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SOUP'S ON! : ALMOST QUICKER THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK... FAST TORTELLINI SOUP.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Daily News Food Editor

Whip up a steaming pot of warm and fragrant soup - in almost no time flat. There's nothing more welcome on a chilly evening.

One of my favorite kitchen mainstays for winter dinners is soup - the kind that I make from scratch when I get home from work and have on the table within half an hour or so. No, I'm not crazy! I'm out to dispel the myth that rich-flavored, homemade-tasting soups must be simmered slowly over a long period of time. Not all soups require lots of time on top of the stove.

Fast Tortellini Soup, Chicken Divan Soup and Tuscan Bean Soup are among my favorites that I serve often. Hamburger-Vegetable Soup, Turkey Potato Chowder, Ten-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup, Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup, Thai Chicken and Lemon Grass Soup, Chunky Corn and Ham Chowder and Curried Carrot Soup are a boon to busy cooks and can be ready to serve in a jiffy. What makes most of these soups so appealing is that once everything goes into the pot, you can go about other chores until the soup is ready.

The renditions in today's winning recipe collection will get you in and out of the kitchen pronto - and hungry diners will sing your praises. Serve them accompanied with plenty of garlic or Parmesantopped bread slices and dinner's on. If desired, you can also add a tossed green salad.

The secret to quickly and easily producing these chunky, meal-in-a-pot creations is relying on convenience products such as canned beef, chicken and vegetable broths; frozen vegetables such as corn, green beans, broccoli and chopped onions; canned vegetables including tomatoes, black, white and pinto beans, clams, green chiles and corn; fresh, precut, prepackaged vegetables such as shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage and cut-up broccoli; purchased shredded cheeses of all kinds; small cuts of pasta such as alphabet pasta; quick-cooking rice; and dried and fresh herbs.

Using meats such as cut-up chicken, ground beef or ground turkey instead of large cuts or lots of bones also shortens cooking time and draws the flavor more quickly into the broth. If sodium is a concern, opt for reduced-sodium canned broths, which are excellent.

Pots with nonreactive linings are favored for soup-making so you don't end up with an undesirably flavored end result. Use a large pot to readily accommodate the ingredients.

Be sure to taste the soup before serving, adding salt (I use seasoned salt for more pizazz) and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Store any leftovers in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or on top of the stove for another meal within a couple of days. If you end up with too much, you can also store the leftovers in the freezer for a few months. Just be sure to pull them out and use in a timely fashion.

Once you get in the swing, you may be amazed at the variety of combinations you can create.

Use these recipes to launch your own concoctions. SOUP'S ON!

This excellent soup can be made in a jiffy. It is popular with adults and children alike.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups chopped zucchini (1 large)

2 cups chopped carrots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil OR 1 tablespoon dried

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon saltless parsley seasoning blend

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces EACH) chicken broth

1 package (9 ounces) fresh cheese tortellini

2 cups frozen corn kernels

4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan OR Romano cheese (optional)

In a 5-quart soup kettle or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot over medium heat. Add onion, zucchini, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onion is limp, about 5 minutes.

Add basil, tomatoes, pepper, parsley seasoning blend and broth. Heat to boiling, about 10 minutes. Stir in tortellini and corn. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tortellini are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of cheese. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

From ``365 Easy One-Dish Meals'' by Natalie Haughton, Harper & Row.

CHICKEN DIVAN SOUP

For a delicious quick soup on a cool day, whip up this creation in no time.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 large leeks (white and tender green), rinsed well and chopped

2 tablespoons flour

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces EACH) chicken broth

5 cups cut-up fresh broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)

1 1/2 cups cut-up cooked chicken

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot. Add leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until limp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth and heat to boiling, stirring until thickened. Add broccoli and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until tender.

Stir in cream and cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until cheese is melted. Add chicken and season with white pepper. Simmer 1 minute to heat through. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

NOTE: If you don't have any cooked chicken handy, you can whip some up in the pot before cooking the leeks. Simply stir-fry cut-up raw chicken (2 to 3 skinless, boneless breast halves) in a little hot oil and remove to a dish. Add to soup as directed in recipe above.

From ``365 Easy One-Dish Meals'' by Natalie Haughton, Harper & Row.

TUSCAN SPINACH BEAN SOUP

A wonderfully hearty whole-meal soup, using white beans and macaroni.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 celery ribs, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth

1 can (28 ounces) cut-up, peeled tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup small elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons basil

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained

12 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and cut up (about 4 cups)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large flameproof casserole or large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until onion is softened, 5 to 6 minutes.

Mix in broth, tomatoes with their liquid, macaroni, parsley, basil, beans, spinach, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until macaroni is tender.

Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

From ``365 Easy One-Dish Meals'' by Natalie Haughton, Harper & Row.

IN-A-HURRY FISH SOUP

This is an easy and dependable recipe.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (10 ounces) whole baby clams

Water

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cans (15 ounces EACH) tomato sauce with tomato pieces, onions, celery and green peppers

1 1/2 pounds fresh OR frozen halibut fillets, cut into chunks

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

6 to 8 toasted French bread rounds

In a 4- to 5-quart pot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion, parsley and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until onion is soft.

Drain and reserve clams and clam juice. Add enough water to clam juice to measure 4 cups. Add liquid to vegetables in pot. Season with bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Add tomato sauce to pot and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Add halibut and simmer 8 minutes. Add shrimp and reserved clams. Simmer 5 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout and tender.

Lift out halibut pieces, shrimp and clams; arrange on a serving platter. Ladle soup into 6 to 8 individual soup plates or 1 large tureen. Lay toasted bread rounds on surface of soup. Garnish both soup and platter of fish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley. Serve together. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From ``365 Easy One-Dish Meals'' by Natalie Haughton, Harper & Row.

HAMBURGER-VEGETABLE SOUP

1 pound ground beef OR ground pork

1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

4 cups beef broth

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

1 can (7 1/2 ounces) tomatoes, cut up

1/2 of a 9-ounce package frozen lima beans

1/2 cup chopped, peeled potato OR 1/2 cup loose-pack frozen hash brown potatoes

1 medium carrot, julienned (1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil OR 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

In a large saucepan or pot, cook ground beef, onion and bell pepper until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain fat.

Stir in beef broth, corn, undrained tomatoes, lima beans, potato, carrot, basil, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.

Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf. Makes about 8 cups; 6 main-dish servings.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.''

EASY MULLIGATAWNY SOUP

This is a simplified version of the classic, curry-flavored Indian soup.

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup chopped apples (2 small)

1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)

1 can (7 1/2 ounces) tomatoes, cut up

1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)

1/3 cup long grain rice

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon coarsley ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground mace OR ground nutmeg

Water

1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken OR turkey

In a large saucepan, combine chicken broth, apples, carrots, undrained tomatoes, celery, uncooked rice, onion, raisins, parsley, curry powder, lemon juice, pepper, mace and 1 cup water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.

Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in chicken, heat through. Makes about 6 cups, 4 main-dish servings.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.''

TUNA-CORN CHOWDER

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 tablespoons margarine OR butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup water

1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn with sweet peppers OR whole kernel corn, drained

1 can (6 ounces) tuna, drained and broken into chunks

Snipped fresh parsley (optional)

In a large saucepan, cook onion in hot margarine until tender but not brown. Stir in flour, dill weed and pepper. Add milk, chicken broth and water all at once.

Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in corn and tuna; heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes about 5 1/2 cups, 4 main-dish servings.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.''

CREAM OF ZUCCHINI AND ONION SOUP

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

4 medium zucchini, sliced (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Water

4 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, pepper, salt and 1 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat until zucchini are very soft, about 15 minutes.

Add green onions, chicken broth and milk. Cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. Serve hot or cold, garnished with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 Easy Mexican Recipes'' by Marge Poore, HarperCollins

HALF-HOUR SOUP

A nourishing soup for busy cooks, known in Mexico as sopa de media hora.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 medium zucchini, cut into rounds 1/2-inch thick

2 medium carrots, cut into rounds 1/2-inch thick

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces EACH) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 large avocado, cut into 8 slices

In a large saucepan or flameproof casserole, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring fequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add zucchini, carrots, tomatoes and salt. Cook until tomato juices have evaporated, about 5 minute. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, oregano and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat ot low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

To serve, remove and discard bay leaf. Place 2 avocado slices in each of 4 bowls. Ladle soup into bowls. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 Easy Mexican Recipes'' by Marge Poore, HarperCollins

TURKEY POTATO CHOWDER

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

6 cups chicken stock OR reduced-sodium canned broth

1 large russet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook ground turkey, onion, celery and bell pepper over medium heat, stirring often to break up lumps of meat, until turkey loses pink color, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock, potato, bay leaf, salt and pepepr. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes.

Stir in cream and cook just until heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servigs.

From ``365 Ways to Cook Hamburger and Other Ground Meats'' by Rick Rodgers, HaperCollins.

TEN-MINUTE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

8 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 package (10 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables (1 3/4 cups)

4 ounces uncooked fine egg noodles (about 1 cup)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan, bring broth and poultry seasoning to a boil over high heat. Add chicken, frozen vegetables and noodles. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan and simmer until chicken is cooked through and noodles are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 More Ways to Cook Chicken'' by Melanie Barnard, HarperCollins.

MEXICAN CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles

1 fresh jalapeno chile, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

6 cups chicken broth

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Mexican-style tomatoes, undrained

3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts OR thighs, sliced

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 ounces shredded (about 1 cup) Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups tortilla chips

In a large saucepan, cook onion in oil over medium heat until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, green chiles, jalapeno and cumin. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with cheese and tortilla chips. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 More Ways to Cook Chicken'' by Melanie Barnard, HarperCollins.

THAI CHICKEN AND LEMON GRASS SOUP

Unsweetened coconut milk and lemongrass are both available in many supermarkets and in Asian food stores.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably peanut oil

1/2 pound thinly sliced skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 garlic clove, minced

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped lemon grass stalks OR 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced fresh OR canned jalapeno chile

8 cups chicken broth

1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (1 cup) OR 1 cup drained canned mushrooms

2 stalks bok choy with leaves, thinly sliced on diagonal (about 2 cups)

1/4 pound soba noodles OR capellini

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons lime juice

In a large saucepan, heat oil over high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add carrot, lemon grass, ginger, jalapeno, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil.

Add mushrooms, bok choy and noodles. Cook until pasta is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in green onions and lime juice and serve at once. Makes 6 servings.

From ``365 More Ways to Cook Chicken'' by Melanie Barnard, HarperCollins.

CHINESE CHICKEN SOUP WITH WON TON NOODLES

6 cups chicken broth, preferably reduced-sodium

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cups packaged fresh OR frozen mixed Oriental vegetables

6 won ton skins, cut into thin strips

1 cup thinly sliced cooked chicken

1 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a large saucepan, bring broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and vegetables to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.

Add won ton skins and chicken. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in green onions and serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 More Ways to Cook Chicken'' by Melanie Barnard, HarperCollins.

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER

3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

1 pound all-purpose potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 cups cubed (about 3/4 pound), cooked chicken

3 cups fresh OR frozen corn kernels

2 cups half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salt

In a large skillet, fry bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Add onion, celery and bell pepper to pan drippings. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, broth and thyme. Simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender.

Add chicken, corn and half-and-half. Simmer, uncovered, until soup is hot and corn is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Garnish with bacon. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From ``365 More Ways to Cook Chicken'' by Melanie Barnard; HarperCollins.

TORTELLINI SOUP

It doesn't matter if you buy fresh, frozen or refrigerated tortellini, as long as you buy good quality.

1 can (49 1/2 ounces) chicken broth

1 package (9 ounces) fresh tortellini

1/4 pound sliced boiled ham

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pour chicken broth into a nonreactive, medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, until tortellini are tender but still firm, 6 to 7 minutes.

While tortellini is cooking, cut ham into thin strips. Place spinach leaves in a strainer and rinse under cold water. Stack spinach leaves one on top of the other and slice thinly.

Evenly divide ham and spinach strips among 6 soup plates. Ladle hot broth and cooked tortellini into soup plates. Serve with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings.

From ``The 5 in 10 Cookbook'' by Paula J. Hamilton; Hearst Books.

CHUNKY CORN AND HAM CHOWDER

2 cans (17 ounces EACH) cream-style corn

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces EACH) chicken broth

1 cup finely diced cooked smoked ham (about 1/4 pound),

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup minced fresh chives

Pour corn and chicken broth into a medium saucepan. Stir in ham and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Stir in cream and heat through. Ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish with chives. Makes 6 servings.

From ``The 5 in 10 Cookbook'' by Paula J. Hamilton, Hearst Books.

ITALIAN WINTER SOUP

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces EACH) beef broth

1/2 cup elbow macaroi

1 pound lean ground beef

1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans

1 cup chunky spaghetti sauce

Pour beef broth and macaroni into a nonreactive, medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook ground beef in a skillet, stirring to break up large clumps, until meat is brown; drain off fat.

Drain beans, reserving liquid. Puree 1 cup beans with all of reserved liquid from can in a blender or food processor. When macaroni is tender, stir pureed beans, whole beans, cooked meat and spaghetti sauce into pot. Heat through and serve. Makes 6 servings.

From ``The 5 in 10 Cookbook'' by Paula J. Hamilton, Hearst Books.

CURRIED CARROT SOUP

Curry powder adds a lively flavor to creamy carrot soup.

1 package (1 pound) frozen carrots

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Place carrots and chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until carrots are tender, about 6 minutes.

Transfer carrots and stock to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return carrot puree to saucepan. Stir in milk, curry powder and ground cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Makes 4 servings.

From ``The 5 in 10 Cookbook'' by Paula J. Hamilton, Hearst Books.

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Date:Jan 29, 1997
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