During this festive season, in which every moment seems to be filled with gustatory temptation, it is sensible to downscale consumption and reduce indulgence when possible.
Everyone loves a party. Cookies are great. I adore cocktails.
But on the nights when no social occasion calls, I suggest a healthy, wholesome bowl of soup to counter the latkes, drinks, pastries and cheesy bits that become much of our diet during the month of December (and that we regret come January).
Bean soup a la Matt
My husband has become quite a good cook. Sunday seems to be his day in the kitchen, and he gravitates toward one-pot, wholesome dishes like chili and stew.
He was inspired to create a bean soup one Sunday when we were given the leftovers of a smoked turkey dinner. The turkey bones gave the soup a nice smoky flavor. Turkey hocks, smoked turkey wings or a few slices of turkey bacon would do the trick if you don’t have a spare carcass lying around.
This warm, hearty, but not terribly fattening soup is ideal on a cold evening. The high-fiber, low-fat, protein content of the beans makes it all the better.
The soup freezes well, too.
2 pounds black-eyed peas (or substitute white beans or great northern beans)
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-3 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder, to taste
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
Bones from a smoked turkey (or substitute 2 turkey hocks or 4 strips turkey bacon
Water to cover
Soak the beans overnight and drain. Rinse them well. Place them in a large pot.
Add the remaining ingredients. Bring them to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or more until the beans are tender.
Adjust the seasoning and serve.
Spicy tomato soup (or not)
½ onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
½-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh jalapeno or pickled jalapeno pepper
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
2 cups vegetable broth
½ cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium-size pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion with the ginger and peppers until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and broth, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, carefully puree the soup until it’s smooth.
Add the half-and-half and serve.
Carrot soup with fresh dill
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
12 large carrots, sliced (no need to peel)
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bunch fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup half-and-half, if desired
In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté onion until fragrant. Add the celery and carrots, and continue sautéing until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the dill, stir and add the stock, salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the ingredients are softened.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.
If desired, add the half-and-half.
Keri White is a Philadelphia food writer.