The fragrance of bubbling, warm soup can hypnotize the strongest among us to extend a bowl and pull up a chair to the table. These days of hurried meals and convenience foods have caught up to us. It's time to slow down, to appreciate once again the flavors that can come from our own kitchen in surprisingly little time.
You'll find ideas and recipes here that allow you to make a quick batch of hearty soup - or prepare a few ingredients in the morning before work, plug in your slow cooker, and come home to a delicious, healthful meal. With very little planning, you can enjoy additive- and preservative-free meals that are full of flavor and tempt even the tiniest tummies.
Find time. Sit back. Savor your food. Linger with your family, and enjoy what you have before you. It's time for a bowl of your favorite soup.
A wonderful thing about soups is that they can showcase the best local ingredients from one's home area. Here in Maine we have an active, enthusiastic farmer's market network (guides are available at the www.getrealgetmaine.com
Web site).These open-air markets are the best places to find anything grown or produced locally, from fresh vegetables to wild mushrooms, specialty cheeses, condiments, and organic meats and eggs. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources also publishes two helpful booklets: Finding Maine Farmer's Markets: A Guide to Maine's Farmer's Markets and Finding Maine Foods and Farms: A Guide to Maine's Farms and Food Companies.
Of course, Maine is famous for its lobster and other seafood. Aquaculture farms raise trout and salmon. Local smokehouses produce golden smoked mussels, trout, cheeses, and other specialties. All of these are excellent additions to soups, and in the recipes that follow, I indulge in a little bit of local pride by specifying products from selected Maine producers. You can, of course, substitute equivalent ingredients, but I'd certainly encourage you to try the genuine Maine-made items first.Pub-Style Cheddar and Ale Soup with Beer Bread
Pemaquid Ale is a Scottish-style hearty brew produced in midcoast Maine by the Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company. If you save the bottle, owner and brewer Steve Gorrill will refill it for you for a small fee. Pemaquid Ale and Katahdin Cheddar from the State of Maine Cheese Company are a match made in heaven.
3 slices bacon, diced
2 cups chopped Vidalia onion
4 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. chicken bouillon paste or powder
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups hearty dark ale
4 cups diced Maine potatoes
4 cups grated well-aged cheddar cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
In a large saucepan, saute bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
Add the onion to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes, or until tender. Add the flour and dry mustard and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add the bouillon, stock, and ale. Increase the heat and bring the soup to a boil. Whisk until the soup is thick. Add potatoes and cook until they are fork-tender.
Reduce the heat and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the cream, salt, and pepper - do not let the soup boil. Serve with Beer Bread.
Makes one round loaf (serves 8)
2 tbsp. dry yeast
2 cups hearty ale - preferably Pemaquid Ale
2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
11/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. minced garlic
5 cups flour
2 tbsp. butter, melted
Mix the yeast and ale and set aside. In a large bowl, combine cheese, eggs, salt, baking soda, two tablespoons of melted butter, and garlic. Mix well.
Add half of the flour and all of the yeast/ale mixture. When combined, add the rest of the flour and knead five to ten minutes. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise.
When the dough has doubled in size, form it into a round loaf and place it on a greased sheet pan. Let the dough rise again until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for thirty to forty minutes, until it is light brown.
Brush with the remaining melted butter. Let the bread cool before slicing.Herb Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Soup with Chevre
In the fall when the sugar pumpkins are fresh off the vine, this soup engages you in the enchantment of the season. Excellent chevre can be ordered from Appleton Creamery.
2 lb sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. Maine maple syrup
2 tbsp. Maine sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped garlic
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
10 leaves sage, finely chopped
4 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and white pepper
8 oz Maine chA¨vre (goat cheese) cracked black pepper, for garnish
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Toss together the pumpkin, one tablespoon of sage, one tablespoon of rosemary, maple syrup, sea salt, pepper, butter, onion, and garlic in a heavy roasting pan and roast for thirty minutes.
Place the roasted vegetables and herbs in a large saucepan. Add three cups of the chicken stock and simmer thirty minutes, or until pumpkin is tender.
Use an immersion blender to pur`e the soup in the pot, or pur`e it in small batches in a blender. Return the soup to the saucepan. Add the cream, the rest of the sage and rosemary, salt and white pepper to taste, and enough of the remaining chicken stock to create the consistency you like. Spoon the chA¨vre into the soup. Stir until it is melted but not completely blended.
Dish up the soup and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with a thick slice of warm bread.
For fun, serve this soup in little pumpkins. You'll need one small pumpkin per serving. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut off the top of each pumpkin evenly and remove the seeds and stringy pulp. Scrape the inner walls until they are smooth. Trim the bottoms, if necessary, so the pumpkins don't wobble on the plates. Lightly season the insides of the pumpkins with salt and pepper. Bake for about fifteen minutes; the pumpkin bowls should be warm but not completely cooked.
Remove pumpkins from oven. Set each pumpkin on a plate and ladle in the hot soup. For a more dramatic effect, place the tops back on before serving.
780 Gurney Town Rd., Appleton, ME 04862
Web site: www.appletoncreamery.com
The creamery's award-winning chevre comes in a variety of sizes and flavors. "Our chevre is brought to market within days of being made," states the creamery.Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company
74 Hollywood Boulevard, Whitefield, ME 04353. Phone: 207-549-5530
Web site: www.sheepscotbrewing.com
Owner and brewer Steve Gorrill homebrewed for ten years prior to establishing the micro-brewery in April of 1995. Tours available.State of Maine Cheese Company
461 Commercial St., Rockport, ME 04856
Web site: www.cheese-me.com
Hand-crafted cheeses and fresh cheese curd without the addition of preservatives or colorings. "We use milk from Maine farms that choose not to use artificial growth hormones," states the company.