The Soup Club Cookbook Makes You Wish You Were a Member

Beware: once you’ve read the vivid, inspiring Soup Club Cookbook, you’ll be powerless not to start a club of your own.

The story
In late 2011, four friends in a Lower East Side apartment building started a club around the sharing of the ultimate comfort food. Soup club is comprised of Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow, and Julie Peacock—”an educator, an ecologist, a filmmaker, (and) a nutritionist”—who have, for the past three years, taken turns making a weekly soup in holiday-party proportions and leaving it at each other’s front doors. The club’s manifesto states: “We declare that soup shall be shared,” “Soup Club is a state of being, not a monthly meeting,” and, most potently, “The magical delivery of soup to your door is elemental to soup club.”

The soups
Many of their soups are simple, but none of them phone it in. Most come with optional garnishes, possibly the best part of a bowl of soup—Beck Chicken Chili with scallions, avocados, queso, and tortilla chips, or Carrot Coconut Soup with almonds, bread, and crème fraîche. Some are put together after delivery, like the Faux Ramen, an assemblage of broth, noodles, protein, vegetables, kimchi, kale chips, and scallions. And some, like the Winter Minestrone below, are perfect straight out of the pot (but don’t hesitate to add the suggested garnishes if you’ve got them: baguette, herbs, pesto, and cheese).

The answer to every question
Want healthy work lunches? Make soup. Need to feed your family for a week on one night’s worth of work? Soup! Looking for something to freeze before going into a busy period? Did somebody say SOUP? Even if you don’t belong to a soup collective, a huge batch of the stuff is always a good idea. Try taking a page out of the club’s cookbook and achieving the highest soup-making purpose of all: sneak just one bowl for yourself, then take the rest to a friend in need of a homemade-dinner delivery (we all know someone in need of a homemade-dinner delivery).

The rest of the table
Soup makes a meal on its own, but the book is rounded out with sections on salads, sides, mains, and snacks, all of them easy to make and the perfect complements to a homemade bowl of you-know-what. Perfect Soup Club Cookbook meals include Cheddar Cornbread, Corn and Red Pepper Salad, and Chicken, Andouille, and Okra Gumbo, or Pan-Asian Red Cabbage Salad with Sesame Noodles and Thai Fish Curry.

The tips and stories
The book is full of soup-making cheat sheets and club-starting advice, plus charming extras that’ll make you want to move to Manhattan and join this particular soup club—like Laskow’s “Incomplete Autobiography with Soup,” Allison’s “Music to Cook To,”  and soup-making (and bulk-cooking) advice from local firefighters, who know what they’re doing when it comes to eating en masse.

The recipe
Have we convinced you yet to submit to the charismatic ways of soup club? Here’s a recipe from the book, for a hearty, simple Winter Minestrone that will warm you from the inside out.

Soup Club Winter MinestroneWinter Minestrone
Makes 8 quarts
This is a sort of “clean-out-the-fridge” soup, as any variety of vegetables will do. The soup’s rich flavor comes from tossing your old Parmesan rinds into the soup as it cooks, so DO NOT skip this step! Also, the addition of the garlicky pesto brightens the soup and even gives it a little kick. If you don’t have time to make the pesto, toss in the fresh herbs at the end and swirl in a touch of garlic paste. All three of my kids willingly shove big spoonfuls of this seasonal soup into their mouths. Truly, the highest of compliments.  –Julie

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
3 bunches mixed greens (Swiss chard, mustard greens, and/or kale), finely chopped with stalk ends trimmed (about 15 cups)
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
3 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with their juice
3 quarts vegetable broth or chicken broth, plus more if needed
8 inches Parmesan rinds*
1 pound carrots, diced
1 medium butternut squash
3 pounds, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 medium zucchini, diced
3 medium yellow summer squash, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 demi-baguettes
2 cups chopped fresh herbs(flat-leaf parsley and oregano or whatever is in season and easy to find)
2 cups Pesto made with kale and parsley (optional)
½ pound Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese

Heat the oil in the stockpot and add the onions, garlic, and mixed greens. Sprinkle with the salt and sauté until the vegetables are slightly wilted, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, Parmesan rinds, carrots, and butternut squash and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still firm.

Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook, loosely covered, for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. If the soup is toothick, add more broth or water.

Before ladling the soup into jars, fish out and discard the gooey cheese rinds. Season with salt and pepper.

For Delivery: Include 1 demi-baguette and one quarter of the herbs, pesto, and cheese.

To Serve: Reheat the soup and stir in a few pinches of the fresh herbs. Add a dollop of pesto and grate cheese over the top. Serve with warm baguette.

*If you don’t have parmesan rinds, ask if your grocery store will give you some. If they sell their own grated cheese in the deli section, chances are they’ve got cheese rinds to spare.

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