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updated: 9/26/2012 11:42 AM

Soupalooza: Produce freshness influences soup flavors

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  • Use the freshest Swiss chard you can find and you'll be pleased with the flavor of this hearty lentil soup.

      Use the freshest Swiss chard you can find and you'll be pleased with the flavor of this hearty lentil soup.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer


Here's my question for you, fellow soup savants: Why is it when you remake a tried-and-true recipe, the results can turn out so differently?

I know. I know. We soup lovers like to make soup because, well, because it's a little more free flowing than, say, baking puff pastry. Add a little here. Adjust. Pour in some more water. A splash of lemon, a pinch more salt …

The art of making soup is just that -- an art, not a science. Still, it's amazing how different one batch can be from the next -- even when you actually follow the recipe.

Case in point: Lentil Swiss Chard Soup that I found on

Any gardener knows that the only thing more pernicious than zucchini is Swiss chard. It just keeps on keepin' on. While it is one of the healthiest vegetables -- rich in minerals, fiber and protein -- it can be a bit tricky to cook. Depending on its freshness, it can go from buttery-flavored to bitter in no time, which may explain my varied cooking results.

In any event, I have found the only reliable thing to be done with large batches of chard is to "soupify" it. (Hey, if Rachael Ray can make up words, so can I.)

I like this recipe a lot -- it's packed with spices and resembles chili in its flavor profile and texture. And while, yes, it does vary from one batch to the next, I always like it.

The original recipe called for a crock pot, but I cook it on the stove, simmering it until the lentils and potatoes are cooked through, roughly 30 minutes.

M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation, and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at

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