Tag Archives: vegetarian

Soup Club II

What a week.


No, scratch that. The entire year of 2013, with the exception of a few days in February has been work-intense. First it was the grant, and now its long days at the bench in preparation for spending a week with a collaborator in Seattle. As much as I love food and cooking, when work takes over I completely abandon my kitchen. There was more than one day during this past week that I had a beer and ice cream for dinner. Does it make it better if dinner was had at 10 pm?


Thank goodness for Soup Club – it ensures that I eat well at least once every other week. This past Wednesday, I brought a Broccoli and Roasted Garlic soup and some Cheddar Pecan Cayenne crackers to share with the sixth floor labs in the Molecular and Cellular Biology building. Given there was less than a cup leftover, I’d say it was a success. And as an added bonus it was remarkably easy – even for soup.


I love the green of this soup – it oozes vegetable-ness without feeling or tasty healthy. I’m not a a vegetarian or eat dairy- or gluten-free or strive to make food with limited fat content, but this soup satisfies all of those (the crackers, however, do not) and is a happy coincidence with a robust flavor and depth. Adding the cheese crackers – while no longer dairy-, gluten- or fat-free add a pleasant crunch to this silky smooth soup. It’s a nod towards springtime, which cannot come quickly enough for me, while maintaining a winter heartiness.


Make the soup. It won’t take long and you’ll be better for it.
Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Soup with Cheddar Pecan Cayenne Crackers
Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Soup
from the LA Times
1 large, plump head of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
3 broccoli crowns (~2 pounds), florets roughly chopped, stems peeled and diced
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cheddar Pecan Cayenne Crackers
from Martha Stewart Living
1/2 cup (60 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup finely ground toasted pecans
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
up to 2 tablespoons water

For the soup:

Roast the garlic. Heat the oven to 400º. Cut off the top one-half inch of the garlic head to make a “lid.” Drizzle the cut surfaces with a little olive oil and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Replace the lid. Wrap the garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until the garlic is tender and a rich golden color, about 45 minutes. Unwrap and cool.

While the garlic is roasting…

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the onion and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped broccoli and potato. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Simmer until the potato is very tender, about 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pot, discarding the hulls. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Purée the soup with an immersion blender (or in batches with a blender).

For the crackers:

Preheat the oven to 350º. In a food processor, pulse the flour, pecans, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese, pulse until the pieces are no longer visible. Gradually add water until the dough comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into two parts. Roll each part out to 1/4 inch thickness – keep well floured (if not, it’s difficult to transfer to a baking sheet). Cut dough with a small cookie or biscuit cutter. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until the centers are firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Let it be

I’m trying something new. Savoring the present. Not pushing too hard. I’m a goal-oriented person and for the past several months I’ve been throwing myself into my work. Or rather the future of my work. Stressing out over what’s next. Manuscripts, grants, job applications. And I’ve been hitting a wall. Then stressing out about stressing out. Around and around with absolutely no progress.

Summer is over. What exactly happened? The entire thing just passed me by. Likely because I’ve been so preoccupied with figuring out “What next?” that I didn’t hardly take any time to just be. So that’s my new goal.

I made this red pepper and walnut dip while I was visiting my family at the end of August. A gathering with my father’s side of the family. I was enamored with the idea of this recipe, excited while making it and then I tasted it and my reaction was something akin to “eh” (complete with a shoulder shrug). So I fussed; adding salt, tasting, adding some cayenne, tasting again, adding some garlic powder, tasting again … until finally just deciding to let it be. I wasn’t completely happy with it, but fearful that I would start making worse rather than better. I went on to finish the rest of dinner.

A couple of hours later, the family descended upon the house amidst a magnificent sunset. A lovely gathering of people who are not only related to each other, but genuinely care for one another. Yet another reason I miss home so dearly. And you know what? The red pepper and walnut dip easily garnered the greatest reviews. Something magical happened when it was allowed to sit, assimilating all of the flavors that I had assembled. All it needed was for me to give it a little time, to back off and let it come together naturally.

I’m taking my lesson from this dip. Giving myself some time. To be where I am at.

Perhaps something magical will happen.

Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
slightly fussed with from Food and Wine
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 slices day-old bread, cubed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 small dried red chile
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
pita chips

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and vinegar. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Set aside and let the bread soak up the liquid.

Toast the walnuts in a 350º oven for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the bell peppers, water, garlic cloves and dried chiles. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat until 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated. Discard the dried chiles.

Transfer the peppers to a food processor and let cool until warm. Add the soaked bread and pulse to a thick, coarse paste. Add the walnuts until coarsely ground. Season with remaining salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Let sit, at room temperature, for at least a couple of hours. Serve with pita chips.



Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad

I made this salad tonight and within one bite I knew I wanted to share. It’s not fancy or fussy, but is brilliantly hued and surprisingly sweet. I don’t have much to say – no deep thoughts about life, just a nod to how much I enjoy food. This salad is a shining example of why I love my CSA. The salad greens were amazingly robust and flavorful. And the beets … oh my, this season’s beets have been wonderfully balanced between earthy and sweet.

This is a breeze to put together … I had a conference call to Singapore this evening (I am still in hard-core work mode) and managed to throw this together in a matter of minutes. Of course, I had the foresight to roast the beets earlier this week (and in the morning no less, while my apartment is still blessedly cool).  Pairing the beets with citrus was amazing. I had bookmarked this recipe some time ago, as I am always looking for inventive uses for rhubarb. And I attempted to cook the rhubarb as described – but just wasn’t feeling it for a salad (stay tuned for how I re-invented it …), so I ended up omitting it. I swapped goat cheese for feta, simply because I had some in my refrigerator, and these days I just don’t have time for extra trips to the grocery store.

I am smitten with this salad. For the colors and the flavors. My only hope that there are more beets in this week’s CSA…

Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad
modified from Bon Appetit, April 2010
1 generous entrée-size salad
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice 
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
mixed salad greens
1 medium beet, roasted and thinly sliced
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 1/2 ounce goat cheese, crumbled

Whisk orange peel, orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, and olive oil together. Season dressing with coarse salt and pepper. Toss with salad greens, sliced beets, orange segments and goat cheese.

Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup with Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread

Goodbye winter. Hello springtime.

Which, sadly, means the end of this season’s soup club.

Surprisingly, it actually feels like springtime. Sunshine and warm weather, although I’ve yet to spy any pretty spring color. I would revel in it more, except I’ve sprained my ribs in a tumble that I took on the ice just last week and have been hobbling around and hunched over like a 90 year old woman. At least I had this creamy pea and asparagus soup to comfort me.

I volunteered to bring in the vegetarian soup offering for this final week of soup club, in the place of an out-of-town coworker. Desperate to part ways with heavy root vegetables, but not quite willing to transition into a chilled soup, I scoured my favorite cookbooks, magazines and websites hoping to find something that would suit my mood. When I chanced upon this creamy pea and aspragus soup with parmesan-thyme shortbread from Food and Wine, I knew I had found my match.

I like most everything about this soup. The smell of asparagus. The sweetness of the peas. The green-ness. The delicacy of the tarragon. The cheesy-saltiness of the shortbread.

I especially love this soup because I could test out the newest addition to my kitchen arsenal, an immersion blender (and a completely unexpected birthday present). I was first introduced to the immersion blender just a few months ago when I was making this soup at a cooking class. I had high hopes for it, as this particular kitchen instrument has been talked up a lot amongst my friends. It was … eh … okay. A remarkable amount of work to blend it all together, all the while standing over a hot flame.

But then a lovely little (green!) hand blender arrived on my doorstep, with a note pleading me to reconsider my stance on immersion blenders. How could I resist? And now I must eat my previous words, because this blended up my soup like a charm. It was delightfully intoxicating to use. So, thank you Jenny, you know me well.

Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup with Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread

slightly adapted from Food and Wine
Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup
3 tablespoons butter
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 1/2 pounds (2 large bunches) asparagus, cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups vegetable broth
2 ounces (~1/3 cup) tarragon leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas
splash of white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread
1 1/2 cups (180 g) flour
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme
zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 egg yolks

For the soup:

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add asparagus, cook one minute longer. Add vegetable broth, cover and cook until aspragus is tender, about 15 minutes. Add tarragon leaves and blend until very smooth (me: with my new immersion blender or in a standing blender, worked in batches). Stir in heavy cream and peas. Season with white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

For the shortbread:

In a large bowl, combine flour, parmesan, dried thyme, salt and lemon zest. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachement add the butter (cut into tablespoon-sized pieces) and the egg yolks and mix until a moist crumb forms. Gather dough and knead a few times, while rolling into a 2-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Cut log into 1/4-inch slices and bake at 325º for 25 minutes.

Soup Club

Winter has descended upon Minneapolis. There is snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures.

I would continue to complain, but I am making a concerted effort to find joy in my life. Which mean today I am going to talk about Soup Club. I love, love, LOVE Soup Club. It was one of the few shining points of last winter and will be for this winter as well. A group of really fabulous scientist-cooks get together to make soup every other Wednesday. One person brings a vegetarian option, one brings a meat option and one brings in a chef’s choice option. Somebody brings in a few loaves of bread and often somebody else will bring in dessert. We all gather in the lunchroom to break bread as well as to ooh and ahh over our collective culinary expertise.

People get excited for Soup Club Wednesdays. And rightly so.

This past Wednesday I brought in a vegetarian soup: Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Ginger and Lemongrass. I was more than pleased with how this dish turned out and has happy to share it with my colleagues (and I hope they were pleased in consuming it). The ginger brings a spiciness, the lemongrass a freshness and the coconut milk a creaminess. Utter delicousness, if I do say so myself.

I used a whole variety of winter squash, primarily because they had been sitting neglected since I received them many weeks ago in my CSA, but there’s no reason why a large pumpkin or butternut squash wouldn’t work out nicely.

Soup Club: bringing people together in the most delicious way in hopes of surviving winter. What a brilliant idea.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Ginger and Lemongrass

1 sweet dumpling squash
1 acorn squash
1 spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2, 6-inch stalks lemon grass
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozed)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk

Halve squash, remove seeds and place cut-side down in a roasting dish with 1/2 inch of water. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Scoop roasted squash out of shells and puree in blender until smooth. Run througha mesh seive to remove excess water. I had had about 2, maybe 2 1/2 cups, of squash puree when I was finished. Set aside.

Cut off and discard top of lemongrass, leaving a 6-inch stalk, then smash stalk with side of a large heavy knife. Cook lemongrass, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt in oil in a heavy medium pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened. Add garlic, ginger, smoked paprika and white wine vinegar and cook for another minute or two. Add squash, corn (I used canned corn and dumped the entire contents in), vegetable stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally. Stir in coconut milk. Remove from heat and discard lemongrass.

Purée soup in 3 or 4 batches in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), straining each batch as blended through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids (this is kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it’s worth it – no leftover stingy bits of lemongrass!). Season with salt and pepper and reheat if necessary.