April 1, 2016
Vol. VIII No. 7
Simple Soups
In the old folktale, "Stone Soup," a poor, hungry traveler comes to a village with an empty soup pot and no food to eat. He fills the pot with water from a nearby stream, drops a stone in, and begins to heat the water over a fire. Curious, the villagers come out and watch him. He tells them he is making "stone soup," a magical soup that needs just a few more ingredients to make it truly delicious. He encourages each villager to donate a vegetable, some beans, seasoning, or a piece of meat in exchange for witnessing the magic. In the end, everyone, and most of all the hungry traveler, enjoys a tasty, nourishing pot of soup.

This story perfectly demonstrates how simple it can be to make soup. The villagers didn't even realize they were doing most of the work! Soups require few cooking tools (a pot, a knife, a cutting board, and maybe a peeler and a strainer), no fancy techniques, and humble ingredients. Initially unappealing beet greens, old carrots and potatoes, leftover or low-quality cuts of meat, and Parmesan cheese rinds, for example, can all be magically transformed to make tasty and satisfying soups. 

If you are a beginning home cook, making homemade soup is a great place to start. Most soups are forgiving and don't take long to make. When the ingredients are tender, the soup is done. 

Here are five more tips for making simple soups:
  1. Keep a few boxes of store-bought stock (chicken, vegetable, and/or fish) in your pantry. Or, make your own stock and store it in the freezer. Many soup recipes call for stock instead of water because it adds extra flavor. Homemade stock makes an even bigger difference.
  2. Practice making a basic soup, like carrot soup, to nail the general method of making vegetable soups. Improvise based on what you have on hand and what vegetables are in season. 
  3. Add grains and/or pulses to make soups more substantial. Lentils, split peas, and canned beans are the quickest-cooking options. Mediterranean cooks are masters of stretching simple soups with rice, pasta, cornmeal, flour and even bread, for example. Make these additions whole grain as an added bonus!
  4. Add fish, poultry, or meat for extra flavor. Maltese aljotta calls for a whole fish, but even a few pieces go a long way. If you have leftover pieces of cooked fish or meat, simply chop it up and reheat it in the soup.
  5. Make a big batch of soup (most recipes can easily be scaled up) and freeze in small portions for future meals when you don't have time to cook. Frozen soup keeps for about 3 months. 
Enjoy soup as an appetizer or snack, or make it a meal with some crusty bread and a salad. If you have leftover soup, try making Italian ribollita, or "reboiled," by pouring the soup over slices of bread in a baking dish, sprinkling with grated cheese and baking it. Delicious!

Explore the recipes below for more homemade soup ideas. 

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.

Vegetarian soups like this one are filling and flavorful, thanks to a wide variety of vegetables and the addition of beans, split peas, and pasta. This recipe requires soaking beans overnight, but canned beans can easily be substituted if you didn't plan ahead. Parmigiano-Reggiano, a welcome addition to any soup, adds a tasty finish. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of the American Pulse Association.

Packed with protein, this traditional West African soup uses peanut butter to flavor sweet potatoes and other vegetables. It's delicious and filling, true to Mediterranean-style foods. Garnish with roasted crushed peanuts and sliced scallions for a visual treat.

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Peanut Institute.

Most of the flavor for this soup comes from the sun dried tomatoes and the oil in which they are jarred. A splash of dry white wine and fresh oregano help too. This recipe requires a blender to get a smooth texture; make sure the soup has cooled down before you begin pureeing, otherwise there will be a bulidup of steam. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bella Sun Luci

Raw milk and traditional cheeses are an important part of the Mediterranean diet, and we are celebrating them soon! Learn more about our Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day by clicking the image below:

by Joanna Pruess
Soup for Two is a collection of internationally-inspired soup recipes, all scaled down to feed one, two, or a few. The number of ingredients is modest and the techniques are easy, but the resulting dishes are nothing less than spectacular. 
by Moosewood Collective
Soups and salads have been staples of Moosewood's ever-changing menu board since the restaurant opened its doors more than forty years ago. Here the collective has gathered over 275 kitchen-tested recipes to create world-class meals, most of which are vegetarian.
by Mona Talbott
Much more than a collection of remarkable soups, Mona Talbott's Zuppe is a wise and gentle tutorial on the "the beauty and delicious rewards of frugality" and how the humblest foods can be the most profoundly satisfying.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit: