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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: 300 Sensational Soups

As winter approaches, our eating habits change too. For many of us, long-simmering soups and stews tend to replace the more quickly cooked fare of summer. Maybe that's partly due to some deeply rooted biological urge, but it also doesn’t hurt that in winter, you don’t mind heating up your kitchen by cooking something on the stove for hours, whereas in the heat of summer you want to keep cooking times to a minimum, or cook outdoors.
There aren’t many things about winter that I look forward to, but I do enjoy a good pot of soup. They’re generally easy to make, require little fuss or attention, and they’re hard to screw up.
Soup is also one of the most versatile and adaptable dishes around - you can throw practically anything edible into a pot, with liquid, and make a soup.
But if you’re like me, you fall into certain patterns, and go back to the same recipes over and over. Chicken soup. Minestrone. Beef vegetable. Or you open a can of Campbell’s.
That’s all fine, but why not expand your options? Yes, you can sift through recipe websites looking for ideas, but for convenience and reliability, it’s hard to beat 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. I recently received a review copy.
The authors start with the basics - soup stocks, from chicken to seafood to miso - and move on to chilled, vegetable, bean, cheese, and meat-based soups. Not every recipe is illustrated, but there are numerous sections of full-page color photographs throughout. One thing I’ve found with Robert Rose books is that the photos are gorgeous, and that holds true here. The up-close shots of beautifully presented soups are sure to whet your appetite.
The recipes are relatively simple, and easy to prepare. Occasionally the ingredient lists are fairly long (in the 20ish range), but there’s nothing you couldn’t find at Wegmans, or any other well-stocked supermarket. Each recipe occupies one or two pages, and the book easily lies flat, making it convenient to follow as you’re cooking.
With 300 recipes, you know you’re going to get beyond the basics here. And there are some exotic or unusual soups, like cream of roasted turnip soup with baby bok choy and five spices, and banana soup with raspberry and mint relish. But you’ll also find old standbys like chicken noodle and clam chowder, as well as simple, hearty dishes like steak and potato soup.
I’ve consistently been impressed by the cookbooks I've received from Robert Rose, and this is another good one. It’s got nearly a year’s worth of intriguing soup recipes, well presented and explained. If you like soup even a little, you'll find more than a few in here that appeal to you.
300 Sensational Soups (paperback)
Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, authors
384 pages. Robert Rose books, 2008

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