Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beans'n'shoots make for a great soup!

Finally, it feels like summer out here! The weather over the last couple of weeks has been sheer bliss - warm and sunny, clear skies ... can't help but walk around with a smile :)

So, what else is awesome right now? The bounty that is coming from my veggie patch! Everyday yields a handful of tomatoes, a slew of greens, some squashes, maybe some chard, a motley assortment of herbs, all goodness! And today, as I was puttering around the patch, fighting those damn slugs, Alice Waters came to mind. Funny how I often think of some of my favourite chefs when I'm down and dirty in the veggie patch :)

So, with Alice on my mind, I ended up grabbing a slew of pea vines - I've eaten these in salads at several restaurants, but never cooked them up, so today was going to be a first - *so* exciting! Vodka didn't quite share the excitement - I couldn't quite get him to nosh on a few leaves. He cocked his head with the "You're crazy!" look and ran off to get his ball :)

Chez Panisse Vegetables has a killer recipe for a Pea and Pea Shoot Soup - except I didn't have enough peas to make this :) So, I went with fava beans instead (sadly, frozen, but they tasted pretty good!) and decided to let the soup stay thick and smooth instead of straining it.

[I feel like I'm tainted for life - as much as I absolutely *love* fava beans, I can't think of them without remembering Hannibal Lecter's quote from Silence of the Lambs! *grrrrr* ... and no! I refuse to quote it here :) ]

Fava Beans and Pea Shoots Soup
Green is *good*!

Servings: 2

1/2 large red onion

3 cups shelled fava beans

2 handfuls pea shoots

10-12 leaves of spanish mint

4 cups of water (or 2 cups stock + 2 cups water
1 t olive oil
1 t ghee (clarified butter)

salt for seasoning

freshly ground pepper
grated aged cheddar for garnish

Peel and thinly slice the onion. Heat the olive oil in a pot and saute the onions till translucent.

Add the mint and saute for another minute.
Throw in the fava beans along with 2 cups of water/stock and cook partially covered, on medium, for 6-8 minutes till the beans are cooked.

Set aside a few pea shoots for garnish and toss the rest into the soup. Cook for a few more minutes till the pea shoots are wilted before taking the pot off the heat.

Once the contents have cooled a bit, puree the soup to a relatively smooth consistency - the pea vines may still remain stringy/chopped up, that's totally fine - it actually adds a neat texture to the soup.

Season with salt and a slew of freshly ground pepper!

Heat the ghee in a pan and lightly saute the leftover pea shoots till wilted.

Ladle the soup into a bowl and garnish with the crispy pea shoots and some grated aged cheddar cheese.


We wolfed up this soup with some toasted whole wheat pita bread - an earthy and chewy complement to the fresh, smooth soup. The fava beans lent a creamy, nutty flavour to the soup. And the pea vines made it taste really fresh - all that green goodness!

Ok, so this *has* to go to the current edition of Weekend Herb Blogging (Kalyn's brainchild) - hosted this week by Zorra from Kochtopf - thanks to both of you for starting/hosting this event!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Magical 'shroom soup

Well, hello! Magical 'shroom catch your eye? :)

As tantalizing as that sounds, we're really talking about the soup here. Fabulous tasty mushrooms that made for a magical soup!

So, the mushroom love is stronger than ever around here - even Vodka is on mushrooms now! His holistic vet suggested, no, insisted that he start consuming a medicinal mushroom mix - beefs up the immune system, restores body balance, support natural killer cell activity, all that good stuff. In fact, there are volumes of research about medicinal mushrooms here, here ... and here. I'm sure there are a zillion other sites out there talking about similar stuff.

So, I'll eventually get around to talking more about holistic meds and pooches and immunity and chinese herbs and all that good stuff pretty soon. In the meantime, let's just focus on this simple and delightful mushroom soup :)

Deborah Madison has a yummy Cream of Mushroom Soup recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone - sounded a tad bit heavy, so I decided to rework it a bit. Obviously, the white mushrooms were replaced by criminis - so much richer and earthier, don't you think? And the cream was quickly replaced by some fabulous Quark.

Quark is pretty prevalent in Europe, but is still hard to come by in the U.S. Luckily, for us in the Pacific Northwest, we have Appel Farms in Ferndale, WA - they sell their Quark at PCC. This midly, creamy curd cheese is so flavourful and makes for a fabulous cheesecake [take that as an impending recipe warning! :)] Plus, Vodka is pretty much hooked onto it, what with its high protein content and anecdotal cancer-fighting properties when combined with flax-seed oil [take that an impending pooch-nutrition blog warning!]

Finally, a handful of fresh herbs perfectly complimented the 'shroom flavours and balanced out the earthiness.

'Shroom Soup with Curd Cheese
'Creamy shroomy goodness!

Servings: 4-6

1 lb crimini mushrooms
1 t butter
1 cup chopped leeks
4 garlic cloves - chopped
4 sprigs of lemon thyme - stripped from the stems
1 T flour
1 quart of water (OR water+nonfat milk OR mushroom stock)
1/2-1 cup nonfat Quark cheese
Finely chopped parsley and chives
1 T goat cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix up the goat cheese with the chives and parsley and set aside while the soup is being made. This gives the goat cheese enough time to absorb the flavours of the herbs.

Coarsely chop the lot of mushrooms, after setting a few aside for garnish (if desired).
Melt the butter in a soup pot and lightly sauté the leeks, garlic and thyme in it for a few minutes.
Throw in 1/2 t salt and 1/2 cup of water and cook covered over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Raise the heat, throw in the chopped mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Now, stir in the flour, add the water (or stock) and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 15-20 minutes.

Coarsely puree the soup, return it to the pot and stir in the Quark cheese. Season with salt and pepper while keeping the soup warm.

If you set aside some mushrooms for garnish, now is a good time to sauté them over high heat in a bit of butter - it should take 4-5 minutes for the mushrooms to get colored and mildly crispy [this is seriously tasty stuff!]

Check for seasoning before serving topped with the herbed goat cheese.


A plain-looking soup that explodes with flavour! I can see this being a great winter warmer when made with cream, but the lighter, thinner version was the perfect warmer for a rainy Seattle evening :)

I'd love to say I grew the mushrooms, but I obviously didn't! But I did get the chives and parsley from my veggie patch! Which means I get to ship this post off to Wiffy of Noob Cook for this round of Grow Your Own [that happy event started by Andrea!]