Soup has always been and still is a universal food. It is comforting, satisfying, and can be prepared in advance. Soups can be hot, cold, thick, thin, creamy, and sophisticated. They can be created from left –over food – a chef’s delight to cut cost.
In hot countries, cold soups are popular. Innovative cooks in fruit producing countries created many soup recipes to take advantage of seasonal fruits. A creamy cherry soup, or a refreshing strawberry soup on a hot day can be absolutely delightful and refreshing.
As far back as antiquity, cold soups have played an important role in the hot summers of Mediterranean countries. Soups re-hydrate the body; they contain salt and antiseptics like garlic and wine vinegar.
Boulanger, a famous Parisian restaurateur, was first to specialize on restorative broths in 1765, thus the term restaurateur to describe a place where one restores spent energy.
In Spain, the most famous cold soup is known as gazpacho, but there are others like gazpacho and cold almond soup. Tomatoes are ideal for cold soups; they contain water acidity, and a hint of sweetness.
In cold countries, hearty, creamy soups happen to be particularly popular during long winter months. Instead of olive oil, cooks employ bacon, pork fat or butter.
Clear soups may contain vegetables or bits of chicken, fish, even meat, and stocks (chicken, beef, fish or vegetable).
Today soups are popular appetizers everywhere; in some cases they can even be a light lunch. Demographically, women are the largest consumers of soup. Of all soups, chicken noodle is the most popular, followed by cream of broccoli. In fine restaurants, soups are created from scratch, daily, and based on stock, whereas in most cafeterias cooks employ manufactured frozen soups, which require thawing and adding cream or water, or powdered soups that be reconstituted by adding water. Canned soups are rarely used in quality-oriented commercial kitchens.
The foundation of any tasty soup is a flavourful stock, vegetables, and/or proteins. Herbs and spices play an important role. Good cooks understand how different ingredients complement each other, and the herbs that enhance the flavour of certain vegetables. Convenience products may be prepared by inexperienced kitchen help, and if the recipe is followed judiciously, will taste consistent day in day out.
Some customers like consistency; others look for a daily change, maybe, even look forward to the “daily creation of the chef”.
In winter, butternut squash can be an excellent flavouring agent, as all other squashes, providing they are expertly prepared. Chefs must consider space requirements before deciding which type of soup they will feature. From scratch, soups require a lot of labour and valuable refrigeration space, but allow for the use of left over vegetables and other prepared foods. Dry soups consume least space and are the most convenient but not always as tasty and frozen soups require freezer space, which is the most costly of all.
• 2 ½ lbs ripe tomatoes or 1 ½ (28oz) can peeled plum tomatoes.
• 1 green bell pepper, cut into 8 pieces
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
• 3 ½ oz white bread crumbs (mie de pain)
• 10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
• 2 tsp salt
For the garnish:
• a small onion, minced
• 1 ripe, but firm tomato, peeled and finely chopped
• ½ green, finely chopped
• 4 tbsp chopped cucumber
• 1 hard boiled egg, separated and finely chopped
• 3 ½ oz day-old bread, diced
Soak the breadcrumbs in water. Squeeze off any excess water until the bread has a spongy texture. Pound the garlic with the salt in a mortar and liquefy with a little water.
Tip the garlic mixture into the blender; add other ingredients except oil and blend. Add the oil gradually to help emulsify the soup. Adjust seasoning.
Pour the soup in a glass pitcher and cover. Refrigerate for several hours. (Better overnight)
Just before service add ice-cold water to achieve desired consistency.
Serve soup and garnishes separately.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu