January is National Soup Month, and we’ve got recipes from local chefs for ladling up goodness all month long. But first we share some soup hacks with you.
Want a thicker chowder or bean soup? Add a scoop or two of mashed potatoes. You can also strain a cup or two, blend it, then add it back into the pot. Other ways include adding a can of puréed beans, adding cream or simmering for an extended period of time.
Experiment by adding different items from your fridge, such as a dollop of dijon to your chowder, a teaspoon of hoisin sauce to your pho or a spoonful of pesto to your chicken soup. If you find a winner, write it down so you won’t forget next time.
Use spices, herbs and alliums such as ginger and lime for Asian soups; garlic and basil for vegetable soups, and orange and coriander for bean stews.
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. A few cans of tomatoes, beans and broth are delicious with a sprinkle of spices. Just taste as you go to make sure you have a good balance of flavors.
Hilton Head Health: Minestrone Soup
Ingredients (Makes 12 servings)
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can stewed tomatoes, not drained
1 can V8 juice
16 ounces cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup whole wheat pasta, shells or elbows, cooked
1 cup zucchini, washed and chopped
1 tablespoon basil, dried
1 tablespoon oregano, dried
2 teaspoons thyme, dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
 Heat medium to large size soup pot, to medium high heat.  Add olive oil, make sure to measure it out.  Add onion, celery, and carrots and sauté until softened.  Add garlic and continue to sauté for 1 minute, be careful not to burn garlic. Then add in dried herbs and seasoning.  Add zucchini, tomatoes, stock/broth, V8 juice, and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste before serving, to make sure the overall flavor is desired. Remember it takes more time for dry herbs and spices to release their maximum flavor, so don’t taste too soon after adding.
Colleton River Club: Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup
(makes 2-3 quarts)
2 ounces ginger root, unpeeled, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, sliced
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole Allspice
7 whole cloves
Tightly tie all ingredients up in a cheesecloth sachet. Neatly trim away the excess cloth and leave excess twine as a tether.
Ingredients (soup base)
1 large shallot, peeled and thin sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 ounce ginger root, peeled, minced
48 ounces coconut milk, unsweetened
1 quart chicken stock
2 ounces red curry paste
2 tablespoons oil for sweating
2 teaspoons sugar or honey, to taste
4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, to taste
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, medium dice
1 medium daikon radish, peeled, medium dice
 Add all ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Sweat the garlic, shallots and ginger. Add the curry paste and toast to release the oils.  Add the coconut milk and half the chicken stock. Reserve remaining stock to adjust soup viscosity as needed. Allow to simmer.  Add sachet. Simmer, season, add sugar or honey to taste. Add fish sauce to taste. Simmer one hour. Adjust with a touch of stock or corn starch depending on the thickness.
Chef’s tip: You are reaching for a subtle combination of slightly salty, sour, sweet and spicy. Don’t overthink it. Flavors develop with simmering. It tastes better the next day! Garnish and serve (as important as the base, use as much as you wish): Thin sliced green onion, radish, bean sprouts, cilantro leaves Optional: mint leaves, poached chicken, cooked & chopped shrimp.
Callawassie Island: Rich Potato Turnip Soup
1 1/4 pound medium turnips, peeled and chopped
1 1/4 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 thyme sprigs
4 cups good quality chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 thick-cut bacon slices
Good quality olive oil or truffle oil
 Combine stock, turnips, potatoes, onion, garlic, thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper in a large pot. Simmer until vegetables are very soft. Remove and discard thyme sprigs. Add cream, and process soup using an immersion blender until smooth.  Before serving, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving drippings in pan.  Crumble bacon. Serve soup topped with crumbled bacon, olive oil or truffle oil. Cracked black pepper is also a nice addition.