Photo by Anne Braly / Lemon-Curry Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Feel that slight bit of chill in the air after the sun goes down? The one that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket, light a match and let the fireplace come alive once again?

Rebecca Barron, recently executive chef at St. John's Restaurant and now a chef at Slick's on Main Street, feels cooler weather demands a good bowl of soup, one that will warm you from your belly right down to your toes.

Butternut squash was the longtime favorite when she was at St. John's. However, not to be outsold was her favorite: cauliflower soup made all the better with the addition of Cumberland cheese. "But I also love pumpkin soup made with pumpkins from Southland Farms (in Coffee County, Tennessee)," she says.

Slick's soup of the day ranges from loaded baked potato to chicken gumbo and many more.

"There's just something magical about a bowl of soup when it's chilly outside," says Barron.

And best yet, she adds, soup most certainly pulls double duty. "A cup of soup can be a great way to enjoy something small and warm at the beginning of your meal, or a great way to actually make a meal out of, say, with a big, delightful bowl of ramen."

Whether it's a starter or the main thing, there's one thing that all soups have in common: They satisfy your soul. Here are five of our favorites.

1. Lemon-Curry Chicken Wild Rice Soup: This soup is nothing short of genius and uses ingredients you'd normally find in front of you at dinner: chicken and rice. The fact that you can use leftover chicken makes this a convenient meal. Curry is the surprising spice in this soup, helping to add wonderful dimension of flavor. All you need to complete the meal is a side salad and bread for dipping.

2. Lentil and Lemon Soup: This is a hearty soup with a fresh, light taste of lemon. It's a one-pot meal that will have people going back for more, so double the recipe and serve with slices of crusty ciabatta.

3. Creamy Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup: Nothing is better than a warm bowl of tomato soup with a grilled sandwich melting with cheese. 'Nuf said.

4. Cauliflower and Walnut Soup With Smoky Crumb Topping: Did you say you don't like cauliflower? You've never had it in a creamy, dreamy soup with walnuts. And the smoky, crunchy topping will have you do a double-take when it comes to seconds.

5. Ramen: Bars dedicated to this Japanese soup are a huge trend now, and Chef Micah Adams of Slick's has a recipe you can make at home. Read on for directions to make all of our favorites.


Lemon-Curry Chicken Wild Rice Soup

What you need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 medium-size mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup milk

1 cup long grain-wild rice blend

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups hot chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 packed cup shredded gruyere cheese

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (leftovers are OK)

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

What you do:

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan, and saute the mushrooms over medium heat until browned. Remove from pan.

2. Melt butter in the same pan, and saute the onion and celery for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the flour to the pan and whisk until it is incorporated with the vegetables and butter. Turn heat up to high and add milk in a slow stream, continuing to whisk until the milk is incorporated into the mix.

3. Add rice and white wine, stirring to mix. Add stock and thyme and stir again. Bring to gentle bubble and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times during cooking. Test the rice — should be cooked at this point. If not, give it a few more minutes.

4. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, cream, cheese, chicken and curry powder. Return mushrooms to the soup. Stir together and test for seasoning. If you prefer your soup a little thinner, you can stir in a little milk. Heat until the chicken is warmed through, then serve topped with fresh parsley.


Lentil and Lemon Soup

Makes 8 servings

What you need:

6 slices bacon

3 carrots, sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and drained

6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon cumin

What you do:

1. Fry bacon in large saucepan until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside.

2. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings from pot and add carrots, celery, onion and garlic, sauteeing about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Stir lentils into pot and add stock, lemon zest, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until lentils are tender.

3. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in crumbled bacon, parsley, lemon juice and cumin.


Creamy Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup

Makes 4-5 servings

What you need:

3 pounds Roma tomatoes

1 large sweet onion

1 10- to 14-clove garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

32 ounces vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves

1 tablespoon (or less) granulated sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

What you do:

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Set out a large rimmed baking sheet. Cut tomatoes in half. Cut onion into large wedges, leaving the peels on to protect the underside. Cut the top off the head of garlic so that all the cloves are exposed. Place tomatoes, onion (skin-side down) and head of garlic on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then salt and pepper liberally. Roast in oven for 35-45 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft and the onion is crispy around the edges.

2. Carefully remove the charred onion skins and the garlic skins. Use tongs to move the roasted produce to a blender, then add the juices. Cover and puree until smooth. (Hot items in the blender can pop the top off, due to extra pressure. Place a dish towel over the blender lid to be safe. Or, better yet, blend the soup in smaller batches.)

3. Put a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add tomato puree, vegetable broth, bay leaf, rosemary and smoked paprika. Bring to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove bay leaf; stir in heavy cream and chopped basil. Taste, then adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper and sugar, as needed.


Cauliflower-Walnut Soup with Smoky Crumb Topping

Makes 4-6 servings

What you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 large head of cauliflower, roughly cut into florets

4 cups vegetable stock

1 cup walnuts

1 cup almond or evaporated milk

Pinch of cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Finely chopped parsley (for garnish)

For the crumb topping:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup cauliflower crumbs, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely grated

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

What you do:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep stockpot. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft and beginning to color. Add potato, cauliflower and vegetable stock. (Don't worry if the stock doesn't cover the cauliflower. It will cook down as it softens.) Season with a little salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until potato and cauliflower are soft.

2. Once potato and cauliflower are soft, add walnuts, almond milk and cayenne pepper to the mixture. Stir to combine, then remove from heat. Transfer to a blender and blend in batches until smooth. Return pureed soup to the saucepan, taste to adjust for seasoning and stir through the sherry vinegar.

3. Make the crumb topping: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add all crumb topping ingredients and fry for 5-10 minutes, stirring often. You want the crumb to be crispy and golden, not burned. Ladle soup in bowls and serve topped with a spoonful of the crumb topping and some parsley.


Ramen Soup

This soup from chef Micah Adams takes time, but is worth the trouble, says his partner and fiancee, chef Rebecca Barron. Kombu, katsuobushi and other ingredients can be found at Asian markets in town, such as Asian Food and Gifts on Hixson Pike.

What you need:

2 pounds chicken feet or backs

2 pounds pork neck bones

2 ounces dehydrated shiitake mushrooms

1 sheet of kombu

1 ounce katsuobushi, or bonito flakes

1 ounce kosher salt

1 ounce rice wine vinegar

4 ounces mirin

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Canola oil

4 ounces country ham, sliced

1 cup sweet corn

4 ounces fresh greens, such as kale, mustard or chard, washed and chopped

1 (10-ounce) package frozen fresh ramen noodles (Sun Noodle is an excellent brand.)

2 small green onions, thinly sliced (including the white parts)

What you do:

1. Prepare the stock: Add all of the chicken and pork to an 8-quart stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring to a vigorous boil for 4 minutes, then strain off and discard all of the water. Keep bones in the pot and cover them with fresh water; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and continue at a very low boil for as long as possible, up to 12 hours. Foamy scum will collect on the top of the water, which you must skim off with a spoon and discard. You may also need to top the pot off with a little more water if it gets too low.

2. After stock has simmered for 12 hours (or when your patience has run out), strain liquid into another container and discard the bones. Return strained stock to the pot, add the dehydrated mushrooms, kombu and katsuobushi. Keep at a very low simmer for 10 minutes, then strain the solids from your stock. Reserve the now-reconstituted mushrooms and discard the kombu and katsuobushi strained from your stock. (If your stock is cloudy, that's OK.) Keep the stock in refrigerator for up to a week, or freezer for up to three months. When the stock cools, you may see a layer of fat rise to the top and solidify: This is a good thing. Don't skim it off.

3. Prepare the shio tare: Add the kosher salt, rice wine vinegar, mirin and sesame oil to a small bowl and mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. This particular mixture is called shio (salt) tare, meaning that salt is its primary flavoring as opposed to soy sauce, fish sauce, miso or another salty ingredient.

4. Prepare the toppings: Cut a few of the reserved mushrooms from the stock into quarters. Set a frying pan on a burner over medium-high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add all of the ham and stir it around until it browns lightly, then remove and set aside.

5. Return the pan to high heat and add corn, greens, mushrooms and a splash of the shio tare. Sautee until the greens are just wilted. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

6. Assemble the bowl: For each serving, add 8 ounces of stock and 1 ounce of shio tare to a saucepan and bring to a boil. In a separate saucepan, cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Often, fresh noodles come with a seasoning packet. To use this or not is up to you. It is not necessary and may make your bowl too salty. Taste the broth and add more shio tare if necessary.

7. Drain the noodles and place in the bottom of a serving bowl, followed by the greens, corn, ham and mushrooms. Pour the boiling stock in and garnish with sliced green onions.