I am in LOVE with soup! And I have fallen even more in love with soup since the acquisition of my heavy-bottomed bright green Calphalon dutch oven. The layering of flavors, the flexibility, the aroma, the presentation, and the taste all make me wander back to this staple fare on a regular basis. I am typically an avid recipe-follower, down to the last detail, tested and true, before I head outside of the box to take it up a notch; but for some reason, I have never been that way with soup. It becomes a melting pot of whatever I have a hankering for and whatever I can find in my fridge.
Craving new flavor combinations and always looking for a hands-on experience, I perused the class list at my trusty local cooking school, Bon Vivant. Sure enough, there it was, Soup as a Meal, taught by Chef Hope Sandler. I quickly signed up and anxiously waited for the ringing of the school bell.
My last Bon Vivant class was an initiation by fire experience, so I walked into this class ready to chop some vegetables. The atmosphere was much more relaxed and demonstration-focused, so I poured myself a glass of water, took a seat, and breathed in the aromas of the already simmering soups.
Chef Sandler and her assistants roasted a collection of eggplants, red onions, garlic cloves, red bell peppers, and tomatoes prior to class so we could start straight away with the Roasted Vegetable Soup with Three-Cheese Ravioli. The all-clad soup pot was layered with olive oil and herbs, the roughly chopped roasted vegetables, and the vegetable broth. After bringing to a boil and simmering for 30 minutes, an immersion blender pureed its way through the soup and it was served over pre-made three-cheese ravioli.
Itching for a chance to get hands-on, I volunteered to form the meatballs for the Italian Wedding Soup. The flavor base consisted of olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. After adding the broth and bringing it to a boil, Chef Sandler added the diced chicken thighs and the beautiful balls of meat. The soup was finished off with spinach and parsley and served with shredded Parmesan cheese. The combination of flavors was a mouth-watering delight.
We made two kinds of chicken soup – one with herbed matzah balls and the other with cornmeal-sage dumplings. The two broths were somewhat similar, but the liquid for the matzah balls was drained of its ingredients, leaving it clear and full of flavor. Both were absolutely delicious!
The final compilation of ingredients was a Lentil & Spinach Soup with a Roasted Red Pepper Rouille. It was my first experience with a rouille, a sauce made from jalapeno, roasted red peppers, garlic, thick-sliced bread, salt, and olive oil. Lentils make a hearty soup and the addition of the saucy dollop really brightened the small feast.
The day following my lesson, I was overly jazzed to make soup. It was almost stressful trying to decide which recipe to try first. Perhaps the Italian Wedding, no wait, the Chicken Soup with Cornmeal-Sage Dumplings; how about the Lentil & Spinach Soup? In the end, I caved, following my traditional soup-making ways. I had a hankering for bacon and black beans and I had leftover chicken and green peppers in my fridge. Thus my version of black beans, bacon, chicken, and green pepper soup emerged, served with a spoonful of plain yogurt and a squeeze of lime juice. Perhaps next week I will return to the recipe pages.