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Soup Swap: Comforting Recipes to Make and Share Paperback – September 13, 2016
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About the Author
Maine-based chef and writer Kathy Gunst has authored 14 books and is the resident chef on NPR's award-winning public radio show Here and Now.
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A very nice collection of soup, stew, and chowder recipes, with some creative sides and garnishes, not *too* complex, and a lot of variety.
The “soup swap” isn’t as popular in my neck of the woods as it might be other areas, so I wasn’t as familiar with the concept as others might be. Basically, a group of friends gets together, and each guest brings a pot of soup to share with the group. The host or someone is designated to provide a side dish or two along with bread and a simple dessert. Leftovers are divvied up and everyone gets a sample of each soup. Sounds like a great fun evening!
While I might not be familiar with the swap concept, I’m no stranger to soups. It’s my favorite meal during the chilly damp winter months here in the Pacific Northwest, when the days are short and I just want something warm and comforting. I’m single, so making soup usually means finding recipes that freeze well unless I’m doing a soup dinner for friends.
This book couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re moving into fall here, and my CSA (community supported agriculture) deliveries are filled with the last of the summer produce and the beginning of our favorite fall bounty. So I’m looking for recipes that will freeze well and give me a good start for fall/winter.
My general rating for cookbooks is based on what percentage of recipes I would actually want to prepare, and I try to make at least 3 recipes from every cookbook I review. I followed that practice with this one.
1. Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Saffron Cream (page 80)
My last CSA delivery included 6 ears of bi-color corn and 2 sweet potatoes — perfect! This one contains cream, so not a good candidate for freezing. Not a problem — it keeps nicely for a few days, and it’s tasty enough that I don’t mind having it for several meals in that time. This is not a difficult soup to make at all. You need two pans — one for the soup and one for the saffron cream. I didn’t use quite as much saffron as the recipe calls for, but it still had a lot of flavor. A winner, but one I’ll make only occasionally or for company since it can’t be frozen.
2. Pork and White Bean Chili (page 132)
Oh, yum! This is precisely my kind of recipe. Freezes well, tastes incredible, and despite the number of steps, really isn’t terribly complicated. You make a spice marinade and combine it with cubed pork shoulder, then tuck it away for a few hours to steep. (I did this overnight.) You then brown the pork and combine it with beans, tomatoes, beer (!), and the leftover marinade and let it cook for awhile until the flavors meld. Oh, yum! This is perfect and freezes well, too. Absolutely will make again this winter.
3. Skillet Cornbread with Chive and Brown Butter (page 154)
One of the side dishes, I’m a sucker for a good cornbread variation, and this is a good one. I used my 10” Lodge cast iron skillet for this, and it worked great. You heat the butter just until it starts to brown, then remove from heat and add chopped fresh chives. You mix up a fairly standard “sweet” cornbread recipe (buttermilk, cornmeal, flour, eggs, baking soda, a little sugar), bake for awhile, and then add some whole milk to create a sort of custard layer, so it is a little different than normal, but oh my — it really is wonderful! Goes great with the chili.
So there it is. Some of the recipes may seem a bit complicated and have a fairly lengthy list of ingredients. But as with most soups, a lot of the ingredients are seasonings — herbs, spices, aromatics like onion and garlic — and once you get everything gathered and measured out, putting together a good soup really isn’t too tricky. Overall, solid 4 stars: I like it.
Gunst writes with a cozy and friendly style that is as comforting and warming as the soups she has created. It is almost like she is talking to a friend. You will find helpful hints and many suggestions scattered throughout the book. There are 62 soup recipes in all, but many options and substitutions substantially grow the recipe possibilities. There are also bread, biscuit and salad recipes to compliment the soups, and there is a chapter of garnishes and toppings. The book advocates the use of home-made broths and stocks, and there are ten stock recipes in the book on which most, (if not all), of the recipes rely.
Page layout is easy on the eyes and instructions are easy to follow. Ingredient lists are straightforward and leave no guesswork. Ingredients are accessible--even those listed for Asian soups. There are not pictures for each recipe, but the photos that are included cause my mouth to water. On top of each recipe is a code: DF - dairy-free; GF - gluten-free; V - vegetarian; VG - vegan; C - cold. Included with each recipe are instructions to help prepare and pack for transport.
There is a predominance of vegetable soups. But the poultry, meat and fish/seafood recipes are equally worthwhile. There is a good representation of texture in these soups: Chunky, broth-y, pureed, creamy. The completed soups are visually appealing and colorful.
The four-page index is helpful.
I would have liked to see more grains included.
Some of the recipes that have excited and inspired me:
--Vietnamese-Style Asparagus Soup has a spicy peanut sauce recipe included. The sauce is made separately and whisked into the soup. I can use it for other broth-y Asian soups. Maybe even try it on rice.
--Roasted Carrot And Ginger Soup has only a few ingredients, yet roasting the veggies gives it great depth of flavor. The trick with a ginger tea bag is worthwhile, too.
--Mulligatawany Soup is a bit different from most I've seen. I especially like the tomato-chile topping.
--Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder is a real keeper. I made it the day the book arrived--with ingredients I already had on hand. Really a pretty soup with lots of color.
--Sopa de Lima is the best chicken and lime, Mexican-style, soup I've tried.
--Hope's Italian Sausage-Zucchini Soup was the second soup I tried from this book, again, with ingredients I already had in the freezer and frig.
--Sausage, Cabbage And Root Vegetable Soup includes turnips and celery root, potatoes and carrots. besides our much-loved cabbage. There are plenty of herbs in this one, too.
--The Russian-Style Beef Borscht is one I can't wait to try. Similar to my tried-and-tru recipe, but with the addition of juniper berries and coriander seeds.
I read "Soup Night" by Maggie Stuckey when it was first published three years ago, so I was familiar with the concept of a social soup gathering and soup exchanges, but this book greatly improves on that book in that these soup recipes are terrific. Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup does a worthy job of explaining the concept, but the recipes are average at best, and were not fine-tuned at all. I like this book much, much better: Better recipes; better writing; much more personable.
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for evaluation/review.
Some of the ingredient lists are extensive, with bits of this or that herb, yet they yield extravagant flavors that you just can’t get any other way. My favorite is the Greek Avgolemono, where the bit of fresh lemon really makes it just sing, and my family seems to really love the Thai red curry, the mulligatawny soup, and the pasta e fagioli. There are over 70 recipes, including numerous garnishes and toppings to add to the soups. Love it!