By Cheryl Radkiewicz
One of the most rewarding things I’ve been doing since retirement is volunteering in the kitchen at Corpus Christi, Church West Pittston, where my brother, Msgr. John Sempa, is pastor.
For years, I’ve been helping in the parish kitchen for brunches and the annual picnic in June, however, this past fall the Social Concerns Committee started a Soup Ministry. Once a month a group of volunteers meets to help prepare 40 quarts of soup for the home bound of the parish.
We meet on a Thursday when we peel, chop, and prepare the soup. The next day we skim the soup and pack it in quart containers. The soup and baked goodies, which are made by parishoners and requested through the church bulletin, are delivered on Saturday by members of the Social Concerns Committee.
The event has become so successful that my brother felt I should do a column on it to give other parishes the opportunity to start a Soup Ministry during these winter months. Yes, it took a bit to judge amounts for 40 quarts of soup, however, the church has 40 homebound members, so it was a “must.”
We began this ministry in October with our Chicken Noodle Soup. We boil the noodles and pack them separately. November offered Beef Vegetable Soup, and December, Ham and Cabbage with Potato Soup. The volunteers who help in the kitchen are always bringing new ideas for new soups…a family’s treasured recipe for Tuscan Bean Soup is on our agenda. All of us leave on Friday feeling such satisfaction that we have done something meaningful for those unable to venture out.
To give you an idea of ingredients, for the Chicken Noodle Soup we used whole chickens, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, parsley and seasonings. We opted for small pasta such as ditalini, so it would be easy for the homebound to ingest. We cut beef chuck roast into small chunks for the Beef Vegetable Soup and sauteed it before adding vegetables, which included canned tomatoes. We used orzo for this soup. The Ham and Cabbage Soup is a recipe my Polish grandmother used to make. You can use half of a ham, shredded cabbage, chunked potatoes and cans of baked beans. Each has its own cooking time, but those are the ingredients.
Winter, and especially this frigid winter, is a great time for soup. As a matter of fact, this week I made Sausage Tortellini Soup for my husband. This is also a great dish. We both like meat, so I made sure to use plenty. Here is the recipe:
Sausage Tortellini Soup:
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
4 cans College Inn Chicken Broth
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 large can Italian peeled tomatoes, chunked
1 pkg. frozen tortellini, cooked al dente
Saute’ sausage in large soup pot until brown. Add chopped garlic. Cook a few minutes, but do not brown garlic. Add chicken broth and tomatoes. Let simmer together about 30 minutes.
Cook tortellini separately, according to package directions. Drain. Put a heaping spoonful of tortellini in soup bowl and ladle soup on top.
NOTE: Taste for seasoning. I did not have to add any salt or pepper due to using both Italian sausages and canned broth. It was perfect.
Now for a few more of my favorite soups:
Hungarian Mushroom Soup:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 lb. mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh minced dill
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1/2-1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute’ onion in 2 Tbsp. butter for 20 minutes or until soft. Add mushrooms, dill, soy sauce, and paprika. Stir. Add just enough of the chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Make a roux: In saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter, then whisk in flour. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, then add the milk. Stirring constantly, cook this until the roux has thickened.
Pour into the soup and blend. Add more stock if needed. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Maple Butternut Bisque:
3 oz. butter
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups canned butternut squash or fresh, cooked and mashed
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
Melt butter and saute’ onion until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes. Slowly add milk and cook, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock and squash. Mix well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Season with cayenne pepper and salt. Add cream and maple syrup and blend well. Let simmer a few minutes longer. Taste for seasoning.
Sherried Parsnip Soup:
4 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
Melt the butter and saute’ parsnips, carrots and onions for about 20 minutes or until soft. Add just enough chicken stock to cover, and simmer another 30 minutes. Puree’ vegetables in blender, immersion blender, or food processor.
Return to stove and reheat, adding cream and rest of chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste. Add sherry just before serving. Sprinkle with parsley.
Tomato Cognac Soup:
1 large Spanish onion
3 oz. butter
3 lbs. canned, peeled plum tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 pt. heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 Tbsp. cognac
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop onion and saute’ in butter for 20 minutes until soft and translucent but not brown. Squash tomatoes with your hands and add them with all the liquid in the can to the onion. Add basil and stir. Bring soup to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Set aside and cool slightly.
Puree’ soup in processor or use immersion blender. In small saucepan, heat cream with brown sugar, whisking often. Pour this mixture into soup. Reheat, but do not boil. Just before serving, add cognac and season with salt and pepper.