Broccoli Bean Soup

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In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I usually feel a bit deceptive whenever I record one of my own recipes on this blog (so about 95% of the time).  Recipes are ontologically systematic, and if anything, the way I cook is the opposite of systematic.  I rarely use measurements and I am usually taste-testing everything throughout the whole process and adding spices or throwing in onions according to what my taste buds deem necessary.  The only problem with this is that I am now accountable to a blog, and I cannot just give out a nebulous recipe comprised of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of love all thrown together in a pot.”  I am slowly getting better at self-discipline and training myself to pay attention to the amounts I am using, but I am far from perfect in this regard.  I feel I owe it to people to offer this as both a disclaimer and an encouragement to think a little outside the box and adjust your ingredients to match your gustatory preferences.

That said, this wonderful soup was made in a haphazard fashion, and while I think the measurements of the ingredients provided will yield a most satisfactory result, I cannot be too sure.  So exercise your freedom and edit as you see fit should you decide to stir up this delicious soup in your own pots.

Ingredients

1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2/3 cup carrot juice (simply puree 3 large steamed carrots with a bit of water)
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked kidney beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Use a food processor to blend together the broccoli with the milk, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium size pot over low heat. Add the carrot juice, beans, rice, salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and serve hot. Enjoy! Tastes great with a side of tortilla chips.

Serves about 4
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Cauliflower Zucchini Curry

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The weather has been calling for lots of soups and stews lately, with all this dampness hanging in the air and making everyone sick. Luckily, this curry happens to be a great defense for the immune system, in large part because of its spices. Cumin and turmeric are well known for their healing and fortifying properties. The carrot juice provides the vitamin A, while the kale is chock-full of wonderful vitamins. Both the cauliflower and zucchini are anti-inflammatory vegetables with B vitamins. Cauliflower also contains stores of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K.
I like using cauliflower because of my impossible weakness for the underdog in every situation. It seems cauliflower doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and if there’s anyone who will side with the losing team, its me. Cauliflower is making a slow come-back these days, as it should, because it is extremely versatile and can be incredibly tasty when treated properly. I like to think that I am playing my part by making this warm toasty curry. This dish is packed with flavor, spice and color, and it’s just the thing to chase away the blues that can come with too many rainy days.

Ingredients

2 medium yellow zucchinis
1/2 head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2/3 cup pure carrot juice (about 2 large carrots steamed and juiced)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ginger
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In a medium size pot, simmer together the tomatoes, carrot juice, and half of the minced garlic on low heat. Stir in one tsp of curry powder along with the cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander and ginger. Dice the zucchini and divide the cauliflower into small florets. (I used blended cauliflower that I had on hand from my cauliflower pizza crust, which also worked fine). Heat olive oil over a stove top and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oil and add to the pot with the tomato curry sauce. While oil is still hot, add the onion. Saute for about two minutes, then add the cauliflower to the pan and saute for about 8 minutes. Lightly salt, then add the garlic and saute together for a few more minutes until brown. Add to the tomato curry. Stir everything together and add the second teaspoon of curry powder, the rest of the salt, and the chopped kale. Simmer on low until kale has wilted. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Serves 4
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Thai Style Cabbage Salad

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Sometimes serendipity, just like creativity, is born out of confinement.  Such was the case of my lucky dessert yesterday.  I was craving a good creamy bowl of yogurt, but was out.  I thought about making some but didn’t want to wait 8 hours and then remembered I’d need a little yogurt to start with in order to make more anyway. Lately I’ve been finding it hard to come across plain full fat yogurt at your average supermarket.  There are either flavored ones or plain ones with 0% fat, which to me taste too bitter.  I perused the refrigerator and came across some nice whole ricotta.  I decided to combine a small portion with some Dutch cocoa, chia seeds and a drizzle of honey.  Boom!  It was so creamy and perfect. Often when I experiment like that, I end up shrugging my shoulders and giving myself an A for effort while quickly tossing the creation in the garbage, but yesterday was lucky and the dessert satisfied my craving.

The eponymous salad of today’s post was also fortuitous to a similar degree.  I had a large bag of carrots on hand and had been wanting to try a Thai-inspired dish.  What I was really thinking about was this beautiful meal of duck with peanut sauce that I ate at a Thai restaurant once, but I definitely did not have a duck sitting in the kitchen.  This salad had to suffice and it did so wonderfully.  It was so refreshing and tasty and nutrient-packed.  I could eat bowls of it.

Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Peanut-Carrot Spread and Beets

Ingredients

6 large carrots, peeled
1 head green cabbage
4 beets, boiled and sliced
2 limes
1/2 cup peanuts
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 knob of ginger (about 2 inches long)
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp turmeric
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Blend the carrots in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Chop the ginger and add it. Squeeze in the juice of two limes and add the peanuts, vinegar and hot sauce.  Blend till everything is combined.
Cut the cabbage until shredded. Lay the sliced beets on the cabbage and give the salad a good dollup of the carrot spread. Sprinkle with turmeric. Enjoy!

Serves 6

The carrot spread is great to make by itself and use as a dip for other vegetables.
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Soup for What Ails You

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Sometimes in the quiet of the evening when its very cold outside and you’re very tired and when the world seems heavier than usual, the best thing to do is to keep busy and make a pot of hot soup.  Maybe there really is something medicinal about it, not just in the steamy spoonfuls, but also in the preparation.  The laying out and washing of the vegetables, the perfunctory repetition of the chopping on wooden cutting boards, the whispery snaps of the parsley and cilantro leaves being separated from their stems.  This is not a soup that needs measurements or precision.  It will take anything you have, and requires that your senses be the judge.  If the smells are inviting and the broth is full-flavored and wholesome, and the stiff vegetables have yielded to release their bite, its time to fill your bowl.  Pots of soup were being made since humans first walked the earth, and the world still turns.

Ingredients:

Whatever is available.

In this case:

A few chicken bones and some chicken breast meat
2 tsp Hungarian paprika  🙂
1 tsp celery salt
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp oregano
2 large carrots
1 turnip
1 parsnip
1 can stewed tomatoes (you can use fresh, but the ones sold in wintertime do HUGE injustice to the perfection of the tomato when its in season)
small bunches of cilantro and parsley
3 big handfuls of kale
2 tsp salt, or however much you prefer
1 onion

Put the chicken bones and meat into a pot of water and set on low heat. Chop the vegetables and add everything in. Let it simmer until the vegetables are tender.

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Quinoa Bean Wraps

While I was living and studying in Lebanon, I didn’t cook much despite the whole new world of dishes and spices and preparation methods I was exposed to.  I was lucky enough to eat my daily share of home-cooked meals, mostly prepared at the skilled hands of the sister of the woman I lived with.  I won’t go into Lebanese cooking or mealtimes right now, because the memories I have are so many and so precious that I won’t be able to stop.  Also, the ache of missing my adopted Lebanese family is still too raw to express.  I will mention a simple little technique if you will, that I picked up during my time.  Salads are part of virtually every Lebanese meal, whether it’s a big bowl of fattoush or tabouleh, or a plate of endives with hearts of palm and mushrooms and asparagus.  And the salad is usually served alongside large leaves of romaine or something of the sort, which you can use as a vehicle for the salad in lieu of a fork.  I don’t know why, but I loved that concept and loved that the salad was extra filling when eaten with more lettuce.  Since the salads are so packed with flavor, the raw lettuce leaves also help offset the punch of the zesty seasonings.  This way of eating is something I also appreciate about Kenyan cooking, where many of the meals are eaten by hand with ugali, a thick cornmeal substance whose mildness complements the rest of the courses.

Anyway, since I’ve been back, I find myself using food as a vehicle for food quite often.  Today, I had a bunch of collard greens that I’ve been eating other meals with for the past week, and I decided to use them as wraps.  They are hearty enough in texture to hold everything together, and really do the trick of counterbalancing their fillings.

Quinoa Bean Wraps

Ingredients

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8 large leaves of collard greens, rinsed with stems removed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked pinto beans or canned refried beans
2 large carrots
1/2 lemon
hot sauce to taste
1 generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (probably 1-2 tbsp)
2 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp ground thyme
course salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425.°  Peel your carrots and julienne or slice them thinly.  Toss them with olive oil, 2 tsp of hot sauce, and the juice of half a lemon. Lay them on a cooking tray and place on a lower rack in the oven for 10 minutes.  Take them out, turn them over, sprinkle them with thyme, and set them back to roast for another 10 minutes.  In the meantime, slice the onion into thin circles and then cut the circles in half.  Saute them with 1 tbsp of the butter (or coconut oil) over medium heat until translucent.  Add the second tbsp of butter along with the cooked quinoa and garlic.  Lightly toast.
After the beans are cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the beans until they are mashed.  Salt them as you are blending, and add hot sauce if you prefer. You’ll want to be liberal with the salt.  I didn’t measure the amount I used, so you’ll have to go by taste.  If you’re using a can of refried beans, hold off on the salt.  Lay out the collard greens and place the beans, then toasted quinoa, and then roasted carrots on top.  Fold as you would a burrito.  Enjoy!

Serves 2 generously

The amount of filling in the wrap below was far too much to fold.  A fourth of that amount was really all I needed to fill one wrap.

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