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VOL. 39 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 20, 2015

Soup: From afterthought to main course

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Last week, hubby and I were in Cleveland taking care of some business. We got a hotel close enough to be able to walk to our destination, and pretty much stayed put for the whole week. Most of the downtown area of Cleveland, where we were staying, was under major construction, so venturing out to explore like we usually do wasn’t much of an option.

However, one evening, we were rather tired of eating at the hotel restaurant, so we pulled out the computer to find nearby eating establishments.

I wanted a restaurant with Lake Erie views, and although it was not a long taxi ride to the lakeside from where we were, we couldn’t settle on a restaurant.

Most seemed to be “white linen tablecloth” establishments. We were wearing our walking clothes, and neither one of us felt like changing, so we decided on the restaurant in a nearby hotel lobby.

This one we could walk to, and since it was still fairly early in the dinner hour time frame, we felt our attire would fit in with the crowd.

We were right – there were both happy hour after-work people, along with shoppers and sightseers dressed as casually as we were.

The staff and the menu, though, were not casual. It turns out that the restaurant, Table 45, is a top-notch, trendy restaurant in the lobby of a hotel, surrounded by the Cleveland Medical Clinic.

Each of the restaurant’s five zones offers designs for different moods, from quiet and intimate to casual and high energy. The owners intended the various spaces to highlight the energy of the people, including an emerging trend toward casual elegance, where guests can experience high-end dining without the formality of traditional restaurants.

Tomato-Ginger Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger
8 cups chicken broth
2 cans (28 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add carrots, celery, ginger and 1 cup of chicken broth.

Simmer 10 minutes, or until liquid has almost completely evaporated.
Add remaining broth and tomatoes with liquid. Simmer soup for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until ginger has mellowed and the vegetables are soft.

Using a blender, an immersion blender or food processor, purée soup in several batches until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat soup over medium heat.

First I had the Tomato Ginger Bisque (and my recipe this week), then I traveled on to a tasty Grilled Pear Salad, followed with a sushi roll, and then the entrée of Autumn Chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and quail egg with pomegranate molasses.

Yeah, it was all very delicious, but the one item I had never had before was the tomato soup with ginger.

It was awesome. And so comforting.

Ever wonder what soup means? Maybe it seems silly to even define the word because it’s so elementary, but I started searching anyway and found more information than I needed.

For instance, the definition of soup, by overwhelming majority, seems to be any combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked in a liquid.

But there’s also gumbo, consommé, bisque, chowder, and bouillabaisse.

In my search, I also found the word “souper,” which means really good soup or someone who serves soup.

Then there’s Stone Soup, The Soup Nazi on “Seinfield” (“No soup for you!”), Chicken Soup for the Soul, Soup Kitchen and ABC Soup, but not the children’s favorite from Campbell’s. This particular ABC soup is for computer programming.

Speaking of comfort foods, soup has always been and always will be our constant companion. After all, try cozying up to a steak or plate of spaghetti when you have the flu.

And what else smells as comforting and inviting as when you walk into a house where a large pot of soup is cooking? The aroma alone immediately conjures up thoughts of mom’s kitchen, cozy places, and security.

At one time, soup was almost an afterthought, only offered as part of the soup or salad course, but now, to my delight since soup is one of my favorite foods, it’s a basic in most restaurants.

Almost every dining establishment offers soup or soup combos such as soup and salad, or soup and sandwich, making a quick but filling lunch for busy patrons.

One thing for sure: a steaming bowl of hearty soup can warm you to your toes in cold weather. Yeah, I know, the weather isn’t really “cold” here yet, but it’s coming - so prepare your soup menu now!

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.

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