter (or heat olive oil) in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and garlic, and sauté until softened.   Loosely chop the roasted squash, peppers and onion in the pan, and scrape along with pan drippings (fond) into the saucepan. Mix well and add the chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add optional white wine if desired.

Simmer about 15 minutes before stirring in the sour cream, crème frâiche or Greek yogurt. Serve immediately. If you prefer to puree the soup, do so before adding the dairy. Yields about 6 servings.

TOMATO BASIL BISQUE

tomato-basil-bisqueDSCN7715This is one of my favorites any time of year. It may be made with fire-roasted, grilled, or canned tomatoes, and with or without the added dairy. The bisque also freezes beautifully for future use. Decide for yourself what you prefer, but definitely make a hot grilled cheese sandwich for dipping into the bisque!

4 lb fresh vine-ripened tomatoes  (about 7 to 8 tomatoes)

3 T extra light or extra virgin olive oil 

1 large white onion

4 c homemade chicken stock or 26-oz carton of chicken stock

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

4 to 6 basil leaves

4 to 6 strips of roasted red peppers (or deli peppers)

3 T butter

2 T flour

1 to 1-1/2 c heavy cream, divided

2 tsp Tony’s Original Creole Seasoning

1/2 c grated Baby Swiss or Parmesan cheese

1 bunch of fresh basil, cut into chiffonades

1/2 c seeded, diced tomatoes

To peel the fresh tomatoes, cut a small x on the bottom of each and use large slotted spoon to plunge into stockpot of boiling water.  Using a timer, remove after 1 minute from the water and plunge into ice water. The peels will come off easily. Core the tomatoes and loosely chop them.  Set aside.

Loosely chop the onion and sauté in large saucepan in heated olive oil until transparent. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, including juices. Season with about 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes and remove from heat. Puree with immersion blender (or allow to cool enough to use a blender). 

Strain the pureed tomatoes to remove twiggy pulp and seeds. Combine puree in large saucepan with chicken stock, basil leaves and red peppers. Simmer another 15 minutes. 

While tomato mixture is simmering, make a small amount of béchamel by melting the butter in a small saucepan and whisking in the flour. When it bubbles, whisk in about 1/2 c cream until mixture thickens. Pour the béchamel mixture into the tomato soup, whisking to blend. 

Add remaining cream and Tony’s. Adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. 

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and mound grated cheese, chiffonades of basil and diced tomatoes in the center. Yields about 8-10 servings.

VARIATION: Substitute 2 (28-oz) cans of crushed tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes; omit the straining step.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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