Soups, stews and other gloomy day eats
January 16, 2020
It's these gloomy, overcast days that put me in the mood to cook stews or make a big pot of soup, with homemade bread. It could be ten degrees below zero with three feet of snow on the ground, but if the sun is out, I'll eat a salad. Sun and salads go together, this is probably still Los Angeles' influence on me.
We've had plenty of gray days lately, and I know there a more to come. Also, it's January, when many of us have pledged to lose weight, go to the gym, eat healthier and other "take care of ourselves" resolutions. Here are some ideas for soups that can be healthy, or not so healthy-you choose.
Pureed Vegetable Soups – just like my easy butternut squash soup, these are variations on a theme. You can use almost any vegetable that appeals to you. Start by sautéing an onion in oil (olive, grapeseed, or vegetable), or butter (richer less healthy version), season with salt and pepper. When the onion is softened, add whichever vegetable you'd like, (re: cut up broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, butternut squash, green zucchini squash, or carrots), then add either vegetable or chicken stock to cover the vegetable. Cook until the vegetables are very soft, then use either an immersion blender, or just put into a blender (in batches), to puree, check for seasoning. You also may need to add some more liquid depending on the vegetable used.
The cauliflower version of this soup is great with curry seasoning or red pepper flakes. The asparagus can be freshened up with a little lemon juice. Carrot soup is great if you add some fresh oregano (mine is still alive and well in the garden), or ginger. Any of these can be enriched with cream, or a drop of yogurt on top. Croutons are good on top as well.
By the way, I promise, the broccoli version tastes better than it smells. Add some grated cheddar on top to jazz it up.
Having a party? These pureed soups work well as an appetizer. I just put out a variety of mugs, with a ladle and let people serve themselves. These soups don't need a spoon. (Less dishes to wash, my mantra.)
Bean/Lentil Soup – Have a leftover ham bone from your holiday dinner? Think split pea soup. If you don't have the ham hocks, or bones, a turkey carcass works well. Of course, bacon is always a great soup starter. In fact, it's pretty much a great starter to nearly everything. I have a freezer full of single servings of split pea soup, made by Daniel, the chef when he visited during the holidays.
Stews – Beef, venison or lamb are all good options for stew. In my opinion, the best starter for stew is bacon. (Notice a pattern?) Everyone has their own recipe for stew, or just check Google, so many options, so I won't weigh in with a recipe, but I will say, please, season well! Be generous with the salt, meat, vegetables and potatoes can take it! Bay leaves are also good, use more than you think you need. I often use about 6-7.
Pot Pies – Yum! As kids, my parents rewarded us for good report cards with our choice of dinner. My brother always chose TV dinners, or frozen pot pies because he liked the packaging. My sister would choose Cheerios and milk, she was the picky eater. I don't remember ever choosing; I'm guessing, my report cards never warranted the reward. But maybe I get kudos for appreciating her cooking.
January may be cold and gray, but it's ok, because soup's on!