I know, I know, I live in Southern California, so what do I know about cold winters? The thing is, California houses don’t have the kind of insulation and central heating that houses built to sustain winter weather have, so they tend to be cold in the winter months. Our days may be warm in Los Angeles, but our nights are chilly (“It’s a desert climate,” as my late mother liked to say) and our homes are drafty, with warm air coming out of vents that are seemingly randomly placed, at a perfect level for warming my cat but not so great for me. My sister, who lives in New York but spends a couple of weeks with me at Christmas, keeps her long underwear at my house; it’s the only place she needs it.
My inspirations for this batch of soup recipes came from far and wide. I am always ready to make a long-simmering minestrone, especially when I have gorgeous beans from Rancho Gordo to play with. The ones that I used were huge white European runner beans called Royal Coronas. They are similar to Greek gigandes but bigger, richer and sturdier. They’re downright meaty and produced a delicious broth. I added lots of winter squash to the minestrone, as well as the usual carrots and celery, onions, tomatoes and garlic.
I learned a lot about making soup when I lived in France, where lunch can be the big meal of the day and dinner lighter, often a soup and a salad. On countless occasions friends would invite me for dinner and whip up pureed vegetable soups in no time. This week I made a winter squash soup perfumed with orange and garnished with black quinoa, and I used up chard stems in a sublime chard stem and celeriac puree. Hang on to your chard stalks! There’s plenty you can do with them.
All of you know how much I love big bowls and meals in bowls in general. I have a standard meal in a bowl soup – a subtle broth with soba noodles, whatever vegetables I have on hand, and tofu. It never fails to satisfy and it’s so easy. You can cook the noodles ahead, the broth keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer, so it can be almost as instant as instant ramen when you get home from work.
Before I lived in France I traveled a lot in Mexico. For a while I lived and learned to weave in a small village near Oaxaca called Teotitlàn del Valle. I lived with a family who believed that the only thing Americans could digest were soups and eggs, and that is what they fed me at every meal. And every meal was delicious, because there are so many delicious soups in Mexico, like the tortilla soup (with a roasted cauliflower garnish) that was one of my soups of the week. Speaking of Mexican soups, stay tuned – I can see another set of Recipes for Health in the future focused on the subject.