Friday, September 28, 2012

Vegan Navy Bean and Kale Soup

In my last post I mentioned I've been enjoying leftover Spaghetti Squash in my soup for dinner. It's something I've never thought to do before but am so glad I did now as it's crunch and slight sweetness has been a perfect accompaniment to an otherwise smoky and hearty stew-like soup.

My local health food store has had in some gorgeous Lacinato Kale. Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale is my most favorite. (It is also known as Tuscan kaleTuscan cabbageItalian kaleDinosaur kalecavolo nero,black kaleflat back cabbagepalm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm). I think it has the perfect texture, once cooked, to win over anyone leary of adopting kale into their diet as a staple. It gets tender like spinach but still keeps it's form. I prefer boiling mine over all other methods so putting into a soup seemed like the perfect idea.

I had bought a can of organic navy beans remembering loving the ones my mom used to make. Hers were so rich and yummy I asked her about them to see what her secret was. Her reply? Lots of butter and a bunch of cheese. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen, but my navy been craving would not go away so I hunted the internet for a soup idea.

One recipe kept showing up all over the place. Here, and here, and here are just a few places I saw it turn up (tho none of them are vegan varieties). Inspired by what seemed to be a favorite blend I followed the recipe with a couple adjustments and have been enjoying the result. 

Navy Bean and Kale Soup (Guest Starring Spaghetti Squash!)
serves 4, approximately 

1 T olive oil (I use a mild variety, not extra virgin)
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 large bunch Lacinato kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
2 cups veggie broth (I used Better Bouillion's Organic Vegetarian paste. two tsp for two cups of hot water), divided
1 can navy beans (any white beans would be equally good, I bet!), divided*
*remove 1/3 cup beans with some liquid. rinse remainder of beans and set aside
1 cup tomatoes (approx. I used about that much from a box of chopped, but wished I'd had whole to avoid so much tomato juice. I'm not typically a huge fan of tomato-based soups, but this was pretty great)
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme/oregano blend
course sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2 c cup baked spaghetti squash
hemp seed for topping (optional)

Put beans with liquid and about 1/3 cup broth in blender or tall cup and blend to creamy with immersion blender. In stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch or two of sea salt. Saute until just turning golden brown and add garlic. Do not let garlic burn. Saute for another minute or two then add carrots,  cauliflower, and kale. Once kale starts to wilt and other veggies are crisp tender, add broth. Cover and simmer on low/med heat for about 20 minutes or until veggies are cooked to desired softness. Stir in tomatoes, beans and blended beans, and heat thru. Place servings in bowls and top each with 1/2 cup squash. Dust with hemp seed and cracked black pepper to taste.

Great with a side salad and some vegan french bread (I love La Dolce Vegan's recipe) for sopping up the soup-y goodness! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Basil Walnut Pesto

Living in Florida, even North Florida, almost inevitably means that when the stores start putting up Halloween and Fall decorations, when department stores are schlepping tanks and shorts on sale racks and adorning their displays with sweaters and other things with bulk and sleeves, one is deep in the throws of Florida's schizophrenic weather. One morning you wake and it's sixty degrees. you bust out your favorite jeans and a light but long-sleeved top and contemplate opting for 'real shoes' over your usual sandals or flip flops. Then it's noon an you're sweating in the high eighties temperatures, longing for that sundress you smirked at before leaving home. Or you  are graced with a breeze one day that hints of fall and a house full of open windows and clean, crisp air around the corner. The next time you walk outside it's muggy and the rain clouds are looming, threatening to leave muddy prints all over your newly mopped tile floors. 

All this is to say while the various colorful squashes are starting to make their entrances into produce sections across the sunshine state, I'm still partial to picking up a spaghetti squash in September. Yeah, all that to say just that. Sorry. ;)

Spaghetti squash is easily my favorite hard squash. It's light but has body, it's fun and versitile, it doesn't have an overpowering flavor one would get bored with which is great because one yellow beauty easily lasts for many meals.

Shopping at my local health food store last week I was enchanted by one lone giant organic spaghetti squash. One look at it and I thought, 'Ooooooh, I have some pesto in the freezer I want to use!', and dinner was born.

The pesto was inspired by some olive oil cured tomatoes and a giant handful of fresh basil I had had on hand after a small dinner party. I just threw the tomatoes with some of their oil, the basil, some toasted walnuts, a dash of salt, three cloves of garlic, and a heap of nutritional yeast into a deep cup and zapped it with my immersion blender until it was pureed. When I'd made it, I had no use for it so I split it into two freezer bags, each with about five servings of 1 1/2 T each in the bag. Into the freezer they went. that was about a month ago. The  other day when I brought home the squash I just popped one of the bags into a bowl of warm water until dinner time.

Spaghetti squash, like most squashes, is intimidating to cut into. It's hard and unforgiving and, to me, feels like a sharp knife accident waiting to happen. This is why I opt to bake mine whole before cutting into it. I just pierce it about four or five times with a sharp paring knife, toss it on a baking sheet, and pop it in a 375 oven for an hour or until a knife pierces the skin and sinks in without much resistance. Once out of the oven, I let it sit for a few minutes and then cut in half, scoop out the seeds and discard, then use a fork to ply the spaghetti like strands from the skin and place in a container. You can nuke the squash if you're so inclined or if you're pressed for time. I find that baking it, however, yields the perfect consistency. Cooked squash strands that haven't lost their shape and still retain some bite and slight crunch, not mushy.

Wanting to green up my meal, I used my mandoline's shred attachment to shred one large zucchini and used half of that and tossed with about 3/4 cup of squash. I tossed these with 1 1/2 T of pesto and sprinkled liberally with hemp seed.

This has been my go-to lunch for a few days now. I will sometimes heat up an Original Sunshine Burger and smear that with a tiny bit of horseradish just to amp up the protein of my meal. By dinner I'm still not tired of the squash so it makes a second appearance. Stay tuned for that!