Think outside the soup: non-standard vichyssoise

May 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm (AMA, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, French, Meyer & Romano, My brain, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

When I was growing up my mom would often make a vegan version of vichyssoise. It was a simple soup made with unpeeled potatoes from her garden, leeks and onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. I always enjoyed it, even without the typical additions of butter, cream, and chicken broth. I ate vichyssoise both cold and warm, and only found out last weekend that the name vichyssoise actually refers only to the cold soup. Warm potato leek soup apparently is given a different name.

After seeing nice-looking leeks in the Saarbruecken market last week, I thought it would be nice to make a spring vichyssoise as one course in our Saturday night dinner party. Although the leeks looked good, all the potatoes in the market appeared to be from last fall; they were all shriveled and starting to sprout. My friends Spoons and Kathy suggested I use celeriac instead, since the celeriac looked very fresh. I was hesistant, as I thought that celery root would be a very strong flavor to replace the normally quite mild, earthy potatoes. But they insisted that celeriac can be used anywhere you use potatoes. (I have no idea where the celeriac or the leeks were from, but assumed they weren’t local to Germany in early May.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple Napa Stir-fry

May 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm (Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

I’m quite terrible at making stir-fries: I always go overboard and try to include too many different vegetables and flavors, and I end up with a mushy, overcooked, bland mess.  I went searching for some vegetables for dinner at the local grocery store in Saarbruecken last week, and the only thing that looked remotely fresh was the napa cabbage.  So I bought the cabbage and some ginger and scallions and whole wheat pasta and figured I’d make a quick stir-fry for dinner.  I wanted tofu as well but couldn’t find any, so bought eggs instead.

I started boiling water for about 1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta.

Meanwhile, I chopped up garlic, ginger, scallions, and the napa cabbage. I worked with what I had in the house and made a simple stir-fry sauce with some water, soy sauce, and honey.

After the pasta went into the boiling water, I started the stir-fry. I fried up two eggs in a stainless steel skillet with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then cut the fried egg into strips with a pair of kitchen shears, and set the egg aside. In the same pan I sauteed some garlic and ginger with a little olive oil and chili flakes, then added the chopped napa cabbage.  When the white, crunchy part of the cabbage just started to get soft, I removed from the heat and tossed in the cooked pasta, the scallions, the egg strips, and the sauce.

The stir-fry definitely turned out better than previous attempts.  The napa stayed crunchy, the ginger flavor was strong but not overpowering, the egg provided a savory element, and the scallions and pepper flakes provided just a hint of heat.

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Thai spinach soup

May 7, 2008 at 3:46 pm (Dark leafy greens, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, unrated)

I made a raw spinach pasta sauce for dinner the other night, but overestimated the amount of spinach I’d need.  I used the extra blended up spinach to make this thai-inspired soup.  I didn’t measure any of the ingredients so this is more of an idea than a recipe per se

  • fresh spinach, cleaned, large stems removed, blended raw with water til its smooth
  • coconut milk
  • ginger (I put mine through a garlic press)
  • garlic, pressed
  • finely minced lemongrass (I used a store-bought almost-paste, that left no stringy bits in the soup)
  • soy sauce
  • ground coriander
  • ground cumin
  • salt
  • something spicy, perhaps a fresh green chili with the seeds

The soup came out rich, but very tasty.  I used a little of the coconut milk to saute the ginger and garlic, then I added more lemongrass and a few spoonfuls of spinach, with the lemongrass, soy sauce, and dry spices.  When all the flavors were developed I added the fresh spinach and brought it carefully up to temperature.  If it gets too hot or cooks too long you’ll lose that bright green color.  I left mine sitting on the stove for a while and it turned a bit more brownish rather than the original bright green, but was still tasty.  The ginger and lemongrass and coconut milk were the strongest flavors.  If I had kaffir lime leaves, I would have added a few of those as well.

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