Six soup recipes to warm you in winter
Soup, the most basic of dishes, is an important part of every cultural cuisine. Originally “soupe” or “sops” described a hot broth poured on or combined with bread, the bread being the sopping vehicle.
When I was growing up on a ranch in Colorado, the big meal of the day was lunch. Supper, which was the last meal of the day before bed, was often something “soupy” or “stewy,” a simple one-dish meal that was easily digested and helped you sleep. The dividing line between soups and stews is vague! My friend Amy Mintzer recalls that when she went to summer camp as a little girl, they also served the big meal at lunch with some kind of soup for dinner. They called the dinner soup “cream of lunch!”
Here are some of my favorite soups for winter.
This takes advantage of ready-made ingredients like canned beans, making it very quick to put together.
White Bean and ?Tortellini Soup with Kale
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces pancetta or bacon (3 slices), cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small white onion, sliced thinly lengthwise (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons peeled and thinly sliced garlic
1 cup peeled carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice
½ teaspoon fennel seed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1½ cups (4 ounces or so) store-bought, fresh cheese tortellini
1 15-ounce can (2 cups home-cooked) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 small kale leaves, center rib removed and cut into ¼-inch strips
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler (1 ounce)
Heat the oil and pancetta in a deep saucepan or soup pot over moderate heat and cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the onion, garlic, carrots and fennel seed to the pan and cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and, with heat on high, bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, kale and tomatoes and heat through. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. Serve the soup topped with the Parmigiano and reserved pancetta.
Borscht is claimed by several ethnic groups, especially Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Lithuanians and Ashkenazi Jews, as their own. Borscht also plays a role in religious traditions of various denominations (Eastern Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholic and Jewish) that are common in Eastern Europe. In East Slavic countries, “memorial borscht” is served as the first course at a wake. According to traditional beliefs, the soul of the departed either feeds on or is carried up to heaven by puffs of steam rising from bowls of borscht and other hot dishes, such as blini or porridge that are served after the funeral.
In Poland and Ukraine, borscht is usually served at Christmas Eve dinner. In the Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, vegetarian borscht served with sour cream and boiled potatoes on the side, known as peysakhdiker borsht, is considered essential during Passover.
There are endless variations of the recipe - meat and meatless, cold or hot. Original versions didn’t include beets but were made from fermented hog weed, giving the soup a sour flavor. Modern recipes still include a sour ingredient - vinegar, lemon or even sauerkraut - to complement the sweetness of the beets. Roasting the beets deepens their flavor and sweetness
Roasted Beet Borscht
Makes 2 quarts serving 6 to 8
2 pounds red beets
4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium sweet red onion, peeled and chopped, about 3 cups
1 cup peeled and chopped carrot
3 cups chopped red cabbage
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons peeled and chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fennel or caraway seed
7 cups beef or chicken stock
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Sour cream or crème fraiche
1 hardboiled egg, peeled and chopped
- Fresh dill or parsley sprigs
Preheat oven to ?400 degrees. Scrub the beets well and remove leaves and the tap root at the bottom. Place the beets in a baking pan or dish, brush them liberally with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast until tender (a skewer should easily pierce them), about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool and rub off skins. Chop into ½-inch pieces and reserve.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, cabbage, celery, garlic and fennel seed. Cook until vegetables are softened and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Add stock, reserved beets, vinegar and tomato paste and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.