Please take them away: the leftover rib roast, the ham, the toffee. Take the cheese. I don’t want to see them till March.
What we need now is soup. No watery “cleanse” soup, mind you.
The point is restoration, not martyrdom.
The soups to ease us out of holiday bloat feature ingredients that could not be more humble — roots and tubers, barley and lentils. Not a one of them is a new recipe.
But each has been forged and flavored to nourish and delight by people who know what they’re doing: chefs Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles, Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi in London, and Sisha Ortuzar of River Park in Manhattan, cookbook author Eugenia Bone, and Lidia Bastianich, to name a few.
Most sport a topping — crunch and sweet, or heat and smoke or cream — a twist of chef genius that bumps a good soup to a great one. The finish is no frou-frou item and should not be skipped.
In this collection are savory winter purees — calling on fennel, parsnip, potato, celery root and squash. A standout from Ms. Goin’s classic ”Sunday Supper at Lucques” pairs smooth roasted squash and fennel, intriguingly spiced, a little sweet and boozy. Garnish as Ms. Goin does with candied pumpkin seeds on a spoonful of creme fraiche. Or consider a tasty alternative: sage leaves fried in butter on creme fraiche or low-fat quark (soft cheese).
An extremely refreshing flavor combo from the Arab world is a hot yogurt-based soup, “toothy” with barley and freshened with tons of mint and parsley. It’s from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook,” by Mr. Ottolenghi.
Adding smoked turkey to modest green lentils and tomato makes for a bowl with substance and style that still stays lean. Simmer a rind in with the soup for enriched flavor and finish with a good grating of more parmesan. This one comes from cookbook author Eugenia Bone by way of former PG dining critic China Millman.
The pale parsnip, spurred to perform by the cold, cold ground it inhabits, marshals its full sweetness and spice now in late winter. Chef Sisha Ortuzar has a soup to prove it: He tops his earthy puree with the world’s most satisfying “hash.” This is wilted brussels sprout leaves, crisp apple and crunchy bacon, pinged with vinegar, pepper and caraway.
Another rooty soup features delicate celery root and leeks, topped with crunchy apple, bacon and celery. And the last, “Potato and Rice Soup,” deceptively simple, from Lidia Bastianich, calls on a great Italian trick to add flavor.
The yogurt soup is best eaten up in a day or two, but the rest freeze well. It’s nice to find that container in the freezer when you need it. You can freeze the leftover garnish ingredients on top — they’ll lose texture but keep their flavor.
It’s winter, so be sure to heat the bowls.
Hot Yogurt and Barley Soup with Dried and Fresh Mint
This soup represents the complex culture of Jerusalem where mint and yogurt reign. It is a leap of faith, sort of, as you wonder what can come of these ingredients. But the tangy, silky base becomes a hearty grain soup, freshened with coarse-chopped herbs.
Bring 6¾ cups of water to a boil with the barley in a large saucepan, adding 1 teaspoon salt, and simmer until the barley is cooked but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Once cooked you will need 4¾ cups of the cooking liquid for the soup; top up with water if you are left with less due to evaporation.
While the barley is cooking, sauté the onion and dried mint over medium heat in the butter until soft, seasoning with salt, about 15 minutes. Add this to the cooked barley and adjust the seasoning.
Whisk together the eggs and yogurt in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Slowly mix in some of the barley and water, one ladle at a time, until the yogurt has warmed. This will temper the yogurt and eggs and stop them from splitting when added to the hot liquid. Add the yogurt to the soup pot and return to medium heat, stirring continuously, until the soup comes to a very light simmer. (If the soup seems too thick at this point, I add ½ cup water or a little more before reheating.) Remove from the heat, add the chopped herbs and scallions, give a good grind of black pepper and check the seasoning. Serve hot.
Serves 4 to 6. — Adapted from “Jerusalem, A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolengi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed, 2012)
Blending hot liquids: Careful!
When blending hot liquids the heated air can cause tremendous pressure against the sealed lid. It’s best to let liquids cool a little and to work in smaller batches.
Fill the jar less than half full and start on the lowest speed possible. Set the blender lid in place carefully. Place a kitchen towel over the lid, pressing down firmly. Some blenders have ventable lids that help to ease the pressure.
For the Hash
Parsnip Soup with Apple, Brussels Sprout, Bacon Garnish
This easy puree spotlights the parsnip at its mid-winter peak of sweetness. It is topped with a few leaves of fresh thyme and an inspired veggie “hash” of crisp sweet apple, wilted brussels sprout leaves, bacon, caraway and a drop of apple cider vinegar.
Peel parsnips, trim ends and cut into thin slices. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once butter begins to bubble, add shallots, cover and sweat until translucent, approximately 2 minutes. Add parsnips and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, then cover with enough vegetable stock that the parsnips float. Add the sprig of thyme and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and simmer until fork-tender. Remove thyme and bay leaf and reserve about half the cooking liquid.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the parsnips until smooth, adding cooking liquid as needed. In a separate pan, cook the bacon. Once the fat has rendered, add the apple and sauté until it begins to color. Add the brussels sprout leaves and caraway seeds and season with black pepper, maintaining heat until the leaves are just wilted. Drain bacon fat, then add cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, while tossing the hash.
Ladle soup into bowls, topping with the hash and a few thyme leaves.
Serves 4. — Adapted from recipe by Riverpark Chef Sisha Ortuzar in New York Magazine
Lentil Soup with Smoked Turkey
China Millman recommends French green puy lentils in this recipe, as they hold their shape. She sometimes substitutes a medium orange sweet potato and cilantro for the potatoes and parsley. Whole Foods has cuts of smoked turkey. The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days. If you have a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, simmer it in the soup, too.
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the garlic, celery, carrots and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, lentils, smoked turkey and 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender, 1 hour. Add potatoes and simmer until tender, 10 minutes. Remove the turkey meat from the bones and return it to the soup; discard the skin, bones and bay leaf. Add the parsley and season the soup with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing the cheese at the table.
Serves 4 to 6. — From “Holiday Cooking: December Recipes” by Eugenia Bone in Food & Wine, Dec. 2009
Rice and Potato Soup
In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Most likely the potatoes will stick, that is fine. Adjust the level of heat to prevent the potato from getting too dark. Stir in the carrots and celery. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, until the carrots are softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt.
Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add hot stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, scraping up the bits of potato that stick to the pot. Adjust the level of heat to a simmer and season the soup lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes begin to fall apart, about 40 minutes.
Stir in the rice. Cook, stirring well, until the rice is tender but still firm, about 12 minutes.
Remove bay leaves. Stir in parsley and season to taste. Serve in warm bowls, sprinkled with cheese.
— Adapted from “Lidia’s Italian Table” by Lidia Bastianich (Morrow, 1998)
Celery Root Soup with Crunchy Apple and Bacon Topping
Silky smooth and with a crunchy topping, this seductive soup packs a range of flavors, earthy, smoky and tart-sweet. It can be made a day ahead without half-and-half. Add that and cook until heated through. Bacon can be cooked ahead and recrisped. Prepare the apple topping while reheating soup and recrisping bacon.
Halve leeks lengthwise, then coarsely chop. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift onto paper towels and pat dry. Cook bacon in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
Pour off all but 2 teaspoons fat from pot, then add oil and cook leeks over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add celery root and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until celery root is very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
While soup simmers, thinly slice apple lengthwise into 1⁄8-inch slices, then cut slices into 1⁄8-inch matchsticks. Gently toss with celery and celery leaves.
Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a bowl. Return soup to cleaned pot. (If soup is too thick, thin with ½ to ¾ cup water.) Stir in salt, pepper and half-and-half and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until warm. Season with salt, then divide among 4 bowls and top with apple-celery mixture and coarsely crumbled bacon.
— Adapted from Gourmet, 2006
Roasted Kobocha Squash and Fennel Soup with Creme Fraiche and Candied Pumpkin Seeds
This soup freezes nicely and can be made entirely ahead. It lends itself to other garnishes. Quick and delicious are sage leaves fried in butter set on a spoonful of creme fraiche or quark (a low-fat alternative). Or a few slices of shiitake mushrooms tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt and seared in a hot oven till almost crunchy, on creme fraiche or quark.
Other squashes work: butternut, hubbard, red kuri or a mix. (Some squashes are hard to peel. I usually roast squash, without peeling, and scoop the flesh into freezer containers for soups and pie.) You need 3 to 4 cups for this soup.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, Place the squash cut side down on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to remove the peel. Slice the squash into 1-inch thick wedges. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise and then into ½-inch slices.
Toss the squash and fennel with olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Place the vegetables flat on a baking sheet and roast about 35 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. (For roasting without peeling, I usually cut them lengthwise, oil the cut surfaces, place squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet, pour a little water around them and roast at 400 degrees until tender enough to scoop out, about an hour.)
Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar.
Heat a dutch oven or soup pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter and when it foams, add the onions, fennel seeds, thyme, chiles, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft, translucent and starting to color. Add the squash and fennel, and stir to coat with the onions for a minute or two, and then add the stock and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Strain the soup in a colander set in a pot. Remove the chile peppers. Put a third of the solids into a blender with ½ cup of the broth. You will need to puree the soup in batches.
Process at lowest speed until the squash mixture is pureed. Add another ½ cup of the broth and then turn the speed up to high and pour in more liquid a little at a time until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend at least a minute on high speed, until the soup is completely smooth and very creamy. Transfer to a container and repeat with the rest of the ingredients. You may not need all the liquid. Taste for balance and seasoning. (The cup or two remaining of spicy broth make an excellent addition to soup or chili.)
Pour the soup into 6 bowls, spoon some creme fraiche in the center of each and scatter pumpkin seeds or fried sage leaves on top. Or serve family style with the creme fraiche and pumpkin seeds on the side.
— Adapted from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table,” by Suzanne Goin and Teri Gelber (Knopf, 2005)
Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar. Melt the butter in the cumin pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and sugar, then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt over them. Toss the pumpkin seeds to coat them well with the butter, and cook a few minutes, until just after they begin to pop and color slightly. Turn off the heat, and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat the pumpkin seeds. Spread on a plate and let them cool.