Sunday, January 1, 2012

Italian Soup

Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids. Soup (and stews, pottages, porridges, gruels, etc.) evolved according to local ingredients and tastes. New England chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, Italian minestrone, French onion, Chinese won ton and Campbell's tomato...are all variations on the same theme. 

Soups were easily digested and were prescribed for invalids since ancient times. The modern restaurant industry is said to be based on soup. Restoratifs (wheron the word "restaurant" comes) were the first items served in public restaurants in 18th century Paris. Broth [Pot-au-feu], bouillion, and consomme entered here. Classic French cuisine generated many of the soups we know today.

Advancements in science enabled soups to take many forms...portable, canned, dehydrated, microwave-ready. "Pocket soup" was carried by colonial travellers, as it could easily be reconstituted with a little hot water. Canned and dehydrated soups were available in the 19th century. These supplied the military, covered wagon trains, cowboy chuck wagons, and the home pantry. Advances in science also permitted the adjustment of nutrients to fit specific dietary needs (low salt, high fiber, etc.).

"Cereals, roasted to make them digestible and then ground and moistened or diluted with water to make a paste, either thick or thin, did not become gruel or porridge until people had the idea and means of cooking them. They may initially have been cooked by hot stones in receptacles of natural substances, and then in utensils which could go straight over the fire. Soup, in fact, derives from sop or sup, meaning the sliced of bread on which broth was poured. Until bread was invented, the only kind of thick soup was a concoction of grains, or of plants and meat cooked in a pot. Gruel or porridge was thus a basic food, a staple from of nourishment, and long held that place in Western countries, for in practice bread was a luxury eaten only in towns. A thick porridge of some kind is still the staple food of many peoples, and it is not always made of cereals, but may consist of other starch foods: legumes, chestnuts or root vegetables."
Food in History, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes & Noble Books:New York] 1992 (p. 177)

"Soup...This category included liquid foods for invalids, such as beaten egg, barley and emmer gruel...and the water from boiling pulses, vegetables or other foods...soups or purees made from vegetables or fruits...broth made with meal of legumes or cereals with added animal fat...and soup in the usual modern English sense, based on meat and vetetables...Medicinal spices and herbs might be added to these various soups, especially if they were intended for invalids as part of a prescribed diet."Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 2003 (p. 307)

"Soups. General Observations. The culinary preparations included in this section are of fairly recent origin in their present form, dating from only the early part of the 19th century. Soups of the old classical kitchen were in fact complete dishes in themselves and contained, apart from the liquid content and its vegetable garnish, a wide variety of meat, poultry, game and fish. It is only the liquid part of these classical dishes which has retained the name of soup. Examples of old style of soup which still survive are the Flemish Hochepot, the Spanish Oilles and the French Petite Marmite...On this point as on many others, culinary art owes much to Careme...."The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, A. Escoffier, first translation of Le Guide Culinaire [1903] by H.L. Cracknell and R.J. Kaufmann [John Wiley & Sons:New York] 1979 (p. 65)

Cold soup, really? Yes! In most countries, cuisines and periods; for starters, dessert or holiday fare. We Americans are not collective fans but we are intrigued. Especially when the heat is on outside.

"Reams have been written about the worth of good hot soup. And we're inclined to agree with much of this praise. But, in this book, cold soup is the 'in' thing. The idea may be so strange to a number of us and so different from the bracing stimuli of hot soup, it might be necessary to adjust our mental taste reflexes to the delicacy, the soothing quiet effect of chilled soup. We haven't been able to pinpoint who made the first cold soup, nor where, but notable examples of this refreshment are to be found in many countries. And contrary to what you might think at first, just about as many are from cold lands as from the tropics or sun countries. Russia makes a meaty hot borsch, but their chilled beet borsch is much mroe popualr and more of a classic. The Danes dote on chilled buttermilk soups, and all Scandinavians and Finns as well enjoy their cold fruit soups as a first course or dessert. Around the Mediterranean, the Greeks make a chilled lemon soup called Avgolemono that looks and tastes like chilled sunshine. The wasy to make Spain's iced salad-soup, Gazpacho, are without number...Yogurt, buttermilk and interesint herbs and spices such as mint, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, etc., enhance cool soups of the Middle East. Tropical countries all over use their lush produce to make exotic cold soups of avocado, coocnut, melon, strange vegetables and fish of all kinds. Perhaps the all-time favorite cold soup is our own American-made original Creme Vichyssoise Glacee creatd by the late Chef Louis Diat at the New York Ritz. It was named for his hometown, Vichy, France, and was, of course, simply an elegant version of a popular French county potage made of leeks and potatoes. In like manner, we've found that many of the lovely shellfish bisques, the creamy vegetable and chicken soups so beloved by the great chers, are equally good, or better, served cold. They seem more delicate, and refresh in a quiet, serene sort of way."Serve it Cold!: A ookbook of Delcious Cold Dishes, June Crospy and Ruth Conrad Bateman [Gramercy Publishing Company: New York] 1968 (p. 41-42)

"With the first breath of really warm weather, the cook starts thinking about new and wonderful cold soups. The refereshing chill and tang of these as a first course or as a 'starter' is a wonderful nudge to one's appetite. The main thing to remember is that cold soup must be really cold, just as hot soup must be really hot, to be good. No betwixt-and-between stuff here. Have the plates or bouillon cups chilled too. The beading of moisture that usually forms on the cups adds to the illusion of coolness. A quick way to get soup very cold is to pour it into the ice tray of the refrigerator. Watch it carefully from time to time so that it does not freeze. When it is just at the point of forming ice crystals, or in the case of jellied soup, has just jellied, take out the tray, and let it stand in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the soup in cups or plates. Soups chilled in this way are really cold and also do not have the chance to absorb the odors of other foods in the refrigerator while in the lukewarm stage. Almost any soup that is good hot is good cold, with the exception of mixed vegetable soups and broths with barley or rice. Black bean soup, with a slice of lemon and some sherry added, is wonderful chilled. So is borstch, topped with a dab of sour cream. Add a pinch of curry powder to cold cream of asparagus soup, and you'll have an unusual and interesting flavor. Cold potato soup, made with a little extra sour cream and a good sprinkling of chopped chives, makes that aristocrat of cold soup, the Vichyssoise, sit up and take notice."The Soup Book, Louis P. DeGouy, facsimile 1949 edition [Dover Publications:New York] 1974 (p. 73)

Italian Soup
Copyright 2012 Christine's Pantry. All rights reserved.

1 pound ground Italian sausage
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano
3 small carrots, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped

In dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add ground Italian sausage, and cook until no longer pink, breaking meat up as it cooks. Add onions and carrots, cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in black beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, uncooked elbow macaroni and celery. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Serve with crusty Italian bread, or serve with your favorite crusty bread. Enjoy!

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  1. Ooh, that looks so good. It is five below here, and that looks like the perfect warming supper.

  2. I love the addition of black beans! This looks delicious:-) Hugs, Terra

  3. Sounds delicious I made an ITalian veggie soup tonight and posting tomorrow, wished I had seen this first I would have added the sausage great idea! Happy New Year!

  4. Great recipe for those cold, wintery days that are heading our way. Yum!

  5. Italian soup is one of my favorites. This looks wonderful!

  6. That is one wonderful meal. Happy New year!

  7. This soup looks wonderful and perfect for the weather outside.

  8. As always, good stuff! Happy 2012! I'm looking forward to more of your appetizing recipes!

  9. Your soup sounds so good today! We now have 50mph wind gusts. soup warms your body and your soul.

    Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to more delicious recipes, and food history.

  10. YUM! Christine - very nice picture! I LOVE soup - one of my favorite things to eat and make! Happy New Year!

  11. Happy New Year!
    I hope 2012 will be full of health, love and happy moments!

  12. Looks so hearty! Happy Happy Happy New Year! :D

  13. Thanks everyone! Your comments mean so much to me.

  14. With the nasty cold weather we have right now this soup would definitely warm me up! Looks incredible! :)

  15. This is a delicious and hearty-looking soup, Christine!

  16. Christine,
    I love italian soups -- so comforting!

    Happy New Year to you and the family :)

  17. Happy New Year Christine!
    It's been a pleasure to know you since last year, and looking forward to staying in touch for the new year!

  18. Hi Elisabeth,

    It's been a pleasure to know you too. Keep in touch! Happy New Year!

  19. This is a lovely meal and Congratulations on Today's Top 9!

  20. Great recipe! Warm soup is the best thing during the winter. Congrats on Top 9!

  21. What a tasty soup - perfect for this time of year when the weather is making me reach for something warm and inviting. Enjoy your week. :)

  22. This looks delicious and perfect for this chilly weather! Happy New Year and congrats on Top 9. :)

  23. Sounds and looks like a great soup, Christine! I will never turn down anything with Italian Sausage in it.

  24. This looks great! Love all of the great info about the history of soup too =)


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