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Winter soups stave off the chill

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Contented customer Micah Lambert slurps some Coconut Gingered Winter Squash Bisque from Poor Richards. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • Contented customer Micah Lambert slurps some Coconut Gingered Winter Squash Bisque from Poor Richards.

Christmas came and went, and Santa forgot that copper soup pot that headed my list. It's a darn good thing I've got my old cast-iron Dutch oven, 'cause this is soup-making season.

Despite the shelves of soup cookbooks, old Bon Appetit magazines and yellowing pages clipped from God-knows-where, I seem to always make the same few favorites. Trying to break out of my mold, I went souping around old favorite haunts, sipping and sampling, and came away with a few new recipes. One caveat for the home cook: These tend to be in restaurant quantities. Cut the recipe down or prepare to fill your freezer.

Poor Richard's Restaurant (324-1/2 N. Tejon St., 632-7721), offering three or four soups a day, is a good bet for interesting soups. This squash soup recipe from Poor Richard's is a winter classic, but its flavors will have you yearning for the tropics.

Poor Richard's Coconut Gingered Winter Squash Bisque

2-3 butternut squash, quartered 4 carrots, diced 2 onions, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 quarts vegetable stock 1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced 1 cup coconut milk 2 teaspoons curry powder Salt, sugar, pepper to taste

Roast quartered squash in 400-degree oven until tender. Peel and coarsely chop.

Saut onions and garlic over medium heat until transparent. Add carrots and 2 quarts of vegetable stock. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add squash, spices (including ginger) and coconut milk. Simmer 15 minutes.

Pure contents and return to soup pot.

If the soup needs thickening: Prepare a roux by melting 1 stick of butter and whisking in 1cup of flour. Bring soup to a boil and slowly add the roux, a little at a time, until desired thickness. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar.

On the more exotic end of the soup spectrum -- and, in fact, almost a stew -- is this pured lentil soup from Adam's Mountain Caf (110 Canon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430).

Adam's Red Lentil Dahl with Raita

1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed and stemmed 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced 1 lb. red lentils, rinsed and sorted

Water (enough to cover lentils) 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger plus 3 additional tablespoons 2 teaspoon turmeric 2 teaspoon salt 3 teaspoon ghee or clarified butter (see below) 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon ground coriander 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To clarify butter: Bring 1 stick unsalted butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once foam covers butter, reduce heat to very low. Skim froth. Remove pan from heat and let stand 3 minutes. Skim any additional froth. Pour butter slowly through cheesecloth into a jar, leaving milky solids at bottom of pan. This butter will keep, covered and chilled, about one month.

To make dahl: Top lentils with cold water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil. Skim residue with a spoon as lentils come to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, the turmeric and the salt. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until lentils are tender. Turn off flame. In a separate pan, heat clarified butter to smoking point. Add cumin, 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, coriander and cayenne. Stir. Cook for 10 seconds or until fragrant and then add to lentils and stir. Cover and allow to sit for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

To make raita: Combine 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon diced onion, 2 tablespoons diced, peeled, deseeded cucumber, juice from 1/4 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Stir gently.

To serve: Spoon dahl into bowls, top with spoonful of raita, some diced tomatoes and a few sprigs of cilantro.

As any brewpub worth its name will do, Phantom Canyon (2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800) uses some of its beers as ingredients in dishes, none more successfully than the Smoked Gouda Soup. Do try this at home, but don't do it without Phantom's Blond Ale. No other brew will do.

Phantom Canyon Smoked Gouda and Blond Ale Soup

8 cups chicken stock 6 cups Queen's Blond Ale 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and chopped 6 cups heavy cream 2 lbs. smoked Gouda cheese, shredded 1 teaspoon salt Pinch white pepper

Bring stock, potatoes and beer to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender. Pure mixture. Return to heat; add cream, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Could anything be simpler? Or tastier? Again, be advised, this recipe makes a lot of soup.

If cabin fever strikes, don't fight it. Let someone else make the soup. Dale Street Caf (115 E. Dale St., 578-9898), in new hands and in the process of changing its menu, has excellent soups. The Chicken Green Chile Soup I tried was thick, spicy, gooey with cheese and topped with green onions. Cream of Mushroom Soup at Sencha (331 S. Nevada Ave., 632-8287) is always hearty, and the Spicy Beef Vegetable Soup I sampled was wonderful -- full of fork-tender beef chunks, carrots, peppers, onions and cayenne. Winter won't be here for long; enjoy some hearty soups while you can.

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