Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Here’s a zippy soup for a rainy autumn day, which is what we have here today.
It’s sweet, from butternut squash, and definitely spicy, from poblano pepper.

Ingredients (to make about 2 quarts of soup):

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers (I used one large bell pepper and one smaller ripe pepper of unknown variety)
  • 2 green poblano peppers
  • 4 medium to large scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil, ~1/3 cup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water, ~2 cups (saved from boiled squash and carrots)

Preparation:

First, boil the cubed squash and carrot until quite tender.

Boiled butternut squash and carrot

While the squash is boiling, roast peppers and onions under the broiler. Turn and move while roasting to blister pepper skin evenly and to avoid burning scallions.
Peel, core, and remove seeds from the peppers, and roughly chop the scallions.

Roasted red bell peppers, poblano peppers, and scallions

Dry-roast two cloves of garlic until tender, then peel and roughly chop.

Dry roasting garlic cloves

Lastly, using a food processor and/or blender, purée all the ingredients while adjusting the thickness with the water; add olive oil, salt, and pepper to your taste.

I used both a food processor and traditional blender, in two rounds each with about half the ingredients because the quantity of soup exceeded the capacity of my blender.

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup, topped with thyme and toasted squash seeds

Serve the soup topped with dried or fresh thyme leaves and toasted squash seeds, perhaps accompanied by a piece of sourdough toast.

(I toasted the lightly oiled seeds with salt, pepper, and paprika on a baking sheet in a 250° F oven.)

I hope you enjoy this blended vegan soup – it’s perfect for cool fall days!

It was inspired by this recipe:

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Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

This past week was less than spectacular in my humble kitchen.  I created a weird tofu and bean thread noodle dish with a red wine-based sauce; hmm, it was just OK – I’m guessing no one wants purple tofu :-).  My other effort was a repeat: Pepper Steak, but this time I also made beef stock as a side-effect, owing to the fact that I had a lot of left over beef trimmings.

But, it’s a new week, so, today I’m doing something new (to me): a puréed vegetable soup!

My inspiration for this soup was the puréed shiitake mushroom soup at a local restaurant.  However, I didn’t have enough shiitake on hand, so I decided to mix it with onion, carmelized for sweetness to balance the earthy, but often slightly bitter, shiitake.

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup Ingredients

Ingredients (yields 6 cups):

  • olive oil (~3 T.)
  • shiitake mushrooms (~2 oz., dried)
  • onion (e.g., yellow or other; I used 2 medium plus 3 small, cut lengthwise in strips)
  • soup stock (4 cups, I used homemade beef stock from trimmings boiled with mushroom stems, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary; fat separated)
  • garlic (4 cloves)
  • fresh ginger (1 thumb, minced, I used half of that shown in the photo)
  • salt (~2 t.)
  • ground pepper (~3/4 t.)

To prepare, first, reconstitute the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water.  I placed a small plate over them to keep them submersed; this will take about an hour.

Rehydrating Dried Shiitake Mushroom

Simultaneously, carmelize the sliced onion with 2 T. olive oil in a large pan or pot (8+ cup capacity; I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over low to medium-low heat, strirring often, for 45 minutes to an hour.  Be careful not to burn the onions, but rather make them tender and browned slowly, adding a bit more olive oil if it seems they are drying out.

Beginning to carmelize the onions and roast the garlic.

In the same pan, roast the garlic cloves until tender and the ginger a bit.  Since my garlic cloves were already peeled, I wrapped them in foil as well as the minced ginger, so that it could be easily removed when tender.
When carmelized sufficently, the onions should be moist, browned, and very tender; the garlic cloves should be tender as well.  (I removed the garlic from the foil to accelerate the roasting.)

Carmelized Onion and Roasted Garlic

Next, place the rehydrated mushrooms in a colander and press out most of the absorbed water (to avoid excess water in the soup).

Rehydrated and pressed Shiitake Mushroom; save the water!

Coarsely chop the mushrooms and add them, along with the minced roasted garlic, and 2 cups soup stock to the pan with the carmelized onions and bring to a boil, cook for a short time (it seems to me that mushrooms, from dried, should be cooked), then remove from heat.

Carmelized Onion, Chopped Shiitake, Minced Roasted Garlic, and 2 cups stock.

Next, purée the ingredients into a soup, adding the minced ginger, ground pepper, salt, and about 2 cups more soup stock, which you can add progressively to acheive your desired consistency; you can use some of the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms, but be aware that it will impart a bit more bitterness to the flavor.

As with most soups, the right amount of salt is key.  Be sure to be conservative and taste test it as you add the salt.

I puréed the soup, somewhat inconveniently, in a traditional blender by adding some soup ingredients and stock little by little, progressively working up to its “liquify” setting.  Alternatively, you could purée the soup right in the pan or pot by using an immersion blender.

I served the soup topped with sourdough croutons, simply cubed fresh sourdough bread, pan fried in a little salted butter, and some finely sliced green onion, that was luckily growing out the top of one of my yellow onions that had been left in the sunlight on the countertop for too long. :-)

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

The result: delicious!  It’s got a creamy texture, but without dairy ingredients, and a nice blend of shiitake and sweet onion flavors, and just enough spice to keep you awake, from the ground pepper and ginger.

Alas, the way I prepared it isn’t vegetarian, but it could be done quite easily, of course.  Also, I used less than $2 of dried shiitake and onions as well, so it’s a nice, inexpensive, healthy soup!

Here are some related recipes that I considered:

Coconut, Peanut, & Pea Shoot Salad

Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Here’s a delicious salad that I arrived at by accident… and, despite having two nuts in its name, it contains no nuts, since coconut is not a proper nut and peanut is a legume or bean!

I was planning to make Tom Kha Talay, but when I opened the can of what I thought was coconut milk, I found that I had bought a can of young coconut meat instead. No problem, right?

If you’ve ever bought a young coconut, often served in China-towns as a coconut water beverage, then you’re probably familiar with the tender, sweet meat that lines the young coconut cavity.  The canned version I bought is the same, but in a sweet sugar-based syrup.

So, what to do?  I still had a pile of pea shoots for a salad to accompany the soup… how about adding the sweet coconut meat to a soup and a salad?

Here are the salad ingredients: pea shoots, mung bean sprouts, sliced young coconut meat, chopped roasted, unsalted peanut, tossed with a modest amount of Trader Joes’ Goddess dressing and a dash of fresh lime juice, and topped with more chopped peanut and lime zest.

As a fairly quick lunch, a number of the ingredients are off-the-shelf from the store.
If you haven’t had Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing, it is an oil and vinegar-based dressing with a delicious flavor dominated by soy, tahini (sesame), and garlic.

Prepared ingredients

For my  lunch, the salad was accompanied by Tom Yum Goong, made from store-bought Tom Yum Paste, homemade fish stock, diced potato, sliced carrot, sliced scallion, chopped green cabbage, quartered baby bella mushroom, chopped fresh cilantro, peeled shrimp (from frozen, raw), and chopped young coconut meat.

Tom Yum Goong with Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Next time you’re in an asian grocery, pick up some young coconut, and give this great salad and/or soup a try!

Sweet & Sauerkraut Soup

Sweet & Sauerkraut Soup

Here’s a nice eastern-european-style vegetable soup that you can make if you happen to have apples and sauerkraut as I did, leftover and seasoned from making Baked Pork Chops. The soup starts with a light chicken or vegetable stock (8 cups), then seasoned with thyme (1 T), dill (1 T), garlic (6 cloves, minced), mild paprika (2 T), ground pepper and/or peppercorns (1 t), salt to taste. Next add a couple tablespoons each of tomato paste and mustard (I used a smooth Dijon mustard). Sauté vegetables in a couple tablespoons oil until just slightly browned/carmelized: diced red and/or yellow onions (1 each, medium or large), diced green and/or pepper (2), green cabbage (~1/4 head, sliced), celery (2-3 stalks), diced potatoes (2 large), and about 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut (seasoned with about 1 T brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon and allspice and sautéed lightly); add these to soup, bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until potato is tender. The sweet part of the flavor is aided by slightly carmelizing the vegetables and by adding diced apple (2 small, e.g., Gala) for the last 15 minutes of simmering (so that they don’t disintegrate).

I served this topped with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of dried dill, and sourdough croutons.

Overall, it’s something like an onion soup crossed with a mild chinese hot and sour soup. Tasty!

Here are some related recipes that I consulted for inspiration:

“Croatian Sour Soup”
http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Croatian-Sour-Soup-Recipezaar

“Sour Cabbage Soup”
http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Sour-Cabbage-Soup-Recipezaar

Fish Chowder

Fish Chowder

This is a thin, mild chowder with flavors of salmon, fennel, and thyme, and sweetness from tarragon and sweet corn.

First, I prepared a fish stock, roughly according to this recipe, except I used fresh tarragon rather than thyme:

“Traditional Fish Stock”
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Traditional-Fish-Stock-105267

Then I used that fish stock rather than chicken broth according to this recipe:

“Salmon and Vegetable Chowder”
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Salmon-and-Vegetable-Chowder-3042

Other modifications: I substituted celery for zucchini and diced white onion for leek. My original intention was to make a salmon chowder, but having had only about a pound of salmon bones and fin portions (the butcher’s leftovers – hey, it cost $1) with only a modest amount of edible fish meat, I added 1/2 pound of bite-sized pieces of tilapia fillets. Also, I used slightly less fennel seed than the recipe suggested since a fair number of people seem to object to the flavor if it’s strong.

A tip: if you buy frozen tilapia fillets, I suggest thawing them in water instead of the microwave, because they can overcook easily and get a rubbery texture.

Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong

Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong

I’d not made a proper pad thai before nor had I deep-fried anything, so I decided to do these popular Thai treats for dinner.

The pad thai has shrimp and tofu – the firm tofu was cut into ~1/4″ thick triangles and deep-fried in peanut oil; other ingredients include: peanut oil, scrambled egg, sesame oil, rice noodles (banh pho), bean sprouts, thinly-sliced green cabbage, minced garlic, shallot, scallion, finely-diced serrano pepper, crushed dry thai bird peppers, soy sauce, fish sauce, water, sugar, natural peanut butter, chili garlic sauce, lime juice, and chopped peanuts.
Served with fresh lime, chopped peanuts, and fresh cilantro leaves.

The soup was prepared simply using Tom Yum Paste from a jar (Lee brand), with sliced fresh black mushrooms, bean sprouts, chopped green cabbage, sliced jalapeno, minced garlic, shallot, shrimp, and topped with fresh cilantro leaves.

I consulted the following recipes for ingredient ideas.

“Pad Thai”
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pad-Thai-380593

“Vegetarian Pad Thai”
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Vegetarian-Pad-Thai-240960

Shiitake and Bok Choy Soup, Broiled Tilapia, and Sesame Sautéed Baby Bok Choy

Shiitake and Bok Choy Soup, Broiled Tilapia, and Sesame Sautéed Baby Bok Choy

I found some dried shiitake mushrooms in the cupboard that my mom gave me some ten years ago (they were grown in Arkansas, of all places), so I decided to finally reconstituted them for this soup. To the best of my recollection, this is the first soup I’ve made from scratch. :-)

Here are the recipes I used for this healthy meal:

“Chicken, Shiitake and Bok Choy Soup”
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chicken-Shiitake-and-Bok-Choy-Soup-103106
(The water used to reconstitute the mushrooms was used, in part, to make chicken bouillon.)

“Asian-Style Grilled Tilapia”
http://www.food.com/recipe/asian-style-grilled-tilapia-192282
(I substituted chili garlic sauce for red pepper flakes, added minced cilantro to the marinade, and served this atop sticky rice. While broiling, I reduced the marinade and served it over the tilapia.)

The sesame bok choy was prepared similarly to my earlier sesame swiss chard, but spiced up with a spoonful of chili garlic sauce.