Winter

soup3So far I have stuck to my New Year’s resolutions except for the part about the peppermint bark. I resolved to eat nothing but healthy foods and have done so religiously since December 31st–except for the peppermint bark. I just gave the peppermint bark (what was left of it) to Aunt Christina so now I am totally on track.

I made this soup which is full of high-fiber vegetables and makes you feel virtuous even before you finish chopping the leeks. Tom and I have been eating it all weekend and we both feel as fit as say, that guy in “Creed.” (Michael B. Jordan, not Sylvester Stallone.)

I gotta be honest, it’s a pain in the neck to make but worth the trouble because you end up with enough to last for ages so it’s three meals for the aggravation of one. Plus you get all that upper-body exercise from the veggie choppage. Okay, it’s unlikely M.B.J. got those biceps by this method but still.

So give your peppermint bark to an unsuspecting relative and make this soup. You will be glad you did.

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ImageI'm not much of a coffee drinker but I love hot chocolate and I love tea. I enjoy the richness of hot chocolate, but sometimes it's a bit too much. I certainly couldn't drink it everyday. I have tried quite a few chocolate flavored teas and while some of them are pretty good, I've discovered a more satisfying solution. I make hot cocoa with equal parts tea and milk.

On the surface this might seem like a weird thing to do, combining cocoa and tea but it's really quite delicious. I learned from chocolate authority Alice Medrich that the fat in dairy products coats your tongue so the flavor of chocolate is sometimes muted in very creamy preparations. She said you can make cocoa with hot water, but I have found that tea provides an amazing addition of flavor. I like a little bit of milk to add some texture.

The result is a beverage that is richer and more viscous than tea and milk, but not quite as cloying as hot cocoa can be. In the Winter, I could drink it just about everyday!

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open-shot-chestnuts.jpgDo you ever look at chestnuts at this time of year and wonder what to do with them besides add them to stuffing? When I was a kid we used to simply roast them over the fire and they were fun to eat.

A couple of years ago, Brian and I were at a dinner party and the hostess served a first course of this soup. No one could guess what it was and it was absolutely delicious.

This soup is not a beautiful soup to look at, but I guarantee you will be amazed at how delicious it is. It would be a great first course at your Thanksgiving dinner. I topped the soup with croutons that I made using the method out of Thomas Keller's new book, Ad Hoc at Home.

These are the croutons they make at the restaurant and they are intense – garlicky, oily, and crunchy, a perfect topping for the soup. Chestnuts, nutritionally, are similar to brown rice. They are gluten free, cholesterol free, and nearly fat free.

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fishchowderI can't think of anything more American than chowder. This seafood soup is synonymous with chilly days and large family gatherings. Even though we're almost into spring, the weather has continued to be cold and dreary here in the Northeast. I've been craving hot bowls of soothing soup. There are many different recipes for chowder, including the little-known Rhode Island-style made of clear broth. But the one I'm a fan of is creamy New England-style, which was probably the first recorded chowder recipe, dating back to the 18th century. It just so happens that I'm the outlier in a family of all Manhattan-style lovers. Still for me, the fish broth enriched with cream holds the most appeal. That richness is what makes this chowder so soul-satisfying.

The recipe for chowder originally came from France ("chowder" comes from the word chaudière, meaning cauldron) and eventually made its way to England and over to the New World with the colonists. The recipe evolved according to the surroundings, availability of seafood, and the specific tastes of the region. Somewhere along the line certain recipes became more popular than others. Immigrants added their particular spin: the Portuguese added tomatoes to clear-broth chowder and invented what we know as Manhattan-style. That began the epic rivalry between New England- and Manhattan-style chowders, now typically made with clams. But the first chowders in America were made with fish.

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From the LA Times

lentilsAs culinary fashion continues to wind inexorably lower on the luxury scale — from tournedos to beef cheeks, from foie gras to pork belly — it was probably inevitable that we would eventually come to lentils.

Representing the lowest and plainest possible food denominator since biblical times, when Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of soup made from them, lentils have always been regarded as a food you would eat only when you absolutely had to.

Yet look at a restaurant menu today or visit an upscale grocery and you'll find lentils that come in a rainbow of colors and bear an atlas of place names.

You'll find lentils that are reddish pink, canary yellow and pure ivory. Many chefs swear by the dark green lentils from Le Puy in France, but at Mozza, chef Nancy Silverton won't use anything but the tiny tan Castelluccios from Italy's Umbrian hills. You'll even find lentils called beluga, after the ultimate in luxury foods, caviar.

I've cooked with lentils for years, but in a dabbling way. When I could find Castelluccios, I used them, and when Trader Joe's stocked lentils from Le Puy at a great price, I'd buy them. But usually I just cooked whatever the supermarket had on hand.

But with lentils becoming socially acceptable, clearly a more organized analysis was overdue.

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