Sunchoke Lentil Soup With Garnish Galore!

Sunchoke lentil soup

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with a apple, chive, sunchoke medley

I’ve been meaning for quite sometime to make this soup when my boyfreind shared the original recipe from the Wall Street Journal back on January 13, 3013. I never had a chance to cook with sunchokes in the past nor did I hear of them till late last year. And now I notice more restaurants in Vancouver like The Acorn making Sunchoke soup. I was even more motivated to make this soup. Is this a new fad of soups? Hmmn.

The Verdict of Sunchoke Soup?
This recipe was very thought out with the great looking garnish that took it further than a garnish because it added another level to the soup with taste and texture. Two thumbs up to Chef Michael Anthony from the Gramercy Tavern in New York known for fine-dining take on hyper-seasonal American cuisine with this recipe.

 

The soup was healthy and sans cream or milk products. Loved it also because the topping with chives was exquisite and the crunchy apples a fine texture and just enough sweetness. The fried tiny Sunchoke pieces are subtle and plays well with chives and apples. The soup was very velvety and creamy like a pureed cauliflower soup (one of my favs). The bouquet spices made a strong statement in the pot of soup for a tiny packet.

I adjusted the recipe and added more lentils to make a meal out of my soup. I took it to work two days in a row for lunch and it filled me up just fine!

One thing I would do different next time if I made this soup is I would use a lighter coloured vegetable stock (like Imagine Organic Vegetable Low Sodium Stock). The stock I used for this time (Pacifico Organic Vegetable Broth) was way too orange for my liking. I would have loved to have a whiter looker soup (prettier in my opinion being more white). Oh, ya, sprinkle a little lemon juice on the apples before adding to the medley if you want them looking white for next day and store the medley in an airtight plastic container.

 

Sunchoke Soup Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup black lentils
  • pinch salt, plus more, to taste
  • 4 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 2 pounds sunchokes, all but 2 pieces (about 3 inches each) peeled and cut into ½ inch coins
  • 8 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
  • 15-20 corriander seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • pepper to taste
  • ½ cup apples. Cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
Sunchoke Soup Instructions:
  1. Set a small pot of water over high heat and bring back to a boil. Add lentils and pinch salt and simmer until lentils are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, make soup: Set a deep pot over medium heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons oil. Add onions, leeks, shallots, garlic and celery. Sweat until softened and translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add sunchokes and sweat until slightly softened, 1-2 minutes more.
  3. Add enough stock to just cover vegetables and raise heat to high. Wrap spices and ginger in cheesecloth, secure with kitchen twine and add sachet to pot. Once soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and simmer steadily until sunchokes and fork-tender, 20-30 minutes.
  4. While vegetables simmer, assemble garnish: peel and cut reserved sunchokes into ¼ inch dice/ Set a medium pan over medium heat and swirl in remaining oil/ Once hot, sauté diced sunchokes until tender and golden all over, about 5 minutes.
  5. Mix sautéed sunchokes with cooked lentils, apples and chives. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
  6. Once vegetables have simmered, set a sieve over a large bowl and pour soup through to separate vegetables from stock. Discard sachet and reserve stock. In a food processor, puree vegetables until smooth.
  7. Return pureed vegetables to pot and stir in enough stock to create a loose yet creamy consistency. Bring back to a simmer and season with salt and white pepper to taste.
  8. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and place a large spoonful of sunchoke-apple-lentil garnish in center of each bowl.
What I changed from original soup recipe:
  • Used black pepper instead of white pepper
  • Doubled lentils
  • Used 3/4 cup of diced apples instead of 1/2 cup
  • Used more chives, corriander and two star anise
  • Used a mix of lentils (black and brown)
Soup Mistress Rating for Sunchoke Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Soups of San Diego – A Summery Cream Satisfaction Indeed

Last week I had the great liberty to visit beautiful San Diego. My trip was originally for business to attend a conference on tag management software for analytics, but I was able to combine it with a few days of pleasure time.

Coming from rainy Vancouver, I was very impressed with the sunshine and shorts weather for my first two days. I had a cute tour guide visiting with me and we had a wonderful time bike riding around Coronado Island and downtown San Diego. During the week, I experienced some mighty fine restaurants and pubs.

With the mild weather and great soups, it was very much a summery cream satisfaction for myself. The following are my three favorite soups that I had dining out during my week stay in San Diego.

Kelvin Restaurant at W Hotel
http://www.kelvinrestaurant.com
421 West B. Street, San Diego, CA

I had their Rustic Poblano Corn Soup with spiked popcorn:

The Verdict of Kelvin Restaurant Rustic Poblano Corn Soup:
On my last night I decided to have a quiet dinner at my hotel (W Hotel). This restaurant is petit but very modern and nice. I wanted to have a light dinner so I ordered the Rustic Poblano Corn Soup with the Duck Confit Quesidillas. Both paired well together. But I ended up with a not so light dinner – I was super stuffed after eating it all.

The soup seemed to have fresh kernels within the pureed base, which I thought was a classy touch. They were not mushy what-so-ever liked canned corn. I LOVED the use of tiny chopped chives (my favorite soup topper) as well as a tasty swirl of chile infused oil. The oil added a really fine touch of heat.

And the spiked corn as a garnish – oh my! It sure prettied up the soup! First ever experience of popcorn as a garnish for myself.

My waitress shared that the soup had cream, vegetable stock and rice flour.  I am sure that it had a lot of cream too. It had a very good tasting base but a tad heavy on the cream side. I also think it didn’t really need the rice flour because it was to thick for my liking (almost like risotto thick).

The taste of the soup rocked, but does not get high marks for a slimming soup from me.

Oh well, I enjoyed it but back on the treadmill I go!

Soup Mistress Rating For Kelvin Restaurant Rustic Corn Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5)

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine
http://www.cohnrestaurants.com/menu-restaurants/blue-point/
565 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA

I had their famous Lobster Bisque with sherry and creme fraiche (gluten-free):

The Verdict of Blue Point Coastal Cuisine Lobster Bisque:

What a special treat, I went to this restaurant twice in one week! The first time was pleasure and the second time, Tealium Software treated our team at Electronic Arts to dinner. I also had a great opportunity to sit besides Jim Sterne – one of the biggest Analytics evangelist and great eMetrics conference host and speaker. Was fun to talk analytics with him.

A few of us at the table ordered the Lobster Bisque. This soup was super rich and very tasty. The soup was perfect for my appetite because I only ordered crab cakes with it.  Jim, on the other hand couldn’t finish it because he thought it was too rich and filling – he was also waiting for his main entre. Perhaps Blue Point should offer a cup of bisque for those who may be like Jim and not want a big bowl?

The pieces of lobster in my bisque was meaty and juicy at same time. Perhaps it marinated in the soup a tad -sometime I find lobster to tough. I didn’t pick up on the Sherry in the soup – perhaps it dissipated? The seasoning was just perfect but the bisque could have used triple the amount of chives.

I would order this bisque again but perhaps replace the crab cakes with some more fresh oysters, which by the way, comes from beautiful British Columbia (my home province)!

Soup Mistress Rating For Blue Point Coastal Cuisine Lobster Bisque:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5)

Mimmo’s Italian Village
http://www.mimmos.biz
1743 India St, San Diego, CA., San Diego, CA

I had the their soup of the day which was a Tomato Basil Soup:

The Verdict of Mimo’s Tomato Basil Soup:

The last day, I had fun hanging out with two other co-workers (Nataliya and Robert). We took a tour on the USS Midway ship and then we ventured to Little Italy for our last meal before heading to the airport.

Mimo’s grabbed our attention and both Robert and I ordered the Tomato Basil soup. I really enjoyed it – I have tried many tomato basil soups and this one makes one of the top 5 I had to date.. It was simple yet tasty like it should be. I lapped up the bowl of soup with some very fresh bread slices. And the freshly grated parmesan is a must at any Italian restaurant don’t you think?

Thumbs up for taste as well as a slimming soup from both Robert and myself!

Soup Mistress Rating For Mimo’s Tomato Basil Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5)

Butternut Squash Pear Quinoa Soup With Blue Cheese

Butternet Squash Pear Quinoa Soup

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The completed Butternet Squash Pear Quinoa Soup with blue cheese.

Just last week, I picked up a great cook book: Quinoa Revolution: Over 150 Healthy, Great Tasting Recipes Under 500 Calories. It has some amazing recipes –  I would have never thought of using Quinoa in so many ways! From breakfast wake-ups to mushroom lasagna as well as numerous soups – oh my! There is a good handful of soups I want to try out. This is only my second soup I made with Quinoa to date.

Since it is squash season now, this soup definitely caught my attention having pears. Pears are one of my favorite fruits. And why can’t it be in a soup?! And blue cheese is soooo good on anything!

So What Are The Benefits of Quinoa?
Quinoa is a source of complete protein. Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Read more on Quinoa here.

I also like the fact that Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Using Quinoa as a thickening agent in soups instead of wheat flour is a great gluten-free option!

The Verdict of Butternut Squash Pear Quinoa Soup with Blue Cheese?

I really love this soup. It was smooth and rich to my taste even though I omitted the cream/ milk in which the original recipe called for. The blue cheese should not be omitted though – it finishes the soup just right. I also think replacing dried sage with fresh sage gave it a fresher taste. This vegetable soup is packed with protein because of the Quinoa and seemed to have filled me up just right. Using the hand blender until the soup is a velvety delight is key. I also added in more vegetable stock and a very generous grind of pepper. The original recipe didn’t call for pepper –  I think pepper is a rockstar in most soup cases and should never be snubbed!

Butternut Squash Pear Quinoa Soup With Blue Cheese Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 cups onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 5 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 6.5 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 cups fresh pears, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped fine
  • 4 tablespoon blue cheese
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Butternut Squash Pear Quinoa Soup With Blue Cheese Instructions:

  1.  Heat up olive oil in large pot on medium heat
  2. Add onions, garlic and salt. Cook until the onions and soft and opaque, approx 7-8 minutes.
  3. Add the quinoa, butternut squash and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and simmer covered about 20 minutes.
  4. Add in the pear and fresh sage.
  5. Puree the soup with a hand blender or in batches with a food processor/blender.
  6. Return soup to the pot. Add pepper to your tasting.
  7. Garnish each bowl of soup with crumbled blue cheese and serve!

What I Changed From The Original Recipe:

  • replaced butter with olive oil
  • added more onions, butternut squash
  • added more vegetable stock and omitted whole milk/whipping cream
  • used fresh sage instead of dried sage
  • used a tad more blue cheese

Soup Mistress Rating for Butternut Squash Pear Quinoa Soup With Blue Cheese:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5)
Taste: (4/5)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup, A Happy Planet Vegetarian Gluten-free Masterpiece

The other day I left the office quite late and didn’t feel like cooking and I decided to stop off at Choices on the way home.

Happy Planets Moroccan Chickpea Soup grabbed my attention being organic and all. I brought it home and heated it up very slowly on low-med heat. It’s funny, I did not have huge expectations for a prepackaged soup – but I was totally surprised of how awesome this soup was when I had my first spoonful! OMG!

The soup seemed so fresh, and had noticeable pieces celery and onion and full firm chickpeas. The vegetables and beans were not mushy what-so-ever. The spinach seemed to be chopped fine and hide in the background giving the chickpeas all the attention it deserves.

The warm spices had a nice touch. I read the ingredients and it had basil with cilantro and cumin. I would have never thought to use those three together! Cilantro and cumin together is a gimme though as a duo. Although it does not read fennel seeds in the ingredients, I think it adds a extra special touch to this soup.

Take a look at the picture of the soup in my bowl above. I think it could fool a meat eater!! I am guessing that a percentage of the soup was pureed to give it a thicker consistency like a meaty soup. It can also fool the same person that it had a meat broth base too – it had some mighty fine depth!!

Happy Planet wasn’t too shy on the spices and it worked out like a vegetarian masterpiece!!

Oh ya, it is also Gluten-free, high in fiber and more. Read more here on Happy Planets website.

Ingredients: Water, organic chick peas, organic tomatoes, organic onions, organic celery, organic spinach, organic garlic, organic sunflower oil, organic tomato paste, sea salt, organic cilantro, organic and/or natural spices.

This is one soup I would LOVE to try and recreate at home! I may put this at the top of my to do list! I would also consider bring home another bag of this soup from the grocery store anytime in the future.

Soup Mistress Rating for Happy Planet Moroccan Chickpea Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5)
Taste: (5/5)

Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup With Mock Noodles

Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup

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Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup With Mock Noodles

My brothers girlfriend (Leslie) sent me a wonderful Thai Coconut Chicken Rice Soup recipe that I decided to make this week with some modifications. I wanted to take her recipe and make it into a vegetarian soup similar to Happy Planets Thai Coconut Soup that I tried a few weeks back.

I added a fair bit of veggies to replace the chicken and rice.  Note: this is a large batch of soup to have as left overs or even freeze. My decision to omit rice is because I find rice gets too mushy the next day or when freezing. I decided to use bamboo shoots as a substitute for rice – they were some mighty fine mock noodles I must say! Happy Planets Thai Soup gave me the ideal of adding bamboo shoots.

The Verdict of Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup? I think this soup should not be made without the red chile thai and lime juice. They both work together very well. The red thai gives it a superb heat (may be a tad too hot for some folks though) and the lime juice gives it a great acidic freshness. I love the bamboo shoots as a substitute for rice or noodles, they were almost noodle-like and thicker pieces than what Happy Planets soup had. This is also one soup that get’s better the next day – I had it 3 days in row for lunch and froze the rest for a later date.

Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrot, julienned
  • 10 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red thai chile, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
  • 1 can of baby corn, cut in thirds (if whole in can)
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, halved or quartered and bruised
  • 7 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can light unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2  cup fresh baby spinach
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime rind
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup Instructions:

  1. Saute onions, garlic, and ginger for 3 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms, carrot, celery, red pepper, red thai chile, sauté for 3 more minutes.
  3. Add red curry paste, baby corn, bamboo shoots, lemongrass, vegetable broth, coconut milk. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add baby spinach and cook until wilted.
  5. Add lime rind, lime juice, ground pepper.
  6. Ladle in bowls and garnish with cilantro and more pepper (if desired).

What I changed from the original recipe:

  • omitted chicken, rice, white sugar, snap peas
  • added 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • added lemon grass, bamboo shoots, red thai chile, baby corn, red curry paste, garlic
  • used low sodium vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
  • increased cilantro to 4 tablespoons

Soup Mistress Rating for Thai Coconut Vegetarian Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread A Great Dinner Date For Soups

Gluten-Free Bread

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Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread

Ah, rustic bread – I love you so. Nothing beats having some freshly baked rustic bread to dip in a warm comforting homemade soup.

Just over three weeks ago I attended a class at Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store in Langley, BC and was taught how to bake a great gluten-free rustic bread. The course was “Wheat Free Gluten Free with Pastry Chef Tina Bacon”. Gluten-Free, oh my! I must admit that was pessimistic because I have tried many gluten-free breads from either Whole Foods, Donald’s Market or other specialty bakeries, and most seemed very hard, stale and heavy. All to be thrown in the garbage after reaching mid-loaf.

But this recipe has turned me into an optimist with regards to gluten-free breads! I also tried this recipe this past weekend with sun-dried tomatoes and oregano (instead of olives) and my girl friend Char has given it thumbs up!

The Verdict Of Crusty Gluten-Free Bread?
I love cooking but not normally into baking per se. But I am positive that I will make this rustic gluten-free bread in future and with different flavors, herbs / and or spice to go with my soup of the day. This bread recipe is not hard and heavy. It comes out especially nice right out of the oven! Also, I love the fact that you can make the bread dough and keep it in the fridge for 7 days and bake it when needed!

I decided to take Tina Bacon’s recipe and add chopped walnut stuffed olives into the dough and call it Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread.

Ingredients For Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread:

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
  • 3 cups tapioca starch
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons xanthan gum
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2-2/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 12 almond stuffed large olives, chopped

Instructions Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and honey. Whisk in warm water that is approx 110°F –  120°F.
  3. With a wooden spoon gradually add flour, stirring after each addition.
  4. Stir in chopped almond stuffed olives.
  5. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest about 2 hours on counter.
  6. Wrap bowl airtight and refrigerate minimum 2 hours and up to 7 days.
  7. When ready to bake a loaf, line a pizza pan or baking sheet with parchment. Cut off about 1/4 of the dough and with wet hands quickly shape into an oval.
  8. Place on the prepared pan and smooth surface with your fingers.
  9. Loosely cover with plastic and allow to rest 90 minutes. It won’t rise much.
  10. After one hour of resting preheat oven to 450F.
  11. Just before baking use a sharp knife to cut 1/4″ deep slashes diagonally across loaf.
  12. Slide loaf with parchment onto the oven rack and bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown and firm.
  13. Transfer to a rack to cool before slicing.
  14. Serve with a nice bowl of soup! (BTW – Tomato soup will go well with this Olive Almond Rustic Bread.)