Just because it’s soup season doesn’t mean you have to get out your big stockpot and set aside a whole afternoon. But you don’t have to just resort to opening a can, either.
With the help of a few products and fast tricks, you can have a bowl of soup about as fast as you can order a pizza.
With the help of a few good cookbooks on fast cooking, I came up with a list of five easy soups that all take less than 30 minutes, start to finish.
And how about cutting a little fat, too? Cooking Light’s new cookbook “Amazing Recipe Makeovers” (Oxmoor House, 2016) has a handy trick for replacing heavy cream in creamy soups by making a replacement from nonfat milk and overcooked instant brown rice. It takes about 25 minutes, but you can do it in advance and keep a batch around for chowders this winter.
Consider your soup season off to a fast start.
KEEP THESE HANDY
Any of these will help you make soup fast enough for a weeknight.
Wonton skins. Find them in the produce section of most supermarkets. Cut them into thin strips, drop them into simmering broth and you’ll have instant noodles.
Almost-instant meatballs. Get Italian sausage or brats, cut open the casings and quickly roll the meat into balls for fast meatballs, already seasoned and ready to go.
Tiny pasta. Orzo or acini de pepe cook in 10 minutes or less. Bonus: They don’t soak up so much broth that you end up with stew.
Canned beans. Add one can’s worth to the soup and puree the second to use as a fast thickener.
Flavor boosters. Since you don’t have long-simmered flavor, you sometimes need something to add a little depth. Try a little balsamic vinegar, Asian fish sauce or toasted sesame oil. Start small, with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, and see if you like it before adding a little more.
Fast bases. Frozen hash browns and frozen corn can both be turned into a fast chowder.
Fast vegetables. When a soup would work with cabbage, stir in shredded coleslaw mix.
QUICK BEEF PHO
You can save a step making the broth with a frozen pho brown, such as Nona Lim, which is available at Healthy Home Market or Whole Foods.
6 cups beef stock
2 star anise
1 (1/2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, cut in 4 slices
12 ounces flank steak or tri-tip stack
8 ounces medium rice noodles
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
4 or 5 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil or cilantro
2 red fresh chiles, thinly sliced
Combine the beef stock, star anise and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. (If using a frozen pho stock, you can skip this step.)
While the stock is simmering, place the steak in the freezer so it’s easier to slice thinly. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with hot tap water.
Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Remove the ginger and star anise from the broth with a slotted spoon. Add the rice noodles and return to a simmer. Add the beef and remove from the heat.
Ladle into bowls and top with bean sprouts, green onions, basil and/or cilantro, jalapeno and a lime wedge.
Yield: 6 servings.
LIGHTENED-UP BROCCOLI-CHEESE SOUP
The brown rice cream will take about 25 minutes, but it can be done in advance. To really save time, get about 3 cups broccoli florets from a salad bar.
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup uncooked instant brown rice
1 cup nonfat milk
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 pounds broccoli florets, coarsely chopped (or about 3 cups from a salad bar)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Make the brown rice cream: Combine 2 cups stock and rice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 25 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Place rice mixture and milk in a blender. Remove the center piece from the lid and cover with a dish towel to keep it from splashing. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil to pan. Add onion and saute about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and salt. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until broccoli is just tender. Add the brown rice mixture. Simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place 2 cups of the soup in a blender and process until smooth. (Remove the vent from the lid and cover with a dish towel.) Return to the pan. Add pepper and 1 cup of cheese, stirring until the cheese melts. Serve topped with a little more cheese.
Yield: 6 servings.
GREEK LEMON SOUP WITH CHICKEN
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup orzo
6 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken (leftover or from a rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring to the broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the orzo and cook 8 to 9 minutes, until tender.
Beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the hot broth. Whisk the egg mixture into the soup and cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and lemon juice and heat until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yield: 4 servings.
SPINACH AND TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated tortellini, any flavor
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cup baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, until onions start to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds.
Add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes and their juice, oregano and 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add the tortellini. Reduce heat and simmer until tortellini are cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook just until it begins to wilt, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese.
Yield: 4 servings.
ASIAN NOODLE SOUP WITH SHRIMP
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 red or green fresh chile pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 small head of Napa cabbage, chopped
About 10 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup snow peas, halves
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced
Bring the chicken broth, jalapeno and soy sauce to a boil in a large pot.
Stir in the Napa cabbage, wonton strips and shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp are pink and noodles are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the snow peas and rice vinegar. Serve topped with basil.