Soup! Is there anything more satisfying on a chilly fall or winter night than a bowl of hearty soup with a slab of buttered fresh bread on the side. And even better, while soup isn't quick, it is usually easy, requiring little from the cook once it's on the stove. Soup is also typically cheap, making for an economical as well as a delicious meal. And is if there weren't already enough advantages to soup, it's almost always better the second (and even third day). And just for variety, I've included a couple of quick bread recipes below.
This bean soup with country ham involves a trick I've never seen anyone else use. Typically dried beans are rehydrated in plain water, whether over night or by cooking them. But by using plain water you're missing an opportunity to flavor the beans, so I begin bean dishes by making a stock and then rehydrating them in the stock. That way the beans soak up the flavor of the stock, which makes for a much tastier dish.
This traditional Italian soup recipe combines pasta and beans (Paste e Fagiole) to produce a richly flavored and very inexpensive meal. Although usually served as a soup, I've run across recipes that didn't include a broth. This version steals a trick from the About.com guide to Italian Food by pureeing some of the beans to thicken the broth. Like many soups from the Mediterranean area it's hearty enough to make a good winter soup and yet light enough to enjoy on a summer evening.
My family lived in Egypt in 1970 - 71 and our cook frequently served us roast turkey. The next day he would make stock from the turkey bones and then lentil soup using the stock. The lentil soup was one of my favorite meals because it turns out turkey and lentils just go together perfectly. This is a great way to not only make use of the bones, but some of the leftover turkey as well. Although the recipe makes a lot, it freezes beautifully.
Homemade bread is hard to beat, particularly on a cold wintry night, spread with butter and with a big bowl of soup - and it's just as good on a warm sunny day with a fresh salad. But it can be hard to find time to bake yeast bread, which takes at least three or four hours to rise and bake. That's when a quick bread is called for. This recipe featuring chunks of cheddar cheese and sour cream can be made in less than an hour and a half. It also makes a great toast for breakfast.
There's something essentially reassuring (or reassuringly essential?) about potato soup. The flavor is simple and earthy and it manages to be filling without being heavy. A medium starch potato such Yukon Gold contributes to the thickness of the broth without the need to use flour. Like almost all soups, this is better the next day.
Talk about down-sizing a recipe! The famous Senate Bean Soup has two official versions: one makes five gallons while the other only serves eight. In my version of this legislative legacy I've scaled it down to not two servings, but four. Like many such dishes, it's actually better on day two than day one so you want to have leftovers because they're better than the first-overs.
Cheddar Soup? How can you go wrong? Extra sharp cheddar layers its distinctive bite over the unctuous richness of milk and cream. Onion sauteed in bacon fat forms a savory understructure highlighted by a garnish of bacon. Oddly, though, what really sets off the soup are the buttery herbed croutons. Somehow their crunch and flavor provide just right contrast to smooth texture and dairy flavor.
As I recall, I'd just read a recipe for a yeast beer bread and I got a real hankering (as we say in the South) for it. But it was already 4:00 in the afternoon and I wanted it for supper, so I adapted a quick bread recipe I already had substituting beer for the milk and adding a handfull of fresh dill. HooooWee! Good stuff! I don't even remember what I ate with it, but I've made the bread many times since then.