Simply Superb Spring Soup

Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Passover, soups and stews, Spring, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

Oh spring, you are here.

I have been waiting for you.

Unfortunately, along with spring comes wild and frenetic recital madness at our little ballet school. Even my usually calm and collected teaching partner, Kirsta, has admitted to feeling frazzled — which scares me. Our students seem to have little interest in learning choreography or doing anything really, beyond running around the studio, shrieking, and jumping on each other (spring fever), and if you have never had to costume dozens of squirming 4 and 5 year-olds, then let me assure you, it is like trying to dress an army of epileptic octopuses.

When things get hectic at school, our house begins to resemble the inside of my locker at the Dance Complex (where we teach our classes). Bits of fabric, ribbons, CDs, ballet books, and socks are strewn about. Along with the odd half-eaten banana, empty tea mugs, paper bags, scissors, yesterday’s clothes and a leotard or two. Time to cook becomes scarce, thai take-out, a little more prevalent. Fortunately there are recipes out there such as this incredibly easy, quick and delicious spring soup. For the amount of prep time this soup required, I was expecting something edible, but hardly memorable. I was very wrong.

Make this soup when you are busy, when you aren’t, as the first course of a fancy dinner, as a simple supper with some crusty bread and a fried egg — it can really fit in just about anywhere. Enjoy!

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup, adapted from Bon Apetit, April 2010

Unlike the split pea soup that many of you may have grown up with, this soup is lighter in color and texture, with the mint and shallots giving it a wonderful delicateness. Even if you think pea soup is not your thing, this one is worth a shot.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 2/3 cups chopped shallots (about 6 very large)

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 5 pounds peas in pods) or two 16-ounce bags frozen petite peas, unthawed (I used frozen, with fantastic results, just make sure they are petite)

5 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use the Whole Foods 365 brand, it is quite tasty and often on sale) 

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint plus additional for garnish

PREPARATION

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add peas and stir 1 minute. Add 5 1/2 cups broth and bring to simmer. Cook until peas are very tender, about 8 minutes.

Cool 15 minutes. Puree soup and 1/4 cup chopped mint in batches in blender until smooth or use a hand-held immersion blender. Return to same pot; thin with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Re-warm soup over medium-low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls; garnish with additional mint.

Rethinking Passover, with apologies to Mom

Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Gluten Free, Passover, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

Look, I hate to be one to further stereotypes, but the Jews are a people completely and utterly obsessed with food. Whether this fixation stems from religious restricions on certain foods and food-combinations, from the lean, war years, or from what appears to be a genetic predisposition to weakened stomach conditions, I really have no idea. The irony of this is that a lot of the well-known (Eastern European) Jewish food in the US leaves a lot of be desired, and no holiday exemplifies this lack of gastronomical appeal quite like Passover.

It’s silly really. The restrictions on this holiday, depending on how you interpret the law, are relatively few. In fact, many folks out there who are gluten intolerant, or have a wheat or yeast allergy, eat according to Passover laws all year round. And yet for some reason many of the traditional foods for this spring-time celebration of the Jewish Exodus are heavy, egg-laden, fiber-deprived, lumpy, oily, uninspired catastrophes.

A few years ago, after one piece of gefilte fish pie too many, I decided to start collecting recipes for Passover that celebrated what we can eat on this holiday (such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds), instead of recipes that tried to simulate the things we cannot (uh, passover popovers…). Of the recipes I have compiled thus far some are intended for the holiday — but with a fresh, new take on cooking without grains or leavening — and some are accidentally kosher-for-passover dishes that suit the festive, spring-like nature of the meal.

I would actually feel excited about eating the following two recipes any time of year. They are truly stars of my new Passover recipe collection and I can take no credit for either of them whatsoever. Perfect just as they were written, from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet, respectively, they are examples of how you can reinvigorate your Passover seder, and perhaps help cut back on some of the constipation-talk during the meal. Good luck.

Curried Carrot Almond Soup, from Gourmet, February 2009

1 small onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras)

1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cups water

2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk

4 cilantro sprigs, leaves and stems reserved separately

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cook onion in oil with 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder, red-pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add carrots, water, almond milk, cilantro stems, and 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves and toasted almonds.

Coconut Fruit Tart, from Martha Stewart Living, April 2008

For the crust

Note: You can make the crust up to a day ahead, pressed into the tart pan. Store in the fridge on a flat sheet pan, to avoid having the pan bottom separate from the top when lifted.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling

1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

2 tablespoons almond paste

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup soy cream cheese, preferably Tofutti

5 tablespoons apricot jam

4 cups assorted berries

Directions

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of pan.

Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in soy milk and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. Whisk yolks, arrowroot or cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Add hot soy milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.

Beat milk mixture and almond paste with a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Beat in almond flour and cream cheese. Spread into tart crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover edges with parchment, then foil. Bake until set, 15 to 25 minutes more. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Unmold. Spread jam evenly over the tart. Arrange berries on top.