Tag Archives: easy vegetable soup

The Tale of Too Many Turnips

3 Jan

It’s the last night of our three-day New Year’s weekend and we decided earlier this afternoon that wanted to cook something fun–something that would allow us to hang around the kitchen, drinking wine (or even better yet, leftover champagne) and listening to Underground Garage on Sirius, all while purporting to be productive. The fridge was overflowing so I was sure there would be something exciting within. What I found was a lot of turnips. Three bunches to be exact–turnips that had survived our last CSA box and turnips that showed up in our latest shipment on Friday. The husband loves turnips and was excited by this turn of events. I don’t dislike turnips but I wasn’t nearly as intrigued as I would have been by a hidden stash of wild mushrooms or even a big bunch of kale (crazy, I know). We also had a bunch of potatoes (russet potatoes, small yellow-fleshed potatoes and red potatoes) courtesy of both our CSA box and overzealous Chanukah shopping, some giant leeks (CSA) and a plethora of yellow onions (again, Chanukah shopping). The answer to our turnip bounty or predicament, depending on who you asked, seemed to be soup. The onions would provide a good balance to the sweetness of the turnips and the potatoes, some heft and creaminess, helped along by some goat milk. The goat milk appeared as the result of a dinner party bread pudding and also needed a home. We would have way too much soup for two people but the leftovers could sustain us through a long week of being attached to our desks. And the best thing about soup is that it’s extremely conducive to drinking leftover champagne, half of bottle of which happened to be in the fridge, nestled alongside the turnips. Here’s what resulted from our holiday soup-venture:

Four Onion and Turnip Soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups mixed leeks, shallots and yellow onions, diced
  • 3 heaping cups peeled and cubed turnips
  • 3 heaping cups cubed yellow-fleshed potatoes (we didn’t peel ours but you may want to for a more appealing soup color)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (add more broth and/or water if needed)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup milk (I used goat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 small bunches green onions, chopped
  • 1 handful of fennel fronds, chopped
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over low to medium heat until the butter starts to foam
  2. Add the mixed onions, shallots and leeks and cook, stirring often, until the onion mix is softened but not browned
  3. Season the onion mix and then add the turnips and potatoes, stirring to coat them with the onions, olive oil and butter
  4. Cook the veggie mix for about 5 minutes and then add the broth and the wine
  5. Bring the soup to boil and then turn down to a simmer
  6. Cook the soup until the vegetables are soft and you can easily squish a potato on the side of the pot with your spoon (this will take about 30-45 minutes, depending on how young and tender your veggies are)
  7. Using a blender, puree the soup with the milk (if you have an immersion blender you can do this right in the pot–just be sure to take it off the heat first)
  8. Return the soup to the pot if you’ve used a blender and season to taste; reheat gently if necessary
  9. Heat the additional two teaspoons of olive oil (extra virgin is preferable) in a small saucepan
  10. Add the green onions and fennel fronds and saute just until they soften, then season to taste
  11. Serve the soup topped with the green onion/fennel garnish

p.s. If you’re feeling ambitious and/or too lazy to go to the store (as in my case), try making this easy oat and herb bread to go along with your soup. It comes from my first-ever and still-beloved vegetarian cookbook, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin, and it’s yummy, healthy (especially if you sub in whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour) and pretty much impossible to screw up.

Herb Oat Bread from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup unbleached flour (I replaced this with whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used 1/4 cup unbleached flour–you could probably use all whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbed dried rosemary
  • Note: I had various fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, basil) leftover from holiday cooking so I used about a handful of minced fresh herbs instead
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/4 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F; butter and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan (I used parchment paper instead)
  2. Place the oats in a blender or food processor and grind until almost powdery; pour into a large bowl and mix in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and honey and heat until just blended; remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and beaten eggs
  4. Pour in the flour mixture and stir until just evenly moistened (do not over-beat); scrape into the prepared pan
  5. Bake 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean (if the top of the bread begins to darken before it finishes cooking, lay a sheet of foil over the top of the pan and bake until done)
  6. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before removing from the pan; cool completely before slicing

Cooking Class: India via Oakland

30 May

Every few months, my friend Dana asks that we do a cooking class together. I have no teaching credentials–cooking or otherwise–but I enjoy cooking, Dana enjoys cooking with me and my husband (and sometimes another friend) enjoy showing up for the grand finale: eating. Everyone leaves happy and my student is good about cleaning along the way. Cooking class has no particular structure; it usually involves drinking wine and making something Dana wouldn’t usually tackle at home. Sometimes I remember to throw in an instructional tidbit, such as: add garlic after the onions have been cooking for a bit so you don’t burn the hell out of your garlic and have to throw the whole thing out. Other times I just focus on that delicate balance of making sure the wine drinking doesn’t get in the way of injury-free chopping. Either way, we get a good dinner at the end and no one can argue with that.

Sometimes Dana has special requests but our last class was chef’s choice.  I had a cauliflower on its last legs from our CSA box and a yearning to try a chickpea date masala recipe I saw in the New York Times Magazine last fall, so I landed on Indian. I didn’t go for any particular region–really it was more of my interpretation of Indian though I did plan to follow the chickpea recipe faithfully and that came from an Indian restaurant in Vancouver. I am not remotely Indian–not even a teeny-tiny bit. I am Romanian/Polish Jewish on my mother’s side (think: kugel, babka, parts of the animal I think even meat-eaters would be grossed out by) and pilgrim (from the not-so-spicy lands of Holland, England and Scotland) on my father’s side.  True, Romanian cooking is a bit more colorful and if I really stretched, I could attribute my affinity for eggplant to my heritage, but bottom line: mustard seeds and chilies do not run through my blood.

Family history aside, I did grow up in a house of adventurous eaters and my parents broke free of the shackles of calf’s foot jelly and pot roast to expose us to the spice and color of more interesting (in my perspective) cuisines. Indian was high on our list, particularly after I stopped eating meat and fish  in 1993 in Eastern Pennsylvania. Eastern PA in the early 90s was not veggie friendly. It was all about meat, meat and more meat, and maybe some potatoes. Pig stomach dinners sold out in a flash. School sports banquets featured delicacies like salad with bacon dressing, filling (bread mixed with mashed potatoes) and as mentioned,  and lots and lots of meat. Lest I sound too harsh on the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, I will admit here in public that I love gefilte fish. I can’t honestly say that gefilte fish is any more sophisticated or delicious than filling but it’s a holiday thing and it’s really pretty good with a ton of horseradish. But I digress. Point is: I was a vegetarian in a land of pork and my savior was the Indian restaurant. Along with the Lebanese restaurant we sometimes frequented, it was the one place where I was guaranteed to find more than salad.

Although I’ve loved to eat Indian since that time, for years I was afraid to cook it.  It was a bit mysterious and intimidating and I thought it was better to just go out and have it done right. But given how veggie friendly it is, I decided at some point that I had to dive in. I took baby steps, starting with lentil dishes and have been gingerly exploring new territory. Sometimes I’ll use recipes and other times, I’ll just use some Indian spices and make things that while are likely not authentic, work for me.

For our cooking class the other week, I chose:

  • Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup–completely made up
  • Chickpea Date Masala–taken from an Indian restaurant and presumably authentic
  • Spinach with Ginger & Garlic–just a slight Indian twist on standard sauteed greens
  • Curry Rice Krispie Treats–taken from a cocktail book and completely unauthentic but also completely addictive

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup (i.e. how to get rid of a cauliflower on its last legs)

Note:  Despite still being intimidated by Indian cooking, I am now the proud owner of several Indian cookbooks. I often see recipes call for asafetida and when I finally saw it in a spice shop, I was thrilled and immediately bought a bag and then nearly as immediately, forgot where I saw it used and what I was meant to do with it.  Apparently it adds an onion-like flavor and it seemed appropriate here but I think you could easily leave it out. This serves about 4-6 people.

1 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces

1 onion, diced

2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1-2 green chilies, minced

Few cloves garlic, minced (vary depending on how much you like garlic)

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

Pinch asafetida

4 c light veggie broth (I used Imagine’s No-Chicken Broth)

1 can coconut milk

Salt to taste

1/2 cup cilantro, roughly choped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1) Saute chopped onion and mustard seeds until onion is golden

2) Add garlic, ginger and green chilies and  saute for 1-2 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic)

3) Add cumin,coriander and asteofedia and a pinch of salt, toast slightly

4) Add cauliflower and coat with spices, cook about 1 minute

5) Add broth and coconut milk, simmer, covered for 25 minutes or until cauliflower is soft

6) Blend soup with an immersion blender or in a standing blender

7) Season with salt and add lemon juice and cilantro.

Make ahead if possible–it will taste better.

Chickpeas in Star Anise and Date Masala

This recipe was published in the New York Times Magazine last November. It comes from Vij’s Restaurant in Vancouver, BC. It serves about six.

3 15-ounce cans chickpeas (or 11/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked)

2 black cardamom pods

13cup neutral cooking oil, like canola

1 medium-large Spanish onion, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 1/2tablespoons tomato paste

9 dried dates, pitted and chopped

4 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cayenne, or to taste

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2 whole star anise, or 13 tsp ground

1)  Drain the chickpeas and set aside in a nonreactive bowl.

2) With a knife, lightly crack the cardamom pods. Peel the shell to release the seeds and collect them in a small bowl. Discard the shells. With a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle, crush the seeds (you can leave them whole if you don’t mind biting into them) and set aside.

3) In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until they have softened and started to brown. Stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, until it, too, has softened. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Add the cardamom and all remaining ingredients and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes.

4) Add the chickpeas and 1/2 cup or more of water, enough to make them less than dry. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally to incorporate the flavors, and keep warm until serving.

Eat Your Greens (with Chilies Ginger)

In my opinion, there’s no better accompaniment to a meal than a big bowl of sauteed dark leafy greens (think spinach, chard, kale, broccoli rabe, etc). Greens can go American, Italian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern… you name it. Plus, they’re quick, easy and healthy.  For our Indian-inspired meal, I added mustard seeds, chilies and ginger. This can serve 4-6 on the side or you could eat the whole thing by yourself if you really want to be big and strong.

2 lbs spinach (I used baby spinach here but you could use regular spinach or substitute another green)

1 thumb sized piece ginger, minced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 green chili, minced

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp canola oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tbsp butter

Salt to taste

1) Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and when hot, add the mustard seeds

2) Once the mustard seeds start popping, add the garlic, ginger and chilies

3) Saute your aromatics for about 1 minute and then add the spinach, in batches

4) Turn the spinach until it’s coated with the oil and aromatics and cook until just wilted

5) Add the lemon, butter and salt to taste

Curried Rice Krispie Treats

I got this recipe from a Food and Wine compilation book of the best cocktails and bar snacks of 2008. I’d always wanted to make these Rice Krispie treats but never got around to it. The only problem with these is that despite living in the Bay Area and being confident of being able to find vegetarian marshmallows (since you can find veggie bacon, veggie kielbasa, vegan mac and cheese, etc), I came up short handed. Admittedly we only went to one store so next time, I’ll broaden my search.

3 tbsp butter

4 c. mini marshmallows

1 tbsp curry powder (recipe says  mild; I used the Madras curry powder I had in the house and it was great)

6 c. Rice Krispies

1/2 c. salted sunflower kernels

1) Butter or spray a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan and set aside

2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan (a wok also works)

3) Add the marshmallows and stir until melted

4) Stir the curry powder into the melted marshmallows

5) Add the Rice Krispies and sunflower kernels and stir well

6) Press the mixture into the pan and cool until firm