Soup's On

Soup is a fairly straight-forward food. You take a base, you add meat and vegetables, and you heat it up. However, there are some hints and tricks to this seemingly foolproof food that you might find useful: * Adding herbs to a soup near the end of the cooking time will make the herbs much stronger. If you prefer mild soup, make sure to add spices in the beginning. * As a side, one quart of soup can serve six people. If soup is the main course, plan on two servings per quart. * If you're serving a cold soup, etiquette calls for a cold dish as well. Simply stick the serving dishes in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving. * If you prefer thicker soup, there are several options: (1) Remove some of the vegetables and blend until smooth, adding back to the soup when finished; this is a healthy way to thicken soup. (2) Make a flour paste of flour and twice as much cold liquid (milk, broth, or water) and slowly whisk into the soup, then cook for five minutes. (3) In the first stages of the soup, make a roux of flour and butter and cook for at least 5 minutes as it browns; the longer you cook it, the more flavorful it will become. (4) Add cream. (5) Use corn starch--but make sure not to boil the corn starch, as it will break down. (And be aware that corn starch can cause a thick skin to form over cooled foods.) * Too-salty food is tough to handle. If you find your soup is too salty, peel a potato and put it in the pot, whole, for 15 minutes. The potato will soak up the salt, and can be used the next day for another recipe. * Liquids boil at lower temperatures in higher altitudes. If you live at 2,500 feet or above, adjust the cooking time to allow for a couple more minutes. * In the winter, when good tomatoes are hard to find, using canned tomatoes for soups requiring it is essential--they are guaranteed ripe and flavorful, which is more than can be said for grainy, tasteless fresh tomatoes. For tomato soups, consider caramelizing the tomatoes with onions and butter to really bring out the flavor. * Make sure to take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce. Winter squash soups turn out better in winter, just as fresh corn soups do in the summer.
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