I don't know about you, but I tend to get a cold with every change of the seasons. Lately it's been warm and beautiful out and the air is full of pollen. Well, that just leads to me constantly sneezing and feeling drowsy, so I turned to the typical, belly-warming, cold curing food. I just needed to have some soup, but I didn't want it to be heavy. Though this may be a "cream" soup, it's pretty light. May is also the best month to buy asparagus, it's typically at it's peak this month. So, if you're like me and you can't breathe out of your nose lately, OR if you have an undying love of asparagus (who wouldn't?) you should make this soup asap!
If you're a vegan, you've probably heard of the magical properties of cashews for making cheese or creams. Well, I'm not the biggest fan of cashew cream and I also am not made of money, so I don't use them often. I tried this soup once before using cauliflower for the cream, but it just didn't thrill me and the texture was off. It also muted the asparagus flavor. Thus began my quest for a more appropriate cream substitute. Last week, I made some rice milk from scratch and it started out pretty darn thick. As I was thinning it out to a more drinkable consistency, it dawned on me to use blended rice as a cream substitute. Well, it worked beautifully and it didn't take away from the flavor at all.
You also have some options with this soup. Personally, I find completely pureed soups a drag. Even tomato soup, it just needs some chunks of tomato for me to enjoy it. I didn't puree the onions with the rice and asparagus and I also reserved some asparagus spears to throw in at the end. If you enjoy totally silky smooth soups, be my guest and puree everything. Totally up to you. I won't judge.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
I'm beginning to realize that I don't post as often as I'd like. I'm going to try to correct that, but it might be difficult to do now that it's so beautiful out. For example, I meant to edit these pictures and post this recipe yesterday, but I was out having a lovely time with Brennan. We went out to lunch and saw a movie, he got a haircut and looks absolutely dashing, I bought earrings.. It was a good day.
Lately, our days off have been spent working on the motorcycle he's fixing up, fixing our found-in-the-garbage desk, or some other DIY project, because we have about 1 million. Our little date day was a refreshing and much-needed break. The biggest need for me, though, was the movie. We watched the newest Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I have been dying to see for so long. I won't harp on the subject much longer, even though I could.. I really could, but I will say this: it wasn't what I expected, it was not what I expected, and it was really good. It may not be my favorite film of his, but it was great. I would highly suggest it.
Okay, back to the food.. Anything green can pretty much be pesto, right? Yeah, that's what I believe too. I mean, we've all heard of kale pesto, spinach pesto, cilantro pesto, etc. Obviously, that's the new rule: if it's green it can be pesto. Thus, I bring you this delicious, light, spring pesto. I used frozen peas, but this recipe is so fresh, you can't even tell the difference. That's actually one of my favorite things about peas, they taste great fresh and frozen. I always have a huge bag of peas in the freezer. They're often a last minute ingredient, used to lighten up the flavor of a dish. Same goes with corn, I use them both frequently. I decided to make peas the star ingredient for a change, and it turned out beautiful.
I'm a fan of meals with a lot of texture and variety, so I chose to throw some roasted cauliflower in this dish. I wasn't sure how it would taste or if it would even make a difference, but it did. Roasted cauliflower is becoming something of a fad, and if you've ever tried it roasted, you know why. It enhances the flavor and texture of what I would typically consider a sort of dull vegetable. If you have yet to try roasting cauliflower, you really should. And this recipe is a great place to try it, you can really get the full flavor as it isn't masked by too many ingredients.
Penne with Pea Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower
I tend to be obsessive about meal planning. Usually, Bren and I go to the store only once week with a list of the meals and the ingredients I planned for the upcoming week. Well, apparently, I was a day short last week and realized I had nothing planned to make and very little leftover produce. So, I stood there, looking over the "pantry" items trying to come up with something I could make for dinner. Rices, pastas, vegetable stock, beans.. but not enough produce options to liven it up. I opened the fridge, and there it was, a huge bag of carrots that Brennan decided we should get for snacking. My first thought was curried carrot soup, but it's so warm out and that's a heavy soup. Then, I saw basmati rice. Keeping the same general idea for the soup, I decided to lighten it up and make a gravy to go over rice.
Indian food has always been one of my favorite types of food. It smells fantastic and tastes even better. Some of the dishes tend to be a little too heavy to eat on a regular basis, so I don't cook Indian too often and especially not during the warmer months. For this dish, I did decide to give it a little more texture than traditional Indian gravy. I didn't use much coconut milk and I left the carrots a bit crunchy for a fresh taste.
Red lentils were the obvious choice for protein. The go well with the flavor profile of Indian food and they are also quick to cook, unlike most legumes. Another reason I plan our meals is to know when I need to soak my beans, seeds, or nuts. I've found that using a crock pot is the best method for me. I usually start the beans in the morning or early afternoon and they're ready to use by the time I start cooking. We tend to use beans as our main source of protein for dinner, but since no dinner was planned, I was very happy to see we still had some red lentils to quickly boil.
Brennan was very happy when he came home from work to a house smelling like curry. I heard the door open and an audible "mmmm.." followed. He's a fan of hearty dishes, so he really liked this one. He was a little surprised when I told him that it was a last minute idea, but that's the beauty of having ground spices on hand. They really are much more convenient when you're in a pinch.
Curried Carrots and Red Lentils over Basmati Rice
Anything wrapped in a tortilla is basically heaven. When you add enchilada sauce, words can't even describe how excited I get. I have a friend who makes the best enchiladas, but the traditional way, with cheese. These have no cheese or even a cheese like sauce. So I guess they're more like glorified wraps that were smothered in enchilada sauce and then baked, but "Black Bean and Zucchini Enchiladas" is a much shorter title.
Zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables. It goes well in tex-mex style foods, in Italian dishes like pasta, it can BE pasta.. It's just great. It also holds moisture, so it makes these enchiladas just the right amount of juicy. I chose to chop my zucchini the first time I cooked them to make the wraps a bit bulkier, but in hindsight, grating them would be the better option. This is what I would suggest doing when you try this recipe.
Black beans, of course, are the main protein in this dish and also add some heartiness. Pinto had been up for consideration, but I am ultimately glad that I chose black beans. They pair well with the zucchini and, well, what would Tex-Mex be without black beans? To balance the flavors, I also chose to add corn and a whole bunch of cilantro for some light, fresh flavors. These may not be your typical, full of cheese enchiladas, but I don't think you'll mind. Instead of heavy, you get the perfect blend of hearty and fresh.
Black Bean and Zucchini Enchiladas
My name is Ellen Jane and I spend my free time doing vegan experiments in my kitchen so you don't have to. Take a look around.