Fall and winter are the prime time for hearty soup dishes in comforting creamy tastes such as lobster bisque, creamy butternut squash, split pea, pumpkin and chowder. A tureen of soup might be your meal centerpiece, served with a salad and crusty garlic bread, or it might be the precursor to a family holiday meal. Soups are also more popular than ever as a wedding or special event cocktail party station, with small bowls served at a special soup station.
No matter how you'll serve your soup, make each serving even more special with creative presentation. Knorr Foods says, "There are two key elements of a great soup dish: garnishes and accompaniments." Here, you'll explore some ways to add extra color, texture and even nutritional punch to your cool-weather soup dishes.
"Since we all know you eat with your eyes first, it's all about the presentation. The type of soup and flavors involved will determine the vessel and accoutrements that will assist in tantalizing those taste buds," says Kara Thorson, culinary expert and event coordinator for My Bellissima.
--When the "Top Chef" contestants make a soup, they serve it in an oversize, wide-rimmed bowl for added panache, and that wide rim provides space for foodie decor, such as sprinkled spice, for added, rich color. So choose rimmed bowls that give you design space.
--Choose a bowl color that shows off the color of your soup. For instance, an orange-hued pumpkin bisque can be served in a traditional white bowl or in vibrantly-hued orange bowls. Ivory-hued chowder can be served in a pink bowl that coordinates with the pink tomato pieces and pink seafood bits in the soup.
--Serve soup in a hollowed-out round of crusty bread that you've carefully emptied out without piercing the bread (which would allow soup to drain out the side or bottom).
--"For a fall-inspired soup, use an acorn squash or pumpkin as your vessel. To complete the look, use a leaf-shaped cookie cutter to make a spiced biscuit. Float it right on top or place it on the side to dunk," says Thorson.
--Use a chef's secret for hot soups: Warm the soup bowls just a bit before filling them so that hot soups stay hot longer than they would if poured into cold bowls.
*Pour Soup Into the Bowl
--Use a small ladle to place your creamy soups directly into the center of the bowl, avoiding splashing caused by larger ladles.
--Chefs now like to pair two different soups in the same bowl. They have to be thick soups like a creamy split pea or cauliflower, pumpkin, or thick lobster bisque for this to work. Ladle one thick soup into one side of the bowl, and tip the plate just a slight bit to keep it on its side. Then, carefully ladle the other color of creamy soup on the other side of the bowl so that each creamy, color-coordinated flavor stays in its place but meets in the middle. You can leave it as is with a curved, natural line separating them, or use a spoon to create a delicate s-shaped swirl along the line.
*Sprinkle With Tasty Accents
Sprinkle a subtle -- or generous -- amount of textural garnish on top of each soup bowl. Here are some ideas to add a unique twist to your soup-toppers:
--In place of traditional oyster crackers, sprinkle on some crunchy Asian noodles or crispy fried onion straws piled high.
--Croutons are always a crowd-pleaser, so add some extra flair to yours by home-baking them and rolling them in freshly shaved Parmesan cheese before they cool.
--A vegetable-cream soup can be topped with slices of steamed veggies or mushrooms or crunchy fried veggies.
--Top your soup with a matching-color garnish, such as crispy kale on top of split pea soup or some thin slices of roasted tomato over a roasted tomato soup.
--Create color contrast with your soup topper, such as a tuft of bright green herbs on top of a pale yellow squash soup.
--Top your soup with an ingredient from the recipe, such as fresh lobster meat on top of your lobster bisque or fresh crab and corn on top of a corn chowder.
--Sprinkle the top layer of your soup with a colorful, recipe-enhancing spice such as turmeric or paprika for a dash of color, and let that spice "pepper" the rim of your bowl as well for a professional presentation.
The Knorr chef team advises pairing soups with unique breads perfect for dipping. Serve foccacias with garlic, roasted tomato, olive or other additions, warmed and in easy-dip squares or elongated spears. Or warm up traditional crusty Italian or French bread for placing alongside your focaccia in a breadbasket centering your dinner table, for guests to choose their own "dippers." Thorson suggests mini squares of grilled cheese sandwiches.
"The craze is bite-size," says Thorson. "Use smaller containers, such as shot glasses or teacups, to give your guests just a taste of the soup. Serve with a small demitasse spoon topped with truffle oil-infused creme fraiche. Stir in before sipping."