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Making soup the main event

Posted Oct 28 2010 12:00am
I’m not a big fan of soup served at the beginning of a meal, as an appetizer. The truth is, I don’t understand the point of appetizers in general. Are they supposed to whet your appetite? They usually subdue mine instead.

Sure, I’ve heard the suggestion that you should eat soup in order to fill up and eat less of the main course. This is the kind of diet advice I find annoyingly counterproductive. I don’t want to trick myself into eating less. I want to eat exactly as much as I need.

Besides, contrary to popular belief, you really can’t fool your body with such gimmicks as drinking a big glass of water before meals, using smaller plates, etc. Maybe you can fool your brain, but sooner or later, your body catches on and you feel hungry, and what do you reach for? Nothing as nutritious as what you would have eaten at dinner.

Soup as a main course, though -- that’s another matter entirely!

It takes a bit of chopping and fussing to make a good hearty soup, but in exchange for that small time investment, you now have something delicious and healthy to eat for days afterward. Homemade soup in the fridge or freezer is like money in the bank. Break out soup for a nearly instant dinner, lunch, or even breakfast. Put it in a spill-proof container and bring it to work. I like to take along a Thermos of soup on long car trips -- it’s a much better choice than anything I can find to eat on the road.

The crucial element that turns a soup into a main course is some form of protein. A plain vegetable soup, as delicious and healthy as that sounds, won’t keep you satisfied over the long haul. Definitely incorporate plenty of vegetables, but also include a protein source such as chicken, sausage, fish, tofu, or beans.

Of course, you can also get your protein from a side dish -- peanut butter and crackers, for instance, or a grilled cheese sandwich -- but we’re asking soup to cover all the bases here.

In the curried squash soup below, red lentils contribute protein, squash offers vitamins and antioxidants, while garlic and ginger add their germ-fighting warmth. This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the dearly missed Gourmet magazine.

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup

1 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. butter
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tb. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. curry powder
6 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and salt, and saute until vegetables are soft, 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder. Add water and lentils, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender to the point of falling apart, about 40 minutes (this thickens the soup).

Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.

© Make Friends With Food
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