What Southern Folks Eat

A Southern twist of savory soups

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"Only the pure in heart can make good soup," Ludwig Van Beethoven is quoted as having said. I'm not sure whether that's true or not, but I do believe that good soup is a heartening delight that is especially perfect when cool weather finally arrives. Good soup satisfies hungry stomachs, soothes head colds, and comforts chilly bodies.

Soup was a common meal at our house when I was growing up on St. Joe Beach. When my sister and I were little girls, Mom would make grilled cheese sandwiches for us to dunk into creamy tomato soup for a comforting lunch. On special occasions, Dad would make a big pot of steaming, spicy gumbo, using just-caught shrimp and fish he'd buy off the boats in Apalachicola. The scent of the simmering liquid would fill the house with its luscious aroma and make us all hungry to dive in. 

When we were sick, dad would bring us Campbell's chicken noodle soup, and, like every other kid, we'd pretend the noodles were worms as we slurped them off our spoons. As much as I had always enjoyed, say, a batch of mom's fried shrimp or a hot pizza, fresh from the oven, that was not what I craved during illness of any kind. I wanted a steaming mug of savory, broth-y soup; it was like a welcome old friend, soothing during the most difficult moments. I still feel that way.

I have learned over the years how to make some really good soups. There were disappointing ones from time to time, of course, but I continued experimenting, determined not to rely on good ol' Campbell's every time my kids wanted soup. As handy as opening a can of condensed soup is, making it from scratch definitely pays off with more flavor and more nutritional value.

I've been making the following simple recipes for several years now. They're incredibly delicious, and even better, they take just a short time to make. I think you will enjoy them if you're hankering for a warm meal but don't have a lot of time to work over the stove. 

The spinach, turnip greens, garlic, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and all the other ingredients in these two recipes add excellent (and quintessentially Southern) flavor, of course, but also important nutrients that will help get us through cold and flu season. I hope you'll give them a try soon!

"Nothing fixes whatever is wrong like a big steaming pot of homemade soup." - Chef Paul Prudhomme 

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she. You can email her at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com, and find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com.



Tortellini-vegetable soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 cups frozen bell pepper and onion mix, thawed and diced (or chop your own fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 6- to 9-ounce package fresh or frozen cheese tortellini (or small ravioli, if preferred)
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste, and salt, if needed

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. 
  2. Add onions, peppers, zucchini, garlic and crushed red pepper (if using) and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, water and basil; bring to a rolling boil over high heat while stirring.
  4. Stir in sugar or honey (this cuts the acidity of the tomatoes; omit, if you prefer)
  5. Add ravioli or tortellini and cook until the pasta floats to the top and is tender, and the zucchini is crisp-tender. (If using turnip greens, add now.)
  6. After the pasta floats and the zucchini is tender, add spinach leaves, if using, and cook just until the leaves are wilted in the soup, about two minutes.
  7. Season with pepper, and salt, if needed, and serve.

Makes four generous servings, about 350 calories each. Serve with garlic bread and a salad for supper, or enjoy a mug full anytime for a quick snack. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Thin with broth or hot water before reheating, if desired.



Sweet potato-sausage soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 to 12 ounces smoked link sausage
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth (you can even use water in a pinch)
  • 4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt
  • ½ pound turnip greens, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add sausage and turnip greens; cook until greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.
  • Tip: If soup boils too hard, you may need to add an extra cup of water or broth to make up for evaporation.

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