This is a charming spring soup that can be prepared and served three different ways. It can be a rough country soup, a robust puree or a subtle and warming cream soup. Either way, it has a very unique flavor.
Blanch in boiling, salted water for one minute :
8 cups loosely packed mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) leaves, collected early to mid-spring
Drain, rinse immediately with cold water, then squeeze free of liquid and allow to dry.
Bring to a simmer :
8 cups chicken or strong (but not roasted) vegetable stock
2 fresh bay leaves (optional)
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground ginger or several thin slices of fresh ginger root
freshly ground white or black pepper to taste
4 oz celery, diced
Simmer for 5 minutes, then add :
12 oz potato, peeled (or not) and diced
Simmer for 20 minutes, then add :
The prepared mugwort, finely chopped
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
The soup can be served as is. If that is your plan, you may wish to make the chopping of the celery and potato more uniform. If I am serving it like this I will keep it more rustic, like a rough country soup made quickly at the end of the working day. In fact, that is exactly what this is, a soup that takes only an hour or so in total and most of that spent simmering.
Alternatively, you can puree it. Pureeing will give you a complex bright olive green soup that is an intriguing first course for a spring meal. It’s equally great as just plain eating, but it has a mysterious flavor that might have your local foodies scratching their beards to describe. I like to think of it as a mix between parsley and sage, but not quite that… although handling the plant itself also makes me think of those two herbs.
Another option would be to puree, then add :
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup light cream
This makes for an even more elusive tasting soup, which can be garnished very nicely with bright violet flowers and bittercress pods, if you like, or forsythia blossoms and chives. A perfect soup from early to mid-spring.
These are exceedingly simple. Perhaps too simple to even need a recipe for. Nonetheless I will present it in the hopes that it will inspire other simple improvised tacos.
Heat over medium in a large skillet :
2 tbs. neutral vegetable or seed oil
5 oz. onion, diced
Sautée for three to four minutes, until softened, then add :
8 oz bok choy or baby bok choy, leaves chopped and stems diced
Sautée for two to three minutes, until softened, then add :
a few cloves of garlic, minced
one or two small red chiles, chopped into small dice
Sautée for another minute, then add :
1 tbs Shao Xing wine, cooking wine or sherry
a few dashes of Maggi or Golden Mountain seasoning
a few pinches of salt
1 tsp. of cumin powder
freshly ground black pepper, if desired
ground cayenne or hot chili powder, if desired
Stir and add :
1/2 lb firm tofu, cut into about six or eight pieces
Sautée for about two to three minutes, enough to warm the tofu through. Break the tofu into pieces of whatever consistency is preferred with a flat-ended wooden or silicone spatula. I usually like a little variety.
Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of fermented corn. Regular corn can be substituted.
Serve on freshly-made or store (or better yet, taqueria) bought corn, flour or whole-wheat tortillas.
2 tsp furikake seasoning or 1 tbs sesame seeds (optional)
1 tbs flax seeds (optional)
2 oz thinly-sliced curly kale (or more if desired)
1 5 oz can of high quality tuna
5 oz celery, finely diced
4 spring onions, chopped (optional)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp vinegar (seasoned rice, sherry or cider work best)
juice of 1/2 lime
Toss the ingredients together, taste and adjust for oil, vinegar and lime juice, salt and other seasonings. Serve immediately or within a few hours. If kept on the dry side and not overdressed with oil, it will last a several days.
Thai black rice is often labelled “sweet rice” or “sticky rice,” and while it is technically glutinous, it is a whole grain rice, so is not “sticky” in the textural sense. It isn’t sweet either–it tastes like a combination of brown rice and North American wild rice, with the texture of the latter or al dente orzo pasta. The best way to cook it is by steaming. Soak the rice for 8 hours or overnight in cool water, or for 2 hours in 120° water, drain and steam for 35 minutes. The grains are pretty large so you can use a wire mesh sieve. I prefer to wrap the rice in bamboo leaf, it keeps the rice perfectly moist and imparts a subtle, pleasing flavor.
Furikake is a popular Japanese seasoning mix for rice, usually with seaweed, sesame seeds, salt and sugar. It often contains bonito flakes and there are variations with salmon, miso powder, wasabi, egg, shiso, and even kimchi flavor! It can be made at home as well, and done so with fresh seaweed if one has access to a dehydrator. For the purposes of this recipe, sesame seeds or a mix of freshly broken-up seaweed and sesame seeds can be used to substitute.
This makes for a light, refreshing salad for the late winter and early spring. A great lunch on its’ own or as part of a series of mixed salads or snacks. I have deliberately left this salad a bit underseasoned – but one could easily add one or more complementary fresh herbs or dried spices, such as celery seed, anise seed, cilantro, parsley, dill, paprika, chile pepper or fresh chiles, cumin, and so on… Besides tasting wonderful, this is an extremely healthy dish with three nutritional power houses in black rice, kale and tuna. On the subject of tuna–make sure to use a high quality tuna for this dish, preferably one packed in oil or without any liquid (such as the excellent tuna processed by Wild Planet). Black rice and Furikake will be at any self-respecting Asian market and many of the more upscale all-purpose supermarkets.
2 tbs light oil such as sunflower, vegetable or shallot oil
When the oil is quite hot, add :
6 oz leeks, cut into 1/2″ slices
Stir-fry for about a minute, until leeks begin to soften. Add :
.5 oz garlic, minced
Stir-fry for thirty seconds, then add :
1 oz scallions, chopped
Stir-fry for thirty seconds, then add :
1-2 chiles, finely chopped
Stir-fry for thirty seconds, then add :
A splash of shao xing cooking wine or sherry
Stir the aromatics and cook for thirty seconds, then add :
1 lb. button mushrooms, cut lengthwise into 2, 3 or 4 pieces (as illustrated below)
Toss mushrooms and aromatics as best as possible for one minute, then add :
2 tbs shao xing wine or sherry
2 tbs stock of any kind
A few dashes of Maggi or Golden Mountain seasoning (or Worcestershire for non-vegetarians)
Continue to cook over high heat, covering for about two minutes, then uncovering again.
This will generate a lot of liquid and start to soften the mushrooms. Now you want to braise them, stirring frequently and keeping the cover off. By the time the liquids have been cooked away, the mushrooms should be close to tender. Take care not to overcook them, you want some texture in this dish. If too much liquid has escaped, add more stock or a mix of stock and shao xing or sherry. Keep stirring.
When all the liquid is absorbed and the mushrooms are tender but not soft, turn into a serving dish.
Garnish with :
Ground sumac and/or clove, freshly ground if possible.
Serve either hot or at room temperature. This is an excellent addition to a tapas or meze platter, or served as a side dish to accompany a more traditional main course. The end result can also be chopped once cooked into more of a tapenade, perhaps with a dash of added olive oil, accompanied with bread or fresh raw vegetables.
Naturally, wild mushrooms can be substituted for the cultivated ones. I would think a similar textured-mushroom like a blewit or field mushroom would be most adequate.
Mushroom cutting technique below. I know, right, so advanced. But if you make nice thick slices like this, they will retain a good texture even after being subjected to a braising like the above.
A simple, deeply-satisfying soup for the end of winter, spiced with a freshly made masala mix. You can use this same basic mix in other masala recipes, but this one is designed specifically for this soup. First, make the spice mix. Then grind the mix. Then begin the soup.
Masala Mix :
Heat a dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat.
1 tbs cumin seed
1 tbs coriander seed
1 cinnamon stick or few pieces of cassia
seeds from 6 pods of green cardamom
1 tsp black peppercorns
Toast the dry spices together for a few minutes, until strong and aromatic but not browned.
Grind spices together in mortar and pestle or spice grinder until no longer coarse.
Heat a large saucepan or sauteuse over medium heat and add :
6 tbs butter or 4 tbs ghee or oil (you may substitute oil to make this dish vegan, otherwise butter is recommended)
Cook butter for one or two minutes and add :
Ground masala mix
Cook for one minute, then add :
9 oz onion, sliced thin
Cook for three minutes or until softened, then add :
4 oz shallots, sliced thin
Cook for three minutes or until softened, then add :
1/2 oz garlic, crushed and chopped fine
Cook for one minute then add :
3-4 oz carrot (about one medium carrot), grated
Cook for three minutes then reduce the heat to low.
Cook the vegetables for as long as possible over a low heat, uncovered, until they are mostly softened and succulent.
Tomatoes from one 28 oz. can of tomatoes
Break the tomatoes into the rest of the vegetables with a flat spatula or wooden spoon.
Bring the heat to medium.
Cook for a few minutes, breaking the tomatoes up as much as possible.
Bring the heat to medium-high and add :
Juice from one 28 oz. can of tomatoes
1 quart rich stock of any kind or water
Simmer slowly for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This should cook down to make a little over a quart of really rich soup. You may also wish to add less liquid to save on cooking time, although some at least should be retained or what we have is a sauce, not a soup. As it stands, this is a nicely rich soup for winter or early spring, and can be mellowed out / lengthened with a little bit of fresh yogurt, stirred in just so. There is plenty heat for most in the pepper and spices, but for those who must always add chile, dried chiles can be added to the spice mix. You may also wish to add fresh herbs – though I am always a fan of that, I feel it tends to spoil some of the warm simplicity of the soup. A better direction to go in would be to stir in cooked lentils or rice or small pasta and make it more of a stew.
I’ll keep taking it as is. Okay, maybe some yogurt…
Key : The key to this recipe is to take it slow, man.
This is relatively complicated soup to prepare, but well worth the effort. It basically consists of three separate procedures : roasting the cauliflower, toasting and grinding the spices, and composing and pureeing the soup. You could just as well serve this soup rustic-style (without pureeing), but I think its’ worth the extra time and energy to puree for a more elegant soup, one that would happily grace the most sophisticated table. The fact that it is so simple, rich and creamy and also vegan may come as a surprise to some–it’s a great dish to introduce to people who may be skeptical about how deep a flavor one can get from healthy, vegetable-based cuisine.
First, prepare Roasted Cauliflower & Cauliflower Greens using a 2 pound head of cauliflower. This can be done ahead of time, as far in advance as a couple of days. You may try that, I usually can’t resist gobbling up the roast cauliflower as is, so I have to move quickly if I’m making the soup!
Second, make the spice mix.
Place in a small skillet over medium-low heat :
1 tsp whole fennel seed
2 tsp whole cumin seed
1 tsp whole coriander seed
1 tsp urad dal (white gram bean) (optional)
Toast the spices until slightly colored and aromatic. Whole spice seeds burn easily, so keep a close eye on them and shake the pan occasionally. Allow to cool and then grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Thirdly, assemble the soup.
In a large saucepan or deep sautée pan with raised sides, bring to heat over medium heat :
2-3 tbs olive oil
5 oz celery, chopped fine
6 oz onion, chopped fine
2 oz scallions (white parts only), chopped fine
(You could just as easily use another mix of onions here, providing they come out to about the same weight. A good option would be a mix of shallots and spanish onions, or mix of leeks and onions, or ramps and scallions, etc. Look for a total of 8-10 oz. for best flavor)
Sautée, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so, then add :
2 oz chiles, chopped fine
Sautée, stirring occasionally, for another ten minutes or so, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Add and quickly stir in :
2 tbs flour
Cook for one or two minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
Add, slowly, one half cup at a time, stirring all the while :
8 cups of vegetable stock (or whatever stock is handy/preferred)
Bring the soup to a simmer.
Add the ground spice mix to the soup. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper (optional) to taste.
Chop the roasted cauliflower and greens into small pieces, reserving any if desired to use as a garnish. Add to the soup.
Simmer at a low to medium simmer for 30 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are nicely tender and the liquid has reduced a bit.
Allow to cool.
Puree the soup in small batches. If a completely emulsified soup is desired, pass the soup through a metal strainer or cheesecloth.
Return the pureed soup to heat before serving. Adjust for seasonings. If the soup is too thin, cook to reduce to the desired consistency.
Serve this soup as hot as possible. It can be prepared in advance and served days later if desired.
The spices used give this soup a mellow, complex flavor that accentuates the natural taste of the cauliflower. When serving, choose garnishes that add an element of sharpness or freshness to the soup. Of course, if you have reserved any small florets of roasted cauliflower, you can add those. I usually heap them in the center of the bowl and then add greenery around them. Thinly-sliced scallion greens or field garlic, cilantro or another fresh green herb, raw or prepared chiles are all excellent choices. A dusting of paprika or fresh ground chile powder will show up nicely against the creamy beige of the soup, as will black sesame or nigella seeds.
Though it seems deceptively simple (if somewhat elaborate in preparation) in terms of ingredients, this is really a very rich and hearty soup perfect for the end of winter. One can prepare many delicious “cream of” vegetable soups in a similar fashion, choosing spices and seasonings most appropriate to the vegetables involved, without ever desiring to add actual cream to the dish.
Another extremely simple winter tomato sauce recipe, in which you can use whatever winter vegetables you might have around and canned tomatoes to make a sauce that can be served either thick and chunky or pureed.
The first thing to do is strain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. You will want to use about 2 cups / 1 L. of tomatoes and juice, or the contents of a 35 oz can. I usually also squeeze or cut open the tomatoes to let the juice inside them out, but this isn’t strictly necessary. Keep the juice and drained tomatoes separate until needed.
Next, prepare your vegetables. I use between 4 and 5 ounces each of three different vegetables. You should shoot for roughly equal amounts of each vegetable. First I use either celery or onion, chopped into medium size dice. Then I peel and cut into medium dice either carrots or parsnips. Lastly I prepare either kohlrabi, turnip, long radish or celery root in pieces of the same size as the other ingredients. If you like garlic in this, add an ounce or so chopped very fine. Remember to keep all your vegetables separated, as they require different cooking times.
Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil to a wide sautée pan, preferably one with deep sides. Bring the oil to heat over medium heat. Add the vegetables one at a time and cook each until softened. The best order is onions or celery to start, then carrot or parsnip, then the last. Cook each vegetable just until softened, about 5-10 minutes for each. Add the garlic last of all, and cook for only a few minutes before proceeding. You may also wish to add bay or bayberry leaf or whole sprigs of thyme or rosemary at this point, taking care to remove them before pureeing or serving the sauce.
Once the garlic has been cooked, add the whole tomatoes to the pan, breaking them into chunks with a flat-ended wooden or plastic spatula. You may chop them prior to adding to the pan, but I always find that such a mess and prefer to simply break them into pieces while they sautée. Cook the tomatoes for at least five minutes, keeping the heat around medium.
Add the reserved tomato juices to the sautée pan. At this point, you may wish to add stock or water to thin the sauce out. I would only recommend this if it is your intent to puree the sauce. With about 5 oz of each vegetable, this makes a substantial quantity of sauce, enough for more than one pound of pasta. I will often serve the sauce thick with some pasta, then puree whatever is leftover with added stock to make a sauce that I can put on eggs or a half-pound of spaghetti. One could also add chiles or cream or another ingredient to this newly-pureed sauce for the sake of variety.
Whether you add tomato juice with stock or water or nothing else, the liquids must be cooked down slightly. I usually leave the pan at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Less can be fine, but the flavor will not be as rich. In any event, make sure before serving that all the vegetables are cooked through and as tender as you would like them. Finally, add salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried or fresh herbs to taste. With a winter sauce like this I will often add a quick crumble of marjoram or oregano or sage, depending on what herbs I’ve added during the cooking stage.
Serve as-is or puree and serve over pasta, with or without cheese.
In a very large skillet which you are able to cover, heat 3 tbs of neutral oil or ghee over medium-high heat.
When hot add :
1 tbs black mustard seed
Cover dish and allow black mustard seed to pop. When the seeds begin to settle, add:
8 oz onion, very thinly slice.
Reduce heat to medium and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
1 lb 4 oz cabbage, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.
1 tbs sherry, white wine or shao xing wine
2-4 oz fresh chile, small dice
1 oz garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric powder
Allow the alcohol to cook off, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
Cook, covered, until the cabbage is tender and soft, usually 45 minutes or so.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or keep warm, garnish with cilantro or parsely, chives or field garlic snips, fresh chiles or grated ginger.
An excellent side dish which highlights the tenderness of properly-cooked cabbage and the subtle flavors of black mustard seed and turmeric root. This dish can also be made with grated fresh turmeric, which can be added at the same point in cooking. Many people who claim not to like cabbage enjoy a tender cabbage dish like this, which brings out the natural sweetness in cabbage through slow cooking. The spices used are mild and complementary, rather than overwhelming. I would vary the level of chiles depending on what else I was serving this with–usual just a little chile for flavor, this dish is unassuming enough to be used as a side dish in a meal of almost any cuisine, vegetarian or not. More chiles can be added if the dish is to be served as accompaniment to a strong-flavored main course such as meat or oily fish.
Key : The key to this recipe is to cook the cabbage thoroughly until tender, for as long a time as it takes. This is a good dish to make a day ahead or earlier in your cooking, and will be just fine reheated or kept warm.
Boil as you would pasta (in a large, boiling salted kettle) :
1 cup green or brown lentils
The lentils are done when they are al dente like pasta, still firm to the tooth but not troublesome to bite through.
Drain lentils thoroughly and quickly toss with :
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs vinegar of fairly light character (i.e. sherry, cider, malt, white wine, rice rather than red wine, balsamic or black)
Salt to taste
Add to lentils :
3 oz. celery and celery leaf, chopped fine
4 oz mild or sweet onion, sliced thin or same amount sharp onion soaked and squeezed in several changes of water
2 oz freshly chopped medium-heat green chile such as jalapeno, or mix of hotter and milder peppers
2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp hot paprika or hot chile powder such as chile de arbol
1 tsp dry mustard
Stir thoroughly, allow a few minutes to settle, then taste and adjust seasonings. At this point add more olive oil and vinegar if necessary, it likely will be. This is very much an “add to taste” recipe, especially in terms of the dressing. I always add a bit at a time, let it settle, taste again. If it seems underwhelming when I am serving it, more can always be added. In particular, lentils will take a lot of both ingredients, much like the similarly mealy potato.
This can be served still warm as a side dish or a room temperature as part of a meal of mixed plates. It can be used as part of a meal of small plates or tapas, or as a side dish served with a more substantial meal. It is best as an accompaniment, rather than its’ own course. It fits well into meals of North African, Mediterranean, Indian, or non-denominational Vegetarian slant. It is also excellent served with a hearty winter roast and root vegetables.
I call it ‘warm’ rather than spicy in terms of the balance represented in this recipe. It can be freely made “spicy,” by simply adding more chiles and dry spices. This is a very adjustable recipe, and will often be altered or added to based on what I am serving it with. Garnish it with something complementary to the meal that it accompanies : fresh cilantro for Indian or Southeast Asian fare, an extra splash of olive oil and sprigs of parsley for Greek or Italian, etc.
Just as any experimentation in garnishing will likely work with such a simple, adaptable recipe, one could go further and incorporate all kinds of ingredients at hand to the salad itself : Some wild mushrooms, quickly sautéed with oil and thyme. A couple of small cucumbers, deseeded and neatly chopped. Some tahini or miso paste. A squeeze of lemon and a pair of minced anchovies. Crispy fried slices of garlic. Black walnuts and a splash of walnut oil. And so on…
In a similar vein, this is a recipe meant for constant tasting and adjusting by the cook. I never measure any of these ingredients when I make this kind of salad except when testing a recipe. I am always tasting, adjusting, tasting. So should you, when making a dish like this. Taste each time you add a new ingredient or three, taste and adjust accordingly. Trust your judgement. Trust your taste. You’re the one who decides what’s best.
2 tsp prepared mustard, preferably of high quality
1/8-1/4 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp vinegar (sherry, rice wine or black vinegar are best)
Dash of Maggi or Golden Mountain Seasoning (optional)
pinch or so of salt
1/8 tsp sichuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns), freshly ground or crushed
10-12 oz kale leaves, de-stemmed but not chopped
Place in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes, pushing the kale down and covering the pot with a lid.
Drain kale immediately. Then quickly wrap kale in a thick kitchen towel and squeeze as much liquid from the kale as desired. I usually don’t fuss over this too much, just making sure that the larger portion of the water absorbed by the kale has been squeezed out.
Place the kale on a chopping board and roughly or finely chop it depending on your tastes. Toss immediately with the dressing, turn out into a bowl and serve with fork or chopsticks. Garnish with sesame seeds or–even better, a Japanese seaweed-sesame seasoning combo like Nori Komi Furikake.
This is one of the simplest ways to serve kale, accompanied only by seasonings selected to bring out its’ naturally complex and hearty flavors. This feeds two people as a starter and one person as a hearty lunch, accompanied perhaps by a piece of fruit or hunk of bread.
Kale salad is as ubiquitous as bad driving in the Northeast, too often it is either matched with incongruous ingredients (radish? blueberry?) or just not properly cooked. I find kale best lightly boiled like this (or even steamed if you can muster the energy) ideal for a salad, served either warm or cool. Now, if I was to serve this particular salad cool I would add perhaps a bit more of the liquid ingredients, but warm these proportions are just perfect.
Key – The key to this recipe is to proceed as quickly as possible once draining the kale, as maximum heat in the greens will cause the flavors of the dressing to blend better and come out more.