Pasta e Fagioli

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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

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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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Coq au Vin, Vegan-Style

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DSC00440Coq au Vin consists of tender chikun simmered in a luscious red wine sauce with mushrooms and pearl onions and garnished with parsley. Serve over cooked eggless noodles. This recipe yields about 4 servings.

Ingredients
• 1 recipe Chikun Drumsticks or Tenders (from the Seitan and Beyond Cookbook)
• 6 T Bacun Grease (from this blog)
• 8 0z cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
• 1 and ½ cup pearl onions, thawed from frozen
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• 2 cups dry red wine (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot)
• 2 cup chikun simmering broth (reserved from preparing the chikun)
• 6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
• 1 bay leaf
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• coarse ground black pepper to taste
• chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Preparation
Prepare and refrigerate the drumsticks or tenders according to the directions in the recipe. Reserve 2 cups of the simmering broth for the sauce.

Add the bacun grease to a deep non-stick skillet and place over medium heat to melt. Brown the chikun in the hot grease and transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet, sauté the pearl onions and mushrooms until the onions are translucent and golden and the mushrooms have rendered their liquid. Sprinkle in the flour and mix well. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes to eliminate the raw flour taste.

Incorporate the wine in increments while stirring. Stir in the broth and add the chikun, thyme, bay leaf and salt; season with black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to reduce and thicken the sauce. Season the stew with additional salt to taste and remove the thyme stems and bay leaf before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley after plating.

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Thai Yellow Chikun Curry

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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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Chilled Greek Garden Soup

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DSC09239-001Chilled Greek Garden Soup is a delightfully refreshing spin on the classic Greek salad. This recipe yields about 6 servings.

Soup Ingredients
• 2 cans (28 oz. each) whole peeled tomatoes with liquid
• 1 large cucumber
• 1 small red onion
• 1 red bell pepper or large sweet red pepper, chopped
• 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 T red wine vinegar
• 1 T sherry vinegar or dark balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper, or more to taste

Garnishes
• thinly sliced cucumber
• thinly sliced red onion
• fresh marjoram leaves (optional)
• pitted Kalamata olives, halved
• micro greens or baby greens of your choice, such as arugula
• crumbled Mediterranean Feta (from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook)

Preparation
Thinly slice several cucumber rounds with the peel intact. Set aside for the garnish. Peel the remaining cucumber, cut in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Chop the cucumber and add to a blender.

Thinly slice some of the red onion and set aside for the garnish. Chop the remaining onion and add to the blender. Add the chopped red bell pepper.
Add one can of the tomatoes with liquid to the blender. Add the olive oil, vinegars, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Process the mixture until smooth and transfer to a large sealable container. Add the remaining tomatoes with liquid to the blender and pulse a few times until puréed but chunky. Stir the chunky tomatoes into the soup mixture in the container; season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled to blend the flavors.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and top with the garnishes. Serve with toasted pita wedges if desired.

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Matzo Ball Soup

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DSC09142-002Matzo is a traditional Jewish unleavened “bread” or cracker. Matzo balls are comprised of matzo meal, which is basically matzo crumbs. In traditional cooking, matzo balls (which are essentially round dumplings) require eggs as a binder. So, I challenged myself to create matzo balls without any binder at all and I’m actually pleased with the results.

If you’re expecting fluffy matzo balls similar to the egg-laden version, you may be disappointed. In order to hold them together without binders, semolina flour is used in a 50/50 ratio with the matzo meal. Semolina is a coarse golden flour derived from durum wheat and is used in making pasta and couscous. The semolina makes them a bit more dense than traditional matzo balls, with an ‘al dente” texture (matzo enthusiasts would label them as “sinkers” since they do not float like fluffy matzo balls).

The matzo balls are served in a “no-chicken” broth flavored with thyme, parsley and a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions; simple and yet delicious. This recipe yields 6 medium-size matzo balls and about 1 quart of soup.

Ingredients of the Matzo Balls
• ¼ cup matzo meal
• ¼ cup semolina flour
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• ⅓ cup water
• 1 T mild cooking oil (plus 1 tsp for the mixing bowl)

Ingredients for the Soup
• 6 cups vegan “no-chicken” broth
• 1 large carrot, sliced
• 1 large rib celery, sliced
• 1 small onion, peeled, thinly sliced and then chopped
• ½ tsp dried thyme
• 2 T chopped curly parsley
• coarse ground black pepper to taste
• kosher salt, to taste as needed

Technique
In a mixing bowl, combine the matzo meal, semolina and salt. In a small cup combine the water and oil. Pour the water and oil into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Form the dough into 6 walnut-size balls. Add 1 teaspoon cooking oil to the mixing bowl and roll the matzo balls in the oil until evenly covered. Cover again and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil in a cooking pot. Carefully lower the chilled matzo balls in the boiling water. Reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer and cook for 12 minutes. When done, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl to cool. Cover and refrigerate for several hours until well-chilled. DO NOT omit this step.

Bring the stock, carrot, celery and onion to a boil in large cooking pot. Add the thyme, cover and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chilled matzo balls to the soup, cover the pot and continue cooking for 40 minutes. The matzo balls will swell slightly during cooking.

Stir in the parsley and season with pepper and additional salt as needed to taste.

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