Lighten Up, America!

We sent Cooking Light's tireless contributing editor, Allison Fishman Task, on a mission: to crisscross the country in search of favorite regional foods and to lighten them for a country that is starting to think hard about what it eats. Buy the Book: Lighten Up, America!

America's Favorite Regional Soups

Get bowled over by these favorite soup dishes from around the U.S.A.

Tortilla Soup

Southwest: Tortilla Soup

Photo: Oxmoor House

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Cheddar Cheese & Beer Soup
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Brunswick Stew
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New England Clam Chowder
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NORTHEAST 
New England Clam Chowder
Known in many parts of the state as Boston clam chowder, this milk- or cream-based chowder is commonly made with potatoes, onions, and clams. It originated as a working-class one-pot meal among the fishermen of colonial-era Boston.

EAST
Pepper Pot
In Philadelphia, pepper pot is hailed as the fortifying dish that revitalized  George Washington’s troops during the long, cold winter when they were encamped at Valley Forge during the heart of the American Revolution. The soup, a mixture of tripe, vegetables, and peppercorns, may have been brought north by slaves or traders from West Africa, where it originated.

SOUTHEAST
Brunswick Stew
There are several accounts of the origin of this hearty pot stew made with a variety of meats, corn, tomatoes, lima beans, and sometimes okra. But a plaque on an old iron pot in Brunswick, Georgia, says the first Brunswick stew was made in 1898 on St. Simons Island in Georgia. Early versions may have contained rabbit or squirrel, although contemporary variations often feature chicken.

SOUTH
Pot Likker Soup

Pot likker, also known as pot liquor, is the flavorful broth that remains in the pot after cooking down a “mess” of collard, mustard, or turnip greens. The greens are typically seasoned with a smoked ham hock or smoked turkey wings that gives the liquor deep rich flavor. During the colonial days, this liquid was drained and often served as a broth. Today, folks in the South don’t separate the collards from their liquor and instead make a hearty soup by bulking up the broth with a variety of ingredients such as celery, onion, carrots, black-eyed peas, and rice.

MIDWEST
Cheddar Cheese & Beer Soup
Wisconsin still accounts for the majority of the cheddar cheese produced in America today. Combine that with the golden carbonated beverage that’s another of the state’s most popular exports and you have a true Wisconsin classic. Popcorn is often the preferred garnish.

SOUTHWEST
Tortilla Soup
This is a savory broth-based soup showcasing many of the region’s celebrated ingredients and Mexican heritage: tortillas, corn, beans, tomatoes, onions, and meat (usually chicken). Salsa and avocado are also commonly added.

WEST
Green Chile Stew
Chiles are New Mexico’s largest agricultural crop and, especially when harvested green, are the state’s most notable culinary offering. There are many varieties of green chile stew, but most include pork or beef and potatoes in addition to the chiles.

NORTHWEST
Baked Potato Soup
America’s potato capital serves up soup with all the traditional baked potato fixin’s. Cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon, and green onions add familiar flavor to the potato soup, which is commonly pureed with broth but can also be served chunky.

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