Cambrian: Opinion

Culinary Corner: Celebrity chefs share secrets of super soup making for Soupabration

I ordered my tickets for the second annual Grand Ole Soupabration to benefit the Friends of the Elephant Seals — what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, Sept. 9, at our own Camp Ocean Pines. Charmaine Coimbra and her committee have gone all-out to provide you with four hours of food, fun, art and wine tasting. Nine Central Coast chefs will compete for the “Celebrity Judge” awards the the categories “From the Farm,” “From the Sea” and “From the Garden.” Entries will be also be considered for “People’s Choice” and “Best of Show” honors.

Round it out with artisan olives, breads and cookies and come away with super silent auction items, including celebrity suppers for eight and cooking demonstrations. I have my eye on sitting with one of the noted authors at a special table. Food Network Chef Rahm Fama will reprise his stint as emcee, and we may have a recipe from him in the near future. See an insert in to-day’s Tribune for key details, and pick up tickets at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Elephant Seal office in San Simeon, or email

Chef Gary Baker of Divine Street Catering insists on using the very best ingredients. “Most soups start with celery, carrots, and onions sautéed in some kind of fat,” he says. “From there you could go in any direction: most soups should be slightly thickened before serving. As a well-seasoned chef of 40 years, this is the simplest way it works.”

Chef Matt Beckett, last year’s winner of the “Seasonal Soups” category, adds, “If you start with the best available ingredients and homemade stock, be sure to taste, taste, taste and season well; you could be on your way to an award-winning soup. I also feel that a good soup should draw you in with the first spoonful, but a great soup makes you want to finish, lick or scrape the cup clean.” (Cook’s Note: I didn’t see anyone leaving any soup in their cups last year.)

Simplicity is always a keen byword, but sometimes it is the finesse which makes a memorable presentation. On the Cambria Kitchen Tour, I heard many comments about the unique topping which Betsy Kinkaid sprinkled over strawberries and cantaloupe, coupling an unlikely ingredient to enhance the flavor:

Basil Sugar

1 cup sugar (best to use fine baker’s sugar)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Chop basil leaves finely in a food processor with a metal blade. Add sugar and process until well combined. (At this point fresh basil sugar may be used within a few hours, or the basil will blacken over time.)

Spread basil and sugar mixture evenly on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and pan and allow to cool at least 30 minutes.

Place baked sugar mixture in a bowl and use fingers to break up, or place mixture in a plastic zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin. If mixture still feels moist, place back in the oven for 15 minutes and crush after cooling.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week; freeze for longer storage. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

If you want a wonderful collection of the successful recipes from the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, including updated pages, call the FFRP office at 927-2856, stop by the Cambria Historical Museum Book Store, or A Matter of Taste. Sally and Mike Thompson offer delicious samples, opportunities for cooking demos, and wonderful gourmet supplies at their shop on Burton Drive.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Send your unique recipes to her c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or email to