Posts tagged #vegetarian

Lagniappe: #StopYuLin2015

Have you been wondering about the #StopYuLin2015 hashtag floating around social media at the moment? I was too. I thought YuLin was some asshole person that needed to be stopped.

Turns out that it's actually a Dog Meat Festival happening in a town called YuLin in south-west China. Understandably there’s been a lot of outrage and international pressure in backlash to the facts being (sensationally) reported by CNN, The Guardian, and the BBC, namely:

  • The festival has been running since 1995, though YuLin's local government has distanced itself from the controversial event and claims there's no official festival at all
  • It involves the slaughter and processing of approximately 10,000 dogs, some of which are raised expressly for human consumption and others that are rumored to have been stolen from urban areas either as strays, guard dogs, or even pets.
  • Some of the dogs are in ill health as a result of malnourishment and inhumane housing conditions, but are processed anyway.

People are most pissed off about two pretty obvious things: one, Fluffy’s being served up for lunch, and two, that Fluffy might have been stolen from his loving family. No one’s going to disagree with that second one of course; stealing is bullshit and the theft of an animal considered to be family is even crueler than that of an inanimate object.

But that first point…

That first point…where do we begin? Let's just think about this for a second. Open your mind, and think through this with me logically--then leave your opinions in the comments below.

I have a puppy, Tula, who is my father’s whole world. She is absolutely a family member and I love her to bits and pieces.

Rub a dub dub.

I have no plans to eat dog. I don't personally agree with it, grouping my disagreement under the same "fuzzy" moral umbrella I use to justify usually abstaining from lamb and veal (I don't eat baby anything; not only because it's a baby, which seems cruel to me, but also for the conditions these particular animals are commonly raised in) and foie gras because of the often deplorable way in which it is produced.

What I really don’t understand, though, is the outrageous righteous anger at the concept of eating dog. Think about it for a second: what makes eating dog different from eating cow, chicken, or pork?

“But dogs are like family! Those other animals don’t have personalities like my dog and they’re raised to be eaten anyway!”

I get that dogs are like family—to us, here, in the West and other similar cultures. But in some Asian countries and also commonly in South America, dogs are not viewed as family members but as pests, workers, or as a food source. In fact, dogs have been raised as a food source in China since the Neolithic period, right alongside fowl, chicken, pigs, and cows. An animal that’s family to you is good eating to someone on the other side of the world, and vice versa. Try to consider that.

As to those “other animals” not having as much personality as your dog—can you really say that? How much experience do you REALLY have getting to know the personalities of chickens, pigs, and cows?

I have a bit, and I can tell you that pigs are incredibly smart and opinionated with their own likes and dislikes, and can very easily form bonds with humans. So can chickens, to a lesser degree. Cows even have best friends in their herds and senses of humour, and are capable of making intelligent decisions. These animals aren’t just mindless slabs of living tenderloin waiting to make it onto your grill. So, what’s the real difference here?

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I do eat meat. I used to be a vegetarian and a pescatarian (fish being my only source of meat) but being passionate about food I sort of swung back around to the omnivore persuasion.

But the key for me is trying to be mindful about what I eat. I know what I’m doing. It’s an educated decision about the type of animal, how it was raised and where and under what conditions. I try not to just thoughtlessly shove any meat I can find into my face.

If you’re going to be outraged about people eating dog, then perhaps you should also give a little bit more thought about the meat you eat. Be outraged about all meat eating, or choose to be understanding of other cultures.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Let me know in the comments. I'm always up for lively, informed, and intelligent debate. If you're just going to be an ignorant asshole, please go away. :)


Posted on June 28, 2015 and filed under Lagniappe.

Lekker: Quinoa Tabbouleh

No, I didn't sneeze. It's food, I promise.

TABBOULEH! Know it? It's a Middle Eastern grain salad that's been around for eons upon ages, and typically it's not one of my favourite foods. Nothing against Middle Eastern food, of course--in fact I love it--but tabbouleh usually has a consistency that is not very pleasing to my tongue. With this recipe so chock full of fresh veggies and salty goodness, though, we've got zero problems.

And yes yes I know. Quinoa (KEEN-wah, if you haven't heard the yuppies talking about it as the next big health craze for the last 5 years) is not the traditional grain to use in tabbouleh. TOO BAD; that's what I had in my fridge and I like it better than bulgur anyway because it's got more protein per serving: 8 grams per cooked cup versus bulgur's 6. This is also an excellent swap if you're gluten-free since quinoa is technically a seed, not a wheat product.

I am *also* aware that traditional tabbouleh does not contain carrots, olives, or feta cheese, but if you're going to say no to those types of things I'm not sure I want to be friends with you anyway.

So, onwards we go to this strangely addictive light vegetarian lunch or dinner option (oooorrrr just add some grilled chicken to blow that whole vegetarian thing out of the water)!

This is the only time grain salads look pretty. Not pictured: olives and feta cheese.

serves two as a full salad for lunch or dinner; add grilled chicken if you want it a bit more filling

1 1/2-2 cups cooked quinoa (I used tri-colour since that's what I had)
2 Persian cucumbers, diced small (Persian cukes are the little wee ones packaged in a tray and covered with plastic wrap; I like them because they're super crunchy with minimal seeds but feel free to use an English hothouse cucumber--the super long ones wrapped in cling wrap--as well. Regular cucumbers don't have the kind of crunch you want here.)
1 large beefsteak tomato or 2-3 smaller Roma tomatoes, diced
2 scallions, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
~1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped (Why are you bothering to measure a salad? Just take a "1/3 cup" to mean "a handful.")
~1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (or however much you want; I never let people tell me how much cheese I should or should not be eating dammit)
8-10 leaves fresh mint, finely chopped (Don't cheap out and use dried herbs! In this salad it's a total loss.)
8-10 leaves fresh Italian flat parsley, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
Juice of 1 small lemon, pulp and seeds strained out
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, diced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, scallions, carrots, olives, cheese, mint, and parsley. Then in a separate small bowl whisk up the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper until well combined to become your dressing.

2. Toss the salad with your dressing (add a bit more olive oil if it looks too dry), and leave it to chill out in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

As I said, this dish is actually super addictive. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time I ate it, but after it sat in the fridge for an hour I had another serving, and the more I ate it the more I wanted to eat more of it until I was essentially just shoveling it into my piehole, grains and parsley leaves flying everywhere. I are sexy.

Buon appetito!

Posted on June 20, 2015 and filed under Lekker.

Lekker: Vegan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

Hello there, and Happy Thanksgiving pals!

As a foodie I'm sure you can imagine that this is very nearly my favourite holiday of the year. Christmas is my actual favourite, but only because it's LONGER.

Because Thanksgiving is just one day I feel like it never really gets its proper due, so when I "grow up" one day I plan to host Thanksgiving dinners at least twice a year. It's such a great excuse to get together with friends and family for quality time, and besides, there's just too many cool recipes I want to try. Once per year is not cutting it. Bollocks.

(That plan hinges on the obviously faulty logic that I will, in fact, one day grow up--but nevermind.) 

Surprising no one I've been planning my Thanksgiving menu since sometime in September, and I ultimately decided that sweet potatoes were axed from this year's menu. Since it's just my Dad, my 20-year-old body building brother Champ and I for dinner this year it's quite the small party, and thus I had to be painfully limited with my side dishes.

Champ threw a hissy fit when he found out I wasn't doing sweet potatoes because OF COURSE he doesn't care about anything, ever, but the **second** I say no to something it's immediately the most important thing ever--but I'M IN CHARGE HERE DAMMIT!

However in light of the "family togetherness" of the holidays etc etc etc I yielded somewhat to the sweet-potato-based pressure by cooking up this vegan sweet potato and black bean chili for dinner.

None of us are vegans here but it's so lean, filling, and chock full of wholesome things, it'll make you feel better about yourself before you dive in face first to the gluttony and gravy-induced stupor that is Thanksgiving the following day.

Chili never looks particularly appetizing, but damn if it isn't delicious.

And yes, my father promptly ruined the "vegan" aspect by topping it with a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese.

serves 4


  • 1 very large, 2 medium, or 3 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 green jalapeno, seeds removed and flesh diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-oz tins; see my note below if you want to cook them from scratch)
  • 4 teaspoons adobo sauce from a tin of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (if you like your chili more on the spicy side, feel free to add in one of the chipotle peppers, chopped)
  • 1 28-oz tin diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth, to thin it out

Optional, To Screw Up The Whole Vegan Thing: Sour cream or shredded cheese, to serve

***On black beans from scratch:***

My Mother, God rest her soul, was born and raised in Guatemala on the traditional staple diet of black beans and rice. Do you think they use tinned beans down there? LOL, no. That's an American convenience, and it is convenient--but cooking your own is stupidly easy and SO worth it.

As the beans cook they release starch and flavouring into the cooking water, yielding this black salty broth that acted as my liquid in the chili recipe, and tastes AMAZING. Like I could sip that from a mug all day in bliss. These are the beans I remember from my childhood, and if you did a taste test of beans from scratch next to tinned beans, I absolutely guarantee without a doubt that the beans from scratch will come out on top, every time.

For God's sake, just make sure that they are fresh beans. The first time I made this recipe I used a batch of beans I dug up from the back of my Dad's pantry that I later found out were AT LEAST six goddamn years old. Turns out the older the beans are, the longer it takes to cook--which in this case was SIX HOURS PLUS AN OVERNIGHT SOAKING. It felt like forever. I felt like I was stuck in some kind of parallel universe where nothing cooked.

That's it for my rant on beans for now, but I'm planning on writing a recipe for cooking your own--and more importantly, why you should definitely, positively, should be putting them in and around your mouth.


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. On it, toss together your diced sweet potatoes, paprika, salt and pepper to taste with only 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread out into a thin layer. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing once in between. Remove from the oven and set...somewhere. Aside. Out of your way.

Roasted sweet potato is the best sweet potato and there will be no debate on that fact.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat your olive oil and sauté up your onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeño, cumin, and oregano until everything is nice and soft. Add in the black beans, the tin of tomatoes, adobo sauce, sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir.

(Note: at this point, I added 1 cup of the black bean broth because the chili was too thick to simmer properly. If you opted for tinned beans, add in a cup of water or vegetable broth here.)

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer merrily away for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add in your sweet potato. Simmer for another 15 minutes-ish or until all heated through nicely.


There are zillions of chili toppings, of course, but in my house we dig shredded cheddar cheese and saltine crackers. Cheese is obviously not vegan, but there are vegan cheese options so if you're into it, by all means, have at it.

Lekker: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

So my Dad's been on a random mushroom kick lately and every weekend I come home, he buys a pair of portobello mushroom caps for us to have. No real plan or anything, just...buys them and looks at me expectantly. Please don't ask me to explain any further because I really don't know.

Anyway, last night I realised we had some spinach in the fridge that needed to be used and stuffed mushrooms became pretty obvious. Grievously, I forgot how much mushrooms shrink when they cook--it was a LONG week of calculus, okay--so with one mushroom each even topped with a poached egg for some filling protein, we were a bit underfed.

To that end I suggest you employ these as a side dish to chicken or steak; or double the portion per person to serve as a full dinner with a salad on the side; or perhaps for brunch as well. No matter what though, it's easy, fast, and delicious!

See? OK, the mushroom shrinks quite a bit so...yeah...I promise it's there and it's yummy. The molten egg yolk creates a rich sauce that pulls everything together.

Oh, and? I recognise this is a crappy picture. The photography struggle in my Dad's kitchen with flickering fluorescent lights is REAL, I tell you.

the recipe as written serves 2 as a side dish; double it to create a proper meal for brunch or lunch with a salad


  • 2 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 very large handful fresh baby spinach, chopped finely
  • 1 Roma or beefsteak tomato, seeded and finely diced
  • ~1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (I didn't have any so I just made my own using a piece of whole wheat bread grated on a box grater. Spread it out on a foil-lined pan--you'll reuse the same one to bake the mushrooms so you're not dirtying another dish--and spray with cooking oil of your choice. Bake at 375 for about 4 minutes and they'll be crispy and good to go.)
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheese of your choice (I used extra sharp cheddar since that's what we had but feta, Parmesan, or any other hard cheese would be great here.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • S & P, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, maybe

Optional: two eggs, poached, to top


1. Preheat your oven to 375. As with all mushrooms, first wipe them down with a damp paper towel to remove any excess dirt. Then, using a spoon, gently scrape out the dark gills on the underside. I've never been formally told to do this, but they REALLY freak me out and don't look delicious at all, and I know other people do it, so--follow the crowd. Do it. Also creates a deeper bowl to stuff more delicious things in.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the spinach, tomato, breadcrumbs, cheese, oregano, and salt and pepper. If it looks very dry and isn't bonding well, add a bit of olive oil to bring it all together.

3. On a small baking sheet lined with foil, lay your mushroom caps upside down. Spoon the mixture into the cavity until it's well heaped, leaving a bit of room around the edges to account for shrinkage.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then broil for an additional 2-3 minutes to get the breadcrumbs right on the top nice and crispy.

You can be busy poaching your eggs while the mushrooms are baking, if you opt to serve them that way, which you should, because I said so. I can't WAIT to make these for brunch this weekend, perfect alongside a mimosa or seven.

Lekker: Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I'm going to cut straight to the chase here: I HAVE DISCOVERED THE SECRET TO PERFECT MASHED POTATOES. 


It's baking powder. Wut.

The few people to whom I have divulged this secret thus far have greeted me with skepticism, confusion, and befuddlement. Yes. I know. It's totally weird. Nonetheless, somehow I found myself on this webpage the other day featuring an old recipe for "French Mashed Potatoes" from a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook that does in fact call for one teaspoon of baking powder. I couldn't wait to give it a try, to see if this really WAS the Holy Grail of mashed potatoes, for my dinner last night of Bangers 'n Mash with Bacon Braised Collard Greens (recipe for that coming soon).

The verdict: yes, it really does make a difference. Yes, they really were fluffy clouds of comfort food. And ya know, I know this is legit, because I didn't do anything else differently this time except adding the teaspoon of baking powder! I'm curious to know how it works, because baking powder is a chemical leavener that contains both the acid and the base required to create a release of CO2 gases that then create that fluffiness, but you'd think that potatoes wouldn't have enough "liquid" in order to make proper use of that theory...hmm. In doing some research on the topic this morning, I stumbled across this hilarious thread of people fighting about mashed potatoes on the Internet. Because apparently that's a thing that people do. I can only assume that it ended with the brandishing of beaters at the computer screen.

Anyway, what follows is what I have defined as my go-to, do-it-in-my-sleep classic mashed potatoes recipe. I've included options at the end for ways to change it up, as well as my just-as-delicious dairy-free version, but if you've yet to master this beloved side dish give it a shot!

Alright well fine they don't look as good as they taste here but we've already established I suck at photography and besides food is for eating anyway. So it.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
serves 4

What You Need
4-6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (The type of potato you use *IS* important! Don't just go picking up any bag, and don't assume that Russet potatoes are the gold standard. They are not. Gold potatoes are the gold standard. No but seriously, certain potatoes are better suited for certain purposes according to their "waxiness": hardy red skinned potatoes typically hold up well for potato salad but make a very starchy and heavy mashed potato; Russet potatoes are excellent for baking; and Yukon Gold [or other "gold"] potatoes are the creme de la creme for whipping into mashed potatoes.)
4 T salted butter
1/3 cup light cream
1 teaspoon baking powder (powder, not soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground black pepper

What You Do
1. Peel and dice your potatoes into chunks about 1/2 inches big. Doesn't have to be scientific, just try to get them all a similar size. Dump them into a medium sized pot and cover with cold water, salting the water well. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Try not to let them overcook to the point where they're falling apart in the water, as they become waterlogged and soggy that way.

2. Once the potatoes are done, drain them well of water and add the butter, cream, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Beat with a hand mixer for only about 2 minutes or until well beaten and fluffed. If you don't have a hand mixer, mash them up as best you can with a potato masher and then whip vigorously with a whisk. It's a good arm workout. Ta-dah! You're done!

 There are a zillion ways to jazz up your mashed potatoes if you're bored of the classics:
  • Boil the potatoes in chicken broth or stock instead of plain water.
  • Beat in some snipped fresh chives or spring onions to add colour.
  • Make indulgent cheesy mashed potatoes by adding half a cup (or more lol) of shaved Parmesan or cheddar cheese.
  • Crispy bacon pieces on top. Duh.
  • For tangy Southern potatoes, switch in buttermilk in place of the light cream.  
  • Stir in some oven roasted garlic for garlic mashed potatoes. Instructions for how to roast garlic can be found in my previous blog entry for Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup.
  • To make dairy free mashed potatoes, use Earth Balance "butter" in place of regular butter and swap out original coconut milk (NOT flavoured obviously) for the light cream.
Posted on January 29, 2014 .

Lekker: Pumpkin Soup

You know what success tastes like? THIS SOUP. No, really. I am so thrilled to have finally mastered a recipe for pumpkin soup I could SING! 1, because I refuse to be defeated with crappy recipes when I have my mind set on something and 2, because I am so. sick. of pumpkin by now. Trust me, I've gone through about 3-4 different recipes in my pursuit of perfection and since I was raised with a "third world country" mentality I can't justify throwing food away--so I've been eating a lot of pumpkin soup. And there's nothing more frustrating that eating something that isn't quite right! Too garlicky. Way too spicy. Too rich and unhealthy. Sigh.

And then, over the weekend, finally...perfection. I tossed all the recipes in the rubbish bin and decided to wing it, and whaddaya know...finally, something I can rave about. Huzzah! Not only is the colour of this soup beautiful and vibrant, but it lets the pumpkin shine as the main ingredient while still maintaining a complex flavour profile. It's also super easy and quick to whip up--and even better the next day.

Pumpkin Soup
makes about 3 servings

What You Need
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium shallot, diced
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced in half lengthways and diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups pumpkin puree (Make your life easy and use the tinned stuff; just make sure it's pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons heavy cream
freshly ground pepper, to taste

You'll need an immersion blender for this one, or, work in batches pureeing in a standard blender.

What You Do
1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter until the foam subsides and it turns a lovely light golden-brown colour. Keep  close eye on it, as it can go from beautifully nutty and brown to blackened and burnt within seconds. Add your shallot, leeks and celery and saute for 5-7 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add the garlic and sage and cook for 1-2 minutes more until fragrant.

2. Pour in your wine and let it simmer and reduce until there is no liquid left. Add the broth and the pumpkin puree and stir well to combine. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. I find I usually need about 4 turns from a pepper grinder, and actually I don't use any salt since I think the broth is plenty salty enough. Stir in the 3 tablespoons of heavy cream, and serve!

If you wanna be all fancy-pants, serve it with a couple of whole sage leaves fried quickly in butter. A multigrain, highly seeded bread would be delicious toasted alongside this.
Posted on October 31, 2013 .

Lekker: Potato-Leek Soup

Oh god. I feel so guilty for posting yet ANOTHER soup recipe. (And there's a second one in the chute...) I'm sure I've lost ALL of my male readers (those that aren't sick and making my Italian Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, anyway) with the dearth of salads and soups that've been on here lately. What can I say for myself? Most of the time I'm solo, and I like soups! I can make a big batch and have lunch or dinner for a few days, and because I'm not expected to feed a man I don't have to feel obligated to make "real food." And, it's "soup season" because it's fall and blah blah blah.

I promise, I have plans for "real food" in the coming weeks--Sticky Chutney Chicken, Tex-Mex Chili, Bucatini Bolognese and some to-die-for buffalo chicken sandwiches that are *perfect* for football Sundays. This wasn't even planned for today; it only happened because my housemate TB and I spent the morning harvesting the final crop from the garden before tearing it up for the winter, and it yielded a shit ton of leeks and potatoes.

Not to mention...sweet potatoes. BOATLOADS AND BOATLOADS OF SWEET POTATOES.

But for now, one of my absolute favourites--Potato Leek Soup. Of all the versions I've tried and tinkered with, this one is my favourite because it's largely dairy free except for the butter, but just as rich and creamy as you'd wish. I love serving this with a hearty slice of garlic bread, just like my mother used to, and a crisp green salad. TB raved about this recent batch and subsequently cleaned me out of my dinner for the rest of the week. Oh well. :)

Potato Leek Soup
makes 4 servings

What You Need
2 T butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well and sliced thinly
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces (I find Yukon Golds to be the smoothest and richest potatoes for mashing or pureeing)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or you can use vegetable broth to make this completely vegetarian)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
~1/2 cup of water, to thin

You'll need an immersion blender for this soup, or, work in batches to puree in a regular blender.

What You Do
1. In a medium saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter until the foam subsides and it turns a light brown colour. PLEASE be watchful, as it can go from beautifully brown to blackened and burnt within seconds. Browning the butter, though, gives it a nice colour and slightly nutty flavour. Toss in your sliced leeks and chopped onion and saute for about 7 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 1-2 minutes more until fragrant.

2. Pour in your chicken broth and add your potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are completely tender. Remove from heat.

3. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. At this stage I found that I needed to add 1/2 cup of warm water to thin it out to a consistency that I preferred, but use your judgement.

TB wanted the flavours of a baked potato, so he topped his soup with some shredded cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. It was, in a word, divine. I'm a simple girl though and this soup is so flavourful I love it as-is. It's warm, rich, and sticks to your ribs for those disgustingly chilly winter nights that are sure to come this season...

Bon appetit!
Posted on October 28, 2013 .

Lekker: Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup

Oh no...two soup recipes in a week? Shit, must be fall yo!

I whipped this baby up this weekend in between episodes of Mad Men (rewatching; goodness Betty Draper drives me just bananas--grow a backbone, lady!) as an alternative to traditional tomato soup. Don't get me wrong, tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of my favourite meals ever and sooo comforting on a rainy day. Not that it was raining here, but anyway--I'm interested in creative spins on that traditional American combo and this is totally in the running: a roasted tomato soup with lots of garlic and onion, and a big Thai kick from the garam masala spices and coconut milk. What to serve it with? When I do this next time, I'm grilling up a naan and paneer cheese sandwich. NOM!

Don't be intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients; they are all easy to find if you know where to look.

Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup
makes about 6 servings

What You Need
14-16 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
2 large yellow onions, sliced in thick chunks (I don't care how you wanna do this; quarters, chunks, rings, whatever--just make them similar in size to the tomatoes)
2 whole heads of garlic (you can take it down a notch to one head if you're really anti-garlic or something, but know that roasting them really mellows their flavour and brings out just a lovely carmelised sweetness)

olive oil or whatever oil you prefer for roasting
1 can coconut milk (reserve a couple of teaspoons for a pretty garnish)
~2 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth if you want to make this entirely vegetarian
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or 1 teaspoon of sriracha sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro, or a comparable amount of chopped fresh cilantro
about 8 stalks of fresh parsley, leaves chopped roughly (toss the stems in your compost pile)
salt and pepper, to taste

What You Do
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. The first thing you have to do is get the garlic in the oven because those take the longest to roast (about 45 minutes). If you've never roasted garlic before, it's really easy. Just rub off the excess papery skin, leaving the whole bulb intact. Slice off the top 1/3 of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Pour olive oil over top until the cloves are well coated, and wrap up in aluminum foil and throw in the oven. If that wasn't clear enough, here's a tutorial, except I don't bother with the baking tin; I just wrap them up into little foil bundles and have done with it.

2. While that's going, line a baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the halved tomatoes and onion chunks with enough oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out evenly on the baking sheet and add those to the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast for about 15-20 minutes more, or until the onions have gone golden brown (maybe a little blackened in some places, that's okay) and the tomatoes have broken down and are brown in spots. QUITE CONVENIENTLY, an episode of Mad Men runs about 48 minutes, so...I'm not *saying* my timing is perfect, but it kind of is. 

3. Everything roasted? Sweetness! In a large stockpot, throw in the tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, coconut milk (treat that can like a Shake Weight before you open it otherwise it'll be all separated and weird; nothing wrong with the Shake Weight, nothing at all), 1 cup of broth, tomato paste, garam masala and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes. Now, you'll need to either use an immersion blender to blend this all up, or work in careful batches in a blender until smooth.

4. Now that it's all blended you can add the cilantro and the parsley, and add the remaining cup of broth adjusting to the thickness that you like for your soups. I'm not gonna hunt you down if you like it a little thicker...baha. Heat for about another 10 minutes at a gentle simmer and serve with a pretty drizzle of coconut milk and a couple of leaves of fresh parsley. Look at you all fancy. If you like it spicier, add in a gorgeous drizzle of extra sriracha. (I find that the coconut milk adds such a rich, gorgeous creaminess that I want to contrast it with a decent kick.) Done! Next time, I think I'm going to pass the soup through a strainer quickly before serving to remove some of the fibrous leftovers from the tomatoes.

A couple of notes:

* Garam Masala is a spice mixture common in Indian and Southeast Asia. I had a difficult time finding it in the grocery store, but in TARGET, of all places, I found it in their Archer Farms line of spices. I imagine you could find it at an Asian or Indian foods market as well, and of course there's always the great wide Internet if you're really determined. 

* Coconut milk is much more common nowadays so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. I found the tin in the Asian foods section of my local supermarket, but it's also available in cartons. Just make sure you get an unflavoured kind and if you use a carton, you'll need about 1 1/2 cups' worth. 

* I mentioned I would serve it with a grilled naan and paneer sandwich. Naan is flat bread from the Middle East, so I guess I'm doing a bit of a fusion thing there, but it's easy to find--usually by the imported cheeses, by the deli, or by the bread in your store. Paneer is an Indian cheese that I simply can't find, though my search is not over. In the interim, I would use a fresh white cheese of any kind--queso fresco comes to mind. Hell, you could even do a grilled naan and FETA sandwich here that would be AWESOME! Just pick any mild, white, solid cheese and you're good to go.

* If you don't like Indian food, and don't like curry, or Thai or Indian flavours, and hate trying new things, and expanding your culinary palate--don't eat this. You'll be pissed that "I gave you this crappy recipe" and I'll be pissed that you're a dumbass.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for a martini with Don Draper. Hello, Don...
Posted on October 8, 2013 .