Seasonal Recipe Favorites: Warming Winter Flavors

by Jane Ahrens

My favorite way to enjoy lunch is with a steaming bowl of hot soup. As a kid I was never a fan of sandwiches so I basically lived on soup in a Thermos all through grade school. Back then it was Campbell’s to the rescue, but today I’ve got no less than four quarts of homemade soup in my freezer at any one time just to be sure I’ve got soup at the ready, especially when I’m too busy to cook. Here are three quick soup recipes and two that need a little more time and attention (but so worth it!) to get you through the cold winter months.

This recipe for Spicy Tomato Soup is a delicious go-to minimalist pantry staple recipe that’s even better with a crusty grilled cheese on the side. Go for elegance by straining the soup as directed or skip that step for a more rustic texture.

Brothy Tortellini Soup with Spinach, White Beans & Basil is so simple the only real prep calls for chopping an onion, which you sauté before adding the remaining ingredients. It’s hearty but the clear broth keeps it from feeling too heavy. And this last smooth and silky Curried Cauliflower Soup calls for roasting the cauliflower first, which intensifies the flavor—and the curry adds color and interest.

Another soup I make at least once or twice each winter is one of those dishes that most people enjoy only when eating out. Yet this classic French Onion Soup is the ultimate pantry staple recipe. It’s economical and so delicious. You just need a little patience to get the onions to caramelize. And a tip: I use a food processor to speed up the onion slicing (note that you must use a slicer attachment for this shortcut). Lastly, enjoy this creamy Split Pea Soup and sock some of it away in the freezer for the next time we get one of those bone chilling rain-turn-snow Nor’easters.

Moving on to dinner, this is a great take-me-away recipe for wintertime—Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth. Thai flavors including ginger, plus brightness from fresh lime juice and fresh basil, will perk up your palate. Serve over rice to soak up the yummy broth.

North African flavors play the central role in Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken with nutrient-packed sweet potatoes and sweet red onion. Harissa is a spice paste that has countless variations but generally includes cumin, smoked paprika and hot pepper in addition to garlic. You can ramp up the hot spice or dial it back depending on your preference. (Double the recipe for this fragrant condiment and use it on roasted vegetables, lamb or swordfish.)

Ras el hanout is another North African spice blend, though unlike harissa it’s a dry blend. It’s becoming more and more popular here in the states so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find. This recipe uses ras el hanout with ground lamb for a classic kofka, (you could substitute ground beef if needed) with a yogurt tahini sauce for dipping.

Earthy mushrooms equal wintertime comfort food and here they are made even more so in Papardelle Pasta with Rosemary Portobello Sauce. Remember that crimini mushrooms are simply smaller portobellos, if you prefer a more petit mushroom for your sauce. If your only rosemary option is dried, use a little less than called for in the recipe and add a tablespoon or more of fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley.

This Winter Tabbouleh with Roasted Delicata Squash is a plant-based dish that hits all the marks for me—it’s got texture, bright colors, plus a touch of sweet, salty and sour—and it’s good for you too!

I love how versatile Ras el hanout is as a spice blend. It works as well in this dessert as it does in the kofka recipe above. This Sweet Potato Carrot Cake is a deliciously moist cake with coconut, dates, pecans and maple cream cheese frosting. A perfect excuse to have a party so you can serve this for dessert—just be sure to save a few slices to go with tea the next day.

Winter is the season for citrus and this light Mini Citrus Pavlova dessert’s crown jewel is an assortment of brightly colored citrus. You could choose from any favorite whether it’s ruby red grapefruit, blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges or simply naval oranges. It will give you and anyone else at your table a little burst of sunshine in the dark days of winter.

Genie McPherson Trevor is the founding editor of Edible Rhody magazine, a quarterly food journal that celebrates the local, seasonal bounty of Rhode Island. Edible Rhody is a member of Edible Communities, the James Beard award-winning publishing group with over 80 local Edible magazines in print across the United States and Canada.

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