Category Archives: vegan

Soup #13: Leek and New Potato Soup with Calçots

We’re back! We took the school year off because it was impossible to find a night on which we could regularly make a new soup. However, first grade and preschool ends for the kids on Friday, and our evenings have opened up. I turned to the bookmarked page and found “Leek and New Potato Soup with Calçots.” We actually had potato leek soup fairly recently from a vegetarian crock pot cookbook. This soup is a little different. First of all, it calls for calçots, which I’d never heard of. I read an interesting article about the Calçotada Festival in Valls, Spain, in which people grill and eat hundreds of pounds of calçots.

I, on the other hand, didn’t even call around to see if there were any calçots to be had. The cookbook said that red salad onions are a good alternative, so I bought a red onion. I had to do some further research to figure out what black onion seeds are (no relation to onions whatsoever), but once I figured out that they’re used in Indian food, I knew I could get them at Krishna Groceries down the street.

This soup wasn’t too time-consuming, actually. I chopped leeks and cooked them in butter as instructed. However, there I met my first recipe frustration: the instructions said to melt half the butter in a saucepan, add the leeks and cook for a few minutes until they soften. But it never said what to do with the other half of the butter. I read it three times, but it truly wasn’t there. I guess less butter is okay. I bought new potatoes in all different colors; it was fun to cut the purple ones in half and admire their vibrant hue. The soup came together pretty easily; the potatoes and leeks simmered in soy milk, black onion seeds, and lemon zest for a while and then got pureéd in the blender.

Chopped raw new potatoes.

Sauteeing leeks.

The recipe wanted me to cook calçot onions on the side, and there I discovered the second recipe frustration; it didn’t say how to handle the red onion I was allowed to substitute. Since it said that the calçots were going to be soft and slightly caramelized, I cut the onion into chunks and sauteéd it in olive oil until it was soft and slightly caramelized. Benjamin, who was helping me, sat on the counter and ate chunks of raw onion until his eyes got all red and puffy. He washed it down with milk.

Eating raw onions.

The soup was different from other potato soups I’ve had. It turned a greenish gray because of the different colors of potatoes, and the lemon zest came through. It was pretty bland, though the onions and some salt helped a lot. I liked it, but then I tend to like vegetables cooked any way. Dave didn’t mind it, Benjamin only ate a bite, and Phoebe wasn’t feeling well, so she skipped dinner.

Onions and apples for pie.

Finished soup.

It was a rainy, chilly evening, so I offered to make chocolate-chip cookies. No takers. But Benjamin said he wanted pie, and I happened to have enough apples, so we made an apple pie while we worked on the soup. The kitchen was a mess, but it’s so great to have hot food on a cool night. Phoebe roused herself from the couch to do the latticework on the pie.

Stirring pie dough.

Apple pie.

Soup #8: Chana Masala

Jess: This won’t be my last apology on this website, I’m sure, but it’s deeply felt. Once again, I’m two weeks late writing these posts (numbers 8 and 9), and I completely forgot to take photos as I cooked. So you’re stuck with what would be my long-windedness, except that both these soups were pretty darn quick and easy.

We eat chana masala (an Indian dish made with chickpeas in a thick tomato sauce) pretty frequently, and Dave loves it, so he was excited for this “soup.” Basically, you cook onion in oil until it softens and then add spices. Then you add the chickpeas and the sauce ingredients; this recipe uses coconut milk and tomato puree, so it’s quite rich. After two recipes for which I manufactured tomato puree, I finally stumbled on it in the grocery store. They only had one name-brand variety, but expense is no barrier for this project, as you can tell from my wanton online ordering of Middle Eastern spices. After almost boiling the chickpea mixture, you simmer it for 30 minutes. I was actually able to find all the ingredients for this recipe, and there were no frustrations. Because we frequently cook Indian food, most of the ingredients are staples at our house. This recipe is quick, easy, and delicious. It’s served with spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, which works well with the thick sauce.

Dave said he prefers our usual recipe, although he liked this one, and I liked it better than the usual. I’m the one who eats leftovers for lunch, so I’m the one lucky to report that it’s even better after marinating in the fridge for two days—like most other Indian dishes I’ve cooked. Skip the yogurt, and this is easily made vegan.

Soup #5: Zucchini & Za’atar

Jess: I forgot to take photos of this soup, and we ate it a long time ago, so this will be a bare-bones review. Which is fine, because this one is easy and yummy. Phoebe has basically decided not to like anything new, so she fussed, but Benjamin and I had seconds. Dave found it so-so. Although soup tends to be healthy, eating the dregs out of everyone else’s bowls probably isn’t!

This is really so simple. You cut up zucchini, cook the pieces in oil, add za’atar, and soften the zucchini in broth. In the meantime, you fry panko with salt and lemon thyme. This cookbook basically requires you to have Stan Hewett’s herb garden (that’s a reference to a beloved old Ohio mansion), so of course I couldn’t find lemon thyme. I used regular thyme and remembered—again—that I only like it in very small quantities.

And what’s za’atar, you say? According to Magic Soup, “An herb that grows in the Syrian-Lebanese mountains, sometimes called wild thyme in English, since it has a thyme-like flavor. It’s also a Middle Eastern spice blend, often made with wild thyme, olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, and sumac.” I was certain that a friend of ours had mentioned that Whole Foods had been promoting their A–Z spice selection and asked if we had heard of za’atar, so I drove from work at lunchtime to the Whole Foods in Superior. No luck. The very helpful help desk lady said I should go to the Middle Eastern store in Boulder, but I didn’t feel like making another trip out of it, so I ordered it on Amazon.

The soup was chunky and vegetable-y, and the fried panko added a delightful crunch.

Realizing that I hadn’t taken any photos of the soup as I made it, I took a photo of the frozen block of leftovers.

CIMG2078

Soup #4: Greens and Grains

phoebe it was disgusting because. the barley taste disgusting .the barley looks disgusting. the barley feels disgusting.

Jess: This soup looks nothing like soup; it’s more like a fancy salad. When I looked over the recipe ahead of making it on Thursday, I was pleased to discover that we already had almost all the ingredients. I’d need another bag of barley, since I was doubling the recipe (serves 2), and I’d get a few more “flaked” almonds in case ours were too old. We’re fortunate to be participating in the Sanchez community garden, where the spinach is bright green and bushy. We can take as much as we need, and you can’t even tell it’s been harvested.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

This is a truly simple recipe to prepare, although we were all hard-pressed to call it soup. It didn’t have any broth! You toast the quinoa and cook it with the farro (alternatively pearl barley or freekeh) in stock and then use the rest of the ingredients for topping.

Simmering barley.

Simmering barley.

A few recipe frustrations:

1. The written recipe says that the farro will take about 10 minutes to cook if it’s semipearled. I chose barley instead of farro (as allowed in the recipe) because I already had some and because it was 4 times as cheap to buy a little bit more. However, when I looked at the package, I discovered it was going to take 45 minutes to cook. It would’ve been helpful to mention that in the recipe more specifically than “check the package directions, as cooking times vary.”

2. After the grains are cooked, the recipe says to “turn off the heat, add the kale and leave it to sit until wilted…. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the kale and tahini sauce…” I spent quite a while deciding if I was supposed to scoop the spinach (an approved substitute for kale, and free from the garden) off the top or do some magic to get the grains into the bowl with the spinach somehow on top. A quick “remove the wilted spinach to a bowl” would’ve helped.

3. It’s not the right season for pomegranates. However, while trying to figure out if I could get them anyway, I learned that the seeds are called arils. Cool.

I set out bowls of shaved almonds, the tahini paste, craisins (to substitute for pomegranate arils), and the wilted spinach. I didn’t bother trying to find/buy red amaranth or purple shiso, even though they look lovely in the photo. They were listed as optional.

The consistency of the barley was just wonderful, dense and toothy. I skipped the craisins (I don’t like to mix sweet and savory), but the nuts, spinach, and tahini were all delicious. The nuts added even more crunch, and the spinach added a fresh, vegetable-y taste. The tahini was surprisingly bitter, but a few grinds of sea salt helped immensely. Dave pronounced it our second-best recipe so far. Benjamin ate three bowls (he particularly loved the spinach). You can see Phoebe’s judicious and balanced take above. (I swear we’ll find one she likes!)

Notes:

I listed this as both “soup with meat” and “vegan” because I used chicken stock instead of vegetable. That simple substitution will quickly make this vegan.

To write her comment, Phoebe learned to use the copy/paste function. Even if she never eats Greens and Grains again, she’ll be using copy/paste her whole life.

In related soup news, I had a scoop of leftover barley in the middle of leftover watercress soup for lunch today. It was, frankly, wonderful! The soup had matured from its previous watery, brothy flavor to the slightly peppery herbal flavor it’s clearly supposed to have. Adding the barley gave it some consistency. I’m glad I have one more serving of each left for tomorrow.

Soup #2: Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup with Salsa & Flatbreads

Phoebe: it was delicious. tmatow soup and solsa!

Jess: This recipe is accompanied by a photo of a tiny glass of yellowish-orange soup with a piece of bread or cracker balanced artistically on top of the glass. On top of the bread is piled a spoonful of fresh salsa. It looks fussy, like something you might be offered at a party or reception. I didn’t feel too confident about it, especially since I basically ignored the title in favor of looking suspiciously at the photo. I made the vegetable stock from scratch the night before; I do know that a good stock is the base of a good soup. It filled the house with a pungent aroma. I know we’re not that crazy about thyme, but I consistently use more than we’re really going to want. It never looks like enough!

This is another pretty quick recipe (presumably why it’s included in the “quick fixes” section. I guess I’d better gird up my loins for later on.). I was lucky to find a pint of heritage cherry tomatoes at King Soopers, but only one of the three available pints didn’t have goo in the bottom, so I bought that one and a pint of grape tomatoes. Even with a portion of a pint we already had, they didn’t equal the 1 lb 2 oz of tomatoes I was supposed to have, so I mixed in slightly less of the hot vegetable stock and tomato puree. It’s an inexact science. Once again, this recipe serves 2, so I mostly doubled it. The roasting tomatoes drizzled with balsalmic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon zest spilled into the oven, setting off the smoke detector, but they “soften[ed] in the residual heat” nicely.

Recipe frustration: Are flatbreads crackers? After looking it up, I realized that of course I’ve heard of flatbread pizza. I still couldn’t find anything like that in the grocery store.

I ended up buying Vinta 8 Grains and Seeds crackers to eat with the salsa, which turned out to be delicious. It was very simple: just chopped tomatoes, shallot, and capers. (It was supposed to be a scallion, but I didn’t buy one since I had some shallots lying around that needed to be used.)

I guess I shouldn’t admit that I was kind of surprised when, after going through the blender, this was actually just fancy tomato soup. The kids love tomato soup. Phoebe ate three servings. Benjamin was less enthusiastic (partly because it’s still hard for him to eat soup with a spoon, and I forgot to serve it in a little cup), so he mostly ate bread and jelly. Dave liked it, and I loved the summery tomato flavor. I didn’t mind the seeds, but I could’ve done without the little shreds of tomato skin. I ate almost all the salsa by myself. There were no leftovers!

Soup left in the blender after being portioned out for dinner.

Soup left in the blender after being portioned out for dinner.

Towel covering the smoke detector.

Towel covering the smoke detector.