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 pathetic to palatable. Like all matters of seasoning, make sure to taste along the way.
What steps do you take to doctor up store-bought soup?