Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado, CSA Week 7

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Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

When life gives you zucchini, there are actually many things you can do with it, grilling and sautéing being my go-tos most of the time. But, doing same thing over over again, no matter how tasty and satisfying they are, does get old. When it comes to zucchini, I have been trying new things, like zucchini lasagna, and zucchini fruitcake – I did also give zucchini cheese a try but that one did not work for me, so I am putting my zucchini cheese making days behind me.

Couple of zucchini’s that came in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this week from our local Upswing Farm, here in Ashland, Massachusetts where we live, were just the perfect size for stuffing, and that’s what I decided to do.

Getting zucchini ready for stuffing

To me, perfect stuffing zucchini is about 8-9 in (20-25 cm) and what makes this the perfect size is the fact that it matches is the size of my 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish! Plus, the zucchini in this size range is in the Goldilocks zone – not too big and not too small, yet just right for carrying a good amount of stuffing.

The best way to get the zucchini ready for stuffing is to wash them, cut the ends off (this step is actually optional, you could skip it and leave the ends on – this would give your dish a nice, rustic presentation at the end), then slice the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. If the zucchini is old and seeds look well-formed and unappetizing, please feel free to discard them. But, if the inside looks fresh and soft, scoop it out into a bowl and put aside to use as a part of the stuffing.

Par-roasting zucchini

You may have heard about par-boiling, when you boil something only half way through before doing something else with it. Par-roasting is essentially the same thing, just using roasting as a strategy to get the nice, roasted and caramelized flavors going without too much oven time. This can come in handy during hot summer months, for example.

I use par-roasting when prepping most of my stuffed vegetables, be it mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, or zucchini. The method is simple: you turn your oven on high (425 F (220 C) or higher), line a baking sheet with some parchment paper, toss the veggies with some oil, or spray with some cooking spray, or skip the oil altogether if avoiding fat (you can also sprinkle salt on if using, I don’t because the stuffing is usually plenty salty for me), and let the veggies brown for 15 minutes or so, flipping them over once if needed to get them equally browned on both sides.

Why par-roasting?

Well, most stuffing I make is already cooked by the time all is said and done. So, the stuffing itself usually does not need any more cooking time – all it needs to do is go into the oven for 10 minutes or so to get nicely browned on top. Par-roasting is my way of brining whichever vegetable is supposed to hold the stuffing up to speed so that the vehicle is ready for the final oven ride, when the stuffing gets browned and the vehicle finishes baking while absorbing some of the flavors that seep from the stuffing. In this way everything gets harmonized and delicious.

My secret to a perfect (and easy) Tex-Mex flavor

The best way to get the tex-mix flavors going is to start with a good chili powder, then add cumin powder and smoked paprika. These three things combined make for nice smokiness with just a hint of heat, so even with the amount of chili powder I use here the heat will not be overpowering. Having said that, do adjust the chili powder to fit your preferences. Of course, having corn and black beans in this dish is also essential. Here, I used canned corn and canned beans, but you can definitely use frozen corn and cook your beans from scratch. If you are using frozen corn, 1-1/2 cups of frozen corn should be enough, and if you are cooking the beans, 1 cup dry beans will probably be plenty.

Easy homemade salsa

What also helps tex-mix flavors is topping the stuffed zucchini with some freshly made salsa. If you don’t have the time, store-bought is perfectly fine to use here, either freshly made or from a jar – you can pick your own favorite flavor and enjoy! But, if you do want a quick homemade salsa, then follow the instructions below. The main tip here is to cut the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Don’t throw them out – you can mix them into the tex-mex stuffing! Here, almost everything goes into a food processor for easy chopping. I recommend leaving one cleaned out tomato aside, and dicing it finely by hand to give the final salsa a bit more texture. This salsa takes only a few minutes to make, and you will love the flavor of freshly chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime, so it is worth doing it from scratch.

Diced avocado for a final touch

Last but not least is the diced avocado. You actually don’t need the avocado if you can’t stomach it (I know there are some people out there that have trouble with avocado), but it does add a nice, smooth, rich and creamy flavor to the final dish. It’s like a five layer dip right there in your zucchini “boat”!

To pick the best avocado, get those that are still quite hard and then leave them next to some bananas on your kitchen counter for a day or so. The avocado will soften and then you can store it in the fridge until ready to use. In this way you will avoid getting avocados that are too bruised by all the squeezing and poking, and can buy extra avocados on sale and use them 5-7 days later.

After that PSA, back to the Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini – to finish the stuffed zucchini, squeeze some fresh lime juice over your avocado and sprinkle some fresh cilantro. If you are using homemade salsa you can skip the cilantro, but if you are using the store-bought  then no cilantro-skipping is allowed!

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Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado

What you’ll need:

3 zucchini, washed but not peeled

1 15.25 oz (430 g) can yellow corn (whole kernel)

1 29 oz (820 g) can black beans

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed if you prefer

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper and additional salt to taste!* (see Note)

1 avocado, finely diced, for garnish, optional

Fresh cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice for topping (optional)

 

SIMPLE HOMEMADE SALSA

4 plum tomatoes, seeded, divided

1/4 – 1/2 jalapeño pepper, deseeded (or more, to taste)

1/4 onion or red onion

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 lime, juice

1/4 teaspoon sat (more or less, to taste)

Cooking spray, salt, pepper

 

What you’ll do:

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  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. To make the salsa, cut the tomatoes lengthwise, the use a paring knife to take out the seeds and the middle of the tomato. Reserve the middles for the stuffing. Place all the ingredients, except one tomato into a food processor and buy until finely chopped. Dice the leftover tomato finely and mix in with the rest of pasta. Once mixed, set the pasta to the side.
  3. Wash the zucchini, remove the ends, and cut lengthwise into two pieces (I prefer to remove the ends but you don’t need to do that). Use a teaspoon to scrape out the inside of the zucchini – if full of seeds you can discard, otherwise add to the tomato scrap pieces and put aside.
  4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with some cooking spray, then place zucchini on, spray the tops and place the zucchinis into the oven. Zucchini will be nicely browned in about 10 minutes. Take the zucchini out and set aside.
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 375 F (190 C).
  6. While the zucchini is par-roasting, get going on the stuffing. Add the oil to a large pan (frying or sauté) and place over the medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and sliced garlic and let them caramelize for 2 minutes or so. Next add the spices (chili powder, cumin powder, smoked paprika) and let them “bloom” for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Next add the scooped out zucchini and tomato scraps, and mix well. Sauté for couple of minutes, then add corn and black beans. For corn and black beans, I recommend straining them using a large colander, and rinsing them for half a minute under some cold water before using. If you are using frozen corn, or fresh corn, and the beans you cooked yourself this washing and straining step is, of course, not necessary! Mix everything well and sauté for another 8-10 minutes.
  8. Spray a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish (or a large casserole pan) with cooking spray, then cover the bottom with a layer of stuffing. Place the par-roasted zucchini boats in and fill them with stuffing. Pile the stuffing high, and press gently in as you fill to make sure you get to all the little nooks and crannies. (You may end up with extra stuffing – if that’s the case you can serve the stuffing itself as a side for another dinner, for example this would be a grate thing to put into a taco shell and enjoy, or serve cold on your next tex-mix salad!).
  9. Put the stuffed zucchini into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. All you are looking for is some nice caramelization on the top and the sides. Pull the stuffed zucchini out, and let it cool for couple of minutes before serving.
  10. When serving, top each zucchini boat with salsa and diced avocado, freshly chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime and you are done!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

 

 

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Sweet and Smoky Baked Beans with Caramelized Onions

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Sweet and Smokey Baked Beans with Caramelized Onions are a perfect side dish for your next BBQ, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Grillin’ and chillin’ – that’s what we are all going to be doing for the next couple of months. School is out, summer is here and what better thing to do than to enjoy some grilled foods and outdoor dining. So, if anyone ever asks you “Do vegans (or plant-based eaters) actually grill anything?” all you need to say is “You betcha” and invite them over for a grill and BBQ party. If you are looking for some inspiration, you may want to try these BBQ ribs, or portobello steaks, or grilled tempeh. Besides these you can grill eggplant, lots of other veggies, as well as peaches, pineapple, plums… Grilling is a lovely way to bring intense flavors out and works for a range of fruits and vegetables!

Having the right side dish on your side

Plus, vegetables (and fruit) are essential for making your cookout a really special and memorable treat for everyone. These ingredients get transformed into a lovely array of side dishes, and quite frankly I usually pile up those and completely ignore the “main” course. With things like spicy cole slaw, or corn bread (or corn bread muffins), or Mac’n’Cheese, or delicious collard greens, or potato salad, or… Well, need I say more? Side dishes are what makes these grillin’ and chillin’ cookouts fun!!!

Baked beans are an institution

Although all these side dishes are dear to my heart, none comes even close to baked beans! Baked beans are absolutely an institution, both in the USA where I live, and in the Balkans, where I come from. But we all know that they are more broadly beloved than that, and many countries and cultures across the globe have a very special and prominent place for baked beans. And although many would think that you can’t have an amazing baked beans without some smokey meat component in there, this is far from the truth.

Sweetness and smokey flavors make baked beans special

What makes baked beans really special is a combination of sweetness and smokiness. One way of getting lots of sweetness to your baked beans is to use some dark brown sugar, maple syrup or dark molasses. But, if you are not careful these can quickly overpower the dish. So, I recommend that you go easy on the actual sweetener, and use lots of sweet onion instead for a more subtle sweet flavor. Baked beans are also quite smokey, and here spices like smoked paprika and chili powder, as well as a dash of liquid smoke will go a long way. If you can’t find liquid smoke, ground cumin is an example of a common spice that has a natural smokey flavor, or you could consider adding one or two smoked peppers, whole into the beans and then fishing them out before serving.

Enjoy!!!

Sweet and Smokey Baked Beans with Caramelized Onions

What you’ll need:

1 large sweet onion, finely sliced

3 cups pinto beans, cooked or canned (if using canned rinse and drain the beans first)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons of McCormick® GRILL MATES® BARBECUE seasoning (see note below).

Note: to make your own seasoning that’s enough for this recipe mix 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar or 1/2 teaspoon of dark molasses, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke.

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Slice the large onion in half than place the cut side down on your chopping board and slice across to create thin onion ribbons. Once the onion is sliced, use your fingers to pull the ribbons apart.
  3. Place a large pan over medium heat and bring to temperature. Add the oil and onion ribbons and caramelize the onions for 5 minutes with frequent stirring. You want the onions to be soft, and partly browned but not fully caramelized.
  4. Add the beans and the spice mix to a large mixing bowl and use your hands or a large fork to mash and mix everything together. Approximately, half of the beans should be mashed and half should stay whole. This will ensure that your baked beans are creamy, yet have an interesting texture.
  5. Spray the bottom of you baking dish with some cooking spray and spread the beans in an even layer. The best size of the dish for this amount of beans is 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm), or about 2 QT (approximately 2 L).
  6. Arrange the partly caramelized onions on the top. Don’t mix them in, just let the onions rest on top of the bean mix. You can get creative here and make a pattern or a design, but I went rustic!
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. When you see that the edge of your beans is browned, you are done! Serve as a wonderful side dish for you BBQ party, or use the next day to make a yummy breakfast burrito.
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Sweet and Smokey Baked Beans with Caramelized Onions, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow – feel free to pin and share!

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

White Bean Burger with Chia Seeds

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White Bean Burgers with Chia Seeds, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Another veggie burger, another sensation (if you like to see some past examples, there are here, here, here, and here)! And you don’t need to take my word for it, just go ahead and make a batch of these. First of all, they are ultra-cheap. I use dry beans and one pound, approximately half a kilo, of dry beans will make a huge pile of these burgers. At the end, I think my yield from this recipe was about 15 burgers. The burgers store well in the tightly sealed container in a fridge – you can keep them for a week – and reheat easily in the microwave oven, toaster oven or on the stove top. I am not entirely sure they freeze well, but you can try. If you do decide to freeze a batch, I recommend cooking them through, letting them cool, then separating individual burgers with some wax paper, then freezing. In that way you can grab a burger any time you need it!

Chia seeds are the magic ingredient here. I’ve used chia seeds in the past to make puddings, but here I use them as the main binding agent, the same way you would use egg or a flax “egg”. To make chia “egg”  all you need to do is soak chia seeds in some water for about 30 minutes or so. By the time half an hour is up you should have a very thick and gooey mixture that looks quite slimy and that is a good sign. It means your chia seeds are ready to use. Chia seeds add not only the cohesiveness to this recipe, but bump up the nutritional value of your burgers because they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

I used to be afraid of cooking the beans and would get canned ones only. But, I recently started using a pressure cooker and I love it! I soak the beans overnight to speed things up, although I did make the beans without soaking and that works as well – you just need to cook them for a longer time. Once ready for the pressure cooker, I rinse the beans, place them in the pot and cover with water. I use an electric pressure cooker and use a preset bean program which takes about fifteen minutes of pressuraized cooking. Once the program is done and the pressure cooker is safe to open, I drain the beans and use without rinsing. You can save the liquid too, and make it into a soup if you like.

Note: if you are cooking dry chickpeas this water is the actual aquafaba that everybody is raving about, so do keep it and use it as the egg white substitute. I recently made aquafaba meringue and topped my Butter Squash and Cranberry Pie with Praline and Meringue Topping.

Once you have your chia egg and your cooked beans the rest is easy. All the ingredients so into a large mixing bowl or a food processor and get processed together. Once formed, the burger patties need to sit in the fridge or on the kitchen counter for about half an hour to an hour to firm up, and they are ready to go. I made my batch in a non-stick pan sprayed with some cooking spray, but you can grill them or even put them in the oven. They don’t need much cooking really since all the ingredients have already been cooked, so what you are really looking to do is brown the patties nicely on both side and heat them through.

You can serve these veggie burgers through the year and with any condiments you enjoy. I can recommend a piece or two of avocados and a spoonful of Macadamia Nut Queso Fresco with just a spring of cilantro. That out to do the trick!

 

White Bean Burgers with Chia Seeds

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (450 g) white beans, dry

1/2 cup red pepper paste (or tomato paste, if you don’t have red pepper paste)

2 tablespoons chia seeds

6 oz (3/4 cup) water

1 cup coarse corn meal

1/2 cup fine corn meal

2 tablespoons stake sauce

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chili lime powder (or regular chili powder)

Cooking spray

What you’ll need: 

  1. Cover the beans with water and soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Rinse the beans before cooking, then cook them in a fresh batch of water until done. If you are using a pressure cooker the total cooking time will likely be about 30 minutes. If you are cooking them in a regular pot they will probably need an hour or an hour and a half. You can also use the canned beans and you probably need 3-4 15 oz (425 g) cans to get the amount equivalent to what you get from a pound of dry beans.
  3. While beans are cooling, start soaking chia seeds in 3/4 cup of water. This will take 30 minutes or so.
  4. By the time chia seeds are ready to use, your beans will be cool. Place the beans, chia seeds, and the rest of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and process everything together with a stick blender. You can also use a food processor for this step.
  5. For the burger patties and leave them to firm up for about 30 minutes. You can leave them on the kitchen counter or in the fridge. You can also make them a day ahead and leave them in a fridge and finish cooking them the next day.
  6. Preheat the grill, grill pan or a non-stick frying pan to medium-high. I recommend using some cooking spray to help the burgers brown and get them going, but if you do have a good non-stick pan you can probably get away with not using any oil or cooking spray. The burgers need 3-4 minutes per side.
  7. Serve them fresh from the grill/out of the pan and enjoy with your favorite toppings and condiments!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Plantains and Beans Chili

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Plantains and Beans Chili, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Plantains are those weird looking, giant bananas that look either too green or way past their prime, and usually not very appetizing. But, they are a staple of certain cuisines and I’ve had them while I lived in Ghana, almost exclusively deep fried. Unfortunately, deep fried plantains were not quite to my taste and I stayed away from them until very recently.

I was inspired by a Puerto Rican “lasagna” recipe that used plantains instead of noodles and was happy with the results. Here, I wanted to do something slightly different. I started from really ripe plantains and roasted them without peeling. Then, I made mashed plantains and combined them with plain, white beans (navy beans), and a handful of spices to create a rich and dense chili. Why does this chili work? First of all, plantains are full of starch and relatively sweet, adding lots of great flavor almost as if you were adding molasses. The spices and flavor agents, tomato paste, Chile Lime seasoning bland, and paprika helped the taste along. Lastly, the navy beans worked well here because they added smoothness and creaminess. Sprinkling some fresh cilantro complements the ensemble, and you could also spoon some dairy-free sour cream on top or some plant-based yogurt.

Plantain and Bean Chili

What you’ll need:

4 very ripe plantains, roasted

1/2 lbs (225 g) white beans, cooked or from the can

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Chile Lime seasoning bland (this is a product from Trader Joe’s but you can make your own with some chili powder, salt, and lime zest)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Cooking spray

1/4 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

What you’ll do:

  1. Get ripe plantains – those that have quite a few black areas on them – wash them and place them on a baking sheet without peeling. Roast the plantains at 425 F (220 C) for an hour. Their skins will turn black and they should soften inside.
  2. Let the plantains cool then peel them and mash with a potato masher. You could also put them into a food processor and pulse until fine.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Add the cooking spray, spices, tomato paste, and the diced onion and let everything caramelize well, which could take up to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the plantains and let the bottom start to brown. Mix well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked beans – I cook mine in a pressure cooker after soaking them overnight – and let the dish simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  6. Serve with a dash of fresh cilantro, or other types of topping you prefer to use on your chili.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale

 

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Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

There’s always room for soup, and in some cases the soup is so rich that there’s room only for the soup. I definitely like making hearty soups that are rich and filling. I’ve already shared with you my split pea soup, which is on the left lighter side, and “clam” chowder and bean and leek soup with soy chorizo, which are both really more a meal in a bowl than a light intro to a main course.

Today’s soup is somewhere in between: not quite hearty enough to qualify as a meal yet not light by any means. It is full with vegetables and resembles Minestrone Soup. The soup builds on the classic mirepoix, a classic base of many soups and stews. Practically speaking mirepoix is a mix of diced carrots, onions and celery that is sautéed until caramelization starts to take place. This what I would normally do when making a soup like this but this time around I had to take a shortcut and I used a lot of frozen and canned veggies, including the frozen peas and carrots mix so my mirepoix started with only onions and celery.

At the end the soup came together well, with frozen corn and canned tomatoes and beans, and a whole bunch of kale. The main trick here was to let the soup simmer for a long time which helps soften kale, which has quite a sturdy leaf structure.

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale

What you’ll need:

6 stalks celery, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

16 oz (454 g) kale, roughly chopped

15.5 oz (439 g) can red kidney beans

2 cups yellow corn kernels, frozen

16 oz (454 g) peas and diced carrots mix, frozen

28 oz. (794 g) can crushed tomatoes

32 oz (907 g; 4 cups) vegetable stock

3 cups water

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Dice celery and onions to a medium dice. It does not have to be very fine or precise because the whole soup is a bit rustic.
  2. Spray the bottom of a large soup pot with cooking spray and place over medium high heat. Add celery and onions and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, with occasional stirring.
  3. While onions and celery are cooking, wash the kale and remove any parts of stalk that look particularly tough. Chop the kale roughly into smaller bits. If you are wondering how small should you make them, it’s really up to you. My preference is to keep them at about 2 in (5 cm). Set aside.
  4. Add the frozen veggies in all at once and cook with stirring for 5 to 10 minutes. They will not be completely thawed but they will start to soften.
  5. Add the beans – I usually drain and rinse mine but if you are a fan of keeping all the flavors of canned beans intact (including extra salt they use when canning) go ahead ad just dump the whole thing right in. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir again and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. At this point you are ready to add the kale. As with all other green leafy vegetables, the raw leaves occupy a significantly larger space than cooked, so don’t panic if adding the kale pushes your pot to its size limits. The kale will settle down. Gently fold the kale into the soup and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. By the end of this process your pot should look like it can fit the stock and water.
  8. Add the stock and as much water as you like really. What I do is dump the stock into the pot and then use water to rinse the carton out. But if you would like to keep this Soup really dense and almost like a stew you can skip adding water.
  9. Bring everything to boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes or until the kale is done to your liking.
  10. Enjoy this soup with some fresh bread, top with some fresh parsley, with a squeeze of lemon or top with a bit of Cashew Sour Cream.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew

Balkan Cabbage and Beans
Balkan Cabbage and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Growing up in the Balkans cabbage and beans were unavoidable, especially during the winter months when each household used to have bins of dry beans and barrels of homemade sauerkraut. Although for the most part dishes that I grew up with kept cabbage and beans apart, one of my grandmother’s signature dishes was a cabbage and dark bean stew that was packed with both, as well as with piles of smoked meat. I do remember the taste with fondness, so I wondered if I can come up with a vegan way of making a Balkan style cabbage and bean stew.

This is a straightforward recipe with only a handful ingredients. I recommend using a Dutch oven, or a similar type of pot, and not being afraid of keeping it on relatively high heat to get the onions, which form the aromatic base of the stew, and Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, brown and caramelize. In looking for an ingredient that can replace smoked meat, I decided to go with this chorizo as I found it to work really well in the past, both in Mexican-style lasagnas, and in hearty soups.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The star of this stew is definitely cabbage and for a big pot you will need lots of it. In principle, you could grab few bags of shredded cabbage and that will work fine, but for best texture I recommend shredding the cabbage a bit more thickly. This time around I used both red and green cabbage, but traditionally this type of stew would use fresh green cabbage or even sauerkraut (don’t laugh until you try it – it is delicious!). And don’t freak out about the volume of cabbage, it will cook down.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One final trick to this stew is creating a bit of a roux to bind the stew together. Traditionally, the roux in the Balkans starts with lard and flour, and it often includes paprika. To keep this stew vegan and gluten-free, I used corn starch and instead of making the roux in a separate pan and pouring it over I simply sprinkled the corn starch and mixed in with the onion, chorizo and wilted cabbage before adding the beans and water.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 4
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 3, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once you add corn starch, beans and water, as well as whole peppercorns and bay leaves, the rest is easy. You bring your pot to gentle simmer, put the lid on and leave it on low heat. In less than 30 minutes you have your perfect post of a not-so-traditional Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew which is best enjoyed hot with a piece of freshly baked Balkan cornbread (proja).

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew

What you’ll need:

1 medium head of green cabbage, anywhere between 1.5 to 2 lbs (700 to 900 g)

1/2 small head of red cabbage, anywhere between 0.5 to 0.75 lbs (250 to 350 g)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo

2 15.5 oz (439g) cans pinto beans

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

20 whole peppercorns

Cooking Spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray the bottom and the sides of your Dutch oven or a large pot with the cooking spray. Turn the heat on to medium high to high and add diced onions. Let the onions brown for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add soy chorizo (note: if using Trader Joe’s Soy chorizo please make sure to remove the casing before cooking because it is plastic and inedible!), and brown for additional 3-5 minutes.
  3. While onions and chorizo are cooking, shred the cabbage into thick shreds. Add the cabbage into the pot, stir well and let it cook down for 5-10 minutes with occasionally stirring.
  4. When the cabbage has gone down a bit, stir in corn starch. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add beans that have been drained and rinsed. Mix well.
  6. Add bay leaves, peppercorns and water. Let the pot come to a simmer than lower the heat to low, put the lid on and let it cook for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with the piece of Balkan Style Cornbread!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Bean & Leek Soup with Soy Chorizo

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Bean & Leek Soup with Soy Chorizo, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

One of my recent impulse buys was Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo. This chorizo is vegan, as well as smokey and  very spicy so a little goes a long way. I enjoyed it as a topping for an otherwise simple tomato and lettuce sandwich, but I also wanted to experiment a bit and see what else I can use soy chorizo for.

Chorizo and beans usually make for an excellent combination, but I wanted something more adventures than a pot of chili. I decided to mix several types of beans, to diversify the texture of the soup I was building, and in addition to soy chorizo use leeks to expand the range of flavors. The three different types of beans I used are small white beans, black-eyed peas, and dark kidney beans, and I used a canned variety of all three because cooking beans from scratch is not my idea of fun. One thing to keep in mind when using canned vegetables is to rinse them well before use to remove excess salt.

The time I saved on beans, I used to deal with leeks. For those of you who are new to leek, it belongs to the onion family and shares a lot of similarities when it comes to flavor with spring onions (scallions) and spring garlic, which unfortunately is not often found in large supermarket chains. Although I do enjoy leek flavor, I don’t really cook with it often mostly because it does need extensive washing to ensure that all the traces of dirt are removed. The method I use to deal with this is something I’ve seen on Food Network, where you slice the leek and submerge the slices in water. You need to leave chopped leek in for few minutes to let the sediment and dirt fall to the bottom of the bowl, then scoop, rinse and dry the leek slices. They are now ready to go!

cleaningleeks
Cleaning Leeks, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Bean & Leek Soup with Soy Chorizo

What you’ll need:

2 leeks

1 15.5 oz (439g) can small white beans

1 15.5 oz (439g) can black-eyed peas

1 15.5 oz (439g) can dark kidney beans

1/2 soy chorizo

32 oz (907 g) vegetable cooking stock

3 bay leaves

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Slice leeks across into thin rounds, then separate each round into individual circles. Fill a large bowl with water and submerge leek circles in it. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes. Using a skimmer spoon to remove the leek without disturbing the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the bowl. Give leek one more rinse, then pat dry with the cloth towel.
  2. Spray the bottom of a large pot with the cooking spray and turn the heat on to medium high. Add leek and let caramelize for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add soy chorizo and stir to mix. If you are using Trader Joe’s brand please make sure that you remove the casing as this is not edible. Break the chorizo to small pieces and brown leek and chorizo mix for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add well-rinsed beans to the pot and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes, mixing frequently.
  5. Add vegetable stock and bay leaves to the post. Bring the soup to boil, then decrease the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Serve the soup with some toast, corn chips or freshly baked bread. If you are feeling very decadent, you can top this soup with some Cashew Cream, or vegan shredded cheese of your choice. Some lime juice would work well, too!

Note for those using Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo: I used only half of Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, which added just enough flavor and spiciness to this soup as far as I am concerned. If you prefer more kick, go ahead and use the whole thing. If you are more on a cautious side, save the other half and transform it into my Vegan Mexican Lasagna. 

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