Friday, December 05, 2008

the optimist's view of winter

Today is off to a good start: I slept well, stayed in bed to snooze (one of my absolute favorite activities, truth be told) for an extra hour, and now I'm enjoying a cup of coffee. There are cats sitting by me, and sunlight outside of my window. Of course, it feels like -1 out there, but in my little studio things are relatively cozy.

For me, that is one of winter's redeeming factors: coziness. It's a different type of coziness from the coziness of fall, which is more of an all-around feeling (I'm-outside-and it's-mildly-chilly-and-I'm-wearing-a-cute-jacket coziness). I feel like winter coziness is in direct proportion to how awful the weather is outside; as the conditions outside become increasingly harsh and wearing, the conditions inside become more welcoming. It's the coziness of curling up on the couch with a blanket and sipping something hot. It's having a comforter on your bed that you can burrow down into, squealing until your body heat warms the flannel sheets. It's soup.

Indeed, winter food is some of my favorite food. It doesn't have the vegetable rush of spring or summer, but many of my absolute favorite dishes just don't fly as well during any other time of year. (Fall is a cusp season, of course, given the fact that it still is fall, but once it gets cold enough it's hard to keep that in mind.) Could I enjoy a bowl of potato-leek soup anywhere near as much in June? I think not. Isn't chili better when it is, in fact, chilly? While I admittedly need to improve my warm-weather cooking (I had a hard time this summer when it was too hot to turn the oven on), I think my heart will always belong to a season that allows me to make so much soup. (I think Rose-Anne knows what I mean; the last time I visited her apartment to cook, there was a word cloud derived from her blog printed out and taped above her desk, and the big central word was "soup.")

This winter, my big goal is to become a better baker and hopefully make my own bread. I need to learn to deal with yeast, and plus there is nothing better than fresh bread. But I'm also excited to try out a number of new soup recipes, particularly from my Moosewood. I have a burning desire to learn to make barsczcz, the Polish version of borscht; I generally don't like beets because they upset my stomach, but I ate a fair amount of barszcz when I was there last and it was delicious (and happily didn't make me feel sick). But tonight, I'll be making my first home-made squash soup from scratch. Is it dorky that I feel excited about this? After my less-than-excellent Thanksgiving contribution (despite what Anna says), I'm ready to redeem my squash skills with my leftover butternut. Here's the recipe, from my 1987 Moosewood:

Creamy Squash Soup

1 acorn, small buttercup or acorn squash (about 2 cups, cooked)
3 tbs butter or vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 small carrot, diced
1 medium potato, diced
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk or apple juice or 1 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Halve the squash and scoop the seeds out. Place it cut-side-down on a lightly oiled baking pan, cover, and bake at 350 for one hour until soft. You can also peel, cube, and boil, but according to MW this is easier and better for flavor.
Saute the onions in butter or oil until translucent. Add carrots, potatoes, apples, and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
After the squash cools, scoop the insides out and combine with the veggies and milk/cream/juice. Puree in a food processor or blender in small batches until smooth and creamy.
Heat the soup on low heat until hot but not boiling. Add the cinnamon, season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.


Lauren said...

yes, you are so right about the coziness. i'm very excited to be in PA for christmas where i can sit by the fire and read with tea all day. :) i'll have to try your soup recipe this weekend!

ammie said...

I was a little worried because I don't always take kindly to sweeter non-dessert dishes, but this was delicious! The flavors blended quite well. Let me know what you think if you try it!

Rosiecat said...

Ammie, I thought you might be tickled to know that I printed out my "soup" word cloud in AUGUST. Matt and I made soup in JULY in the DESERT. And it was delicious!

I don't let the weather get in the way of my soup-making. I do, however, have my culinary eye on fruit soups for next year. Perhaps I should make a new cooking wish list for 2009?