Months like these make hibernation seem like not such a bad idea after all. Maybe grizzly bears are onto something. When the temperatures drop, merely leaving the house becomes a Herculean effort.
So, when winter rears its oft-ugly head, I like to hunker down and cozy up inside. No hunkering is complete without my all-time favorite cold weather food: soup. Soups are easy to prepare, delicious to eat and, as an added bonus, seriously comforting to smell as the aromas waft throughout the house.
There is a common formula to a soup. You need onions (at least I need onions!). You need some type of liquid (stock or water). And you need the flavor or two (or three) that turn an onion base into a real, honest-to-goodness soup. There’s no reason to get too fussy or complicated. A simple pea soup can really just be about showcasing the quintessential flavors of the pea, for example.
So here are four soups, each started the same way by sautéing a diced onion, but taken in four very different directions. For the corn chowder, I kept the soup chunky, added plenty of chowder-esque ingredients and finished it with cream. The spinach and watercress soup shows how you can take salad greens and turn them into soup— without overcooking them into a brown mess on the stove. A smooth carrot and ginger soup follows about as classic a soup formula as you can get. Finally, the beet borscht shows the technique of steeping some key ingredients in the stock to ramp up the stock’s flavor before beginning your soup.
These recipes show that winter is no match for a cook armed with a few simple tricks of the soup trade.
Binny McNamara most recently cooked at Woodberry Kitchen. In her spare time, she tests recipes for her blog, binnycooks.com.