With these soups, the chill is gone

It's been a snowy, blowy winter. When the weather turns to this, I turn to soup. It's fun to make, and you'll stay warm while it simmers. And pretty much anything can be turned into soup.

These soups focus on winter vegetables, cabbage, leeks, potatoes and carrots. With all the stuff we crave in winter: beans, ham and bacon. They warm you up inside. Soup is great to have around. If the kids come in from sledding or from a long walk, it's perfect. For an easy dinner, with bread and a salad, and there's always some left over for lunch or to tuck in the freezer. Happy simmering.

Chunky Potato, Leek and Spinach Soup

PG tested

This is a version of a soup I've been making for years. The soup changes depending on what's in the larder. Sometimes I make it with only potatoes and onions if there are no leeks about. You could use russet potatoes, but Yukon Golds add more texture. You can omit the cream at the end if you prefer or add milk instead. Or you can omit all dairy and increase the olive oil to 3 tablespoons. Chicken broth could be vegetable broth or just use all water. Throw in a few carrots, if you like. Or some chard. After rinsing the leeks, spin them dry or blot them before adding to the pot.

You cannot freeze this soup as potatoes become mealy once frozen.

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 2 medium leeks (or 1 large), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (2 cups), well rinsed of grit

  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (4 cups)

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

  • 1 cup water

  • 4 packed cups baby spinach

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In Dutch oven, melt butter in oil over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add leeks, onion, thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 6 minutes.

Add potatoes, broth and water. Stir well, raise heat to high, cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer briskly, covered, until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Mash coarsely with potato masher. Stir in spinach. Cover and simmer 5 more minutes.

Mash again to get the texture you like. Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through and serve.

Makes 4 servings

-- Miriam Rubin

Split Pea and Ham Soup

PG tested

This warming soup is served at the Taste of Art Restaurant in the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. The students are learning to be chefs, and they are trained to cut the carrots, celery and onion into painstakingly neat 1/4-inch cubes, but chopping them is easier; just don't make them too fine. The soup will thicken in the fridge. Simply add some water when reheating. It makes a nice, big batch and freezes well. (If you want to taste the food at International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, its Taste of Art restaurant is at 420 Blvd. of the Allies, Downtown, on the ninth floor. It's open 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, through Tuesday, March 12. Reservations aren't required, but you can get them and more information by calling 412-291-6532.)

  • 1 pound bag green split peas, sorted and rinsed

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 medium carrots (recipe only called for 1), coarsely chopped

  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

  • 4 cups water

  • 8 ounces lean, smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

  • 1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put split peas in medium saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, skimming off the foam that rises to surface, for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander.

In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes, until starting to get soft. Add carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir about 1 minute, just until fragrant.

Stir in split peas, broth and water. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Stir in ham, thyme, marjoram and bay leaf; return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently until peas are very soft, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Discard bay leaf, taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt or pepper, if you like. Serve in warmed bowls.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

-- Adapted from The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Paul Steindler's Cabbage Soup

PG tested

I was so tickled to find this Eastern European-inspired recipe in the big, red "Essential New York Times Cookbook." I used to work for Paul Steindler, a restaurateur and ex-Olympic wrestler who owned The Duck Joint in New York City. He opened a pretty French place called Chez Paul, and I worked in the kitchen. He was married to an ice skater, and she gave us all tickets to the Ice Capades. My husband loved this soup, said it was part of his Ukrainian roots. This is not a good choice for freezing because of the potatoes, but it didn't last long at our house.

  • 6 cups finely sliced cabbage (about 1 pound)

  • 1 cup finely diced bacon (about 6 ounces)

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup peeled and finely diced carrots

  • 1 1/3 cups peeled and finely diced potatoes

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed or pulverized (I used a mortar and pestle, but they don't budge much; guess they were bruised)

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used half cream and half milk)

  • Whole milk, if needed

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dill

Fill half a Dutch oven with water; cover and bring to boil over high heat. Add cabbage and cook 1 minute. Drain in colander. Dry the pot.

Cook bacon in same Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until fat is rendered. Add onion and cook, stirring, until wilted. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Gradually add broth and water, stirring rapidly with a whisk. Bring to a boil, whisking often.

When mixture simmers, add drained cabbage, carrots, potatoes, salt and pepper to taste and caraway seeds. Stir in vinegar and sugar, if using. Cover and simmer, stirring often from the bottom up until vegetables are just tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Stir in cream (or cream and milk) and simmer 5 minutes. This is a very rich, thick soup. If desired, thin it with a little milk.

Serve in hot soup bowls, sprinkled with dill.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

-- Adapted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century," by Amanda Hesser (Norton, 2010)

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com and on Twitter @mmmrubin. First Published February 14, 2013 5:00 AM


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