You know The Soup Lady loves to hear from people who have a favorite soup. I looked in the mailbag and found this letter from an enterprising gentleman who has managed to make a pretty penny by selling the soup. You know what they say - find something you love and figure out a way to earn money doing it.
Dear Soup Lady,
My name is Howie and I'm from the great state of New York. My recipe was created many years ago when I decided that no one has really impressed me with a good tomato vegetable soup. So it was time for me to experiment, which I do rather well sometimes. Over the years, I have sold over a thousand dollars of this soup just selling to friends, neighbors and workmates. The soup had many repeat purchases from the same people that could not get enough of it!
I actually got sick of making it!!! After all, I spent a good hour and change chopping and dicing before actually doing any cooking! Between the soreness of the peeler and the knife, I was getting blisters!!!
I am a true cook in that I do not measure (except baking which requires a more exact method) therefore my recipes tend to be somewhat vague as it relates to amounts but good chefs improvise anyway. To the best of my ability, here is the recipe (take as much liberties as you desire)
Gotta big bowl? Good. Don't??? Fine, get lots of smaller ones.
Start with the vegetables:
Lots of potatoes. Red, yellow, Idaho, whatever. If you like potatoes, use lots. If you don't like them that much, use less. I use lots cause my wife likes them and the type really is not important. Peel them and cut them into chunks. Size of chunks? Oh please! Like it really matters.
Put them in a bowl and put aside.
Carrots. I prefer fresh, bagged but not the little ones cause for some reason, to me, they taste funny. Peel and cut into slices or if you prefer, cut length-wise first to halves and then slices. Remember, it really is not all that important as far as size of slices and how you cut it, just put it in a bowl and put it aside! (Starting to recognize a theme yet?)
Celery. I like the inside of the celery. I save the greener outside ones for my kid since he will not eat the insides. I use the leaves and slices of the entire inside of one, um, bunch (stalk would be one piece of the stalk, right?) Put in bowl, set aside.
By now you have either the potatoes, carrots and celery in one big bowl or three little ones.
Next, onion. Yellow, white, red, whatever suits you. I like sweeter versus sharper. Decent sized or use two, three. This is SOUP people!! If you managed to ruin it, let me know cause I have yet to use too much or too little of ANYTHING! Diced the onion(s) and place in a different bowl then the above ingredients (You'll see why in a minute).
Garlic. Lots. Like a whole medium sized bulb, or perhaps a good amount of elephant garlic if you like a milder garlic, but use the fresh stuff, not the pre-cut jarred gook. Dice it. Doesn't have to be exact. I slice it, dice it, smash it, use a garlic crusher sometimes. Personal preference.... slice it. Bowl it separate.
Mushrooms. White, portobellos, fresh, re-hydrated, button, all the above, none of the above. You like mushrooms?? Have a preference??? Use them. Don't like them? Don't use them. Slice, dice, bowl it. Set it aside.
Ready to cook? Good! It's about time! First, skillet. Oh about 10-12" one on medium heat (top of range, get it?) with about a teaspoon or so of good olive oil (virgin, extra virgin, whatever). Don't like olive oil? Use something else but I like it so I use it.
Bring to heat and dump in onions. Saute for a few minutes. Lower heat to about medium-low. Stir in garlic and then mushrooms and stir once in a while so you do not burn the garlic. Within a few minutes, the mushrooms should start to cry and make enough moisture so that the garlic should not totally brown and turn to yuck. Looks good? Smells good? OK, turn off heat and place on the side. You can leave it in the pot, just once in a while (until we get back to it), give it a stir. (I don't like burnt garlic).
Soup pot. How big? Big enough. Too big is not a problem so what do you have? We are not talking industrial sized soup here! Um, about 5 quart pot sound right??? Good. Medium heat and put in two cans of chicken stock. You make your own? Why??? Never mind. It doesn't matter to me. If you do, use it. If you don't, use the cans. My cans are 14.5 ounces. And I do not have a favorite brand. Low fat, low salt, regular, kosher... or yours. Put it in the pot. Add two cans of water (if the cans are 14.5 ounces, we require 29 ounces of water, ok?).
Add potatoes, carrots and celery and allow to heat to a nice simmer. Have a glass of wine or three while this happens. I like Chiraz or Merlot but whatever you like is fine. Coffee is ok too.
It's bubbling?? Good. Lower to medium-low heat and add the mushroom/garlic/onion stuff.
Now for the canned stuff: If you have fresh stuff to replace this canned stuff, goodie. I use the canned stuff and I like it. I use canned tomatoes. Either the diced Italian style with oregano, basil etc. Plain whole tomatoes that I dice up or if you have really good tomatoes, dice them up and add to the pot. I use two 14.5 ounce cans of diced, one 28 ounce can of the whole tomatoes and then I throw in about 3/4 of a jar of good pasta sauce. I use a tomato/basil pasta sauce (either "Classico" or "Five Brothers" but the brand is not that important... it's what you like). I've used the portobello mushroom pasta sauce and it works as well. Pick one, try it, see what happens.
Stir the evil mess.
One can of corn, one can of green beans (I'm detecting a pattern... they are all 14.5 ounces!). You like chick peas? Throw in a can (WARNING: If you plan to microwave this soup at a later date... chickpeas have a habit of exploding when nuked! You've been warned!!)
Dry herbs/spices: The not so spicy stuff... only slightly optional
black pepper (little for not so spicy, more for spicier. I use about 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp)
lots of oregano like 2-3 tablespoons dried oregano
Even more dried parsley, like 4-6 tablespoons
1 tablespoon sweet thyme, thyme, dried thyme. or whateve time you got (hee hee)
1-2 tablespoons of dry basil
The more exotic stuff :... optional
about a tablespoon of cumin. Don't really like all that much, use less or none.
1/2 tsp to a full teaspoon of allspice
cayenne pepper to taste, anything from a sprinkle (might as well put it on the table and let the eater decide if they want to add it) to whatever floats your boat
1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Sounds weird but trust me.
Worchester sauce. Lea & Perrins please. Oh about 1/4 cup ( I just pour the stuff in and have never measured. If 1/4 cup sounds like alot, use your judgement)
Light soy sauce... As you can see, I do not use salt so the light soy is about the only "salt" that gets near my soup!
To taste. Just don't over do it. Can always add. It's hard to take away (Put in more potatoes if you manage to destroy it)
Stir. Cover. Low heat (so it don't boil over). Cook 2 hours. Stir every 20-40 minutes making sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom unless you like burnt veggies.
After two hours (and enough wine, and people saying, "WHAT SMELLS SO GOOD!?!?!?!?!"), taste it.
This is where real chefs get their kudos. It should be wonderful! It ain't??? Don't blame me. Start improvising. Add something. Let it cook more after adding something and taste again. Still don't like it??? Sorry. We tried.
Go to an antique shop and find soup crocks. Nice ones. And serve this soup in a nice crock. It deserves it! I have three. Picked them up somewhere sometime ago and probably paid about $3 each for them. My soup never looked better!!! Serve with good bread. Garlic bread. French bread. Rolls. Onion rolls. Cheese bread. Bread sticks. Croutons. Throw some cheese on top and bake for a few to brown sorta like onion soup. Make yummy noices and say thank you to the soup gods cause it just don't get any better than this!
God bless soup!