Mexican Red Quinoa Soup

soup 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

veggies 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.

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Red Lentil Chard Soup

red lentil chard soupI 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
Olive oil
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.

The Big Freeze

photo 4-17 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!

photo 2photo 3Gearing 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.