Back when we were still getting our CSA, I was making a lot of soup. Mostly because we were drowning in vegetables. I'd start with chicken broth and then try to adjust the seasonings to the types of vegatables I was using. It was all very random, and I think we went through a good amount of random things from the pantry that way. One day we forgot the chicken broth, but I still wanted to make some soup. Scott found a garlic soup recipe on the New York Times website and read it off to me as I was working in the kitchen. I can't be sure which one it was, although this one by Julie Powell sounds pretty close. I could not believe how easy and cheap it was and yet how amazingly delicious. In fact, I just ate a portion of it from my freezer for lunch, and it has a way of making you feel more alive, awake, and yet light on your feet. It feels medicinal - completely light and delicious, but the garlic broth has a bit of a zing to it. I am sure if you had a cold this would really do the trick.
So basically what I did was simmer a whole bunch of water over a couple of heads of garlic that were broken up but not peeled with a bunch of herbs, a bay leaf, and peppercorns. I couldn't believe after like 20 minutes how much it had thickened. If you wanted it thicker you could probably add some white wine. I might have added some vermouth, but I can't be sure (this is why Thomas Keller says to write things down). I scooped up the garlic pieces and put them through a garlic press (they were very soft at this point). I added a whole bunch of chard, some white navy beans, and a little bit of gemelli (because we have too much pasta - that is the subject for another post). After the pasta was cooked I added salt, pepper, and champagne vinegar. Considering I just put things in the soup that were leftover in our pantry, two heads of garlic, and herbs - that is a cheap lunch. It probably made like 6 servings, and if you compare that to going to eat at Subway every day for $6 a day, which some people do, well that is a huge value. I will say a lot of garlic soup recipes sound delicious with their poached eggs and Parmesan cheese, but I don't think those would work for me to eat at work.
So - the moral of the story is that you don't even need chicken broth to make soup. What a delicious and simple concept.