5 soup recipes are a warmup to the holidays

Soup is a great meal choice as the winter solstice approaches. (Aida Ibisevic/Dreamstime/TNS)

As the winter solstice approaches and the days are darkest, we crave warm and cozy. As we flit from office holiday potlucks to last-minute happy hours with friends, we crave sustenance. And as we’re wrapping up another year filled with shopping, parties, family and, let’s face it, a fair amount of stress, we crave comfort.

Soup is the answer to it all.


From ramen, gumbo and borscht to pozole and the Minnesota staple of chicken wild rice, settling in with a steaming bowl of soup can make us forget, at least momentarily, the chaos that surrounds us.

Multiply the benefits of soup even further by creating in your kitchen, starting with the zen of chopping vegetables and ending with a sigh of relief that tonight’s dinner is simmering on the stove (and the leftovers can be tomorrow’s lunch).

Revisit a favorite family recipe, or use the occasion to try something new. Make restaurant-quality hot and sour soup or a twist on beef barley soup that gets a spark from lemon. A cherry tomato confit provides the base for a standout tomato soup, and chef Jacques Pépin shares his recipe for Black Bean Soup, a simple soup that takes on different flavors, depending on how it’s garnished.

Now that the soup’s on, there’s plenty of time for making lists, checking them twice, and stealing a moment for yourself before heading back into the chaos.

Hot and Sour Soup

Serves 4 to 6.

“This soup is a warm hello. Many small family-run restaurants I’ve frequented greet customers with a complimentary bowl of hot and sour soup — it’s the Chinese equivalent of bread and butter at a French bistro. Because I’ve always thought of this soup as a restaurant dish, our family rarely made it at home. Turns out, it’s easier to make than you’d think,” writes author Jeffrey Pang. Although it’s tempting to substitute ingredients for this soup, it’s such a specific taste that I strongly suggest you don’t. Chinese black vinegar, because its malty sweet flavor is integral to this soup; and white pepper, whose floral headiness just can’t be replicated with black pepper. Serve with extra chili oil, black vinegar and white pepper.

• 7 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2‑in. cubes

• 1 (6‑oz.) boneless pork chop, trimmed

• 6 c. chicken broth

• 3 tbsp. soy sauce, plus extra for seasoning

• 1 (5‑oz.) can bamboo shoots, sliced thin lengthwise

• 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 in. thick

• 3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. water, divided

• 3 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. cornstarch, divided

• 5 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar

• 1 tsp. white pepper

• 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

• 1 to 3 tsp. chili oil

• 1 large egg

• 3 scallions, sliced thin


Spread tofu over paper-towel-lined plate and let drain for 20 minutes, then gently press dry with paper towels. Place pork chop on separate plate and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork chop to cutting board and, holding knife parallel to cutting board, slice into 2 thin cutlets. Slice each cutlet crosswise into thin strips.

Bring broth and soy sauce to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Add bamboo shoots and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in tofu and pork and cook until pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, vinegar and pepper, then stir mixture into soup. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute. Remove soup from heat, but do not let cool down. Stir in sesame oil and chili oil, and season with extra soy sauce to taste.

Whisk remaining 1 teaspoon water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup, then whisk in egg until combined. Off heat, use 1 hand to stir soup with fork or chopsticks while using other hand to pour egg mixture in slow, steady stream into swirling soup. Continue stirring soup until cooked thin egg ribbons appear, about 1 minute. Sprinkle individual portions with scallions before serving.

Creamy Confit Tomato Soup

Serves 4.

• 1/3 c. olive oil from Cherry Tomato Confit, plus more for serving (see recipe)

• 1 medium white onion, chopped

• 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, plus more for seasoning

• 1 tbsp. dried marjoram, plus more for serving

• 1 (28-oz.) can chopped tomatoes

• 1 c. Cherry Tomato Confit (see recipe), divided

• 2 cloves garlic from Cherry Tomato Confit, peeled

• 1 c. vegetable broth

• Freshly ground black pepper


Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium pan over low heat. Add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the marjoram and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the cherry tomato confit, garlic and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld together, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender or a blender to purée the mixture until smooth. Blending constantly, add the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide the soup among four bowls. Top with the remaining confit cherry tomatoes and dried marjoram.

Cherry Tomato Confit

Makes 1 (10-ounce) jar.

• 2 c. cherry tomatoes

• 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

• 3 to 4 basil leaves

• 1 tsp. fine sea salt

• 3/4 c. olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cherry tomatoes in a 1-quart baking dish. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife. Add the garlic, basil and salt. Cover with the oil.

Put the tomatoes in the oven and bake until they are completely soft and the oil is bubbling, about 60 minutes.

Let them cool in the baking dish. Transfer to a 10-ounce jar and store the tomatoes in their oil in the fridge if not using immediately.

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