vegetarian soup, i: giada de laurentiis's winter minestrone. [use 1 tbsp butter instead of pancetta and vegetable broth in place of beef broth; add a rough-chopped italian field roast sausage in the last 10 minutes or so.] this is one of our favorite cold-weather bowls; the flavor builds beautifully via the rosemary sprigs and parmesan rind (any hard cheese rind will do, i've found), and using a pile of chard always makes me feel like a responsible adult. reheats like a charm, pairs well with a crusty loaf of bread.
vegetarian soup, ii: ina garten's roast potato leek soup. [use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.] the barefoot contessa gives no fucks; i think i actually gained weight while preparing this soup, to say nothing of eating it, and both she and i knew it. she had a chef's table at the hearst cafeteria when i worked in the building, and she turned up for it in what was more or less a very fancy pair of black velvet pajamas. i did not deglaze my baking pan on the stove after roasting the potatoes and leeks, as i'd used a foil liner (rookie) and didn't want to make an even bigger mess. the flavor was still deep and luxurious; the glug of white wine and pile of parmesan you whisk in right before serving perfect it. i'd serve this as a non-holiday holiday meal - say, stealth-fancy dinner for incoming guests three days before christmas.
vegetarian soup, iii: red lentil dal with coconut milk and kale. [use vegetable stock or broth in place of chicken stock or broth.] this soup's lively debut convinced joe and me that we had a new favorite dish; the second iteration was so overpoweringly onion-y that even i ended up abandoning it. know, then, that if you can keep an eye on your alliums, a gorgeous, bright dinner can be yours. we doubled the red chiles like the fire-eaters we are, and joe wasn't interested in the reserved spiced onion mixture as a topping; i, in turn, think it adds a lovely textural note. serve with, say, a light-bodied asian beer (like singha or kingfisher).
non-vegetarian money: britain's new five-pound note, made with tallow. it's not going over well.