Celebrating National Soup Month

Purple Soup (Red Cabbage and Potato Soup) (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Winter is soup weather — and January is National Soup Month. What is soup? It is a liquid, either brothy or creamy. It is prepared by simmering ingredients — vegetables, sometimes grains, beans, meat or fish — together with herbs and spices.

Ever since people learned to make clay containers that hold liquid, they have been making soup. Almost every country and culture has some type of soup. Some are well-known to us, like French onion, Italian minestrone or East European borscht; others, like Vietnamese pho or African peanut soup are less well-known.

Slow-cooking soups made from fresh, natural, seasonal ingredients are associated with good health. The process of long-simmering breaks down connective tissues. In addition to making the meat tender, this process releases vitamins and minerals into the liquid in a form that the human body can easily absorb.

There are many types of soup. There are brothy soups like chicken noodle and creamy soups like cream of broccoli. Rich, creamy bisques are usually made with shellfish. There are thick, chunky chowders like clam chowder or corn chowder. Stews are thicker, with less liquid than soups.

A good soup depends on the broth. Mom taught me to make broth from chicken pieces like wings or drumsticks. To this are added seasonings, like salt, bay leaves, allspice, peppercorns as well as vegetables like turnips or cabbage, carrots, parsnips, celeriac or celery, and leek or onion.

Today, you can buy prepared broth or stock in any supermarket, but of course, making your own is best. Stock is made by simmering bones for a long time, and is darker in color. Broth has more vegetables and is lighter.

Other prepared ingredients allow you to make soup fast and easy. Bagged fresh kale or spinach, frozen tortellini, pre-cut frozen vegetables, canned beans and tomatoes or jarred tomato sauce, all contribute to the ease of making homemade soup.

Nothing warms you up on a chilly winter day like a good homemade soup. What soup did your grandmother make?

Purple Soup (Red Cabbage and Potato Soup)


2 strips bacon

1 or 2 onions

1 or 2 stalks celery

1 carrot

2 or 3 potatoes

1/2 head green cabbage

1/4 head red cabbage

1 or 2 apples

2 cloves garlic

1 quart broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 or 2 cups diced cooked ham


In bottom of soup kettle, cook bacon to render fat. Peel and dice the onion, and add. Cook on low, covered. Wash and slice celery and carrot; add and stir in. Chop potatoes (peeling optional) and stir in.

Prepare the cabbage: wash, core, and chop. Stir in to the pot; add a little broth if things are beginning to stick.

Peel, core and dice the apples, and add. Peel and mince the garlic, and add. Add remaining broth and cook until all vegetables are tender.

Garnish with diced cooked ham.

Note: for a vegetarian or vegan soup, replace bacon with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use vegetable broth, and omit the ham.

Kale, Tomato and White Bean Soup


1 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 pound sausage (sweet or hot) optional

1 large or 2 small onions

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

3 cloves garlic

1 carrot

1 stalk celery

A few mushrooms (optional)

6 cups chopped kale (about a pound)

1/2 cup red wine, optional

1 quart vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup couscous or small pasta, like ditalini, orzo, orecchiette, or stelline, optional

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 or 3 cups cooked beans or 2 cans (15.5 oz. each) (like cannellini or great northern) — I used navy and pinto because that is what I had.

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)


In soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage, if using, and brown for about 2 minutes, stirring. Peel and dice the onions, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir. Sprinkle with a little salt.

Chop the carrot, slice the celery, chop mushrooms if using, peel and mince the garlic cloves, and add.

Rinse and chop kale; add to the pot and stir for 2 minutes to wilt.

Add the wine and broth; bring to a boil.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black pepper.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the pasta and kale are done to your liking.

Drain and rinse the beans, and add. Cook until heated through, about 4 or 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls. Garnish each serving with coarsely grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serve with crusty Italian bread for lunch or supper.

Serves 4 to 6.


To make gluten free omit pasta or use a bean pasta.

To make vegan, omit sausage.


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: writing and cooking. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite @yvonawrites.


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