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Mary Sue and Susan teach you to make incredible soup in just 25 minutes

Mary Sue and Susan's tips on soups and salads.


chefs at home

Mary Sue and Susan Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Los Angeles' Border Grill and the TV Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales" talk about their secrets to simple foods at home and the beauty of planning ahead.

FOODFIT: What are three things that you can't live without in the kitchen?

MARY SUE: Well, it seems like every time I go to cook dinner, which is every night, my fabulous, sharp, favorite chef's knife comes out of the drawer. My pepper mill is always used at every meal, and I pretty much use my 10 inch skillet at almost every meal. Either I'm making croutons for salad or I'm cooking - I use the skillet a lot.

SUSAN: I use the skillet a lot. And I definitely have two really good Japanese knives that I use all the time. I'd say those, and a good sauté pan. I use a stockpot quite a bit, though, too, because I make soups a lot because I'm completely lazy and it's an easy thing.

MARY SUE: You can make an incredible soup with five ingredients in 25 minutes.

FOODFIT: What's the secret to that?

MARY SUE: Just spending that 25 minutes as opposed to opening that can of yucko. (See Mary Sue and Susan's tips for making great soup.)

FOODFIT: What rounds out a home cook's repertoire?

SUSAN: Well, a great salad is important.

FOODFIT: How do you make great salads?

MARY SUE: You need an oversized bowl. So you need a bowl twice as big as the amount of salad greens you want to toss. We make a green salad every single night, and it's different all the time, maybe we'll put cabbage in or we'll put different kinds of greens. I love to put herbs in like mint leaves and basil leaves or fennel fronds. All those kinds of things really flavor a salad nicely. I don't put tomatoes in my salad. They're too watery.

SUSAN: I cook a lot less than Mary Sue does at home. So I tend to buy more things that will last, like green beans or cauliflower or broccoli, and make salads with marinated vegetables.

MARY SUE: Also, you need some crunchy things. I like to toast pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in a dry sauté pan, and right when they're finished, I cover them with fresh squeezed lime juice and salt and soy sauce.

SUSAN: I made those last night, I have to say.

MARY SUE: They're good, aren't they? Let them cool off and put them in the salad. And I make croutons all the time with different kinds of bread. Just so you have different kinds of things in the salad.

FOODFIT: Any restaurant tricks that you do at home?

SUSAN: If you're going to have people over, the best thing you can do is prep stuff ahead so you're not constantly in the kitchen the whole time people are there. I think from the restaurant business you learn how to plan your time so it just isn't overwhelming when you have guests coming over, or you know what stages you can take something to (before the party).

MARY SUE: I think for the average family trying to get fresh cooked foods on the table all week long, it's good to take a day, go to the market and get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is the most time-consuming, challenging part, yet it's also a part that most Americans are not incorporating in their diets successfully. I always go to the farmer's market on Sunday morning and take the kids and they get really involved in picking out the foods and start to get comfortable with the idea of eating dandelions or whatever we're going to have. Then I prep it all. Everything gets washed and spun dry and put it in plastic bags, wrapped in towels, whatever it happens to be.

SUSAN: I do the same after I go to the market. I mean it just seems like you can do all of the prep early, right when you get it. It just makes that last minute cooking a lot quicker, not quite so consuming.

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  • Use a bowl that's twice as big as you need
  • For flavor, try mint leaves, basil or fennel fronds
  • For texture and crunch, toss in pepitas, sunflower seeds or other seeds, nuts, jicama or homemade croutons
  • Try adding roasted or marinated vegetables
  • Leave tomatoes out of green salads, serve them on a plate marinated with olive oil and a little salt and pepper
  • Vary the greens by using cabbage or escarole or baby lettuces
  • Wash and bag greens when you get home from the market so you're good to go.


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