Vegan Yam and Pear Soup

 

Put 3 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot on a medium low burner. Add 1 TBSP of cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice, salt, pepper and heat until the aroma rises. Add 2 TBSP of chopped ginger, and I know that is a lot, but ginger is what we need to make this a savory soup, not a dessert soup. Ginger and onions, which come next. Add 1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely. It’s all going to be pureed in the end, so don’t bother chopping fine. Sauté until onions are soft and transparent.

Peel 8 small yams and cut into uniformly sized chunks, about 2 inches square. Toss into the pot with 32 oz. of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your chunks. Test with a fork.

Peel 4 pears, remove the stem, and chop into pieces and add to the pot. Cook for 15 more minutes. Add 32 oz. of unsweetened coconut beverage. Let cool and puree using a Magic Bullet, blender, or immersion blender.

I used 5 slices of fresh pear (one sunk) and a couple baby spinach leaves to garnish. I was going for the artistically pleasing Rule of Five, but one did not cooperate. I suppose if I were a super arty food blogger, I would make another bowl, but that seems silly for this blog.

This makes a smooth soup that is about the consistency of a canned tomato soup, but the similarities end there. It is so good, it is not the least bit sweet, but tastes of yam and pear and these deep aromatic spices with a little bit of heat that lingers from the ginger. It is not the least bit sweet despite the pears. The ginger and allspice are important in grounding the flavor on the savory side. If you don’t have allspice, you could use nutmeg or cardamom. It’s also kind of addictive and from spoon-licking from when I served it up to reheat, I can tell you, it’s actually pretty good cold, too. It was tasty last night, but today’s its flavor is richer. This is no single-serving. It makes 4 quarts of soup, which was nice to send some home with friends and to save for lunches this week.

The unsweetened coconut beverage is in a white unlabelled box with the ingredients stamped on it for Oregon Food Bank. This product from Pacific Foods matches the ingredients in type and order of quantity.

Everything but the olive oil and spices came from the Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share program. Harvest Share is a program that provides fresh produce to low-income Portlanders through the Oregon Food Bank. This is a big contrast with regular food bank products which are dependent on donations and tend to focus on nonperishable carbs like rice, pasta, beans, bread, and crackers. It’s a fabulous program that I wish were available across the country because fresh produce is expensive and many food banks simply do not get enough donated, and what is donated is often well past its prime.

 

 

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Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Wash and peel 1 pound of fresh, raw carrots. Cut into approximately 2 inch long pieces. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and some kosher salt. Roast about 30 minutes, turning once so they brown a bit on both sides.

About 15 minutes before the carrots are done, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a soup kettle. Add 1 cup of chopped yellow onions, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper and sauté until transparent, about five minutes.

Crush two garlic cloves and toss in to the onions and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add one can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and  4 cups of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Remove the carrots from the oven and add to the soup. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Cool and puree in a blender, Magic Bullet, or with an immersion blender until smooth.

Drain 2 cans of cooked black beans. Strain and rinse the beans with water. Add to the soup and stir in gently. Cook on low heat about five minutes, until beans are done.

Serve. You could top with parsley, if you have it. Cilantro or pumpkin seeds would be delicious, too. Some red pepper flakes would heat it up if you dare. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, but then it would not be vegan. Makes 10 cups of soup.

This is a delicious blend of heat from the tomatoes and chiles and the rich, deep sweetness of the carrots with a bit of smokiness from the roasting. It’s delicious.

Pear & Delicata Squash Soup

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I have an abundance of pears so I decided on making a pear soup. One of my favorite soups is Pear & Parsnip Soup but I didn’t have any parsnips. I had a delicata squash though and thought it looked promising.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Delicata squash
  • 3 small pears or 2 large pears
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 32 oz. or 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  • kosher salt

I put my soup kettle on a low medium with the olive oil. I added the diced onions and dried thyme, letting them slowly cook until transparent.

Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped up the squash, reserving the seeds. It made about 2 cups of chopped up squash, perhaps a little bit over.  Adding the squash to the pot, I stirred and let cook for 3 to 5 minutes. While they cooked, I peeled and chopped up the pears and added them to the pot and let it cook a couple more minutes before tossing in the wine and the broth. I turned up the heat so it began to simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes.

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While the soup was cooking, I rinsed the seeds in water and cleaned away the stringy pulp. Pushing the pulp against the strainer mesh helped in cleaning it away. I then heated a cast iron skillet in a dry pan with no oil to a notch above medium. I tossed the seeds in and toasted them with some kosher salt until toasty brown, stirring frequently so they did not burn. These I set aside for garnish.

I let the soup cook until the squash was tender and puréed with an immersion blender. Serving with a few squash seeds on top, it was a delicious soup. The flavor of the wine comes through without overpowering the soup. The sweetness of the pears and the squash make it lush and slightly sweet. It is a light and refreshing soup. This makes six servings.

 

Farro with Sausage & Dried Plums

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This is one of those recipes that begin with one ingredient and then just come about by thinking what would be good with it, then what would work with two ingredients, with the third, the fourth and so on until you know it’s done.

So, I had about 1/2 cup of farro and decided to use it up. I had an open container of vegetable broth, too, so I decided to cook the farro in the broth for extra flavor. I used about 2 cups of broth for the 1/2 cup of farro even though I only needed 1 cup because I would simply drain the extra off and use to make some couscous for a salad.

Farro: Add 1/2 cup of farro to 1 cup of vegetable broth and bring to a boil, lowering to a simmer for 30 minutes or so. Strain (I used an extra cup and reserved it to cook some couscous because doubling up is smart cooking.)

Meanwhile, I cooked 4 breakfast links in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. When the sausage was half done, I added 1/2 can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained). I wanted to use cannellini beans but I didn’t have any. No matter, chickpeas worked great. I added some salt and pepper and added about 1 cup of chopped spinach and just a splash of water, covered with a lid and let the sausage, beans and spinach steam a bit.

Meanwhile, I sliced 5 dried plums into strips, added them to the mixture and put the lid back on for a minute. Stirred and mixed everything together.

I put the farro in the bottom of my bowl and then spooned the sausage, spinach, beans and dried plums mixture on top. I sprinkled a bit of feta over it and served. Makes a great one-dish single serving meal.

The flavors are so wonderful together. The pork sausage and the dried plums are perfect together. The feta and spinach were made for each other, the farro and beans add a great foundation for these flavors. Cooking the farro in broth gave it a rich flavor to begin crafting the dish. The spiciness of the sausage and the sweetness of the plums meant there was no need for anything other than salt and pepper.

 

Apple, Celery & Celeriac Puree

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Since this will be pureed, there is no need to dice or chop finely. Big chunks are just fine, so long as they can cook evenly and will fit in blender or Magic Bullet.

Heat 3 TBSP of butter (or olive oil for vegan option) at medium low (4 on a 10 point electric dial) in a large stock pot. Add 2 yellow onions and a bunch of celery, all chopped. Add salt and pepper. Cook until the onions have sweat and are translucent.

While that’s cooking, chop up 4 large or 6 small apples. I used some Galas and a Pink Lady. Eating apples, not cooking apples because we are not adding any sugar. Crush and peel 3 cloves of garlic. Add the apples and garlic to the stock pot. Add tsp of thyme. Add salt and pepper. Put the lid on a let cook about five minutes.

Meanwhile peel and chunk the celeriac. Add to the crock pot with 1 quart of vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper.  Bring heat up to medium. When everything is tender, remove from heat and let cool.

After it’s cooled down, puree with an immersion blender, blender or Magic Bullet. Serve hot with a bit of chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds and, if you’re feeling ambitious, some thinly sliced pear grilled on a hot burner. I accidentally spilled enough pumpkins seeds to two servings in this picture. They were delicious, though.

The soup is a smooth, mildly tart puree with a delicious, rich flavor. There’s a nice bit of bitter heartiness from the celery that is lightened and balanced by the apples, the onions adding some bright notes and of course, celeriac is always delicious.

This makes about 8 servings, but it also tastes better as leftovers. In fact, it’s so much better the next day that I didn’t eat it the day I made it but let it wait overnight. Unlike most celeriac purees, I don’t add any cream so it will keep several days and can also be frozen.

 

 

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

You can easily make a vegetarian or vegan version of this soup and it will still be delicious. Simply substitute olive oil for butter and vegetable broth for chicken broth. Mushrooms make a flavorful broth on their own and believe me, when you are cooking barley you will cook everything long enough to get the flavor from the mushrooms to infuse the broth.

Most people soak barley overnight before cooking, but my mom never did and neither do I. It cooks up to a nice toothsome tenderness just fine in about 2 hours or so.

So, making this I first sliced up 10 small crimini mushrooms and dry sautéed them. Dry sauté is the best way to cook mushrooms as it draws moisture out which will make their flavor richer and help them keep not get too mushy while cooking. Once you try it you will never go back to just tossing the mushrooms in. All you do is heat the pan to a medium, medium-low and toss the mushrooms in to cook for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently so they don’t stick to the pan.

In the interim, dice one small yellow onion. When the mushrooms are done (10 minutes) add 2 TBSP of butter (or olive oil if you want a vegan version) and add the onions as soon as its melted. Sauté until they are turn transparent. Add some salt and pepper and 2 tsp of dried thyme. You want to add salt and pepper in layers – as you add ingredients. You actually will probably use less because the flavor is integrated throughout.

Meanwhile, peel and chop two carrots and two stalks of celery. Add them to the pot and cook for another five minutes or so, just enough to potentiate their flavor before adding the broth. This will make the broth richer and more flavorful. Add some salt and pepper.

Add 4 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegan version) and  1.5 cups of pearl barley. Stir, put the lid on and let cook, on a low boil, stirring every 10 minutes or so for the next hour and half or so. Keep checking to see if the barley is tender after 1.5 hours and remove when you get the right texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is flavorful, rich and very hearty. it is comfort food for me. I love barley with its slight nuttiness and barley and mushrooms are made for each other.  This makes four large servings of soup.

Garlic Scapes & Potato Soup

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My best friend brought over a bunch of garlic scapes. If you have never had them, they are the early spring shoots off garlic plants and they have this delicious and so very delicate oniony-garlic flavor. A favorite way to cook them is roasting them in the oven, but I swear my downstairs neighbor still has the heat on so I did not want to heat up the apartment by turning on the oven. Since I love soup just about more than anything, I decided I would try come up with something that would respect the delicate flavor of the scapes. Lots of googling found several recipes mostly for garlic scapes and white bean soups. There are no white beans in the pantry so that’s out. There were several recipes with potatoes in a pureed soup. I think garlic scapes are so pretty, that I decided to just come up with something on my own and see what happens.

I heated 1 TBSP of olive oil in my 2 quart sauce pan. I chopped the scapes into pieces about 1.5 inches long and tossed them in to sauté. I added 1 tsp of dry tarragon. I would have used fresh, but I didn’t have any. I also added some salt and pepper because you always want to season in layers so that the flavor builds in each ingredient you add. I had the heat up just a bit above medium because I wanted the scapes to brown and caramelize just a bit to bring out their sweetness.

As soon as I had nice caramelization, I added 3 cups of chicken broth (made by boiling the heck out of a roast chicken carcass and all the onions that it rested on while roasting) and 3 potatoes, cubed into just under 1 inch bites. I added a dash of salt and pepper and cooked until the potatoes were tender. It is essential that you cut the potatoes all the same size because you want them to all be done at the same time. Otherwise you will have underdone and mushy potatoes which is really not appealing. If you want a vegan version, use vegetable broth instead.

So this was the moment of truth, would the scapes be too fibrous as they are? Would I have to puree to deal with the texture? Well, I am happy to report they maintained their integrity, not turning to mush, while also being tender and toothsome without a hint of being too fibrous for soup. The flavor was a bit mellow, so I added the juice of one lemon and another dash of salt and pepper and it was done. And it is amazing.

The deepest flavor is a rich oniony-garlic flavor from the scapes with high notes of tarragon and lemon. It is a truly stunning soup that is made even more special because scapes have such a short window during the year. So get to the store now, they could be gone in no time.

This made 6 generous servings. You could make a vegan version by using vegetable broth.