Category: Soup

Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup

September 1, 2011

One of the greatest things about being a vegetarian, a vegetarian who likes food and likes to eat, is the introduction to other cultures and their food.  If you are looking to eat less meat and you want to eat things other than pasta and salad, you would do well to start investigating Southeast Asian cooking, Indian cooking, Mediterranean cooking, Middle Eastern cooking…  You get the idea.  So many of the world’s cooks use meat more as a garnish than as the focus of the plate.  Those cultures do wonders with meatless foods.

It does take an open mind to start this journey.  You will taste different combinations, foods you have never tried before, things will look different.  You might need to take a trip to a well-stocked specialty food store, though today’s regular grocery stores stock more and more interesting ingredients.  A great place to start might be this soup.

There are very few things I don’t like.  The list is short.  Okra, figs, dates, papaya.  I think that’s it.  If a food doesn’t have those things (or meat) in it, I will eat it.  And actually, I will eat vegetarian gumbo (okra), this salad (fig jam in the dressing), sticky toffee pudding (dates in the cake), and papaya if I don’t know it’s there.  So when I see a recipe for something stars things that I like but used in a different way, I’m always happy to give it a try.  Unusual is good.  Same old same old is boring.

Here you make a simple stock and after it has been strained, you add just a bit of rice to give it body.  You mix together a bit of cornstarch, Greek yogurt that has been strained, and an egg yolk, temper it with a bit of stock, and add it back into the soup.  The whole thing gets a garnish of chickpeas and a pesto made with oregano leaves and their blossoms.  Originally I made this soup because I have a lot of oregano growing in my yard and, while I like it, I don’t find I use it all that often.  I also made it because it sounded so interesting and unusual and I wanted something delicious alongside my pilaf.  It was a huge hit.  A hint of sour in the soup, full body from the egg yolk, the heartiness of the rice and chickpeas, and the lemony oregano pesto made this an intoxicating bowl-ful of goodness.

As with previous recipes I have made from this book, I had to tweak.  I won’t bore you with what I did.  Just trust me when I say make this.  And make it this way.

One Year Ago:  Savory Scones
Two Years Ago:  Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
Three Years Ago:  Fresh Summer Rolls with Tofu and Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce

Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup with Oregano Flowers
Adapted from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume
Makes 4 smallish portions

If you are buying oregano and it doesn’t have blossoms, don’t worry, you just won’t have the pretty garnish.  I call for 7 ounces Greek yogurt here because I buy Fage brand and that is the size it comes in.  If you have a larger container, use 8 ounces.  I used their 2%.

For the oregano pesto:
24 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves and flowers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pine nuts
Kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan

For the soup:
Olive oil
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups water or vegetable broth
2 tbsp. Arborio rice
½ tbsp. cornstarch
7 oz. Greek yogurt, drained in a cheesecloth-lined wire sieve for 1 hour
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)

To make the oregano pesto:
Set aside some of the oregano flowers for the garnish.  Add the rest of the blossoms, oregano leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt to a mini food processor.  Pulse to a paste.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until somewhat smooth.  It will still have texture.  If you prefer it smoother, you can add more olive oil.  Stir in the Parmesan by hand.  This will make more pesto than you need for the soup.  Cover and keep the rest in the refrigerator.

To make the soup:
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and add the celery, carrot, and onion along with a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaf.  Pour in the water or broth.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes, then strain into another saucepan and discard the solids.  Add the rice to the strained stock and cook for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Spoon the cornstarch into a small bowl, add a little of the soup and mix well.  Pour the yogurt into a separate bowl and add about 3 tablespoons of the soup, whisk for a moment, then add the egg yolk and the cornstarch mixture.  Stir well.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the soup and cook over medium-low heat, just to a simmer and until slightly thickened.  Take care not to let it boil, as this will curdle the yogurt.  Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Serve hot in deep bowls.  Put a few chickpeas in the middle, top with a spoonful of the oregano pesto, and finish with the fresh oregano blossoms.

Ten Years Later

March 28, 2011

Do you have a best friend?  If so, what does that mean to you?  Is it someone who has seen you through a rough patch?  The friend you have known the longest?  A person you talk to each and every day?  What makes your best friend best?

I was always the person with a few close friends, not lots and lots of acquaintances.  I preferred it that way.  I would rather spend an evening with someone I really know than the first-date feeling of a casual acquaintance.  But somehow, I have found myself with many amazing friends – real true friends.  All of whom I really know, all of whom I would love to spend an evening with.  They come from different parts of my life – high school, camp, college, previous jobs, PEPS groups, preschool co-op, kids’ friends, etc.  It is a big circle.  But, if pressed, I do have to say that there is one “best” in there.

Lauren and I don’t talk everyday and I don’t see her nearly as often as I would like, but we have a strong and special bond.  We have been friends for 15 years.  She is a talented, creative, beautiful, smart, funny woman.  She is a straight-shooter and also very compassionate.  She is extremely loyal and supportive.  Just about everything you would want from a best friend.  I have been lucky enough to share many meals with her and her amazing husband John over the years.  Because I have an incredible memory for food (but not for, say, where I left my keys), I remember so many of the dishes we have made for one another.  She made this soup for me a long time ago and I have been meaning to make it ever since.

When I tasted this soup, it was a revelation.  How could something that took next to no effort and with so few ingredients taste so complex and delicious?  I asked her for the recipe, she made a copy for me, and then it sat in my soup notebook for oh, about ten years.  No exaggeration.  I would notice it from time to time and think to myself, “I’ve really got to make that soup”, but it never seemed to fit into a menu I was planning.  Now that I have made it, I will be planning menus around it.

I tweaked this recipe a bit.  The original calls for 2 tablespoon of soy sauce giving low-sodium as an option.  I use tamari in my cooking and WOW! did it make the soup salty.  And brown.  Fortunately, as the beans cooked, I had to keep adding more and more water so by the time I puréed it, the savory balance was just right.  I will suggest you use one tablespoon and add more to the finished soup if it needs it.  If you don’t want to garnish with peanuts, roasted sliced almonds would be nice.  You will want a bit of crunch in there.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Torte
Two Years Ago: Individual Coconut Blueberry Pound Cakes

Spicy Chickpea Soup with Cilantro and Peanuts
Adapted from Self
Serves 4-6

The cooking time for this soup will depend on how fresh your dried beans are.  Start with 8 cups of stock or water, you might need to add more if the soup gets too thick.

1½ cups dried chickpeas
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely diced
8 cups vegetable stock, or water
1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 tbsp. Tamari or other soy sauce
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Soak dried chickpeas in water to cover overnight.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well.  Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add chickpeas, vegetable stock, hot pepper sauce, and soy sauce.  Cover loosely and simmer until chickpeas are tender, anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Purée soup either using an immersion blender or a conventional blender (be careful when blending hot liquids).  Sprinkle each portion with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Dinner from My Kitchen

February 14, 2011

First things first.  I think I am going to ask you all what you would do with ingredients more often!  The uses you came up with for those pickled raisins were amazing!  Curried carrot dip, on top of pizza with Gorgonzola, baked in squash with couscous and pistachios – I want to make everything.  The winners, picked randomly, are commenters #26 and #18.  Bebe would put them in chicken salad and Stacey would put them in anything with cauliflower.  Congrats ladies!  Contact me soon to get your raisins.

Moving on.

It has been a busy couple of weeks in my kitchen.  Since the beginning of the month, I have taught three classes, cooked a yoga dinner for 24, made a birthday cake for my younger son, and baked cupcakes for my older son’s class.  When typing that out, it doesn’t look like all that much.  But it was a lot, especially coupled with regular old everyday life.

At the end of a long stint of cooking, I sometimes feel like I am done with it.  The thought of chopping anything, turning on a burner, bringing butter up to room temperature, cracking an egg – just too. much. effort.  But then my husband goes out of town and a friend brings her kids over for dinner, and I realize what I really want to eat for dinner is not take-out but my cooking.  And so, back into the kitchen I go.

This Asian-noodles-in-a-broth-with-tofu idea is not new on this site.  It is one of my favorite things to eat in the world.  Each time I make something like this, it is a little different.  I glanced at a recipe from Deborah Madison to get me going in a slightly different direction than I would have if left to my own devices.  Then I totally made it my own.  As with most Asian noodle dishes, soups or otherwise, I would eat this every night without complaint.  If it is still frosty in your part of the country, a bowl of noodle soup warms you like no other.  But this is light and fresh enough to taste right even if your city is thawing.

One Year Ago:  Holly B’s Favorite Cornbread
Two Years Ago:  Vegetarian Caesar Salad and Red Curry with Winter Vegetables and Cashews

Somen Noodle Soup with Spring Vegetables and Baked Tofu
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

This recipe might look a little complicated but it is actually quite quick to make.  You can always double the broth and freeze half for next time. Somen noodles are very thin wheat noodles found on the Asian aisle of your supermarket.  Feel free to use different vegetables in the mix – snow or snap peas would be great.

For the broth
Zest of 1 lime
3 stalks lemongrass, bruised lightly with a knife, then sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2-inch piece ginger, cut into coins
½ of a large red onion, sliced
10 sprigs cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. light brown sugar

For the tofu
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
2½ tsp. light brown sugar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 pound extra firm tofu, blotted dry and cut into small cubes

For the soup
6 ounces somen noodles
Vegetable oil
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
Small handful green beans, trimmed and cut into thin slices
5 spears asparagus, ends trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 lime, cut into small pieces
Cilantro leaves
Jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced

Make the broth
Put all ingredients except for the soy sauce and brown sugar in a large saucepan.  Pour in 8 cups of water and add a large pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Cool slightly, then strain out and discard the solids.  Stir in the soy sauce and brown sugar.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  Keep warm over low heat.  (Can be made two days ahead.  Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.)

Make the tofu
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Mix together the marinade in a medium baking dish.  Taste, making sure the balance is to your taste.  You want it to be salty, sweet, and slightly sour.  Stir in the tofu, coating well with the marinade.  Allow to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to make sure the tofu is coated with the marinade.  Place in the oven, uncovered, and allow to bake until all the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is getting a slight crisp to it, about 35 minutes.  Toss the tofu once or twice in the baking process so that all the pieces come into contact with the pan.  Remove tofu from the oven and allow to cool.

Make the soup
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the somen noodles and give a good stir.  Watch the pot so it doesn’t foam over.  Cook the noodles until they are almost done, with just a slight bite, and drain.  Rinse well with cold water, drain, and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the red onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, jalapeño pepper, and ginger and cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the green beans, carrots, and asparagus and continue to cook, stirring often, until the green vegetables are crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

Place some noodles in the bottom of a deep soup bowl.  Ladle on the broth.  Add tofu and vegetables and garnish with cilantro, lime, and jalapeño pepper slices.

Summer Beans, Winter Vegetables

January 17, 2011

Imagine this.  A windy wet January day.  Me and two small boys trying in vain to hold our hoods on our heads after leaving the warmth of our car, walking the wet sidewalk that will lead us to the West Seattle farmers’ market.  We are in search of two breadsticks, apple cider, and some inspiration for dinner.  I love this market.  It runs all year, is food only, and never seems to feel crowded.  Plus it has some of the best vendors.  But it is a sad and lonely place in January.  Sure, the cider guy is there, cheerful as ever.  The bakery woman sees us coming and puts the breadsticks in a bag.  The apple people were so delighted by Graham’s enthusiastic “Thank you!” that I felt we made their day.  But there was not a lot of dinner inspiration.

And then I remembered that I had a bag of fresh cranberry beans stowed away in my freezer.  I buy them every summer and hide them from myself for a few months until I forget they are there, and then remember them in the middle of a deluge in West Seattle.  I quickly made the rounds again of the few vendors who had braved the elements.  Leeks, celery root, delicata squash, gorgeous purple potatoes.  I knew I had half a cauliflower and some kale at home.  Soup!

Now, please believe me when I tell you this.  This soup was gorgeous just out of the pot.  The colors were a knock out.  Purple, red, vibrant green, and orange all together in one bowl.  Did I take a picture when it looked like that?  Of course not.  I waited until the next day when the soup looked a little sad and sorry but tasted, if this is possible, better.

One Year Ago:  Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Two Years Ago:  Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta

Winter Market Soup

Dana Treat Original
Serves 6

I realize that most of you do not have a bag of fresh cranberry beans stowed in your freezer.  (And if you do, can I have some?)  You can use a can of your favorites.  Or better yet, cook up some dried beans.  They hold up so much better in soups in my opinon.  You will want about 2 cups of cooked beans.

Olive oil
4 small or 2 large leeks, washed well, cut in half, and thinly sliced
¾ lb. purple potatoes, cut into bite size chunks
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 small (1 pound) delicata squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
½ a small cauliflower, sliced and then separated into small florets
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can beans of your choice, drained
8 cups vegetable broth
1 small bunch kale, torn into small pieces
1 cup Israeli couscous
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Place a soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the leeks and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to soften, stirring constantly, then add the potatoes and the thyme.  (Leeks burn quickly, so be attentive.)  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, then add the celery root and the squash.  Cook another 5 minutes, adding a bit of water if things are sticking too much to the bottom.

Next add the tomatoes with their juices and the cauliflower and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the beans and pour in the stock.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Sprinkle in another pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes before serving, add the kale and turn the heat up so the soup comes back to a boil.  Add the couscous and cook, stirring often, until the couscous is al dente, about 8 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the soup in wide bowls garnished with Parmesan.

Hot Soup, Cold Day

January 6, 2011

We have had some cold weather here in Seattle recently.  Cold here means high 30′s during the day and well below that at night.  I know for those on the East coast and in the Midwest, this is small potatoes.  It makes me realize what a true weather wimp I am.  Rain, endless gray days, darkness at 4pm – all those things I can handle.  Extreme temperatures though?  I can’t.  Randy likes to joke that I am only comfortable if it is between 70 and 75 degrees and I think that is about right.  Too hot and I am miserable, too cold and I am miserable.  This makes it nearly impossible for me to live anywhere other than Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and perhaps San Diego.  (I could live in London or Paris though.)

One nice thing about a relatively mild (read: rainy) climate is that, except for a few staggeringly hot days each summer, we can enjoy soup all year.  I am a big fan of soup for many of the same reasons that most people are.  It tends to be easy, you can easily feed a lot of people, it can be very healthy, and soup keeps well.  Many soups taste better a day or two (or even three) after they have been made.  Busy families need soup.

I am a sucker for any Asian soup, especially those involving rice noodles.  I love eating pho, the rock star Vietnamese rice noodle soup, at my favorite joint in any season. For how much I love this kind of soup, I don’t make it all that often.  I recently paid a pretty penny for a cookbook from Australia because I was blinded by the fact that there was a delicious sounding pho recipe in there.  The book was small and now I fear it is at the bottom of a toy box covered with trucks, trains, and construction vehicles.  So I made this soup instead.

Something I really liked about this version was how much flavor the broth brought to the bowl.  I’ve made Asian vegetable stock for various thing before but somehow this was much better.  Yes, you cheat a bit by using a small amount of pre-made veg stock, but if you use a good one (Rapunzel is the only brand I like) you end up with an incredibly flavorful base for your soup.  One that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, not 20 minutes.

Noodle Soup Previously on Dana Treat: Asian Coconut Noodle Soup

Tofu and Shiitake Noodle Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 3-4

There was originally one pound of eggplant in this soup as well but I have very specific ideas of where eggplant should be.  Not in Asian noodle soup for example.  I used a pad thai width noodle here but the super thin kind would be great too.  If you use those, I would do 4 ounces instead of 6 ounces.

3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 whole lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced
Six ¼-inch thick slices of fresh ginger, smashed slightly, plus 1 tbsp. very finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
Freshly ground white pepper
6 ounces rice vermicelli
Vegetable oil
¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps quartered
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 pound firm flavored tofu, such as Thai, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ a Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. mint leaves, torn
Lime wedges and hot sauce for serving

In a medium soup pot, combine the vegetable broth, water, lemongrass, sliced ginger, and soy sauce and season generously with white pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until flavorful, about 20 minutes.  Strain the broth into a heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids.  Discard the solids.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Cook the rice vermicelli until al dente, about 5 minutes.  Drain and cool under running water.

Wipe out the soup pot and heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and white pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tofu along with the vegetable broth, cabbage and noodles and simmer just until the cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the bean sprouts, cilantro and mint and season the soup with salt and white pepper.  Serve the soup in deep bowl.s passing lime wedges and hot sauce at the table.

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