After many dinners together, I can tell you Danny is a soup hero.
He is always willing to whip up soup, and though it may seem unlikely, the soups we've shared are some of my favorite meals. They're modest, as he'll tell you. Nothing too fancy. Soup is not necessarily made to impress; it's simply a homemade meal to feed, comfort and nourish you, and to let you know that you are loved. When it's raining all afternoon or you've caught the inevitable cold, it's all you want.
Early on, there was a shrimp bisque. He deftly peeled shrimp and used the skins to make his own stock. We ate this when our first dining room was still bare and we had only patio chairs to sit on. Whenever we have that soup again, it takes me back to those sweet early days of living together.
There was a cream of celery soup with matching celery bread that was all his idea. We raved about a French white bean and ham stew that simmered until nearly midnight. He stayed up stirring after I fell asleep.
One of our favorites is a butternut squash soup with a few unexpected ingredients: apple cider, pear and vanilla. The last one isn't so odd if you remind yourself that vanilla is a spice. These all work together to perk up a soup that always shows up around this time of year, but this version boasts more than heavy cream to keep it interesting.
Unlike the ham stew, this bright orange number comes together fairly quickly on a weeknight, and that only adds to its appeal. Leftovers for lunch somehow taste even better. Pull out this recipe on a gray day and you'll feel like your own soup hero.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at [email protected]