Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Love Soup »
This cookbook changed my life. Well, at least my cooking. The recipes in Anna Thomas’* 2009 Love Soup not only make dishes so good you’d sell your babies to eat more of them, but they demonstrate techniques and strategies that can make all your cooking better. It’s been one of my main go-to cookbooks for nearly three years. Even if you think you’re not into soup, this book will change your mind.
Case in point: the Roasted Turnip and Winter Squash soup I made the other night (those are roasted pine nuts floating in there; Thomas is big on garnishes). As usual, the recipe calls for roasting the key veggies before pureeing them into liquid ecstasy. Stellar trick! Everything tastes better roasted! This soup is divine!
This photo sucks because I took it with my iPad while eating leftovers in my cubicle. These soups don’t stick around long enough for pro-looking photography, pshaw.
Another trick she often recommends is to slowly brown onions until they’re caramelized and savory. This is so reliably delicious that I pretty much sneer now at any recipe with onions that doesn’t have you do this. Translucent, schmanslucent.
Roasting veggies, browning onions, and otherwise coddling your top-quality ingredients does take a while though, which why this is neither a weeknight nor a beginner book. But it’ll take your cooking to a new level without requiring you to go all kitchen-wench, either. Usually her extra steps (and the extra dishes to clean) are totally worth the effort and well explained. She might even convince you it’s worth making your own stock (it is).
All the Love soups are vegetarian. The majority are vegan and labeled as such; many more of them are a snap to adapt (leave out a garnish, or replace milk or butter).
Thomas organizes the recipes by season and relies mainly on what you should be able to get at the farmer’s market that time of year. That strategy makes the book especially useful to, say, someone with a CSA share in Berkeley. So often I’d get a veggie box and wonder, “What can I do with celery root, turnips, and leeks?” or whatever, and Thomas would have the perfect recipe using that exact combo of seasonal ingredients.
This book is best if you own an immersion blender. It’ll probably make you want to buy one. And a stock pot. And a CSA share. And you’ll want to move to California, though my mother in D.C. loves this book even more than I do, so that’s not actually a requirement.
Some family favorites: Caramelized Cabbage Soup (my mom has served this at Christmas dinner), French Lentil Stew with Roasted Carrot and Mint (to die for), and the cohort of Green Soups that involve pureeing things like kale, spinach, and chard (my husband is obsessed).
The non-soup recipes are less spectacular; I’ve made some of her breads, but that’s not her strong suit.
Final Verdict: A fantastic staple for the kitchen library.
Overall Rating: A
Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Best for: Any home cook willing to put a couple hours into making something bomber, especially those who like cooking seasonally.
*For those of you following along at home, why yes indeed, that is the same Anna Thomas who wrote The Vegetarian Epicure back in the olden days. Ten bonus points for you!