Whether they're a long-standing family tradition or a stumbled-upon treasure, soup recipes are put to good use this time of year in the local area.
Mary Saylor of Altoona doesn't mind taking a few hours out of a winter day to prepare a batch of her Mumma's Slovak Bean Soup, a delicious, ethnic and economical meal her mother, who grew up in Slovakia, used to prepare as a young wife and mother during the Great Depression.
"She always considered herself a 'real' American and was very proud of that precious blue [American] passport," Saylor wrote in an email. "But her cooking was purely Slovak and her food choices were dictated by cost - and the fast days of her beloved Roman Catholic faith."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Roseanne Conrad of Martinsburg makes Carrot Ginger Bisque.
Saylor said the bean soup (see recipe on Page D6) is delicious and very hearty, tasting as if it has a meat base though there is no meat on the ingredients.
"It's just a very satisfying soup," she said. "If you have that with a salad, it makes a nice supper."
Though making a batch of her mother's soup does require two hours of prep time, Saylor said it's become a dish she makes when she has company over for special occasions. She also enjoys making it for her grandchildren so they can be more aware of their ethnic heritage.
Carrot Ginger Bisque
Submitted by Roseanne Conrad of Martinsburg
1/2 cup butter
2 medium onions, diced
4 tablespoons grated fresh, peeled ginger root
5 pounds of carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock or 3 11.5-ounce cans chicken broth plus 3/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
In large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent.
Add ginger root and cook 2 more minutes.
Add carrots and chicken stock to onions; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce to low, cover and cook carrots until tender, about 30 minutes.
In blender, carefully blend carrot mixture in batches, until smooth. After each batch is blended, return to another pot and add the salt and pepper to taste. Heat soup over low heat until hot. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh parsley.
"It's kind of a tribute because this is how my mother cooked," Saylor said, "Though, she didn't think it was anything special."
Whether they're handed down through generations or come upon by chance, cooks like Saylor and Martinsburg resident Roseanne Conrad keep their special soup recipes on-hand throughout winter.
Conrad's specialty is her Carrot Ginger Bisque, a soup she happened upon while vacationing in Florida during the winter about 10 years ago. On the unseasonably cold day, she stopped at a cafe in the hopes of finding a hot bowl of soup. All they had was the Carrot Ginger Bisque.
"It didn't sound too appetizing to me, but I was cold and it was hot, so that's about all I needed to start the relationship," Conrad recalled in an email. "I ordered a cup, and it was the most delicious soup I'd ever eaten. I lapped it up and ordered a bowl."
The chef refused to relinquish the recipe for the soup, so when Conrad got home, she looked up three or four similar recipes and tweeked them until it was as close to the original as she could get it. She said it's a very "pretty" soup that is also both healthy and satisfying.
"It is just such a wonderful flavor combination, and is just so satisfying on a cold winters day," Conrad said. "It's one of those surprising things. You think it couldn't possible be good, but when you taste it, it's really good."
Conrad said it is important to have fresh ginger that is plump and firm on hand for the recipe. Though it is hard to find in the off season, she can usually find suitable ginger roots at Wal-Mart.
"I think it's the ginger that gives it that zip," Conrad said.
And because it's low in fat, Conrad has no problem making the soup for her grandchildren, usually partnered with some Italian bread for dipping.
"They're very finicky eaters," she said. "But when they tasted [the soup], their eyes lit up."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.