Start the year off with soup

Beet and cabbage borscht (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Winter is time for bowls of hot, steamy, comforting soup. That is probably why January is National Soup Month.

On a cold winter day, a pot of simmering soup will warm your house. A pot of boiling soup puts steam into the dry winter indoor air, which is a good thing.

Soup is healthy. Because it has lots of liquid, it is hydrating. It includes fiber and vitamins from vegetables and protein from meat or beans. Potatoes, grains or pasta provide carbohydrates for energy.

This prehistoric one-pot dish goes back in time to the discovery of pottery more than 8,000 years ago. As soon as humans made pots to cook in, they made soup. In these modern times, every culture and country serves some type of traditional soup.

A pot of soup is an inexpensive way to feed your family. Serve scrumptious soup with a nice loaf of bread and a salad. You can buy canned soup, order soup at your favorite restaurant, or create your own delicious soup in your kitchen.

Soup is a versatile dish that can be made with almost anything. Look in the cupboard to see what you have available. Grains, pasta, beans. What vegetables are in your fridge or freezer? Do you have some meat to add? What herbs and spices are in your spice cabinet? Almost anything can be put in your soup. Even things generally discarded, like bones or onion skins, can be cooked first to add flavor and nutrients to the broth.

Soups are customizable to your tastes. A borscht recipe calls for caraway seeds but you don’t like caraway seeds? Sub in another herb, like dill, or just leave them out — it will still taste delicious.

Here in the United States, the blending of many cultures has given us lots of different soups. Minestrone. Borscht. Ribolita. Squash and apple bisque. Beef-barley. Chicken-rice. Vegetable-beef. Crab. Clam chowder. Mulligatawny. Won-Ton. Cream of broccoli. Chicken noodle. Corn chowder. Broccoli with Cheese. French Onion. Tomato basil. Potato soup. Spicy chicken tortilla. Navy bean with ham. Chili. Juk. Harira. Locro. Vichyssoise. Cabbage soup. Lobster bisque. Chairo and peanut soup. Lentil soup. Creamy onion and garlic. Sausage tortellini. Mushroom cream. Tom Kai Gai. Split pea (with or without ham). Gnocchi sausage soup. Pasta Fagioli. And so many more.

What’s your favorite soup?

Cabbage Borscht

This vegetarian borscht is loosely based on a recipe from chef and restauranteur Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. I made it for our meatless Polish Vigilia (Christmas Eve).


1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter (or 1 strip of bacon if not making it vegetarian)

2 large onions (about 2 cups, diced)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon or more freshly ground black pepper

1 stalk celery

1 carrot

1 apple, optional

2 large beets (about 3 or 4 cups, diced)

2 medium potatoes

1 small head cabbage (about 4 cups, chopped coarsely or shredded)

4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water or apple cider

1 can Great Northern beans (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Optional toppings:

Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Minced fresh dill or minced chives


Heat oil or melt butter in a large soup kettle. Peel and dice the onions, and throw in. Sprinkle with salt, turmeric and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until translucent.

While onions cook, slice carrots and celery; core and chop apple, if using; stir in. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes.

Clean or peel and chop beets and potatoes. Core and chop the cabbage. Add beets, potatoes, cabbage and broth to the kettle. Bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer and cook about 40 minutes until vegetables are very tender.

Stir in beans and apple cider vinegar. Cook 2 to 3 minutes and serve.

Ladle hot soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with chopped fresh dill or chopped chives and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Option: For a meaty non-vegetarian soup, substitute chicken broth for vegetable broth and add some diced cooked ham at the end, when you add the beans.

Serves 8.

Middle Eastern Hummus soup


1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 carrot

1 large onion (about 1 cup, diced)

1 stalk celery

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic

1 quart broth (or 2 cups broth, 2 cups water)

1 can chick peas

1 lemon

Optional veggies: kale, spinach, winter or summer squash, corn kernels

Garnish ingredients: chopped diced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese


Heat oil to medium-low in the bottom of soup kettle. Chop carrot, and add. Peel and dice the onion, and add. Slice celery, and stir in. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Peel and mince the garlic, and stir in. Cook about 5 minutes.

Add broth and 2 cups or more veggies of your choice: diced winter squash or zucchini, kale or spinach, corn kernels or creamed corn. Or anything else you dream up! Cook until veggies are soft — 15 or 20 minutes for winter squash or kale, 5 or 10 minutes for corn kernels, zucchini or spinach.

Drain 1 can chickpeas, rinse, and add.

For a smooth, creamy soup, blend with immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches).

Taste and adjust seasonings. Zest lemon and add the zest; squeeze in some juice and garnish with lemon slices, chopped cucumbers and crumbled feta.

Serves 3 to 4.

Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.


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