stinging nettle soup

April 14, 2012

stinging nettle soup, vegan soup, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

This wonder plant is one of the first to come up in the spring. Nettles – despite their little stingers – have a long and auspicious history as a food source, medicine, and cloth. Did you know that fabric woven of nettle fibre has been found in burial sites dating back to the Bronze Age? And for centuries nettles have been used for a long list of ailments from arthritis to urinary tract disease, perhaps because they are chock-a-block full of vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Tasting a little like spinach, only earthier and grassier, they provide a super power boost to soups, sauces, and risotto alike. Oh, and by the way, they create a soup that’s actually this green!

stinging nettle soup, vegan soup, vgourmet, ruth richardson

300 grams nettle tops

3 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks, cleaned thoroughly and chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

4 tbsps basmati rice

8 cups veggie stock

sea salt and pepper to taste

With gloves on to avoid the sting in stinging nettle, wash the nettles thoroughly and remove the leaves from any tough stalks. Discard the stalks and set the leaves aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, and celery stalks and sauté for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice and stir well. Add stock, bring to a boil, and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the rice is done. Once the rice is cooked, add the nettles, and stir until they are totally submerged. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until the nettles wilt but don’t cook them for too long as you want them to keep their bright green colour.

Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Return to the stove and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve hot garnished with the first chives of the season for a truly local, healthy, medicinal meal.

ribollita

March 26, 2012

Ribolitta is a famous Tuscan soup, or potage. It almost always contains stale bread and beans, and a healthy portion of various veggies like carrots, celery, cabbage, cavolo nero, and onions. It literally means “reboiled” and embodies all the best of peasant food which, for me, equals frugality and simplicity but not at the expense of taste and artistry. Let the uber-chefs have their emulsified this and that; I’ll take good hearty farmstead food any day. This is a variation on the traditional Ribollita, if you can call it that. I’m sure every variation is a variation and there is no “pure” original. Build a base soup and add garlic rosemary croutons, a bit of garlic scape or sun-dried tomato pesto, and a drizzle of some really good quality Tuscan olive oil. No wonder Alice in Wonderland said “Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish, game or any other dish? Who would not give all else for two pennyworth of beautiful soup?” It’s all love….

Ribollita

1/2 cup olive oil

2 onions, sliced

1 large fennel bulb, diced

4 carrots, cut lengthwise and sliced

3 celery stalks, sliced

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

1 cup white wine

14 oz plum tomatoes with their juices

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsps thyme leaves

2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

2 tsp cane sugar

4 1/2 cups veggie stock

2 1/2 cups cooked cannelli, great white northern, or navy beans

a bunch of kale, chopped, stems removed

sea salt and pepper

Garlic Rosemary Croutons

1 loaf stale sourdough bread or baguette

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

4 tbsps olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot. Add chopped onion and fennel and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium-high until they begin to get tender. Add carrots and celery and continue to sauté for another 4 or 5 mintues, stirring ocassionally. Stir in the tomato paste and mix well. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add plum tomatoes with their juices, herbs, sugar, and stock. Add some sea salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop the stale bread into large chunks. In a large mixing bowl, toss bread chunks with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Place half the beans in a bowl and smash them with a potato masher. Add them, as well as the other half of the beans, to the soup. Add chopped kale. Let simmer for about 5 or 10 minutes. Adjust sea salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a small handful of garlic croutons in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle a good portion of ribollita over the croutons. Add a dollop of pesto on the top and a  healthy drizzle of really good Tuscan olive oil. Serve hot and be forever grateful for the wonder that is soup.

Nothing says fall quite like root vegetables and soup. Try this earthy concoction of celery root and parsnips infused with porcini to ground you in the season as the leaves fall, the days get shorter, and we start to naturally turn inward and hibernate. The toasts on top are an extra, but an absolutely essential one in my books as they add texture, flavour, and substance.

For the soup:

a large handful of dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup white wine

1 cup water

3 tbsps olive oil

4 medium onions, sliced

3 large parsnips, cleaned and cubed

1 small celery root, peeled and cubed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

6 cups veggie stock

a couple sprigs of thyme, destemmed

sea salt and pepper

For the toasts:

a handful of dried porcini mushrooms

a small bunch of parsley, destemmed

1 garlic clove, peeled

a small handful of roasted pecans

sea salt and pepper

bread

Bring the wine and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat. Add the handful of dried porcini mushrooms and let sit until rehydrated.

Meanwhile, heat up olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and let simmer until soft and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Add cubed parsnips and celery root and sauté until parsnips are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add porcini with their soaking liquid, garlic, veggie stock, sprigs of thyme, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes until vegetables are very soft and cooked right through.

While the soup cooks, prepare the topping for your toasts. Soak a handful of dried porcini in hot water. Once done, remove them from the water, squeeze out excess liquid and chop them with parsley, garlic, pecans, and a little sea salt and pepper.

When the soup is done, pureé in a food processor and return to the dutch oven, adjust seasoning. You can add the left-over porcini liquid from the toasts if you want to adjust the consistency as well. Toast some interesting bread and then cover liberally with your porcini, nut, garlic topping. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve the soup piping hot with the porcini toast floating on top.

pappa al pomodoro

August 22, 2011


Pappa al pomodoro is a perhaps the mother of all rustic peasant soups. Once considered the soup of the poor in Tuscany, the ingredients are elemental, most would have been found in the garden, and it boasts a good serving of stale bread to make it thick, filling, and satisfying. So why me? Well, the kids are at camp so we have nothing but stale bread in the kitchen, except for a handful of fabulous looking heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market that needed to be consumed. I have a little basil in the garden and lots and lots of garlic so it was a no-brainer. And turned out to be a good-brainer because it was so ridiculously delicious we couldn’t stop eating it. Those Tuscans had a thing or two figured out!

1 kg or about 6 large fresh heirloom tomatoes, different shapes, colours, sizes, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 litre veggie stock

4 slices stale bread, chopped

4 tbsps olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Wash tomatoes and chop them coursely. Peel and mince garlic. Wash and chop basil. Chop bread slices into cubes.

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. Saute garlic until it’s fragrant but not brown. Add chopped tomatoes and basil and let simmer for 5 minutes or so. Add vegetable stock and bread, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 30 minutes. The bread will break down and become one with the tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a good chunk of warm, hearty bread.

PS The authentic version of pappa al pomodoro calls for unsalted, white, Tuscan bread. All we had was a stale olive boule from St. John’s Bakery. Go with what you’ve got and don’t be afraid to improvise.

vegan pumpkin soup, vegan soup, pumpkin and fennel, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

I came across a lovely, big pumpkin the other day in all its autumn glory. It was a Rouge Vif d’Etamps. I just love the name but beyond it’s moniker – also called a Cinderella Pumpkin – it’s a unique French heirloom pumpkin. They say that it is the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. How apropos. They are beautiful, and tasty, a fact to which this soup can attest.

3 lbs pumpkin (or orange winter squash), peeled, seeded and cubed

2 cups fennel, sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cups veggie broth

1 to 2 cups fresh cider

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper

1 apple, cubed

2 tbsps organic cane sugar

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cook 5 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper and saute for another minute or two.

Add pumpkin and sliced fennel. Pour in veggie broth and 1 cup cider. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender. Remove and discard bay leaf. Puree in batches; return to saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, thin it with remaining 1 cup of cider as needed.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cube apple. Sprinkle with sugar. Heat a frying pan on the stove on medium high. Saute apples until carmelized and nicely brown. Ladle soup into bowls. And top with carmezlied apples, seeds and/or nuts (I used curried cashews).

latin corn soup

September 6, 2010

What to do with fall’s bounty? My parents came home from their cottage yesterday. On their way they stopped at a farmer’s market and, as is want to happen, they bought way too much stuff because it all looked so fresh and tasty. They came over to say hi and brought a dozen ears of corn to add to the half dozen I had just bought at the farmers’ market in the city that morning! So being up to my ears in ears of corn I decided to make corn soup and corn, peach, and tomato salsa. When trying a new recipe I always make just one batch in case I don’t like it. But when I hit on a successful recipe, like this one, I always wish I had made two or three!

2 cups thinly sliced onions

2 tsps olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 fresh chile, minced

2 tsps ground coriander

1 1/2 tsps dried oregano

1 tsp salt

2 cups veggie stock

1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes

2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 14-oz can coconut milk

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (4 – 5 ears)

2 tbsps lime juice

2 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

avocado cubes (optional)

In a soup pot on medium-high heat, cook the onions in the oil for about 5 minutes, until just beginning to soften. Add the garlic, chile, coriander, oregano, and salt and stir constantly for a minute. Stir in the veggie stock and radishes, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionly, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

When the vegetables are tender, add the the coconut milk, tomatoes, and corn and bring back to a simmer, stirring occasionly. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Top each serving with ripe avocado cubes, if you wish.

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

vegan pea soup, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

Joshua, my very sweet and handsome now 17-year old gave me a small-sized format cookbook for Christmas called 200 Veggie Feasts. Despite the fact that he likes to accuse me of joining a cult, he’s nevertheless supporting my new health regime by giving me very well chosen cookbooks (he also gave me one called Salt that’s beautiful). I’ve tried a few recipes from 200 Veggie Feasts and they are really nice recipes! This one is no exception. Simple. Earthy.  Like a vichyssoise with the freshness of peas and the pepperiness of arugula. Full of flavour and summery goodness. We had it with the mushroom toasts for a light Sunday supper.

3 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, finally chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsps chopped thyme

8 oz potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 1/2 cups fresh peas

4 cups veggie stock

2 1/2 cups arugula leaves, roughly chopped

juice 1 lemon

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic, and thyme and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the peas, stock, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender, add the arugula and lemon juice and process until smooth. Return to the pan, adjust the seasoning, and heat through. Serve immediately, drizzled with a little extra oil.