Before you even reach the kitchen you know something good is on the stove, because you smell the aroma of homemade soup. Especially in fall and winter, we savor the comforts as well as the nourishment served up in a bowl or a cup.
What makes soup a seasonal favorite? What goes inside, of course. It starts with a little thoughtfulness and time. Flour Sack Mama asked a couple of East Tennessee’s most popular dining spots for kitchen access to discover what makes their soups so special. Hint: they both started by cooking onions. Onions and/or garlic are the traditional herbs that give most homemade soup its umph, even if you detect only a hint of it later on.
“I love soup any time of the year – however in the colder months it just warms your bones,” shared Tomato Head restaurant owner Mahasti Vafaie. “We have some really wonderful, hearty soup recipes that can stand alone as the perfect balanced meal.”
Tomato Head prep kitchen manager Brandon Rogers suggested you might want to decide whether you want to use a butter or an oil along with your onions and/or garlic. Then he said you can always add more spices as you go along. One of the best secrets to bringing out the flavors? Rogers advised, “Salt and pepper are your best friends with soup.”
The Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville’s historic Market Square serves up some sophisticated soup blends that include a range of vegetables and even fruits. On the day we visited, we had just missed a soup crafted from locally grown pumpkins. The new focus was on tomato soup. The restaurant has a distinct diced tomato with chipotle spice soup, which we tasted. It also uses a Southern roux base for a creamy nostalgic take on tomato.
Vafaie explained, “I wanted to come up with a close proximation to Campbell’s Tomato Soup made from scratch. I think of Tomato Soup as comfort food – so many of us grew up on Campbell’s – eating our version brings back so many childhood memories and associations. I particularly love Tomato Soup with Grilled cheese…it is a perfect pairing.”
The humble potato, which according to French author Mageulonne Toussaint-Samat in A History of Food was served in soup form to Parisian peasants, is still satisfying soup eaters around the world. That is, if they’re willing to wait for it. We caught up with cook Erin McCabe as she chopped potatoes in The Market in Maryville. Flash fried onions with butter, plus a medley of spices to taste all helped create the perfect potato soup for a cooler fall day.
Why make your own soup from scratch? McCabe answered, “You can control the amount of sodium and mysterious foods ingredients that are going into your meal.”
The Market, which buys as much local and regional food as possible, often determines which soup it will create based on seasonal surpluses. The day we visited, potatoes were plentiful.
The Market creates soups five gallons at a time. Diners can also choose from a mouthwatering sandwich menu to for pairings with soup. The Market owner Paul “Butch” Clark and manager Mike Adams agree their most popular soup served is lobster bisque.
How can you make the most of soup season? Here are a few ideas:
- Use what’s available, local, and on sale, then plan accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid to start with some canned ingredients and enhance after that.
- Keep spices as simple as salt and pepper, unless you’re feeling more adventurous.
- Give it some time. Simmering your creation on the stove brings the added joy of something festive in the air.
- Bake some bread. The word “soup” originates from a French term meaning to sop up broth with slices of bread.
- Can’t eat it all up? Share with neighbors or freeze some.
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