Making soup is a labor of love. A kitchen full of ingredients is corralled and chopped, coddled and simmered into one steaming vessel of nutritional bliss. Although the results are deeply satisfying, not all of us have the luxury of time (or talent) required for making our own sip-able sustenance. The solution: Heat and eat!
The following are a just a few winning soups from local purveyors that will obediently sit in your fridge, ready to nourish you when you’re tired/cold/hungry or just really need soup. All three of these options are either vegan or vegetarian, and each is kind to the wallet. As Judith Martin once wrote in a love letter to soup: “You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”
THE SOUP GIRL
Where: 1242 Whitney Ave., Hamden
What: Moroccan Red Lentil
This soup is a revelation, a complex concoction of ancient flavors and whispering spices that unfurls on the palate and makes a girl say, “Ahhh.” Though dense with soft red lentils and toothy chickpeas, it feels lighter than many bean-based soups, yet is hearty enough to make an easy supper (add your own Moroccan flatbread). How is this possible? Only the Soup Girl, a.k.a. Jessica Hazan, knows for sure. Her take-out shop in Hamden is soup Mecca, offering four hot, scratch-made varieties every day. There is always a gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan option, plus many more choices stashed in the fridge. Big news for locals: Order on Monday, and the Soup Girl will deliver fresh soup, salad, quiche or dessert to you on Thursday. How’s that for creature comfort?
ELM CITY MARKET
Where: 777 Chapel St., New Haven
What: Vegetarian Split Pea
Readers: If you haven’t yet discovered the prepared foods section at Elm City Market, don’t wait another day! Salads were a bachelorette’s pal all summer long (try the grilled salmon and spinach), and now that it’s chilly and miserable out there, ECM’s soups are just the thing to warm body and soul. The Vegetarian Split Pea is rich in flavor and has an ideal texture – not too thick, with nice pieces of carrots and celery visible – and a surprising smoky undertone that suggests ham. Is someone cheating? No, that satisfying flavor/aroma comes from liquid smoke, which is vegan (I checked). Liquid smoke can sometimes dominate a dish – not in a good way – but in this case, it is just enough to add depth and to keep the soup from feeling “less than,” in spite of its meatless-ness.
Where: 664 Grand Ave., New Haven
What: Escarole & Bean
As a die-hard Ferraro’s fan, I think I’ve tried nearly all of the ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook options at this market, which has been going strong since 1952. From stuffed mushrooms to eggplant rollatini to braciola, the store-made offerings at Ferraro’s allow harried hostesses to present foolproof dishes that they can almost take credit for. Soup varieties are plentiful, and although most are made with chicken or beef stock, the Escarole & Bean is all veggie – a humble soup made from homey ingredients. The tender escarole has a lemony taste, and the petite cannellini beans benefit from the earthy flavor of both parsnips and turnips in the broth. A great first course, especially with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan (sorry, vegans!). Bonus: An eight-ounce serving of this classic soup comes in at about $1.75.
Artwork by Todd Lyon