In the house where I grew up, soup meant chicken soup.
We had chicken soup when we were sick. I'm still not sure how or why it worked, but it always seemed to make us feel better. (So did Hershey milk chocolate bars, but that's a subject for another day.)
We had chicken soup at Passover, with lumpy-bumpy matzoh balls that my family dubbed "depth charges."
And we had chicken soup -- egg drop, but sometimes wonton soup -- at Chinese restaurants, where we'd go for dinner on Friday nights.
So it's a bit unexpected that I've grown up to be a pretty well-rounded soup maker, and more important, a lover of soups from every culture and cuisine. For cold weather, there's nothing better, and with a well-stocked pantry, you can make soup out of anything, or out of almost nothing.
Here are some of my favorite cold-weather soups, made with basic ingredients from the pantry.
Soups marked (v) are vegetarian or can be made so by substituting a rich, homemade vegetable broth for chicken broth.
Beans and pulses
One-of-everything lentil soup (v)
Meat-free split pea (v)
Split pea, sausage and preserved lemon soup
Black bean and peach soup (v)
Curried mushroom, green bean and barley soup (v)
Twisted Three Sisters soup (v)
Homemade or store-bought stock, and some vegetables
Leek, potato and salmon soup (v, without the salmon)
African inspired squash and peanut soup (v)
Avgolemono (chicken soup with rice and lemon)
Vegetable beef soup
Butternut squash, apple and vadouvan soup (v)
What soups are you making this winter? What are your favorites?
Pear and parsnip soup
One of our very favorites, from the archives. Also great for lunch, with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock. Serves 6.
2 lbs parsnips, ends trimmed, peeled
1 medium red or sweet onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, whole but not peeled
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large pear (or 2 medium), any variety, peeled and cubed
2 cups homemade chicken stock, or low-sodium store-bought (I use Swanson 99% Fat Free)
1-2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (or parsley, marjoram, chives, or a mixture), to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional; I usually omit this)
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place parsnips, onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt, pepper and olive oil, and toss to coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven, and set aside for 10 minutes.
Cut parsnips into chunks and put in a soup pot on the stove with onion, peeled garlic, pear, and chicken stock, plus water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, until the pear is tender (15 minutes). Add herbs; cook 5 minutes more. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot (or purée in batches in a blender). Add cream if you wish. Season with sea salt and lots of freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. Serve hot, garnished with snips of fresh herbs.
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