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Book Reviews

Review: Love Soup

by Nick

Every other weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it’s incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.

I’ve been experimenting with some soups lately and I’m starting to fall in love. I’ve known for awhile that soup is a very versatile thing, but it’s not until you step into the kitchen and start experimenting that you start to realize all the many facets of soup.

Because of this, I was really excited to open up “Love Soup” by Anna Thomas. Even though it’s all vegetarian, I wasn’t worried that the 160 recipes in the book would be varied and delicious. In fact, after thinking about it, a lot of my favorite soups are vegetarian so I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t miss the meat in this case.

Getting ready for soup

The thing about soup is that it can be completely simple. You don’t need a lot of tools and sometimes just a few ingredients can make a wonderful soup. In the first 40 pages or so, the author talks about how she fell in love with soup (and cooking in general) and some basic tools and techniques you’ll need.

The author tells a great story about how she was once remodeling her house and moved into an attached part studio where she did all her cooking in an 81 inch kitchen – wall to wall. She made a lot of soup in that kitchen. A lot of those soups are documented in this book.

Taking Stock

Chapter one of this book is very important because it introduces stocks and broths. These are the backbone for so many soups and Anna does a good job at giving a basic broth but then some good variations on it depending on what kind of soup you are building. I must say that I’m a sucker for really good chicken stock, but there are some original vegetable stocks in the chapter and I have no doubt that they are packed with flavor.

To me, the dark vegetable broth seemed really good. The veggies, including mushrooms, leeks, potatoes, and many other flavorful things, get sauteed first. This browns them nicely and gives the whole thing a very earthy, dark taste. Sounds amazing. All of the stocks though seem like very solid bases for any number of soups.

Spring and Summer

I’m skipping around a bit in the book, but I wanted to talk about some of the summer soups first because, well, it’s summer. I was literally blown away when I started reading some of these soups. I mean, for soup, a lot of these recipes are very inventive and just seem delicious. Most of them only rely on a few very fresh ingredients, which I also like.

Things like fresh pea soup with mint cream, nettle and kale soup (never used nettles before, but they seem interesting), and a sweet corn soup all caught my eye. Then there are some heartier options like an escarole and potato soup. I should also note that Anna is a really good and funny writer. Her descriptions for some of these soups are great. For example, for this soup she says, “The result is a homey soup with a luxurious feel, like an Irish colcannon that got dressed up for a party.”

A Warm Bowl

On a cold winter day there isn’t much that is nicer than a warm bowl of homemade soup. Honestly, sometimes even canned stuff hits the spot, but a bowl of homemade is usually much better. I can say that I would devour basically every winter soup that Anna writes about in the fall and winter soups chapters.

One soup that really caught my eye was the sopa de poblanos. She mentions that she had to adapt this soup to be vegetarian so I may have to look up what was originally in it, but even her vegetarian version look awesome. I love poblanos and so why not make a warm winter soup out of them?! Basically every page is a new original soup that I want to try.

From Soup to Meal

The last part of the book includes a number of recipes for items that might be good to accompany some of the earlier soups in the book. This is no small part of the book. It spans over 100 pages and has tons of good stuff. I would say that this section alone is better than some other books in entirety. There’s some good stuff here.

For starters when I think of soup, I also think of bread. Anna gives about 15 or 20 really nice bread recipes for things like whole-wheat walnut bread and Irish soda bread. Biscuits, crostini, and croutons are all included.

Then there are some sections for things that I didn’t really think would be in this book. And I think that some of these later parts stem more from the vegetarian nature of the book than the soup nature of the book. So, for example, there are a number of hummus recipes and salsa recipes that look damn good. Then there’s a dish called Sara’s spinach pie that I will be making for brunch very shortly.

Like I said at the beginning of this book, this is a fantastic book even though I have a special place in my heart for some meat soups, like a good chicken noodle soup. But I wasn’t really missing them in this book. This may be because I’ve been trying to eat less meat recently, but I think it’s also because her recipes look flavorful and interesting so who needs meat right?!

Anyway, if you are a vegetarian or a soup lover, Love Soup would be a great book for you. If you’re neither of those things but are considering becoming either of them (I recommend becoming a soup lover), this would also be a great resource.

Another book by Anna Thomas:

The New Vegetarian Epicure