by Domenica Marchetti
from Fine Cooking #130, pp. 58-63
Why should the start of grilling season signal the end of soup season? Think about it: Now is when nature's most glorious parade of vegetables is at farmers' markets-juicy tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, green and golden squash, purple eggplant, and crisp, fresh corn among them. These beauties are good for more than just a quick turn on the grill or a spot in your salad bowl; they are prime soup vegetables, and as cooks across Italy know well, they make incredibly flavorful, fragrant summer soups (and I'm not talking about cold soups, either).
I still remember relishing bowls of my Aunt Gilda's Summer Greens and Rice Soup. Even after a midsummer morning playing on a hot beach on the Abruzzo coast, it was a most welcome lunch, served barely warm and garnished with a drizzle of peppery extra-virgin olive oil.
That's the key to a summer soup-serving temperature. Don't serve them piping hot, but rather just warm or at room temperature, as the Italians do. That way, they fit perfectly with the weather, and soup season never has to end.
|Roasted Vegetable Broth||Farmers' Market Minestrone|
|Creamy Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup||Summer Greens and Rice Soup|
Italian cooks build flavor into their soups at every step of the cooking process. Here are a few ways you can do this, too.
- For a meaty flavor boost, cook some diced pancetta along with the aromatics (carrot, onion, celery).
- Add minced fresh, hardy herbs, like rosemary or thyme, to the aromatics for deeper herbal notes.
- Use homemade broth whenever possible for the most natural flavor.
- Freeze leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds and then toss one into the soup pot to infuse the broth. Bonus: Scraping the softened cheese from the rind before serving the soup is the ultimate cook's treat.
- Garnish your soup to add contrasting or complementary textures and flavors. Freshly grated Parmigiano or pecorino, toasted croutons, fried sage leaves, and/or a drizzle of really good extra-virgin olive oil are all delicious options.
Photos by Scott Phillips