Chickpea Noodle Soup

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I can’t explain this midsummer soup that I made at the end of a July heat wave, except by saying, “sometimes you just need comfort food.”

It was the end of a long, stressful day and I needed a quick late night dinner. Although it had been 90 degrees that day, I really wanted soup. So I scoured the pantry and fridge and came up with almost all of the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, except for chicken. No problem, I thought. I had chickpeas.

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Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind (yet). I am aware that chickpeas are nothing like chicken, and I know that just because an ingredient sounds like another, that does not mean they taste the same. However, I needed some protein and chickpea noodle soup just sounded so right that it couldn’t be wrong.

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I used a vegetable soup base blend that I had picked up from the frozen vegetables section, and I think the okra in this blend really helped to thicken the soup. I also added some texture by tossing a third of the chickpeas into the food processor before adding them to the soup. The noodles and legumes were very filling, and the veggies made me feel like I had made a semi-healthy meal choice.

If you just can’t bear the thought of hot soup in July, or you think it’s a waste to use canned and frozen ingredients in the middle of the best season for fresh produce, I get it. Really I do. I’ve eaten a fresh tomato sandwich for dinner the last two nights in a row so you know I appreciate what’s coming out of the dirt over what’s coming out of the can right now. But at least toss some fresh green beans and okra in the freezer now and bookmark this recipe, because if you aren’t ready today, I think this is just what you’ll be looking for in January.

Chickpea Noodle Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb frozen vegetables (I used a vegetable soup blend that included carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, okra, peas, celery and onions)
  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend (optional)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent.
  3. Add vegetables to pot, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Divide chickpeas into three equal portions. Add one third of the chickpeas to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.
  5. Add whole and chopped chickpeas, broth, and 1 cup water to pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add noodles and the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, then cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
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Three Sisters Soup

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I recently discovered the “three sisters” on a trip to Charlottesville. About two months ago, on one of many wedding-planning trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains, we stopped into Revolutionary Soup near the downtown mall. I had heard great things about Revolutionary Soup and I had been meaning to try it for years. On a gorgeous September day in Charlottesville with my parents and Kyle, I finally had the opportunity.

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Revolutionary Soup has an extensive menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. There is also a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I was impressed by the selection of local beers and ciders. Kyle had a matcha (green tea) flavored soda that he is still talking about, two months later. I think one of Kyle’s greatest regrets in life is not writing down the name of that soda.

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One thing that really impressed me at Revolutionary Soup was this giant diagram that illustrated all of their local vendors on a map of Virginia. This is definitely a feature of my fantasy restaurant now.

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I chose a tofu wrap and a small Three Sisters Soup, which was one of the seasonal specials they offered that day. I had never heard of “three sisters” before, but I learned that the term refers to the trio of squash, beans and corn. Native Americans grew the three crops together, using a technique called companion planting, because each one benefits from the other two. Not only are they a great combination in the garden, but they also taste wonderful together. The soup was a total knockout and I knew I would have to replicate it at home.

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While I was picking up a few things at the grocery store later that week, I saw a giant bin of fall and winter squash. I couldn’t resist taking home this Turks Turban squash. I had never seen a squash like this before, and although I knew nothing about how to prepare it or how it tasted, I decided this would be the squash for my Three Sisters soup. Cutting and seeding it was really difficult due to its odd shape.

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When peeled, chunked, and roasted, the Turks Turban squash is sweet, with a smooth, dense texture. It was fun to use just for the experience and for the look on the grocery store cashier’s face when the odd-shaped squash came gliding down the belt and to her scanner. When I looked up the Turks Turban, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t have great reviews for taste. I tried it anyway and thought it tasted like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin. I thought it was great and had no complaints regarding taste. However, due to the weird shape, the peeling and seeding process was so labor intensive that it wasn’t really worth it. In the future, I think I’ll just use butternut squash instead.

Anyway, enough about the squash. This recipe is all about the soup. I have made three sisters soup three times now, with a different type of squash every time. It is delicious no matter what type of fall or winter squash you include. This soup is hearty enough to stand alone in a big bowl as a main dish, or you could serve a smaller portion with bread and a salad. It would be a nice starter to your Thanksgiving meal. A large pot of it simmered on a Sunday provides an alternative to chili for watching football, or plenty of lunches to reheat throughout the week.

Three Sisters Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups cubed, roasted winter squash
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1- 15 oz. can pinto beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic until onion is translucent.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Veggie Redux: Caldo Verde

I recently found myself in a very chilly situation.

To warm up, I made a hearty kale and potato soup. The first time I made this humble soup, I feared that it would seem too boring for my dinner companion’s taste. So I spiced it up with a fancy name and an intriguing story. I introduced the soup as “Caldo Verde, the National Soup of Portugal.”

Kyle said, “ooooooooh,” as I had anticipated. He was pretty excited to try the beloved stew of a foreign land. Hook, line, and sinker. So when I took my first slurp of this easy, hearty soup, I was surprised to find that the bowl didn’t need a worldly title to grab your attention. One taste was all it took for me to realize that caldo verde is special in its own right. Thanks to spicy, chewy soy chorizo from Twin Oaks and tender leafy kale from Victory Farms, this soup fills your stomach, warms your heart and excites your tastebuds.

This was a new product to me and I definitely recommend it. Found at Ellwood Thompsons.

I suggest you make a batch before winter gives way to spring and hearty soups play second fiddle to fresh grilled veggies. There is a time and place for everything, and right now, while there is still a little chill in the sunrise and sunset, is the time for thick potato soup with leafy greens and spicy soy-rizo. No smoke, no mirrors, just soup. Caldo. Caliente. Yum.

Caldo Verde (6 hearty servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds white or russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 pound soy chorizo, crumbled
  • 1 pound kale, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes, stock, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and cook, covered, over medium heat for one hour.
  3. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree some of the potato into the broth. Do not blend until smooth; leave some small potato pieces in the broth for texture is desired.
  4. Return to heat, add soy chorizo and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add kale and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot with crusty bread and the flair of a world traveler who is insecure about the humble beginnings of her potato soup.

Roughing It

Hi there, friends. I know I have been missing lately, but I promise I have a good reason.

and it's not just because i've been drinking wine. . . although that is one possible explanation.

Once upon a time, I had a housewarming party. And at that same time, my furnace stopped working. So you see, it’s really very simple. . .

1. Housewarming party prep = lots of cleaning, lots of decorating, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

2. Broken furnace = no heat, no hot water, no way to wash dishes, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

3. No cooking = no creativity = no posts

I really struggled there for awhile to come up with creative and healthy dishes that required one pot or less. I didn’t want the dirty dishes to pile up, so I limited my cooking. We waited patiently for five days for the parts to come in to repair our furnace. One particularly cold day, we got our first real snow of winter here in Richmond.

And we had no heat! The thermostat inside my home read 47 degrees F when I woke up the next morning. I spent the morning bundled up in three hoodies, then went to a friend’s house to shower, and then I decided to get cooking.

I had to use the heat from the oven and stove to heat up the house, so I baked a lot of cookies and made some slow-cooked soups on the stove top. I could not properly clean the dishes until the hot water was back on a few days later, but this soup was worth dirtying a pot and ladle.

I will post the recipe later this week – I know this one’s a keeper.

Here are some other ideas I had for one-pot wonders while we were “roughing it” inside our own home.

Now that we are finally getting back into the swing of things, I promise I will catch you up on my kitchen adventures soon, with a recipe for Caldo Verde by the end of the week. In the meantime, I would love to hear your suggestions for one-pot meals and hearty soups while there is still a little chill in the air!

Pumpkin Chili

The weather is getting cooler and football season has begun, which means it’s time to break out the chili pot. I celebrated the Ravens’ victory last week with a big bowl of slow simmered pumpkin chili. The addition of pumpkin, cinnamon and white hominy to this vegetarian chili added another dimension of flavor that I really enjoyed. The hint of spice and squash made this the perfect pairing to a Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale to toast to the win.

Regardless of which team you support, whether it be pro football, college football, English Premier League, or your kids’ soccer team, this chili is a crowd pleaser when it’s cold outside and you have cheering to do. Even if all you are cheering for is “more pumpkin!” I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • large onion, diced
  • bell pepper (any color; I used orange), diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes with jalapenos (or chiles for a milder flavor)
  • 1- 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1- 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1- 15 oz can white hominy, drained
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1- 15 oz can pumpkin (plain, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large chili pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add onions and peppers and saute until onion is translucent and fragrant. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 more minutes.
  3. Add chili powder and cumin, stir to coat and cook for 30 seconds while stirring.
  4. Add cinnamon, tomatoes, beans, hominy, tomato juice, and pumpkin. When it starts to simmer, turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
  5. Serve with toppings: sour cream, cheese, cilantro, green onions and tortilla chips are all great options.

I served mine with pumpkin ale and cornbread muffins.

Every time I have this meal, the song “Beans and Cornbread” starts playing in my head. Remember that theme song from Dinner and Movie on TBS? Am I the only one who hears this song every time cornbread is near?

Farmers’ Market 5.14 and Spring Supper

Okay so I didn’t actually visit the 5.14 farmers’ market. I have been out of town every weekend for the last month, so I haven’t made it to the Saturday South of the James market yet this season. I have been visiting the Byrd House Market on Tuesday evenings on my way home from work on the Market Mobile.

This week’s finds were actually picked up on 5/10. Check out my loot!

  • Herb fettuccine (Bombolini Pasta)
  • Salad mix (CSA)
  • Red Russian kale (CSA)
  • Easter egg radishes (CSA)
  • Broccoli (CSA)
  • Carrots (CSA)
  • Tomatoes (local greenhouse/farm)

Has your local farmers’ market opened yet? I am so excited when fresh local produce starts flooding the markets and I really enjoy learning about all the ingredients I have never used before. One thing that has helped me embrace seasonal cooking and figure out what to do with all those odd fruits and vegetables is the book Simply in Season. I use this cookbook more than any of the 32 other cookbooks that I currently own.

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Last week I picked up some beautiful produce at the Byrd House Market and made a delicious spring supper to celebrate the beginning of the market season. We had an arugula salad with fresh strawberries and goat cheese, and asparagus soup from Simply in Season.

I don’t want to post the recipe from the copyrighted book here, but I found that if you Google “simply in season asparagus soup” you can find plenty of others who have. The only substitutions I made were subbing leeks for the onion and a few splashes of half-and-half for the dry milk powder. Isn’t this a beautiful shade of green for the spring?

The salad recipe is all mine, so here’s what I put in the mix:

  • fresh arugula from Victory Farms CSA
  • fresh sliced strawberries from the farmers’ market
  • crumbled goat cheese from Bucherondin De Chevre (I highly recommend that you try this kind if you can find it)

  • Pine nuts
  • Giada de Laurentiis for Target Raspberry Vinaigrette

Combine all the ingredients, toss and serve.

I suggest that you dine al fresco and pair with a bubbly bottled pilsner or a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc.

Vegetable Dumplings Part II

In my last post I discussed my first experience making vegetable dumplings.

Here’s the post.

Here’s the recipe.

We’ll call that the trial run. Now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.

Hot and Sour Vegetable Won Ton Soup!

To make things even more interesting, I created this dish as the prelude to a meal that featured all dishes I had never made before, and I made them without recipes. Crazy! That’s right, despite being a meticulous planner in general, I pulled this one off on the fly. I must have been drunk or something. Whatever it was that got me into this Top Chef elimination challenge mood, it was delicious.

I have to be honest, I am kind of proud of myself. I experiment and create recipes all the time, but to turn a few random ideas into a three-part meal with no cookbooks, internet, or backup plan, it felt like I was doing a trapeze routine without a safety net. And I didn’t fall!

How'd that paw get there? Izzie must have been checking out the fare.

Unfortunately I did not write down any recipes, but I think I can tell you how to make the soup. You might just have to figure out the measurements on the fly until I can recreate this dish with a pen and paper nearby. Now without further ado, the meal. We started with the hot and sour vegetable won ton soup and then we enjoyed spicy baked tempeh over a bed of sesame ginger slaw.

So you want to know how to make the soup, huh? Well here’s a story about the soup but you really can’t call it a recipe. Here’s how it all went down.

First, start with a bag of broccoli slaw, like this one. This is going to be the filling for your dumplings. Heat a little oil in a pan and when it’s hot, add the broccoli slaw (not the whole bag, just enough to make as many dumplings as you need) and cook over medium heat until tender. Meanwhile, whisk a little cornstarch (1 teaspoons?) into some soy sauce (1/8 cup?). Add to the veggies and cook until sauce thickens, a few minutes. Ta-da! Filling.

When the veggies have cooked and cooled a bit, open a package of won ton wrappers like these. Follow the package instructions to fill and fold the won tons. I used about a teaspoon of filling per wrapper and then folded each in half into a triangle, sealing all of the edges, and then folded the two longer ends together so that the side of the triangle with the original fold was bent in half. This method keeps the won tons together better. Make as many dumplings as you think you will need in your soup.

Now for the soup part. Heat vegetable broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add black pepper and spices as you see fit. When the broth starts to boil, add the dumplings to the soup. They will cook in less than 5 minutes. While the dumplings cook, add the following ingredients to taste: soy sauce, sriracha chili sauce, rice wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper if needed. That’s it!

The best part about this soup is when you cut into the dumplings with your spoon, the filling spills out into the soup. You can’t help but to fill the broth with tasty shredded vegetables, which enhances the flavor and texture of the soup. It is seriously fun to eat!

Because of this meal, I have decided to “wing it” a lot more often. But next time I promise I’ll write down the recipe, so you won’t have to “wing it” too.