Cauliflower and Cardamom Soup

Cauliflower SoupHappy First Day of June! As seems to be typical in Seattle, the first day of the month greeted us with rain and in my book that calls for a simple weeknight soup.

A note about dried spices: the longer you keep them in your cupboard, the less potent they become. I always buy whole spices and when I need them, I grind them in a repurposed coffee grinder. This ensures the spices will have more flavor. If you insist on using that old bottle of cardamom from the back of the pantry, you may find that you need to add a bit extra to this recipe.

In this recipe I dry roast the cauliflower before adding it to the soup. This caramelizes it a bit first, giving it a lovely rich flavor.

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, leaves removed, head & stem chopped into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pinch lavender
32 oz chicken or vegetable stock
1 lime, juiced
salt to taste
sour cream & cilantro for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Place chopped cauliflower on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Place it in the oven and cook until edges of cauliflower are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions. Sweat the onions until they become translucent. Add the garlic, cardamom, and lavender and stir until they become aromatic.
  3. Add the cauliflower and chicken/veg stock. Bring everything to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or blend in a traditional blender in several batches according to the blender’s hot liquid capacity).
  5. Once the soup is blended, stir in the lime juice and season with salt to your tastes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro or parsley.

Modifications: This soup would also work well if you replaced the cauliflower with celery root or parsnips. Have fun!

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Mushroom Hot Pot

Mushrooms

Clockwise from top left corner: shimeji, shiitake, enoki, green garlic, and maitake mushrooms.

Spring in Seattle is such a fickle season- one second it invites you to fire up the barbecue, the next you’re ready to snuggle up in your favorite sweater. Here’s a recipe for the rainy days. Hot pot or nabe is a Japanese style soup that is shared by many people. A large simmering pot is usually put in the center of the table and family and friends are invited to dish up from it into their own bowls as they enjoy its nourishment together. This version celebrates the mushrooms of the northwest and is a wonderful way to enjoy the emerging bounty. When we make this at home, we place an electric hot plate on the table and use it to keep the contents warm in a Le Creuset. If this isn’t an option for you, cook on your stove top and dish up into bowls when ready. This recipe serves 4 people. Note: all these ingredients are available at your local Asian market. In Seattle, I always shop at Uwajimaya in the International District.

Mushroom nabe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
1/2 cup sake
1/3 cup Organic soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups dashi or vegetable stock
1 small head Napa cabbage, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound organic firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
4 ounces/1 package oyster or maitake mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
3.5 ounces/1 package shimeji mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
7 ounces/1 package enoki mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
3 stalks green garlic or green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 pound broccoli raab, spinach, or watercress
Optional: udon noodles or white rice, cooked and available to put into individual bowls.

Method:

  1. In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine mirin, sake, soy sauce, sugar, and dashi.
  2. In a large Le Creuset or soup pot arrange all mushrooms and vegetables, making it easy for diners to choose what they would like to dish into their individual bowls.
  3. Pour liquid ingredients into pot, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer pot to the hot plate (set to low heat) or dining table, uncover, and enjoy with family and friends. Serve with white rice or udon noodles.

Sunchoke Soup

sunchoke soupSunchokes are like the secret agents of the vegetable world. They go by many names (Jerusalem artichokes – though they are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes, sunroots, earth apples, and topinambour) and easily blend in with many vegetables thanks to their mild nature. These tubers are a close relative to the sunflower though they visually resemble the ginger root. Sunchokes are a New World food that was cultivated long before Columbus arrived. It makes sense that they were a staple food in the Native American diet, considering they are an excellent source of potassium, iron, and fiber. While they have a similar consistency to potatoes, sunchokes’ flavor is sweeter with a certain “je ne sais quoi.” They are delicious when roasted or made into chips, but for a weeknight meal, I like to enjoy them as a hearty soup with a fresh salad and some crusty bread.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 pound sunchokes, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 sage leaves
water, as needed
salt, to taste
creme fraiche (optional to garnish)

Method:

  1. In a dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil. Lower the heat and add the carrot, celery, and shallot. Sweat until the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in the fennel seeds, sage, and nutmeg. Allow flavors to meld for a minute or so.
  3. Add sunchokes, potatoes, and vegetable stock. Bring everything to a low simmer. Continue to cook until sunchokes can easily be pierced with a fork.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or use a regular blender and work in small batches). When it has been blended, add any water as needed to thin the soup to a desirable consistency. I like mine fairly thick, so I only added about 3/4 cup of water.
  5. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Spoon into serving bowls (this recipe should serve four for dinner) and garnish with creme fraiche or sour cream.

Black Eyed Pea Soup with Winter Vegetables

Black Bean SoupWhen the weather turns consistently cold, I want nothing more than soup. Every day. Maybe even for multiple meals. And this is a recipe to help satiate that desire.

Every year, my family celebrates New Year’s Day with black eyed pea soup. According to folklore, the expansion of these legumes portends an increase in wealth over the next year. Unsurprisingly, feasting on beans has become a part of the New Year ritual, ensuring good luck for those who partake in it. Now, culinary divination is all well and good, but I’m into feeling nourished and lucky all year round. So let’s embrace black eyed peas more often!

Black eyed peas benefit from soaking before being cooked, but it’s not essential. If you don’t soak them, just be aware that they will take longer to cook. Soaking beans, however, makes them easier to digest and helps to eradicate their uncomfortable side effect. When I soak my beans, I like to add an ounce or so of whey (leftover from cheese making or just poured off the top of a container of yogurt), which is also supposed to minimize leguminous flatulence. If you really don’t want to bother with dried beans, feel free to substitute two cans of black eyed peas that have been drained and rinsed.

Collards are a great addition to this soup. If added with the beans and broth, they will cook down to be quite tender. These greens are not only full of vitamins C and K, but studies at UC Berkeley have shown that they have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. Perfect for cold and flu season!

A few final notes: don’t salt your beans until they have finished cooking. Prematurely salting legumes causes them to remain tough and begin to crumble rather than achieve tenderness. Finally, a fun veggie fact for your next game of trivia: in Scotland, rutabagas are called “neeps”!

Enjoy the soup and stay warm everybody!

Ingredients:
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 bunch collard greens or kale, stems removed, leaves cut into ribbons
4 carrots, cut into rounds
1 rutabaga or 1/2 squash, cut into medium cubes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel
1 pinch chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into small pieces

Method:

  1. Soak black eyed peas in enough water to cover with 3 inches or so to spare. I recommend soaking them in the morning so they’ll be ready at dinner time.
  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to turn translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and rutabaga or squash (and ham if using) and cook until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the spices and stir. Cook another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Strain peas from the water and add to the pot along with the broth. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
  4. If you’re using collards, go ahead and add them to the pot now. If you’re using kale, don’t add it until the last minute before serving. Cook the soup for 45 minutes or until the peas are tender.
  5. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your tastes.

Winter Borscht

winter borschtBorscht is a hearty Eastern European soup that can be served hot or cold, though in this weather I’d recommend serving it warm. It is an extremely versatile soup whose ingredients can be easily adapted to what’s in season (I’ve enjoyed it with golden beets and corn, for example!). Regardless, it is very nourishing and warming on a chilly autumn night. I’ve noted a few possible changes in the ingredient list below. Cabbage is a common ingredient in borscht, but the kale in week 3’s CSA box is a simple substitution. It is traditional to enjoy borscht with slices of dark rye bread.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion or 2 small shallots, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups beets, peeled and coarsely grated
1 small head green cabbage or 1 bunch kale, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 parsnips, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 qts (8 cups) beef or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon whole juniper berries (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Small handful of dill, chopped
Sour cream (optional, garnish)

Method:
1. Heat butter or oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and cook over medium low heat until they start to soften. Add garlic and beets and continue cooking until beets are tender.
2. Add remaining veggies (cabbage, carrots, parsnips, and potato) to the pot and stir to mix all ingredients together.
3. Add broth, bay leaf, juniper, and lemon juice. Bring soup to a low simmer and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes- until potatoes are cooked through. Taste occasionally and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
4. To serve, dish into bowls and top with sour cream, cracked pepper, and fresh dill.

winter borscht