Friday, February 19, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Cream of red pepper soup, garlic green beans, and smashed red potatoes

These are three great vegan recipes that can make a tapas-style meal when served together, or can be used separately to accompany a different main course.

Cream of red pepper soup
This soup is not all that easy, but it's worth it.  There are a couple simplifying things you could do, but unfortunately one of them is not skipping peeling the peppers.  Trust me, before I made this, I had the following conversation with google
Me: mmm, red pepper soup.  I think you have to peel peppers for that, let's see...
Google: Red pepper soup.  First, peel peppers.
Me: Maybe it's ok to not peel the peppers...Search..."Do I have to peel peppers for red pepper soup?"
Google: Oh, I see you want to make red pepper soup.  Make sure you peel the peppers!
Me: Really?  Do I have to?  I mean, what would happen if I didn't?
Google: Maybe you should stick to Campbell's.

What you can do is replace the cashew cream with regular cream if you're not vegan, skip the carrot/celery boiling part and just use a good veggie broth, and char and peel the peppers the day before you make the soup.

(This serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course)
3 red peppers
1 large carrot (roughly chopped)
3 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
2 celery ribs
1 cup raw cashews (or heavy cream, or possibly soy or regular milk)
2 Bay leaves
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

First, make the cashew cream, from Tal Ronnen's "The Conscious Cook."  Cashew cream is an awesome vegan substitute for heavy cream, and has an incredibly rich flavor.  It's a little bit of a pain in the butt, but worth it.  You can see Tal's full laudatory sell on this ingredient and a more detailed recipe here.  You need raw, unroasted cashews for this--you should be able to get them at any specialty-type food store, like Whole Foods.  Take 1 cup raw cashews, and soak in water either over night or all day--that's right, you have to do this before you leave for work.  When you get back, drain the cashews, and throw in the blender with enough water to cover, plus a little more.  Blend forever, until very, very smooth.  You can store this for about a week, refrigerated, in a tightly covered container.

Now, heat a little bit of olive oil in a large pot.  Throw in the chopped garlic and carrots, and saute until fragrant.  Break the celery ribs into rough pieces, about three each, and throw in.  Add just enough water to cover and two bay leaves, bring to boil.  Cover and leave to simmer.

While your soup-base simmers, roast the red peppers.  You can roast them over an open flame, but I find it easier to put them in the broiler.  You stick them in there whole (put a cookie sheet under them, they'll start to leak), and turn frequently until the entire skin is lightly browned and charred in spots.  It's important the skin gets brown, or it will not peel easily.  This takes about 20 minutes in my broiler, but may be faster in yours.  Make sure you keep turning so all sides get browned.  Then remove peppers, and place them on a plate.  Cover the plate with a plastic bag and twist it shut so steam is trapped in with the peppers (mine got done in the broiler one-at-a-time, so I did this step and peeled individually).  After about 5 minutes, remove one pepper from bag.  The skin should know peel off fairly easily, although not without you burning your fingers a bit.  Look for places where the skin has pulled away from the flesh, and try to peel off in large strips (If you want more instructions, check here).  After each pepper is peeled, core and seed them, then cut into rough pieces.

When carrots are very tender and broth is fragrant, add peppers to mix and sprinkle with salt.  Add a bit more water if needed to keep all vegetables covered.  When peppers are tender, remove celery ribs and bay leaves and discard.  I left the carrots in, because I thought they would help add creaminess to the soup (and they did), since peppers have a more rough consistency.  Either use an immersion blender, or transfer mixture to blender in batches.  Puree until smooth.  Add cashew cream until desired creaminess is reached (about 1 cup--this is the recipe's source of protein, also, so be generous).  Season with salt and a bit of cayenne pepper, to taste.  Serve swirled with extra cashew cream for presentation.

Garlic green beans
This is best with "French" green beans, the really skinny kind.  Steaming the green beans directly with the garlic imparts a wonderful flavor to the beans, and softens the sharpness of the garlic.

1/2 pound of green beans (will serve 2 people), Garlic, Salt

Wash green beans and remove the hard stem end only by pinching or cutting it off.  Heat boiling water underneath steamer (it should not touch steamer).  Note: I don't have a steamer, so I just use one of those two layer pasta pots that has a built-in strainer.  I only put about an inch of water in the bottom so it doesn't touch the strainer. Chop garlic very finely--Slice it into thin strips lengthwise first, then slice strips across.  When water is boiling, place green beans in steamer (spread out as much as possible) and sprinkle garlic on top.  Cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Lift lid, toss green beans so ones on top are on bottom and garlic is sprinkled throughout and steam for another 3-5 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Smashed red potatoes
Use small or "new" red potatoes for this.  Ideally they should be golf-ball sized.  2 pounds will serve 2 people with a little extra.

2 pounds tiny red potatoes, olive oil or butter, salt and pepper, dried herbs if desired

Preheat oven to 450.
Boil red potatoes until can easily be pierced with a fork (a little less cooked than you would serve them).  Drain and leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Place potatoes on rimmed baking sheet.  They should fit in one layer with a half-inch clearance around each one, if not, use another sheet.  Drizzle olive oil or melted butter all over potatoes and toss (there should be some at bottom of pan, too).  Sprinkle with salt pepper, and dried herbs if you like (I think a little crumbled dried rosemary would be nice).  You can add a little chopped garlic, too, but since I was making these with the beans I skipped it.  Take a flat-bottomed glass or mug and carefully smash each potato until the skin breaks and it forms a thick disk--don't flatten all the way.  If all potatoes do not fit in single layer now, move to another pan.  Place in oven for about ten minutes.  When potatoes are golden brown on bottom, flip and cook ten-minutes more.  (This recipe draws inspiration from many places--can't remember where I first saw it, but here's one good version.  I like using a glass because the final potato looks "neater.")

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