Don’t get a cold. If you do, mainline soup, preferably made by you, or better yet, by mom. My mom is a soup genius.
Soup is a powerful warrior. It will slay sniffles and cure coughs. It will warm your insides and thaw your icy brain, which gets slow and chilly with the shorter, darker days, the leafless trees, and the belligerent wind whipping down 12th Avenue that leaves your face raw. Even your teeth ache with cold.
I was obsessed with soup my first long winter in New York. I had just turned 18 and was not so much assaulted by the severity of the cold as by its duration. Walking to the library in the lit up night and to class in the bleak morning, the cold curled up somewhere deep, so that my clanky radiator and hot, flip-flopped dorm showers weren’t enough to disrupt my shivers. But soup — soup did the trick.
I knew my soup options: Soup with bok choy and fat, greasy dumplings from Ollie’s, Coconut chicken soup from the defunct Saigon Grill (picket lines be damned, I needed my fix), chilate from Taqueria Y Fonda, ramen from M2M, or lentil from the chatty guys at Samad’s Gourmet. A steamy bowl — the key to my heart and my sanity.
Then something happened: I got a kitchen. And an immersion blender. My soup sage mom taught me well. All you need is some veggies and an immersion blender and you, too, are endowed with the great power of making so-easy-it-hurts soups. Soups to make your home cozy and the winter before us a little less daunting. Don’t forget some good olive oil for drizzling, and some crusty bread for bowl swiping.
All these soups just get better after a day, or two, or three, as the flavors meld and mellow and sing. Plus they’re healthy and wholesome, so you can feel good about bowl number two or three.
Note: If you don’t have a stick blender, go get one, they’re really cheap! Or, you can use a traditional blender. Just blend your soup in batches, and transfer back to the mother pot.
Vegan Wild Mushroom Soup
This is an I-can’t-believe-it’s-so-healthy-and-creamless sort of achievement. Perfect for post-Thanksgiving repentance that doesn’t feel like repentance.
Sautee some onions, leeks, and garlic in olive oil. While they’re getting soft and sweet, soak dried porcinis in hot water for a half-hour. Drain (cheesecloth is your friend, but a colander works, too), and save the liquid.
Clean and slice a pile of mushrooms. Choose some fancy, flavorful, expensive ‘shrooms like shitakes and maitakes, and then add creminis and button mushrooms for volume and more mushroomy-ness. Add your fresh and reconstituted mushrooms to the sautéing veggies. When they get soft, add the juice from the dried mushrooms, some water or veggie stock, and a handful of diced potato (the potato is for creaminess and heft…magic!). Season with soy sauce, pepper, and some dried rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about an hour.
Then whip out your immersion blender and whir until the soup is smooth. This is when you taste to adjust seasoning, and finish with a glug of sherry.
Cuminy Cauliflower Soup
I love making soup with roasted veggies, because the roasty flavor adds lots of wonderful depth.
Dress cauliflower florets with cumin, curry powder, and olive oil, and roast until tender in a hot oven.
While the cauliflower is doing its thing, sauté an onion in olive oil. When the cauliflower is soft but not too soft, add it to the onion with a plop of butter. Sauté for a few minutes, then add enough water or veggie stock to cover the veggies and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced and the cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes.
Then — blend it up, baby. Taste to adjust seasoning, stir in some parmesan, and top with another sprinkle of cheese.
Butternut Squash Soup
Such a classic, and for good reason. You can play with adding curry powder, or ginger, or coconut milk, or goat cheese.
Melt butter on a hot stovetop, then sauté diced onion, carrot, and butternut squash for a while — patience! — about 15 minutes, maybe even 20. Add chicken or veggie broth and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.
Then blend up the soup with your stick blender. Season and stir in a little half-and-half if you’re feeling decadent, or plop a dollop of crème fraîche on each bowl.
Pumpkin Coconut Soup
The pumpkin is sweet and earthy, and a curry and cayenne lends spice. Naughty and nice and tasty and comforting.
Half your pumpkin, rub with butter, and roast in a hot oven until its flesh is soft and yielding when poked with a fork.
Sauté shallots, garlic, and ginger in oil until tender and translucent. Scoop out the pumpkin meat with a spoon and sauté that, too. Season with curry powder, cumin, and a dash or more of cayenne — depending on how spicy you like your soup. Add a can of coconut milk and some veggie or chicken stock, and let the soup come to a boil. Turn down the heat and…blend!
Garnish with scallions or cilantro or toasted pumpkin seeds.