Fall's the time for steaming, hearty soups

The soup season is with us, and novice cooks as well as expert chefs are eager to prepare hearty bowls of soup to welcome chilly days. But many people don't feel knowledgeable enough to wend their way through the long, tedious steps required to produce a rich, flavorful, mysterious soup stock.

One of my favorite cookbooks devotes four whole pages of fine print to collecting ingredients for making a stock involving the cracking and crushing of special soup bones; the simmering, seasoning, and clarifying - all done before you get into the final production.

There is a quicker way to steaming bowls of goodness, and that is using several simple soup recipes. I've recommended these to many young cooks, including my four daughters, on their way to gaining the confidence needed to graduate to the ''real'' thing. Potato-Cheese Supper Soup 3 cups frozen hash brown potatoes 1 1/4 cups chicken broth 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 cups milk 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup shredded processed cheese 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 cup cooked vegetables 1 cup cubed cooked ham, chicken, or turkey

Mix potatoes and broth in 2-quart saucepot. Bring to boil, turn heat low, cover, and cook 2 to 3 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Blend a little milk with cornstarch until smooth. Combine with remaining milk and salt, and stir into potato mixture.

Heat to boiling and stir until smooth and slightly thickened.

Remove from heat and add cheese, parsley, and butter. Stir until cheese is melted. Add vegetables and meat. Serves 4 to 5. This soup does not freeze well, so eat it up.

Start with the recipes as given, for confidence. In no time you will be making your own variations of vegetables and meat, and you can include leftover vegetables as an economy measure.

Soup is such a versatile food. Large bowlfuls are good for a main dish with hot rolls or garlic toast; small bowlfuls are good with sandwiches. And soup is handy for unexpected visitors. Lentil-Sausage Soup 1 cup lentils 1 pound sausage 8 cups water 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth 1 cup chopped onion 1 16-ounce can tomatoes, undrained, cut up 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon oregano 2 medium carrots, sliced 2 stalks celery, sliced

Clean lentils of foreign particles. Cut sausage into small slices and fry. Drain.

Combine in large saucepan, lentils, sausage, water, chicken broth, onions, tomatoes, salt, and oregano.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add carrots and celery, cover, and simmer for an additional 40 minutes. Season to taste. Ladle into bowls and enjoy. Freezes well.

Hamburger soup is an elementary concoction that several college students on their own have found easy to make on Monday for reheating later. Hamburger Soup 1 pound lean ground beef 2 medium onions, chopped 1 cup carrots, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) beef broth 1 8-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained, cut up 1/2 teaspoon basil 1/4 cup uncooked barley 4 cups water 3 tablespoons ketchup 1 bay leaf Salt, plain or seasoned, about 1 teaspoon Brown beef and drain well. Add other ingredients and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste. This makes a real meal in a bowl. Serves 6. Freezes well.

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