The Soup Bar, El Segundo, CA (http://www.soupbar.com/index.html)
Not very often does such a unique opportunity present itself. My cousin Peter (and his new wife) have opened an eating establishment that features homemade soups and artisan breads. I have this blog that highlights comfort foods. I think a post would be appropriate…
Sadly, mostly due to the years and the miles, I only get to see Pete about once a decade. I recently had the wonderful opportunity, through Pete’s maternal network of aunts, one of whom is my Mom, to see a few pictures that had resulted from Pete’s wedding. In and amongst this forwarded material was a print-out of some pages from The Soup Bar web site. Knowing how I do, the truly intrinsic values of foods that give us either physical or emotional comfort, I was immediately drawn to the concept of The Soup Bar. As they say on their site:
“Soup evokes an experience that, all at once, can be nostalgic, comforting, healthy, therapeutic, communal, even virtuous. It’s simple… soup just makes us feel good. At The Soup Bar we ensure that all our soups are prepared with care, patience and fresh, wholesome ingredients.”
Virtuous? I love it. Who hasn’t found comfort in wrapping their hands around a warm, steaming, cup or bowl of soup? Who hasn’t found comfort in the consumption of such warm and wonderful concoctions as:
- Tomato Basil Bisque
- Turkey Chili
- Tuscan Vegetable Bean Soup, or
- Chicken & Wild Rice Soup?
Who hasn’t found some comfort in pairing some warm and wonderful soup with some artisan breads, such as:
- Malted Brown, or
The “comfort” piece around soups is so eloquently captured within Pete and Michelle’s story about The Soup Bar:
“Food historians tell us that the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and traveling cultures, rich and poor, young and old, the healthy and the sick. Soup really is the original comfort food.
Thoughts of soup conjure different emotions for each of us. Childhood memories of the soup Mom brought when you were sick in bed… hot soup with your brother after a snowball fight… romantic rainy day memories of soup in front of a fire with someone special.
The Soup Bar brings you 8 hand-crafted gourmet soups daily. Each comes with your choice of fresh baked artisan bread. You will also find an assortment of side salads, fresh cookies, healthy snacks, fine chocolate, beverages, and unique gift items for the soup lover. All of this brought to you by friendly “Souparistas” in an upbeat, inviting, cozy-casual atmosphere…”
A wonderful concept, a timeless combination, an intelligent approach…The Soup Bar also features live music and participates regularly in community related events. And, apparently, El Segundo is forward-thinking enough to provide restaurant shuttle service to the working and shopping constituency of the community. Another great idea! When in El Segundo, please make a point to stop in and see Pete and Michelle and have some soup…
Good job, Cuz! I cannot wait to have the opportunity to come out to your side of the world, to meet your new wife, and to sample some of your wares. Keep up the the good work!
With all our love and support, Dave
My wife Michele is the consummate family menu keeper, meal planner and, smart shopper of groceries. When she last wrote this down on a weekly dinner list, and she knew I was planning on making it, she simply wrote down, “Pasta Fa”…
It’s a great Italian soup! It’s made with pasta and beans. This one has Italian Sausage in it, too! Whenever I make it, I always have the tendency to put too much macaroni in it. You can easily turn this from a soup into a juicy goulash in a heartbeat. The pasta (ditalini is preferred, short tubes, like the ends of the elbow macaronis) can puff up and take over your soup completely. Start with a cup and see how it does for your needs. You can always add a little more water because the broth stands on its own and the soup simmers well.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 lb. sweet/mild bulk Italian Sausage (if all you can find is in casings, that’s OK, too. You can always cut them out of the casings, or fry them up, slice into bite size pieces and add to the soup that way) fired crispy and golden, crumbled and drained
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSPS minced garlic
½ cup of granulated sugar
1 level TBSP of Italian seasoning mix (or 2 level TSPS oregano and 2 level TSPS thyme)
½ TSP salt
1 TSP fresh ground black pepper
1 large can (28 ozs.) diced tomatoes
2 cans (15 ½ oz.) cannellini beans (or white canned navy beans), un-drained
1 large box (32 oz. total) low sodium chicken stock
1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, to taste, for sprinkling on top of the soup before serving
(Flexibility options include: some crushed red pepper flakes (about ½ TSP) or some red-hot sauce (about 1 TBSP) stirred in, the spicier version of Italian sausage or no sausage at all, vegetable stock instead of chicken stock (You could maybe even get away with water if you put a bullion cube or two into it), carrots or peas would work as additions as long as you recognize their cook-times, chopped celery and/or diced green pepper added with the onion and cooked down…as mentioned above, it simmers well with a nice rich broth, but if you see it getting too stout, you can always add some water. I use the empty tomato can and go with about ½ can of water at a time and usually don’t put in more than two half-cans.)
In the bottom of a medium stock pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil for about 10 minutes. Onions should be transparent and just starting to caramelize. Be careful not to burn your garlic. Add the sugar and other dry spices and stir to distribute evenly. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pasta and grated cheese. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about an hour, stirring regularly. You will want it to slowly and mildly bubble. If it starts to boil then reduce the heat until you get a nice simmer. About 20 minutes before serving add the pasta and cook until tender. As mentioned above, you can adjust thickness and flavor of the broth as needed by adding water, if necessary. Serve hot with grated cheese sprinkled on top, Enjoy!