Dr. Victor S. Sierpina & Michelle Sierpina

Maybe the first thing you think of about making soup in the summer is that it is already too hot to be eating soup or stew, which are traditionally comfort foods during cold months. Aren’t salads a cooler option?

Since we actually don’t have much cold weather in these parts of the Texas Coast, perhaps we are missing a truly super food. Soup provides a path to health on any budget. It can be prepared from minimal and modest ingredients, nourishing body and soul for young and old.

Appetizing soups can be enjoyed even by feeble people, those with cancer, anyone who has problems chewing because of dental issues or with swallowing problems. Even dying people can benefit from the joys of soup.

Soup can be made from nearly anything or a little bit of everything. It’s the perfect way to use those forgotten items in your freezer or vegetable drawer or the overabundant harvest from your garden. Remember the folk tale about making stone soup? That’s the idea.

Practically speaking, soup starts with a stock such as the liquids from cooking vegetables or from boiling down the bones and carcass of a cooked turkey, chicken or other meat. This concentrates the flavors of these foods that are often wastefully discarded.

Our favorite is to take the leftover turkey bones and meat that can’t be cut off from a roasted turkey and boil it for an hour or two then pick out the bones, skim off the excess fat after chilling it then use it as a base for wonderful soup.

See the awesome Italian Vegetable soup recipe that Michelle has prepared for years. If you don’t have time to make your own stock, you can get some at the local grocery: vegetable, chicken, or beef and low in sodium or organic if you wish.

One of the best and most healthful aspects of soup is that you can easily blend the nutritional benefits of proteins, the antioxidants of vegetables and the energy of rice, pasta or root vegetables that you might never eat, like turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage or carrots.

Beans make a great high protein, high fiber, low fat addition to soups. We love to add mukimame, shelled soybeans, to our soups because they add a crunchy texture, beautiful green color and are high in protein. They are easily available in the freezer section of your local grocery.

Now back to that hot summer thing. One of the best things about soups is that you can make up a big batch on a weekend, freeze it in dated containers, and have soup for lunch or dinner for weeks. You heat up the stove just once and save the planet and carbon points for multiple meals to follow.

As a boy, I often recall my dad, who lived in seriously hot Phoenix, declaring, “I could live on soup.” He did until age 92, and I still remember enjoying a clam chowder with him three days before he passed away.

He specialized in making soup and often was found in the kitchen, stirring in homegrown vegetables with his chicken stock, a big smile on his face. There also were many little containers of frozen soup in the deep freeze. Such frozen soup is available as an anytime-meal. With a little reheat on the stove or microwave, it is healthful, tasty, portable and easy. I sometimes even have soup for breakfast.

Some savory soups that can be added to your summer menu are chilled soups like gazpacho and vichyssoise. See the amazing recipe Edna Levin shared with Galveston and Chef Michael at the Artillery Club. Thanks to David Robertson for sharing this really delicious recipe. It is rich, salty and to be enjoyed with lip-smacking delight on special occasions.

Canned soups are just not the same as homemade but can be an option. Check the sodium content and other ingredients before you put that can in your grocery cart.

The main message is that we find it joyful just to make soup — the smell, the colors, the flavor, the health benefits and the downright practicality. Making your own soup allows you to control the contents in terms of antioxidants, healthy proteins, fat and sodium.

Even if you aren’t a skilled home cook, try a few soup recipes and you’ll be amazed at how easy and great this is as a core food source for you and your family.
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Italian Vegetable Soup
Here’s an easy vegetable soup recipe introduced to us by a family friend in Colorado long ago. We call it Italian Vegetable Soup.
In a soup pot, sauté chopped garlic and finely chopped onion in olive oil just until soft.
Brown extra lean beef or ground turkey breast. Add a touch more olive oil if using turkey. Make it without any meat at all or use a mild Italian turkey sausage for a bit of zing.
Add chopped tomatoes or the canned variety (low sodium, of course) and water.
Season with oregano, basil, black pepper and chili powder to taste.
Now add canned or cooked black beans and dark red kidney beans.
Select a wide variety of vegetables to add color (and antioxidants) like broccoli, carrots, kale, Swiss chard and chopped spinach.
When we make it, we substitute shelled soybeans for peas. Chopped purple cabbage adds color and nutrition. Add any other vegetables your family enjoys such as corn or green beans.
Simmer until just before serving. If you plan to save some for later, set it aside now.
Before serving the soup, add your favorite whole grain pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Using multicolored whole grain pasta makes the soup bowl even more of a kaleidoscope of color.
You might need to add extra water to the broth. Pasta absorbs the liquid in the soup and once the pasta is added, the soup doesn’t reheat well.
In the individual serving bowls, finish with a light topping of shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese. Float a basil leaf or sprig of rosemary or thyme for color and taste. Yum!
(Recipe from: Victor Sierpina and Michelle Sierpina)
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White Gazpacho
SERVES: 3
3 cucumbers
2 cups hot water
2 cups sour cream
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
2 garlic cloves
Peel, seed and dice the cucumbers.
Dissolve the bouillon in water.
In a blender, combine cucumbers and garlic until smooth.
Add the remaining ingredients mixing well.
Chill before serving.
Garnish with slivered almonds or a sprig of cilantro or parsley.
(Recipe from: Edna Levin and the Galveston Artillery Club)
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Other suggestions
•Traditional Tomato Gazpacho, another summer favorite, served cold provides the perfect solution to using all those tomatoes from your summer harvest. For a great recipe see page 105 of Dr. Andrew Weil and Sam Fox’s “True Food” cookbook. Check out www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/gazpacho-recipe/index.html for another option but cut back on the salt.
•If yours is a meatless diet, you’ll be delighted by the nearly 50 colorful pages of soup recipes in “Meatless” from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. Cool off on a hot Galveston day with the chilled avocado soup on page 109.
•Posole is a classic Hispanic recipe which is another hearty option for soup. Here’s one option at www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/posole_rojo.
•And, of course, every Southern kitchen has a favorite gumbo recipe. Here we even find restaurants devoted entirely to this traditional regional treasure.

Victor Sierpina, M.D. is the W.D. and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and a professor of Family Medicine and Michelle Sierpina, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UTMB Health.