Soup is to the chef what a painting is to the artist. It's a one-of-a-kind expression of what is in the chef's heart (and/or refrigerator) at the time. The soup pot is the canvas, and a run through the fridge and pantry will dictate the "medium" used to create the final masterpiece. With that in mind, it becomes obvious that anyone can create a work of palatable art. Know what you have to work with (leftovers, veggies, stocks, pastas, beans, etc) and combine them with a few basic techniques, and you'll have lunch/dinner on the table in no time. The majority of soups I make start with five key ingredients: olive oil, onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic. The vegetables are seasoned with salt and pepper and sauteed in the olive oil until soft. The next step is deciding whether you want your broth to be vegetarian, chicken, or beef based. Do you have leftover pork loin, chicken breast, roast beef in the fridge? Now decide what type seasoning/spices you're in the mood for.... something southwestern? Indian? Greek? Grandma's old-fashioned whatever? Are you in the mood for pasta, beans, barley, potatoes? Do you have carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, green beans, or mushrooms in your fridge's vegetable drawer that are a day away from death?
What may appear to be too many questions should in actuality be thought of as numerous choices and combinations, allowing the artist to fabricate her/his own signature recipe as well as a way to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
This soup recipe came to be because I had leftover V-8 juice, believe it or not. I had opened it before we went on vacation and I knew it needed to be used up. I also had a package of fire roasted red pepper chicken sausages (thank you Trader Joes) that I knew would be great in a soup, so from there I thought about what else would work in this recipe. Olive oil, onions, celery, bell peppers... CHECK! Chicken stock.... CHECK! Hmmmm... I'm thinking maybe a little spice and kick to this..... Chili and poblano peppers, cumin.... CHECK! Tomatoes..... yup, that V-8 juice, and let's toss in some crushed fire-roasted tomatoes as well.... CHECK! Canned beans, northern and refried.... CHECK! We're good to go!
Fire Roasted Tomato and Bean Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
12 oz chicken or turkey sausage, sliced in half lengthwise, then diced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery (with leaves) diced
1 bell pepper (I used half of a red and half of a yellow) diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 mild green chili pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
2 cups V-8 (or other vegetable, tomato juice)
1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have)
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 15 oz cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can fat free refried beans
In soup pot heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add sausage and sautee until lightly caramelized. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Add other Tbsp olive oil to pot. Add onion, celery and peppers. Season with salt and pepper and saute until softened. Add garlic and saute another minute or two. Add broth, V-8, cumin and worchestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans and sausage and simmer another 10 minutes to incorporate flavors. Stir in refried beans to thicken.