by Betty Thompson

A friend called recently with a cook's distress story that reminded me of Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book. He had cooked and served the same four soups every week for the last few years, and he just discovered his wife was sick of them.

Bracken calls this situation "The Problem of Falling in Love." She says that cooks often fall in love with a recipe which seems to have everything: It's fast, it's simple, and the whole family likes it. Then they find themselves serving the little gem three times a week.

I told my friend one solution is to learn some new soup recipes. I suggested the following three recipes to him. I hope they can spice up your repertoire, too, as we head into soup season.

The French Tomato Soup, with fresh tomatoes, carrots and basil, is delectable. The uncooked rice gives it more body (you can substitute couscous or small seed pasta). The soup can be puréed or not, and it can be converted to cream of tomato. Make a thin white sauce using one tablespoon flour cooked with one tablespoon butter for one minute. Add one cup hot milk and cook until thickened. Just before serving, add the hot tomato soup to the hot white sauce. Do not reheat because the acid in tomato juice will curdle milk products.

My Borscht recipe is a hearty whole-meal version of the traditional Russian and Eastern European beet soup. Unlike the kind typically served as a first course in restaurants, this borscht is hot, with a good mixture of root vegetables, and served with a garnish of sour cream. Along with beets I used parsnip and rutabaga to create a complex whole. Don't leave them out!

Julienne cut is shredded like a matchstick. Grated is too small. The vegetables can be diced to save time.

A Pot of Greens is an unusual combination of green vegetables. Dried split peas give the soup more substance; coupled with the sunflower-seed garnish, the peas make a complete protein. If fresh okra is not available, use frozen. A half-pound diced ham or cooked chicken can be added for a more substantial meal.



2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 large carrots, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup raw long grain white rice
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 quart fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 teaspoon sugar

Sauté onions and carrots in oil for a few minutes; cover and steam for about 15 minutes without browning. Add garlic, parsley, chicken stock and rice. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add bay, thyme, basil, tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer for another 10 minutes.



Serve this beautiful red soup with rye crackers.
1 onion, chopped
1 small cabbage, cut into 2-inch squares
3 carrots, cut julienne
1 parsnip, cut julienne
1 rutabaga, cut julienne
3 medium raw beets, peeled and cut julienne
2 red potatoes, cut 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons oil for frying
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
6 cups beef stock
3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons or more vinegar
Sour cream for garnish

Lightly fry onions, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga and beets. Add garlic, bay and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add cabbage, potato, tomato, salt and pepper. Simmer until vegetables are soft. Just before serving, add vinegar and taste for seasoning. Garnish with sour cream.

Optional: Simmer 1 pound diced beef in a little water for 1 hour and add when adding the stock to the soup, or add !/2 pound Polish sausage cut into bite-sized pieces.



2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound fresh okra, sliced
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 cup green split peas, washed and drained
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon leaf tarragon
3 to 4 cups, thinly sliced spinach, chard or sorrel
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup sunflower seeds for garnish

Sauté celery, onion and okra in the corn oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Add split peas, chicken stock and tarragon and simmer for about 45 minutes or until peas are tender.

Add spinach, cucumber, zucchini, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Simmer just until tender, about 8 minutes. Garnish with sunflower seeds.

Betty Thompson has taught cooking locally since 1974.

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