Super soups for cold weather

As many folks have noted, when the calendar changed to November, the weather here in the Bay Area turned from summer straight to winter. As I donned my favorite lightweight Icelandic wool sweater, I was reminded of the Reykjavík Grapevine‘s ‘Soup Tuesday’ column that just started up last month:

to combat the coming full-scale attack of the SADs [Seasonal Affective Disorder], we decided to started a new tradition to help us make it through the coming winter: SOUP TUESDAYS. Yes! Soup Tuesdays!”

I’m looking forward to trying Icelandic Halloween Soup (Butternut Squash Soup).

There’s a really simple soup you can make at the start of a cold or flu based on a Chinese medicine formula called Cong Chi Tang (Scallion and Prepared Soybean Decoction) and really all you need to have to make it is miso and scallions.The miso and scallions are diaphoretic herbs, which is a fancy word for ‘make you sweat’. They are also good for the Lungs and the Metal element which are in charge in the fall. Drink some of the soup then wrap yourself up in blankets until you sweat.

My favorite Acupuncturist/Integrative nutritionist is Nishanga Bliss and I’ve written about her book Real Food All Year before. She has some wonderful recipes for soup in her book and you can also see some in her Gastronicity blog, including one for bone broth. This is simply one of the most nutritious foods available and is very healing for the digestive tract and the immune system. The collagen from the bones also helps the elasticity and strength of our skin.

Sure, you can buy bone broth at the health food store, or even from a bone broth delivery service, but it’s so easy and much cheaper to make it yourself. It’s not quick to make bone but you can freeze it in small portions and take out what you need. (Mine is defrosting in my crock pot as I write this.) It can also serve as a base for other soups.

Finally, one of my other favorite soups is Tom Kha Gai, a Thai chicken coconut soup. It has galangal and garlic in it which are also diaphoretic herbs like the ones in miso and scallion soup above. According to the Wikipedia page:

There are other versions of tom kha kai made with seafood (tom kha thaleThaiต้มข่าทะเล), mushrooms (tom kha hetThaiต้มข่าเห็ด), pork (tom kha muThaiต้มข่าหมู) and tofu (tom kha taohuThaiต้มข่าเต้าหู้).

One thing to be careful about when ordering Tom Kha in restaurants is that sometimes there is MSG in it, especially in the fish sauce. If you are sensitive to MSG, Amy’s brand makes a yummy version of the soup without it, and is gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free and vegan.

The soup time of the year is here! So get into the kitchen and use some local, seasonal vegetables to make some of the above recipes, and experiment to make them your own. Be well, stay well, and remember that food is medicine.

Denise Cicuto