While we typically simmer up a batch of homemade soup when a craving strikes, we turn to store-bought from time to time, particularly when we're feeling under the weather. The problem? It tends to fall flat no matter the source — whether a can, tetra pack, or the prepared foods section of Whole Foods — and tastes, well, canned. In these instances we turn to a few simple strategies to perk things up.
- Play with garnishes: Raid your pantry and crisper. Try adding a pinch of red pepper flakes, a few cracks of pepper, a drizzle of oil, a chiffonade of basil or other fresh herbs, a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, a handful of oyster crackers or crumbled saltines, or even a sprinkling of seeds, chopped nuts, or grated salty cheese like Parmesan. Not only do garnishes improve the soup's flavor, but they also add textural and visual contrast.
- Pay attention to the serving vessel: This may seem silly, but taking the time to serve soup in a favorite bowl or mug with proper silverware, rather than in its to-go container or a chipped bowl helps. We're visual creatures; embrace it!
- Adjust the seasoning: Soup, even of the homemade variety, tends to require a bit of tweaking to make the flavors shine. Oftentimes all a bowl needs is an extra pinch of salt, a splash of lemon juice or vinegar (try balsamic in tomato soup), or a hit of spice to take things from so-so to superb. Like all matters of seasoning, make sure to taste along the way.