Soup Books

Let me make it clear: I’m not well suited to living in New England. I take after my mom, who grew up in a subtropical part of China – I flinch when the frost comes creeping up the windows. While my daughter runs around the house barefoot in a tutu and my son fetches the wood in a T-shirt (no gloves), I huddle by the wood stove, waiting for spring. I am a toucan in a family of polar bears.

What I ought to know by now is that the remedy for winter is soup. It’s a one-pot meal, it’s filling, it almost invariably feeds a crowd, and its warmth penetrates to your bones in minutes. Pureed soups are an excuse to use your immersion blender, if you have one, because what day isn’t better when you get to use your stick blender? And nothing’s as undemanding as soup when it comes to ingredients. So long as you’ve got root vegetables and chicken or vegetable stock in the house–in fact, so long as you’ve got root vegetables and water–you can make soup.
But if you’re not in the mood to wing it, there are a number of good soup cookbooks on the market. Here are a few of the ones I’m looking at these days.

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Soup of the Day by Lydie Marshall A 2003 favorite, Marshall’s book is primarily a Mediterranean-influenced hot soup collection, with some salads and go-withs at the end of the book. The ingredients are easy to find, and because Marshall’s a veteran cooking instructor, you know her recipes will work every time. (This is the book that taught me how to successfully soften chickpeas! – soak overnight in boiling salted water.)

New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Clara Silverstein and Marjorie Drucker The New England Soup Factory is Soup Central in the Boston area, and their 2007 cookbook is a great source for soups with assertive seasonings (sweet and sour cabbage soup with dill, potato-watercress soup). There are soups for every season here, almost all of them judiciously herbed or spiced to awaken dull winter palates.

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The Best Soups in the World by Clifford Wright You can count on globe-trotting Clifford Wright to introduce you to soups you–even you!–never heard of: kainuu fish soup from Finland, Palestinian freekeh soup, Blackfoot bison and blackberry soup. Wright never lets exotic ingredients prevent him, or us, from exploring a new dish–he just substitutes whatever’s handy, so we can travel around the world together without ever leaving our kitchens.

Sunday Soups by Betty Rosbottom Cooking instructor Betty Rosbottom’s book is another seasonal soup book, this one full of simple innovations–everyday ingredients combined in new, pleasing ways, like Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cider Cream or Black Bean Soup with a Hint of Orange. The photographs alone in this vivid little book are enough to warm up any dark January afternoon.

Whichever soup you make, set an extra bowl aside for the winter-hater in your family. We promise we’ll pay you back by not surprising you with our freezing feet when you get in bed.


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