By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

Soups might be the ultimate comfort food. Who doesn’t feel better (even with a cold) with a bowl of warm chicken soup? And you can choose a soup for every occasion. No matter what the weather, the state of your health, or who’s coming for dinner, there’s a soup for you.

Heirloom Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 large fresh heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1⁄2-inch dice

5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 quart good quality low-sodium or vegetable stock, heated

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

30 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and let cook gently until it turns slightly golden — be careful not to let the garlic burn.

  2. Immediately stir in the tomatoes and gently sauté until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and let simmer another 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the basil and let the soup simmer gently 2 or 3 minutes more.

  3. Serve soup in warmed bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese.

The best way to peel and seed tomatoes is to blanch and shock them, to loosen the skin. Start by removing the stem end of the tomato with a small knife. Make an “x” in the opposite end of the tomato with the knife. Drop the tomatoes in gently boiling water for no longer than 10 seconds. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Then gently peel off the loosened skins.

To seed them, cut the tomatoes in half with the stem end on one side. Over a fine mesh strainer fitted onto a bowl or measuring cup, use one hand to scoop out the seeds, while squeezing the tomato half with the other. Don’t worry if you don’t get out all the seeds. A couple of seeds won’t hurt anyone.

Per serving: Kcalories 167 (Calories from Fat 86); Fat 10g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 4mg; Sodium 1,155mg; Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 5g.

Potato-Leek Soup

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Nonstick cooking spray

1 large leek, chopped and rinsed (don’t use the dark green part of leek)

2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

  1. Coat a large pot with cooking spray and place over medium heat until hot. Add the leeks. Sauté until soft and translucent.

  2. Add the potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Add the pepper and salt. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  3. Place half of contents of the pot into a blender, cover, and process until smooth.

  4. Carefully pour the blender mixture back into the pot with the remaining broth and potatoes. Stir together with a wire whisk. Bring back to a simmer.

Per serving: Kcalories 87 (From Fat 8); Fat 1g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 2mg; Sodium 134mg; Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 3g.

Check out the figure to see how to cut up a leek. Swish sliced leeks around in a bowl of cold water. Soak them for a few minutes until the dirt and grit settle to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the leeks out of the water and drain on a paper towel. Repeat the procedure again with fresh water.

[Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]
Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Nonstick cooking spray

1⁄2 cup diced onions

1⁄2 cup diced celery

1⁄2 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced fresh yucca

1⁄2 cup diced fresh tomatoes

1⁄2 cup diced zucchini

1 bay leaf

1⁄8 teaspoon thyme

1⁄2 teaspoon oregano

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper

  1. Choose a large pot with a tightly fitting lid. Coat the pot with the nonstick spray and cook, stirring constantly, the onions, celery, and carrots until the onions are translucent — about 5 to 7 minutes.

    You can spray the pot with additional cooking spray or add a little stock or water if the vegetables begin to stick or burn. Add the yucca, tomatoes, zucchini, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, chicken broth, and white pepper and stir to combine.

  2. Bring the vegetable soup to a boil over high heat, uncovered, and then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

  3. Remove the bay leaf and serve immediately as a light lunch or mini meal.

Per serving: Kcalories 124 (From Fat 10); Fat 1g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 2mg; Sodium 85mg; Carbohydrate 26g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 3g.