Healthy Soups to Master
Toss a few ingredients into a saucepan with water or stock and you'll have a near-perfect meal. "The right soups are absolutely an appetite suppressant, thanks to their high water content," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. Plus, the nutrients from vegetables that might otherwise leach out enrich the broth instead. You can't do better than these yummy classics from best-selling cookbook author Mark Bittman.
To ramp up heartiness but not fat or calories, purée half the batch in a blender, then stir it back into the pot.
• There's no need to peel the tomatoes; tomato skins intensify the flavor of the soup. If you don't want big pieces of skin in your bowl, cut the tomatoes into small pieces.
• Tomato paste comes in cans and tubes: Grab a tube if you see one; use what you need and keep the rest handy in the fridge.
Ingredients: Olive oil, onions, carrot, salt and pepper, tomato paste, sprig fresh thyme, tomatoes, sugar, basil leaves
Try this recipe: Tomato Soup
Tomato Soup: The right technique
Adding the tomato paste
It's OK if the vegetables are lightly colored when you add the tomato paste, but don't let them get too dark, as they have more cooking to do.
Cooking the tomato paste
This step gives the paste time to brown and lose any bitter flavor—so don't rush. Lower the heat if the mixture is darkening too fast.
Stripping leaves from hard herb stems
Hold the sprig by the thick end and pull downward so the leaves come free.
Tomato Soup: Change it up!
• Hearty Tomato Soup: Add 1/2 cup white rice, bulgur, or couscous with the water in Step 2, along with 1 more cup liquid. Cook until the grain is tender (5—15 minutes) and be prepared to add a little more water if the soup gets too thick.
• Spiced Tomato Soup: Instead of the fresh thyme and basil, add 1 TBSP curry or chili powder or 1 tsp smoked paprika (pimentón) along with the tomato paste in Step 1.
Chicken Stock and Chicken Noodle Soup
It's the epitome of comfort food. Everyone needs one delicious, nourishing chicken soup recipe in her repertoire, and this version nails it.
• Cooking a big batch of stock is only a bit harder than a small one: Make as much as you can, in your largest pot—then divide into small containers to freeze.
• If you have leftover cooked pasta, noodles, rice, or vegetables, you can stir them into the soup in Step 6; cook just enough to heat through. Serve right away.
Ingredients: Chicken, onion, garlic cloves, carrots, celery stalks, bay leaves, parsley, salt and pepper, small pasta
Try this recipe: Chicken Stock and Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Stock: The right technique
Separating the meat from the bone
Wait until the chicken is fairly cool. Breaking the carcass apart is a messy but easy job, and it's the only way to get the good stuff.
Chopping cooked chicken into bite-size pieces
You'll need about 2 cups for the soup. the leftovers are good for making chicken salad or whatever else you like.
Straining chicken stock
Press every bit of juice from the vegetables and anything else in the strainer. The stock will become a little cloudy, but it'll also be more flavorful.
Skimming fat from soup or stock
Tilt a large spoon into the liquid to get the fat but no the stock. If you have time, put it in the fridge for several hours and remove the fat when it hardens.
Chili from Scratch
Power up: There's nearly half a day's protein in one serving of this low-fat chili.
• When you're working with chilies, do not touch your eyes or any other tender areas, and be sure to wash your hands well with warm water and soap after you've handled them. Wash them twice for that matter. (If you have rubber gloves that are thin enough so you can safely wield a knife while wearing them, consider going that route.)
Ingredients: vegetable oil, turkey, large onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomatoes, hot chilies, pinto or kidney beans, cilantro
Try this recipe: Chili from Scratch
Chili: The right technique
Hold the stem and cut a slice from the core and seeds with a paring knife; turn and repeat. To mince, rock and pivot a chef's knife over the chili.
It's a good idea to cook the ground meat until it begins to crisp, and to cook the onion until they start to turn color; that will help develop more flavor.
When everything begins to simmer together, it's OK to eyeball the amount of water—don't worry about precise measuring. As long as the beans are covered by a couple of inches to start, they'll be fin. Once the beans are done, if the chili is still watery, remove the lid, raise the head, and boil off some liquid. If it's too thick, add more water.
Chili: Change it up!
• Chili with Canned Beans
Using canned beans instead of dried cuts the cooking time down to about 35 minutes: Drain and rinse about 4 cups, or 2 (15-ounce) cans, of canned beans; add them instead of the dried beans in Step 3. Don't add any water. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubble, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything thickens (20 minutes or so). Then continue with Step 4.
• Chili with All Sorts of Dried Beans
Try black beans, white beans, chickpeas, or lentils (lentils will be ready 30 minutes after you add them to the pot).