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Soup's On!

A steaming bowl of homemade soup is the perfect meal for these chilly winter evenings.

Mmm, mmm good. That’s what homemade soup is.

Canned soup will do in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the smell of fresh, homemade soup simmering on the stove. And served up in a deep ceramic bowl accompanied by crusty bread and a salad—well, what a perfect meal for a cold winter night.

The possibilities for different types of soup are endless.

I find it fun and creative to whip up a soup from what I have on hand: veggies in the fridge or freezer, maybe leftover chicken, sausage or other meats, canned or fresh tomatoes, and other dry goods from the pantry such as pasta, noodles, rice, coconut milk and chilis. Soup doesn’t necessarily have to cook for hours. One trick is to lightly sauté the veggies with some fresh or dried herbs before adding them to the soup. If you’re really ambitious, you can make your own stock, but I always keep some canned chicken and vegetable broth in the cupboard for these quick soups.

I recently bought a hand blender (you can pick one up at in Santa Cruz), which is great for making puréed soups with winter squashes, cauliflower, potatoes and leeks, to name a few. These have to be the simplest soups to make and so flavorful. Just steam or boil the vegetables until soft and then blend with stock. Add salt, pepper and herbs, and milk, cream or cheese if desired.

Then there are the slow-cooked savory soups such as stews, chili, clam chowder and a multitude of bean varieties. A tasty way to serve these thicker soups is in a carved-out small round of sourdough bread. makes it fresh and has the perfect size for a single (hearty) serving.

We can’t forget the international stars of the soup world. Here’s a fun website that has an amazing list of soups from around the world organized by country.

Of course, there will be those days when you’re hankering for some soup but don’t feel like cooking. Instead of opening a can, stop by and pick up one of their Signature Café soups. I’ve tried the Tuscan Tomato & Basil Bisque and the Clam Chowder, and both were delicious.

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and if you’re having the gang over, a hearty soup is a great menu item for a crowd. Here’s a Portuguese recipe made with black beans and a butcher’s case full of meat. Your guests won’t miss the traditional chili one bit!

Feijoada (Black Bean and Meat Stew)

Ingredients:

1 (12 ounce) package dry black beans, soaked overnight and drained

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 green onions, chopped (including dark green tops)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 smoked ham hocks

½ pound pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks

½ pound smoked pork sausages

½ pound spicy sausage such as chorizo or linguica

1/2 pound thickly sliced bacon, diced

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot and sauté yellow onion, green onions, and garlic until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the beans and enough water to cover beans by 3 inches. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, or until beans are tender. (Add more water if necessary to keep beans covered.)

2. Meanwhile, place ham hocks in smaller pot. Cover with water and simmer until meat easily pulls off the bone, about 1 hour. Drain and add the ham to the beans. (Bones can be added or discarded.) TIP: If the beans need more water, use the water from the ham hocks for added flavor.)

3. While Steps 1 and 2 are in progress, place pork, sausages and bacon in a baking dish. Roast until browned and cooked through, approximately 45 minutes for the pork and 30 minutes for the sausage and bacon.

4. Remove the cooked meat mixture from the baking dish with tongs and add to the beans. Add the bay leaves and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes more.

5. Sprinkle parsley and/or cilantro on each serving, if desired.

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