Like my parents before me, I like to tinker with basic soup recipes. The basic family recipe for chicken soup, for instance, takes on a distinctly Italian flavor when a can of tomatoes and more than the usual amount of crushed garlic is added to the mix.
Roasting wine soaked onions of all varieties on a cookie sheet in the oven before slicing them into an onion soup results in a wonderfully flavorful version of the French mainstay and “punching up” commercial borscht with fresh beets, boiled potatoes and long strands of sweet, Vidalia onions makes a lovely brew, especially if you top it off with swirls of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Today’s Lenten offering is another basic and easy soup recipe that can be adapted with a range of sea food or vegetables during Lent. With the addition of canned corn, string beans, mushrooms and the like, it can morph into a cheesy, Cheddar chowder. Toss in some freshly boiled shrimp, broiled scallops and monkfish, and it becomes a seafood soup that’s almost too luxurious for this penitential season.
Basic Cheese Soup
Ingredients: 1/2 cup grated carrots; 1/2 cup finely chopped celery; 1 cup boiling spring water; 2 generous tablespoons of sweet onion; 1/2 stick of sweet butter; 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 2 cups milk; 2 cups good vegetable broth; 1/2 pound sharp Cheddar chesse, shredded. Parsley for garnish.
Directions: Put the carrots and celery in a small pan of boiling water, cover and simmer until very tender. Set aside. In a large saucepan, saute the onion and butter until soft but not brown. Add the flour and blend well, then add the milk and chicken broth and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add the cheese and stir until blended. Then, add the cooked vegetables in the remaining liquid. If you are adding more vegetables or taking the seafood approach, toss them in now and blend them well. Garnish with parsley and serve with a hardy bread.