Pasta e Fagioli

DSC01036Pasta e Fagioli (pronounced fa-jo-lee) literally means “pasta and beans” in Italian. My version of this classic soup contains meaty butter beans (large limas) and ditalini pasta in a savory tomato and vegetable-based broth. Garnish with grated non-dairy parmesan and chopped parsley. Fresh oregano leaves or julienned basil leaves are optional garnishes.

Ingredients
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 ribs celery, diced
• sea salt or kosher salt
• 4 large cloves garlic, minced
• 5 cups vegan no-chicken broth or vegetable broth
• 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes with liquid or 3 cups peeled and crushed fresh tomatoes
• 1 tsp dried basil leaves
• 1 bay leaf
• coarse ground black pepper to taste
• 2 cans (15 oz each) butter beans, drained
• 3 oz/⅔ cup dry ditalini pasta
• grated non-dairy parmesan (from my Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook or a commercial vegan equivalent)
• 2 T chopped parsley
• optional garnishes: fresh oregano leaves or julienned basil leaves

Preparation
Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and a pinch or two of salt. Sauté until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté and additional minute.

Add the broth, crushed tomatoes with liquid, dried basil and bay leaf and season with black pepper to taste. Bring to a brief boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes.

While the soup base is cooking, place the butter beans in large bowl in the sink and fill with cool water. Immerse your hand in the water and swirl the beans to loosen the skins. Work gently so as not to mash or break the beans. Let the beans settle and pour off the water which will carry away any loosened skins. Repeat a few times until most of the skins have been removed. Drain well.

After 20 minutes of cooking, add the beans and the dry pasta. Cover and simmer an additional 20 minutes; season with salt to taste.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Garnish with the parmesan, parsley and the optional oregano or basil leaves. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

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Hot and Sour Tofu Vegetable Soup

DSC00748This is my own adaptation of Chinese hot and sour soup. I’ve eaten many versions of hot and sour soup throughout my life. Some were very good while others were very gelatinous and/or so acidic that the broth burned the back of my throat. I feel I’ve struck a nice balance of hot and sour and with just enough starch slurry added to create body without being gelatinous. I broke tradition and used tender straw mushrooms rather than the tough and chewy Chinese fungus. I also replaced the bamboo shoots with bean sprouts (although you can certainly use bamboo shoots if you prefer). The tofu was shaved into fragments to resemble cooked egg. Julienned bok choy greens were added and the soup garnished with green onions and cilantro. The heat is created with a blend of ground white pepper and sambal oelek (a Southeast Asian red chili pepper sauce). If desired, shredded porq from my Seitan and Beyond Cookbook can also be added, although I omitted it here.

Ingredients for the Broth
• 8 cups water
• 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
• 3 ribs bok choy (white part only; reserve the greens for the soup)
• 2 large carrots, unpeeled and cut into large pieces
• ½ cup plus 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• ¼ cup rice vinegar
• 6 cilantro stems (reserve the leaves for garnish)
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T porcini mushroom powder
• 1 T grated ginger root
• 1 T dark brown sugar
• 2 tsp sambal oelek or Sriracha™
• 1 tsp ground white pepper

Ingredients for the Soup
• ½ block (about 5 oz) pressed extra-firm or firm block tofu (not silken tofu), shaved with a sharp knife into fragments
• 1 can (15 oz) straw mushrooms, drained and halved lengthwise
or 8 oz small button mushrooms, halved
• reserved bok choy greens, julienned into ribbons
• 3 green onions, white and light green parts sliced and set aside in 1 dish
and the greens chopped and set aside in another dish for garnishing
• 1 and ½ cup fresh bean sprouts or 1 can (14 oz) bean sprouts, drained well
• 2 T plus 2 tsp cornstarch, unmodified potato starch or arrowroot powder dissolved in ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Preparation
Add all broth ingredients to a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour.

With a spider or slotted spoon, remove the large vegetable solids and transfer to a bowl (after the vegetables have cooled a bit, the broth collecting in the bottom of the bowl can be added back to the soup pot). Discard the broth vegetables.

Add the tofu, mushrooms, bok choy greens and green onions (white and light green parts only). Bring the soup back to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

10 minutes before the soup is done, add the bean sprouts and stir in the starch slurry to thicken the soup (be sure the broth is simmering). Taste the soup and add salt if needed.

Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with the green onions and cilantro.

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Thai Yellow Chikun Curry

DSC00313Ingredients
• 4 cups vegan no-chicken broth or similar
• 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
• 1 T grated ginger
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 4 tsp yellow curry powder
• 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
• 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk (full fat; not lite)
• ½ cup green peas, fresh or from frozen
• 1 can (15 oz) straw mushrooms
• 2 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste) or other hot red pepper sauce, or to taste
• a few Thai bird’s eye chilies (optional)
• 1 and ½ cup Stewing Chikun, torn into bite-size pieces; or Shredded Chikun (both from the Seitan and Beyond Cookbook; the Soy Chikun Strips from the same cookbook can be used as substitute if desired; or simply use bite-size cubes of pressed tofu or additional vegetables if you wish to omit the chikun or tofu entirely)
• sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
• chopped Thai basil for garnish (optional)
• chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
• cooked jasmine rice for serving

Preparation
In a large soup pot, simmer the potatoes, ginger, garlic and curry powder until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth (exercise caution when blending hot liquids; place a kitchen towel over the blender lid and begin on low speed progressing slowly to high speed).

Transfer the purée back to the soup pot. Place over medium-low heat and stir in the coconut milk.

Mist a skillet with cooking oil and sauté the onions and bell pepper over medium heat until softened. Add to the soup pot. Stir in the peas, mushrooms, sambal oelek and optional bird’s eye chilies. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until the bell pepper is very tender.

Add the Stewing Chikun and simmer an additional 10 minutes; season with salt to taste. If using Shredded Chikun, stir into the curry just before serving. Garnish with the Thai basil and cilantro.

Warning: Do not eat the bird’s eye chilies!

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Gentle Chef Instant Chicken’less Bouillon Powder

This convenient, instant powder can be used to prepare a comforting and savory golden broth by the cup or the quart. This recipe yields about 48 cups of prepared bouillon.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
• 5 Tbsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ¼ cup onion powder
• 2 Tbsp organic sugar
• 1 Tbsp commercial poultry seasoning blend
• 1 Tbsp garlic powder
• 2 tsp dried celery flakes
• 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
• 2 tsp dehydrated carrot flakes (optional)
• ½ tsp ground white pepper

Preparation:
Process the ingredients in a dry blender until finely powdered; store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

For a soothing mug of golden bouillon, dissolve 2 level teaspoons bouillon powder in 12 oz. of piping hot water. Stir well. A fine seasoning sediment will settle on the bottom of the mug, so stir occasionally while sipping or simply discard the sediment after consuming.

To prepare an instant broth for soups and stews, use 1 and ¼ teaspoon of bouillon powder for each cup of simmering water, or more or less to taste. For 8 cups of broth, use about 3 tablespoons, or more or less to taste.

For a clear broth, let the prepared broth cool to room temperature and pour into a sealable container, discarding any seasoning sediment that has settled on the bottom of the cooking pot. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 10 days, which will allow any micro-fine seasoning sediment to further settle on the bottom of the container. Decant the clear portion of broth and use in recipes as needed.

Tip: Gentle Chef Instant Chicken’less Bouillon Powder is also a convenient, nutritious and delicious alternative to chicken broth served in hospitals for vegan patients restricted to a liquid diet.

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Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pepitas

DSC08735Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce adds a spicy and smoky kick to this velvety pumpkin soup. For timid palates, the chipotle pepper can be replaced with a mild chili powder.

Ingredients:
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed pumpkin* or 1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin
or 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed butternut squash
• 4 cups (1 quart) vegan no-chicken broth or vegetable broth
• 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 2 if you want to break a sweat; for timid palates omit the chipotle pepper and add 2 tsp mild chili powder)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• sea salt or kosher salt to taste
• ¼ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
• cilantro for garnish (optional)

*For fresh roasted pumpkin, cut a sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings and place the halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and then scoop out the flesh. Freeze any remainder for other recipes. Butternut squash can also be used in this recipe as an alternate to pumpkin. Simply follow the same roasting technique.

Technique:
In a dry skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat. Stir the seeds frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to a blender.

Add the pumpkin, 2 cups of stock or broth, the chipotle pepper and the cumin and coriander; process until completely smooth. Transfer to a large cooking pot and add the remaining stock/broth. Bring to simmer, partially cover and cook for 30 minutes; season with salt to taste. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with the toasted pepitas and optional cilantro.

Serve with warm flour tortillas if desired. To warm the tortillas, roll them up securely in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Chickpea Creole Gumbo

DSC08352-003Gumbo is a heavily seasoned stew-like dish that originated in southern Louisiana from the Louisiana Creole people during the 18th century. The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. Creole Gumbo interacts between all class barriers and ethnicities in the south especially in New Orleans, appearing on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. Gumbo traditionally contains spicy meat sausage, chicken and seafood; however for my plant-based version, all meat proteins were replaced with nutritious and satisfying chickpeas. Kelp powder can be added to impart a subtle seafood taste, if desired. Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.

Note: Gumbo filé, which is dried and ground sassafras leaves, is an ingredient sometimes added to gumbo (but I did not include in this recipe). It imparts an earthy flavor and is also used to thicken the gumbo. After consulting a chef colleague from New Orleans who specializes in Cajun cuisine, she informed me that the filé is purely an optional ingredient. In restaurants it is often contained in a shaker on the table which gives the diner the option to use it as desired. For the cook, filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season.

Ingredients:
• ¼ cup cooking oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• ¼ cup vegan butter or margarine
• ½ cup all-purpose flour (or rice flour for gluten-free)
• 8 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 cups water
• ⅓ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
(use wheat-free tamari or Bragg’s for gluten-free)
• ¼ cup vegan Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tsp browning liquid (optional; to enrich color)
• 1 tsp liquid smoke, or more to taste
• 1 can (14 to 15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice or 2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
• 3 cups frozen sliced okra
• 2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 3 and ½ cups cooked chickpeas
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp kelp powder (optional)
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
• 1 bay leaf
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
• 4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts
• ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley plus chopped leaves for garnish

Technique:
Prepare your mise en place (assemble and measure all ingredients).

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add the butter or margarine and stir until melted. Sprinkle in the flour, stir to combine and cook until the flour emits a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.

Incorporate the water in increments while stirring vigorously. Stir in the tamari, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, tomatoes with liquid, okra, chickpeas, thyme, optional kelp powder, cayenne and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat; partially cover and simmer for a minimum of 1 hour. While the gumbo is cooking, prepare white or brown rice, your choice, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Five minutes before serving, stir the green onions and parsley into the gumbo (reserve a little for garnishing). Add salt, black pepper or additional cayenne, kelp powder and/or liquid smoke as desired to taste. To serve, place a scoop of white or brown rice into serving bowls and ladle in the gumbo. Garnish with green onions and parsley.

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