Whenever I’m at a loss as to what I should make for dinner, I make a pot of soup. I appreciate the fact that you can make something warming and filling with just a few ingredients and I love the fact that a batch of soup nearly always yields enough for lunch the next day.
In fact, we eat so much soup around my house that in late January, my husband asked for a soup break. Looking back, I realized that we’d eaten a batch or two every week since November. Once I figured out just how much soup I’d been feeding him, I was fine with taking a little rest.
Nearly all my soups start out the same way: I saute onions, leeks or shallots in a bit of olive oil and then start adding whatever other vegetables are in my fridge that need to be used. Then there’s the liquid. I use stock if there’s some to be had, or water with a little bouillon concentrate or a splash of wine for flavor.
Finally, salt, pepper, herbs and a long, slow simmer. Unless I’m working with tough cuts of meat that need a lot of cooking, the last thing I add is protein — like slivers of chicken breast, beans or little cubes of ham — to prevent it from overcooking or falling to bits.
Before you start cooking, read these tips
I’m the librarian of the Food Network’s library. I am looking for winter, but struggling. I see Mindy Heiferling’s A Taste of Spring, Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking and Rick Rodgers’ Autumn Gatherings. Nowhere do I find winter.
This seems odd. Without the luxury of hibernation, I find that we’re forced into the kitchen during winter — if only in search of warmth or light. Our kitchens slow down to the pace of a simmer, larders get rooty, meats get more stew worthy. Winter may be low season in the farm cycle, but it is high season for cooking. Winter’s true harvest is to be found in the kitchen.
Cookbooks may pretend to have an aversion to winter, but don’t believe them. To find winter, look for it in bowls. Because bowl foods, literally and spiritually, physically and metaphysically, radiate warmth. Cold hands like a warm bowl. And the soups, stews, braises and other slow-cooking one-pot dishes that belong to bowls are the foods that truly deserve the name “comfort food” (everything else is the comfort of nostalgia).
Get my four favorite books dedicated to bowl foods
- Bake up Meyer Lemon-Cranberry Bundt Cake while Meyer lemons are in season.
Meyer lemons are ripe and ready, in peak season now. Do not wait, they have no mercy for procrastinators – whether you have a collection of Meyer lemon recipes stashed away for the season or you want to try your favorite lemon recipe with this alternate citrus fruit, this is your chance, now is the time.
The famously allusive Meyer lemon is thought to be a cross between an orange and a lemon, so they’re sweeter and less acidic than your normal run-of-the-mill lemons. Look for them in grocery stores and produce markets – they should stick around until early Spring. And if you can’t find them, go ahead and cook up some regular lemon dishes and sweets (just add a touch more sugar to compensate) – all citrus is beautiful this time of year.
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- Holiday drink #47 in Food Network Magazine's 50 Holiday Drinks booklet.
I knew that I was finally an adult when my mother let me have my first Brandy Slushie (#47 in Food Network Magazine’s 50 Holiday Drinks booklet) at our annual holiday party one year. I tried to recreate this recipe from memory for the booklet, and when I gave my mom a copy of the magazine, she approved, but said that something was missing. It turns out that all those years she had boiled her water and sugar with a secret bag of green tea! The difference with the tea is subtle; either way the slushes are yummy. Experiment with your favorite tea and start a family tradition.
Brandy Slushes from 50 Holiday Drinks
Bring 1 cup each water and sugar to a boil; cool completely. Mix with 1-1/2 cups brandy, 2 cups orange juice and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a baking dish; freeze until slushy. Scoop into glasses, top with seltzer and stir to desired slushiness.
By Leah Brickley, Recipe Tester, Food Network Kitchens