Nothing makes for a lovelier winter’s weekend that curling up with a book full of soup recipes — and a big mug of homemade creamy cauliflower soup.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a girl fell in love with a little coffee shop. This little coffee shop sat on a nondescript street in a worn-down town in a neighboring state. The shop served coffee, pastries, and sandwiches — nothing fancy — and walking inside reminded her of her grad school days, when you made yourself feel right at home with your closest buds in someone’s matchbox apartment, filled with mismatched furniture, pizza (sometimes hot, usually cold), and lots of love and laughter.
The girl spent a lot of time in this coffee shop, both with friends and without, and soon a dream was born: a soup shop, open weekdays for lunch and carry-out dinner, with the best, yeastiest, fluffy-crusty breads ever baked, and — of course — rich, comforting soups, where people would come in from the cold, shrug off their coats, and huddle together over a hot meal. Buckets of markers and pastels and charcoal pencils would line a blank white wall, ready for community mural art to be made: draw your own thing or embellish someone else’s. On certain weekends of the month, a soup buffet would line that wall of art, and all would be welcome to a bowl of soup and some time out of the harsh elements (whether sun and heat or snow and frost). Pay what you can, if you can.
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life thinking about soup. Even back then, in my dreamier youthful adult days, I suspected soup had the power to bring people together in fundamentally kind-hearted ways, just like in the old Stone Soup fable (which, by the way, was going to be the name of my shop).
So when Storey Publishing contacted me about their new cookbook release, Soup Night, I happily agreed to review it, and as soon as it hit my doorstep, I settled down on the couch with a hot cup of tea and totally immersed myself in this neighborhood block party version of my soup shop dreams.
Interspersed among the 99 soup recipes (and 40 recipes for sides and desserts) are stories of folks who used soup to bring together their neighbors for the bonding ritual of dinner. The premise of a community Soup Night is beautifully simple: once a month or so, a volunteer host opens their home and provides 3 or 4 pots of soup; guests bring bowls and utensils (easy clean-up for the host), and all get to know each other over the welcoming comfort of soup.
Here’s how it worked for the author’s brother, who first introduced to her the concept of Soup Night:
The Stanton Street Soup Night was designed from the very beginning as a way to bring neighbors together. Everyone on the block — every single person, corner to corner, on both sides of the street — is invited. The whole idea is for neighbors who might not otherwise have a natural point of contact to get to know one another. Through the simple act of sitting down to a meal together on a regular basis, even people who have very little in common build a genuine relationship.
At its core, Soup Night is a stunningly simple idea: get everybody together once a month for an informal soup supper. What is not so simple — what is in fact quite extraordinary — is what happens next.
- A strong sense of community replaces social isolation.
- People no longer feel like strangers.
- Children thrive in a safe environment, watched over by many loving adults.
- Any emergency, small or large, is met with instant assistance.
- Seniors and people living alone have a new sense of security and belonging.
- Life seems richer, kinder, sweeter, and more fun.
- And it is healthier, in all dimensions, physical, psychological, and emotional.
Author Maggie Stuckey seamlessly blends Soup Night tales with recipes from her contributors, organizing the book quite sensibly by season. The soup recipes are packed with flavor, are doable for a crowd, and many are slow-cooker adaptable (which is especially appealing when prepping multiple soups for a Soup Night).
The recipes are so doable, in fact, that today’s example, Creamy Cauliflower Soup, was a quick lunch for me one chilly, blustery afternoon. I’m so happy to share it with you today.
The book also provides well-grounded tips for making soup for a crowd, as well as serving suggestions that everyone will love (such as recipes for homemade soup toppers, like Parmesan crisps and red pepper puree).
For those of us who love cookbooks with heart and substance, Soup Night will occupy a well-deserved spot on your shelf. And don’t be surprised if it inspires you to start your own Soup Night, large or small. And even if you’re like me — I have no neighbors within shouting distance, literally — you’ll reach for this book’s soup recipes time and again, especially as the snow begins to fly.
So, whatever happened to Stone Soup Cafe? The realities of running a restaurant eventually sank in, driven home by a particularly terrible upper respiratory infection that flattened me for a week. While propped upright on the couch for the third day in a row, feverish and cold-medicine-addled (“flattened” is a figure of speech – I couldn’t actually breathe lying down), it occurred to me: if I were running a small, start-up restaurant with a skeleton crew, what would happen if I couldn’t be there, day in and day out? The dream faded over time (although I still owned the business name for a while after, and still receive mail for it), but was eventually funneled into this blog. So if you’ve ever wondered about my focus on soup, now you know. :^) But all in all, I think things worked out the way they were meant to, as they often do in life.
And now, the Giveaway! [Closed – winner selected!]
Storey Publishing is letting me give away a copy of “Soup Night” to one lucky commenter (sorry, U.S. shipping addresses only).
Author: Maggie Stuckey
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Size: 9 x 8″
Released: October 22, 2013
Here’s a sampling of the recipes you’ll find inside:
Lentil soup with bacon and orzo (SoupAddict tested: yummy!)
Mulligatawny with apple salsa
Winter root soup
Yellow split pea soup
Neely’s potato cheese soup
Smoked chicken chowder (SoupAddict tested: yummy!)
Cheddar drop biscuits
Double blueberry tart
Mimi’s double chocolate brownies
To enter, leave a comment below with your personal favorite soup or stew that you would love to serve (or eat!) at a Soup Night (one comment per person).
The giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday, November 17th (eastern time), and I’ll draw and announce the winner on Monday, November 18th (please use a valid email address so I can contact the winner and exchange particulars).
Update: And the winner is …
Sarah, commenter #16! Congrats, Sarah, you’ll be hearing from me shortly with the deets!
Thanks to all who took the time to enter — wishing everyone a season filled with hot, delicious soups!
Disclosure: I received one copy of the book from the publisher for purposes of conducting this review. In order to properly evaluate the content, I prepared several of its recipes at my own expense. All opinions expressed herein are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
The cooking technique here is basically a slow-cooker process — dump everything in and heat it up — which means that if your stove is full up with other soups that need hovering over on your Soup Night, you can easily make this in a slow cooker.
The soup is simplicity in itself, and is prime for all kinds of toppings and add-ins, such as chopped nuts, crushed red pepper flakes (which I used in the photos), croutons, pepitas, parmesan crisps or a drizzle of sriracha. This soup is also super easy to veganize without losing a lick of flavor: just substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and coconut milk for the dairy.
- 8 leeks, trimmed and finely chopped, white part only
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cauliflower head, finely chopped (about 6 cups)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 2/3 cups nonfat milk, heated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- chopped fresh chives for garnish
- Combine the leeks, onions, cauliflower, bay leaves, and chicken broth in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
- Add the hot milk, salt, and pepper, and transfer the soup to a blender (careful, it's hot) and puree until smooth, then return to the pot. Or use an immersion belnder and puree the soup right in the pot.
- Serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese or your other favorite topping.
Excerpted from Soup Night © Maggie Stuckey used with permission from Storey Publishing