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.

 

 

Pomegranate Relish or Dressing

Pomegranate Dressing or Relish

It’s pretty easy to clean a pomegranate, just cut it in half and pull the edges than knock it on the outside with a spoon and the seeds fall out. However, at Harvest Share this week, I got two packages of already cleaned pomegranate seeds. Sadly, however, they were already past their sweet spot and had turned sour and vinegary. I know some people would toss it out, since it was beginning to change, but pomegranate is acidic and just being past its prime does not make it a home for bacteria, just very sour flavor. I knew I could fix it and enjoy this fruit I really love. I just had to figure out how. Since it was already very vinegary, it made sense to use it as a sort of vinegar and make a salad dressing or a relish. But first I had to figure out what could balance the sourness. I pulled out aromatic spices like nutmeg, cardamom, and anise and tried a few grains with one pomegranate seed to see what I liked best. Both the nutmeg and the cardamon tried, but they added heat as well as balance and I wanted to make it more mellow, so I chose anise.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ tsp anise seed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 8 oz pomegranate seeds
  • 4 TBSP rice vinegar

I put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan with ½ tsp of anise seed and heated to release the oils and flavor the oil. I then added 2 tsp of minced fresh ginger. I sliced ½ of a yellow onion into slivers and added to the olive oil, cooking until tender. I then added the 8 oz package of pomegranate seeds and cooked just until it started to break down. I added 4 TBSP of  rice vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. This made enough dressing for 4 large salads. It would also work well as a relish on the side where you might use cranberries, with pork, turkey, or sausage.

Here are a few salads made with the dressing. A simple salad with pecans and feta. A dinner salad with chicken sautéed with a bit of Old Bay. A dinner salad with some carne asada marinated in soy sauce and vinegar with some garlic, pears charred on the electric burner, and feta cheese.

 

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.

 

Carnitas and Rocket

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I heated my cast iron skillet to medium, adding

  • 1/2 TBSP of olive oil,
  • 1/4 tsp of dried ginger,
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder,
  • salt,
  • pepper, and
  • 1 tsp of Jamaica Jerk seasoning.

The spices will bloom in the hot oil. I added

  • 2 TBSP of thinly sliced onions.

While they cooked. I cut up a piece of boneless pork “carnitas” that was on sale for $1.58/pound at WinCo. I cut up about

  • 1 cup of thinly sliced pork pieces

I let the pork cook until done. When it was fully cooked, I added 2 handfuls of rocket (arugula) and stirred in with

  • 2 tsp of seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp of soy sauce

Mixing everything together, as soon as the rocket was tender, I served it up in a bowl. It made a tangy and spicy delicious dinner.

Sausage, Rocket & Tomato Pasta

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I heated a cast iron pan on medium low (3 of 10) and on another burner put a pot of salted water on to boil.

In the cast iron pan, I tossed in a pinch of fennel seeds, about 1/4 tsp or so and let them heat while I removed the casings from 3 breakfast sausage links. I added the sausage and, using a fork, smashed it up to little bits of pork. There was not much fat, but it was enough to cook this without any additional oil. I added 2 TBSP of diced yellow onion. Then I diced a small Roma tomato and added it. I let them cook.

I added 3 handfuls or 3/4 cup of dried egg noodles. I ended up with about 1 cup of noodles when it was done cooking.

I added 1/4 cup of sour cream to the cast iron pan, strained the pasta and stirred it into the sauce and then added a big handful, a cup or more, of fresh rocket. I stirred and removed from the heat so it just warmed but did not cook the rocket.

Grate just a bit of asiago or parmesan cheese on top.

This made one serving. It has a peppery flavor from the rocket, a bit of heat from the sausage and this wonder deep flavor coming from the fennel. The sour cream gave it a nice creaminess and added some fat that it really needed to soften the acidity of the tomatoes and the peppery rocket.

 

Plum Tostada

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I got about 5 pounds of fresh plums from Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share a few weeks back. I have been waiting for them to ripen, but decided to just try cooking one to see what happened. I was really not sure what I wanted to make. Well, I wanted to make a cake but I don’t have a mixer or blender and it’s hot and I didn’t want to turn on the oven, so I stood in front of the fridge hoping something would leap out at me. I saw some fresh rosemary a friend gave me from her garden and wondered how plums would taste sautéed in a bit of butter with some onions and rosemary. I have some tostadas from WinCo, so decided to try something crazy.

So, I melted

  • 1 tsp of butter in a small sauce pan and added about
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped onions. I tossed in about
  • 1 inch long piece of fresh rosemary. I cut up
  • 1 large plum into about 8 segments and then chopped them in half. I added them when the onions were tender. I sautéed for about 8 minutes on a low heat. I added about
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (I have a vanilla bean in my tea sugar and used it instead of my cooking sugar.) I added about
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Stirring everything, I thought about adding lemon, but thought the unripe plum was so tart on its own, I didn’t really need the lemon.

I spread it on the tostada, added some sour cream and lightly toasted pecans.

This was so good, I washed out the pan and made myself a second one. Who knew rosemary and plums were divine? That is a flavor combination I am going to try again. Perhaps in a cake when it’s not so dang hot.

Makes one serving, darn it.

 

Mushrooms and Red Chard with Barley

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I cooked up some barley for breakfast and decided to make some extra to cook up something for lunch. Of course, barley and mushrooms go together perfectly and were my first thought. I had some red chard that really needed to get used and soon, so I decided to go for it. My favorite spice with mushrooms is paprika, so I thought I would give it a whirl. This made four servings. I figure that if I am going to cook something for 45 minutes (the barley) I am going to make more than one meal out of it. When I cooked the barley, I strained it and saved all the barley water to use in this dish.

I started with eight mushrooms that I cleaned and sliced. I patted them dry with a clean towel. I heated up a sauté pan and tossed them in and let them cook on medium high for about 8 minutes. This dry sauté evaporates out a lot of the fluid and enriches the mushroom flavor. Now when I cook them with the other ingredients, they will not get mushy.

While it was sautéing, I would shake the pan every once in a while to keep them from sticking. Meanwhile I thoroughly cleaned a bunch of red chard, separating the leaves from the stems. Red chard requires several rinses and careful attention to be sure you get all the dirt off it. I hold it under the water and run my finger up and down the stem a few times to make sure all the dirt is gone. No one wants to bite down on some sand or dirt in their lunch.

I chopped the stems into 1 inch long pieces. I also chopped 1/4 of white onions. Chopping up the leaves, I kept two cups and saved the rest for a salad. I set the red chard leaves aside for later.

I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and swirled it around the pan. I added the red chard stems and onions. I added 2 tsp of paprika and salt and pepper. I sautéed everything until the onions were transparent. I then added the barley water I had saved from this morning. I added the red chard leaves and the 2 cups of cooked barley I had reserved. I let this simmer until the chard was done (3 to 5 minutes) and tasted tested it. It was good, but a bit one-dimensional – very umami, but the brightness of the chard stems was missing. So I squeezed the juice of one lemon at the end and that lifted up the chard flavor – giving a multi-layered flavor profile that begins with the heart umami of the mushrooms and barley and ending with a bright, fresh chard tartness. It was delicious.

 

 

Ed & Zelda’s Pork Chop Express

Kale and Pork Chops

I play a war game called GoodGame Empire and have made some great friends there. Two of the best of the best of GGE are Ed and Zelda from the Dragon Rampant alliance. I recently changed alliances, leaving them behind when I moved. I will miss them a lot, they are good people and we will just have to IM each oner and stay in touch. Anyway, Ed loves nothing so much as a pork chop and talks about them the way poets talk about clouds. If there ever is an Ode to the Pork Chop, it’s author must be Ed. Zelda loves kale, something we bonded over . So my last night in the alliance I cooked up a meal in their honor.

I fried the pork chop in a bit of olive oil, turning it once. My mom always said repeated flipping of your chops or steaks will dry them out and so my main focus in cooking a chop is getting a good sear, flipping it over to sear the other side and then turning the heat down a bit to let it cook through enough.  I like them medium rare which reminds me to suggest you read The Complex Origins of Food Safety Rules — Yes, You Are Overcooking Your Food from Scientific American.

The kale was easy. I took two slices of bacon and cut into small pieces and friend them with 1/2 of a small yellow onion. I cleaned three pieces of kale, cutting them off the stem and chopping them up. I added 2 TBSP of the Wild Plum Sauce I made (the recipe just before this one) when the kale was nearly done, covered for about a minute and served with the chop. I added a bit of Wild Plum Sauce on top of the pork chop, too. Delish.

The wild plum sauce is sour enough – like a vinaigrette that it complemented the kale beautifully. As to the pork chop, I could never do it the justice in words that Ed can.

 

Figs & Caramelized Onions with Pork Loin Chop

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This was a revelation. Certainly pork loves fruit, but I think it’s soul mate might be figs. This was a super simple recipe. I made some rice separately to serve with the pork and sauce. To make the rest, I heated a skillet to medium, adding some olive oil and put the loin chop on to fry. Meanwhile I cut up 1/2 of a yellow onion, sliced up 6 green figs and cut a lemon in half.

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Even the mise en place looks delicious.

 

After the loin chop was cooked on one side, I flipped it over and added the onions in the other half of the skillet. I let them cook until caramelized. Then I added the figs and 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg. Nutmeg is a delicious spice with fish, pork and beef. You need to use enough so it adds a bit of heat. I also added some salt and pepper. I let the figs and onions cook until the pork was done. I removed the pork and let it rest while I squeezed the lemon juice into the sauce and let it simmer a bit.

This was delicious, sweet, tangy and a bit spicy thanks to the nutmeg. This makes enough sauce for two servings. This was delicious with the rice, and could be made with just olive oil, no meat drippings for a vegan alternative.