What better way to soothe our sorry souls than with a hot bowl of soup? A nourishing bowl of steaming vegetables in a full-bodied broth warms the hands and the heart, too. Soup making itself is therapeutic - chopping vegetables can relieve tension and the aroma that fills the house is better than any aromatic plug-in. As the poster food for bad economic times I explored the breadth of broths available in the region, offering some of my favorites, recipes and other interesting options.
As a Nashua resident I have sampled a range of local offerings. Here are some of my favorites: Italian Wedding soup at Villa Banca; Tom Yum soup at You You Asian Bistro; organic vegetable and bean soups at Seedling Café; Fisherman's Soup at San Francisco Kitchen and the Clam Chowder at Surf, made the way I prefer, thin but rich.
My favorite soup meister is Chef Michael Buckley and the parade of flavorful and creative soups du jour available at Michael Timothy's Bistro and Wine Bar seems to never end. I asked him to create a satisfying soup that will take the chill out of January. See his recipe and tips on this page.
Any story about soup has to mention the Loaf and Ladle in Exeter. The concept of hearty soups and sandwiches was started in the '70s and continues today. Besides, Exeter seems to be the home of the genre with The Green Bean, Me and Ollie's and several other places to grab soup and and sandwich.
The head soup maker at Loaf and Ladle is Andy Ulery, owner Marilyn Stolper's son. Andy says the original "Loaf and Ladle Cookbook," published in 1983 by Joan Harlow, is well-worn from use over the past 23 years. Harlow started the restaurant in 1973 and the tradition of homemade breads and made-from-scratch soups has endured.
When she sold it to Stolper in '85, the cookbook with hand-written notes came with the deal. Many of those recipes remain on the menu of the 150 or so choices for the eight soups offered any given day. Stolper recently opened a Loaf and Ladle in Portsmouth, run by another son, while she still heads up the Stock Pot in Portsmouth. A well-seasoned broth seems to run in their veins.
Back in Exeter, Andy claims not much has changed over the years. He basically grew up in the kitchen and has been chef for the last 11 years. Personally he favors the chowders and the beef chili, which is popular with customers, too. Pressed to offer a tip, he recommends starting the soup in a wide braiser instead of a tall soup pot.
"Onions and carrots can be sweated over the wider base," he says.
If you stop in for a cup of chili, ask for a slice of anadama bread - you may want to take home a loaf.
Harlow's original book is still available at Amazon.com ($19.95).
If you are in the Amherst area, be sure to stop in at Moulton's Market in the village square. Owners Steve and Diane Yurish's soup bar offers 10 varieties of homemade soups, chowder and chili every day in the cold weather season. Call the Soup Hotline for the days offerings. (603) 673-GOOD (4663)
Finally, I asked food bloggers from Chow.com for their recommendations. Here is a selection of their choices.
In a Pinch and Still in a Pinch in Concord (white bean and pork chili), Red Arrow Diner (five bean), The Golden Bowl in Manchester (beef noodle) and the cafeteria at Southern New Hampshire Regional Hospital (Chalupa and Portuguese kale).
If you have a favorite soup, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will post a list on our Web site. NH
Tuscan Bean and Kale Soup With Hot Italian Sausage and Rigatoni
By Chef Michael Buckley
Before you start you will need three quarts of good chicken stock. If you don't have time to make your own, then you will have to use packaged broth. I went to the supermarket when making this recipe to see what was available - here is what I found. Both College Inn and Swanson boxed broths were acceptable, but one tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon mixed with one quart of water seemed to have a nice rich flavor. The other thing you'll want to figure out ahead of time are the beans. While I was at the market, I hoped to find some nice dried cannelloni beans, but they only had canned. I bought both canned and dried large, white lima beans. The dried beans need to be cooked ahead, just until tender but not mushy, and cooled before adding. The trick to cooking dried beans is to cook them slowly - do not boil them.
1 large Spanish or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped fine
1 large or 2 medium carrots, quartered the long way and chopped
4 large stalks celery, split and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
3 quarts chicken stock
2 cups white wine
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon or two cubes chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 28 ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes, chopped rough and saved with the juice
1 lb. cooked dried lima beans
1 lb. can cannelloni beans
1 large head of green kale, removed from the stem and chopped in two-inch pieces
1/2 lb. rigatoni, cooked ahead and cut in half
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, roasted ahead well, cooled, split and sliced on an angle
In a large pot sauté the chopped vegetables and garlic till just tender, then add the white wine and herbs simmer a minute and add the chicken stock, chicken bouillon and chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
When it's time to serve, bring the soup back to a simmer and in a separate pan sauté the kale with a little butter, white wine, garlic and salt and pepper. Add the two types of beans to the soup and at the last minute add the sausage, pasta and kale. I like to serve it with grated Parmesan and crusty ciabatta bread.
- Enjoy, Chef Michael Buckley
Executive Chef, Michael Timothy's Bistro and Jazz Bar, Surf and Buckley's Great Steaks www.michaeltimothys.com
This article appears in the January 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine