February 11, 2009 in Food

Local soup swappers unite

Seattle’s wet winters inspired idea that hit Spokane recently
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Courtesy of Cheryl Matamoros photo

Soup swappers Gerry Kittel, Sandy Alderson, Sherry Greer and Laurie Rogers shared a meal before trading quarts of soup during their Spokane Soup Swap. Courtesy of Cheryl Matamoros
(Full-size photo)

Soup Swap tips

Here are some tips for those who are new to soup swapping, compiled from the Soup Swap originators at soupswap.com/news and from the soup experts at The Gracious Bowl blog, www.graciousbowl.com.

Cooling

Cool soup quickly before placing in the refrigerator. To do it, place the uncovered pot into a sink or large bowl filled with ice water. Stirring will help the soup cool faster. Placing hot or warm soup into the fridge or freezer can mean the food spends too much time in the “danger zone,” or at temperatures where harmful bacteria can grow.

When the soup is cool it can be placed in the refrigerator. Any excess fat will solidify at the top of the container and can be easily removed.

Freezing and Storing

Once the soup is chilled, divide it into containers that are moisture-proof, vapor-proof and freezer-safe. Leave about a 1/4-inch of space in the containers to allow the liquid to expand as it freezes. Instead of stacking the soups in the freezer, leave a bit of space between containers so the cold air can circulate and the soup will freeze faster.

There are many disposable or reusable vessels sold at grocery stores. Zip-top freezer storage bags can be used. Be sure to get as much air as possible out of the bag, while still leaving room for expansion.

Canning jars can be safely stored in the freezer. Leave enough head room and store them upright to avoid leaks. Place a piece of plastic wrap under the lid for an extra airtight seal.

One quart = 2 pints = 4 cups = 32 fluid ounces.

Labeling

Label the containers with the name of the soup and the date it was placed in the freezer. It’s also a good idea to indicate if the soup is suitable for vegetarians and if it contains any ingredients that could be a problem for those with allergies. Also make a note if it is spicy.

Reheating

Never defrost soup at room temperature. Thaw containers in the refrigerator. Reheat soups in the microwave until steaming hot or on the stovetop in a sauce pan or pot.

Cream-based soups don’t freeze as well as others and may separate when reheated. Whisk vigorously to remix or whirl in a blender for a minute or two. Frozen potato soups can change in texture, but not as much in flavor. Pasta in soups tends to be softer when reheated. Undercook the pasta by a couple of minutes or make the soup without and add dried pasta when it is reheated.

Eat within two to three months for the best flavor.

It was a cold, gray Spokane day when Cheryl Matamoros discovered Soup Swap while she was searching for soup recipes online.

She loved the idea of gathering friends to trade quarts of homemade soup and she was a little surprised that Spokane wasn’t already on the Soup Swap map. She vowed to host the area’s first Soup Swap just before it started snowing and snowing and snowing.

“It was January before I thought, ‘Now when was that soup swap supposed to be?’ ” she says.

Soup Swap started with Seattle resident Knox Gardiner in the 1990s. Gardiner says on the Web site that soup was an economical way to eat during Seattle’s wet winters, but “day three or four into the best pot of soup though can get awfully tedious.”

That’s when Gardiner began trading soups with friends. When he moved to Boston in 2005, he took the idea with him, while his friends in Seattle kept swapping soups there.

In 2006, he shared the idea on the Internet and pretty soon people were swapping soups across the country. Each year, they declare a date at the end of January for an official Soup Swap, but encourage people to swap when they can. The site includes the basics for hosting the swap, which Matamoros followed for her gathering. Seven women gathered at Matamoros’ home in the Indian Trail area. Since the group was small, Matamoros added a twist by serving dinner – Chicken and Tortellini Vegetable Stew with roasted garlic bread.

The guests brought Chicken Taco Soup, Pumpkin Soup, African Peanut Soup, White Chicken Chili, Carrot Chowder, Curried Squash Soup, Chicken and Brown Rice Soup, Southwestern Chicken and White Bean Soup, Steak Soup and Chicken and Vegetable Chowder. Some brought only one kind of soup, while others brought quarts of different kinds.

One of the highlights of a Soup Swap is the “Telling of the Soup,” when cooks talk about what they’ve made. The cooks shared tips for making the recipes they were providing and offered warnings about the spiciness of their offerings.

Gerry Kittel shared a steak soup that actually relies on hamburger that is baked in the oven and cut before it is added to the soup. The original recipe came from Clinkerdagger, she said.

Laurie Rogers brought her husband’s Chicken Vegetable Chowder to swap but no recipe. “It’s different every time and it’s always fabulous,” she said.

After eating and swapping soup stories, the women drew numbers to decide who would pick first. Each took home as many quarts as she brought. While the swapping ensued they all gathered around Matamoros’ kitchen island to admire the soups. There were murmurs of content all around. Several said they were looking forward to the effortless dinners. Some said the soup would be their lunches.

Matamoros is already planning to host another swap next January. And she hoping others in the area will be inspired to start swapping. She’s posted the details about her swap at www.spokanesoupswap. blogspot.com and she’d love to hear about other swaps.

There are also guidelines, tips, handy links and recipes on the original Soup Swap site at www.soupswap.com/news.

Here are some of the recipes they shared at the first Spokane Soup Swap.

Crockpot Chicken and Vegetable Tortellini Stew

From Cheryl Matamoros, of Spokane. For this make-ahead soup, cooks can assemble the ingredients in a zip-top freezer bag and store in the freezer for a slow cooker meal on a busy day. Serve the finished soup with crusty bread.

1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced diagonally

1 cup onion, chopped

2 pounds raw chicken (breast or thigh meat), cut into bite sized pieces

3 cups cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup fennel bulb, chopped

1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves packed

3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (48-ounce) can chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup dried tortellini (see note)

Fresh parmesan cheese, to garnish

Steam carrots and onions until softened. Place the carrot, onion and following seven ingredients (chicken through pepper) in a zip-top freezer bag. Store in freezer until ready to use.

To make the soup, defrost the contents of the bag overnight in the refrigerator. Place the defrosted contents of the bag in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add chicken broth and 1 cup water. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. About 30 minutes before eating add the tortellini to the slow cooker.

Note: If using fresh tortellini, wait to add pasta to the slow cooker until about 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Steak Soup

From Gerry Kittel, of Spokane. Kittel said this recipe is from Clinkerdagger.

1 pound ground beef

8 tablespoons margarine

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced carrots

2/3 cup diced celery

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 quarts cold water

2 1/2 ounces Le Gout beef stock base (see note)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (12-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice

1/2 pound frozen mixed vegetables

To prepare the ground beef, evenly distribute the ground beef on a rimmed cookie sheet and cook in the oven at 500 degrees about 10 minutes, until brown. Cool. Chop into 1-by-1 inch chunks.

Use stock pot on medium heat and melt margarine. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Add flour to make a roux and bring to 180 degrees. Add half of the water and all of the beef base. Cook 20 minutes. Add the rest of the water and the chopped tomatoes with juice. Cook 10 minutes and add mixed vegetables and prepared meat.

Note: It is important to use a paste soup base for the soup and not a powder.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

African Peanut Soup

From Cheryl Matamoros, of Spokane

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

2 cups prepared salsa

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 yam, peeled and cubed

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine broth, water, chicken breasts, cumin and salsa in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.

Sauté potatoes, yam, onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno.

Shred cooked chicken and return to the soup pot. Add sautéed vegetables.

Simmer 1 to 2 more hours or cook in a slow cooker 4 to 5 hours. Whisk in the peanut butter during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Yield: About 6 quarts

Curried Squash Soup

From Cheryl Matamoros, of Spokane

1 3/4 pound butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red curry paste

Dash cayenne pepper

5 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

Cilantro cream topping (recipe follows)

Place squash cut side down in a greased baking pan. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out pulp; set aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the flour, salt, curry paste and cayenne until blended. Stir in broth. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender or food processor, place half the broth mixture and squash; cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining broth mixture and squash. Return to the saucepan; heat through.

Top with Cilantro Cream.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Cilantro Cream Topping

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (parsley may be substituted)

Combine until smooth.

Yield: About 3/4 cup

Reach staff writer Lorie Hutson at (509) 459-5446 or lorieh@spokesman.com.

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