Ever since we learned our granddaughter has an egg sensitivity, we have been eating more plant-based and vegan meals. Recently I discovered a really great website, A Couple Cooks. Sonja and Alex, the authors of this blog have some terrific ideas for meals – some vegan, some vegetarian, some whole food – as well as other information about travel and lifestyles.
As I write this post, we are feeling the beginning effects of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Massachusetts. We are hunkering down so as not to contribute to the spread of the virus, and so a little comfort food seemed in order. This tuscan bean soup was warm and comforting and easy to make. The only change needed was to substitute celery for fennel due to being unable to purchase fennel when I shopped. Still delicious!
Tuscan Soup With White Beans
Recipe from A Couple Cooks website
- 1 bulb fennel
- 2 bunches Tuscan kale or other dark leafy greens
- 2 15-oz cans cannellini beans
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or canned broth)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Pecorino cheese to garnish (optional)
- Chop the fennel bulb (reserve some springs for a garnish). Wash and roughly chop the kale. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat, the saute the fennel for 5 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes with their juices and simmer for 8 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth, water, and cannellini beans. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and add the red pepper flakes, dried basil, smoked paprika and kosher salt.
- Add the kale and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with grated Pecorino (if not going vegan) and fennel springs.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts a few years ago and, to say it was life-changing is mildly descriptive to say to least. Since then, although I don’t always cook or eat as healthy as I should, I do like browsing through Kripalu’s kitchen recipes for ways to counteract some more unhealthy habits.
This green soup seemed a winner from the first read. Packet with veggie power, it is filling and cleansing – a great way to get back on the path toward making healthier eating choices. And should you find yourself near Western Massachusetts, be sure to treat yourself to some time a Kripalu Center.
(Take Ellen Casperson’s advice: feel free to use whatever proportion and variety of green vegetables you prefer)
- 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock
- 4 cups broccoli crowns and stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 stalks fresh celery, chopped in 1 inch pieces
- 4 cups fresh spinach or other greens
- 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock (added to get a consistency you like)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- Salt to taste
- Fresh lemon
- In a medium saucepan, combine water, vegetables, black pepper, and tumeric. Bring to a boil.
- Turn heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft (but not mushy). Take pan off heat and blend mixture until smooth using an immersion blender.
- You can add more water here to achieve a thick but not gloppy consistency. Add salt to taste.
- Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon
When I make soup, it very often is a vegetable-based soup. Here’s a creamy – without the cream – soup that is a welcome variation on carrot-based soups. This one uses carrot, cauliflower, and light miso to blend together. It made a satisfying weeknight dinner soup. Take Melissa Clark’s advice: don’t let the recipe hinder creativity: this is a basic roadmap for infinite variety.
Now what else to serve? Wine of course! I chose a Ceretto Arneis, a selection from our Wine Club (notes below the recipe) to pair with the soup.
Melissa Clark for NYTimes.
- 1 TBSP coriander seeds
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 medium carrots (1 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups). (I used a variety of carrots, purple, yellow, white, orange)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 TBSP white miso (I used yellow miso because I had it – no harm, no foul)
- 1 small (or half a large head) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 TBSP lemon juice (I used more)
- Smokey chile powder (for serving)
- Coarse sea salt (for serving)
- Cilantro leaves (for serving)
- In large dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar & pestle and coarsely crush (or use the back of a spoon on a chopping board – just crush them)
- Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in onion; cook stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups water to the pot. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the soup from heat. Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.
Ceretto Langhe DOC Arneis, 2016
We joined Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese’s Wine Club last summer and honestly, we have been delighted by some exceptional wines. I don’t think we’ve had one bottle in the last 6 months that we did not love.
The Ceretto Arneis is one of those finds we never would have considered on our own. It has a minerally freshness with a slight sparkle that, now that I’ve discovered it, I know I’ll be returning to. The Arneis grape, grown in the Piedemonte region of Italy, were near extinction in the 1960s. Luckily they’ve been rescued! For tasting notes from the vintner and more about this wine, click here.
Looking to expand your exposure to some terrific wines? Check out Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Wine Club here.
One of the best things about travel for me is getting ideas about ramping up our food game. Last week, we were in New York City and landed a reservation at Bar Boulud. The prix fixe for the night included a bowl of chilled pea soup which was simple, fresh, and stunning. And no, that’s not the wine talking! This recipe from Mark Bittman reaches back to when he wrote the Diners Journal for the NYTimes comes very close; the flavoring at Bar Boulud was rosemary infused, but either rosemary or tarragon as suggested in Mark Bittman’s recipe makes this a great summer-time soup to start off a meal, or on its own.
Our reason for traveling to NYC this time was to see the Irving Penn Centennial exhibit at the Metropolitan. If you have a chance to get to NY before the show closes on July 30, 2017, by all means go! It is an amazing and inspiring show of Penn’s personal projects and more commercial endeavors.
Possibly the Best Pea Soup – Mark Bittman, NYTimes
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely sliced shallots
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound shelled fresh sweet peas (I used WFM frozen; not a fan of shelling peas)
- 1/2 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon*
- 1/2 TBSP salt
- Pinch pepper
- 1/4 cup half and half or light cream
*If adapting for Bar Boulud version, experiment with fresh rosemary here
- Heat olive oil in soup pot. Add shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until shallots are just wilted. Add 3 1/2 cups water, bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for 1/2 hour.
- Add peas, tarragon, salt and pepper and bring back to boil. Turn down heat and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cook to room temperature. Puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Force through fine sieve into clean pot, discarding small amount of pea skins left in sieve. (I used my handy stick blender and left the skins in. They were pulverized and added a bit of texture to the soup)
- Stir in half and half and add salt if necessary to taste. Can be reheated and served hot or chilled and served cold. (Top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives if you want to fancy this up)
Living in a diverse community such as Lowell, MA, I sometimes find that I’ve taken for granted all of the ethnic flavors that are available to us here. With one of the largest Southeast Asian populations in the United States, we’ve been so fortunate to experience some fantastic foods and flavors, and even the mainstream grocers carry many ethnic foods.
This curry-flavored soup comes from Vegetarian Times, one of my favorite sources for non-meat based meals. The magazine encourages cooks to substitute whatever might be available for both the cauliflower and green beans; however, in the dead of winter, access to either of these veggies in not a problem. In almost all cooking, I use either olive oil or coconut oil; I substituted the coconut oil for canola in this recipe.
- 1 TBSP canola oil (I substituted coconut oil)
- 12 oz cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (3 cups)
- 4 large green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
- 1 TBSP Thai red curry paste
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes in their juice
- 3/4 cup light coconut milk
- 6 oz green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used thawed frozen beans)
- 1 TBSP lime juice
- Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and white parts of green onions. Saute 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to brown. Add curry paste, and saute 1 minute more.
- Add broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and green beans , and simmer 5 minutes, or until beans are tender.
- Stir in lime juice and remaining green onions. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Note: the nutritional information for each serving (6) can be found on Vegetarian Times’ webpage for this recipe.
It’s cold and damp and definitely a good night for soup! This recipe comes from Whole Foods Market. No kale, no problem – I used spinach in place of the kale this time around.
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 TBSP)
- 1 1/2 cup shredded kale (I used baby spinach)
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- Heat a sauce pot over medium heat until hot. Add cumin and toast 1 minute or until aromatic. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown and stick to the pot, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and cook 2 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Add lentils, broth, 2 cups water, coconut milk and lemon juice; bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in kale and salt.
Adapted from Whole Foods Market Quinoa Vegetable Soup.
Having adopted more mindful eating this year, I’m always looking for satisfying soups and salad mains that don’t load on lots of calories. This soup, courtesy of Whole Foods Market, not only makes use of more seasonal vegetables (like turnips), but is quite tasty – and low in calorires (110/cup). With a 20-minute cook time, it comes together quickly.
- 1 TBSP expeller pressed canola oil (I use olive oil)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large turnip, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (I used red quinoa for variety)
- 4 cups low-sodium beef broth (vegetable broth substituted)
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
- In a large sauce pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic and cook 6-8 minutes or until golden and soft. Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper, turnip, quinoa, broth, 1 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley.