Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A trio of soups!

Chickpea Noodle Soup, Carrot Ginger Soup, and Mushroom Leek Soup

Yes, I know it's June in California.  But one of my favorite people is sick, and I don't know how else to make her better.  I'd already decided to make Chickpea-Noodle Soup and Carrot-Ginger Soup when I saw the Mushroom Leek-Soup recipe on my friend's blog and had to try that one as well.  So three soups it was: one with a (somewhat) more complicated recipe from a cookbook, one with a simple recipe from a friend, and one with no recipe at all.  All very different soups, but all sort of fusiony, and all tasty.

Making soup is sooo cheap!  If you have stock, miso, tamari, salt, spices, and olive oil on hand, the veggies for these soups--I made almost 30 cups or 2 gallons of soup--cost $5.  I will give some of it away, eat some of it, and freeze the rest in small containers for future soupy times.


This "Chickpea Noodle Soup," from Veganomicon, is a slightly Japanese vegan take on chicken noodle soup that nevertheless still has the "Thanksgiving" thing still going on.  I think it must just be thyme (or sometimes sage) that makes me instantly identify a dish this way.  Anyway, the saltiness and the herbs were just right, but ultimately I felt that the soup needed a bit more bite: the recipe suggested mirin as optional; I actually added a splash of rice vinegar at the end.

This sweetness, I think, also depends on the miso you use.  I used Cold Mountain Miso's Kyoto Red miso, which is a darker, but reduced sodium, just-soybeans miso.  I find the varieties of miso enduringly confusing, not least because the names, colors, and ingredients only sometimes match up with each other, but as far as I can tell, white and yellow are sweeter and used more for seasonings while darker colors are saltier and better for soups.  The miso I used, however, was pretty much halfway in between these categories, and the soup was quite sweet.  Whatever type of miso you use, try not to boil it--this is why you add it at the end--or else you'll kill the living friends in it that will help your digestion.

Finally, the soup actually needs more broth or less pasta.  I can't really believe I'm saying this; as my family will attest, growing up I always strained all the liquid out of my soup, serving myself a bowl of chunky veggies/meat/pasta.  Yet this broth tastes so good that it should be allowed to shine on its own a bit more.  An easy way to adjust this would be to use less pasta/noodles.

Chickpea Noodle Soup
(adapted from Veganomicon)

2 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c  sliced carrots
2 stalks celery, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c sliced mushrooms
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
6 c water (not stock)
2 c chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 oz. soba noodles (I used whole wheat spaghetti), broken into short pieces
1/3 c (or less) miso 
black pepper to taste
splash mirin or rice vinegar, to taste

In a stockpot or large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add onion, carrots, and celery (aha! a mirepoix!), and saute several minutes.  Then add garlic, mushrooms, and herbs and saute some more.  Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15 minutes or so.  Add chickpeas and pasta and cook 10 more minutes (or a little less than the cook time on the pasta).  Just before serving, mix the miso with a little warm water and add it, along with mirin/vinegar and black pepper, to the soup, according to taste.  Try not to boil the miso.


I love how you don't need dairy (or fake dairy) to get a rich, thick, creamy soup.  I don't think I ever really liked or ate creamy soups when I was growing up, but at the cafe I worked at in London, our soup of the day was always a blended soup.  Maybe it's easier to make blended soups look elegant.  Or, maybe they have a comfort-food power that is all their own, reminding you of when you were an infant and didn't have teeth or something.  Anyway, this Carrot-Ginger Soup is pretty and delicious.  If you're feeling timid, you might want to reduce the generous amounts of cayenne and ginger; as is, the soup will definitely clear out your sinuses.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 3-in piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6-8 carrots, chopped
6+ c vegetable stock (I use water and then add Better Than Boullion paste when blending)

In a stock pot or large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and saute several minutes.  Add spices and carrots and saute some more.  Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20-30 minutes until carrots are very soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.  Then, puree soup in a blender (with boullion paste), return to pot, reheat if necessary, and serve.


The Mushroom Leek Soup came from my friend and former co-op-mate's awesome new blog, Celeste's Vegan Goodness.  I'm not going to post the recipe here, because I'd love for people to go check out her blog.  She has great photos and step-by-step instructions about how to best prepare the leek and the mushrooms as well.

I'm not sure I've ever cooked a leek before.  It's a bit like a monster scallion.  And, one leek goes a long, long way (see image to the right!).  I have to admit that at first I was a bit skeptical that this so-simple recipe would be too healthy or macro-tasting (although I'm obviously quite into both of these adjectives).  No stock?  No miso?  Isn't this just... onion water?  But no!  It's so delicious.  Mushrooms and tamari add a whole lot of umami to this soup, resulting in something like a macro version of French onion soup.  The mushrooms are tender but chewy, and the leek is still a little crunchy.  Simplicity can be really, really lovely.

Mushroom Leek Soup

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