Teriyaki Mushroom Noodles

The first cookbook I ever bought was the Betty Crocker Cookbook (I have the tenth edition; the fact that there’s a newer one out is making me feel kind of old).  It’s still the cookbook I turn to most often, for the hummus that I bring to potlucks, the deviled eggs Mike makes whenever we have a party, and comfort foods like au gratin potatoes and macaroni and cheese.  It’s also the resource that I use for seemingly simple bits of information that I can never quite memorize: how long to boil eggs, the oven temperature for baking spaghetti squash, and how much water to use when cooking jasmine rice.  Since transitioning to a mostly vegetarian diet, I tend to get most of my new recipes from vegetarian cookbooks or the Internet, but I recently came across an intriguing recipe for teriyaki noodles in the Betty Crocker Cookbook‘s short vegetarian chapter.  I wasn’t so much interested in the teriyaki or the noodle part.  What caught my eye were the mushrooms.  Since I am quite capable of downing an entire half-pound package for dinner, a vegetarian recipe calling for substantial quantities of three types of mushrooms is high on my list of must-try recipes.

Since my grocery store didn’t carry the soba noodles that the receipe called for, I used the recommended substitution of whole-wheat spaghetti noodles with good results.  Be sure not to leave out the dried mushrooms: although they make up a small portion of the mushrooms by volume, their smoky flavor provides a complex flavor throughout the dish.

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

Teriyaki Mushroom Noodles Ingredients

1/2 ounce dried shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
7 ounces dry whole-wheat thin spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place dried mushrooms in small bowl and cover with hot water.  Soak for 20 minutes or until soft.  Drain and squeeze mushrooms to remove excess water, remove stems, and slice.

Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, shaking pan frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Prepare noodles according to package directions and drain.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and tilt to evenly coat.  Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and starting to brown, about three minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and stir in shitake, white, and baby portabello mushrooms.  Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms begin to soften, about three minutes.  Add teriyaki sauce and partially cover pan.  Cook for two minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.  Add noodles and toss until noodles are coated with teriyaki sauce.

Serve garnished with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.

Teriyaki Mushroom Noodles

 

Review: Spoonriver

Spoonriver is the kind of restaurant you would expect to find next to the Guthrie Theater: tranquil and understated classy decor; servers who compliment you on the tastefulness of your dinner selection; and an early-bird clientele with tickets to the theater production next door (if there’s a show at the Guthrie and you’d like a seating before 7:30, be sure to make a reservation).  The menu features contemporary American cuisine with a focus on local and sustainable ingredients, like free-range chicken, pasture-raised lamb, bison, and wild rice.

Spoonriver

My MN Harvest Plate reminded me of the USDA’s plate nutrition graphic: neat, colorful portions of vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins.  The highlights were the silky smooth butternut squash puree and the wild rice vegetable croquette, a fried patty of wild rice and quinoa.  The croquette reminded me of baked stuffing, with a crisp exterior, chewy interior, and the warming taste of sage.  Unfortunately, the other components of the plate were merely adequate: basic broccoli and cauliflower that were seasoned with salt and pepper; maple ginger red beans that were missing the flavors of maple and ginger (I actually had to look back at the menu to figure out what the seasoning was supposed to be); and a cloyingly sweet cranberry-apple-currant compote.

Spoonriver

Mike’s Greek salad was sufficient but somewhat bland; none of the flavors stood out, from the pepperoncini and feta to the dressing.

Spoonriver

The steak skewers were tender and juicy, with a fresh and enticing basil sauce, but the two meager skewers seemed out of line with the $8.50 price point (Mike, after seeing the size of his steak skewers: “We are definitely getting dessert”).

Spoonriver

Dessert was by far the highlight of our meal.  Mike ordered an exquisitely fluffy espresso chocolate mousse, with a perfect balance of dark chocolate and coffee, topped with whipped cream and tiny chocolate spheres.

Spoonriver

My dessert tasted like the tropics dipped in chocolate: a flourless chocolate torte with a coconut filling and ganache topping, served with a creamy scoop of coconut ice cream and bright passion fruit sauce.  However, like the steak skewers, the desserts were on the pricey side, at $8.50 and $10.00.

Dinner at Spoonriver was satisfying, with first-rate attentive service and well-prepared food.  However, our meal didn’t have enough of a “wow” factor to justify the high price.  If you’re looking for a convenient, classy place to eat dinner before taking in a play at the Guthrie, Spoonriver is your best bet.  Otherwise, the Twin Cities has a plethora of sustainability-focused restaurants with lovely food at more reasonable prices (my favorite is The Good Earth).

★★½ (recommended with reservations)

If you go:

Spoonriver
http://spoonriver.com/
750 South 2nd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612-436-2236

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Looking back, there are certain periods of my life that are inextricably linked with certain foods.  One of my most vivid memories of high school is dipping bite-sized chunks of bagel into single-serving tubs of pale pink strawberry cream cheese.  I’m not sure why I didn’t slice my bagels and spread cream cheese on them (was my high school too cheap to provide us with any utensils besides sporks?  Were the bagels too stale to cut?), but years later, the cafeteria bagels are more memorable than my freshman science class or junior prom.  Shortly after my college graduation, I spent a few months working at a boring clerical job, and what I remember most about that summer are the wraps I made for lunch every day: turkey, Swiss, and a few token pieces of pre-washed mixed greens, wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla and held together with a toothpick.  The early giddy days of my relationship with Mike were a time of tofu stir fries served on enormous beds of peanut butter noodles, and 2011 is made up of memories of dozens and dozens of loaves of homemade bread.  And as the snow banks slowly but surely melt away and the frigid temperatures subside, it has become apparent that this has been the Winter of Soup: chickpea soup, tofu and pineapple soup, black bean soup, and even corned beef and cabbage soup.  Over the past few months, I have discovered that soup is basically the cold weather equivalent of pasta, with innumerable easy-to-prepare vegetarian variations.  Even better, many recipes are conducive to slow cooker preparation, and soup always makes delectable leftovers.

My latest favorite, a Thai butternut squash soup, is more similar to a broth than a cream soup, but with a silky mouthfeel thanks to the coconut milk.  It’s a bit spicy, so decrease the amount of Sriracha sauce to half a teaspoon if you prefer your food on the mild side.  It was a nice way to use the last of my farmer’s market butternut squash bounty from the freezer: since the squash is pureed at the end, the somewhat soggy texture of frozen squash wasn’t an issue.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients:

Thai Butternut Squash Soup Ingredients

2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
14-ounce can light unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Combine squash, broth, coconut milk, onion, soy sauce, and Sriracha sauce in slow cooker and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (I prefer to cook on low to give the flavors more time to develop).

Meanwhile, combine cilantro, peanuts, and lime peel in a small bowl and set aside.

Thai Butternut Squash Soup Garnish

In batches, puree soup in blender until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat to keep warm.  Stir in lime juice and garnish each serving with cilantro mixture before serving.

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Farro and Tuscan White Beans

With great reluctance, I finally returned The Heart of the Plate to the library.  As you may have guessed from my enthusiastic posts about some of the recipes I tried–Lablabi, Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple, Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower, and Spring Farro–it’s a lovely cookbook, with a wide variety of interesting recipes that would appeal to both vegetarians and omnivores (I base this assessment on Mike, whose initial resistance to the offerings of a vegetable-based vegetarian cookbook gave way to a request that I check the book out from the library again this summer to find some new ideas for our CSA produce).  Thanks The Heart of the Plate, I finally cooked with farro, which I had wanted to try for long time but never quite got around to tracking down at the grocery store, and I also conquered my bean phobia.

For whatever reason, the idea of cooking beans from scratch has always been intimidating to me.  It’s not as though it’s technically difficult: you just dump some beans and some water in a pot and simmer.  It just seemed unduly complicated, between the pre-soaking the night before and the hour-long cooking time.  But when I finally got around to cooking beans, I had a “why haven’t I done this before” kitchen epiphany.  When simmered with herbs and garlic, the beans are infused with a subtle flavor, and the texture is better than the canned variety.  It’s even kind of meditative to watch them bubble away atop the stove.  I’m sure that I will still rely on canned beans for weeknight dinners, but making a batch of beans from scratch and then combining them with whole grains and vegetables was a tremendously satisfying way to spend a weekend evening.

Since the dried cannellini beans the recipe called for were unavailable at my local grocery store, I substituted Great Northern beans with good results.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

an White Beans Ingredients

1 cup dried cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 sprig fresh sage
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, halved
1 1/2 cups dry farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
black pepper, to taste
about 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

Place soaked beans in a Dutch oven and cover with two inches of water.  Add fresh sage, bay leaf, and garlic halves.  Bring to a boil, cover loosely, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook at a low boil until beans are tender, about 50 minutes.  Remove the fresh sage, bay leaf, and garlic halves and drain beans.

Meanwhile, combine 4 1/2 cups water and farro in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook at a low boil until farro is chewy-tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain farro in a colander and shake to remove excess water.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for a minute.  Add oil and tilt to evenly coat skillet with oil.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to soften, about two minutes.  Add the dried sage, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for another five minutes.  Add the minced garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover the skillet.  Cook, removing the cover occasionally to stir, until onions are dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add the prepared farro and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Stir to combine.  Add the vinegar and season to taste with black pepper.  Gently stir in the prepared beans, and then gently stir in the cherry tomatoes.

an White Beans

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Since St. Patrick’s Day was filled with work deadlines and my weekly yoga class, our annual corned beef and cabbage dinner was a week late this year (we instead had baked potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, which was probably more authentic anyway).  The smallest corned beef I could find was two and half pounds, which translates into a lot of meat for two people.  Typically, my oh-so-creative strategy for dealing with leftovers involves portioning them out into small glass containers and then reheating them for lunch.  This is not typically an issue, since it feeds my leftover obsession, but I was in the mood to try a little harder.  I was also in the mood to stretch my antibiotic-and-hormone-free, vegetarian-fed corned beef from Whole Foods a little further (Mike: “You spent what on a piece of meat?”  In my defense, it was on sale).  Mike ended up forgiving me since my major meat purchase yielded three servings of slow cooker corned beef and cabbage and four servings of corned beef and cabbage soup.  This meant he got to eat four homemade meat meals in one week, which is pretty unprecedented around here unless he makes himself a pan of Italian sausage lasagna.  Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day, honey.

Inspired by the recipe from Skinnytaste.com

Ingredients:

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 leeks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 cup shredded cooked corned beef (approximately one pound uncooked)
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head)
1 medium potato, chopped
6 cups beef broth
pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat for one minute.  Add olive oil, tilt to evenly coat, and add leeks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened, about five minutes.  Add garlic and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional five minutes or until garlic is golden.

Add the corned beef, cabbage, potato, and broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat.  Cook at a low boil until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Season with pepper to taste and serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Review: The Duluth Grill

“You know how sometimes you just know that whatever you order, it’s going to be good?  That’s how I felt at the Duluth Grill.” -Mike

The Duluth Grill is the kind of restaurant that serves everything from vegan omelets with gluten free toast to ratatouille to pasties, a northern Minnesota favorite brought to the Iron Range by Cornish miners.  If you want to know where the salmon in your salad was smoked or who raised the bison in your burger, it’s listed on the back of the menu.  So before I even got my order, the Duluth Grill had already endeared itself to me with its focus on local ingredients, the plethora of vegetarian and vegan options, and the fact that they serve breakfast all day.  My seven-grain porridge (I’ve been on a whole grain kick lately) didn’t disappoint, with a pleasant chewy texture, hint of sweetness from dried cranberries and honey, and a frothy topping of foamed milk.  A generous serving of vanilla yogurt and fruit filled out my hearty breakfast-for-lunch.

Duluth Grill

Mike’s garlic-Gouda burger was another hit, with a massive, juicy half-pound patty of grass-fed beef, a hearty bun, melting Gouda, caramelized onions, a pickled tomato, and roasted garlic spread.  For this mostly-vegetarian (and maybe even Mike the omnivore) the garlic spread was the star of the burger: sweetly mellow and intensely garlicky, complementing both the Gouda and the beef.

Duluth Grill

The Duluth Grill has published a cookbook (that’s where my honey glazed Brussels sprouts recipe is from), so luckily I can make my own roasted garlic spread until I make the drive up to Duluth for my next visit.  Because there will be a next visit–it’s that kind of place.

★★★ out of 5 (recommended)

If you go:

The Duluth Grill
https://www.duluthgrill.com
118 S 27th Avenue West
Duluth, MN 55806
218-726-1150

Spring Farro

As a child growing up in northern Minnesota, I figured that the “first day of spring” note that appeared on my calendar at the end of March was some sort of mistake on the part of the printer.  The end of March in Minnesota typically featured snowbanks, and the only flowers in sight were the tissue-paper versions that we made in art class.  As an adult, I can appreciate the idea that the vernal equinox marks the beginning of spring season, but it has no relation to my life when hauling cupcakes through an April blizzard.

But this year, I have been eagerly anticipating the official first day of spring.  Maybe it’s because the 2013-2014 winter has been the coldest Twin Cities winter in the past 35 years.  It may also have something to do with the week of 40 degree temperatures at the beginning of the month that practically made the snowbanks melt before my eyes or the beginning of daylight saving time.  I’m not the only one: someone from our firm’s IT department (not typically a whimsical bunch) posted a spring countdown clock on our internal website, complete with pictures of tulips.  While the three inches of snow that fell last night dashed any far-fetched hopes of blooming tulips, a recipe called “Spring Farro” seemed like the perfect way to celebrate the season.  Granted, my leek traveled to the grocery store from far away warmer climes and my peas came from the freezer, but it still tasted like spring, with a hearty serving of whole grain to boot.  Farro is similar in texture to wheat berries, but with a milder, nuttier flavor and a much shorter cooking time, making this an ideal weeknight dinner.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate, by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Spring Farro Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dry farro
1 leek, about 1 inch in diameter, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon salt
3.5-ounce package feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring 4 1/2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan.  Add farro and cook at a low boil over medium heat until farro is chewy-tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice leek and separate into rings.  Combine the leek, olive oil, and garlic in a medium bowl.

Leeks

Place the frozen peas in a colander.  Drain the farro in the colander and shake to remove any excess water.  Add the farro and peas to the bowl with the leeks and sprinkle with salt.  Mix gently, stirring from the bottom to evenly incorporate the leeks, olive oil, and garlic into the farro.  Gently stir in the feta cheese, pepper, and lemon juice.

Spring Farro

Posole Casserole

Once in awhile, I get the “Don’t you miss eating meat?” question from acquaintances when they find out about my mostly vegetarian diet.  Well, not really–I still ocassionally cook with chicken broth, eat fish a few times a month, and make exceptions for things like French onion soup.  But lately, I’ve been craving slow-cooker chicken chili, a weeknight staple of my meat eating days.   I don’t miss the chicken, but rather the generous amount of hominy the chili included.  I’ve tried a few vegetarian hominy-based casseroles, but none of them had the appeal of my chicken chili.  It always tasted like something was missing (and no, it wasn’t the chicken).

This week, the mystery was finally solved thanks to Veg Girl RD, a vegetarian food and nutrition blog I follow.  Kristine’s recipe for Creamy Posole Casserole included the secret ingredient that finally satisfied my hominy-from-chicken-chili craving: canned diced green chiles, which were the main seasoning in my chicken chili recipe.  The original recipe includes ground pumpkin seeds for additional protein, but since Mike was skeptical as to how they would impact the flavor and texture of the dish we left them out.  I also doubled the amount of green chiles and used the sour cream as a garnish rather than incorporating it into the casserole.  We had this with salads for dinner, and then I ate the leftovers for lunch with a large helping of steamed sweet corn.

Adapted from “Creamy Posole Casserole” by Kristine of Veg Girl RD

Serves 2-3 as an entree or 4 as a hearty side

Ingredients:

Posole Casserole Ingredients

14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
29-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup canned diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Puree diced tomatoes in blender until smooth; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until golden, about one minute.  Stir in the tomato puree, hominy, chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the hominy mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is browned.

Posole Casserole

Serve garnished with sour cream.

Posole Casserole

Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower

Patio Table

The patio table has surfaced!

As promised, I have been coping with the (hopefully) waning days of winter by gleefully watching the snow melt and eating lots of soup.  In fact, the last three recipes I’ve posted were for soups: Black Bean Soup with Cilantro and Lime, Lablabi, and Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple.  We actually made soup yet again for dinner last night, but since I’ve already given you my recipe Slow Cooker Minestrone, I’m writing about the cauliflower we had as a side dish.

Admittedly, cauliflower is one of my least favorite vegetables.  Prior to last night’s dinner, I had cooked it exactly twice.  Cauliflower attempt #1 was a mash that was supposed to be a delicious and more healthful alternative to garlic mashed potatoes, but in reality ended up being a mess of vaguely garlicky cauliflower with a strange, soggy texture.  Cauliflower attempt #2 was a curried cauliflower soup that made me violently ill.  Although the cauliflower wasn’t to blame (I subsequently discovered that I have a highly unpleasant reaction to fenugreek), the experience didn’t really give me fond feelings towards the vegetable.

But something about this recipe for Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower, from Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate, made me want to give cauliflower another try.  I think it was the photograph, of cauliflower encrusted with browned, crispy Parmesan cheese.  The crispy cheese reminded me of flatbreads, which reminded me of patio happy hours, which reminded me of summer, and I found myself wheedling Mike into trying a new cauliflower recipe.  “Well,” he said, looking at the photograph and failing to find nearly as captivating as I did, “it probably won’t taste very good, but it will be good for me.”

Despite Mike’s prediction, cauliflower attempt #3 was a smashing success (direct quote from Mike accompanied by a high-five: “Props for taking another nasty vegetable and making it taste good”).  The browned cheese was nice, but the real star of the dish was the roasted cauliflower, with an intriguing textural combination of softened stems and dry, almost crispy florets, and more flavor than I thought it was possible to extract from cauliflower.  The onions were roasted to sweet, juicy perfection, complementing the saltiness of the cheese and the crispness of the cauliflower florets.  Theoretically, this should serve four as a side dish, but I found that it only served two (I ate three-quarters of the batch).

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate, by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, cored and cut into bite sized florets
2 cups minced onions
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Drizzle the olive oil over the parchment paper and spread it evenly with a cauliflower floret.  Place the cauliflower on the baking sheet and sprinkle with onions.

Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower Before Roasting

Roast for 10 minutes, or until cauliflower florets on the edges are beginning to turn golden.  Remove from oven and gently shake pan to loosen cauliflower.  Return to oven and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until all of the cauliflower has turned golden.

Remove from oven and push the cauliflower and onions as close together as possible in a single layer.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Return to oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has turned light brown.  Toss with salt and pepper.

Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower

Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple

If a market researcher was to come up to me in the street and ask me why I cook dinner from scratch every night, I would tell her “No thank you” and keep walking.  This is my standard response to anyone who approaches me in the street, from panhandlers to proselytizers.  But if I were to stop for the hypothetical market researcher, I could give her half a dozen reason reasons.  Cooking dinner is more economical and healthier than relying on prepackaged foods or dining out; it’s a creative outlet; I like working with my hands; it centers me after a work day and long commute; and homemade food just plain tastes better.  But there is one more reason I wouldn’t disclose: I love eating leftovers for lunch.

I’m hesitant to declare my leftover love because it’s not culturally acceptable in the way that say, an obsession with bacon is.  Leftovers are seen as second class, something to be eaten if there isn’t a better option, or to be avoided entirely by cooking food in small batches.  But I delight in the fact that we are a family of two in a “serves four” recipe world.  Reheating my little glass container of last night’s dinner in the work microwave reminds me of how much I enjoy cooking, and eating a warm, home-cooked meal for lunch satisfies me in a way that a sandwich or frozen meal never could.

I will admit that some leftovers are better than others.  Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts is a favorite, although that’s just because it’s awesome recipe in general.  In my opinion, the texture of roasted sweet potatoes improves when you reheat them, so Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach and Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes are eagerly anticipated lunches.  But hands down, the best leftovers are soups.  With a bit of time in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld together, good soups become great, and already amazing soups become a transcendent lunch experience.  The Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple from Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate is one such amazing soup.  When served immediately, the soup has a brightness from the pineapple and basil; after a couple days in the refrigerator, the brightness is still there, but layered on top of it is an delicious intensity from the chili paste that wasn’t initially noticeable, and the tofu benefits from having some extra time to soak up the flavor of the broth.

The original recipe calls from two cups of chopped fresh pineapple, but I substituted canned pineapple in juice (don’t drain the pineapple, since the juice becomes the base of the soup broth).  I wasn’t able to find the Thai basil the recipe called for, so I used regular basil with good results.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple Ingredients

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons red chili paste
1 large carrot or 1/2 cup baby carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 celery stalk, diagonally sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice
6 white mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half if large, divided
12-ounce package extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for one minute.  Add oil and tilt to evenly coat the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Add the onion and cook until starting to soften, about three minutes.  Add the chili paste and cook for an additional minute.  Add the carrots, celery, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are evenly coated with the chili paste and beginning to soften, about three minutes.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the pepper, tomatoes, pineapple chunks and their juice, mushrooms, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cover and cook for another five minutes.

Add 4 cups of water, half of the basil leaves, and tofu.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for five minutes.  Add the sugar and soy sauce.

Serve garnished with the remaining basil leaves.

Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple