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Posts Tagged ‘Soups’

Ginger, garlic, and chile are the foundations of this simple soup. I used chipotles that were pre-cooked in adobo sauce, but you could use other peppers if that's easier for your. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

What’s that old saying?  “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

That’s what this week feels like. Here I was with big plans to do the following:

  • A thorough, if late, deep housecleaning to prep for Persian New Year (Nowruz).
  • Batches and batches of cookies baked (and photographed and blogged about!)
  • To send out some of said treats as gifts.
  • A delicious Persian New Year feast over the weekend.
  • Oh, and to teach just shy of 20 classes. . .
  • . . . AND to serve as a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding this weekend.

Yeah, right. That sound you hear? That’s the Universe laughing at my plans.  Loudly. I’m laughing now, too, at myself for thinking I could get all of that stuff done, even under the best of circumstances. You see,  I started feeling not so great late last week, and haven’t been quite able to shake the feeling since. So I scaled back on my ambitions, focusing on resting and working and, quite frankly, just getting through the week. (Don’t worry, I don’t teach with a fever and I’m not doing adjustments this week just to be on the ultra-safe side).

I have so much garlic around my place. It's slightly ridiculous, and no, I don't fear vampires ;-) Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

I also threw everything but the kitchen sink (and the doctor) at this annoying bug. You name it: Vitamin C, immune supplements, kombucha, juices, garlic, ginger, spices, cake, sleep, TV, movies, tea, menthol, baths, books, carbs, probiotics, Swedish bitters, and probably at least a half-dozen more things.

It’s been quite stubborn. Very strange, considering I’m rarely sick.

On the positive side, I did make a soup that truly helps me feel better. I breathe deeper and feel less achey when I eat this. It’s super simple to make, otherwise I never would have made it. Ha! It’s not Persian, not even Middle Eastern. It IS good, though, and I’m so grateful for the simple healing powers of ginger, garlic, and chili. When tossed in my slow cooker, they created some kind of magic:

Spicy Soup with Ginger, Garlic, and Chili Pepper

Ingredients

  • 1 chunk of ginger, peeled (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • As many garlic cloves as you want, peeled (I did about 5)
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (can sub other chiles if that’s easier for you)
  • 1/2 medium onion, in chunks
  • 32 ounces chicken or veggie broth
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup of baby carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (14-16 ounces)
  • Slivered scallions for garnish (optional)
  • Avocado as a topper (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin (optional; if you don’t use chipotles in adobo, use some cumin to pick up that smoky flavor)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a blender, combine ginger, garlic, chili, onion, and broth. Blend until smooth.

2. Pour mixture in a slow cooker. Add potatoes and carrots, and cumin, if using. Stir. Cook for 4 hours.

3.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste and adjust seasoning (the broth can be salty, so make sure to taste first before adding salt)

4. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with scallions and/or avocado chunks.

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Avocados are the foundation for today's recipe, a smooth, cooling, and creamy no-cook chilled soup.

Ahhhh summer. The ice in your tea glass melts instantly.  When your inner warmth might just start to feel more like a raging fire inside. And yes, when tempers (and sometimes complexions) flare.

Can you tell summer isn’t my favorite season? ;-)

I suppose I’d like summer much more if I had a cool mountain cabin, or a beach house, or a luscious, breezy  island to escape to. But, alas, I don’t. At least not yet! What do I have instead of a quiet, soothing getaway? Two busy jobs in a sometimes hot, sometimes fetid, and always crowded city.

Enjoying a cooling and refreshing green smoothie, something I do a lot these hot days.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful for my work, enjoy New York City much of the time, and am not immune to summer’s charms. Free concerts in the park, the occasional beach day, the ice cream truck’s passing jingle.  It’s just that for me, making it through the season is a bit of a project. I thrive more in fall, spring, and to a lesser degree, winter. I find winter’s chill refreshing and invigorating, but I don’t necessarily long to spend days on ski slopes or anything like that, if that makes any sense.

For all of the above, I blame/credit my dosha. I’m a Pitta, with a bit of Vata and an even tinier dash of Kapha thrown in. Dosha, you say? Is that some sort of wrap sandwich? Nope, it’s actually our individual constitutions, according to Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga. Constitution meaning things like energy levels, temperament, skin tone, and body type. Curious to know more? Click here for a quick, easy, free dosha test.

So, with my dosha in mind, one of my strategies in the summer consists of  enjoying yet more smoothies, minty teas, cold, crisp salads, and cold soups. Today’s cooling avocado soup is the perfect antidote for those occasions when you’d like a velvety, cool soup, but prefer not to cook. I served it recently at my Bollywood themed dinner party. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy.  The version I’m sharing today has a bit of a Persian flare, because I added in fenugreek.

And, full disclosure, this is an adaptation of a recipe I got from my new favorite spa/holistic clinic, Pratima, right here in New York City. I just started going there this past week, and already am seeing improvement from my seasonal eczema and breakout flareups. Pratima herself literally wrote the book on Ayurvedic beauty, and uses a holistic, natural approach to healing the skin and entire body. Go see her if you’re in New York. Her presence is powerfully calming and reassuring. If you’re not in NY, never fear; she does phone consults. And no, they did not pay me or compensate me in any way for the enthusiastic shout-out. It comes from my heart :-) They have no idea I even have this here blog.

Ok, so now for the recipe, with my slight tweaks:

Chilled Avocado Soup

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Erica Corte, Ayurvedic therapist and jewelry designer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 2 cups fresh carrot juice
  • 1 kirby cucumber, skin on, halved
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Braggs’s amino acids
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Celtic or sea salt to taste

Directions:

Put all the ingredients,  in a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade. Blend or process until contents are smooth. Season to taste with salt and cover. Chill in a refrigerator for 20 minutes before enjoying. I served mine straight from the blender (classy, I know ;-) ), but feel free to transfer your soup to a serving bowl.

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One pot lentil stew with chickpeas, spinach, carrots. My retreat Yogis loved it. It's easy to fix, and it tastes better after a day.

Today’s recipe is one of the very first I got good at cooking, back in my teendom days.  It’s simple, flavorful, and packed full of fiber, protein, iron, and B-vitamins, to name just a few. We’ve had some unseasonably cool days here recently, and settling down in the evening with a big bowl of this stew is oh-so-comforting.

My sister, Mona, left, and I head out for a day of sightseeing and Yoga, with lentil and chickpea stew waiting for us at home upon our return.

Good news: this dish tastes better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two. Love that! This stew was a big hit at the recent Yoga retreat I hosted, and I promised to post the recipe. I also promised my college student sis, Mona, that I’d post this so she can make it up ahead of time and have it on hand for her busy weeks of school and work. So here goes:

One Pot Lentil Stew and Chickpea Stew

Ingredients:

Olive oil

1 medium onion

2 large carrots

3-5 large garlic cloves

3 teaspoons each of cardamom and coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 scant teaspoon cumin

1 scant teaspoon allspice

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

1 ½ cups lentils (brown or yellow preferred)

4-5 cups filtered water

1 28 ounce can of peeled, whole tomatoes

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

14-16 ounces cooked chickpeas (either canned or pre-cooked)

2 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

1.       Heat olive oil over a low flame in a large soup pot. As the oil heats, peel and chop the onions and carrots.

2.       Raise the heat of the pan to medium. Add the onions and carrots and stir well to begin cooking them. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until softened.

3.       Lower the flame to low. Add the garlic and spices and stir well. When the spices’ aroma begins to bloom (in about 30-60 seconds), remove the pan from heat immediately and turn off the heat. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute more.

4.       Add the lentils, canned tomatoes, cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and water to the pot. Break up the tomatoes and stir everything together really well.

5.       Return pot to burner, and bring to a boil. Once stew is boiling, drop the flame down to low and cook for 20-30 minutes more, or until both carrots and lentils are tender.

6.       Add the pre-cooked chickpeas. (If using canned, be sure to strain the liquid and rinse the chickpeas).

7.       To finish, turn off the flame and add the spinach. The residual heat will wilt the spinach, leaving it a bright green color without overcooking it.

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Warm, soothing Persian-inspired barley soup is incredibly easy when you use a few smart shortcuts-- a slow cooker and a simmer sauce. A mere cup each of lentils and barley makes a huge pot of soup. Enough for several people to enjoy, or enough for leftovers.

Most days, I do my best to cook from scratch. But some days, I do take shortcuts. I’m only human, and life gets hectic sometimes.  If it comes down to a meal prepped at home that’s not quite from scratch or some pricey, possibly nutritionally questionable takeout, I’ll generally choose the first option.

Not only is home-prepped food better for  our budgets and bodies, it’s comforting to the heart and mind as well! Oh yes, I’m well aware that some days, nothing tastes quite as comforting as some questionable takeout. ;-)  I’m a New Yorker after all! Takeout is a big part of our go-go-go culture as a city. But we’re talking most days here.

Sometimes I do use simmer sauces, like the ones pictured above. I read the labels carefully to make sure there aren't any nasty ingredients inside--like corn syrup or other weird additives. Photo courtesy of SFGate.com

My go to items on non-scratch cooking days? Canned beans (thoroughly rinsed, of course). Canned or jarred tomatoes. Stocks and broths from a carton (low sodium). Sometimes I even use simmer sauces. Yes, simmer sauces–think marinara sauce, but from pretty much any culture you can think of.

Flipping through the channels recently, I noticed a show where chef Todd English traveled to Southern Thailand. The food and the scenery looked amazing. What struck me the most, though, was that there were entire markets devoted to curry pastes. Essentially Thai simmer sauce starters.

Thai spice vendor. Image courtesy of AllAboutPai.com

Red pastes, green pastes, yellow pastes. Each was gorgeous and I’m sure delicious in its own way. The curry paste markets reminded me of markets I’ve seen in the Middle East where specific spice mixes and zatars are sold. So using such shortcuts works for the Thai people, I figure it can’t be all bad.

Today’s soup is a vegan, slow-cooker Persian Barley Soup. It’s not based on any specific recipe. My friend Nedarah sort of inspired it with her amazing Soup-e-jow, which I’ll share with you guys one day. Soup-e-jow has a lot of dairy in it, and I preferred something vegan on this particular day. So this is what I came up with with when tossing barley, lentils, a simmer sauce, a few extra spices, and some dried lemons into my crockpot.

Creamy, comforting, and filling, but not in a heavy way.

It has a soothing mild flavor and a creamy texture. If there is a Persian soup that’s similar to mine with a specific name, please feel free to leave a comment to give me the heads up. Speaking of heads up. . .

Heads up: a mere cup each of lentils and barley might not  look like enough when you are fixing this soup. Trust me, it IS enough. The barley almost quadruples in size, and the lentils puff up quite a bit too before they disintegrate into a gorgeous mustardy yellow color. Same thing with the liquids–it might seem like too much liquid at first. But trust me, the barley will soak up the veggie stock and water like a sponge!

Vegan Persian Barley Soup in a Slow Cooker

Ingredients:

1 cup of red lentils (rinsed)

1 cup of pearled barley (rinsed)

1 small onion, finely diced

1 potato, diced (okay to leave peel on. I usually do!)

1 large dried lemon or 2-3 small, pierced (a.k.a known as limon Omani)

1 garlic clove, grated or in small pieces

1 Tablespoon turmeric

1 Tablespoon ground fenugreek

3 Cups vegetable stock (low sodium)

2 1/2 cups filtered water

1 Tablespoon Saffron Water (a few pinches of saffron dissolved in hot water and set aside in your fridge to store. Take this out and measure out a tablespoon of it for your soup)

8-12 ounces tomato-based simmer sauce of choice  (I used 8 ounces Seeds of Change Organic Jalfrezi Simmer Sauce; I would have used the entire jar, but wanted to save some of it for another use)

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh chopped herbs of choice for garnish (cilantro, parsley, dill are some possibilities.)

Directions:

1. Toss all dry ingredients into a large slow cooker (mine is a 5 1/2 quart beast). Stir thoroughly. Add liquids. Stir again.

2. Cover and cook for at least 4 hours on high, 8 hours on low. Adjust seasoning to taste and top with chopped herbs of choice when serving.

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Ahhhh winter. In New York City, it’s finally here. November 2009 was the 7th warmest NYC November on record, so the recent dip in temperatures feels even more dramatic, if entirely appropriate.

Soups are a favorite food of mine at any time of year, but in the winter, they taste extra cozy and inviting. Today’s Velvety Chickpea Soup is a winter favorite in my home.


Velvety Chickpea Soup made in a slow cooker. So simple!

I love chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans. They’re so versatile, filling, and high in fiber and protein.  They’re a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern food. Chickpeas are a staple in my kitchen. In fact, I made this soup from staples in my pantry. It’s simple, flavorful, and comforting. It’s one of those recipes that tastes even better after a day. The spices are key to its bold, warming flavor. Feel free to make a big ‘ol batch of it and enjoy it throughout the week.

Velvety Chickpea Slow Cooker  Soup

Serves 6-8

1 pound organic dry chickpeas

1 small onion

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

2 large garlic cloves

1 teaspoon of coconut oil or neutral cooking oil of your choice

Spice blend: Mix together 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, fenugreek, plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and  1 Tablespoon tumeric

1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, diced.  (An 8 ounce can of whole or diced tomatoes could work here as well)

1 large carrot

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups of fresh, washed spinach leaves

Optional: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or flat-leaf parsley for garnish (or a mix of the two)

Directions:

1. Soak dry chickpeas overnight or do a quick soak. To quick soak, place chickpeas in a large pot. Pour in enough water to just barely immerse them. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn it off and remove the pot from the heat. Let soak for one hour. Soaking ensures the chickpeas will cook evenly.

2. Warm oil over medium heat. As oil warms, dice the onion and carrot. Cook onion in the oil for 3 minutes, turning often. Add in the garlic and ginger, and lower heat to low. Cook for another minute. Then add half of spice mixture, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently to ensure spices don’t burn. This process brings out the flavor of the spices. Remove from the heat.

3. Drain water from soaked chickpeas. Pour chickpeas into a slow cooker, and add cooked onion mixture. Add in the rest of the spices, the sundried tomatoes, and carrot pieces. Stir. Add enough water to just barely cover the chickpeas. Put in a bit of salt and pepper. You can add more later if needed. Cover with lid, and set slow cooker to desired time. (Slow cookers vary. I always set my slow cooker for at least 4 hours. Check your manual to see how long beans typically take to cook i n your cooker.)

4. Once the chickpeas are done (fork tender), you have a perfectly amazing meal or side dish without even taking this next step. But if you’re motivated and really want a velvety soup, try this: Remove 1 cup of the cooked chickpeas from the soup with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Next, blend remaining chickpeas in either a regular blender or by using an immersion blender. Add water as needed to get the desired consistency of the soup. Use less water for a thicker soup, more for a thinner soup. This is when the soup becomes velvety!

5. Place soup back in the crock, and add in baby spinach leaves and reserved chickpeas. Don’t worry about turning the crockpot back on to a cook setting–the heat will wilt the baby spinach leaves very quickly. The reserved chickpeas will provide a chunky treat against the velvety soup.

6. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve or let cool and save for later.

Tips and Notes:

1. Make extra spice mixture and save for another use.

2. The sundried tomatoes are a nice touch, but fresh or canned tomatoes will do. The tomato flavor gives the soup a richness and depth.

3. A squeeze of lemon or lime on top of the soup before serving is a nice touch, as is a drizzle of olive oil.

4. If you don’t have ground cinnamon, you can put a cinnamon stick in the slow cooker. Just make sure to fish it out before serving.

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