Sitting in my dining room wearing a sweater, gazing out the windows to the east and south, I am surrounded by white. Several feet of snow lay on the ground, and icicles are dangling from the gutters, threatening to re-part my hair whenever I go outside. This has been a brutal winter so far, and there’s more to come. Yet, even in the bleak midwinter, when spring seems so far away, I know this is going to be a good produce year. Spring and summer following a bad snow season always seem to give us more plump, vibrant produce than in other years. I suspect half of that is due to the nitrogen the snow puts in the soil and the other half is due to my desperation for fresh vegetables after the long winter; they look better than they really are. One of the most beautiful sights of the year is a fern poking its tightly furled head out from under dead leaves. Fiddleheads are the true harbingers of spring. Forget asparagus…
I wanted to share two of my favorite vegan recipes that make use of produce available at this time of year. Use up a cabbage that you’ve kept in cold storage and pair it with a warm soup made from carrots or cauliflower or anything else you have. Try to stick with local produce – I think it’s really important to support local businesses, especially when it’s not the active growing season. Apologies ahead of time for the lack of photos – I dropped my camera and now it can only take a picture of the inside of the camera body… oops!
Gujarat Style Baked Cabbage
Indian food is among my favorite cuisines, whether I’m eating in or eating out. There’s something wonderfully seductive about the combinations of spices, chiles, meats and vegetables. Many Indian dishes feature one main ingredient showcased to utter perfection by a supporting cast of onions, flours, spices and oils. This is a perfect example.
2 cups firmly packed finely shredded green cabbage
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
1/4 cup grated coconut, fresh or thawed (I use unsweetened dried coconut rehydrated in a little hot water)
3/4 cup chickpea flour (available in some large grocery stores or Asian/Indian markets)
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger (I always use more)
1-2 fresh hot green chiles, chopped (use the seeds if you want a good heat punch. Serranos are a good choice.)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
3 Tblsp. mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
sesame seeds (I use black and white together)
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil and water (you couldn’t combine them anyway – HAH!). Add the oil and water and mix thoroughly. Dump the mixture into a greased 8″ square baking dish (I use a 9″ round clay baker and it works just fine). Press lightly to spread into an even layer. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top – as much or as little as you like. Bake until cabbage is lightly browned – about 45 minutes (I bake it until I have a golden color on top and crispy bits around the edges). Let sit for about 5 minutes then cut and eat.
NOTE – This can be served hot or at room temperature. It can be made ahead and kept in the fridge. To reheat, place the cold pan in a cold oven and turn the heat on to 350F. Bake until heated through – about 15 minutes. This recipe doubles well. However, if you double it, don’t double the salt. Use about 1.25 tsp. in that case. Nods to Laxmi Hiremath for this recipe adapted from her cookbook “Laxmi’s Vegetarian Cookbook”.
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Basic “Cream” Soup
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped (use the greens if they’re attached)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced thinly
1 Tblsp. olive oil
approx. 4 cups cleaned, chopped vegetable, in 1/2″ to 1″ pieces (the picture shows cauliflower)
5 – 6 cups vegetable stock (or water and Vogue VegeBase or the equivalent of any other vegetable stock or bouillon)
2 Tblsp. light miso (optional)
1-1/2 Tblsp. tahini (optional)
salt and pepper
- In a soup pot, heat oil. Add onion, celery and garlic and saute over medium-high heat for a minute or so. You should smell the garlic. Add the chopped vegetable. Continue cooking for another few minutes.
- Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook at a simmer until your main vegetable is tender, usually around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. If you are using miso, add it now, stirring to dissolve (takes only a minute or two). At this point, you can puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender, liquefying the tahini (if you’re using it) with a little of the soup in a separate bowl, adding back to the pot when done.
- If you don’t have a hand blender, let the soup cool for 15 minutes or so and puree in batches in a blender, adding the tahini in the blender (if you’re using it). Return the blended soup to the pot and reheat to serve.
NOTE: I rarely use the miso/tahini option. I find this soup has tons of flavor and goodness without them. However, garnishing with tahini cream (equal parts of tahini and lemon juice with a pinch of both garlic powder and salt, let it sit briefly to thicken) is a great variation. You can use any vegetable in this recipe, from light vegetables like fiddleheads or cauliflower to heartier choices like sweet potatoes or winter squash. Use your imagination! just remember if you use the tahini cream, you’re adding a lemon flavor – make sure your vegetable choice tastes good with lemon.
This recipe is adapted from Marilyn Diamond’s American Vegetarian Cookbook. Everyone, from omnivore to vegan, should own this book.
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