When I look back on last winter, I remember a tiger onesie that acted as my heat – seeing as my Korean-style warmed-floor heat was broken – biting cold that, one day, left me crumpled up in a ball along the Han River rocking back and forth hoping for blood to restore to its rightful place in my hands, coats that never kept me quite warm enough, and some delicious foods. Kimchi and soup and stews and lots of barbeque. I remember some pitchers of watered down beer and the first endeavors into what was higher-class Korean cooking. I also remember a little venture into Thailand to escape the cold.
This winter, Brooklyn has been so much the kinder with mild days in the 30s and 40s and sometimes 60s. Runs in shorts and long sleeved t-shirts and coffee outside and even wind breaker jackets all create a thread of a winter affected by global warming. I mean, come on, no one’s kidding here – it is real people.
Sure we’ve had a few snow flurries and nights have become cold enough that I don’t want to bike home because my bare hands touching a metal lever to use the breaks doesn’t sound like a wining combination. But on the whole, this winter has been tepid. Luke-warm. One that, to my warnings for friends from California of “It gets so cold that you don’t even want to go outside despite the shining blue skies,” has left me a liar.
Until, really, now. Now it is cold. Now it hurts to walk outside with a hand exposed to hold the cell phone to my ear. Now I bundle down into my hood and jacket and sip hot coffee to warm my insides. Now I crave hot chocolate and hot cheese. Now I want for movies under blankets. Now I am a bear and start to hibernate.
No more salads, either. When it gets this cold, I don’t want “fresh” per se. I want cooked and soothing. I want comfort food, but not in the Southern typical fried cheesy mess that comes out with chicken and mashed potatoes and collards and corn bread and some pumpkin pie. Well, I don’t want that kind of comfort food, always – that is. More, I want warmed breads with local fat-full butter and a steaming hot soup.
With my CSA share (yes, folks, CSAs happen in the winter too! And it’s not ALL beets!), I’ve been able to explore some pretty amazing soups to help me through the cold days and warm me up after a long run. They also are great for freezing and moving forward in life with. Together.
The most recent soup adventure I went on was guided by my work place’s amuse-bouche. Before you start on your main meal (be that just an entrée, or an appetizer, too), the chefs come out and give you a gift from the kitchen to excite your palate: an amuse-bouche. Often a soup and some hot potato croquets, the amuse-bouche is a wonderful surprise and generous offer from the chefs of your meal.
They’ve been doing some potato-leek or parsnip soups as of late, and that just sounds splendid on chilly days. Rooty, nutty, rich, earthy; sustenance.
With the muse of my workplace, and the box of root vegetables sitting in the refrigerator, I took to a 400 degree oven with about seven parsnips, four carrots, one acorn squash, one onion, five cloves of garlic, seven potatoes, olive oil from Italy, truffle salt, pepper, and forty minutes.
On the stove’s top sat sixteen ounces of vegetable stock, ten ounces of water, two browned cloves of garlic, peanut oil, and sesame oil, with touches of salt and pepper. Simple seasonings, for simple goodness. Cliché? Sorry.
After forty minutes, the veggies (turned once during their stay in the warm oven) hopped into the veggie stock, and sat for another twenty minutes.
Armed with my masher (no immersion blender, yet!), I mashed my way through the squash, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic. A quick staycation in a blender with the help of about a quarter-cup of water per three cups of soup, made this soup a pureed dream.
Now, after only about an hour and fifteen, sits nearly ten cups of silky smooth, nutty (see: parsnips!), earthy (see: truffle salt!), slightly sweet (see: parsnips! Carrots! Squash!), umami based (see: sesame oil! Peanut oil!) soup with depth and a subtle burst of flavor.
In front of my third story window, looking out over the bare trees and setting sun’s light on the brownstones across the way, next to a window that lets just a small amount of fresh crisp frigid air in, I topped my steam-dancing soup with some parmesan and pepper and felt fully warm and content during the depths of winter.