Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey-free Soups

After the annual Turkey Trot around Greenlake to raise money for Farm Sanctuary yesterday morning, I hosted the annual Seattle Fam turkey-free Thanksgiving at my house. When folks discover we're having a vegetarian Thanksgiving the common response is an incredulous "But what do you eat?" My response to that inanity is, "What do we not eat!" "Let me be quite clear: this holiday is not "difficult" or "challenging" for those of us who eschew bird flesh. In fact the Seattle Fam and I agree it's the best holiday ever, and none of us are emaciated. (Some of us are rather willowy, yes, but none of us belong on a poster for WFP.)

I was the soupier (oh why is that term not in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire?). I started with a roasted cauliflower soup inspired by a recipe in Joanne Weir's Wine Country Cooking. The recipe is simple and the results, divine.

Coarsely chop two heads of cauliflower. Toss together with 2-3 T olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Throw in 2-3 whole (peeled) garlic cloves as well. Arrange in shallow layers in a roasting pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes (stir once halfway through) or until golden brown and smelling nutty. Set roasted cauliflower aside; try not to snack on it throughout the remainder of your prep.

In a large soup pot toast 1 heaping T of coriander seeds for about 1 minute on low heat (watch these carefully so they don't burn; when they're slightly darker brown and the smell wafts out of the pan, they're done). Let them cool and then grind them. I have tried grinding them in various mortar-and-pestles, and I have to say that my old Krups coffee grinder dedicated to spices, nuts, and grains remains the best method of grinding ever.

Heat up the soup pot again, this time with 1-2 T olive oil and 1 T butter. Saute 1 large yellow diced onion and 1 shallot for a while. Then throw in the ground coriander. After about 5-10 minutes, add the roasted cauliflower and 4 cups of vegetable stock. I also added 1 peeled, sliced potato this time, since I'm feeding an army of 12 starving vegetarians. Let this simmer for 20-30 minutes, or whenever the vegetables are cooked down enough to zap them with your immersion blender (a.k.a. "magic wand" or "kitchen dildo"--whatever you call it, you have to admit it's an essential tool for soup-making). While zapping, add 1/2 - 1 cup of half-n-half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next I found a surplus of organic carrots in our fridge, thanks to a housemate's honey who works the weekly Ballard Farmers' Market. I peeled them and meditated on their beauty. What could I do to translate their luminous orange glow to a comparably lovely soup?

Curried Carrot Soup (vegan) was the result. I hope I can recreate the recipe here, for Jules's sake.

2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 T canola oil
1 t brown mustard seeds
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash of curry powder if you have it on hand, or garam masala
dash of turmeric
dash of chili powder
dash of ginger
1 t salt
4 cups water
1/4 cup grapefruit juice

Saute onion in oil with all spices and salt on med-low until onions wilt. Sprinkle water into pot when spices stick. Add carrots and water. Simmer until carrots are soft (20-30 minutes). Zap with immersion blender. Add grapefruit juice and adjust salt accordingly.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NAVSA and Chunky Winter Soup

I had the pleasure of visiting New Haven, CT and Yale University for the North American Victorian Studies (NAVSA) conference last week.
While I was there, my housemate, who occasionally fancies she's my husband, panicked and demanded I come home to make dinner. Rather smugly, I told her she'd find chunky winter vegetable soup in the freezer. It's amazing with toasted pumpernickel bread. She apparently found it, because there's none left!

This recipe comes from the rebar: modern food cookbook associated with the fantastic restaurant in Victoria, B.C. I picked up this goodie last year, October 2007, in Victoria when I was attending (what else?) the annual NAVSA conference.

I started with some golden nugget squash from Trapold Farms in Portland, OR. I chopped up four of these gorgeous creatures, and bagged half of it in 2-cup quantities to freeze for future use.

The soup starts out with a basic saute of olive oil, 1 chopped leek, 1 yellow onion, a few bay leaves, some red chile flakes, 1T salt, 8 minced garlic cloves, and some dried sage and thyme.

Then I stirred in the salt and the squash, along with 1 cubed rutabaga, some kale and a couple carrots. I added 8 cups of vegetable stock and brought this to a boil, and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. When the vegetables were tender, I added 1 can of white beans, 4 heaping T of nutritional yeast, 1 12-oz. bottle of dark beer, a lot of freshly ground pepper, and 4T of apple cider vinegar. Next time I make this, I won't add quite so much apple cider vinegar. This simmered a long while, and this is how it turned out: