–written by Heather Leach, Agriculture Education Manager
As the temperature drops, I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. Sure a lot of that time is spent eating (my pants can attest to that), but I also enjoy cooking during the winter too. What the season lacks in abundant fresh ingredients, it makes up for in hearty and comforting storage crops – and the chance to crack open the array of colorful jarred veggies that I canned over the summer. I can easily – and quite contentedly – spend an evening paging through cookbooks and planning menus I wouldn’t have the patience to prepare in the summertime. And one of my favorite winter dishes is soup. Soups are forgiving and flexible, allowing you to work with ingredients that you have on hand, can be accommodatingly simple and store incredibly well. And they hit the spot like no other food can when the polar vortex arrives on our doorsteps. What is not to love about soup? It is no wonder then that soup gets its due this month as we celebrate National Soup Month. While you may be tempted to celebrate by reaching in the pantry for a convenient canned variety, avoid that temptation as they tend to be high in sodium. Instead, take a few more minutes to make your own delicious recipe from scratch. In celebration of soup, I have compiled three recipes that make the most of seasonal and healthy ingredients, without taking hours to prepare.
Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans
Recipe: Martha Stewart
This soup packs a healthy punch with the combination of seasonal greens, protein-rich beans and canned tomatoes. Lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes, can be more easily absorbed by the body from canned processed tomatoes (particularly tomato paste, where the lycopene is most concentrated), so make the most of their health benefits this winter by skipping the hard, anemic tomatoes in the produce aisle and picking up their canned cousins. Don’t feel you have to follow this recipe to the T; minestrone is great with whatever vegetables you have on hand, and consider adding beef or sausage if you’d prefer a meaty variety.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound (about 2 bunches) collard greens, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 cans (19 ounces each) white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice
Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until onion is coated, about 30 seconds. Add collard greens, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Place 1/4 of beans in a bowl, and mash them with the back of a spoon (this will help thicken soup). Add all the beans to the pan, as well as tomatoes with juice and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, until collards are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.
Tom Yam Kung (Hot and Sour Prawn Soup)
Also spelled tom yum goong, this is one of the more well-known Thai dishes, and is surprisingly easy to make at home. The combination of of hot, sour and spicy flavors is instantly recognizable and pretty hard to resist. If you’re craving a break from heavier winter dishes, tom yum is a tropical vacation for your tastebuds.While it does require a few specialty ingredients, they are inexpensive and commonly found in Asian grocery stores. According to research, tom yum soup may help to fight cancer – the ingredients being particularly effective at inhibiting tumor growth.
12 oz. raw shrimp
1 tablespoon oil
3 lemongrass stalks, white parts only, bruised
3 thin slices of galangal
8 cups of chicken stock, thai culinary stock or water
5-7 bird’s eye chiles, stems removed, bruised
5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 oz. straw mushrooms, or quartered button mushrooms
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
3 tablespoons lime juice
a few cilantro leaves, for garnish
- Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact and reserving the heads and shells. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or wok and add the shrimp heads and shells. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shells turn bright orange.
- Add one stalk of lemongrass to the pan with the galangal and stock or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the stock and return to the pan. Discard the shells and flavorings.
- Finely slice the remaining lemongrass and add it to the liquid with the chilis, lime leaves, fish sauce, mushrooms and spring onions. Cook gently for 2 minutes.
- Add the shrimp, and cook for 3 minutes or until the shrimp and firm and pink. Take off the heat and add the lime juice. Taste, then adjust the seasoning with extra lime juice or fish sauce if necessary. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Red Lentil-Pumpkin Soup
Recipe: Cooking Light
What is winter without a creamy pumpkin soup? This one pairs canned pumpkin with quick-cooking dried lentils for a dish that can be made at a moment’s notice. If you happen to have whole pumpkin or winter squash on hand – Long Island Cheese pumpkin and butternut squash are good candidates – then simply steam it before adding it to the soup. Since it might be chunky, opt to puree the soup after you’ve added the cooked pumpkin, rather than before.
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth, divided
1 cup dried small red lentils
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup water
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels, toasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes.
- Stir in 3 cups broth, lentils, and next 4 ingredients (through red pepper); bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
- Place the lentil mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth.
- Return lentil mixture to pan over medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth, 1 cup water, and pumpkin to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
- Stir in ginger and lemon juice.
- Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, and 1 tablespoon cilantro.