Dressing Up Humble Soup
By Shannon M. Medisky
It’s cheap. It’s warm. It’s (usually) super easy to make, and it’s tummy-filling. What it often is not, though, is exciting. Let’s face it, soup can be plain old boring. But many of us could benefit from having soup as a main meal at least a couple times a week. Fortunately, though, there’s many ways to gussy up a steaming bowl of this stuff without breaking the bank or breaking a sweat. Here’s a few ideas to try the next time you or your family hears the dreaded “s” word for dinner!
Create and add a yummy topper. Cut a piece of bread to fit the top of your mug or bowl, toast it or broil it with a bit of cheese on top. Add crispy tortilla strips, fried onion bits or sprinkle on some bacon crumbles. Not much left in the pantry? Add some shredded cheddar cheese or grated parmesan for a little more excitement. Got kids? Then get goldfish (crackers, that is)! They can “swim” inside lots of different soups and make learning how to enjoy soup fun. My personal favorite “topper” is a broiled cheese crust. To do this, simply pour your soup into oven-safe bowls or mugs, sprinkle a bit of grated cheese over each serving, place them carefully onto a cookie sheet and broil them inside the oven for just a minute or two. A beautifully brown and crunchy almost nutty tasting top anyone would be happy to sink a spoon into.
Search for sunken soup treasure! Sure, the top’s important, but the bottom can be just as yummy, too. To create a different taste and texture experience, consider placing surprise ingredients to the bottom of your bowl before adding your soup. A bit of cooked rice can be added at the bottom and stirred in when ready to enjoy. A piece of cornbread can be the “bed” for a spoonful of chili. Chopped tomatoes can be softened and warmed by soup poured on top.
Do a dollop or a spoonful. Sometimes all a soup needs is a little (and I do mean little) extra something to take it to the next level. A dollop of sour cream added to chili or a spicy bean soup can really elevate it. A splash of cream to ordinary tomato soup makes it immediately more velvety and special. A spoon of straight-from-the jar salsa can add a bit of kick to nearly any soup and for minimal calories.
Chopped herbs can brighten up any canned or homemade soup. Breathe new life into a canned soup or just gussy up your own homemade concoctions by garnishing it with a little freshly chopped herbs. Parsley is cheap and can be added to nearly every kind of soup out there with great results. Cilantro can liven up any southwestern soup, including chili. Chopped fresh basil is ideal for any soup with an Italian-spin.
Don’t forget the sides, too. When opting for a simple soup for a meal, sides are especially important. So don’t forget them. Salads are the obvious side, but some kind of bread accompaniment is just as important too. Invest a little in some multigrain or herb-encrusted crackers, heat-and-serve soft breadsticks and some homemade (or store bought) Texas toast. All of these suggestions help round out a soup to better make it serve as a meal.
Photo credit: clouserw
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