- 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley
- Hardcover: 104 pages
- Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; Spiral edition (September 27, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-1449407933
Back-of-the-book blurb: Lynn Alley, author of The Gourmet Slow Cooker, is known for creating flavorful homemade meals using the kitchen’s most coveted countertop appliance–the slow cooker. Inside 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker, Alley presents bold combinations for 50 new vegetarian and vegan soup dishes that are as hearty as they are flavorful. Classics mingle with many unique offerings.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Lynn Alley has taught cooking throughout the western US and in southern France, and has written about food and wine for several newspapers and magazines, including Fine Cooking and Cook’s Illustrated. She authored five previous cookbooks – three of which focus on slow cookers.
This slim volume is even more finely tuned, offering vegetable-based soups that are satisfying, yet easy on the budget. Alley points out that these recipes, which incorporate fruits (yes, there are some fruit-based soups in the collection), grains, and vegetables, are also easier on the planet, and that ingredients are often on hand in your pantry or can be purchased locally. For those who sometimes prefer a little meat in their soup, it’s simple enough to incorporate a bit of cooked chicken (beef, ham, etc.) to the recipe.
Alley boosts flavor by sometimes browning some of the ingredients prior to adding them to the slow cooker (you’ll see this in the recipe I made, below); some higher-end slow cookers have cast aluminum inserts, which allow them to go from stovetop to casing (no additional dishes to wash). She advocates salt as a necessary flavor booster (always “season to taste”), and uses Parmesan rinds and fresh ground spices to tickle the tastebuds as well.
The introduction to the book gives tips for using a slow cooker, and discusses other hands tools to have on hand. She recommends a 7-quart slow cooker, and each recipe serves 4 to 6 people, and can be frozen (um, the soup, not the people).
The 50 soup recipes have an international (or at the very least, regional) flare; there’s nothing bland or pedestrian in here. Recipes are formatted one to a page – in a brief intro, Alley explains more about an ingredient, shares how she was inspired to create this particular soup, or offers a variation to the recipe. Leafing through the pages, I saw nothing out of the ordinary about the ingredients; I could find them all in my cupboards or in local shops. What was unusual (in the very best sense of the word), is the flavor combinations – just look at some of these soups:
- Avgolemono with Spinach and Dill
- Garnet Yam Soup with Coconut Cream
- Hummus Soup with Kalamata Olives and Mint
- Korean-Style Black Bean Soup
- Spiced Apple Pie Soup
The back pages of the book contain a listing of “metric conversions and equivalents” and a complete index. The only piece missing from the recipes was an nutritional analysis; this made barely a blip on my radar, but it may be more important to other readers (or, other slow cookers!). A concealed spiral binding allows the book to lie flat when open, while still looking finished on your bookshelf due to its solid spine.
I made the Spanish Potato and Green Olive Soup – one of about 15 recipes that include a full-color photo. As I often do, I made a few changes, substituting dried thyme for the fresh sprigs in this case, and replacing the cubed cheese with shredded (I’ll get the Manchego the next time I make this).Granted my version wasn’t nearly as photogenic, but it was delicious!
- 4 tablespooons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups stuffed gren olives, sliced in half vertically
- 1 cup cubed Manchego or cheddar cheese
- In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Transfer the onion to a 7-quart slow cooker and add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover and cook on LOW (without the water) for about 4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.
- Add the water and, using a fork or potato masher, smash the potatoes. If you prefer a smooth texture, you can use an immersion blender to puree them.
- Stir in the olives and add salt to taste. Continue cooking for 30 to 40 minutes longer, until the soup is once again hot.
- To serve, divide the cheese into bowls, drizzle the remaining olive oil over it, then ladle in the soup and stir.
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