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SOUP'S ON GOOD OLD-FASHIONED NOURISHMENT

THERE HAS been a lot of partying goin' on, and all that rich holiday food is beginning to take its toll.

What we need right now is good old-fashioned comfort food, soup to be exact, to usher in the new year.

There is nothing quite so nourishing and delicious as a bowl of hot and hearty soup.

It also is the easy way to start recovering from the excesses of the holidays.

CORN CHOWDER

1/2 pound sliced lean bacon, chopped fine

3 large onions, chopped fine

1 cup finely chopped celery, including some leaves

1 bay leaf

4 tablespoons flour

5 cups peeled, diced boiling potatoes, reserved in a bowl of cold water

2 cans (17-ounce) cream-style corn

2 cups half-and-half

2 cans (14-ounce) chicken broth

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Paprika and minced fresh parsley for garnish
In a large, heavy saucepan or soup kettle, cook bacon over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until it is crisp. Transfer it with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 4 tablespoons of the fat or replace with 4 tablespoons olive oil. Cook onions and celery in fat over low heat until softened. Add bay leaf and stir in flour; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in potatoes and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil; simmer 20 minutes until potatoes are well cooked.

Stir in the corn, half-and-half, chicken broth and bacon; cook over low heat until hot but do not allow to boil. Cut up butter and swirl in until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls and garnish with paprika and chopped parsley. This soup may be frozen. Add butter, if desired, after reheating. Makes 10 servings.

CREAM OF SWEET ONION AND SAUTERNES SOUP

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced lengthwise into thin slivers

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cups Sauternes wine

2 quarts chicken stock

2 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Snipped chives to taste
Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the onions and leave them for about 20 minutes, until onions are very tender and translucent.

Remove and discard the wax paper. Stir in the sugar and cook the onions for 3 minutes to caramelize them. Stir in the flour and cook another 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the wine and chicken stock. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Stir the cream into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve. Garnish with a few snipped chives in the center of each serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

BLACK BEAN SOUP

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 medium carrots, chopped

3 medium poblano peppers, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

4 large tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 pound cooked black beans

8 cups chicken stock

Monterey Jack cheese, if desired
Heat oil in a large pot. Saute vegetables until soft. Add garlic, cilantro, tomatoes and spices. Continue to saute 3 minutes more. Add cooked black beans and chicken stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. The soup's flavor improves if it is reheated and served the following day with a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese on top of each serving. Makes 8 servings.

CURRIED CLAM CHOWDER

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup diced carrots

3/4 cup diced potatoes

1/4 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced onions, or more if desired

1/2 cup corn kernels (optional)

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 bay leaf

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup chopped sea clams

2 cups clam juice (increase to 2 1/2 cups if using corn)

1/2 cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in heavy saucepan and add the carrots, potatoes, celery and onions (and corn if using). Saute briefly, then add the curry powder, thyme and bay leaf and continue cooking until the onions and celery are soft.

Add the flour, stirring until well-mixed, then add the clam juice and clams, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer soup for about 15 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

SPICY TOMATO SOUP

3 cans (6-ounce) spicy tomato cocktail

4 tablespoons diced avocado

4 tablespoons diced cooked chicken

Fresh cilantro leaves

Diced celery or green pepper (optional)
Heat tomato cocktail in a saucepan over medium heat. Add avocado and chicken chunks and heat through; float cilantro leaves on top. If desired, garnish with celery or green pepper. Makes 2 servings.

CHEDDAR CHEESE SOUP WITH APPLES AND SMOKED BACON

8 thick slices smoked bacon

1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, mashed

4 red apples

4 green apples

5 cups hot chicken stock

1 pound cheddar cheese, grated

Worcestershire, Tabasco, lemon juice and salt, to taste

Chives for garnish
Place bacon in 2 stacks of 4 slices each and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces. Heat a 2-quart saucepan and cook bacon until almost crisp. Remove 1/4 of the bacon and set aside for garnish; pour off half the bacon fat in the pan.

Add onion to the saucepan, return to heat and saute until onion is lightly caramelized. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Coarsely chop 3 of the red and 3 of the green apples and add to saucepan. Saute 5 minutes more, then add chicken stock and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Set aside 4 tablespoons of the greated cheddar for garnish. Whisk remaining cheese into soup and continue cooking, stirring until cheese is melted and soup thickens slightly.

Pour soup into food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary) and puree. Strain through a medium sieve. Season with a few drops each Worcestershire and Tabasco, and add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Pour into soup bowls. Sprinkle with chives and serve with the reserved bacon and cheddar, 2 finely chopped red apple and 1 finely chopped green apple. Makes 6 servings.

MINESTRONE WITH PISTOU

1/2 cup olive oil

5 medium carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2 small red onions, diced

2 ripe, unpeeled tomatoes, diced

4 zucchini diced

3 leaves savoy cabbage, chopped

2 leaves black or purple cabbage, chopped

2 leaves Chinese cabbage, chopped (optional)

1 handful Italian parsley, chopped

6 leaves sweet basil, chopped

1 cup chicken broth or stock

3/4 cup cooked white beans

1/2 pound uncooked macaroni OR 1/2 cup rice

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup tomato puree (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pistou, recipe follows, OR additional olive oil

Grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a deep kettle or stockpot and saute carrots, celery and onions until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, zucchini, the cabbages, Italian parsley, sweet basil and chicken stock. Cover pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the cooked beans and pasta or rice. If more liquid is needed to cover, add boiling water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking, covered, about 15 minutes or until the pasta or rice is done. (Rice and pasta can be precooked separately, but the flavor of the soup will be diminished.)

Add the diced potato and continue cooking 10 to 15 minutes or until potato is tender. If you prefer a redder soup broth, thin the tomato puree with hot water and add a few minutes before soup is done. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into bowls and float each serving with a dollop of pistou or a little olive oil. Pass the parmesan along with long croutons made from baguettes or rough country bread. Makes 6 servings.

Pistou: Place 3 cloves garlic, 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and 4 to 5 branches of Italian parsley in food processor or blender and coarsely puree.

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