Joni Woolf: Soups for any time of year

Published 3:14 pm Saturday, October 7, 2017

October has arrived on a slightly cool note, and that has me thinking of soup. In fact, I’ve opened two cans of soup recently, which is a bit of an embarrassment for one who enjoys cooking and prefers the homemade variety of any food. So, I determined to pull out my soup recipes and cook up something good. (I did recently cook a chicken in the crock pot, and saved the broth as a basis for one of the soups I’ll be featuring in this article — so I haven’t been totally idle.)
When we had the little restaurant in The Maze — CJ’s — the main soup we featured was a tomato soup I am including here. My friend Abbie Dillard gave the recipe to me, and when served as she did, it is a splendid presentation, as you will see from the recipe. We did not offer the Panera Bread sourdough bowls as containers, and frankly, that makes a large and lovely difference. I recommend it. This is a delicious tomato soup and is not even in the same category with the one you find on grocery shelves in that familiar can. That one will do in a pinch, but I try to avoid ever being that needy. For a non-meat soup, this one is quite hearty.

Tomato, Cheese and Bread Soup
8 oz. Crusty Sourdough croutons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves, minced
3 large onions, chopped
8 cups chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth
2 28-oz. cans Hunt’s diced tomatoes, drained and crushed
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmesan Reggiano rind optional; I like to include the rind)
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves for garnish
¼ cup grated Asiago cheese
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until very tender, about 25 minutes; add minced garlic and cook one minute. Add chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, cheeses and cheese rind. Simmer soup uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For smoother texture, puree in blender, food processor or (my preference) an emersion blender. Ladle soup into Panera Bread sourdough bread bowls. Add croutons, basil and Parmesan shavings. Makes 6 servings.

I like lentils. I put them in vegetable soup, if I have any on hand and I also like them as the star of a good, hearty soup. I found this recipe online several years ago, and have altered it to suit my personal preference. It is a tasty alternative to traditional vegetable-style soups.

Winter Lentil Vegetable Soup
½ cup red or green lentils
1 cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
3 carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon curry powder
Place the lentils into a stockpot or a Dutch oven and add water to twice the depth of the lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse the lentils; return them to the pot. Add onions, celery, cabbage, tomatoes, chicken broth, carrots and garlic to the pot and season with salt, pepper, sugar, basil, thyme and curry. Cook, simmering for 1½ to 2 hours, or until desired tenderness is achieved. This soup is good with bran muffins, so I’m including that recipe, also.

All-Bran Muffins (the original Kellogg recipe)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar (these days I use less, maybe ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups Kellogg All-Bran cereal
1 ¼ cups milk
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
Cooking spray
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, combine All-Bran and milk. Let stand about 5 minutes or until cereal softens. Add egg and oil. Beat well. Add flour mixture, stirring only until combined. Portion batter evenly into twelve 2 ½-inch muffin pan cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees F. about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm with butter and perhaps a touch of honey. Very nice accompaniment to the lentil soup.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at