New England “Clam” Chowder

As the weather has begun to cool down at last in North Carolina, I’m finally ready for soups and stews again. Time to try Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ vegan take on clam chowder from Isa Does It. I’ve never had clam chowder, so I really have nothing to compare the recipe to. But I suspect this does not taste like clam chowder. Isa uses mushrooms and seaweed to add an umami and fishy flavor. I’m not sure I got enough of that though, as the flavor was a bit on the dull side. I suspect the seaweed and mushrooms weren’t in the broth long enough to give all their flavor. On the other hand though, I thought the potatoes were too soft, so I wouldn’t want to cook for any longer. I did use kombu instead of nori. I’m not sure if nori wouldn’t have given a lot more flavor since my seaweed knowledge is on the lighter side.

The recipe does have the requisite creaminess, thanks to cashew cream. But I found that the broth to veggie ratio was off. I ended up adding 2 cups of extra liquid, which seemed about right.

I’m non the fence about whether I will make this again. But if I do, I’ll tweak several things:

  1. I’ll make special vegetable broth for the dish that includes sewaeed and dried mushrooms in it to up the sea flavor factor without overcooking the veggies.
  2. I’d use 4 cups of vegetable broth when I put in the potatoes instead of 2.
  3. I’d only cook the potatoes for 7 minutes instead of the 10-15 called for in the recipe. I prefer my potatoes to still have some bite to them.
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Cold Noodles with Tomatoes

It’s cherry tomato season in my garden. So when I saw this recipe in the New York times for a cold noodle soup with oodles of cherry tomatoes, I was intrigued. I added marinated Asian tofu from Veganomicon to add some protein.

The soup was very easy to make, but underwhelming. I didn’t like the flavor of the broth, though I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with it. I won’t make this again.

Hot and Sour Soup

I’d never tried Hot and Sour Soup because usually at restaurants it’s not vegetarian. I’ve always wanted to try it though, so I was excited when I found this recipe from The Woks of Life.

The hardest part of making this recipe was finding the ingredients. I’d never cooked with a number of them, including dried spiced tofu, lily flowers, and wood ear mushrooms. I spent a really long time wandering around my local asian market looking for the ingredients. It took me a particularly long time to realize that dried spiced tofu would be in the refrigerated section with the regular tofu.

Once I had all the ingredients, this was really easy and quick to make. And quite tasty. My only issue was that it was a bit too spicy for me. Next time I made it I’d half the white pepper called for.

Creamy Vegan Potato-Leek Soup

I already had all the ingredients required for this recipe from Isa Does It, so I decided to try it. It was pretty easy to make. The recipe tells you to mash the potatoes after cooking them with a potato masher. But I don’t have a potato masher, so I took out about 1/3 of the cooked mixture and blended them with the immersion blender. It left so potato lumps in, but overall the technique worked alright.

I enjoyed the soup, but it also wasn’t anything special. It was about as good as any potato leek soup I’ve tried. So if you particularly need a vegan version of this classic, this is a good option. But if not, maybe just stick to a standard recipe.

Kabocha Udon Winter Stew

I’ve had Veganomicon for years, but have never made any of the soup recipes in the coobook. However, recently I’ve had luck with the soup recipes in my new Isa Chandra Moskowitz cookbook Isa Does It. So I thought I’d go back to Veganomicon and pick out some soup recipes to try. I started with this recipe for a Japanese-style broth with squash, udon noodles, and tofu because the picture in the book makes it look so appealing.

I used butternut squash instead of kabocha, since I had trouble finding kabocha. Isa says to cook the squash for an extra 15 minutes. But I think this was too long. The squash ended up a little overly soft. I think I would recommend reducing this to an extra 5 minutes.

The broth in the soup was pretty good. My main problem with the recipe was textural. Everything in it was mushy. The only thing chewy was the mushrooms, and there were only a few. The recipe says to cook the noodle as instructed on the package, but this was a mistake because they ended up overdone in the soup. If I made this again I’d undercook the noodles by 3ish minutes to maintain some texture. I’d also double the mushrooms. But I doubt I’d make this again. It just wasn’t good enough.

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=481294

Wild Rice Soup with Browned Seitan Strips

For my birthday this year my friend Ellen got me a new Isa Chandra Moskowitz cookbook called Isa Does It. I’ve been very excited to try some recipes from the book. One of the first recipes I picked out to try was this recipe for soup with wild rice, white beans, and seitan. It stood out to me since I have been looking for more wild rice recipes and I really like seitan.

I used the seitan recipe in the book instead of my usual Simple Seitan recipe from Veganomicon. The seitan didn’t come out as well as it usually does. It was more loosely structured and spongy. In the future I’ll stick with my usual seitan recipe.

I enjoyed this recipe and it was indeed easy to make. It was flavorful and the seitan made it feel like more of a treat. However, I thought it had a bit too much rice and not enough broth. Next time I’d use 3/4 cup of wild rice instead of 1 cup and 7 cups of broth instead of 6.

Aguadito

I was intrigued by this recipe for the popular hangover cure soup from page 99 of The Peruvian Vegan Cookbook. I liked the idea of a cilantro broth. And the potatoes and peppers in the picture looked so hearty and satisfying.

The recipe warns that the soup should be eaten immediately after making it, because it thickens with time. I actually didn’t have the thickening issue. However, I did find that the soup was much tastier the first night I made it. I suppose with time the cilantro looses some of it’s flavor. If I was rating it from the first niht, I’d give this recipe an A-. It was so flavorful unique, and satisfying. But the score dropped on the second day. Still good, just not quite so flavorful.

Overall, I found the potatoes in the recipe were a bit bland. I think I could enhance the second-day flavor of the recipe by using broth instead of water, which is what this recipes called for. I’m going to try making it again with a high-flavor broth and see if I can up the second-day flavor factor. Overall, even with that issue though, it was very good.

Butternut Squash Soup

I got this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Butternut Squash Soup off of my sister’s blog. She really likes it. I used 2% milk instead of cream. I’m really not sure what to think about the recipe. On the one hand, the first time I tasted the soup I really liked it. The flavor was rich and complex. On the other hand, I had to force myself to eat it for the rest of the week and didn’t end up finishing it. I’m not sure if it’s the recipe or if I just don’t like butternut squash soup that much.

Vegetarian Pho

I fell in love with pho while living in D.C. A restaurant called Pho 14 in Columbia Heights serves a delicious vegetarian pho made with a broth made from fuji apples. After I moved to North Carolina I found myself craving that pho and unable to find anything like it. Most pho restaurants that attempt a vegetarian pho broth use something that tastes like mock chicken broth to me. Not at all what I was missing. I decided to try to make it myself. I started by googling “fuji apple pho recipe”. This took me to this blog https://southofparadise.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/vegetarian-pho-with-homemade-fuji-apple-broth/. The person writing it was in the same position as me. Trying to recreate a beloved restaurant meal without any recipe. Using this recipe as a starting place, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe for the last five years, adding in some elements from this recipe when it was published a few years ago https://food52.com/blog/19080-how-pho-genius-andrea-nguyen-makes-a-richer-vegan-broth.

Here is the result.

Broth:

7 Fuji Apples (cut in half)

2 Carrots

1 Onion

3 celery stocks

10 peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

3 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

2 cloves

  1. Put all the ingredients into an instant pot or a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Fill it up with water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
  3. Cook on high (if your slow cooker has settings) for 10 hours

The idea behind this broth recipe is to make a concentrated broth so that it can be stores easily or combined with boiling water for a hot bowl of pho without having to microwave the broth. I put the broth in jars in the freezer and enjoy pho all season without having to constantly make more broth. I find that the right combination of water to broth is 1/3 broth 2/3 water.

Once you have the broth made, there’s only one more thing you need to make ahead of time before you’re ready for an almost instant delicious weeknight dinner: the tofu. I played around with various options for recreating the delicious deep fried tofu found in pho restaurants. I’ve actually decided that the best no deep-fry option is to bake the tofu. The tofu comes out crispy and tough. It’s not the same as restaurant tofu but it gives me the same textural satisfaction in the bowl. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit
  2. Cut a block of medium tofu into 2/3 inch squares
  3. Put 1 tsp of canola oil on a cookie sheet and spread it around.
  4. Put the tofu on the cookie sheet and spread it around flipping it on all sides to make sure all sides get coated in oil
  5. Cook the tofu, flipping it halfway through, until all sides are golden.

Now you’re ready for almost instant weeknight pho. Here’s how I do it. The proportions are for 1 large bowl of pho.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of pho broth, left out to room temperature

1 cup Broccoli, in bite size pieces

1/2 Carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 Dried mushroom, in bite size pieces

1/2 cup Vermicelli rice noodles

1/5 block cooked tofu

Basil

Bean sprouts

Siracha

Hoison Sauce

Lime or lemon juice

  1. Boil 3 cups of water (I do this in a kettle)
  2. Put rice noodles into a heat-proof large bowl or pot, breaking them up so that each piece is 2 inches long
  3. Add the veggies to the bowl
  4. Add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the bowl
  5. Once the water is boiling, pour it into the bowl with the noodles and veggies
  6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until everything is soft
  7. While ingredients are soaking, boil another 1 1/3 cup water
  8. Put the soft veggies and noodles, along with the tofu, into the bowl with the broth
  9. Pour in the boiling water
  10. Add lemon juice, hoison, siracha, basil, and bean sprouts as desired

Yam and Peanut Stew with Kale

I love peanuts. I love kale. And I love a rich, hardy one pot meal with enough flavor and textural interest to keep me eating happily all week. West African Peanut yam stew with kale tics all those boxes. Which is why it’s a go to for me in the winter. The trick is to add the kale after the soup is turned off so it keeps its texture and color.

https://food52.com/recipes/19854-yam-and-peanut-stew-with-kale