Bess: Soup season |

Bess: Soup season

The season for soup is here. The last harvest from the tomato crop makes a good base for a variety of soup, including Tomato Basil and Lentil.
Submitted by Patti Bess |

Warm afternoons followed by evenings with a slight shiver in the air. The birds know it’s time to migrate. Bears are looking for a place to sleep. The autumn breeze whispers “soup” in my ear.

Delicious and nutritious, soup makes everyone happy. Some consider soup making as time-consuming. I prefer to think of it as a great investment as it yields such a generous return. Make soup on Sunday and eat it all week. It’s convenience food at its best!

Great soups begin with a good stock. Stock has two important purposes. It gives depth to the flavor and adds nutritional value.

The trick to making homemade stock is to find a convenient method and time that works for you. I put a pot of stock on a back burner when I start dinner; then by the time the dishes are in the dishwasher it’s ready to set aside to cool.

A basic vegetable stock consists of a potato or two, an onion, a carrot, a couple stalks celery, 8 to 10 garlic cloves, and any vegetables in the refrigerator that you can’t remember what you planned to do with.

Adding some greens during the last 20 minutes of simmering boosts the nutritional value—parsley, chard, kale, or any of the other mild tasting ones.

Miso is a healthful addition and great for adding salty flavor. About three quarts of water and let it simmer for an hour or two. Then just spoon out or strain off the vegetables and refrigerate.

Adding a chicken leg and thigh or other lesser quality pieces of chicken to this can make a fine chicken stock as well. Some cooks prefer to salt the stock; some salt the soup.

The more convenient solution utilizes a bouillon cube or the more recently available stocks that come in paper cartons. They work perfectly fine, but using organic is important to avoid excess sodium, MSG, and other mysterious ingredients.

Check your natural foods grocer if you haven’t bought best quality before.

The fastest and easiest way to get oohs and ahhs from your favorite soup-eaters is to not serve it until the second day. It gives that soup so much more time for the flavors to marry, but you already knew that.

The recent rains and cold nights have a way of leaving garden tomatoes somewhat cracked and scarred.

Not good fortune for farmers, but it might mean a glut of no-so-perfect tomatoes for a great price.

Check with your local farm or farmers market to see if they have a special on end-of-season tomatoes. It’s not too late to buy a whole box for canning or soup-making, but in most cases you probably have to call to order.

The following two tomato-based soups will find a home for that glut of tomatoes from your garden or the market.

Redolent of garlic and basil, the first one bears little resemblance to the soup we remember from our childhoods. And it takes less time to make than parking and standing in line at a busy fast food restaurant. The recipe could be cut in half if you don’t want a little to freeze for later. Peeling the tomatoes is probably called for if you want to impress the ones you’re serving, but the blender also does a good job and leaves a little more density of texture to the soup.

Recipes were never meant to be slavishly followed—especially for soups. They are merely starting points. Your own inventiveness, taste, and intuition are equally important. Enjoy!

Kamp Bell’s Creamy Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 pounds bursting ripe tomatoes

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used commercial cubes)

1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

6 leaves of fresh basil or a 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 cup milk or half and half

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil, minced (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the basil, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper to the onions. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium low and simmer until reduced by one quarter, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return the soup to the stove and add the milk or cream and heat until just warmed through.

Add the balsamic vinegar, more salt and pepper if you prefer. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with the basil and serve.

Lazy Lentil Soup

You could make this soup on the stove or even faster in the crockpot.

1 cup lentils (rinsed)

5 cups stock

1 teaspoon salt—to taste

1 bay leaf

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large potato, cut into bite-size pieces

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, sliced

Generous grating of black pepper

About 6 Roma type tomatoes, chopped or about 20 ounces canned

1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

1 medium zucchini, sliced

2 tablespoons dry red wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 to 2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon vinegar

Add the first 10 ingredients to a crockpot or soup stock pot on the stove. Simmer for about 40 minutes.

Then add the tomatoes, zucchini, wine, molasses and lemon juice the last 30 minutes of cooking.

A tablespoon of wine vinegar added the last few minutes of cooking will enhance the flavor of the lentils (or any beans). Garnish with chopped green onions or a dollop of sour cream.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and cookbook author. E-mail her with questions or for more information at

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