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Soups to Soothe the Sighs of the Season

A ginger-tamarind vegetable soup from Yewande Komolafe is your first line of defense for the winter blahs.

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By Melissa Clark

Whatever a certain rodent’s speculations on the start of spring might be, February will always be a cold, gray slog. It’s inevitably the time when I daydream of flying off to some tropical Eden to eat lime-drenched papayas in the morning sun and pluck ripe mangoes from the trees in the afternoon shade. And I’m not even a beach person.

That trip isn’t in the cards for me this winter. But thanks to Yewande Komolafe’s latest recipe, I can bring the warming flavors of tamarind, ginger and lemongrass straight into my kitchen. Her ginger-tamarind vegetable soup (above) is both brothy and satisfying, with cubes of silken tofu floating next to wilted spinach and bits of tomato. A fragrant bowl will brighten chilly February days, which are getting longer as we inch toward spring.

Ali Slagle’s got something else for your soup pot, an earthy, stick-to-your-ribs lentil soup with chunks of roasted, caramelized cabbage. Pair it with David Tanis’s winter citrus and red chicories salad for a colorful, meatless dinner. Or, for another vegetarian option, you could try Hetty McKinnon’s new recipe for sheet-pan tofu and brussels sprouts drizzled with a creamy, tangy hoisin-tahini sauce. Maybe serve her sesame cucumber and avocado salad alongside it.

Perhaps you’re in the market for a zippy weeknight chicken dish. Anna Francese Gass’s crispy lemon chicken cutlets with salmoriglio sauce has a sharp and zesty dressing that soaks into the crunchy coating. It’s a bit like schnitzel but with chicken breast instead of veal. For a porky variation, there’s katsudon: sliced pork cutlets simmered in a dashi broth and served over rice.

Then for dessert, you could take on Ginger Dimapasok’s violet-colored ube pie, made from purple yam, or my tamarind cream pie, bringing us right back to the tropics.

If you don’t have one already, you’ll need a subscription to access the recipes, and subscribing to New York Times Cooking couldn’t be easier. We are also on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, where you can watch Eric Kim make a simple but deeply flavored miso soup with, as he poetically puts it, “a lily-pad suspension of scallions.” If you’re in need of any technical help, the smart folks at [email protected] will be there for you. And I’m at [email protected], as always, if you want to send me a note. I can’t answer every one, but I’m happy to read them all.

Back to the tropics. There are New Yorkers who don’t need a tropical paradise to swim in the ocean right now, but I am not one of them. I got my toes wet vicariously this winter, like everyone else I know, by watching the “tropical anxiety attack” of “The White Lotus.” As Jorge Cotte writes in The Los Angeles Review of Books, there’s a dark undertow to the show’s many seductive, lingering shots of crashing waves. Spoiler alert: What’s beneath those waves is more sinister, as frozen as the lush rainforests underneath Antarctica. Many viewers booked trips to the Sicilian resort in season two’s aftermath. Not me. Like I said, I’m not a beach person.

See you on Wednesday.

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