Winter or summer, cold or hot, my family loves soup. If there is no soup, it's just not a meal. But timing is everything and the trick is to match the right soup with the right time. While it wouldn't be Friday night without a chicken soup even in 100 degree weather with our air conditioner broken, other than that you want to get it right. Hearty hot soups in the thick of winter and lighter refreshing soups in the heat of the summer.
While my recipe box has ton of soups, it's never enough. But then came Pam Reiss and wrote the bible on soup, Soup: A Kosher Collection. With over 150 soup recipes Pam has it all covered. Aside from pareve soups, Soup: A Kosher Collection has over 40 dairy soups and 40 meat soups, and even a couple of fish soups. Some of them are fit to be an entire meal. How's that for the busy mom! Soup: A Kosher Collection is truly an indispensable book for those who "soup".
You can see Pam's recipe box on Culinary Kosher and see her first two recipes Italian Bean Soup and Asian Noddle Soup.
Pam grew up in a family catering business and has taken charge of her share of the operation. Pam loves writing cookbooks, but she is by no means a one trick pony. Her soup book is a testament to the depth of her knowledge in the field. While other write cookbooks on a variety of food types, Pam's experience leave her with so much to write that any subject by her takes up and entire book.
We had a chance to ask Pam a few questions
Culinary Kosher: Your book is absolutely amazing. Are the recipes a collection of recipes you've come across over the years and collected or are they fresh creations?
Pam Reiss: Some of the recipes are based on soups that we've been cooking in my family for generations, passed down from my mother and grandmother (with a few tweaks from me). A lot of the recipes are ones that I developed when my family had a restaurant and I was in charge of soups -- we've had both dairy and meat restaurants so I had the chance to all sorts of recipes. We no longer have a restaurant, but we do cater and have a kosher food store with a freezer full of homemade soups, so I'm still creating more recipes. The rest of the recipes are fresh creations that I worked on when writing the book.
CK: What does it take to create a recipe?
Pam: A LOT of testing and tasting. You have to start with a basic idea. I write out a list of ingredients - no quantities, just items that I think will be good together. Then I go through the cooking process in my mind -- how am I going to cook the item, what order do I need to add things, how will things react to each other, etc. Then I actually try the recipe. Very rarely does it work the first time, the way I've envisioned it. There's a lot of tasting along the way, adding what I think is the missing ingredient. Sometimes I realize that there's an ingredient in there that shouldn't be, or that I should have used a different cooking technique, so I redo it. And I redo it again until I'm happy with the final result. And on some occasions, I realize that the whole thing needs to be scrapped and that not all ideas are good ideas.
CK: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Pam: I work in the food business and am surrounded by food all day. I read food magazines and flip through cookbooks and check out cooking shows. So often, I'll be doing something in the kitchen or walking through the produce area at the grocery store and just think "I bet X will be good with Y, let's try it". You have to know flavours - know that if you mix x and y together they'll be good. Sometimes I'll get inspired by other food that I've tasted -- something another cook has served me or even from one of my own dishes (one of my favorite soups is a Pear Soup with Balsamic Reduction and Feta and Pecans and it was inspired by a salad I use to make all the time). Basically inspiration comes from everything -- you just have to be open.
CK: Who are your favorite Chef's?
Pam: A lot of the Chef's I admire are the ones that cook great, fresh ingredients in simple ways. Chefs Lynn Crawford and Chuck Hughes are good examples.
CK: If you could have any job in the world what would it be?
Pam: I think I would choose one of the jobs I do have, writing cookbooks. I love the creativity of it -- I love how happy you can make people by cooking for them or sharing your recipes with them. In a perfect world, that would be my only job and I could spend more time doing it, travelling around the world learning about new ingredients, tasting new things and discovering how to use them. That would be perfect.
CK: What is next for Pam Reiss?
Pam: First I have to get through the Passover season at Desserts Plus, my catering company and store. Then I'm going to get to work on the next cookbook. I've been putting together lists of recipes I want to try and have started some of the ingredient lists -- I can't wait to get into the kitchen to start cooking!
CK: It wouldn't be an interview if we didn't ask the last question. What is your favorite soup?
Pam: I can't possible choose just one! How about a top 5? Carrot Dill, Eggplant Tomato, Chicken Soup (preferably with kreplach) and Asian Noodle Soup, Pear Soup . .. I could go on.
CK: We look forward to seeing Pam's future books because whatever it will be, it will a must have!