Different types of stocks aren't the only items you need to have close by when you're craving soup. Keep the following ingredients in your pantry for an impromptu soup-making session:
✓ Canned evaporated milk: Use this item in your creamy soup recipes, such as the Creamy Veggie Lover's Soup later in this chapter. Evaporated milk is not the same as sweetened condensed milk (a syrupy milk-based concoction with lots of sugar added). Evaporated milk is milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed. It's concentrated, so it can enhance the flavor of soups and other dishes.
Choose regular evaporated milk rather than evaporated skim milk for soups and sauces. Evaporated skim milk has a tendency to curdle and break when heated. If you still want to save the calories, purée the soup with the skim milk before serving.
✓ Canned legumes, like beans, lentils, and chickpeas: They're a great source of fiber and protein, but the dried variety can take some time to prepare. So have the canned variety available to toss in a soup pot in a pinch. Get started using these hearty staples in the Indian-Inspired Lamb and Legume Chili later in this chapter.
Always drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables unless the recipe specifies otherwise. This step removes excess sodium, allowing you to season your soup to your preferred taste.
✓ Canned tomatoes: Diced, crushed, whole, or stewed, any of these tomatoes products can make for a quick soup.
✓ Dried herbs and spices. Oregano, basil, pepper, salt, dill, and just about anything in your spice cabinet can work into a soup recipe.
✓ Dried mushrooms: Rehydrate them in hot water, steep them for about 30 minutes, and then strain the liquid to remove any grit. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add the strained liquid for an extra punch of flavor.
✓ Garlic: Garlic adds an amazing flavor to just about anything. You can roast it, sauté it, and purée it; whatever works for your soup. It's great in creamy soups, tomato-based soups, or brothy soups. (Not intended for any visiting vampires eating soup, and don't forget the breath mints.)
✓ Grains: Rice, pasta, and barley are great choices to make a soup heartier. Check out Chapter 10 for the full story on cooking with grains.
✓ Olive oil: This terrific monounsaturated fat can help make an already nutritious soup heart healthy, too. Keep some on hand at all times.
✓ Onions: These fragrant bulbs add their terrific flavor and aroma to anything you cook.
✓ Potatoes: These starchy veggies cook up quickly and can add body to your soups. Choose them for puréed soups as they help thicken soups almost instantly, like in the Potato-Leek Soup earlier in this chapter.
✓ Salt-free seasoning mixes: If you have trouble with high blood pressure, you probably need to steer clear of salt as much as possible. Salt-free seasoning blends can give you many delicious flavor combinations and take the guesswork out of seasoning your soups.
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