Daniel Pont, chef and owner of La Bonne Soupe Cafe in Sacramento, Calif., grew up in France eating soup daily for lunch and dinner, always made from the vegetables in his mother's garden.
"If you don't have soup, how are you going to get all your vitamins? Americans don't eat enough vegetables," he says, decrying problems caused by a lack of fiber in the typical U.S. diet. "People shouldn't be in line at the pharmacy; they should be in line here."
While many cultures have soup year-round with every meal, it is most recognized in the United States when the weather turns cold, says Carolyn Kumpe, chef at East Bay Restaurant Supply, which offers cooking classes to the public, including one on soups.
Soup also has the power to reach into the past, to bring back memories of our childhoods and the people in them.
Cris McKone, a cooking instructor at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, nursed childhood colds by slurping her mother's homemade chicken soup. She continues the tradition with her own kids -- making them chicken soup thickened with miniature pasta.
And good soup starts with a homemade stock, McKone says.
"People think it's some big mystery, but it's easy to do. Just use a package of chicken wings because of the high proportion of bones to meat," she says.
"A good soup is as good as the stock that you use to make it."
ROASTED GARLIC AND BLUE CHEESE BISQUE
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
30 whole cloves garlic (about 3 heads), peeled
3/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup brandy
5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart chicken stock
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 ounces Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the whole garlic cloves to the pan, decrease the heat to low, and cook until cloves are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully add the sherry and brandy, increase the heat to high, and reduce the liquid by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and chicken stock, and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Transfer the soup to a large bowl and puree in batches in a blender, then return the soup to the pan. Add the hot pepper sauce and cream, and cook over low heat until the cream almost comes to a boil. Whisk about 4 ounces of the cheese into the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into soup bowls, garnish with the remaining Gorgonzola and chives, and serve hot.
Per serving: 577 cal.; 13 g pro.; 32 g carb.; 38 g fat (25 sat., 11 monounsat., 2 polyunsat.); 132 mg chol.; 862 mg sod.; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 59 percent calories from fat.
Recipe by Cris McKone, cooking instructor at the Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.
Makes 3-4 quarts
1 4-pound chicken or 4 pounds of chicken necks, wings and feet
1 large onion, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 large carrots, peeled
2 ribs of celery with leaves
2 leeks, both white and green part trimmed and rinsed
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme or Italian parsley
In a 12-quart stock pot, place chicken and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat and simmer.
When the foam and impurities cease rising, add the vegetables and herbs. Simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. Strain, reserving the stock. Discard the chicken and vegetables. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.
Recipe by Carolyn Kumpe, chef at East Bay Restaurant Supply.