Warming Foods for the Wintry Soul

Gloves, hats and boots have all made their way to the front of my hall closet. Like little soldiers lined up before battle, they’re at the ready for a cold winter. For me, staying out of the cold and minimizing shopping trips becomes a priority. As such, my pantry and fridge also hunker down for the long hibernation, with pantry staples and the best of whatever produce is available in the wintertime. Warming, homey foods to serve up for dinner or share with friends and family are always much appreciated. Our bodies crave “comfort foods” during these cold months, even better when they are nourishing, too.

Enjoy the following recipes, bound to satisfy your winter cravings, from my new book The Giving Table, published and reprinted with permission from Menucha Publishers. Now available in bookstores or online!


Photo: Baila Gluck

Triple Mushroom, Meat, And Barley Soup
Yields 12 servings

While this soup can be made with only white mushrooms, I’ve found that a combination of mushroom varieties—both fresh and dried—will add significantly more depth of flavor. Cremini and/or any wild mushrooms are wonderful choices, in addition to white mushrooms.

4 cups dried porcini or wild mushrooms
1 1⁄2–2 pounds beef flanken, cut into 6–8 pieces
1 beef bone
3 quarts (12 cups) water

2 medium onions, chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 pounds (32 ounces) fresh mushrooms (mixed varieties: white, cremini, oyster, et cetera), roughly chopped or thinly sliced
1 cup pearled barley
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped parsley, for garnishing

1. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water to cover for 15-20 minutes. Strain mushrooms in a sieve, reserving the water. Coarsely chop dried mushrooms; set aside.

2. Place flanken, beef bone and 3 quarts water in a large soup pot (at least 8-quart) over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and skim off the foam that rises to the surface.

3. After all the impurities have been removed, add vegetables, garlic, fresh mushrooms, barley, salt, chopped dried mushrooms and reserved mushroom water. Stir soup and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer partially covered for 11⁄2-2 hours, or until flanken are very tender and soup is slightly thickened.

4. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and more salt if needed. If soup is too thick, adjust consistency by adding a little additional water. Ladle soup into bowls, giving each serving a generous portion of the flanken. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Chef ’s Note: Use your food processor to help with chopping or slicing; using the pulse button will give you the best control to get the size you want.


Photo: Baila Gluck

Roasted Garlic Za’atar Chicken
Yields 4–6 servings

A wicked roasted garlic spread smeared under the skin boosts the flavor while preventing the chicken from drying out. Any leftover spread is a terrific accoutrement on challah or toast—our favorite roasted garlic dip!

6 whole heads garlic
4–7 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 11⁄2 teaspoons za’atar spice, plus more
for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Working with each garlic head, peel away the excess outer layers of paper, being careful to keep the garlic heads intact. You should now have very lean-looking garlic heads. Slice approximately 1/8- to 1⁄4-inch off the top of each head so that the tops of the individual cloves are exposed.

2. Place the garlic heads on a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons oil liberally over the top of the cut garlic heads. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the heads. Wrap tightly with foil like a crimped package. Bake for 1 hour or until garlic cloves are golden and soft when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

3. Working over the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S blade, carefully squeeze each garlic clove out of its peel into the bowl—gloves are a plus for this messy job! Repeat with all garlic heads. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and 11⁄2 teaspoons za’atar spice. Process until mixture is smooth, adding more oil to thin as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper, or more za’atar if desired. Scrape paste into a small bowl and set aside.

4. Raise oven temperature to 400°F.

5. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Gently run your fingers underneath the skin, creating a pocket of space. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons garlic spread under the skin; press skin down over spread, smoothing out to distribute spread. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs; transfer them to a roasting pan.

6. Rub skin with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Generously sprinkle thighs with za’atar spice and black pepper; lightly sprinkle with salt. Roast uncovered for 1 hour, until skin is nicely browned and crisp. 

Chef ’s Note: Garlic spread can be prepared up to one week ahead. Double and use some as a dip!


Photo: Baila Gluck

Winter Citrus Fruit Salad
Yields 4 servings

Wonderfully refreshing and beautiful to the eye, this is an impressive upgrade from a sectioned grapefruit as an appetizer. It’s also delicious served over Greek or coconut yogurt for a healthful breakfast or brunch!

2 ruby red grapefruits
3 large navel oranges
2 cups pomegranate seeds (about 1/3 pomegranate)
2 tablespoons flaked coconut
1⁄2 teaspoon grated lime zest (from about 1⁄2 a lime)
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon

3–4 teaspoons honey, or more to taste (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1/8–1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons triple sec or orange-flavored liqueur

1–2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1. Cut off the polar ends of the grapefruits with a sharp serrated knife. Following the curvature of the fruit, slice the peel off, being careful not to cut away too much fruit. Trim away the white pith. With a gentle sawing motion, make incisions along each membrane, only going as far as the center of the fruit. Working over a large bowl, gently release the grapefruit sections into the bowl. (You will be left with the empty membranes in your hand; discard.)

2. Repeat the same process with the oranges, adding the orange segments to the bowl.

3. Add the pomegranate seeds and coconut.

4. In a small bowl, combine lime zest, lime and lemon juices, honey, cinnamon and liqueur. Whisk until well blended. Pour this mixture over the segments; mix to blend. Set aside to marinate for 10-15 minutes.

5. Spoon into dessert cups and top with a little sprinkling of chopped crystallized ginger. Serve and enjoy!

Chef ’s Note: This salad has gorgeous color contrasts. For an even bolder look, replace some navel orange with blood orange.


Photo: Baila Gluck

Chocolate Gingerbread Thumbprints
Yields 4 dozen cookies

This spiced cookie has all of winter’s warmest spices, infusing intense gingerbread flavor through and through. My favorite time of year to make these is the week after Thanksgiving when we have some cranberry sauce lying around. Its sweet and tart flavor is the perfect counterbalance to chocolate and ginger.

21⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup Dutch cocoa
2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

3⁄4 cup unsalted butter or margarine (11⁄2 sticks), room temperature
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup molasses
1 egg
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
3 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped (about 1⁄2 cup)

1. Combine flour, cocoa, spices, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together until well combined.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter (or margarine) and sugars together for 1-2 minutes until a fluffy paste forms. Add the molasses, egg and vanilla; mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture and blend until just combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls; place on prepared sheet pans, spaced 1-2 inches apart.

5. Using your thumb (or back of measuring spoon), press down into the center of each cookie to make a deep well in the cookie. Fill each cookie with one teaspoon of cranberry sauce.

6. Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes, until edges are set and the cookies begin to crack slightly. Remove cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Melt chopped chocolate in a small microwaveable bowl, stirring at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth (or melt over a double boiler). Lightly drizzle chocolate over cookies; let stand until chocolate sets.

Chef ’s Note: Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, though thumbprints are best eaten within the first week; freeze for up to three months.


Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, New York. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting good cooking and Jewish inspiration.

This article was featured in the Winter 2022 issue of Jewish Action.
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