Just because it’s soup season doesn’t mean you have to get out your big stockpot and set aside a whole afternoon. But you don’t have to just resort to opening a can, either.
With the help of a few products and fast tricks, you can have a bowl of soup about as fast as you can order a pizza.
With the help of a few good cookbooks on fast cooking, I came up with a four easy soups that all take less than 30 minutes, start to finish.
And how about cutting a little fat, too? Cooking Light’s new cookbook “Amazing Recipe Makeovers” (Oxmoor House, 2016) has a handy trick for replacing heavy cream in creamy soups by making a replacement from nonfat milk and overcooked instant brown rice. It takes about 25 minutes, but you can do it in advance and keep a batch around for chowders this winter.
Consider your soup season off to a fast start.
KEEP THESE HANDY
Any of these will help you make soup fast enough for a weeknight.
▪ Wonton skins. Find them in the produce section of most supermarkets. Cut them into thin strips, drop them into simmering broth and you’ll have instant noodles.
▪ Almost-instant meatballs. Get Italian sausage or brats, cut open the casings and quickly roll the meat into balls for fast meatballs, already seasoned and ready to go.
▪ Tiny pasta. Orzo or acini de pepe cook in 10 minutes or less. Bonus: They don’t soak up so much broth that you end up with stew.
▪ Canned beans. Add one can’s worth to the soup and puree the second to use as a fast thickener.
▪ Flavor boosters. Since you don’t have long-simmered flavor, you sometimes need something to add a little depth. Try a little balsamic vinegar, Asian fish sauce or toasted sesame oil. Start small, with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, and see if you like it before adding a little more.
▪ Fast bases. Frozen hash browns and frozen corn can both be turned into a fast chowder.
▪ Fast vegetables. When a soup would work with cabbage, stir in shredded coleslaw mix.
QUICK BEEF PHO
From “Dinner A.S.A.P.,” from the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, 2016). You can save a step making the broth with a frozen pho brown, such as Nona Lim, which is available at Healthy Home Market or Whole Foods.
6 cups beef stock
2 star anise
1 (1/2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, cut in 4 slices
12 ounces flank steak or tri-tip stack
8 ounces medium rice noodles
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
4 or 5 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil or cilantro
2 red fresh jalapeno chiles, thinly sliced
Combine the beef stock, star anise and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. (If using a frozen pho stock, you can skip this step.)
While the stock is simmering, place the steak in the freezer so it’s easier to slice thinly. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with hot tap water.
Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Remove the ginger and star anise from the broth with a slotted spoon. Add the rice noodles and return to a simmer. Add the beef and remove from the heat.
Ladle into bowls and top with bean sprouts, green onions, basil and/or cilantro, jalapeno and a lime wedge.
Makes 6 servings.
GREEK LEMON SOUP WITH CHICKEN
From “Dinner Made Simple,” by the editors of Real Simple (Oxmoor House, 2016).
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup orzo
6 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken (leftover or from a rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring to the broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the orzo and cook 8 to 9 minutes, until tender.
Beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the hot broth. Whisk the egg mixture into the soup and cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and lemon juice and heat until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
ASIAN NOODLE SOUP WITH SHRIMP
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 red or green fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 small head of Napa cabbage, chopped
About 10 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup snow peas, halves
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced
Bring the chicken broth, jalapeno and soy sauce to a boil in a large pot.
Stir in the Napa cabbage, wonton strips and shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp are pink and noodles are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the snow peas and rice vinegar. Serve topped with basil.
Yield: About 4 servings.
SPINACH AND TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP
Adapted from “Damn Delicious,” by Chungah Rhee (Oxmoor House, 2016).
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated tortellini, any flavor
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, until onions start to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds.
Add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes and their juice, oregano and 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add the tortellini. Reduce heat and simmer until tortellini are cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook just until it begins to wilt, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese.
Makes 4 servings.