Time and sanity are saved when supper is served in just one bowl Soup's on

January 18, 1995|By Cathy Thomas | Cathy Thomas,Orange County Register

Weekday soup suppers can be a real sanity saver.

Warm, hearty and delicious, these "dinners-in-a-bowl" can be tossed together, cooked and on the table in 25 minutes or less. Add a simple salad and some warm bread -- dinner is ready.

Open a can or two, chop a colorful vegetable and throw in some onion, potato or garlic, cook until vegetables are softened. That's how easy Monday-through-Thursday-style soup can be.

What a contrast with those labor-intensive bowls of steaming consomme cooked eons ago, when eight hours devoted to a single culinary project was feasible.

In the '60s and '70s, many of us labored long and hard in our home kitchens to produce a faultlessly clear consomme. This richly flavored beef broth could be garnished with a feathery sprig of fresh chervil or thin slivers of truffle -- even a delicate julienne of blanched carrots or leeks.

The cooking process required careful attention to detail, keeping the temperature of the beef broth at a precise heat -- just below a simmer and barely trembling as its flavor was augmented with additional beef.

Every trace of fat needed to be carefully removed, and the broth often was clarified by adding egg whites that were cooked in the mixture and carefully strained through cheesecloth.

Goodbye consomme, hello reality soups.

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A Refried Bean Soup couldn't be easier: It does require a good can opener but not much else. Combine refried beans, crushed tomatoes and chicken broth with onion and minced garlic. Simmer for 15 minutes, and serve this tasty blend with tortilla chips, shredded Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream.

raflead,0 I like to use the vegetarian refried beans or spicy refried beans and bake thin strips of corn tortillas for a tasty garnish. You can use low-fat cheese and fat-free sour cream if you prefer.

Refried Bean Soup

Serves 6 to 8

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (30-ounce) can refried beans, spicy, vegetarian or regular

1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can chicken broth

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

baked tortilla strips (optional garnish)

shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional garnish)

sour cream (optional garnish)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine onion, garlic and tomatoes; stir to combine. Using high heat, bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans and broth; stir to combine. Bring to simmer; lower heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro.

Ladle into soup bowls, top with tortilla chips (or baked strips -- recipe follows), Jack cheese and sour cream (if desired).

Baked Tortilla Strips: Cut 5 corn tortillas into thin strips and spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a 350-degree oven until nicely browned, about 9 minutes. Toss them halfway through the baking process.

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Sausage, Potato and Tomato Soup is a hearty mixture of turkey Italian sausage, potatoes and Italian tomatoes. The mixture is augmented with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. Crusty Italian or French bread makes the perfect accompaniment.

Sausage, Potato and Tomato Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 pound turkey sausage, sweet or hot

2 large baking potatoes, such as russet, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1 1/2 -inch slices

1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced

1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes with basil

1 to 2 cups water

1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil

ground pepper to taste

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place sausage, potatoes, onion and tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, roughly cut tomatoes into halves or thirds. Add just enough water to almost cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil on high heat. Stir in dried herbs; cover and lower heat to simmer. Simmer until potatoes are cooked and are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle equal amounts of minced fresh basil in each of 6 soup bowls. Cut sausage into 2-inch pieces and ladle portions of sausage and soup into each bowl, making sure that each has some of all the ingredients. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and serve.

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Different versions of Garlic Soup (Soupe a L'Ail) are eaten in several regions of France. This simple version is similar to those served in the Basque country of France. While the soup is cooking for 20 to 25 minutes, make croutons to use as a garnish by cutting some sourdough or French bread into cubes and sauteing them in a combination of butter and olive oil.

Garlic Soup (Soupe a l'Ail)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 small head garlic, cloves peeled

2 medium baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cubed

1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled carrots

salt and pepper to taste

about 3/4 cup whipping cream

GARNISH:

croutons

Cook's notes: To save time, I use the small, prepared carrots that are peeled and ready to cook.

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