Here in the Northeast this is the time of year when we start to long for spring, but know we still have a few (or more) weeks of winter left to endure. But coping with the remainder of winter doesn't have to be all bad. It means we have a little while longer to savor the comfort foods we associate with cold weather. And while we cuddle up to stay warm, we can imagine the sunny skies and warm temperatures of the Mediterranean by cooking with ingredients from the region. These soups are sure to chase away the winter blues and transport you to sunnier climes (at least in your imagination). Try these tips the next time you make a pot of soup:
Ready-Made Lunch: Skip dehydrated soup cups and enjoy homemade soup for lunch at work. Make a big pot of your favorite soup on the weekend. When the soup is finished, cool it quickly by placing the pot in an ice bath and stirring the soup to lower the temperature. Ladle the soup into single-serving, microwave-safe containers and pop them into the freezer. When it's time to make lunch, just pull one of the containers out of the freezer, drop it into your lunch bag with some fruit or veggies, and head out the door. Put your soup into the microwave for a few minutes at lunchtime and you have a hot, delicious, homemade meal. Be sure to use up all of your frozen soup within two to three months.
Garnish is Great: Soups invite creative and tasty garnishes. Make the garnish recommended in a recipe the first time you make a soup. When eating leftovers the next day, try making a different garnish. Use your imagination and don't be afraid of experimenting. Garnishes are low-risk because they use a small amount of ingredients and can easily be swapped for something else if you don't like your creation. Try using different kinds of nuts, herbs, yogurt and cheeses, and spices in a variety of combinations. Add some cumin or cayenne pepper to yogurt, infuse olive oil with garlic before drizzling, or mix some goat cheese with fresh herbs to make yesterday's soup taste like a new dish.
Vary the Vegetables: Soups offer a great opportunity to get your family to eat vegetables. Add extra vegetables to your soup pot, or vary the types of vegetables each time you make a batch of soup to get different flavors. Picky eaters who might be wary of new vegetables may be more receptive to them as a component in a bowl of soup than as a serving of a single vegetable on a plate. Look for recipes that call for vegetables you don't often cook with, or try making substitutions like collard greens for spinach or cauliflower for potatoes, to bring variety into your kitchen and expand your cooking repertoire.
(Click on the titles or photos below to link to the recipes.)