It is 30 degrees outside, and the wind is howling. It’s amazing how fast winter appears. Sometimes I wonder why I stay in this climate. My nose is always freezing, my lips are always chapped, and I use hand cream by the gallon. I just want to hibernate until the landscape turns green again.
All the cold weather changes our food choices. We’re back to winter foods — those stick-to-your-ribs dishes that people make in winter and avoid all spring, summer and fall. Although I have never figured out why anyone would want food to stick to their ribs and not travel through their digestive track, I get the idea of eating heavy foods that take longer to digest and are steaming hot.
If you are a carnivore, you eat stews and more meat in the winter. Cavemen hunted for meat in the winter, eating vegetables and grains in the summer and fall because they were available. Even though we can get all these foods year round, we still gravitate to meat in the winter and lighter foods in the summer. Even vegetarians and vegans look for more beans and hearty veggies in the winter.
We also gravitate to soups. Their joys are countless. Soups soothe and warm, they comfort, they nourish the soul as well as the body, and they fill us with warmth. They heal as well — chicken soup is prescribed for upper respiratory infections, and vegetable soup is healthful and perfect for anyone with a virus or recovering from surgery. It is filled with healthful nutrients and is easy to digest.
Soup is the perfect diet food. Anyone on a diet knows that a bowl of light, broth-like veggie soup before dinner can decrease the number of calories consumed in the meal.
We can’t change the season. It’s grey and cold and miserable — unless you are one of those people who loves cold weather. But we can make it more tolerable with some delicious, nutritious soup to soothe that first winter cold and help you avoid winter weight gain.
Roasted Garlic, Leek and Potato Soup (dairy or pareve)
2 heads garlic, or about 20 cloves
1/2 to 2/3 cup canola oil
2 to 3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, slices broken apart
1-1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 1 cup milk or non-dairy substitute
Place the garlic cloves and oil in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. The oil should cover the cloves completely. If it does not, add more oil.
Simmer until the cloves are golden and softened, about 20 minutes or more. When done, remove from the heat and let cool.
Place 2 to 3 Tbsp. of the oil in which the garlic was cooked in a soup pot. Add the sliced leeks and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir often to break up the slices.
Strain the garlic cloves over a container. Add the cloves to the soup pot and reserve the oil for another use. (It’s great in salad dressings.) Add the potatoes to the soup pot and mix well. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until potatoes have broken down and are mushy.
Use an immersion blender to emulsify the soup until it is creamy. Add the milk or cream and mix well. Heat until steaming, but not boiling. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with snipped chives or scallions. Serves 4 to 6.
NOTE: You can add personalize this soup to your family’s tastes. Use buttermilk instead of milk for a little tang. You can also add sour cream or yogurt. Add some thyme or oregano, if you like, or add some carrots to the recipe while cooking for a bit of sweetness. You can also season with smoked salt or a bit of chili powder or tobacco sauce.
Turkish Lentil Soup (Pareve or Dairy)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 lb. dried red or mixed lentils (red, brown, etc.)
2 to 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered OR
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper
Pour the olive oil into a large soup pot and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add all the ingredients and boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 to 60 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings.
You can use an immersion blended and blend the soup to any consistency you like or leave the lentils and veggies whole. Makes about 4 quarts soup.
Variations: Try adding cooked rice or macaroni. Or, just before serving, you can add some freshly made large toasted croutons and/or sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the top. You can also drizzle some mild chili oil in a design on the soup before serving, or top with toasted, chopped pistachio nuts.
White Bean and Kale Soup (Pareve or Meat)
3 to 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 to 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
2 large yellow gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
2 to 3 cans white navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bunch kale, washed thoroughly, stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
Optional: 1 to 2 cans red beans, rinsed, drained
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid
Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot. Add onions and garlic and heat until translucent, 5 to 9 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and potatoes, and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the bay leaves and mix well.
Slowly add the stock and beans and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Add the kale and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with minced parsley. Serves a crowd.
If you hate kale, use baby spinach leaves for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
Variation: For an added calcium boost, add some broccoli florets to the soup during the last 5 to 8 minutes of cooking. You can add any vegetables or beans you like — I have used frozen lima beans and frozen cut green beans instead of the white beans and kale.