Yes—it’s true! It probably took me a good six months into the $35 a Week project to realize this, but most soups don’t require a recipe. In fact, there exists an extremely simple formula that allows for a fabulous soup out of just about anything you’ve got left over in your crisper or pantry. Yes, I made the formula up, but I’ve probably tested it close to 50 times by now, and I can assure you it works. Consider it your ace in the hole for fall, on days where you think there’s nothing in the house to eat when there is, in all likelihood, an entire meal—with leftovers—just waiting to be called into action. All you need is an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of cooking oil, salt, and some broth. See below for the formula and some easy-to-make examples.
So here’s the basic formula:
1 chopped onion sauteed in 1 T oil
+ 1-3 cloves chopped garlic
+ 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or enough liquid to cover contents
+ salt to taste
+ [vegetables, meat, grains…whatever you have in your pantry or crisper]
x simmer, covered, until vegetables or grains are tender
Once this basic formula is met, you can:
1. Purée the soup in a blender for a fancy, bisque-like texture.
2. Purée half the soup for a half-smooth, half-chunky texture.
3. Leave it as-is.
4. Highlight certain components of the soup by cooking them separately and stirring them in at the end.
As always, be sure to season to taste.
Here are some ideas to fill in the [vegetables, meat, grains of your choice] bracket. Some of them may have extras beyond the basic formula, but feel free to leave those out based on what you have on hand. (e.g., even if the recipe says to sauté in butter, you can substitute plain ol’ vegetable oil, or if there’s a spice you don’t have, just omit it. It will still turn out fine! I promise):
• Cheese + random vegetables = vegetable cheddar soup
• Carrots + ginger + miso + sesame oil = carrot soup with miso & sesame
• Roasted garlic + a few more onions + thyme + cream = roasted garlic soup
• Sweet potatoes + corn + jalapeños = sweet potato, corn & jalapeño bisque
• Celery + celery root + beer + leeks = celery root & beer soup
• Beans + bacon + apples = white bean soup with apples
• White beans + carrot + celery + canned tomato + pasta stirred in at the end: white bean soup with pasta
• Chickpeas + farro (or other whole grains) + celery + prosciutto (or bacon) = creamy farro & chickpea soup
• Bulgur + lentils + tomatoes + tomato paste + pantry spices = bulgur-lentil soup
• White sweet potatoes + apples + mirin + sake + cream = white sweet potato soup
• Kale + beans + celery + carrots + tomatoes + bread = Tuscan bread soup
• Kale + beans + celery + carrots + tomatoes + sausage = spicy kale and sausage soup
• Underripe tomatoes + leeks + bacon + spices = green-tomato soup