The Best Soups You Haven’t Made Yet

I broke my jaw and endured a six-week liquid diet so you don’t have to.

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2016 was a taxing year for many people in this country, but for me it was downright intolerable. That year, I was cruising up I-95 outside Richmond, Virginia in my beige Corolla when I found myself in the middle of a five-car pileup. My car was totaled, but I was relatively unscathed. Weeks later, I got dumped by a partner of four years. Then, I drunkenly tripped over a shrub and shattered my jaw on a concrete sidewalk.

I thought about my year of misfortune when I awoke in a hospital bed, metal wiring braided around my teeth. My jaw was wired shut for six weeks, a procedure called maxillomandibular fixation. I could speak — with difficulty — but chewing was just not going to happen. 2016 was the year I bought an immersion blender.

For a month and a half, I was restricted to a liquid diet. I would sulk in the corners of restaurant booths sipping mediocre tomato soup from a straw while my family reveled over pizza and salads, gaily munching croutons and laughing with their moveable mouths.

Drinking and smoking were both inadvisable (and my hydrocodone prescription was running out), so I turned to the kitchen to take the edge off, chopping onions and celery and breaking in my stockpot. I finally had no option but to tinker with blended soup recipes like a mad scientist.

Each morning, I made a chocolate smoothie with bananas and tofu, and in the evenings I pushed aromatics and root vegetables to their flavorful limits. I became obsessed with making the perfect soup because there was nothing else I could eat. For much of my life, soup had been a last-resort food to fall back on in the interest of time or money. It came in a can with bland ingredients and too much salt. My own soups, however, were feats of sorcery, complex layers of spice, earthiness, and acidity hidden in simple and elegant liquid concoctions. Plus, there was a spot where my right molars were busted out, and the soup could go down my throat easily if I positioned the straw correctly.

Soup has a popular reputation as a cozy accompaniment for cool weather, the fuzzy sweater of the food world. For me, the stuff is a reminder of the hardest year of my life, but also the cuisine that saved me from completely wasting away.

At the end of my stint of looking like the James Bond villain Jaws on a diet, my doctor told me to readjust slowly to solid food. I should start with hummus and cottage cheese or something. Naturally, I went straight for a yellowfin tuna steak, seared rare, on a salad of cucumber, cabbage, and cilantro. I sat before my meal, rubbing my hands together in anticipation. Weeks of deprivation had led to this moment. When I raised the fork to my mouth and sank my teeth into a morsel, the soreness was overwhelming. I felt I might never again have the strength to gnaw on a cucumber. Dejected, I returned to the kitchen and to my trusty stockpot, where I found I could always simmer some salvation in the worst of times.

Roasted Root Soup

  • 1 ½ lbs. carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium parsnip, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large rutabaga or turnip, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large beet, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 cups chicken stock or mushroom broth
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Crème fraiche, or sour cream, for serving
  • Walnut oil, for serving (optional)

 

  1. Toss root vegetables with olive oil and salt and pepper and spread onto a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over low-medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Add cooked root vegetables to the pot and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove rosemary. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Cauliflower Soup with Gruyere Croutons

  • 2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Fried bacon crumbles, for serving (optional)

For Gruyere croutons:

  • ½ baguette, cut or broken into 1-inch squares
  • 1 cup gruyere or emmental cheese, sliced thin

 

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and cook until it is translucent. Add cauliflower florets and garlic. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and thyme. Add heavy cream. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup, or do it in batches on a countertop blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For croutons, toast the baguette pieces on a baking sheet in the oven at 250° F. Top with gruyere slices and broil until the cheese is browned.

Spicy Squash and Lentil Soup (Vegan)

  • 1 large butternut squash, halved, with seeds and guts removed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 habanero pepper, diced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup dry red lentils
  • 1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • salt and pepper

 

  1. Lightly coat the inside of each squash half with olive oil and salt and pepper, then place them face down on a baking sheet and bake at 400° F for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add shallot, garlic, and ginger and cook for 5 minutes. Add diced habanero, oregano, coriander, cumin, curry powder, and paprika and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable broth. Scoop roasted butternut squash into the pot. Add lentils. Bring the pot to boil, then lower to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Once the lentils are cooked through, remove the pot from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup, or work in batches with a countertop blender. Add coconut milk and dark brown sugar, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and other spices.

 

Monkfish Bisque

  • 2 monkfish filets
  • Black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry rosé wine, or dry white wine
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 3 cups seafood stock
  • ½ cup white rice, rinsed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chives, for serving

 

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Lower the heat to simmer, and add the monkfish filets. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through, then set aside. Reserve one cup of water.
  2. Heat oil at medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Increase heat and add tomato paste and wine. Cook the wine off.
  3. Add seafood stock, reserved monkfish water, thyme, tarragon, and smoked paprika. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to simmer. Add rice to the pot and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Blend the soup using an immersion blender or work in batches with a countertop blender. For a smoother result, pass the blended soup through a sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Heat the soup on low heat and add heavy cream and poached monkfish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with chives.

Bruschetta Gazpacho

  • 2 lbs. tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
  • 1 orange or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  • 30 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 handful of day-old baguette, crust removed
  • Salt and pepper

 

Add ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency. When adding the bread, let it soak in the mixture for a few minutes before blending. Serve chilled, with a soft-boiled egg and sour cream.

Featured image: Shutterstock.com.

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Comments

  1. I’m so sorry you had to endure two such a horrific ordeals, just weeks apart three years ago. Very painful physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and more. I admire how you were not defeated by it, and found creative ways (through these soups) to get around the limitations of having your jaw wired shut. That would have freaked me out. Differently, but with similarities of being under the house in an enclosed space which I find terrifying.

    Thank God you didn’t suffer head/brain trauma on top of it, as bad as this was. Anything can happen in a fall. Anyway, I want to try out Monkfish Bisque. It sounds great, and your instructions are wonderful. Very glad you made a complete recovery.

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