KITCHEN SINK SOUP: DINNER WITH WHAT’S ON HAND
It is winter and time for soup! A velvety carrot or pumpkin soup is a thing of beauty. But don’t overlook the other kind of soup — a mish-mash of what you have on hand that is never the same soup twice. If you choose complementary ingredients, add a little bread and salad, you have made yourself a truly elevated meal.
We call this “Kitchen-sink soup”, as in “everything but the kitchen sink”. You don’t need to make a special trip to the store to get the ingredients for this soup. The magic of this soup is that you use what’s in the kitchen right now: leftovers and kitchen staples. Add some water or stock, simmer and enjoy.
Half a chicken breast (diced or shredded), a few broccoli crowns, extra pasta or rice. All of these come together to create a belly-warming masterpiece. Kitchen staples you should have on hand include rice, pasta, dry lentils, canned beans, onion, garlic, herbs, and spices.
We like to have a balance of starch, protein, and vegetables.
Favored starches are potatoes, rice, and pasta. For potatoes, use leftovers, or dice one or two potatoes evenly (peeled or unpeeled). For uncooked potatoes, put them in early. For already cooked potatoes, add them near the end so they get heated through, but don’t fall apart. Smaller pastas (macaroni, orrechiette, pinwheels) work better than long noodles like spaghetti or linguini. You will be eating this with a spoon, not a knife and fork. Any type of rice will do, even leftover. Add the pasta or rice near the beginning, as they need to cook (or soften, in the case of leftover rice).
Soup-friendly proteins include chicken, beans, and even eggs. Cooked chicken can be diced or shredded before adding it to the soup. Raw chicken can be added to your cooking water at the very beginning, and shredded near the end, once it is cooked through. Canned beans are a great choice (drain before adding the soup.) Dry lentils cook quickly, and will be soft by the time everything else is at its perfect stage. Larger beans like kidney, chickpea, and navy beans are better out of a can because you don’t have to concern yourself with long cooking times or soaking. Eggs are a beautiful addition. Near the end of your cooking time, crack an egg or two into a cup and whisk. Swirl the soup in one direction, then gently but quickly pour in the eggs and watch them turn into ethereal ribbons.
For vegetables, think winter produce. Carrots are great for color and substance. Dice into equal sizes and add early (before potatoes) for soft-but-not-mushy carrots. Onions and garlic go in first and add great flavor. Arugula, spinach, and watercress are beautiful green nutrient-rich additions. Slice them into ribbons or tear the arugula into manageable sizes and fold in at the end. For an elegant presentation, put these greens into each soup bowl and ladle the soup over them. Bok choi, kale and chard can be added earlier, as they need time to become tender. Finally, diced tomatoes from a can or carton can be added if you are aiming for a minestrone-style soup.
You will want to kick up the flavor before serving. The ingredients above are tasty, but this soup won’t wow without a few more items. Instead of water as your base, you can opt for stock. Chicken calls for chicken or vegetable stock. Thinly sliced beef calls for beef stock. A sprinkle of herbs – fresh or dried – will add flavor. Once the soup is served, a squirt of lemon or lime brings a lightness to the soup and marries the flavors together. Flaky sea salt added at the end intensifies the flavors, too. With chicken and carrots, I love to add cooked Spanish chorizo. I dice it and add it to each bowl. if you add it to the soup pot while the soup is cooking, the fat gets rendered, and you end up with an oily soup. Experiment with other sausages, too. Uncooked sausage goes in at the beginning.
The key to this soup is creativity and experimentation. There is no right or wrong. We do, however, try to follow one of our cooking mottos: “if it grows together, it goes together.” Vegetables from similar growing regions tend to complement each other.