Category Archives: Soups

Instant Pot: Veggie Soup Middle Eastern Style

In my tiny cafe, we served up sixteen fresh salads, three soups and a daily special every day as well as homemade condiments. We made everything fresh from whole foods, so as you can imagine, we had to move pretty quickly. Mornings in the cafe were not the time to meditate on seasonings — so I developed templates for myself.

I had two soup templates — puréed soups, for which I relied on my pot and my VitaMix, and chunky soups, which needed only a pot and now my Instant Pot. This recipe is one of the latter, although I never made it in the Cafe. I just created it now from what I happened to have in my refrigerator.

My chunky soups almost all began the same way: I prepared my beans to barely al denté (oh my gosh, the IP changed my world of beans) and set them aside. The exception to this process was lentils, which I added after the initial veggie saute. I filled the bottom of a very large soup pot with extra virgin olive oil and sautéed lots of chopped onion and garlic in it. Sometimes I added petite diced carrots and celery to that. Then I added water sufficient for the soup (along with lentils if I was using those). Sometimes the cooking liquid included petite diced tomatoes, either fresh or canned, sometimes a little tomato paste, sometimes tomatoes and tomato paste, sometimes none of those, just broth. The water with the sautéed onions, garlic, carrot and celery made was a lovely broth base for anything else I might add — and now, if I want to get really fancy with extra layers of flavor, I can add an IP broth from veggie “waste” if I happen to have some on hand. I added beans back into the pot close to the end of cooking time.

My basic Middle Eastern seasoning set was 3:3:1 — Salt:Cumin:Hot Paprika, that is, the same amount of salt as cumin and one-third as much hot paprika. For a three gallon pot, that would be three tablespoons of salt, three tablespoons of cumin and 1 tablespoon of hot paprika. Of course, I always used a little less than the template so I could adjust for variations in how the soup mingled with the seasonings — and I often added a variety of other typical Middle Eastern seasonings for more textured flavors. These included fresh ginger root, crushed coriander, harif (Arabic: harissa), fresh mint and more. And of course lemon, which brightens everything.

So that was how this veggie soup came about. I wanted lunch from my Instant Pot today so took an inventory of my ‘fridge and found that in addition to the standard veggies I always have in the house, onions, carrots, and a little red bell pepper, I had some grape tomatoes, a head of cauliflower and redskin potatoes. Here’s what happened with that:

INSTANT POT VEGGIE SOUP MIDDLE EASTERN STYLE
Ingredients

  • Onion, one large, finely chopped
  • Garlic, two large cloves, minced
  • Carrots, 1-2, petite diced
  • Celery, 1-2 stalks, petite diced
  • Water, 6 cups
  • Tomato paste, 1/4 cup
  • Red lentils, one scant cup
  • Grape tomatoes, 1/2 pint, cut in half
  • Red bell pepper, 1/2 large pepper, petite diced
  • Redskin potatoes with skin, 2 large, scrubbed,  chunked
  • Cauliflower, about 1/2 head, cut into flowerets
  • Salt, 2 tsp.
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.
  • Powdered harissa, 2/3 tsp.*
  • Cilantro or parsley, chopped, for garnish

* A word about the harissa: I prefer my own freshly made harif/harissa but didn’t happen to have any made. I had this powdered version in my cabinet and thought I might try it. It added a subtle Middle Eastern flavor but barely any heat I could detect — that was great for my husband, not so much for me. In the absence of the fresh harif another time, I would probably opt for something a little stronger like hot paprika or crushed red pepper.

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil to Instant Pot and turn IP to Saute.
  2. Add garlic, onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, then add 6 cups (1-1/2 quarts) water, the red lentils, and mix all well. Let continue on Saute for a moment or two to start heating the water.
  4. Cancel Saute. Place the lid on the pot, seal, close the vent and set to High Pressure for 30 minutes.
  5. Do a Quick Release, and remove the lid.
  6. Add all seasonings (hold the cilantro or parsley) and the tomatoes, red bell pepper, potatoes and cauliflower.
  7. Place the lid back on the pot, seal, close the vent and set to High Pressure for 30 minutes.
  8. Do a Quick Release, and remove the lid. Check the texture to determine if it needs more pressure. This time was about right for me.
  9. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Add chopped cilantro or parsley.

I love red lentils. They have great flavor and texture, adding body and creaminess to soups — and they cook quickly.  Have fun with this recipe, adding to the basics (garlic/onion/carrots/celery/red lentils) whatever veggies you happen to have on hand.

Split Pea Barley Soup Redux – For The Instant Pot

I’m going to work my way through some of my old recipes with my Instant Pot — which, by the way, I’m loving! Here’s one I made the other day: Split Pea Soup with Barley. Hearty and delicious.

SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH BARLEY
Ingredients

I am using a 6 quart Instant Pot. This recipe makes about three quarts.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic, 2 cloves minced (1 TB)
  • Spanish onion, 1/2 large, petite diced
  • Carrots, 2 large, petite diced
  • Celery stalks, 2 large, petite diced
  • Salt, 2 tsp.
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.
  • Turmeric, 2 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1/2 tsp.
  • Water, 7 cups (for the lentils) + 2 more cups (for the barley)
  • Vinegar, 3 TB
  • Green split peas, 1 lb.
  • Barley, 1/2 cup
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped (sometimes I also use, or use instead, chopped kale or spinach or chard)

Instructions

  1. Wash and prepare all the veggies and the garlic.
  2. Set the Instant Pot on Saute, and add the olive oil.
  3. Add the garlic and onion and saute briefly. Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for a few moments.
  4. “Cancel” the Saute.
  5. Add the split peas to the Instant Pot, 7 cups of water, salt, cumin, turmeric, hot paprika and vinegar. Stir to mix all well.
  6. Close the lid of the Instant Pot and the vent. Set it to Pressure, High, for 20 minutes. I like to still see peas a bit, not have them totally disintegrated.
  7. Measure two cups of water. Rinse the barley, and add it to the 2 cups of water and set aside.
  8. Hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot when finished. I usually do a QPR (Quick Pressure Release) so I can check on the state of the pot contents, not overcook. I can always Pressure more as needed. In this case, the split peas will not be finished because they’re going to cook more with the barley.
  9. Add the barley and water mixture to the soup, stirring it in. Set the Instant Pot to High Pressure for 10 minutes.
  10. This time when finished, don’t hit “Cancel.” You can do a regular pressure release (until you’re in a hurry to taste), letting the pot contents cook a little more as the pressure subsides. The pot will go to holding Warm.
  11. Stir, and check the liquid content and seasoning. Add more water if you need it and adjust seasonings as needed.
  12. I like my split peas and barley to retain some texture, but if you like everything softer and have a glass lid, you can put on the lid and let the Instant Pot continue to keep the soup warm, or you can Cancel and set the Pot to Saute with the lid on while you watch. With the latter, you need to stir fairly frequently to avoid browning on the bottom.  You can also set the Pot to Pressure on High for another 2-5 minutes (remember, there is cooking time before and after the Pressure time as pressure builds, then subsides).
  13. When the soup is finished, stir in the chopped cilantro.

I gave detailed instructions here, but this is soooooo easy. Basically it’s a matter of five minutes veggie prep time, five minutes Saute time, adding the split peas and their water along with the vinegar and seasonings and Pressuring for 20 minutes, then adding the barley and its water and Pressuring for another 10 minutes, checking it out and adjusting and adding the cilantro.

“Give peas a chance.”

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Ten Minutes Work – Instant Pot!

This is a great soup, my comfort food — a meal in itself for a wintry evening. It took me ten minutes of prep time to load it into my Instant Pot, was cooked under pressure for 20 minutes while I put my feet up — and soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, petite diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced on the bias
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 medium to large plum tomatoes, petite diced (or a 19 oz. can)
  • 1/2 lb. pearl barley
  • 1 lb. baby belle mushrooms, quartered (this time I used one very large Portobello mushroom
  • 2 cups chopped greens (kale/spinach/chard, any or all)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
These were my raw ingredients for the Mushroom Barley Soup I made in my Instant Pot.

Instructions

  1. Add the extra virgin olive oil to the Instant Pot.
  2. Petite dice or chop the onion and add to the Instant Pot. Turn on IP to Saute for 5-10 minutes while you prep the remaining veggies.
  3. Slice the carrots on the bias and add to the onions in the IP while continuing the Saute.
  4. Slice the celery and add to the IP while continuing the Saute.
  5. If the veggies are soft or you’ve completed 10 minutes of Saute time, Cancel.
  6. Add all remaining ingredients: the petite diced tomatoes (I usually use fresh but was lazy this time), the 6 cups of water, the cut-up mushrooms, chopped greens, barley, water and seasonings. Stir.
  7. NOTE: If you like your greens greener and a little crunchier, just add the chopped stems to the mix in #6 and hold the greens.
  8. Close the lid on the IP and close the vent. Set to Pressure for 20 minutes.
  9. When the 20 minutes is complete, open the steam release until you can open the lid, about 10 minutes, then remove the lid. If you held the greens, add them now to the hot soup to soften for a few moments before serving. You can also “Sauté” in the soup until they are the way you like them.
  10. Check seasonings and serve. Mmmm…mmm…good.

Time for Fall Soups…This One’s Perfect for Fall CSA Veggies!

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local Newsletter, 10/25/2017.

I found this recipe last year on The Green Panda’s Kitchen. A group of women made it outdoors in Kenya, and when I read that, I started dreaming of making beautiful meals outdoors with veggies from Farmer Bob’s fields. The squash at this time of year is plentiful, and the fall weather has been amazing…just right for cooking outdoors. A cast iron Dutch oven, some heat, a place to cut up my veggies, and that’s all I needed.

But you don’t have to cook outside! You can use your kitchen cutting board and put a soup pot on your kitchen stove. I halved this recipe for the two of us, and I usually bump up the seasonings a little when I taste it toward the end.

MOROCCAN SOUP WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SWISS CHARD

Ingredients

  • Chickpeas, 1 lb., rinsed and cooked until just tender
  • Butternut squash, washed, remove seeds and fibers, cut into 1.5 inch cubes (Don’t peel – I tried this! It really works!)
  • Carrots, 1 lb., washed and cut into medium dice
  • Onions, 1 lb., cut into medium dice
  • Tomatoes, 1 lb., cut into medium dice
  • Swiss Chard, 1 large bunch, remove leaves from stems, finely chopped
  • Garlic, 1 head, peeled and chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Smoked paprika, 1 TB
  • Cinnamon, 1 TB
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, washed and coarsely chopped
  • Lemon, 1/2 – 1, juiced
  • Cumin, 1 tsp. (Most recently I used 1 TB and no coriander)
  • Coriander, 1 tsp.
  • Salt, to taste (I usually use about 1 TB per gallon of soup)
  • Hot paprika, 1-2 tsp. (Opt.)
  • Water to cover (between the chickpea liquid and water, about 5 quarts)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the chickpeas by rinsing, covering with plenty of water, and cooking covered on low heat until tender (1-2 hours). Check periodically to make certain there is still sufficient water. Set aside with the remaining water.
  2. Prepare the veggies (squash, carrots, onion, tomatoes chard, cilantro) and set aside. Note: you can replace the fresh tomatoes with one-half of a 19 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes if you’re in a hurry)
    Mince the garlic.
  3. Add 2 TB extra virgin olive oil to a large soup pot. Saute the garlic and onion until softened.
  4. Add the squash, carrots and tomato (or one-half of a 19-oz. can petite diced tomatoes) and the reserved chickpeas with their water.
  5. Add additional water until all is cover — less for a more “packed” soup, more for a brothier soup.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until the veggies are tender.
  7. Add the seasonings and lemon juice and check the taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. Stir in the cilantro and chard.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, aromatic soup.

Tonight I’m making pumpkin and black bean patties for dinner. I’d love to share the results with you next week, but we’ve reached the end of the season! I hope the winter isn’t too hard on us this year, and I’ll look forward to connecting with you all again when we start getting Farmer Bob’s veggies again in the spring.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

CSA summer veggies…kinda like in the movies

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local Farm Newsletter 9/6/2017.

Remember the Pixar movie, Ratatouille? My grandson showed it to me a couple of years ago as part of his educate grandma project. I loved it! This week I thought it might be fun to try out their special version of ratatouille, called “Confit Bayildi,” created by Chef Thomas Keller.

Confit Bayildi after cooking with extra sauce drizzled on top. Best to use a cast iron pan with vented lid. I was preparing three smaller portions so had to improvise.

The difference between Chef Keller’s recipe and the ratatouille I usually make is mostly about technique and presentation. Ratatouille is a savory veggie stew, and it’s a must at the peak of the growing season since it uses everything: tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, basil and/or rosemary. This special version, though, includes arranging the veggies for cooking and serving in concentric circles on top of a rich sauce, making a beautiful, colorful dish.

ChefSteps has a Youtube video (https://youtu.be/iCMGPRiDXQg) that demonstrates the technique, which is great to know not just for Confit Bayildi but for other wonderful dishes like a crustless creamy apple tart. First select, wash and cut up your veggies, trying to choose veggies approximately the same circumference: zucchini, summer squash, plum or smallish tomatoes, eggplant. In the video, the chef peeled and cut the tomatoes by hand into thin, round slices, then used a mandolin for the rest. I cut them all by hand and didn’t peel the tomatoes since I know ours are organic, and I like eating the peel. Any parts of these veggies you don’t use should go into your blender along with lots of garlic, a cut up onion or two and a cut up red bell pepper or two.  Add some extra virgin olive oil, salt and rosemary or basil, and blend until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Check the seasoning, making certain it is strong enough to carry the veggies. I like adding a little crushed red pepper as well.

Spread the sauce at the bottom of a cast iron pan or other heavy dish, and arrange the cut up veggies rhythmically in concentric circles on top of the sauce: zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomato, then repeat. When the dish is filled, drizzle additional olive oil over the top, and sprinkle with salt. Cover with parchment with a steam hole so the veggies don’t stew, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. When finished, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs — and I squeezed a few drops of lemon juice over the top as well, which always seems to me to brighten the flavor. Finally, I drizzled remaining sauce over the top.

Ratatouille soup…mmm mmm good.

I had some extra cut up veggies after I made this, so I made ratatouille soup, easy peasy. Just put lots of garlic and minced onion into a soup pot with extra virgin olive oil, and saute briefly. Add tomatoes and a little water, and simmer for a few moments. Add all the other cut up veggies and water to barely cover. I usually start with about 1 TB of salt to a gallon of soup and 1/2 tsp. hot paprika. I add chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil or rosemary after the soup finishes cooking and I turn off the heat. Taste and reseason to your taste. Less or no water would, of course, give you the traditional ratatouille. Enjoy!

And a few memories of this week on the farm:

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Tomatoes! Cucumbers! Green Beans! Basil! CSA riches of summer…

This post was published in Bob’s Fresh and Local newsletter 8/23/2017 under a different title. 

“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz

Hopefully you’ve had fun with “greenies” (smoothies with loads of greens) over the summer with all that gorgeous kale coming from Farmer Bob.

Here’s another way to think out of the box about breakfast. Put away that boxed cereal, and learn to make an Israeli-style breakfast! This is the perfect time of year to give it a try, when the cucumbers and tomatoes weigh down the vines and fill our CSA boxes.

Israeli breakfasts feature a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps cilantro or avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal are soft cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, smoked fish, pickles, olives, bread and even hummus (a chickpea “dip” — I shared that recipe a few weeks back).

I love to make Israeli Salad. It’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:

ISRAELI SALAD

Ingredients
Plum (or other small) tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-4, depending on size
Red onion, 1/4-1/2, to taste
Red bell peppers, 1
Avocado (opt.), 1 ripe but firm
Cilantro (opt.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

Directions
Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. To deseed, quarter the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp (set aside). Cut the tomato flesh, cucumbers, pepper and opt. avocado into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the fun video my son created of himself preparing Israeli Salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bzEcBa9bzu0.

TOMATO & SQUASH PULP SOUP

Hold onto that tomato pulp! I combined it with the pulp that I scooped out of the summer squash when I stuffed them and made this beautiful soup by cooking the pulp in a pot with a cut up onion, peeled ginger root, salt and hot paprika. When the veggies were soft, I pureed them in my VitaMix and at the last pulsed in some of that beautiful basil we received in our boxes (and which we’ll enjoy again this week. This is a variation of one of our favorite soups!!

Last but not least for this week, my favorite way to eat snap beans, Moroccan-style Beans, also using the tomatoes arriving to us straight from the fields of Farmer Bob. I shared this recipe last year but simplified it a little this year.

MOROCCAN-STYLE GREEN BEANS

Prepare a quart of beans by washing and cutting into 2″ pieces. Add extra virgin olive oil to a pot with a cover, and saute minced garlic — lots if you love it, scapes if you have any left. Add at least 1/2 minced onion and saute. Add prepared beans and 1-2 good size tomatoes, petite diced. Bring to simmer, turn down heat, cover and let cook until beans are tender. Check occasionally to be certain there is enough liquid in the pan from the tomatoes to cook the beans, adding a little water if necessary. Toward the end of cooking time, stir in 1-2 rounded TB tomato paste, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin and 1/4-1/2 tsp. hot paprika. Cover again and simmer a while longer until flavors blend. When finished, squeeze in fresh lemon juice if you like. Enjoy!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A delicious way to use mid-summer CSA veggies

Published this week in my CSA newsletter, Bob’s Fresh and Local.

My favorite recipes are healthy, colorful, beautiful, meals-in-themselves, easy and versatile. This week, I had some remaining red cabbage, and our boxes featured the first onions and green beans of the season as well as some carrots. Of course I thought of Pozole Soup (or Stew, if you like it thicker with veggies like I do!).

Pozole is corn — white hominy, to be specific. Since the kernels are large and grow even larger during cooking, one dried bean packager markets it in bags describing it as “Giant White Corn.” Along with a rich array of colorful veggies, pozole is the basis of this delicious Mexican-style soup. Although traditionally made with meat, my version is 100% plant-based, and the taste and texture of the pozole and variety of delicious veggies along with a little extra virgin olive oil and some avocado means no one will miss the meat at all!

Feel free to experiment with the veggies you add. I used some chard in mine this week along with the snap beans, carrots, cabbage and onions. If you have any garlic scapes left, they would also make a nice garnish.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Red onion, 2-3 medium-large, finely diced
  • Garlic, 8 cloves, minced
  • Oregano, 1 TB
  • Salt, 1+ TB
  • Carrots, 6-8 small-medium, sliced on the bias
  • Snap beans, 16 oz., tipped and cut into 1″ pieces
  • Tomatoes, 8-10 medium, petite diced — or a 28 can of petite diced tomatoes
  • Pozole (whole hominy), 1 lb. dried
  • Water, 3-4 quarts, including hominy cooking water
  • Chipotle in adobo sauce, 1-2.5 TB, minced or blended
  • Avocado, Red Cabbage, Cilantro, Lime Slices (garnish)

Instructions

  1. Slow-cook the pozole until just tender, and set aside in cooking water.
  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a large soup pot.
  3. Dice and add the onions and garlic, followed by the green beans and petite diced tomatoes.
  4. Drain the pozole, reserving the cooking water. Add pozole to the pot, and measure the water, adding enough more to make 3-4 quarts depending on how veggie-filled you like it.
  5. Cook until all flavors blended and veggies are tender.
  6. Serve garnished with avocado, slivered raw red cabbage, chopped cilantro and lime slices.

You might like a little more salt — or a little less chipotle. This makes a slightly spicy soup.

This week I’m looking forward to receiving sweet corn, cantaloupe, more summer squash, chard and snap beans, green cabbage, leeks and kale. That sounds like some amazing meals!

There’s no question in my mind what I’ll do with that sweet corn. Last year Andy and I discovered a new taste treat, Mexican-style corn with mayonnaise instead of butter. I prepare the corn either in the husk on the grill or in the oven — or husked in simmering water. I use Just Mayo, a great vegan mayonnaise, flavored with dried chipotle seasoning to taste — and we slather it onto the ears when they’re done. Now that’s something delicious!

The cantaloupe is another easy one. I love cantaloupe, and it won’t last two seconds before I just spoon it out of the shell. As for the greens…can’t get enough of ’em! We stuff our smoothies full every morning, starting off our days with a health rush.

Last but not least, the scenes that remind me that all is still right with the world…

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A little of this, a little of that…an alphabet of things to make with CSA veggies

This post was published in Bob’s Fresh and Local newsletter 7/25/2017

It was fun to have so much variety last week and even more variety this week. I thought I might share a few things I made as well as what I plan to make with this week’s veggies. Some of these things aren’t recipes per se but just “throw-in-what-you-have” type dishes.

Beets. See the recipe I shared earlier for a great beet salad!! I sometimes make beet soup with these as well, a simple purée of peeled cooked beets, onions, a bit of ginger and seasonings.

Cauliflower & Broccoli. I didn’t make them this time, but maybe next week I’ll include recipes for a spicy Middle Eastern style Cauliflower and Chickpeas…or for Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Chard. We’ll probably get this again soon. I made something inspired by “koshari,”, a popular Egyptian dish, a layering of pasta, chickpeas, black lentils, rice, and a richly flavored tomato sauce with petite diced tomatoes and lots of garlic. I had an extra layer of sautéed chard and onions. I topped it off with a garlic scape garnish.

Cucumbers. I made a beautiful Israeli/Jerusalem Salad with these. I’ll share a recipe at a later time.

Fennel. This week we’re getting Bulb Fennel, such a wonderful, flavorful veggie. While I was still in the cafe, I made up an absolutely delicious Fennel Salad to go with Dill Potato Salad and No Meat Loaf (a chickpea base). The Fennel Salad is on the upper right corner. It is made up from the fennel bulb, sliced, some sliced tomato, sliced red onion, minced fennel top, extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. The fennel brings unique flavors and texture to the salad.

Kale. Kan’t get enough of them!! Smoothies!!! Huge ones! Every morning!! The smoothies — or better yet, Greenies, I make for Andy and me pack a wallop of nutrition and help us start the day super-charged. Would you believe, I make a half-gallon — and we each enjoy a full quart of this nourishing breakfast.

Summer squash. I do many different things with summer squash, but when I have a lot coming in fast, I usually end up making a quick and easy soup. This week I had leeks left from last week so put some extra virgin olive oil in the pan, added cleaned and sliced leeks, petite diced peeled potato (more or less depending on how thick you want it), petite diced summer squash and garlic. My veggies came to about one gallon. I sautéed them for a bit and added 6-8 cups of water (to barely cover). I added a TB of salt to start and 1/4 tsp. hot paprika. I simmered until everything was soft, then ran on low in my blender. You can adjust the thickness to your liking between the amount of potato you use and the amount of water. I put it all back in the pot, added 2 cups of any kind of unsweetened milk (I used rice milk), brought back to simmer, added in some snipped rosemary and turned off the heat. You could replace the rosemary with any available seasoning…like fennel? Alternatively…squash Napoleons?

If you’re still looking for ideas, check out my page in Pinterest, where I go for inspiration. My files are under LeslieCooks.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

My favorite time of year…no, my other favorite time of year.

Published this week in my CSA Newsletter, Bob’s Fresh and Local.

This is my favorite time of year, when all the beautiful summer veggies come from the fields into my kitchen. Oh, wait, I think I said that about early spring and the first greens. OK, ok, I just love the whole year in any year that I can have a part in bringing beautiful veggies into the world.

So let’s talk about this particular favorite time of year. Summer squash. Early cucumbers. Cabbage. Broccoli. Cauliflower. And of course that beautiful kale (hasn’t Farmer Bob’s kale been gorgeous this year?)

I saved my summer squash from last week, so with what’s coming in this week, I’ll have plenty to make a soup to share. This squash soup is a lovely recipe with a very slight sweet flavor.

SUMMER SQUASH & CORN SOUP

Ingredients
• 1 pound yellow summer squash
• 2 ears corn
• 3 large shallots (or use some of the leeks)
• 2 large garlic cloves (or use some garlic scapes)
• 1 fresh jalapeño chile
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 2 1/2 cups water

Instructions
1. Cut up summer squash into cubes, and cut corn kernels away from the cob. Mince the garlic and finely chop the shallots or leeks.
2. Add some extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a soup pan.
3. Saute the garlic and shallots or leeks.
4. Add the veggies and water to just barely cover, no more than 2-1/2 cups.
5. Return to simmer, add seasonings (I usually bump them up).
6. When done, pulse soup in a blender, preserving texture.
7. Pour back into the pot, check and adjust seasoning, and hold warm.
8. At serving time, garnish with jalapeno slices and/or sour cream or yogurt. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the surface.

I originally found this recipe at loveandoliveoil.com. I’ve used it many times with groups, and it always gets great reviews! I usually at least double it and bump up the seasonings a little.

We’ll enjoy cucumbers again this week as well. Of course, anything you don’t use right away can be pickled. Last week I pickled the rainbow chard stems along with a garlic scape (if you love garlic flavor, these scapes deliver a powerful punch). Can’t wait to see how that comes out! The cucumbers this week can also be pickled — just use the recipe I provided for refrigerator pickles.

But here’s another way to try them, and it’s delicious! A Hungarian friend shared her recipe with me many years ago — would you believe more than 40? It dropped out of my recipe repertoire somehow because I’ve just been doing vegan recipes. Sadly, I will have to wait on this one until Perfect Day perfects its milk, which they promise will have all the properties of cows’ milk but without using a cow. I’ve already translated most of my former cafe recipes.

Lots of yummy salads! The Creamy Cucumber Salad is at 5:00 in the right picture.

CREAMY CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients
• Cucumbers, 4, washed, sliced in half lengthwise, deseeded, thinly sliced across (thin slicer blade on mandolin or processor)
• Salt, 1 TB
• Garlic, 1 fresh clove (or some garlic scape)
• Sugar, 2 TB
• Vinegar, white, 1/4 cup
• Middle Eastern Labne or Greek yogurt, 3 TB – 1/2 cup

Instructions
1. Mix the deseeded thinly sliced cucumber in a bowl with the salt and minced garlic (or garlic scape).
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, overnight if you wish.
3. Remove from refrigerator and drain accumulated liquid, squeezing it from the cucumbers.
4. Return drained and squeezed cucumbers to the bowl. Mix with sugar and white vinegar.
5. Cover and refrigerate for at least another hour.
6. Remove from the refrigerator and drain accumulated liquid, again squeezing it from the cucumbers.
7. Return drained and squeezed cucumbers to the bowl, and fold in Middle Eastern Labne. Greek yogurt, preferably full fat, makes a good substitute.

Just two weeks ago, our beautiful yellow summer squash was a small yellow flower.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

5 Ways to Use This Week’s CSA Veggies

Prepared for Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA. Visit them on Facebook.

This week we’ll enjoy a wonderful variety of spring greens, mostly Asian and from the mustard family, including Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana, Hon Tsai Tai and Tatsoi as well as the more familiar spinach. We’ll also receive radishes, Hakurai, red stem turnip…and maybe some chives.

Greens, spinach, radishes and carrot with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, salt.

Most of these greens have a slightly peppery flavor. Hon Tsai Tai, somewhat similar to broccoli raab, is a bit more mild and delicious from stem to flower. Tokyo Bekana, closer to lettuce, is a little sweeter and crunchy. Tatsoi has pale lime green leaves in rosettes. The mixture makes beautiful salads, and I always like to make a simple one as soon as I get home with my Box. Spring radishes are a perfect addition. I dress these salads simply with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

But salads are only the beginning of what you can do with those flavorful greens! Here are five other ways to use your greens:

  1. Soba Salads or Entrees. Soba is a buckwheat Japanese noodle available packaged in many grocery stores. Prepare according to directions. Saute minced garlic and fresh ginger root in extra virgin olive oil. Add radishes and even turnips Julienne to the saute if desired. Add the greens and wilt. Turn off the heat. Add a little of salt or soy sauce to taste. Stir into the Soba noodles, or just top them off with a crown of sautéed greens. Serve warm or cold (for a salad).
  2. Patties. Make your favorite veggie patty. I like the Middle Eastern way (falafel), in which the beans are not pre-cooked, just soaked overnight. Try this: 1/2 lb. dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked in a covered container overnight, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 Spanish onion in chunks, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. hot paprika and 3-6 oz. mixed greens, chopped. Using a food processor, place the garlic in first, then the chunked onion, the chickpeas, the seasonings and rough chopped greens. Place everything except beans in bowl, and pulse about 10 times, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then run for about 30 seconds. Scrape down, add the beans, and run another 30 seconds or more, scraping sides periodically, or until you have a uniform gravelly mixture that holds together. If you plan to fry, form the mixture into (falafel) balls. If you plan to saute or bake, form into small patties (I use a 3/4 oz. candy scoop). Deep-frying, the balls will take 3-1/2 minutes. If you saute, you might need to experiment a little. The patties should be browned on the outside and soft but not raw inside. Enjoy with pita, Middle Eastern chopped salad and tahini dressing.
  3. Soups. I’m a soup-lover, in the summer too. Ramen soup is very easy. I use three items that I always keep on hand in my home: 1) Costco has a great Millet and Brown Rice Ramen from Lotus Foods, 2) I order Mori-Nu Silken Tofu Organic Firm by the case from Amazon, which can remain unrefrigerated until opened (I just open one 12.3 oz. package from the case at a time), and 3) quality Miso. Make a delicious Miso broth, and when the broth boils, drop loads of roughly chopped Asian (or other) greens. Finally, drop in a square of Ramen for a moment or two until you can pull it apart. For a more substantial dish and a protein boost, add a few squares of Tofu. The chives would work nicely with this soup as a garnish and for added flavor.
  4. Omelets, Frittatas, Quiches, “Shakshouka.” Those of you who get eggs with your Meal Box remember to enhance all your favorite egg dishes with greens and chives! You’re probably familiar with omelets, frittatas and quiches, but Shakshouka might be new to you. Traditional Shakshouka, made with tomatoes and peppers, originated in North Africa. When the rich and aromatic tomato and pepper sauce is hot, the eggs are cracked into it, poached briefly in a covered pan, then served. In this version, saute some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add the greens, salt, pepper or other seasonings to taste, and when you have a hot, saucy mixture, add the eggs for poaching covered.
  5. Pizza! Make or buy a whole wheat pizza crust — or use 6″ whole wheat pitas. Pre-heat the oven to high heat (unless you’re fortunate enough to have a small pizza oven). Oil the top of the crust. Add briefly braised and wilted greens to the crust, then thinly sliced onions and halved grape or cherry tomatoes, some pine nuts if you have them, seasonings (oregano, salt, crushed red pepper). Bake until the edges of the pizza crust begin to brown a little. Enjoy!

Next week I’ll write about turnips and radishes, spectacular veggies we take for granted. For now, save those turnip greens to use with other greens in your soups and egg dishes, or just to use as a (sautéed and seasoned) bed for roasted turnips.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.