Hearty, Healing Onion Family Winter Soups

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Eating Well When Pollen Puffs And Rain Pours

For my family, January opens the snuffle season with a vengeance. Plump hazel and alder buds spill their casual abundance freely and the relentless winds bring it all home to us. Cool, damp days let molds and mildews flourish in the garden (and indoors as well). For indoor molds and mildews, I use Bac-Out (a combo of live enzyme-producing cultures, citrus extracts and essential oils) instead of the usual deadly arsenal, some of which trigger worse sensitivities than the mold does. In the garden, well, I just sneeze and bear it.

Many allergy experiencers share the red-eyed, snuffle-nosed state pollen induces, though we all wish we did not. Pollen is a huge culprit, since pollen-rich shrubs and trees abound, from natives to garden varieties. This is especially so because so many tree and shrub cultivars are males, chosen for the lack of sloppy fruit. Sadly, these studly guys are major pollen producers, while those fruity females are not.

Restorative, Preventative, Wholesome, Healing

Not only does January mark open season for pollen production, it’s also the traditional time to experience colds and flu. Happily, the noble onion family is especially good at helping those who suffer from stuffy noses and sore throats, whatever the cause. Indeed, when researchers figured out that Mom really was right and chicken soup actually can help heal a cold, the benefit had nothing to do with chicken; it turned out to be largely due to the combination of steam and onions. The entire onion family contains compounds that boost the immune system and help fight infection naturally. Since they also add savor and warmth to almost anything, why not harness those powerful antioxidants at every meal?

On chilly days, nothing is more warming, of both body and heart, then a fragrant pot of homemade soup. Besides, soup is fun to make and a supremely good way to clean the fridge. One secret to great soup is to make it ahead and reheat it. Another is to cook soup slowly, for long, patient hours. When neither choice is possible, good cooks just get more creative. Here are some quick, satisfying, and inexpensive soups that will taste terrific tonight and fabulous tomorrow, should there be any left.

A Sturdy, Vegan Italian Classic

If French onion soup is a family favorite, rich-tasting Italian Garlic Soup will also please. A snap to make, this sumptuously silky soup is lively with garlic and onions, both of which are famous as cold and flu chasers. The addition of raw garlic makes this soup especially lively but you can simply stir it into the soup before serving and let it poach gently for a minute or two to mellow the bite if desired.

Italian Garlic Soup

2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 plump heads garlic, cloves peeled and lightly crushed
3 cups chopped potatoes (Yukon Gold, Carola or any)
1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
4 cups Tuscan kale, sliced in 1/4-inch ribbons
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 slices crusty rosemary- or herb-bread, toasted and cubed

In a soup pot, cook half the oil, onions, salt, and all but 3 big cloves of garlic over medium heat to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Add potatoes and pepper flakes, cover pan and cook until sweated (3-5 minutes). Add 8 cups water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add kale and cook until barely limp (4-5 minutes). Puree remaining olive oil and raw garlic with an immersion blender or in a food processor, set aside. Puree hot soup with an immersion blender and serve, garnished with toast and raw garlic oil. Serves 4.

Potato Leek And More Soup  

Potatoes are always comfort food, and savory Potato Leek Soup is especially welcome on a cold winter’s night. This vegan version is made very simply, but various additions from spinach to smoked tofu are also excellent in this rich-tasting yet speedy soup. For freshest flavor, make a self-stock instead of greasy broth: Simmer the onion and garlic peels and ends, carrot and potato peels (if you prefer them peeled), celery ends and foliage with a little salt and 6 cups water, then strain.

Mostly Potato Leek Soup

1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 leeks, thinly sliced (white and palest green parts only)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

In a soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat with onion, leeks, and salt and cook, stirring, until tender (4-5 minutes). Add celery, potatoes and carrots, cover pan and cook until sweated (3-5 minutes). Stir in hot strained broth, thyme and paprika, adding water as needed to cover potatoes by an inch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover pan and cook until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes). Serve as is or puree with an immersion blender. Serves 4.

A Dollop Of Seasonal Greens

Hearty winter greens, whether Black Tuscan kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, or a mix, give this simple and flavorful Curried Sweet Potato Soup fresh flavors and splendid nutritional value, while cilantro and fresh lime juice add a lively lift.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

1 tablespoon avocado or safflower oil
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 cups (or 1 can) cooked garbanzo beans, drained
1-2 teaspoons curry powder (mild or hot)
2 tablespoons dried tart cherries or golden raisins
2 tablespoons raw jasmine or basmati rice
1 15 ounce can organic coconut milk
6 cups chopped mixed winter greens
1/2 cup stemmed cilantro
1 lime, in wedges

In a soup pan, combine oil, onions, garlic, celery, sweet potatoes, cumin seeds and salt over medium high heat. Cover pan and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are sweated (3-5 minutes). Add garbanzo beans, curry powder, dried fruit, and rice and stir to coat. Add water to barely cover, then add coconut milk and greens. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook until rice is tender (18-20 minutes). Adjust seasoning and serve hot, garnished with cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Serves 4-6.

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3 Responses to Hearty, Healing Onion Family Winter Soups

  1. Eben Atwater says:

    Oh, that garlic soup sounds like just the thing, maybe with a nice thick slice of olive oil and rosemary bread…

  2. Polly Lyle says:

    I see Curried Sweet Potato Soup in my future. I wish I had shopped for ingredients and frozen some before my current cold. Sniff. Thanks, Ann!

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      You can freeze almost any soup in small quantities (I often do), though you may get a little curdling if milk is involved. Curry should work just fine!

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