Category: Soup

Post-Superbowl Vegetarian Chili

February 8, 2010

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Yes, I realize I am late with this post.  If I had been home last week (instead of hitting the slopes in Sun Valley), I would have made this on, say, Wednesday and posted about it in time for you to make it for the Superbowl.  But let me ask this – how did chili become the Superbowl dish par excellence?  And if the chili is really good, shouldn’t we eat it post-Superbowl and while it is still winter?

Here is the thing about vegetarian chili.  It’s just so obvious.  This is a food blog written by a vegetarian – of course there is a vegetarian chili recipe, right?  Well, I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and a half without ever talking about it.  I have nothing against vegetarian chili, actually I quite like it, but to me it’s like having all my recipes feature eggplant and mushrooms because they are “meaty”.  Chili, even if it does not contain meat, is “meaty” which is why some carnivores think we vegetarians eat nothing other than chili, eggplant, mushrooms, and salad.  And pasta.  Sheesh.

I have made my fair share of vegetarian chilis.  Some have been good and some have not.  I have followed recipes that instructed me to use many different kinds of beans and one that used just kidney beans (which made me realize that I don’t like kidney beans).  I’ve added bulghur, tempeh, and TVP and didn’t like any of those additions.  My go-to recipe became the one in The New Basics but over time I decided that the chili just ended up being too busy.  The list of ingredients is a bit long and, for me, the flavor gets muddied.

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Last week, after a day on the slopes in the sunshine (sorry), my lunch of choice was a baked potato with vegetarian chili poured over the top of it.  Does that sound weird?  It’s not for two reasons.  One, if you have never had an Idaho potato in Idaho, it is worth the trip just to eat one.  They are huge and they are tasty and those Idahoans know how to bake them perfectly.  Two, I know people who eat chili over rice and given the choice between those two starches, I’m suggesting you pick a potato.

The chili in those beautiful mountain lodges was not half bad.  The faults were as follows:  too salty, too soupy, and not enough spice.  I knew that as soon as I got home I had to make a pot and make up the recipe myself.  I decided to keep what I liked about that Sun Valley chili (corn, chickpeas, very tomato-y broth) and improvise the rest.

I’m very happy with how my post-Superbowl but still winter chili came out.  Most chilis aren’t smoky enough for me, so I worked hard to get that flavor into mine.  We like spice in our house so my version was quite spicy, you can make yours more mild easily. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are found in the Mexican foods section of your grocery store.  They are an intoxicatingly smoky (and spicy) little pepper best used with caution of you are sensitive to heat.  For last night’s verison, I used two of them plus about a teaspoon of the sauce and next time I will only use one (which I have instructed you to do below).  Once you have opened the can, you can put the remaining peppers and sauce into an airtight container in the refrigerator where it will keep for a month or more.

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One Year Ago: Mushroom Enchiladas

Spicy Smoky Chili
A Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

My rule of thumb for chili is that all the vegetables be no larger than the beans.  I don’t like big chunks in my chili.  I used crushed tomatoes here for that reason but feel free to use diced (or even whole) if you like chunks.  I like my chili served with a dollop of plain yogurt but feel free to add any and all topping that you like.

Olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus ½ tsp. sauce
1 cup water
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles, drained
½ cup frozen corn

Place a large pot over medium heat and then drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.  Stir in all the spices and stir well to coat the vegetables with the spices.  Drop in the red pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Pour in the canned tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.  Add the chipotle pepper and sauce and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Add all the beans, corn, and the green chiles and cook at a simmer, partially covered, until thickened and all the vegetables are cooked through – about 20 minutes.  Like most soups and stews, this can be made in advance and its flavors will deepen.  It will also become more spicy so, if you are making it in advance, you might want to add just a bit of heat while you are cooking it and add more when you re-heat if necessary.



Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

January 29, 2010

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If you are going to live in Seattle, you must know something very important.  If at all possible, you have to get out of town in the winter.  Preferably February.  When the dark and the gloom is more than you can bear, it’s time to go find the sun somewhere.  (Personally, I think it is also necessary to skip town in May.  That’s the time when it is actually spring in 90% of the country and our trees are blooming in the Northwest and the days are long, but the rain is often still sticking around.)

My parents love to ski and all three of us kids learned how at an early age.  Our winter escape was going to Sun Valley to ski.  Now, I recognized at the time how fortunate I was to get to go on such a nice family vacation.  I also recognized (and here is where you will want to cue the small violins) how desperately I wanted to go to Hawaii or Arizona or somewhere warm.  Because yes, Sun Valley is sunny, but it is also snowy and I would have rather spent a vacation (and still would rather spend a vacation) on a beach than on a mountain.

Well, it’s almost February and guess where we are going?  Sun Valley!  We went to Hawaii last year and Randy loves to ski more than anything and my parents now own a time share there, so snow and cold – here we come!  I am actually really excited and think the boys will have a total blast.  We plan to try Graham in ski lessons and put Spencer in some kind of daycare so we can actually get a couple of days on the mountain, hopefully in the sun.

So, I’m off for a week.  I will still have a post or two for you while I am gone.  In the meantime, I leave you with this soup.  Butternut squash soup is everywhere on menus these days.  I love butternut squash soup but I almost never order it in restaurants because it is usually just a big cream festival.  I love the flavor of winter squash – why would I want to drown it out with cream?  I prefer to make my own soup.  My old go-to recipe was from Bon Appétit and was very simple and very delicious.  This one is a bit more complex, still very simple, and even more delicious which I didn’t think was possible.  Roasting the squash brings so much flavor to the soup and the generous amount of curry and bit of honey gives you tremendous depth of flavor.  Sweet, salty, spicy is an intoxicating combination.  The original recipe calls for a cup of cream but I cut it down to a half-cup of half-and-half and it was still plenty creamy, but the flavor of the roasted squash really came through.

One more note.  On the whole, I find garnishes to be kind of fussy.  They make for good photographs but often times I feel like the are an added step when I really just want to get dinner on the table.  Don’t skip the garnishes here.  They take the soup from quite lovely to quite lovely and really interesting.  If you don’t want to shell out for crème fraîche here, you could use sour cream.

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One Year Ago: Two Favorites.  My tried and true Guacamole and Lentils with Capers, Walnuts, Walnut Oil and Mint

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Lime Crème Fraîche
Adapted from From the Earth to the Table
Serves 6

2 tbps. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large butternut squash (enough to give you about 3 cups after roasting)
Olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock
1½ tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup half-and-half
3 tbsp. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, and chopped chives for garnishing
Lime Crème Fraîche (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds.  Brush the cut surface generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven, cut side up, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft and very lightly caramelized.  Allow to cool, then scrape out the flesh and set aside.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions until very soft but not brown.  Transfer to a food processor and process in batches if necessary, the onions and roasted squash.  Return mixture to soup pot and whisk it together with the stock, curry, nutmeg, and honey.  Bring to a simmer and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the half-and-half and sherry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls garnished with the pumpkin seeds, chives, and a drizzle of the Lime Crème Fraîche.

Lime Crème Fraîche

1 cup Crème Fraîche
2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the crème fraîche, lime zest, and lime juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to develop.  Can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.



Making Do with Soup

January 21, 2010

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I read a lot of food blogs.  There are about one bazillion of them out there and many of them are not all that good.  Many of them are good.  A few of them are great.  It’s the great ones where I get inspired.  When a dish leaps off the screen, that’s when I know it is time to make it.

When I saw this soup with the chickpea croutons, I immediately started my shopping list.  I love croutons in soup and had never thought to do anything like what Allison did with chickpea flour.  Brilliant, right?  Sadly, they did not work out for me.  I take total responsibility for the fail.  I’m not sure what I did wrong – did I stir enough?  too much? – but what I got was a slab of mush on my baking sheet.

Then, panic set in.  My brother Michael was coming to dinner.  Michael is a bike racer and has a large appetite.  I knew he was coming off a long ride and would be ravenous.  I wasn’t sure the soup as written was going to fill him up and so, I improvised.  I very loosely based this soup on a recipe in a Jeanne Lemlin book (Simple Vegetarian Pleasures) but really made it my own with what I had on hand.  I was really pleased with how the soup turned out.  If you read here often, you know anything with chickpeas is a favorite of mine.  The greens along with the couscous were a really nice combination.  I didn’t have any fresh herbs on hand (not even parsley!) but they would be most welcome here.  By the way, Michael left full.

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The two C’s together previously on Dana Treat: Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
One Year Ago:
Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini

Chickpea, Chard, and Couscous Soup
Dana Treat Original
4 Servings

Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup couscous
1 large bunch chard, leaves cut off the stems and cut or torn into bite size pieces
6 cups vegetable stock
Crumbles of ricotta salata or feta cheese (for garnish)
Cherry tomatoes (for garnish)

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme and stir for 2 minutes.  Add the chickpeas and the couscous and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to keep the couscous from sticking to the bottom.

Add the chard, in batches if need be, and stir well to combine.  Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes – enough time for the couscous to cook, the greens to soften, and the flavors to blend.  Serve in bowls topped with a crumble of cheese and a few cherry tomatoes.



Tomato Leek Soup

October 29, 2009

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The season for comfort food has started.  Just as comfort means different things to different people, comfort food is different for everyone.  For me, the thing that jumps to the top of my list is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  Yes, I remember my mom making this for us (I now have the electric griddle she used to use) but when I really remember eating it was in camp.  I was always ravenous on those summer days; days that, living in the Pacific Northwest, weren’t always so summery.  The lunches where grilled cheese and tomato soup was served were some of my favorites.  The soup was just Campbell’s and the sandwiches were mostly bread with just a bit of cheese, and every single one of them was slightly burned.  But I didn’t care.  Dipping the sandwich in the hot soup was something that gave me great pleasure.

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Just after I started cooking for myself, I found a recipe for Tomato and Leek soup.  They suggested serving the soup with a grilled goat cheese sandwich made on egg bread.  A Dana Treat classic meal was born.  Over the years, I have served this soup with sandwiches on homemade challah probably 20 times.  It is Randy’s number one most favorite meal.  The soup is so good, it doesn’t need the sandwich, but it sure is a nice food memory for so many people.  You can, of course, make a regular grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese and white bread and still have fun dipping.

Last weekend, I did another yoga retreat with my incredible friend Jen.  (You can see previous posts here and here.)  This time, unlike the past two, I was able to stay for the whole day – no brothers in the hospital and no birthday dinner waiting for me.  And what a treat it was.  From the moment I stepped in my car to head to the ferry, to the moment I drove off the ferry back in Seattle, it was an amazing day.  (There was a Sounders soccer game that evening, so the traffic-filled drive home was not amazing.)  The weather was beautiful, all the women there were so welcoming and wonderful, the yoga was intoxicating, and it was such an incredible treat to spend the day on myself.  Every busy person out there knows what I am talking about.

I didn’t have to think too hard about what to make for everyone’s lunch.  The trick was keeping it from Randy that I was making his favorite food and he wasn’t going to be able to have any of it.  He found out after the fact and made a big show of being the victim.  I make all this wonderful food for other people and not for him.  He said this as his leftover choices were roasted pear galette, a leek frittata, or a tomato and goat cheese tart.  Poor guy.

By the way, here is me and my new haircut.

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Tomato Leek Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 6-8

I almost always use an immersion blender when puréeing any kind of soup and it works great here.  So if you have one, use that.  I always use canned tomatoes in this soup.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
4 pounds chopped tomatoes
3 1/2 cups vegetables stock
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp. dried
1/3 cup whipping cream
6 tbsp. tomato paste
4 tsp. minced garlic

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add chopped leeks; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add all the other ingredients.  Simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.  Coarsely purée using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.)



Asian Coconut Noodle Soup

October 2, 2009

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Sometime in my past, early childhood, I fell in love with noodle soup.  It was Campbell’s of course because that’s what noodle soup was in the suburbs in the 1970′s.  My mom would make me a bowl and I would eat it very carefully: broth first, then chicken, then the beloved noodles.  I thought it was the most delicious thing in the world.

Then I discovered Top Ramen.  More noodles and none of that pesky chicken!  (I never liked meat, even as a child.)  It was the first thing I ever made for myself and I would make it as often as my mom would let me.  I ate Top Ramen and Cup of Noodles into my early 20′s when I realized how unhealthy and fattening those two products are.  There was a noodle soup lull in my life until I met Randy who introduced me to pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that uses rice noodles and various cuts of meat.  In the Northwest, most places will have vegetarian option made with tofu and often various vegetables.  Pho is the only food that Randy introduced me to rather than vice versa and I am eternally grateful.  A bowl of pho comes to your table relatively plain.  It is up to you to flavor it up with lime, chiles, cilantro, Thai basil, bean sprouts, Sriacha, and other types of hot sauce which are usually provided for you.

I have tried without success to make my own pho at home – I just can’t get the flavor of the broth right.  I have a terrible sneaking suspicion that the broth at my local joint isn’t actually vegetarian in which case {plugs ears with fingers} la la la!  I can’t hear you!

Ahem.  Anyway, just because I can’t master pho doesn’t mean I don’t make noodle soups.  I make lots of them actually and this is a favorite.  Sweet potato may seem like an unlikely ingredient in an Asian soup but it’s sweetness and texture is most welcome here.  The original recipe calls for a whole head of Napa cabbage which is just too much for me.  I just put in a bit and add tofu to make the soup even more filling and healthy.

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One Year Ago:  Some talk about weight and Fruit and Spice Granola

Asian Coconut-Cabbage Soup with Lemongrass
Adapted from Food and Wine
4 Servings

Ingredient notes:  Napa cabbage is the elongated one with the ruffle-y leaves.  For this soup you will want thin rice-stick noodles, the ones that are about angel hair width, not the Pad Thai noodles.  5 tablespoons does sound like a lot of soy sauce, but you will want at least that much and possibly more.

About 14 cups water
6 oz. dried rice-stick noodles
1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass – top third discarded, tough outer leaves trimmed, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
10 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt
6 leaves Napa cabbage, thinly sliced cross-wise
1 -14oz. can “lite” coconut milk
Juice of one lime, plus lime wedges for serving
1 large bunch cilantro, tough stems discarded, tender stems and leaves chopped

1.  Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Remove from the heat, add the rice noodles and let soak until the noodles are softened, about 4 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

2.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the ginger and lemongrass and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 6 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the sweet potatoes, tofu, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper and season with salt.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 7-10 minutes.

3.  Add the cabbage and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.  Add the noodles and stir until heated through.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with lime wedges.



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