Aux Delices, with locations in Greenwich, Riverside, Darien and Westport, offers a variety of soups including chicken noodle, broccoli, fall squash (shown here), chicken tortilla, split pea, and spicy chickpea. — Aux Delices photo

Nothing says comfort food like a bowl of steaming soup on a blustery fall day. Think beyond the canned variety to discover tasty and nutritious alternatives. Although soup is still a lunchtime American standard, it can also make for a delicious dinner when paired with a salad and thick slices of artisan bread.    

If you want to make soup yourself, start with a good quality stock, either homemade or store-bought. Kristine Cybart, chef at The Common Bond Market in Shelton, suggests freezing veggie scraps from carrots, celery and onions. “Then, when you want to make soup, put them in a pot of water. Boil for 20 to 30 minutes, and you have a great vegetable stock,” she says.   

Next comes the layers of flavor. “This adds richness to otherwise one-dimensional dishes,” says Chef Liz Gagnon of Nature’s Temptations in Ridgefield. She cooks with bacon fat, but for certain soups, will add the drippings from roast chicken or turkey. To start the soups, she sautés onions and dried herbs in the fats. “Once (the stock) hits the boiling point, simmer for about an hour,” she explains. “Cool and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors marry.”

Once the stock is made, the recipe you’re following will guide you to the other ingredients. Most are forgiving if you want to add or delete some; this makes it easy to tailor the soup to your liking. A sliver of jalapeno pepper for extra spice? A splash of red wine in beef soup? A cheese rind for added flavor in chicken soup? A fistful of fresh herbs or a few shakes from a bottle of dried seasonings? The only way you’ll know if it’s right is to taste it frequently.      

Chef Liz Gagnon of Nature’s Temptations in Ridgefield starts her soups, like this Turkey Gumbo, by sautéing onions and dried herbs in fat. — Nature’s Temptations photo

Soups fall into two categories — chunky or smooth. “If you are making a smooth soup, really blend it well,” says Debra Ponzek, chef and owner of Aux Délices, with stores located in Greenwich, Riverside, Darien, and two in Westport. “Use a blender rather than a food processor.”   

These markets make their soups from scratch using homemade stock and organic and natural ingredients. They have a rotating selection, from chili and chowder to bisques. At least one vegan and gluten-free soup are offered each day. New ones are added seasonally.

The standard grab-and-go soups at Nature’s Temptations that are available most days are turkey chili, chicken vegetable, mulligatawny, and lentil vegetable. Special soups, which are added to the menu periodically, include chicken corn chowder, Italian wedding soup, New England clam chowder, stracciatella (Italian egg drop soup), cream of cauliflower, and tomato rice.

Chicken noodle soup is always on the menu at Aux Délices. Customer favorites are broccoli, fall squash, chicken tortilla, split pea, turkey white bean and escarole, and spicy chick pea.   

The award-winning white bean chili is a favorite at The Common Bond Market, as are herb turkey and wild rice, black bean, corn chowder, broccoli cheddar, cashew cream of tomato, and chickpea red lentil. A couple of different pumpkin soups will be added this fall.

Kale Soup
From Best Loved Community Recipes, Better Homes and Gardens, 1994
Contributor: Meredith De La Vergne, Raleigh, North Carolina

Ingredients:
3 slices bacon, cut up
4 large onions, sliced (6 cups)
8 cups kale, washed, trimmed and chopped 6 cups of water
8 oz. thinly sliced Linguisa (Portuguese) sausage or Kielbasa (Polish)
4 cups diced potatoes
1  15.5 oz. can kidney beans
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Dash of bottled hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)

Directions:
In a Dutch oven cook the bacon and onions until the onions are tender. Add the water, kale and sausage or kielbasa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and boil gently for 15 minutes or more.

Add potatoes and un-drained kidney beans. Bring to a boil. Cover. Gently boil for 15 minutes or more.

Stir in vinegar, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Freezes well.

Harvest Bisque Soup
Recipe courtesy of Chef Cybart, The Common Bond Market

Ingredients:
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
2 cups white onion diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups butternut squash — large dice
1 medium sweet potato — peeled and large dice
2 Gala apples — cubed
Vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
In a large pot, sauté celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until tender.   

Add butternut squash, sweet potato, apples, and enough stock to cover by a couple of inches.

Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper. Boil until squash and potatoes are fully cooked. Purée until smooth.

Turkey Gumbo
Recipe courtesy of Liz Gagnon, executive chef, Nature’s Temptations

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup okra, cut in ¼-inch rounds
1 teaspoon each dried thyme, gumbo filé powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt
1 20-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds turkey, cooked and shredded
2 cups basmati rice, cooked
3 quarts chicken or turkey stock

Directions:
In a 6-quart soup pot over medium flame, heat the bacon fat; add peppers, onions, celery, potatoes, and okra. Stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes.

Add thyme, gumbo powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt. Continue to stir until the herbs are fragrant. Add diced tomatoes.

Stir in the turkey. Add the stock. Bring to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn flame to a simmer, add the rice, and simmer for 1 hour. For the best flavor, let the soup sit overnight in refrigerator, uncovered, for flavors to marry.