Winter Warming

By Amanda Cushman
tempeh with mushrooms
As fall turns into winter and the holiday season approaches, we find ourselves turning to chilly weather foods, such as warming soups and hearty entrees.

Almost all soups start with the trio of vegetables known as mirepoix—a mixture of diced carrot, celery and onion, after which just about anything can be added to a soup pot. Many vegetables lend themselves to soup preparation but especially root veggies, such as potatoes, carrots and anything in the squash family.

Eating with the seasons is a better deal both health-wise and economically; therefore, I always let the farmers market suggest ingredients. At this time of year there is a profusion of winter squash, leeks, and many varieties of potatoes and mushrooms.

I love the two soups included below, as they are easy to make and sure to satisfy with great texture and elegance. I often serve both soups for guests, as they are perfect for making ahead.

The sautéed tempeh is a delicious and satisfying entrée, served over rice or on its own. If you wish, other leafy greens can be substituted, such as kale, Swiss chard or bok choy.

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger
Serves 6

1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
Olive oil for brushing
1 Tbsp. butter
2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced; or 1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 Tbsp. minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Crème fraiche or sour cream for garnish
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1. Heat the oven to 375°. Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet coated lightly with olive oil. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes.
2. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the leeks, carrots, celery, ginger and garlic for 5 minutes over low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the oven and cool slightly. Scoop the flesh from the skin and add to the saucepan. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Puree the soup in batches in a processor, taste for seasoning. Transfer back to the saucepan and heat through.
5. Spoon the soup into six soup bowls and spoon a small dollop of crème fraiche onto each serving, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Roasted Eggplant Soup with Garlic Croutons
Serves 8

1 firm large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
1/4 c. olive oil
1 large red onion, halved
1 red pepper, halved and seeded
1 yellow pepper, halved and seeded
2 medium tomatoes, halved
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 loaf stale French bread, cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. olive oil

Saffron Mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pinch salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
Large pinch of saffron

1. Heat the oven to 400°. Halve the eggplant and brush the cut side with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a baking pan. Repeat with the onion, peppers and tomatoes.
2. Roast the vegetables until softened, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil in a large saucepan and warm the thyme, bay leaf, garlic and basil about 2 minutes over low heat. Add roasted vegetables, salt and pepper. Add stock, bring to a boil over med-hi heat and cover, lower heat to medium and simmer about 25 minutes.
4. Remove thyme stems and bay leaf, and purée the solids in a processor. Return to saucepan, stir in lemon juice and season to taste.
5. Place cubed bread on a baking sheet. Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl and then drizzle on the bread. Toss to coat evenly. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
6. Combine the egg, mustard, lemon and salt in a processor and blend, adding oil slowly through the feed tube until it is thickened. Add saffron and salt to taste and serve a dollop on top of the soup with the croutons. Saffron mayonnaise will keep up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Tempeh Stir Fry with Miso Dressing
Serves 4 to 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. miso
1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley
Fresh pepper

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 pound domestic or wild mushrooms, wiped clean, thinly sliced
8 ounces tempeh, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound baby spinach leaves

1. Combine canola oil, honey, miso, tamari, lemon, garlic, sesame oil and parsley in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
3. Heat vegetable oil in a large, high-sided skillet and sauté the onion and red pepper over medium high heat until slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and tempeh, seasoning with salt and pepper and continue to sauté until the tempeh is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach and ¼ cup of water and quickly wilt. Add the dressing to the pan and toss gently. Spoon the mixture onto a platter and serve.

Amanda Cushman, author of the cookbook Simple Real Food, teaches regularly at Surfas in Culver City as well as privately. Her specialty is simple, ethnic food cleanly prepared. Find her at

Photos: Herman Blanke

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