Resolved to eat more healthfully this month? Before you turn to slashing calories, buying bottled juices or pre-made meals, Rebecca Katz wants you to consider a simple bowl of soup.
Soup, at its best, “is like giving your body an internal spa treatment,” she says. The culinary educator and nutritional expert is such a fan that she recently authored the cookbook Clean Soups: Simple, Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality, which features soup recipes free of dairy, gluten or processed foods. “Soup has always been a love; it’s always symbolized the ultimate nourishment for me,” she told us when she recently stopped by to demonstration her soups in the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Below are seven of her tips for making incredible soups at home that just happen to also be wholesome and nutritious—plus one of her favorite recipes, her grandmother’s chicken soup recipe made with homemade stock and zucchini noodles.
Rebecca Katz’s 7 Tips for Making Clean Soups
- Add spices early on. “I think the biggest mistake people have when making soups is adding spices at the end,” she says. “They haven’t had a chance to cook in and release their flavors.” Instead, she layers them in early on, and seals them in by adding in a bit of liquid along with them (such as half a cup of broth).
- Keep the peels of your vegetables on. There’s no need to peel your vegetables, especially when you’re making a blended soup—and she points out that if you don’t leave them on, you might actually be missing out on something: “The minerals in vegetables are right under the skin!”
- Season early and often. Rebecca is not shy on adding salt to her recipes. “Every time I add in a ‘character,’ it gets its own double pinch of salt,” she tells us, as she adds a sprinkle to a pot full of chopped carrots. “That’s a big pot of soup! You’ve got things in that pot that are absorbing every little morsel. Salt until you really feel it at the front of your palate—no hanging out at the back! If you think it needs a pinch more, it needs a pinch more. People say, ‘Just let people add their own salt,’ but you don’t necessarily want to present an under-seasoned soup at the table and rely on other peoples’ palates to season.”
- Harness the power of the blender! Rebecca uses a high-speed blender to achieve creaminess in her soups. “I started with a Vitamix 25 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I call it the Ferrari of blenders, and the reason why is because you’re whipping in so much air that the soup is like a cashmere sweater.” Soups made creamy with a blender, she says, actually store better than traditional cream soups or bisques, since dairy doesn’t always freeze well.
- Don’t forget the sweetener. Rebecca adds what she calls “a drape of mape” at the end—a very small drizzle of Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup. You don’t think of maple syrup and soup, but if a soup is too spicy, harsh or acidic, that quarter of a teaspoon in the whole pot can just turn it around.” If you don’t have maple syrup, you could also use honey, coconut sugar or another natural sweetener.
- Store soups smartly, so you always have something on hand. “The idea is to be able to make a whole bunch of soup and be able to freeze it, so that you always have something nourishing.” Rebecca recommends freezing soups in BPA-free portion-controlled containers, then setting them in warm water to loosen them up. After a few minutes, pop them into a pot, put a tablespoon of broth or water, and “let it go.”
- Use soup as a way to reboot your palate and your digestive system. “I am a fan of souping versus juicing. It’s a reset, but not in a restrictive way—in an abundant way. [Unlike juices], in a blended soup the fiber is still there, slowing down the release of insulin in your body.” Since it’s broken down, it’s easier to digest. “Every once in a while, it’s lovely to give your digestion a rest.” She likes having something like broth instead of a late-afternoon snack.
Nana’s Chicken Soup with Zucchini Noodles
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
- 4 stalks celery, sliced into ½-inch chunks
- Sea salt
- 6 cups Old-Fashioned Chicken Stock (page 39)
- 2 cups cooked and thinly sliced organic chicken (see Cook’s Note on page 92)
- 1 zucchini, peeled and spiralized or cut into thin noodles (see Cook’s Note)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill, for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion, carrots, celery, and ¼ teaspoon salt and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of the stock to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Add the remaining 5½ cups of stock, bring to a boil over medium heat, then decrease the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken, zucchini noodles, lemon zest, and lemon juice and cook for 2 minutes more. Serve garnished with the parsley, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 6 servings.
Note: Only put in the amount of zucchini noodles you will eat at the time. Letting them sit in the soup and reheating will turn them into mush, just like regular noodles. Refrigerate leftover, uncooked zucchini noodles in a separate airtight container. Add them to the soup when you reheat the leftovers.
If you don’t have leftover chicken on hand, you can quickly poach two skinless boneless breasts. The following method produces a delicate flavor by infusing the flavor of the stock liquid into the chicken. Season the breasts with salt and pepper. In a straight-sided skillet, bring 3 cups of stock to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken, cover, and decrease the heat to low. The liquid should be just below the boiling point, with its surface barely quivering. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and let cool.
Old-Fashioned Chicken Stock
- 6 pounds organic chicken backs, necks, bones, and wings
- 2 unpeeled white onions, quartered
- 4 unpeeled large carrots, cut into thirds
- 2 stalks celery, cut in thirds
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 unpeeled cloves garlic, halved
- 1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 black peppercorns
- 8 quarts cold, filtered water, plus more if needed
- Sea salt
- Rinse all of the vegetables well.
- In a 12-quart or larger stockpot, combine the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, thyme, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add the water, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil. Decrease the heat so the bubbles just break the surface of the liquid. Skim off the scum and fat that have risen to the surface. Simmer, partially covered, for about 3 hours. Add more water if the vegetables begin to peek out.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve or colander lined with unbleached cheesecloth into a clean pot or heat-resistant bowl, then stir salt in to taste. Bring to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Skim off as much fat as you can from the top of the broth, then portion into airtight containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Makes about 6 quarts.
Note: The stock will cool faster in smaller containers. Make sure it’s refrigerated within 4 hours of cooking.
Reprinted with permission from Clean Soups, copyright by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2016 Eva Kolenko