The wonders of soup


PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative


Leslie Shalabi PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL


PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative


Leslie Shalabi PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL


PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but when I open up my Pinterest app, I always am treated to a lot of beautiful food images.

There is one particular image that floats by fairly regularly: It’s a recipe for detox soup.

The image shows a healthy, lentil-based vegetable soup in an off-white speckled, handmade ceramic bowl. A quick search of Pinterest tells me that the full name of the recipe is, “The Best Detox Crockpot Lentil Soup.”

Like virtually everything else that I “pin,” I have never made it. But man, oh, man does it look good. Lentils, butternut squash, some kind of leafy green with some perfectly shaved pieces of parmesan on top.

The photo is well-composed with a cracked open loaf of whole wheat bread flanking the sides of the bowl. Yum! (Yeah, yeah, I realize that I totally am going to have to make this soup.)

Whenever anyone asks me what kind of food I like to make, one of my answers always is soup. I love the layers of flavor and ingredients that go into making this satisfying meal. It is a great way to use up lingering vegetables in the fridge. And I find all the chopping and prep soothing and relaxing.

Nourishing qualities of soup

What is it about soup that it just seems so — I don’t know — healthy? Satisfying? Nourishing?

For one thing, it’s a great way to eat a variety of vegetables. Virtually every soup I’ve made starts by sautéing a base of carrots, celery and onions.

This combination is very common among different types of cuisine. In traditional French cooking, this it is called mirepoix. In Italian, Spanish and Latin American cooking, it is called soffritto. And in Cajun/Creole cooking, it is called the Holy Trinity. (With a name like that, you know it is important.)

At Convivium Urban Farmstead, we typically dedicate a whole section of one of our larger gardens to this triumvirate of vegetables. These vegetables impart a lot of great flavor to the soup and also are rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, potassium, folate and low in calories.

And that is just the start of the soup.

Another benefit of soup is the thing that makes soup, well, soup. That is the liquid. Whether it is homemade bone broth or chicken stock from a box, or a rich tomato-y blend, soup is a great way to add some hydration to your day, especially if you are someone like me, who struggles to drink enough water.

That hot liquid also increases satiety, helping you feel more full, which brings us to another benefit of soup: It is a great option if you are trying to shed a few holiday pounds (or any other kind of pounds). It offers a high volume of food for relatively few calories. Creamy and cheesy soups, not withstanding.

What’s with chicken soup anyway?

No discussion of healthy soup would be complete without at least a mention of the heaviest hitter out there — chicken soup. It’s the thing that many cultures turn to when a loved one is feeling a bit under the weather. France, Germany, Denmark, Ghana, Vietnam, Colombia, Italy, Hungary, Indonesia, Thailand, Greece, Mexico and many more countries have their version of chicken soup.

In fact, the healing power of this staple is so well known and trusted, that it has spurned a whole series of platitude-laden inspirational books to help us mend many different areas of of our lives — Chicken Soup for the: Soul, the teenage soul, the Christian woman’s soul, mother’s soul, golfer’s soul, pet lover’s soul, teacher’s soul and for the soul of America.

Chicken broth is a great source of vitamins, minerals and provides a healthy amount of fat. It also is particularly satisfying to make it yourself.

Chicken soup starts with carrots, onions and celery, which deliver a bunch of beneficial vitamins and bolster the immune system. It has healthy protein in the form of chicken and some carbohydrates in the form of noodles or rice — all of which our bodies need when we are recovering from an illness like a cold.

Something deeper

We eat a lot of soup at our house in the winter. In addition to all of its health benefits, I find that one of the things that I like about soup the most is that it is one of these meals that also satisfies something deeper in us, imparting a sense of comfort, helping us to feel cared for and nourished at a deeper level.

And with that, I’m off to get my crockpot out and finally get around to making that lentil soup recipe.

Leslie Shalabi is the co-founder of Convivium Urban Farmstead, a Dubuque-based nonprofit based on the idea of creating community around food. A life-long lover of food and entertaining, she is dedicated to helping people find ways to connect through the universal languages of food and hospitality.

The Best Detox Crockpot Lentil SoupFor the crockpot

• 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed

• 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced

• 2 cups potatoes, chopped

• 2 cups celery, chopped

• 1 cup green lentils

• ¾ cup yellow split peas (or just use more lentils)

• 1 onion, chopped

• 5 cloves garlic, minced

• 8-10 cups vegetable or chicken broth

• 2 teaspoons herbs de provence

• 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Add at the end

• 2-3 cups kale, stems removed, chopped

• 1 cup parsley, chopped

• ½ cup olive oil (Rosemary olive oil or other herb infused oil is delicious.)

• Swish of sherry, red wine vinegar or lemon juice (To add a nice, tangy bite.)

Instructions

• Place all ingredients in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.

• Place about 4 cups of soup in a blender with the olive oil. Pulse gently, until semi-smooth and creamy-looking. (The oil will form a creamy emulsion with the soup.) Add back to the pot and stir to combine. Stir in the kale and parsley. Turn the heat off, and let everything mellow before serving. The taste and texture improve with time.

• Season to taste. (Add the sherry, vinegar and/or lemon juice.)

— Courtesy of Pinch of Yum

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