Spicy soups make winter tolerable.

Originally posted February 2013.

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Every year, I do this thing where I get tired of winter and start doing things that one has no business doing during winter. For example, this weekend I made a side dish of sauteed zucchini and tomatoes to go with my salmon. While pretty much perfect during July and August, they’re a discolored, flimsy disappointment in February.

And today, I decided that I’d wear a dress. Not a sundress, mind you, but not something with sleeves, or made out of wool, and not something that came even remotely close to hitting my knees. In my defense, I did pair it with a cardigan and tights, although those tights were pantyhose and did basically nothing to keep my gams toasty.

I’m not sure if I’m just impatient, or defiant, or unconsciously trying to will the seasons to change early, but whatever the underlying cause may be (I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s an equal blend of all three of those things), whenever I start doing this, I always end up somewhat disappointed. At this point in the season, I’d really like to be able to fast-forward to June, when I’ll be over the hump of debilitating pollen allergies, able to escape to the beach after work (!!!), and go to a couple of sweet family reunions. However, I’d settle for being able to fast-forward to March 31, when the greatest show ever (with maybe the exception of Arrested Development) returns with what are guaranteed to be crazy-awesome episodes, and when I’ll be able to walk my dog for more than 30 seconds without wanting to run back into my apartment and wrap myself in a bathrobe, Snuggie and approximately 785,219 blankets.

However, since I don’t have a time machine or super-cool magic remote control like Adam Sandler’s the one in RL Stine’s short story ‘Click’ from “Tales to Give You Goosebumps,” I’m going to have to muddle through (hey, at least the days are getting longer) and find ways to make my impatient, cold-blooded self less miserable. And one of those ways is, naturally, in food form (because really, the only good thing about post-Christmas winter is being able to eat all the starchy, meaty, stewy food you want and then hide yourself under multiple layers of clothing).

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This soup is perfect winter fare. It’s filling and hearty, and the spicy sausage gives it a welcome kick. Plus, it’s budget-friendly and comes together quickly — two things that make everyone happy — and when you dunk a nice hunk of hot, buttery garlic bread in it — ugh, it’s heaven. If I can eat this on a regular basis for the next two months, I’ll be a little less sad about not having a magical remote control.

Spicy sausage, spinach & white bean stew (adapted slightly from Fine Cooking)

3/4 lb spicy sausage
2 15-oz. cans white cannellini beans
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 handful spinach leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp red wine vinegar
grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat your olive oil in a large saucepan (I highly recommend using one larger than the one I used) over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add your onion and garlic and saute until the onions are tender. While the onion and garlic are cooking, cut your sausage links into 1-inch chunks. After the onion has softened up a bit, add in the sausage and brown it (should take you about 6-8 minutes). Next, add your rinsed and drained beans. Let them heat up for about a minute, then add your chicken broth. Cover the pot. After about five minutes, add the chopped spinach, cover the pot again, and let stew for another five minutes or so. Stir in your vinegar, then ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and serve with a delicious hunk of garlic bread.

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Happy eating!

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