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Soup’s On! – Chef Alex’s Top Three Soups to Chase Away the Winter Blues

February 9th, 2012

It really hasn’t been much of a winter here in the West.  Northern California has been having sunny, 65-degree Southern California weather, and Southern California has been having sunny, 75-degree Baja weather.  But when the sun sets, the mercury still plummets sharply, and we shed our daytime t-shirts, put on a sweater, and crave a steaming, hearty bowl of soup.  Our San Francisco Bay Area lead private chef, Alex Tishman, shares three of his favorite soups for this time of the year.   Rooted in California’s fresh local ingredients and our cultural connections to Mediterranean and South-of-the-Border dishes, these soups are perfect not only for cold weather, but also to imagine yourself out here in the West, perhaps sitting by the vineyards next to a crackling fire.


Butternut squash soup with brown butter and sage


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 stick butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small bunch sage, leaves picked



Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon.  Toss the squash with a little canola oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a sheet pan, cut side down.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until browned and completely tender.

Meanwhile, heat a medium pot over medium heat, and add half the butter.  Allow the butter to melt and then add the onion and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook the onions and garlic until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.

Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool enough to handle.  Scrape the flesh out and discard the skin.  Add the scooped flesh into the pan and return the soup to a simmer.  Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Check for seasoning and reserve hot.

To make the sage brown butter, heat the remaining butter in a small pan over medium heat, a little at a time, until the butter is just beginning to get aromatic and golden.  Add the sage leaves and cook until they begin to pop and sizzle.  Remove from the heat before the butter burns.  Drizzle a few leaves and some of the browned butter on top of the soup and serve immediately.

Chicken tortilla soup with chipotle and avocado


  • 3 bone-in chicken breasts, roasted, meat picked off the bone and reserved
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 quart tortilla chips
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 quart water, hot
  • 3 each quajillo, 1 each arbol, and 2 each pasilla chiles (dried); seeds and stems removed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 each chipotle chili, packed in adobo sauce
  • salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil


Soak the dried chiles in the hot water until they are tender, about 10 minutes.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Strain, and reserve.

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the canola oil.  Add the onions and cook until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the chipotle and the canned tomatoes and stir well to combine.  Add the stock, reserved chiles and water and bring to a simmer.  Add the tortilla chips and allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check for seasoning.

Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until about halfway smooth.  Add the reserved picked chicken meat, and the chopped cilantro.

Meanwhile, separately combine the avocado, olive oil, sour cream, and lime juice in a blender.  Blend until smooth, adding a little water if needed to keep it moving.  Season with salt.

Serve the soup in a heated bowl with a little dollop of the avocado cream on top.


White bean and prosciutto soup with rosemary, olive oil, and parmesan


  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cans white beans (cannelini, great northern, navy)
  • ½ cup diced prosciutto, bacon, or pancetta
  • 1 sprig rosemary, fresh
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, sliced very thin
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • parmesan cheese, to finish
  • salt, pepper, and chili flakes
  • juice from 1 lemon


Heat a medium pot over low heat and add half the olive oil.  Add the garlic and cook until golden brown.  Add the red onion, rosemary, and prosciutto and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the canned beans, along with enough water to cover.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.

Allow the soup to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the beans are beginning to fall apart.  Add the sliced romaine and check for seasoning, adding the lemon juice just before serving.

To serve, finish with a little shaved parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.

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