JG Vongerichten's first cookbook "Cooking at Home with a 4-star Chef" has some excellent and very simple soup recipes that I find myself going to often. The parsley soup - chicken stock, simmered with bundled parsley stems (which are then removed), potatoes and sliced mushrooms (and then garnished with a crapton of fresh parsley before serving) is lovely, the garlic soup is fantastic (but will make your home smell like garlic for weeks, becasue it uses like 2 cups of garlic cloves), and despite the fact that it's a pain in the ass to juice a bunch of cucumbers sufficiently, the cold cucmber soup with lime is a fantastic summer dish (cuke juice, nam pla, lime, chili, lemongrass).
I once made a very rustic soup, can't remember where I got the recipe exactly, that was basically just water, garlic and prosciutto (okay, that part is not exactly rustic, but hey, air-dried cured meat kinda is) as the stock, thickened with stale bread. It was deeply old-school peasant food and it was wonderful. I'd imagine it's a great base for a zillion things.
Also, re: the pepper burn. Yeah, gloves are your best bet. Capsaicin isn't an acid, so it can't be neutralized easily, but it is fat-soluble so a good dish soap (takes grease out of your way!) can do wonders (and is less off-putting than rubbing your hands with sour cream). Also I've heard rubbing alcohol (or vodka) can help wash it off but I haven't tried that. Yet.