Heirloom tomatoes come in an array of colors and flavor profiles, and while they are often typecast as a summer cold salad ingredient, they also cook down into a wonderful homemade marinara that bursts with rich juicy flavors. The pale yellow and striped bright orange heirlooms in particular have a low-acid, mildly sweet flavor with a soft meaty texture and when pureed with tiny sweet orange cherry tomatoes along with the humble sweet onion you get this golden rich and creamy tomato sauce that is totally addictive. If you are growing your own heirloom tomato garden in the summer this is a perfect recipe to show off your beautiful bounty. Fortunately even here in the Midwest you can get your hands on a multitude of tomato varieties even in the winter. Interlace your gold tomato sauce with spicy red pepper flakes and fresh cherry tomatoes and basil leaves for an elegant yet simple pasta dish.
- 2 lb golden heirloom tomatoes, diced into large wedges
- 1 pint orange cherry tomatoes, whole
- 1 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 sweet yellow onion, slivered
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 pinch chili flakes
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 lb spaghetti
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat a large sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onion with olive oil until translucent. Add the minced garlic then mix in your heirloom tomato variety and your orange cherry tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover with a lid for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not be tempted to add liquid as these tomatoes will collapse and release sweet concentrated tomato juice for an incredible sauce. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to directions. When tomatoes are cooked down, use a hand blender to puree into a hot soup or ladle into a blender to process. Toss your pasts to coat with sauce then garnish with your fresh basil, red pepper flakes and cherry tomatoes.
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
In preparing for the Thanksgiving week of feasting, I recently found an absolutely addictive and delicious vegan version of a white bean, kale and sausage soup recipe from Veggie Society using puréed acorn squash and leek as the broth base, and I have happily made four times already! Like me, most people are familiar with sweet roasted butternut squash tossed with fall spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but to my surprise the acorn squash purées into a very smooth and surprisingly buttery soup base with a mild sweetness which pairs really nicely with fresh Italian spices like rosemary and thyme. I love the simplicity of cooking with ten ingredients or less, and I especially love a good soup to stock up the fridge all week, and this is one is going to be my new standby this year!
- 1 acorn squash, seeded and diced into chunks
- 1 bag or bunch of Tuscan kale, chopped
- 15 oz can Cannellini beans, extra can if you like it chunkier
- 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 1 package of any vegetarian Italian sausage (we prefer Trader Joe’s brand but also enjoy Lightlife brand), sliced
- 2 TB Better Than Bouillon soup base OR 10 cups vegetable broth
- 1 TB fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 TB olive oil
Sauté leeks with olive oil and garlic in a soup pot on medium heat until wilted and started to caramelize. Toss in acorn squash along with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves then add vegetable broth or 10 cups water with Better Than Bouillon and stir everything together. Once boiling, turn down to simmer and let cook for 25 minutes, or until squash is soft. Remove bay leaves then use hand blender to purée everything into a very smooth thick consistency. Stir in the beans, sausage and kale, then let simmer for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. According to original recipe your can also add lemon, red pepper or liquid smoke for additional flavor. So easy!
I often make grilled vegetables for the week to enjoy with pasta or salad, but it never occurred to me until this week to puree those grilled vegetables into a soup base and then pour that over a grain base to make a yummy stew. WHOA MAMA! Imagine the possibilities. It all started with this amazing recipe for a Mexican flavored vegetable soup with quinoa from Reboot with Joe which I altered slightly just because it is literally impossible for me to make a recipe without changing it somehow just for the hell of it. And now that the seed has been planted, I am definitely going to experiment more with spices, flavors and grains. This soup is hearty, sweet and spicy, and makes a nice substitute for the usual chili.
MEXICAN RED QUINOA SOUP
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 jalapeno chili peppers
4 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
3 tomatillos, peeled
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cups organic vegetable broth
4 green onions, sliced
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked red quinoa
sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Discard all stems and seeds from the peppers (if you want it spicier leave in jalapeno seeds). Roughly chop field peppers and onion. S[read whole garlic in peel, whole tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, onion and peppers onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until pepper skin is soft, about 15 minutes. While roasting, heat broth in pot. Remove baking sheet from oven. Peel garlic and place all vegetables into broth, and add half of the corn and beans. Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Add remaining corn and black beans, stir, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over bed of quinoa and garnish with chopped scallion and cilantro.
I never thought to pair the strong flavour of spicy cinnamon with tangy lemon, let alone in a savory soup dish. But since discovering this zesty recipe for Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I am now a believer. Ottolenghi intrigues me as a chef because he is known as a champion of vegetable-based dishes even though he is not a vegetarian. He blends the ingredients of his native Israel with unexpected flavours from the Middle East and East Asia in a very unapologetic and bold way, and many of these recipes can be made with 10 ingredients or less which I especially love. One simple pasta recipe in his famed vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” calls for the home cook to “roughly tear” mozzarella into the pot rather than the traditional “dice” or “cube”. Now that’s my kind of cooking!
This surprising dish can easily be made in one soup pot and a saute pan, and I have changed it up from the original recipe to remove the butter as I didn’t find that it made a huge impact on the overall flavor of the soup, and I thought it would be best showcased as an upscale vegan dish. I have also removed a few steps from the original recipe to simplify the preparation. I imagine you can spend $15 for a bowl of this soup at one of his upscale London restaurants, but you can make a huge pot for the same price at home and it would be a great dinner party opener.
RED LENTIL CHARD SOUP
7oz Red Lentils
8 cups water
2 Red Onions chopped finely
1lb Swiss Chard, leaves roughly chopped and stalks chopped the same size as the onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
scant 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, whole or crushed
Juice of 3 lemons
A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Rinse the lentils well and place in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes; removing any scum that rises to the surface. While the lentils are simmering, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute for 3-4 minutes. I like the crunch of whole coriander in a dish, but crushed seeds would probably be more palatable. Then add the red onions and chard stalks and cook until they start to brown. Add theis mixture to the pot of lentils. Using a hand blender, pulse the soup in the pot for 20-30 seconds until it is partially pureed but still has some nice chunks from the chard and onions. Add about two handfuls of chopped chard leaves and stir well, then add the cinnamon and cumin and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently heat the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Finally squeeze in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the soup infuse with the flavours for another few minutes before serving with a lemon wedge and some cilantro leaves. It is best served with a side of sourdough bread.
-17 degrees Fahrenheit is no fun! For only the second time in the almost 15 years that I’ve lived in Chicago, the city has shut down and people are barricading themselves at home. Chicago’s a tough city, but this is ridiculous. Yet somehow, I look out my window and there are still folks walking nonchalantly down the street and waiting at bus stops for buses that surely are not coming as the street is no longer visible. There are children happily holding hands with their daddies as they get dropped off at the daycare across the street, while Asher meanwhile kicks and screams as we wrap him in a blanket like a burrito and strong daddy has to carry him the one block distance which feels like a mile and he screams at the top of his lungs that he doesn’t want mommy’s scarf. People are posting videos all over Facebook of what it looks like to toss a cup of boiling water into the air as it turns to hot mist. I get it people, you’re not deterred by this weather. But you know what? I prefer to stay indoors. Tent forts have been our preoccupation this weekend for Everett, and Asher’s exploratory nature has taken him throughout the house pulling out old toys and making collections of like objects. Our heaters have been bumped up high enough that Asher came into our room last night at 1:00am asking for a cup of water because his room was hot. I don’t care!
Gearing up for the Big Freeze of 2014 naturally took us Costco. Last Saturday, Asher adamantly pushed the over sized shopping cart through the television aisle dazing at the large screens proclaiming that this is where the eggs are kept, and then happily declared “They have couches here too!!!” We busied ourselves in the cafe with pizza and churros, and then spent nearly $200 on nothing. Yes, I have enough toilet paper, paper towels, and coffee creamer to get us through this Apocalypse. But somehow we got home and I felt like I didn’t buy anything of substance or nutrition. Well, I did get a pineapple.