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Hearty soups for winter

Try some of these recipes to warm up your winter meals.
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There’s nothing better than a hot, tasty bowl of soup on a cold winter day, and author Barbara Kafka knows all about that. In her book, “Soup: A Way of Life” she offers more than 300 recipes, and she shares a few of them with NBC’s “Today” show. Sample her recipes below.


There are many minestrones, all somewhat different, as there are regions of Italy. They are easy to confuse with the yet-larger group of zuppe de verdura. Zuppe de verdura are vegetable soups, without pesto, somewhat lighter in taste than minestrone, usually without pasta, and cooked for a much shorter time. In Emilia-Romagna, they use beef stock instead of water in their minestrone. In Milan, in the summer, they add cooked rice (about 2 cups [280 g] ) to the soup and eat it tepid, a variation of which I am very fond. My soup is closest to the minestrone of Liguria. According to Fred Plotkin, author of the brilliant “Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera,” in Liguria such soups are cooked for at least an hour longer than mine, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Any Genovese will tell us that pesto must be made (pounded to paste) in a mortar and pestle, sometimes with garlic. They say that more of the basil’s perfume is released that way. In this recipe, I give an alternative method, but if tradition calls, feel free to use a mortar. It should be noted that this pesto has no cheese and no pine nuts (pignoli). It is the same kind of pesto that is used in nearby France in Soupe au Pistou.

½ cup (12 ml) plus 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

2 large ribs celery, peeled and cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

½ pound (225g) firm potatoes, peeled and cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

2/3 pound (180g) white cabbage, cored and cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

2 medium yellow squash, trimmed and cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

½ pound (225 g) Swiss chard, leaves cut into narrow strips, stems cut across into slices

1 small bunch spinach, stemmed, well washed, and cut across into narrow strips

6 medium cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and coarsely chopped

1 cup (250 ml) Chunky Tomato Base (see instructions below), coarsely chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes, or sterile-pack chopped tomatoes

Rind from 2/3-pound (170 g) piece of Parmesan cheese

2 medium bunches basil, leaves only, well washed and dried

1 cup (120 g) cooked orzo (riso) (Note: 1 cup - 180 g - dry cooked in boiling water for 12-14 minutes = 2 cups - 360 g )

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

[Chunky tomato base

2 medium onions, cut into ½-inch (1-cm) cubes

6 tablespoons (100 ml) olive oil

5 pounds (2.25 kg) ripe red tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes

In a medium stockpot, cook the onions and olive oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

Raise the heat and stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and liquid.

Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze.]

In a medium stockpot, cook ½ cup (125 ml) oil and the onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, and potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and squash and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the greens, half of the garlic, the tomatoes, 5 cups (1.25 l ) water; and the cheese rind. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, to make the pesto, in a food processor, coarsely purée the basil. Transfer to a blender, add the remaining garlic and purée. With the machine running, slowly pour in the remaining oil. Continue to blend until smooth.

Remove the cheese rind from the soup. Stir in the orzo. Heat through. Stir in » cup (65 ml) of the pesto. Season with the salt and pepper. The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days; but do not add the orzo until reheating to serve.

If the soup has been refrigerated, reheat it, adding a little water to avoid sticking. Pass the remaining pesto and grated Parmesan cheese at the table.

Makes 13 cups (3.25 L); 6 generous main-course servings

TORTILLA SOUP (ROCCOCO SOPA AZTECA) I first had a version of this soup at the home of Shirley and Alf Collins in Seattle. We had a wonderful time sitting around their kitchen table. Shirley would get up from time to time to toast more tortillas on the electric burner. We made bowlful after bowlful, each bowl a little different depending on what we put in and how much. We drank Superior Mexican beer and had a wonderful evening.

While there is a recipe here, it’s just a question of how much to allow per eater. As a rule, allow per person: 2 cups (500 ml) broth, 2 flour tortillas, ½ avocado, 1/3 cup (60 g) of shredded chicken or turkey, 1/3 medium red onion, 1/3 cup (6 g) cilantro leaves, ½ jalapeòo, ½ lime, ½ small tomato, and 1/3 cup (45 g) shredded cheese.

This is more of an event than a soup. Bring the broth hot to the table and allow guests to make there own.

8 cup Basic Chicken Stock (see instructions below)

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 flour tortillas, grilled over a burner or in a pan under a broiler until slightly crisp and mottled, and shredded

2 Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes

1 whole skinless boneless chicken breast, cooked and shredded

1 large red onion, coarsely chopped

1 large bunch cilantro, leaves only

2 medium jalapeòo peppers, seeded and finely chopped (hotter chilies can be used for a spicier dish)

2 limes, cut into wedges

2 small tomatoes cut into »-inch (.5-cm) dice

1 1/3 cups (120g) shredded queso blanco, mozzarella, or rinsed mild feta cheese

[Basic Chicken Stock

5 pounds (2.25 kg) chicken backs and necks

12 cups (3 L) water

*Note: If using a slow-cooker, use only half the quantities listed.

In a tall narrow stockpot, bring the bones and water to a boil. Skim the fat. Place in the over for 4 hours; add water if needed. Remove and skim the fat. Return to the oven for at least 5 hours and up to 8.

In all methods, the bones will be falling apart when the stock is done.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Skim fat. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Remove the fat from the top of the stock and the sediment from the bottom. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze.

Makes 10 cups (2.5 L) on top of the stove, 8 cups (2 L) in the oven, 6 cups (1.5 L) in a slow-cooker.]

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the broth to the table in a fondue pot or chafing dish to keep it hot as the diners ladle as little or as much as they desire into their bowls. Present remaining ingredients in bowls so diners can dd as many as they like.

Makes 4 main-course servings

Recipes reprinted by permission of Artisan a division of Workman Publishing, Inc. Copyright 1998 by Barbara Kafka. All rights reserved.