Water is an overlooked tool in the kitchen, a fundamental ingredient so thoughtlessly used it's often omitted in the recipe list.
I was delighted, then, to see Mark Bittman's column in today's NYTimes on
making soup using vegetables herbs and "a secret ingredient (OK, water)."
How right he is. In his column he gives recipes for making use of the vegetables and herbs that are so abundant at this time: Late Summer Ministrone, Zucchini Lemon-Egg Soup, and Fresh Tomato Borscht. They all look good and I especially love enriching soup with egg as he does with the zucchini soup.
I have strong opinions about using water rather than canned broth. As I wrote in this post on making stock, "I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth. Use WATER instead. I repeat. You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth! It will HURT your food. Use water instead. When that recipe says 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (or good quality canned broth), please know that your food, 90 percent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that 'good quality' canned broth. Water is a miracle."
Does water always work? No, sometimes you need stock, which is why it's good to have some in your freezer or to be in the habit of making small amounts (after you've roasted a chicken, for instance). But where soups are concerned–well, we've kind of lost our tradition of soup making in this country, largely I think because canned soup just isn't very good and soup you make at home using Swansons or College Inn is never going to be very good either. Think about it—you take wonderful ingredients and put them into a mediocre one. How good can it be? Bittman does cooks a service by reminding us that soups do not need to take a long time to make and do not necessarily require stock.