Brussels Sprout Bisque


I recently watched a tutorial in which Gordon Ramsay demonstrates how to make broccoli soup. Unlike many other soup or bisque recipes, this one did not involve “15, 20 ingredients…chicken stock…shallots sweating down for 20 minutes [or] half a liter of white wine”, but rather “it’s just got broccoli and water”.




Sure enough, most of the broccoli bisque or blended brussels sprout soup recipes do call for chicken stock, white wine, butter, potatoes, onions, bay leaf, half and half and/or flour. So basically, to make broccoli bisque or blended brussels sprout soup the assumption is that one must create a roux and spend hours in the kitchen. No no no this is so illogical it hurts. And Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef mastermind whose recipes are not typically hashtagged vegan, frugal, or basic seems to agree. As stated in the video, “The most important thing now, is keeping that water. That’s where all the goodness is. It’s got all the flavor of the broccoli in there”.

I planned to emphasize the importance of keeping the vegetable water, but now I don’t have to.

Chef Ramsay then said “We don’t need a chicken stock or vegetable stock. How can you make a broccoli soup with a chicken stock for god’s sake?”

My thoughts exactly.

Then he said “…this thing is great for vegetarians as well, bless ’em.”

Aha there it is…the vegetarian joke, to remind us all that the culinary world at large doesn’t take us seriously. It’s the sort of thing I expect to hear during a holiday dinner, and take with a grain of salt and/or see the humor in. It’s a rendition of what I hear at every holiday, with the exception of last Xmas (when I arrived after dinner) and the year before when I couldn’t make it due to car trouble, so I went to Chinese food with friends and ordered steamed vegetables (which is my favorite food anyway, although most people don’t believe me) or the Xmas four years ago when I had to work.




I’ve made blended soups using only 1 type of vegetable i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini for years, but never thought to share the recipe(s) on my blog because they seemed so simplistic and obvious. After watching Chef Ramsay demonstrate the recipe and explain each step in precise detail, I realized that single-ingredient blended vegetable soup can be more than a just a simple, frugal, no-frills meal or a means of utilizing the overgrowth of zucchini in the garden. With a bit of finesse, this basic soup becomes something of 5-star quality.

When I make this soup with broccoli, I boil the stalks along with the florets. I don’t see any logic in discarding them, especially in the case of a pureed soup. Also, with brussels sprouts, I typically don’t follow the convention of cutting them in half. I think the flavor improves when boiled whole, like in this recipe.

Seasoned with nothing other than bit of salt, this simple (but not simplistic) version is a ten-minute recipe that exemplifies just how easy it is to prepare healthy, crowd-pleasing meals for vegans and non-vegans alike.




You will need a pot with lid for cooking, a colander, a second pot for saving the water when drained from the cooked sprouts, and a blender.

Brussels Sprout Bisque

Ingredients

2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 cups water
salt

Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Cover, and boil for 5 minutes. Run a knife through one of the sprouts; if it slices through easily, turn off heat. Carefully pour brussels sprouts with water into a colander over a large empty soup pot. Immediately add sprouts to the blender, and add enough broth to half-cover them. Puree until velvety smooth and thin enough to drink from a mug or a jar, yet thick enough to enjoy in a bowl with a spoon. If the result is more of a puree than a liquid, add more broth in 1/2 cup increments until desired consistency is reached. Add salt to taste and blend again, if desired. Serve immediately.

brussels sprouts soup pre blend
brussels sprout bisque
brussels sprouts bisque square

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Vegan Borscht + pumpkin seed sour cream

vegan-borscht
In college I worked at a global-fusion restaurant/cafe called Pangea that specialized in soups and natural/organic/locally-sourced ingredients. *If any of you dear readers go to Ashland, Oregon, definitely eat there. It even has a collection of coffee table books for your viewing pleasure, including What The World Eats, which I consider one of the best and most culturally-relevant photo essays ever made. I would’ve written a 5-star yelp review for Pangea but I don’t know if I can; I think yelp prohibits all employees (former included) from yelping about businesses they are or once were affiliated with.
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Spicy Sautéed Kale with Lime

spicy kale with lime
I love recipe makeovers. Last week I “made over” a Julia Child recipe. This week it’s Martha Stewart. Often recipes makeovers are easy, like in this case, where I only substituted stevia for the honey and lime for the lemon.
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Petits Pois A La Francaise

green pea lettuce kale salad

I can hardly believe I’m actually attempting this recipe. Typically made with butter and chicken broth, petits pois a la francaise was never been on my list of things to veganize…until today. Continue reading

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Green Bean Salad with Crushed Red Pepper


This recipe is inspired by something I found online when I Googled “green bean salads”. I found one that had a spicy and citrus-y flavor profile, with crushed walnuts. I’m allergic to walnuts, so I used pumpkin seeds instead. Since walnuts taste semi-sweet and pumpkin seeds do not, I added 1/16 tsp stevia extract to compensate. Also, in place of red pepper-infused olive oil I topped the salad with crushed red pepper flakes (the kind generally used as a pizza topping). Unlike the recipe that was its inspiration, this one is oil-free and calls for only 5 ingredients. Continue reading

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Skinny Vegetable Tagine

moroccan vegetable tagineEnjoy the flavors of this traditional Moroccan dish, minus the fat and carbs. This paleovegan version utilizes zucchini and yellow squash instead of potatoes, cutting out a total of 250 calories (that’s 130 calories from fat and 20 carbs) per serving.

Let’s face it: the usefulness of water and a cast-iron or non-stick skillet make the need for cooking in oil entirely obsolete. Second of all, and I’m sure I’m not the first to say this: potatoes are boring. They add nothing interesting to any dish, and other less carb-laden vegetables function just as well if not more effectively in most dishes.

This recipe could also be made in a crock-pot aka slow cooker. If I still had one, I would have tried that first.
vegan vegetable tagine



Moroccan-Style Vegetable Tagine

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 carrot
½ cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used Trader Joe’s Spices of the World brand, the ingredients of which are cumin, turmeric, coriander, chile pepper, mustard, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, saffron).

Method

In a skillet (I used cast-iron, but I assume a non-stick would work even better considering the oil-free nature of this recipe) begin by sautéing the onion in 2 tablespoons water. Add more water in 1 Tbsp increments as needed. When onions begin to brown, sprinkle in ½ teaspoon curry powder. Add the chopped eggplant and stir. Continue to stir for 1 minute, adding water as needed. Fold in the chopped carrot, and continue to stir for 1 minute. Again, add water when necessary. Fold in the chopped zucchini and yellow squash. After about 1 minute, sprinkle in the second ½ tablespoon curry powder. Vegetables should be very tender but not “mushy”.




Serve atop a bed of kale, accompanied by lime slices, red pepper flakes, fresh mint, and salt if desired to add according to taste.

Nutritional Info

125 calories, 9g carbs, 0g total fat, 12g dietary fiber, 8g sugar, 5g protein, 1089mg potassium, 4% iron, 40% Vitamin C*, 20% Vitamin B6, 8% Calcium, 25mg sodium**

*Vitamin C content increases according to the amount of lime juice added
**Sodium increases if salt is added

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Eggplant-Tomato Stacks w/ Vegan Ricotta

eggplant ricotta close up

These eggplant-tomato stacks are inspired by a recipe for eggplant parmesan I found in The Meatless Gourmet, a cookbook published in ’95 by Bonnie Hinman (co-author of the Lean and Luscious book series, as indicated on the cover), a cookbook of my mom’s that for as long as I can remember has sat nestled between New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant (1987). That book always fascinated me due to its endorsement by Francis Moore Lappe (author of Diet For a Small Planet) and influenced by Mollie Katzan, founder of Moosewood Restaurant, author of Moosewood Cookbook, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Despite my infatuation with those books ever since I can remember knowing what “vegetarian” meant, as I grew older and cut out dairy, eggs, etc. I wondered why the moosewood recipes involved so much butter and cream. The book is gorgeous and deliciously vintage in terms of typography and photography; however, I always found it confusing when turing to a page that exhibited a photograph of a very thin, vibrant-looking individual (or group of individuals) riding bikes or picnicking, when the majority of recipes involved such an asinine amount of fattening diary products.




Of course, this version is vegan—and eliminates the carb- and gluten-laden breadcrumbs and the oil typically present in eggplant parmesan or similar dishes.

Eggplant Ricotta Stacks

Ingredients

1 eggplant
1 beefsteak tomato
1 batch vegan ricotta (see below)
prepared marinara sauce, optional
greens for garnish/side, optional

eggplant ricotta stacks
eggplant stacks ricotta

for the vegan ricotta
5oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp cashew butter
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 artichoke hearts (from a can packed in water)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
black pepper

Add 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water to a blender or food processor. Let sit for 2 minutes until it forms a gel.

Add the cashew butter, artichokes, lime juice, and 2 Tbsp water/brine from the artichokes. Add more water/brine if additional liquid is needed for the ingredients to blend. The result should be mostly smooth, enough to pulverize the chia seeds and artichoke hearts—with a texture that resembles a thick sauce. Set aside. Mash/crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands, to achieve a texture similar to ricotta cheese. Add the cashew-artichoke mixture gradually, and stir to combine. Cover, and set aside.




Slice eggplant cross-wise to create circular pieces of 1cm thickness. Spread pieces on a lightly oiled broiler pan or cookie sheet large enough to avoid overlap (a little overlap is ok, and probably unavoidable depending on the size of your eggplant). Broil on low for 6-7 minutes on each side, until lightly browned, turning once. As the eggplant browns, slice the tomato in “standard” cuts i.e. like the type you would find at a sandwich bar or the kind served on hamburgers.

Remove eggplant from oven. When cool enough to touch, proceed to make the stacks.

Create stacks in layers with a piece of eggplant as the base, spread the vegan ricotta, then add a tomato slice; top with another slice of eggplant, then another layer of vegan ricotta, topped with another slice of tomato. In other words: eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato, ricotta, eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato.

3 eggplant ricotta stacks

When finished, broil stacks on low for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the tomatoes don’t appear fully cooked, return to the oven for another minute or two, checking to make sure they don’t burn.

Enjoy with a side of greens i.e. baby kale (pictured) and marinara sauce for dipping i.e. the Engine 2 oil-free, no-sugar-added tomato-basil marinara sold exclusively at Whole Foods and is suddenly all the rage and I purchased in order to review it (in an upcoming post)

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Artichoke Dip with Avocado + Kale

kale artichoke dip

Inspiration behind the invention of this recipe stemmed from having a ripe avocado on hand and little more than a can of artichokes and wilted kale leaves, a fork, a couple of plastic containers, and a serving dish or two. Post recipe-development I looked throughout the blogosphere for vegan artichoke-spinach and/or kale dip. Much to my surprise I found several—some of which also use avocado as a base. Differentiating them from the recipe that follows, most call for a blender to combine all the ingredients. In my experience with developing recipes in the past, blenders don’t always function as the optimal appliance in the case of dips or any other dish for which the desired texture resembles something other than a purée. Don’t get me wrong—blenders and food processors work great in many cases, but mostly in the context of specific ingredients or single-ingredient recipes i.e. nut butters, tahini, nut and seed “milk” and “cheese”, vegan alfredo or creme/cream/crema, the mock-guac I blogged about the other day in which I substituted peas for avocado, or the recipe for raw vegan sun-dried tomato & sunflower seed pâté I created in college and would have shared the recipe for years ago if not for the fact that the nearby co-op mysteriously began to sell a pâté identical to it about a month after I invented it—which seemed very ‘twilight zone’ and seemed to border on plagiarism, yet I never shared recipe “secrets” and I certainly hadn’t blogged about it, since of course back then I only blogged on Blogger.com and god forbid, Myspace. I think I had a live-journal also, but that’s beside the point. I wonder if it still exists? Also beside the point. That said, management of one’s social-media persona has morphed into a conundrum that if not properly managed can open a pandora’s box of all the skeletons in one’s closet that suddenly grow wings and orbit your brain like flying monkeys or planets that circle the sun in an alt-universe where you are the sun and desperately want fewer planets to be your responsibility.




Now for the recipe:

Artichoke Dip w/Avocado + Kale

Ingredients

1 x 14oz can artichoke hearts
1 ripe avocado
1 lime
2 Tbsp raw tahini
1 cup baby kale leaves, wilted
cayenne, optional

kale artichoke dip with veggies

Method

Drain artichoke hearts and mash with a fork to achieve a stringy texture. Set aside. Add the avocado and mash. I used a very ripe avocado that was soft enough to scoop out from the skin very easily—so I didn’t need to chop it first before mashing. If the avocado you use feels too firm to mash easily, I recommend chopping it first. However, I don’t know how well a less-than perfectly-ripe avocado would perform in this recipe.

kale artichoke avocado dip close up

Sprinkle in the kale leaves gradually, stirring/mashing to combine with the avocado-artichoke mixture. Squeeze in juice from the lime gradually also, tasting periodically to gauge the flavor. For the cayenne, do the same. Bear in mind that some people might have a different definition of “hot” than you do, if you plan to bring it as an appetizer to a party/gathering, potluck, or food-not-bombs event. It always comes as a surprise when strangers remind me that fewer than 100% of the individuals that populate the earth enjoy cayenne added to everything.

Serve with raw vegetables, and enjoy.

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Nachos, reinvented.

vegan eggplant nachos

Before I went vegan, I recall ordering nachos once or twice a year at a gas-station-turned Mexican restaurant called Cotija in my hometown which no longer exists. That place had the best chips and salsa known to man, and seeing it close down definitely tore at my heart with an intensity I rarely feel for anything greasy or devoid of nutrients. I once tried to eat a vegan donut from Voodoo Donut on a dare, but after three bites I felt pain in the roots of my teeth from all the sugar—and to be honest, I didn’t like it. I don’t know if it stems from my early attempts to cut out any and all unhealthy foods that I didn’t truly enjoy, thereby justifying little more than dark chocolate or the “Our Daily Red” (I think it was called) sulfite-free wine that I knew didn’t exactly improve my health but nonetheless seemed less harmful and more vegan than Sutter Home.

The predominant image that springs to mind when I think of nachos hails from 2004, on a band trip to Disneyland. Or was it the Washington, D.C. trip with band? Or the D.C. trip in junior high? I can’t recall. It couldn’t have been the band trip to Spain my senior year, considering I’d transitioned to vegan in 2005. Considering how many years and repressed memories have gone by since, I don’t blame myself for melding all of them together. However, one of the aforementioned unplaceable experiences involved nachos. With olives, guac, pico, black beans, jalapeño, and of course cheese. I think (unless I dreamt this) that I convinced the group in which I shared said plate of nachos to leave off the sour cream (since I could never stand it and thinking of it now almost triggers a gag reflux).




I’ve not always liked vegan “sour cream” either, but certain attempts (for example the one served at Vita Cafe in Portland) thankfully bear little resemblance to the real thing and I must admit I really did like…

…hence the non sour cream-esque flavor of the “crema” used in the recipe that follows.

Cheers to reminiscing about band trips, with a recipe for healthy, nutritionally sound nachos:

Nachos w/ Eggplant Chips, Pea Guac, Crema + Pico

Ingredients

1 eggplant

for the pico de gallo
5 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin powder
3 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 or 1/2 lime, juiced (size can vary, so adjust accordingly)

Make the pico first, before proceeding to the chips, the crema, or the guac. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, a jar, or other container; cover, and refrigerate.

for the cauliflower-sesame crema
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup raw hulled sesame seeds, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup water
ground pepper to taste




for the green pea guac
1 lb frozen green peas
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced (size can vary, so adjust accordingly)
3/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or more to taste

Method

Slice eggplant into rounds of 1/2 cm thickness. Cut each slice into a triangular shape (to mimic the appearance of tortilla chips). Cover a large plate with a paper towel. Spread eggplant triangles in 1 layer and cover with another paper towel. Press down on the eggplant to allow the paper towels to absorb some of the water, enabling the eggplant to cook more efficiently. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare the cauliflower-sesame cream: In a blender or food processor, combine the 2 cups cauliflower, 1/2 cup soaked sesame seeds, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons lime juice, salt, water and pepper (optional). Transfer to a serving dish or container. Rinse blender or food processor to prep for the guacamole.

Transfer eggplant to a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, checking and/or rotating often. Add 1/2 cup frozen peas to an oven pan, disperse evenly, and bake for 5 minutes (while the eggplant chips continue to cook). Remove peas from oven (they should be hot but not charred) and immediately transfer to the ice bath. Strain, and transfer to the blender or food processor. Continue to check the eggplant (cook time should not exceed 30 minutes). To the blender, add all ingredients to the blender or food processor as listed above for the green pea guac. Blend until it reaches a guacamole-like consistency.

Once the chips de


velop a crisp texture, remove from oven and serve topped with the cauliflower-sesame crema, green pea guacamole, and pico de gallo.

vegan eggplant nachos (2)

vegan paleo nachos

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