Monday, January 14, 2013

Soup is Good, Kalt ist Bitter, Chai ist Heiß

When I promised to share two of my favorite cold-weather soup recipes, it was cold out. Now it is bitter. Sounds like a German word, bitter. Let me look.... Yes, of Germanic origin and probably related to the word bite. Yes, well, that makes sense; a biting cold, frost bite even. P.S. Kalt means cold and Heiß means hot, although I don't profess to know what letter that is at the end of the word Heiß!

We spent the weekend at a rented condo at a low-key ski resort near Truckee, California called Tahoe-Donner. Temperatures in Truckee were 7 degrees below zero on Saturday morning and 18 below on Sunday. But as a side note, it warmed to a balmy 22° during the days and was fantastically sunny making for a pleasant time on the slopes as long as you were dressed properly.

Morning view from the balcony of our condo

A happy 6-year-old skier with missing teeth

We returned to our home in Quincy to find that some of our pipes had frozen. We are still working on thawing them today. It is just 9° here this morning.

So, yes, soup. Soup and tea. Hot liquids to keep our bodies' pipes from becoming sluggish or freezing up altogether. Although not a big tea drinker most of the year, I can't get enough right now. Chai tea is what I crave with its cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove and black pepper. I've been making it by the gallon. I'll share the recipe, given to me by a friend, below. Hold on, before I type it, let me get another cup!

Ahhhh..... there we go. My favorite tea mug full.

Chai Tea
Makes 1 gallon
1 gallon water
10 to 12 slices of ginger root
1 t. peppercorns
1/2 t. cloves
1 T. cardamom powder
3-5 sticks of cinnamon

Directions: Place ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain into a gallon jug.
Notes: This mixture is a decaf chai base. From here you have options. You can heat and serve plain with or without honey. You can heat it and pour over your favorite black tea to steep. You can make a milky chai by heating it 1/2 and 1/2 with your favorite type of milk and pouring over honey and/or a black tea bag. Any way it warms one from the inside out.
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Okay, now for a soup. I'll just share one today because I got distracted with chai tea and snow pictures. This soup is from The Greens Cookbook of San Francisco's Greens Restaurant fame. The original recipe calls for fresh mint which we have in the yard in abundance in the warm months. Because I usually make the soup in winter I've taken to omitting it.  I have altered the recipe to always use fire roasted tomatoes which together with the homemade vegetable stock you use for the base and the chili powder creates a smoky depth of flavor reminiscent of a rich tortilla soup. I often take it a step further in this direction by topping it with corn tortilla strips crisped in oil in an iron skillet stove top, avocados, cilantro instead of parsley, a squeeze of lime. It also features that wonderful marriage of dark orange squash and tomatoes.

Winter Squash and Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from a recipe from The Greens Cookbook
Serves 6

The Stock:
Seeds and inner fibers of 2.5 lbs of winter squash (butternut, pumpkin, other)
2 diced celery stalks
1 onion roughly chopped or sliced
1 bay leaf
5 branches parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups cold water

I know it is extra work but the flavor is worth it. Halve the squash. Scrape out the seeds and fibers into a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer 25 to 35 minutes; then strain.

The Soup
2.5 lbs. of winter squash
1 roasted red bell pepper chopped (Buy in jar or roast yourself. I know, more work!)
28 oz can of roasted diced tomatoes
1 to 2 T. New Mexican chili powder
1 T. butter (or use all oil)
1 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. nutritional yeast (optional)
1 t. salt
7 cups stock
1 T. parsley (or cilantro) chopped
1 T. mint, chopped (optional)

Peel squash and cut into 1/2 square pieces. Peelings can be added to simmering stock.
Heat the butter (if using) and oil in a soup pot, add the onion, garlic, and nutritional yeast. 
Cook over medium low heat until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, and salt, and stew for 5 minutes. Add the cubed squash, roasted red pepper, and the stock. Simmer until the squash has melted into a purée, about 30-40 minutes. Season with more salt to taste. Serve the soup with the chopped parsley and mint stirred in at the last minute or go the tortilla soup style route I suggested earlier. This soup is even better the next day after the flavors fully merge. Also goes great with corn bread for that beloved squash, tomato, corn trio!

Here I topped leftovers with strips of Canadian bacon

While I've been blogging and drinking chai tea, my heroic husband crawled (wriggled) under the house and thawed the kitchen sink pipe with a blow torch! Hurray for male chivalry!



  1. Looks like a wonderful mini-vacation. And the soup sounds wonderful as long as there's no cilantro anywhere near it.