Every year as the weather gets cold, I start craving comfort food in a big way. And when it’s cold, comfort food to me means hot soups and stews, particularly thick ones made with lots of vegetables and beans.
Comfort food also means lots of root vegetables, especially roasted ones. I feast on potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), and beets. And I’m quick to throw in other vegetables while I’m roasting too: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes.
Starting in the Fall, I pull out all of my favorite chili recipes. I make stews in the crockpot. I make one soup after another on the stove top, most of them involving some sort of puree of beans or root vegetables to give the soup a thick, rich texture.
Although these favorite recipes come from a wide variety of different sources, one staple cookbook that I come back to every year at about this time is Nava Atlas’s Vegetarian Soups for all Seasons: A Treasury of Bountiful Low-Fat Soups and Stews. I’ve had this book for over a decade now, and I still haven’t tried every recipe in it, but I have yet to try one that I didn’t like. Sometimes I make these soups as they are described, and other times I use it for ideas as starting places for creating soups of my own. And sometimes I find comfort in just scanning through and imagining having all of these delightful pots of soup to enjoy.
As the title of the book indicates, the recipes in this cookbook are broken out by the four seasons. Each season emphasizes recipes that include seasonal produce, but it also moves toward thicker, heavier soups and stews in colder times and broth-ier, lighter soups in warmer seasons. I don’t always stick with the seasons of the year when I am selecting soups, but I find that the way they are grouped do tend to correspond to the kinds of things I crave each time of year.
Last weekend, I paired together my love of soups with my love of roasted root vegetables by creating a brand new soup from scratch (with no recipe at all!). It was a roasted cauliflower and parsnip soup with coconut milk and nutmeg. Delicious!
And right on schedule, I found myself heading to the bookshelf tonight and paging through this favorite compendium of soups yet again to pick out a few to add to my shopping list for this coming weekend. I think it’s either going to be Gingered Pumpkin-Apple Soup or Almond- Brussels Sprouts Soup. Mmmmmmm ….
What foods do you reach for in cold weather? If you are a fellow soup lover, I’d love to hear about your favorite cookbook for soups and stews!
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