Thai Coconut Soup

I always love trying new recipes, so I don't usually make the same thing twice unless it's really good. So you should know it's really saying something that I've made this Thai coconut soup more times than I can remember.

This soup recipe comes from my favorite vegetarian cookbook, Linda McCartney On Tour.* Ms. McCartney was an animal rights activist who refused to "eat anything with a face." Her cookbook is fantastic and contains recipes influenced by all sorts of different world cultures and cuisines. I do have to say that I disagree with her choice of name for this recipe -- she calls it "tom yum soup," but it has pretty much zero in common with tom yum (at least as I'm familiar with it). This soup has more in common with tom kha gai, since it has a coconut base, except this is a vegetarian version with lots more veggies. And in my opinion, more deliciousness.

Whatever you want to call it, this soup has lots of wonderful flavors, and like all good soups it tastes even better the next day.

 Thai Coconut Soup
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper (or other, if your store has interesting types), seeded and minced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (if my store doesn't have it, I sometimes add some lime zest instead)
  • 3/4 pound eggplant, cut into half-inch cubes
  • One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • One 14-ounce can of coconut milk
  • Cilantro, anywhere from 2 to 4 tablespoons (or none at all)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cooked jasmine, basmati, or long grain brown rice
  • Chopped peanuts, for garnish
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and lemongrass stalks (leave them whole, or at least in large enough pieces that you can easily remove them later). Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the eggplant and cook for about 4 minutes until it has browned. Stir in the sugar and tomatoes, and mix well. Add the stock, coconut milk, and cilantro (if using). Bring to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes. Add the rice about 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Remove the lemongrass, pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with the chopped peanuts.

*Note: to be distinguished from my favorite vegan cookbook, which is definitely Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. You'll definitely see recipes from that book cropping up on this blog more than once.

Two Potato and Beet Hash with Poached Eggs and Greens

During the week, dinner tends to be a slightly rushed affair. I'm just so tired when I get home from work, not to mention starving and slightly low-blood-sugar-cranky.

But on Sunday evenings, with errands out of the way and the obligatory dog park trip behind me, I like to spend a while cooking up something special. Something that takes a little more effort than I would put in on a weeknight. Something especially delicious.

Tonight, with football on TV in the background, I made this seriously awesome fall dinner. It made the entire apartment smell like fried onions and sage. The hash is autumn root vegetable goodness personified; the poached eggs' broken yolks create a rich, practically sinful sauce; and the fresh greens brighten up the plate and keep everything light and in balance. Yeah, this meal took a little more time, and a little more effort, but it was so worth it.

 Two Potato and Beet Hash with Poached Eggs and Greens
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potato (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup cubed peeled cooked beets (about 1/2 pound)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 teaspoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 cups spring greens, frisee, curly endive, or other greens
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute for 5 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add potatoes, 2 teaspoons sage, and garlic; cook for 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in beets and salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add water to a large skillet, filling two-thirds full. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer gently. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. Break each egg into a custard cup or small ramekin, and pour gently into pan of water. Cook for 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove eggs from pan using a slotted spoon. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sage and a bit of salt and pepper evenly over the eggs.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and mustard in a large bowl, stirring with a whick. Add greens, toss to coat. Serve with hash and eggs.

Ratatouille's Ratatouille

First things first: I must give credit where credit is due. This wonderful recipe came from one of my very favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I have made it many times and each time I love it more and more. Huge thanks also go to Joe, who actually assembled and prepared this meal for us to eat tonight. (He has these few weeks off work, and let me tell you, having a house-husband is awesome.)

It should come as no surprise, given my love of Pixar, rodents, and food, that Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies. I simply adore the scene towards the end where the titular rat prepares a beautiful dish of ratatouille -- not the traditional peasant style stew, but a gorgeous haute cuisine version (developed in real life by Thomas Keller). And the food critic is transported and has a revelation and all ends well, of course, since it is a children's movie.

This is pretty much that dish. I don't know if it's exactly how Mr. Keller himself would have prepared it, but it is so intensely flavorful with the fresh vegetables and the thyme and the garlic that I just don't know how it could possibly be any better.

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 smallish zucchini
  • 1 smallish yellow squash
  • 1 longish red bell pepper
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
  • Orzo, couscous, polenta, crusty bread, or some other grain, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour tomato puree into bottom of a baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil, and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop orzo, polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.

Tuscan Vegetable Chowder

I love the first days of fall. That touch of chilliness in the mornings and evenings just puts a spring into my step. Fall is my favorite season. I love everything about it -- the trees changing color, the holidays (Halloween! Thanksgiving!), the coziness of it all.

And the food! Fall makes me crave nothing so much as a warm bowl of soup. This Italian "chowder" is easy, filling, and comforting on an autumn evening. And it's a complete vegetarian meal thanks to the textured vegetarian protein (TVP). Yeah, that's kind of a weird, gross-sounding ingredient, but I promise it's great. TVP is just soy-derived crumbles that you can add to anything for lots of protein, and it just tastes like whatever you're putting it in. Which in this case is a bowl full of herby, vegetabley goodness.

 Tuscan Vegetable Chowder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry textured vegetable protein granules (TVP)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
 Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, beans, TVP, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, green beans, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Serves 4.

Tomato, Avocado, and Golden Beet Salad

Tonight's dinner is 100% brought to you by Joe Fray. Well, I picked out the recipe and helped with the shopping, but I took no part in the actual making of the food. You won't be seeing him writing any guest posts, however. I asked him what he would say about the making of this meal, and he looked at me for a few seconds and said, "You chop things and put them in a bowl and mix them." Not the most loquacious when it comes to food writing, that Joe.

So I'll just tackle this from the point of view of the eater. This salad is delicious. It's great for early fall because there are still pretty decent tomatoes to be had, and beet season is now upon us. We ate the salad with crusty hunks of whole wheat baguette (and a great episode of House on TV).

Tomato, Avocado, and Golden Beet Salad
  • One bunch of golden beets, greens removed
  • 4 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 small red onion or half a large red onion, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon chives
Place a medium saucepan filled with water over high heat; bring to a boil. Add beets, bring back to a boil and reduce heat to medium; simmer until beets pierce easily with the point of a sharp knife, about 25 minutes. Remove beets from pan and place under cold running water until cool enough to handle. Peel beets with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/2-inch wedges; place beets in a large bowl.

Add tomato, avocado, onion, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to bowl; toss to combine. Sprinkle with basil and chives. Serves anywhere from 2-4, depending on how hungry you are.

Soba Noodles with Spinach

I know I've done a good job with dinner when we've finished eating and Joe looks down at his plate sadly and says, "I'm sad that this is gone." This Japanese-inspired soba noodle dish was one of those dinners.

I've actually never made soba noodles at home before, but it was easy and yummy as can be. Soba noodles, like quinoa, are great for vegetarians because buckwheat (the main ingredient) contains all eight essential amino acids. Yay complete proteins! The recipe does include a bunch of Asian ingredients that you might not have in your pantry, but I definitely recommend stocking up on them anyway -- then you'll have them on hand to whip up delicious boyfriend-approved meals at the drop of a hat.

 Soba Noodles with Spinach
  • 8 ounces uncooked soba noodles
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced
  • 8 cups leaf spinach (one big bag)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
 Cook noodles according to package directions (do not overcook, or noodles will be gummy). Drain and place in a large bowl. While noodles are still warm, add vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and scallions; toss well to coat. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil. When oil is hot, add garlic; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach to pan; cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss spinach with noodle mixture and serve.

Variations: Vegans could substitute brown rice syrup for the honey. This noodle dish would be great with a side of Asian-marinated grilled tofu (here's a sample marinade recipe from Epicurious).

Peruvian Quinoa-Vegetable Soup

I have the greatest memories of my trip to Peru with Joe. There's seldom a day that goes by when I don't think about something we did, whether it was the main event (hiking the Inca Trail) or something random but memorable (like paying a woman 2 soles at a train station so I could take a picture with her llama).

Our culinary adventures were equally memorable. We tried alpaca, guinea pig (hey, I wasn't a vegetarian yet), stuffed rocoto chiles, and those most delicious of cookies, alfajores. And some ceviche when we were in Lima. And lots of Inka Kola and pisco sours to wash it all down!


This Peruvian-inspired soup I made for dinner (borrowed from the lovely cookbook The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray) doesn't have any of that stuff in it, but it does have some traditionally Peruvian ingredients. Like quinoa, which has been an important staple in the Andes for 6,000 years. Even the use of soy sauce is authentically Peruvian, since a lot of the cuisine in that country was influenced by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which led to a fusion cuisine called chifa.

The soup's not much to look at, but it's delicious, filling, and healthy, and it reminds me of a great trip I took. Not bad for such quick work.

Peruvian Quinoa-Vegetable Soup
  • 7 cups water or vegetable stock (or a mix)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped potatoes (purple potatoes if you can find them)
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Place the water and soy sauce in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa. Begin prepping the vegetables and place them in the pot as you go. Start with the potatoes, carrot, onion, garlic, cabbage, jalapeno, and tomatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the quinoa is cooked, about 20 minutes from when the quinoa was added. Add the cilantro, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
Variations: You can saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for extra flavor before adding the water, quinoa, and remaining ingredients. For extra protein, you could also add 1 pound of extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes, after adding the veggies.

Tofu Saag

This recipe needs little by way of introduction. It's a variant on an Indian standby, saag paneer, but replacing the paneer with easier-to-come-by tofu. This version also happens to be vegan and very healthy. Don't worry, it's still delish. Not quite as good as the fattening take-out version, but pretty darn great for a home-cooked meal.

Tofu Saag
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup water (or 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped small
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound frozen spinach (leaf, not chopped), thawed and pressed (to get some of the water out)
  • 1 cup seeded, chopped tomato
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup soy, rice, or coconut milk
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • Cooked brown rice
Preheat the oven or a toaster oven to 350 F and oil a baking sheet. Cube the tofu, press some of the water out, toss with soy sauce or tamari, and place on the baking sheet. Let it sit for 5 minutes before placing it in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the water (or sesame oil) in a large nonstick skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to low, add the spinach, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tofu, tomatoes, and the remaining ingredients, and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice.

Vegetarian Posole

Vegetarians tend to eat a lot of ethnic food. American food -- with the exception of some delicacies like mac-and-cheese and veggie chili -- tends to focus on meat. We aren't known as a meat-and-potatoes culture for nothing. Anyway, so because of that, I end up cooking and eating a lot of cuisines like Thai, Japanese, Chinese, sometimes Italian and Greek, and especially Indian.

But one of my very favorite cuisines for delicious vegetarian meals is Mexican. Oh man, there are so many great veg-friendly Mexican ingredients. Beans, cheese, rice, peppers, lime, avocado, tomato, cilantro. It's easy to forget about the whole meat thing entirely.

This recipe is one of those classic Mexican dishes that's healthy, filling, and really good. Also, it just so happens to be vegan (no dairy!). According to the history books, posole is a traditional pre-Columbian meal that was made on special occasions -- specifically, the occasion of human sacrifice. After the heart was torn out in the ritual, the rest of the human flesh was chopped up and cooked with corn meal because corn was considered a sacred plant. After the Spanish conquest, cannibalism was banned and pork was substituted in the posole because it "tastes very similar."

Now aren't you glad this version is vegetarian?

Vegetarian Posole
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups vegetable broth, water, or a combination
  • 2 cups cooked whole hominy, or one 14-ounce can of hominy, drained and rinsed
  • One 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups kale, chard, or other leafy green
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium lime, cut into wedges
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Pour broth over onion mixture and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add hominy and beans; cook 2 minutes. Add greens and cook until greens are wilted and just cooked, about 2 minutes more. Stir in cilantro, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Garnish with remaining ingredients and serve.

Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Cumin

So I was traveling over the long Labor Day weekend. And I was so exhausted when I got home yesterday that when I cooked dinner, I forgot to take a picture. Unforgivable, I know.

But this dish is so good that I have to post the recipe, even if it has no images to accompany it. It's an older Food & Wine recipe that's a favorite in our apartment. Despite the name the magazine editors gave it, it should really be called Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Smoked Paprika, because that smoked paprika is what gives it the most amazing flavor. Don't even think about substituting regular paprika, because it won't be nearly as special.

The magazine refers to the dish as a salad, but I eat it as a meal with some brown rice or couscous. And you should, too.

Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Cumin
  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup drained, canned diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large enameled cast-iron casserole (or any other large pot with a lid). Using a fork, prick the eggplant in a few places. Add the eggplant to the casserole, cover and cook over moderately low heat, turning once, until charred on the outside and soft within, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the eggplant to a colander set in the sink. Using a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit in the eggplant; let drain for 10 minutes. Scrape the flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin and any hard seeds; mash to a puree and transfer to a large skillet. (I just put it back into the pot I used for roasting.)

Using the side of a large knife, mash the garlic to a coarse paste with 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the paste to the skillet along with the tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.