Monthly Archives: October 2013

Roasted Tomato and Root Vegetable Soup

You'll never look at tomato soup the same way again

You’ll never look at tomato soup the same way again

This is not the Tomato Soup of your childhood. There is no Campbell’s product anywhere (unless you have a painting of the Andy Warhol soup can in your kitchen), and cream is not involved. More importantly, nothing is pureed. What this soup is however, is a roasted tomato bowl of pure bliss. Simple, fresh flavours highlighted by roasting and completely addicting.

This soup was first born in my ongoing growth in the kitchen to try and overcome my childhood aversions – tomato soup in this case. Clearly, I strayed a bit. From the market I got a giant bag of plum tomatoes, as well as the seasonal root vegetables of rutabaga, kohlrabi, and beets. Inspired by a tomato soup recipe in Eric Tucker’s Millennium cookbook and my ciambotta recipe, I set out experimenting. The end result is a soup that is quite possibly the recipe of Fall 2013. The roasted tomatoes add such depth and flavour to the soup it’s surprising. Roasted garlic is never a bad thing, and roasting the onions is an optional but highly recommended step. The beets add a gorgeous deep red hue to the soup, making the bowl look even more ‘tomatoey’. The rutabaga and kohlrabi add some nice contrast in both colour and crunch, and the swiss chard at the end looks like bright green ribbons. The root vegetables used here could be completely interchangeable, depending on your preference. Parsnips, turnips, potatoes … anything. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition to the soup. The roasted vegetables are helped along with some fresh thyme, rosemary, fennel, and oregano. A splash of balsamic at the end for some acid, and you’re ready to slurp. The best part is that the soup almost cooks itself. The roasting does all the hard work – you just have to throw it all together in a pot after and let the flavours marry.

Although I failed to conquer my tomato soup aversion from my childhood, in the process I’ve discovered the tomato soup recipe of the year, and one that I will be making again and again!

 

Roasted Tomato and Root Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion, cut into ⅛ ‘moons’

1 bulb garlic, top cut off and loose skin removed

27 small plum tomatoes, halved (~10¾ cup)

2 medium beets, cut into ¼” cubes

1 rutabaga, cut into ¼” cubes*

2 kohlrabi, cut into ¼” cubes*

½ tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

12 cups water, as necessary

1 tsp. dried thyme OR 1 tbsp. fresh

½ tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

4 cups swiss chard, chiffonade

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

*Root vegetables should amount to ~3 cups. Seasonal pickings!

Directions:

1) Line a 9”x13” baking pan and two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (*Note* If you don’t have parchment, spray your pan and trays with a lot of oil. The caramelization is what gives the vegetables flavour, but it’ll also guarantee hours scrubbing the pan if you forget either to line or oil the pans!)

2) In baking pan add onion, garlic, beets, and root vegetables.

3) On cookie trays, lay the halved tomatoes skin side down in a single layer.

4) Sprinkle all vegetables with pepper.

5) Roast all vegetables at 425oF for 40-45min, flipping the pans halfway.

6) Once vegetables are roasted, cut onion, garlic, and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.

7) In large stockpot, add roasted onion and garlic, apple cider vinegar, and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and let simmer ~5min.

8) Add root vegetables, all remaining herbs and spices, and 8 cups of water. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer ~10 min.

9) Add roasted tomatoes. Gently pour 4 cups of water over baking trays, and tip trays into the stockpot – we want the roasted juices! Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer ~15min.

10) Add swiss chard and balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook until chard bright green and wilted, ~5min.

11) Serve!


Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

Ma-Po Eggplant Tofu Stew

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew, served with a fresh Japanese Turnip Pickle

It started with the turnips. Japanese turnips, fresh from the garden. This inspired me to use the fermented black beans, which I picked up at an Asian grocery store on a whim one (+) year ago. Sometimes my food-association astounds me. The fermented black beans led me to the question: “What do I do with these?”. Apparently not a whole lot that I could find. It is however the main ingredient of Doubanjiang, a Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. Doubanjiang is also the star ingredient for Ma Po Tofu, a spicy wok tofu dish from the Sichuan province. And thus the dish was born! To add to the difficulty, I could not find a recipe for Doubanjiang, as apparently it is much more sane common to use the pre-made sauce. Doubanjiang is also called toban djan, lado ban jiang, or Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. After much searching, I found a base recipe that looked to match the ingredient label of a common pre-made sauce. The end result of this inspiration was a spicy hot-and-sour soup alternative that is addictive and delicious. Sometimes my crazy food-association games turn out better than even I could dream of!

As I do not own a wok, I didn’t want to compromise my first Ma Po Tofu experience with sub-par equipment, so I turned the concept into a stew. To help this I added eggplant and bok choy, with the final result of a spicy hot and sour soup type dish. The results were amazing. It will warm your soul, tickle your taste buds, and clear your sinuses. The soft tofu is almost unnoticeable (a concern for me and my texture issues). The eggplant and dried mushrooms add some texture, the greens colour, and the consommé (fancy word for clear broth) is absolutely divine. It will trick anybody into thinking that you slaved over a hot stove for hours building complex flavour, instead of the 45min. that it takes. I served the stew with a quick turnip pickle, to highlight the turnip inspiration. The robust flavour is due to the homemade Doubanjiang, and the fermented black beans. Of course, you can use the bought sauce – I’m sure it’d be just as delicious, and perhaps even more true to the Ma Po Tofu inspiration.

The Doubanjiang took less than 15min. to make, and most of that was rinsing the black beans. The black beans are fermented in salt, and right out of the package they’re like eating a salt lick. Make sure you rinse them very very well! The amount of Thai chilis seem excessive for only 2/3 cup of sauce, but if you think of the sauce as a spicy soy sauce, its more reasonable. I didn’t have the yellow rice wine or the dark rice vinegar, so I googled “appropriate” substitutions more common in my kitchen. Next time I will try to make the recipe as written, but this version was fantastic. The sauce itself was like a spicy vinegar soy sauce which was quite thick. I am not in the habit of having pre-made stir fry sauces on hand, but I am assuming this’d be fantastic with a quick Asian vegetable stir-fry. I tailored the recipe to use the full amount in the stew, and it was perfect!

This dish is sure to impress. Different and exotic, it is one I will be making again!

 

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

4 dried flower mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

⅔ cup doubanjiang sauce (lado ban jiang, toban djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

4 cups eggplant, diced into ½” cubes (1 med.)

350g. soft tofu, drained and diced into ½” cubes

4+ cups water

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cups bok choy, chopped

2 tbsp. Sriracha

4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) In small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1” boiling water. Let soak for 30min., until soft.

2) In large pot, sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. of water on high, stirring frequently. Sauté until garlic slightly brown.

3) Stir in doubanjiang. Sauté for 1min.

4) Add the eggplant, stir. Cover and sauté until eggplant begins to get soft, approx. 5min. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

5) Add tofu and water. Stir very gently, so as to not break the tofu. Bring to a low boil.

6) Drain the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces.

7) Add the sliced mushrooms and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until eggplant tender, approx. 10min.

8) Add the bok choy and Sriracha. Stir and bring to a simmer.

9) Turn off heat, stir in scallions.

10) Serve with rice or Asian noodles of choice.

 

Doubanjiang Sauce (Lado Ban Jiang, Toban Djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

10 fresh red Thai chilis, minced

⅓ cup fermented black beans

1 tbsp. yellow rice wine (sub: gin, white wine; I used rice vinegar)

2 tsp. dark rice vinegar (sub: balsamic vinegar)

½ tsp. Sucanet

Directions:

1) With a fine mesh strainer, rinse the black beans really well, to remove all excess salt.

2) In small saucepan, sauté chilis and black beans in 2 tbsp. water on medium-low until fragrant, approx. 2-3min.

3) Add rice wine and rice vinegar. Simmer 3min. Add water as necessary for consistency.

4) Stir in Sucanet and remove from heat. Let cool completely

5) Store in mason jar in fridge: will keep for 3 weeks

Makes ⅔ cups of sauce


%d bloggers like this: