Nourish body and soul with warming winter soups

Whether it’s rainy or just chilly, you can take comfort in soups such as (bottom row, from left) Mexican Green Posole, Easy Italian Ribollita and Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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Whether it’s rainy or just chilly, you can take comfort in soups such as (bottom row, from left) Mexican Green Posole, Easy Italian Ribollita and Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

3 recipes can take your taste buds from Italy to Mexico to Vietnam

Year-round, soup is one of the all-time greatest comfort foods. But during the cold, sometimes rainy or snowy days of winter, simmering a pot of soup on the stove, then sitting down to savor a bowl has a way of nourishing the body and soul.

I was reminded of that simple, satisfying ritual recently when my friend Eddie Hernandez, the executive chef of Atlanta-based Taqueria del Sol, invited me to one of his restaurants to enjoy some posole he’d made that morning.

A surprisingly easy version of Hernandez's red or green posole can be found in his cookbook, "Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books, $30).

As he explains, the hearty soup is made with pork and chiles, but it’s the hominy, with its earthy corn flavor and chewy texture, that makes it such a prized dish in Mexico, where it’s often eaten on holidays and other special occasions.

At the table, Hernandez serves posole in big bowls, accompanied by a festive DIY collection of lemon or lime wedges, diced onions, radishes, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, so everyone can garnish their soup the way they like it.

Of course, one of the greatest things about soup is that it can be anything you want it to be — meaty or vegan, with a medley of bones or vegetables to make the broth, and herbs and spices and sometimes fruit to flavor it. It can even be served cold — though that’s usually not my thing, and certainly not in winter.

In her cookbook, "The Noodle Soup Oracle: Hundreds of Possibilities for the World's Favorite Comfort Food" (Running Press, $22), New York chef and culinary illustrator Michele Humes writes: "My mother has always comforted me — and herself — with noodle soup."

In the introduction, Humes notes that her method is all about designing your own noodle soup with mix-and-match combinations for noodles, broths and toppings. “It’s up to you to combine them into the dish you want to eat,” she says.

But she does offer some full recipes, too, including a winning “weeknight” beef pho made with store-bought beef broth that’s jazzed up with spices and fish sauce. She also has a “weekend” chicken pho that calls for making the broth from scratch.

All together, those takes prove the elemental and universal appeal of soup.

RECIPES

These recipes for delicious and easy winter soups from around the world travel from Italy to Mexico to Vietnam. And you can shop for all the ingredients you need on the international aisle and in the meat and produce departments of your local grocery store.

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Easy Italian Ribollita, a variation on a Tuscan favorite, provides plenty of flavor, plus it’s a great excuse to enjoy slices of a fresh baguette. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Easy Italian Ribollita, a variation on a Tuscan favorite, provides plenty of flavor, plus it’s a great excuse to enjoy slices of a fresh baguette. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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Easy Italian Ribollita, a variation on a Tuscan favorite, provides plenty of flavor, plus it’s a great excuse to enjoy slices of a fresh baguette. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Easy Italian Ribollita

This quick and satisfying soup is a variation on a Tuscan favorite, traditionally made with a combination of leftover bread, vegetables, and cannellini beans. It’s cooked with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, peeled tomatoes, and vegetable stock, seasoned with rosemary and thyme, and brightened with a late addition of chopped kale. Best of all, instead of simmering it with mushy bread, it’s topped with thick slices of a fresh baguette, and baked with red onion, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

Easy Italian Ribollita
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups canned cannellini beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 pound chopped kale or escarole
  • 4 large, thick slices of a fresh baguette
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  • Add the beans to the pot along with the tomatoes and their juices and stock, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the soup bubbles steadily. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice to break up the tomatoes, until the flavors meld, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Discard rosemary and thyme stems and stir in the kale or escarole. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lay bread slices on top of the soup so they cover the top and overlap as little as possible. Scatter red onion slices over the top, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan. Put the pot in the oven and bake until the bread, onion and cheese are browned and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 413 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 18 grams protein, 61 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 945 milligrams sodium.

- Recipe by Lisa Hanson

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Mexican Green Posole isn’t just for special occasions. You can also make a red version of this hearty soup by swapping out the chiles you use. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mexican Green Posole isn’t just for special occasions. You can also make a red version of this hearty soup by swapping out the chiles you use. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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Mexican Green Posole isn’t just for special occasions. You can also make a red version of this hearty soup by swapping out the chiles you use. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mexican Red (or Green) Posole

This hearty soup made with pork and hominy is eaten throughout Mexico for holidays and special occasions, such as Christmas. But Eddie Hernandez, the executive chef of Atlanta-based Taqueria del Sol, says his family had it anytime, and it was always very festive. Serve at the table with bowls filled with the likes of lemon or lime wedges, diced onions, radishes, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, and let everyone garnish their soup as they like.

Mexican Red (or Green) Posole
  • 2 pounds Boston butt (pork shoulder) cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 1 pound pork backbones or other pork bones
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 quarts water, divided
  • 20 dried Guajillo chiles (trim as desired for more or less heat) (see note)
  • 10 dried chiles de Arbol (trim as desired for more or less heat) (see note)
  • 4 cups canned hominy (liquid included)
  • Lemon wedges
  • Diced or sliced onions
  • Diced or sliced radishes
  • Warm tortillas
  • In a large pot, place the pork meat, bones, onion, garlic, bouillon cubes and salt. Add 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, or until the meat is cooked through and tender.
  • In a second pot, bring the remaining quart of water to a boil over high heat. Add all the chiles (see note) and boil until softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, remove the stems and puree in a blender and set aside.
  • Remove the meat from the broth and, when cool enough to handle, chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Discard the bones.
  • Return the meat to the broth. Add the hominy and red or green chile puree. Heat through and serve with garnishes and warm tortillas. Serves 10-12.
  • Note: for green posole, substitute 4 cups canned roasted green chiles and 2 stemmed jalapeños for the Guajillo chiles and chiles de Arbol. Puree in a blender and add to the broth in place of the red chiles.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 10: 287 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 20 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 51 milligrams cholesterol, 692 milligrams sodium.

— From “Turnip Greens & Tortillas,” © 2018 by Eddie Hernandez & Susan Puckett. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books. All rights reserved.

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Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho calls for garnishes such as jalapeño slices and lime wedges. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho calls for garnishes such as jalapeño slices and lime wedges. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho calls for garnishes such as jalapeño slices and lime wedges. STYLING BY LISA HANSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho

Vietnamese pho is a long-simmered marvel fragrant with charred ginger and onion and layers of sweet, woody spice. This isn’t quite that, according to chef and cookbook author Michele Humes. But it turns out that the time it takes to infuse a store-bought beef broth with pho’s central aromatics is also the time it takes to firm up a steak in the freezer for easy slicing. The result is an abridged but deeply comforting dish you can absolutely pull off on a weeknight.

A note on the fixings: Pho is traditionally served with an absolute jungle of green accompaniments. Feel free to pick and choose among them.

Vietnamese Weeknight Beef Pho
  • For the toppings:
  • 3/4 pound lean steak, such as sirloin, tenderloin or London broil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper thin
  • For the broth:
  • 1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled
  • 6 cups store-bought beef broth, preferably unsalted
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 pound dried rice stick noodles
  • For the garnish:
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 8 sprigs fresh basil
  • 8 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Before you do anything else, wrap the beef in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. It will firm up as you cook the broth, making it much easier to slice the meat super thin.
  • Make the broth: Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Place the ginger and onion in the hot pan; char them on all sides until they are thoroughly blackened and fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat, and set the ginger and onion aside to cool. Once they’re cool enough to handle, rinse them under cool tap water and rub away the black bits.
  • Transfer the ginger and onion to a medium pot. Add the beef broth, cinnamon stick, cloves, toasted coriander seeds, fish sauce and sugar; turn the heat to high. Once the broth comes to a rapid simmer, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Strain the broth through a strainer into a clean pot; discard the solids. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if it needs it.
  • Prepare the toppings: Place the onion slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let them soak until you’re ready to serve; this will take off their sulfurous edge.
  • Remove the beef from the freezer. Slice it across the grain as thinly as you possibly can. Cover and refrigerate the meat until you’re ready to serve. Arrange the bean sprouts, scallions, herbs, jalapeño slices, and lime wedges on a serving platter.
  • Assemble the bowls: Soak the rice noodles according to the package instructions; divide them evenly among 4 deep serving bowls. Take the beef out of the refrigerator, and drape the slices in a single layer over the noodles. Drain the onion slices and scatter them over the beef.
  • Bring the broth to a strong simmer — it needs to be hot enough to cook the beef. Carefully ladle the broth into the bowls; the beef should immediately start to turn pale pink.
  • Bring the platter of pho fixings to the table, and invite each person to garnish their bowl however they like. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 604 calories (percent of calories from fat, 19), 35 grams protein, 88 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 13 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 121 milligrams sodium.

— Reprinted with permission from “The Noodle Soup Oracle” © 2019 by Michele Humes, Running Press.

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