Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ace's Super Soup

After making my Root Vegetable and Quinoa Soup I had become mildly obsessed with having quinoa in soup again. Not only do I really like quinoa in soup, quinoa does not take that long to cook, I have only needed 15-20 minutes of cooking time for my quinoa. I made this soup for a quick weekend lunch for myself. I called it Super Soup because I made a point to use all ingredients that are known for their nutritional power and their healing properties. Enjoy!

Ace's Super Soup

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Fresno chili or 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
1 small yam, about 1 cup, peeled and chopped
 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
6-8 cups water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low to medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, season with kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, chili, and yam. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add spices, toast about 30 seconds.
  5. Add water and quinoa, cook until quinoa is tender and you can its tails, about 20 minutes.
  6. Add spinach, stir, and heat until warm. Season with salt and cayenne to taste, if desired.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

Before I made a pot of Root Vegetable and Quinoa Soup, I oven-roasted a turnip and rutabaga, which I enjoyed with plain couscous. When I was a kid my family had a small backyard garden. One year we decided to try planting a couple of new vegetables: turnips and kohlrabi. These vegetables flourished in our little garden! Not quite sure how to prepare them, someone thought to bake the turnips and kohlrabi with butter and seasoning. When I moved out, I discovered how wonderful turnips can be stir-fried and neglected the simple oven-roasted vegetable. I was nostalgic and I made this. Enjoy!


Turnips and rutabagas ready for the oven

Oven-Roasted Vegetables, Serves 2

1 turnip
1 rutabaga
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 
  2. Peel and dice vegetables.
  3. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Bake until tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Root Vegetable and Quinoa Soup

I will not bother you again with my undying love and affection for soup. I will cut right to the chase. Root vegetable season is almost over. Then again, living in the Pacific Northwest, I may have a skewed perspective on the seasons - the tiny tips of crocuses are already peaking through the damp ground. Z. and I certainly took advantage of the season's offerings. We ate lots of parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. I had never had a rutabaga until this winter and am happy to have discovered another tasty vegetable. The flavor of a rutabaga, or Swede, reminds me a cross of turnip and carrot. By the way, these same vegetables, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas, are great in stir-fry. I think Z.'s new favorite stir-fry is parsnip, onion, and carrot drizzled with soy sauce and Sriracha.

Since I made this soup while feeling the very beginnings of a cold I went to the spice cupboard for flavorings. I used harisa, turmeric, smoked paprika, and cumin. While the earthiness of the vegetables echoes the earthiness of the vegetables, the sweetness of the carrots and rutabagas was a nice contrast. The veggies would also have tasted great with a more herbal flavor, seasoned with lots of thyme or rosemary.

From top left clockwise: harisa, turmeric, smoked paprika, cumin

The addition of the quinoa was a great last minute decision. I wanted more protein and did not feel like beans. This has been one of my favorite ways to use quinoa so far. The little seeds stayed firm despite simmering for far longer than their required cooking time. Plus, even after being frozen and reheated, both veggies and quinoa still had a great texture. Enjoy!

Root Vegetable and Quinoa Soup

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 carrots, diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
2-3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled or with skin on, diced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons harisa paste (or red pepper flakes to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
8-10 cups water or stock
  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and remaining vegetables and cook until slightly tender, 5-7 minutes.
  3. With the liquid nearby, add the turmeric, smoked paprika, harisa, and cumin. Toast the spices about 30 seconds. Add the liquid and the quinoa. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer gently until the quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black Bean-Coconut Bisque

This soup was inspired by a bowl of black bean and coconut soup the very first time I ever went to Nearly Normal's. I have not stopped thinking about this soup and finally took the plunge at trying to recreate the delicious soup. I had no idea what was in Nearly Normal's bowl of soup so I did my best at trying remake that soup. I succeeded!!!

Before I share the recipe for my Black Bean-Coconut Bisque, let me share one of my favorite memories of Nearly Normal's. I had been living in Corvallis a few months when my sister came out to visit me. For her last supper in Corvallis, I wanted to take her somewhere that was like nothing she could get in the Old Country (or Wyoming as everyone else says). I thought immediately of Nearly Normal's. Yes, it would get her out of her comfort zone (there are no dead animals on the menu) but some of the  food came in reasonably familiar shapes like burritos and (veggie) burgers.

I think my sister was immediately concerned. The sign proclaiming the restaurant's name, the only clue to the undiscerning eye that the modest two-story house we had just walked up to was indeed a restaurant. Once inside the entry way, a few boards share the daily specials or you can grab a menu, where you then walk up to the dark, wooden counter, place your order, and pay your bill. There is none of the usual bright, shiny gimmicks my sister was so used to. We could have had a seat at one of the few tables around the corner (don't run into the tree that's growing there) or upstairs where there is a lot more seating. Nearly Normal's is a favorite summertime hangout for us when we sit outside in the back shaded by lush tree branches and vines. My sister failed to see any of this. She was too distracted trying to decipher the menu. What in the world is tempeh?

While pondering my menu and future menu I mentioned the delicious falafel, great soup, fresh salads, cookies(!), and one of my favorites, Carey's Greek which is a nutty rice pilaf folded in a tortilla topped with some veggies and tzadziki sauce. Not getting much of a response I looked over at my sister. I could see her features become much more concerned the farther down the menu her eyes moved. I felt bad and wanted her to enjoy her last evening in Corvallis so I suggested we go get a burrito at a nearby chain restaurant. I didn't know which to laugh at first: the look of complete relief or how fast she ran out the door.  Well, I didn't have Nearly Normal's that evening but I felt like I was there again on my very first visit with this bowl of soup. Enjoy!

Black Bean-Coconut Bisque, serves 6

2  1/2 cups dried black beans, picked over, and soaked overnight
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
3-4 carrots, chopped
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
8-10 cups water/vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons harissa paste or red pepper flakes to taste
Lime wedges, garnish
Chopped cilantro, garnish
  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. A little color will not hurt.
  3. Add garlic, jalapeno, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, 5-7 minutes.
  4. With water/vegetable stock nearby, add turmeric, curry powder, cumin powder, and harissa to the pot. Cook about 1 minute, toasting the spices.
  5. Add water/stock and beans. Bring soup to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir the soup occasionally.
  6. Let soup cool enough to blend in a food processor or blender safely. In batches, using a slotted spoon, transfer the bean and vegetable mixture into the food processor or blender, saving the leftover broth. Add enough coconut milk or broth to process. Transfer to a clean pot to reheat for serving. Continue with all the beans and vegetables. Add the remaining coconut milk to the now pureed soup and thin with the reserved cooking liquid to the desired consistency.
  7. Serve with chopped cilantro and lime wedges for juicing, if desired.