Chowders, such as this corn chowder garnished with a sprig of fresh sage and served with a buckwheat baguette, are both healthy and delicious. These hearty soups are traditionally made with fish, shellfish and/or vegetables.


Soups are combinations of meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, vegetables and/or fruits, cooked in a liquid. Many restaurants across the country have great signature homemade soups on their menus, which usually remain as staples for years. The upscale chain Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group owns and operates nine high-end, high-volume restaurants across the U.S., and its famous split pea soup has been a year-round staple on the menu for years.

Thirty-year veteran restaurant owner and chef Tony Navarro operates 200 East on Chestnut Supper Club/Restaurant in Chicago. One of his popular menu items is Nonni Theresa’s Italian Wedding Soup (his mom’s homemade chicken soup with meatballs, tortellini and escarole).

Although Campbell’s classic chicken noodle soup is still one of its bestsellers, the company continues to bring new products to the marketplace at a quick pace. It recently launched an Italian Wedding Soup made of beef meatballs, spinach, chicken broth, onions, Romano cheese and textured soy protein. The product, under the Select Healthy Request brand, is packaged in a 15.3oz, microwavable container. The product is 98% fat-free and contains 35% less sodium than the regular brand.

Campbell’s new line of soups, Select Gold Label, features flavored soups similar to those found in upscale eateries. Varieties include Creamy Portobello Mushroom, Golden Butternut Squash, Italian Tomato with Basil & Garlic and, its newest flavor, Creamy Tomato Parmesan (made from vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh corn, aged Parmesan, roasted garlic and basil). The soups are packaged in 18oz cartons, containing no preservatives or artificial flavors.

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has over 100 products on grocery shelves. His Signature Recipes line of soups includes such flavors as Beef Burgundy with Egg Noodles (beef stock, chunks of beef, mushrooms, vegetables, egg noodles, burgundy wine, butter and garlic); Chicken Pot Pie (chicken pieces in a creamy pot pie filling, with onions, real dumplings, celery, carrots and mushrooms); and Chicken Tortilla (chicken stock, tender pieces of chicken, corn mesa flour, tomatoes, onions and roasted bell peppers).

Bisque is a thick, French-influenced, cream soup made of pureed fish, shellfish, poultry, meat or vegetables that is sometimes thickened with rice or bread.

Chowders

Chowders are hearty soups made from fish, shellfish and/or vegetables. Milk or cream is usually added, along with potatoes and flour or a roux, used as a thickener. Kettle Cuisine specializes in all-natural soups, chowder and bisque products, containing no MSG or yeast extracts, no hydrogenated oils, no preservatives or chemical additives, no artificial flavors or colors, and no modified food starches. Owner Jerry Shafir founded Kettle Cuisine over 20 years ago, and one of its most popular products is the 10oz container of frozen New England Chowder (made of fresh clams, onions, potatoes, salt pork, sea salt, soybean oil, water and Worcestershire sauce). Two other products are Grilled Chicken & Corn Chowder with Peppers (made of celery, char-broiled chicken, chicken stock, corn, onions, wheat flour, potatoes, red peppers, sea salt, soybean oil, spices, sugar, uncured bacon and Worcestershire sauce); and Manhattan Clam Chowder (made of celery, clam broth, fish stock, clams, parsley, garlic, olive oil, onions, pepper sauce, scallions, spices, tomato filets, tomato paste and water). Both products are packaged in 10oz containers and sold frozen.

Food writer Jasper White authored 50 Chowders: One Pot Meals--Clam, Corn and Beyond. The book covers some global flavors, such as South Coast Portuguese Fish Chowder (made of hard-shell lobsters, salt, pork, onions, celery, thyme, butter, bay leaves, Hungarian paprika, Yukon gold potatoes, lobster stock, fish stock, seafood stock and skinless cod fillets) and Bahamian Conch Chowder (conch meat, fish stock, water, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, ground cloves, black pepper, potatoes, tomatoes, bacon, vegetable oil, onions, carrots, green bell peppers, celery, lime, dark rum, sea salt and rum pepper [a rum-based hot sauce]). These creatively flavored chowders could be explored as potentially new retail product ideas.

Bisque

Bisque is a thick, French-influenced, cream soup made of pureed fish, shellfish, poultry, meat or vegetables. Sometimes, it is thickened with rice or bread. Olde Cape Cod Foods produces a 15oz can of gourmet lobster bisque (condensed) made of lobster stock, minced lobster, corn starch, tomato puree, unbleached wheat flour, sherry wine, canola oil, salt, onions, natural flavorings, yeast extract, xanthan gum and oleoresin paprika. This product has a health benefit--it is 98% fat-free.

Amy’s Kitchen Inc. has a retail product called Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque made of organic tomato puree, organic diced tomatoes, organic cream, organic evaporated cane juice, organic onions, sea salt and spices.

Stews

A stew is a combination of solid foods that have been cooked (simmered) in liquid such as water, wine, beer or stock. Ingredients used in a stew can be a combination of vegetables, meat, poultry, sausages or seafood.

Hormel Foods’ Dinty Moore canned beef stew has been in U.S. grocery stores since 1935. After 70 years, this brand has expanded its line by adding chicken stew, meatball stew and turkey stew products--containing only 240 calories per 8oz serving.

As consumers continue to expand their culinary knowledge by seeking more trendsetting, gourmet, healthy and restaurant-quality products in the grocery stores, the manufacturers must continue to stay ahead. pf

Wilbert Jones is the president of Healthy Concepts, a food and beverage company that provides menu, recipe and product development consulting services. He has authored four cookbooks, most recently
Smothered Southern Foods. He attended Paris’ École de Gastronomique Française Ritz-Escoffier and was a food scientist for Kraft General Foods. For more information, call 312-335-0031 or e-mail: wjhealthyconcept@aol.com.

SIDEBAR

Sitting in an outdoor café and drinking in the sights and sounds of a summer evening is the perfect place to experience one culinary creation uniquely associated with summer--refreshing, summer soup. A cold glass or bowl of gazpacho is both healthy and delicious--and is relatively easy to make.

While early gazpacho may have consisted of the simplest bases (most consisted of leftover bread, crude olive oil, vinegar, garlic and water), today’s gazpacho is both sophisticated and a satisfying, nutritional meal. Yet, the basic ingredients still remain staples of the soup. The inclusion of fruits, virgin olive oil, cucumber, green pepper, onion--all are more modern additions to the old favorite.

The following ingredients can be used in any gazpacho recipe. Begin with ice water and salt, as they are essential for basic gazpacho. Continue with a 4-in long piece of baguette (crust discarded); add lima beans, garlic, sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, blanched almonds, julienned ham or prosciutto, or ripe tomatoes. Pine nuts are an excellent flavor and texture addition, while an egg adds a creamier base. Variations on the basic recipe are endless.

Asian soups are also refreshing and utilize fruits, vegetables and spices. A chilled cucumber pineapple soup is a perfect example, with ingredients that include fresh pineapple; cubed, chopped cucumber; green bell pepper; heavy cream; and Worcestershire sauce.

Yet another intriguing summer flavor is that of the “sweet” soups. These include such ingredients as lemon cream, chilled tea and raspberry syrup, to name a few. Additions of sherry or brandy to the sweet base add even more interesting taste appeal.

When diners or amateur chefs think of soups, they should think beyond the hot variety. Cold summer soups offer healthy, hydrating alternatives best enjoyed on the patio or in an outdoor café.
--Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor