Tag Archives: Soup

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Coconut and Ginger

16 Jan

Just a quick post (without so much as even a picture!), but I wanted to share this tasty soup I made for dinner tonight. It’s easy and fast to make, and the spicy, creamy treatment of the pumpkin made it very welcome during this cold snap we’re having.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Coconut and Ginger

1 tangerine-sized shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (preferably skimmed from the top of the coconut milk)
½ tsp. red curry paste (watch out for shrimp in the ingredients of some brands)
1 Tbsp. minced or grated fresh ginger
15-oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
2 cups broth (I used Better Than Bouillon vegan chicken style)
½ cup coconut milk (one of the small, 5-oz. cans would be great)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil over medium low in a pot with a wide base, like a Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until quite soft and just starting to color. Add the curry paste and ginger, and cook two more minutes. Add the pumpkin, broth and coconut milk, and stir well to break up any lumps. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. With an immersion blender or conventional blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the lemon juice and taste to adjust other seasonings. If you use a low-sodium broth you might want to add salt, but it wasn’t needed with what I used.

Makes a little over a quart, for two large servings or four small ones.

Vegan Italian-style Shellfish Soup

8 Nov

I owe you a wrap-up post for October Unprocessed, but the cooking bug caught up with me tonight, and I decided to go for it and share this recipe with you instead.

First, let me say this: I’ve always hated seafood. With the occasional exception of tuna in childhood sandwiches or casseroles, even in my meat-eating days I wanted nothing to do with fish or shellfish. Which is why it’s sort of odd that my reaction today, upon reading a reference to Italian-style shellfish soup, was immediately, “I need to veganize that!”

I’ve never had shellfish soup, and other than a mention that the soup in question was made with tomatoes–and clams and mussels–I really had no idea what I was doing. But a few minutes with Google fixed all of that, and a stop at Whole Foods on my way home had me ready to go.

Ready for some fish-o’-the woods soup!

Here’s what I came up with, and I’m pleased to report that I’m quite happy with it. It’s kind of exactly what I wanted. I have no idea whether it resembles any traditional shellfish soup, but it’s really good in any case–warming against the cold front that just showed up, full of vegetables and tangy tomato and lemon, and with just a hint of seafood flavor that could be played up for those who don’t share my aversion. The soup is relatively light, so round it out to make a meal. Some blackened tempeh and avocado would be great with this.

No shells–just tasty soup

Vegan Italian-style Shellfish Soup

6 large cloves garlic, minced and divided
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced, ends and any leaves reserved
1 medium bulb fennel: green tops cut off and set aside; white bulb quartered, cored and thinly sliced.
1 large leek: green tops cut off, washed well and set aside; white part quartered, washed well and thinly sliced.
4 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 lb. oyster mushrooms: thick/tough stems trimmed off and set aside; remaining parts chopped in small bites
1/4 lb. lobster mushrooms (more if you like fishier flavor), minced and divided
3 sprigs thyme or 1/4 tsp. whole dried thyme. Lemon thyme would be great if you have it.
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. yellow mustard seed
1/2 tsp. dill seed or 1 tsp. dried dill weed
olive oil
1 tsp. Herbamare (or 3/4 tsp. salt)
1-1/2 tsp. fish seasoning
1/2 tsp. aji amarillo paste (optional–adds a little heat and a nice, fruity flavor. I found mine at Big John’s PFI)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15-oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (if the tomatoes are salted, you might want less salt in the recipe)
good handful flat-leaf parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
black pepper

First, make a “fish” broth based on many of the trimmings from your soup vegetables. If you have a pressure cooker, this won’t slow you down much. If not, you should build in another 30-60 minutes. In a pressure cooker, combine half of the garlic; the ends and leaves trimmed from the celery; half of the tops trimmed from the fennel, coarsely chopped; the leek tops, coarsely chopped; the stems from the oyster mushrooms and about 1/3 of the lobster mushrooms; and 1/4 of the shallots. Add the thyme, whole peppercorns, mustard and dill. Add 1 quart water and seal the pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure; lower the heat and keep at pressure for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure release naturally. Strain and set aside. Without a pressure cooker, start with a brief sautéing of the vegetables, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-60 minutes before straining.

Straining the broth with my handy nut-milk bag

While that’s cooking, chop the rest of your vegetables and start them cooking.

Shallots, leeks and fennel, chopped and ready to go

In a Dutch oven or other soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the remaining garlic, celery, fennel, leek, and shallots. Saute 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened but still have some texture.

While those vegetables are cooking, on another burner heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and then the lobster mushrooms, stirring until about half tender. Add the oyster mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and reduced in volume by roughly half–about 4-6 minutes.

When the vegetables in the Dutch oven are ready, add the fish seasoning, the chili paste (if using) and the Herbamare or salt. Cook for one minute more. Add the white wine and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until liquid is mostly evaporated. Add the cooked mushrooms, the broth and the tomatoes. Cook another 5 minutes, not allowing the soup to get above a simmer. Add the parsley, the lemon juice and several grinds of black pepper. Check for salt and other seasonings and adjust as needed. If you really want it fishy, you’ll probably want to add some dulse, nori, or kelp to the broth or the finished product. Makes about two quarts, which should serve 4-6.

Cookbook review: Comfort Soups to Keep You Warm

18 Apr

You don’t have to read much of this blog to know that I am not at all opposed to oil in my food. I cook with it, bake with it, and happily eat food others have prepared with oil.

But just as enthusiastically, I like to learn about different ways of preparing foods and ways of accommodating others’ diets. So I was glad to try a new eBook by Veronica Patenaude, aka The Low Fat Vegan Chef: Comfort Soups to Keep You Warm (I got a free review copy). Patenaude’s self-published eBook contains 30 soup recipes (plus some extras), all developed for use without any added oils.

I honestly had a hard time picking which recipes to try first, since the pictures and recipe titles (all viewable here) made a pretty strong case for all of them. I decided to start with the Greek Fasolada (White Bean) Soup, using some beautiful little Orca beans I found at the farmers’ market.

Greek Fasolada Soup, with Orca Beans

I liked the different colors in this soup, and the subtle heartiness of the beans. On the down side, as someone accustomed to foods with added oil, was that I did miss the oil, especially at first. It tasted pretty bland, despite the inclusion of flavorful ingredients like fire-roasted tomatoes and fresh lemon juice. Patenaude points out that some people unaccustomed to low-fat cooking might want to use a little extra salt as their taste buds adjust, and I did find that that helped, especially using a spicy celery salt that added more complex flavor than salt alone could have provided. Indeed, the book typically calls for Herbamare, but offers plain salt as a substitute. Based on my experience, I would not recommend using plain salt in these recipes. Whether you use Herbamare or another seasoned salt blend, I found that that extra element of flavor was really important for compensating for the lack of oil.

I wish that I had held back a serving of the soup to try the next day, since bean soups so often improve in flavor overnight. However, the friends I shared the soup with tried it after a day, and they gave it thumbs up. I will also say that if I hadn’t been full after the generous first bowl I served myself, I would have gone back for more. One friend agreed that he liked the soup more as he ate more of it.

For the next recipe, I went for the Creamy Potato Corn Chowder, made with coconut milk and lime:

Creamy Potato Corn Chowder

This time I resolved to make my own broth, using my own un-recipe (turns out I don’t like the Pacific brand low-sodium broth she recommends if homemade is not available). The chowder takes an interesting turn from traditional corn chowders, using chili powder along with the lime and coconut milk for a unique fusion approach. In general I liked it, though I agreed with my friends that the lime was a little overpowering and made the soup too tangy. A smaller amount would have been just right, I think. The lite coconut milk called for in the recipe did a good job of incorporating the creaminess you want in a chowder–and a mild coconut flavor–while adding a minimal amount of fat.

Finally, I was drawn to the Moroccan Chickpea Soup, with plenty of spices to accompany the beans and vegetables.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I used the rest of my homemade broth in this recipe, along with freshly cooked chickpeas. The results–with fresh ginger, cinnamon, and other spices–were a well-balanced nod to Moroccan flavors and ingredients, and an enjoyable lunch for me the past two days. Although it looks similar to the Greek soup due to similar vegetables, the flavors are totally different, and it’s another soup entirely.

I confess that I miss the oil in this one a bit, too, but I do think that has a lot to do with what my palate is accustomed to. For someone already accustomed to low-fat cooking, I think this book would provide a number of varied recipes to try, and for someone interested or otherwise motivated to try more cooking without added oils, there are lots of good tips on technique and ingredients to help beginners. I would not recommend it as an introduction to vegan food for someone accustomed to omnivorous or rich vegetarian fare, as I think such a person would have a hard time seeing past what’s not there to see what is there to enjoy.

Overall, one thing I found frustrating was the wide variation in serving sizes used throughout the book. In her introduction, Patenaude explains that the serving sizes are subjective, based on her recommendation for that recipe. I can see the value in that approach, but it made for some very unpredictable yields. The Greek soup I made said it would serve six, and it produced 3-1/2 quarts of soup. The chowder also said it would serve six, but it only made 2-1/2 quarts. Then the Moroccan soup listed as four servings and also made 2-1/2 quarts. I would say that any of those could be reasonable servings for those soups, but the inconsistency between recipes meant, among other things, that I didn’t know how much fridge or freezer space to plan for once the soups were done.

The eBook is available as a PDF file (also formatted for Kindle and iPad), simply designed but easy to use, with clickable table of contents and easy key word look-ups using the find function. I had no trouble bringing it up on my Android phone, which would be very helpful for quick look-ups while at the grocery store, or keeping the book handy for cooking in someone else’s kitchen. It sells for $19.95 (ETA: I had erroneously said before that this was Canadian, but the book ships from the US and is priced in US dollars), which is on the high end for an eBook, but it does come with a money-back guarantee if you find you don’t like the book, plus notification of any revisions (I did catch a missing ingredient, which I’m told will be corrected for future distribution of the book). You can also try for yourself her recipe for Low Fat Vegan Mexican Black Bean Corn Soup, which just might be next on my list to try.

Patenaude’s writing is conversational but clear, and she takes advantage of the electronic format to err on the side of thoroughness in explanations and introductory material. Because of the format and design, though, it’s easy to skip over those sections when you want to just get to your recipe. I appreciated that every recipe had a (well-done) photograph, which is a huge help for visual people like me in picking what recipe to make. You might notice that my images show “brothier” results than the ones in the book. I’m not sure whether she styled her photos differently in an effort to better show the elements of each soup, or whether the recipes might have called for more broth than would ideally be included. If you try them, you might want to hold back one cup of broth and consider what consistency you prefer as you’re finishing the soup.

In good news for those with other dietary restrictions, the recipe collection is largely gluten- and soy-free (or can easily be modified to be), which made it very easy for me to share the results with my friend who avoids both of those things.

It’s tempting to think that in mid-April soup weather is now many months away, but we in this part of the world know better: there will be “soup days” for months yet, and if you’re looking for a source of low-fat recipes this would be a good one to check out.

And hey, there’s a GIVEAWAY!

Yep, the author is generously making available a free copy of Comfort Soups to Keep You Warm to one of my readers. To enter, just comment with either your favorite kind of soup or a tip you use for flavorful, low-fat cooking (or both, of course, if you want to). A winner will be chosen at random from entries received by end of day (midnight, PDT) Sunday. I’ll announce the winner Monday.


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