Here's our advice:
• Double the recipe. Even though most soups are made in big stock pots, we've found that many recipes often feed only four people. If this is the main course, you do not want to run out. Soup is great left over, so don't worry about overdoing it.
• Make fresh bread. Or buy some really good stuff. No-Knead Bread in a Hurry and No-Time Bread are both quick and easy. Buy some good butter to put on the table. Or, better yet, serve big slices of cheese toast.
• Consider the size of your bowls. Don't use huge ones; a ladle of soup may look skimpy in it, even if it's not. Use cereal-sized bowls, and don't worry about the place settings looking lame. Put the bowls on a larger plate, with a big cloth napkin folded underneath it to cozy things up.
• Serve the soup from a pretty pot. Even if you don't own a soup tureen, maybe you have a pretty ceramic pot that will look nice on the table. This doesn't work for all soups; some may have complicated garnishes that need to be arranged individually. But bringing a big bowl to the table, family-style, looks abundant.
• Give it some meat. No big news here. A soup with meat is more filling, but you can save money because the amount of meat needed for a soup is less than what you'd buy to feed guests individual portions. You can also buy cheaper cuts. Try our Classic Beef Stew or Turkey Chili.
• Add something fresh. Soup can sometimes look sort of... brown. Even green vegetables will wilt and get darker. Just adding some parsley really perks things up, but topping the soup with, say, some blanched snow peas (for an Asian soup) or kale chips is even better.
• Try something exotic. Like this Southeast Asian Beef and Rice Noodle soup- yum. An intensely flavored soup with interesting ingredients shows effort, and, depending on your guests, is something they wouldn't likely make at home.
• Bring the appetizers to the table. The table top may look a bit bare with just soup bowls. If you've been snacking on nuts or olives or a dip, bring it to the table. Then, if people aren't full, they can dive back in.
• Serve beer. Soup and beer sounds better than soup and wine, doesn't it? Beer is more filling, and if you've saved money on soup ingredients, you might spend a tad more on a beer that compliments the meal. We love this Hitachino Nest white ale, which would go well with a Japanese noodle soup like the one above.
• Go big on dessert. We doubt your guests will leave hungry, but just in case... How about an Oreo cake?
And speaking of the Japanese noodle soup above, here's the link:
• Japanese Soba Noodle How-To, from Domino (go and copy it quick- the site is going away soon!)
Any more tips out there?
(Image: Marcus Nilsson for Domino)