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Cooking Lesson Seven: Our Favorite Winter Soup

An easy, warming pot of soup for the depths of winter.

Yes, I know, I did promise to follow up the Super-Efficient Cooking Day with some more recipes for you to go with that, but, since it is the depth of winter right now, I want to share my favorite winter soup recipe with you all.

All you will need for equipment are some basics: a cutting board (or counter do don't care about), knife, can-opener and big soup pot.

Your ingredients:

¾ c. chopped onion
¾ c. chopped carrot (I chop the carrot sticks I always have in the fridge)
1 T. olive oil (any vegetable oil is fine)
1 lb. ground beef (or equivalent protein; turkey, tofu, soy crumbles etc.)
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes (do not strain)
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (do not strain)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (note on all these cans: just get close to 15 oz. Sometimes I can only get the 14½ oz. diced, and often have to buy 2 8 oz. cans of sauce)
HEAT!: I use about a T. of a chopped habañero relish I have; but you can use whatever hot seasoning you have on hand. Sambal Oelek would work great, or even Tabasco. Or fresh jalapeños, maybe. Go easy, you can always add more. This gives the soup its warming and sinus-clearing properties, but you don't want to kill people here!
seasoning: A T. or so of any "southwest" or "tex-mex" mix would work. I use about 1 t. of salt, ½ t. of fresh ground pepper, and about ¼ t. each of cumin, oregano, cayenne and paprika.
6 c. water

Put the onion and carrot in the pot, along with the olive oil, over low heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until softened. Bring the heat up to medium-high and add the beef; sauté 'til it starts to brown. Add all other ingredients, and continue stirring until it comes to a boil; lower heat and simmer for at least half an hour. Voilá! You're done!

Some alternate approaches: If you're using beef or turkey and you want to lower the fat, brown the meat first, drain it and set it aside while you saute the onion and carrot, then add back in. Also, if you don't care about fat, tossing in about a T of butter shortly before serving adds some real richness (which it will to any soup). And of course, the longer you simmer it, the better it gets. This soup reheats really well, on the stove or in the microwave. I don't know how long it will keep though, because it never lasts more than a few days around here. (I'm telling you, I could live on this soup.)

When you're ready to eat, just serve it with some nice crusty bread from the store or your oven, and you're good to go.

Ah!! Now you're ready to face that old man winter again!

Afterthoughts

I forgot to mention that of course you can subtitute any canned bean for the chickpeas. Kidney beans or cannellini would probably work great. I'm still partial to chickpeas in my soup so I won't be experimenting personally.

Janaki responded on her blog with this recipe for her favorite winter soup, a potato-cheese-broccoli soup. She also got totally ambitious and served my soup up in carved out rye bread bowls! How swanky is that?

The super-productive and super-cool Abby Denson tried my recipe with no beans at all, and said it worked just great without them.

And Michael Lo offered up this near-instant Chinese restaurant classic: 1 can creamed corn, one can of water, and an egg (raw), stirred together and brought to a boil. Haven't tried it yet, but sounds good and very fast.

And finally, during my non-solid food phase while sick after dental work in January I came up with near-instant bean soup: 1 can black beans, one can diced tomatoes, 1 can chicken broth, plus your favorite black bean soup seasonings (I forget, but I think I used some oregano, cumin and S&P). Bring to a boil, simmer until you can't wait any longer, and then, if you can't eat solid food (or want a smooth soup), use an immersion blender to puree. When I made it again after getting better, I added sautéed onions and carrots.

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