Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black Bean Soup with Hominy

It's a beautiful winter day here in the Hudson Valley. As I cook today, I'm watching live coverage of events as they unfold in Egypt and praying for both peace and justice for the people there. I'm also thinking about David Kato, the gay activist who was murdered in Uganda, and other courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who face persecution and violence around the world and here in the US. Keep loving each other, friends.

Today's soup is a spicy vegan black bean soup made extra hearty with the addition of hominy.

I began early this morning by cleaning & rinsing 2 lbs of dried black beans and then soaking them in hot water. I love the color of black beans which in a certain light are actually a very very dark purple. When they are wet they glisten like black jewels.

After a couple of hours, the beans were hydrated. I rinsed them again and covered them with fresh water. Cooking over medium heat, a slow boil, I added several cloves of minced garlic, and two large onions. I let the beans cook gently for a couple of hours and then I added a can of tomato paste, to help thicken the broth, and 2 chopped green peppers.

I seasoned the soup with Goya Adobo, liquid smoke, chili powder, ground cumin, black pepper and oregano. The flavor seemed a bit flat and a little bitter, so I brightened it with some vinegary juice from a jar of picked hot peppers and mellowed it a dash of sugar.

When the beans were nice and tender and the broth was rich and thick, I added 2 drained cans of white hominy.

It was ready to eat. I dished up a bowl for myself for dinner and garnished it with some grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (oops! not vegan anymore), some crispy fried onions, a squirt of sriracha sauce and some tortilla chips. The rest will go to Friends at Bulls Head Meeting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Ginger soup w/ Peanut

I woke up early this morning to make today's soup to take to Bulls Head Meeting and it was -3F outside. While I was cooking a red-shouldered hawk was perched outside the window and the ice on the trees across the Hudson river was tinged pink in the morning sun. Ice covered the river completely until an ice breaker came through later in the day.

As soon as the soup was done, I ate some of it steaming hot for breakfast. It was savory and sweet. The aroma is bright with ginger and I garnished my bowl with some lemon zest, crispy fried onions, and chopped roasted peanuts. When it's this cold, soup is my favorite thing to eat. This is the third soup I've made this week!

I started by peeling and mincing about 3 Tbs of fresh ginger and peeling and dicing a medium-sized onion. I heated a little olive oil in the bottom of my soup pot and sauteed them until the onions were translucent. Then I added 2 cups of apple juice and let everything simmer while I prepared the sweet potatoes.

I peeled and cut into chunks a whole bunch of sweet potatoes. I lost count, but I think it was about 6 big ones. I rinsed them and added them to the pot with enough water to cover liberally. I let them simmer until tender.

While simmering, I seasoned the soup with spices. I'm guessing at the quantities here, because I didn't measure anything, but tasted it as I went along: 1.5 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp nutmeg, .5 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice, 2 tsp black pepper, .5 tsp vanilla extract, salt to taste.

When the sweet potatoes were tender, I ran upstairs & borrowed my landlady's immersion blender. I blended the soup until it was nice and smooth and then stirred in about 3 Tbs creamy peanut butter. I wanted the peanut butter to add a little richness and flavor but not overpower the ginger and spices, so I added a little at a time and tasted until I got it right. I finished the soup with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Merry & Pippin's Onion Soup

My friends sometimes accuse me of being a bit of a hobbit, meaning I suppose, that I enjoy the simple pleasures, especially good food shared with friends. Anyway, that's what I tell myself, but they could mean that I'm short and have hairy toes. As I sit here holed-up in my warm, comfy home looking out on a nasty storm of 'wintery mix', I'm perfectly happy to be a hobbit today.

One of the hobbit's favorite foods is mushrooms. I love the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo, Sam, Merry & Pippin stumble onto land where Frodo had been caught illicitly hunting mushrooms as a youth. After reuniting with the farmer, the hobbits are sent on their way with a basket of mushrooms as a token of forgiveness. I wanted to name this soup after the farmer, but would you eat it if I named it 'Maggot's Onion Soup'? I didn't think so.

This soup is similar to a French Onion Soup, but that soup relies on beef or veal stock for it's broth. In order to make a vegetarian version, I'm making a mushroom broth instead. The soup is vegan if you don't put the cheese on at the end, but I love the cheese. It adds a wonderful dimension. I'll call this one vegetarian.

I began by rinsing a large handful of dried shitake mushrooms and soaking them in hot water. As they hydrate, the soaking water will turn into a mushroom 'tea' that will flavor the broth.

I peeled and sliced 5 large onions. In my soup pot, I heated a little bit of olive oil and threw in the onions. I let the onions cook over medium heat until they were caramelized - a nice toasty brown. I let this take a good long time, like about 20-30 min - there's an ice storm outside, I'm not going anywhere. Then I added a half pound of sliced fresh baby bella mushrooms and continued caramelizing the mushrooms and onions together.

When they were sufficiently brown, I poured in a half-cup of dry red wine and stirred it around to get up all of the deliciousness was starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Then I poured in the soaking liquid from the shitakes.

I seasoned the broth with Bragg Liquid Aminos, black pepper, and one cube of Knorr vegetable bouillon and added some more water.

I made some croutons by slicing some day-old baguette rolls, sprinkling them with olive oil and toasting them in the oven at 350F. After about 6 min, I flipped them over to let them brown on both sides.

To finish the soup, I dished it into a bowl, topped it with the croutons and then grated some aged provolone cheese on top. This went under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the cheese was melted and toasted.

A few years ago, scientists reported that in addition to the 4 tastes the tongue could discern - salt, sweet, sour, & bitter - a fifth taste had been recognized, umami. Umami is sometimes described as savory or earthy. If you want to experience umami, try this soup. With the mushrooms, the caramelized onions, the Bragg's, and the cheese, this soup is rich with umami.

Any soup blog that begins with hobbits must end with umami.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vegan Minestrone

This week's soup is a vegan minestrone, full of lovely vegetables, fragrant with Italian herbs, and hearty with Roman beans and whole grain pasta.

I started by soaking a pound of dried Roman beans. You could also use pink beans, cranberry beans, light red or dark red kidney beans or really just about any kind of reddish bean. After the beans were fully hydrated, I drained and rinsed them and then returned them to the pan, covered with fresh water. I cooked them over medium low heat until just barely done.

To add liquid to the soup I added a large can of whole peeled tomatoes, which I broke into pieces with my cooking paddle, a large can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of tomato sauce. I added a bit more water so I would have enough liquid to cook the rest of the ingredients and still have a broth. I added a chopped onion and 3 cloves of chopped garlic for flavor and turned up the heat to med high, so I'd have an easy rolling boil.

Next I chopped up my vegetables into bite-sized pieces and added them: 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, a big handful of red cabbage, 2 green bell peppers, and 2 green zucchini squash. I put them in the pot in this order because it takes the carrots longest to cook, followed by the celery and so on. Finally I threw in a half a bag of frozen chopped spinach that I had leftover from my dinner a couple of nights ago.

While the veggies were cooking I seasoned the broth by adding a couple Tbs of sofrito cooking base, some Sabbathday Lake Shaker Italian seasoning which includes garlic, basil, fennel seeds, oregano, parsley, & thyme, oregano, black pepper, Adobo seasoning, Bragg Liquid Aminos and a shot of the juice from a jar of pickled banana peppers. I'm not giving the quantities of these seasonings because I believe in tasting instead of measuring. If you aren't confident doing this, a big pot of soup is good to practice on. It's very forgiving and you aren't likely to overdo the seasoning if you have a large quantity of food to work on. Taste as you go! It will start out bland, and as you add each flavor, you'll learn what taste it brings to the mix. Get a little of everything in there, and then add a little more of this or that until it pleases you. Your tongue is the most important tool in your kitchen.

When the carrots were cooked, I threw in a box of whole grain rotini pasta and let it cook until it was just barely done. I'm taking this soup to meeting tomorrow so it will need to withstand overnight storage and reheating and I don't want the pasta to get mushy.

In the picture, I garnished my soup with a little pecarino romano cheese, so the photo isn't vegan. If you leave the cheese off, the soup is though.

P.S. I love it when people post comments. If you try these soups or if you have suggestions based on your own experiments, I'd love to hear!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hoppin' John

Today's offering is a New Year's tradition that I grew up with, black-eyed peas a/k/a Hoppin' John, served here with collard greens and garnished with Sriracha sauce.

I just hosted a potluck with Friends and we had lovely foods such as smoked trout, veggie chili, a mixed berry pie and chocolate to go with it. Tomorrow, the rest of the black-eyed peas will go to Bulls Head Meeting to be shared with Friends.

When I was growing up, the black-eyed peas were cooked with ham hocks. Some southern recipes call for bacon and bacon fat. This version is vegan but does not sacrifice any flavor. The smoke pork products provide 3 things to the dish: fat, salt and a smokey flavor. I compensate for their absence with liquid smoke, a dash of sesame oil, soy sauce and Adobo seasoning.

Hoppin' John is very easy to make. Start the night before by soaking dried black-eyed peas in water. First, it's a good idea to look them over closely and pick out any non-pea debris that you find. It's common with dried beans to find some inedible bits in the bag that didn't get sorted out in the packaging process. I used 3 lbs of dried beans for this batch but that is a LOT. Usually 1 lb will feed a family with left overs.

The next day, drain the peas into a collander and rinse with cold water. In the bottom of your dry soup pot, heat a little oil and then brown 1 large onion, sliced longitudinally, for each pound of peas you're cooking. Stir the onions frequently as they caramelize. When they are a nice toasty brown, put the peas into the pot and add water until they are covered plus a couple of extra inches. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce heat and simmer. After about 1/2 hour, add your seasonings to taste: liquid smoke, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos, sesame oil, Adobo seasoning, black pepper and rosemary. Taste the broth!

When the beans are not quite done - you can bite them but not pleasantly, stir in 3/4 cup of brown rice for each pound of peas you're cooking. Allow to cook until the rice is done. The peas will be done then too. You may have to add more water as the peas and rice soak it up.

I like to garnish my peas with some heat, either Sriracha sauce or Tabasco sauce and serve it next to some collard greens, cooked as I described in this blog post. I love the earthy down-home taste and feel of this meal. It's healthy too!