Escarole and Lentil Soup

Escarole and Lentil Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Soups are some of the easiest types of meals you can make. They can, of course, be light and serve to open your appetite and cleanse your palate – so if you are up for a five course meal don’t skip your soup! Having said that, that type of a soup is not what this post is about.

One-pot dinner wonders

Hearty soups are those wonder recipes that take only a handful ingredients and a single pot to make a huge amount of food to feed an army. Hearty soups, and, to be honest, soups in general, freeze well as well as taste even better the next day! This all means that if you have an hour of time, a chopping board, and a large pot you can make yourself a big batch that can see you through for a while.

How to make a hearty, yet meatless soup

Many may think that meat is the only way to boost the heartiness. This is a myth and simple to dispel. All you need is a nice selection of some soup basics, like onions, celery, garlic, carrots, parsnips, peppers – these types of ingredients will make a flavor base for your soup.

Another type of flavoring agents you may want to employ are vegetable stock, bouillon cubes or bouillon base. I use the stock fairly often – you do need to experiment a bit to find one you like. However, I find both the bouillon cubes and base to be too salty and full of stuff I don’t need/want. It’s up to you to decide whether these are the best way to enhance flavors of your soups and other dishes.

Additional key ingredients for a hearty plant-based soup are the legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas), and starches (potatoes, noodles, and rice). You can use both legumes and starches together, of course, but in the recipe below I use lentils only.

Finally, you can really refresh your hearty soup by throwing in some nice green leafy vegetables. Things like kale, spinach, chard, and escarole are all an excellent addition. This kale soup is a good example from a while back!

Re-thinking escarole and bean soup

In this one pot hearty soup recipe, I decided to play around with a very traditional escarole and bean soup recipe. Instead of the beans, the recipe uses brown lentils. Moreover, it starts with a mix of scallions and diced red pepper, this completely abandoning the traditional onion and celery. The result is a thick soup, where richness of lentils is balanced out by the escarole. Overall, one head of escarole and one pound of lentils go a long way, making this a budget-friendly recipe. Lastly, since the recipe is wholesome and uses only main stream ingredients, this is something you can serve with vegans and non-vegans alike.

Escarole and Lentil Soup

What you’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2-3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced

1 sweet red pepper, finely diced

1 escarole, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces

1 lbs (454 g) brown lentils, rinsed and sorted

4 cups vegetable broth

2-4 cups water

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Place a large and heavy pot over the medium high heat – I recommend using a Dutch oven, but any heavy and large pot will do. Add oil and chopped scallions and brown for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the diced peppers, lower the heat to medium low, and sauté for 5-8 minutes.
  3. While the scallions and peppers are sautéing, wash and chop the escarole, and rinse and sort lentils. Add the escarole first, and let it wilt down. This will take 4-5 minutes. Then add the lentils, pour the stock in, and add 2 cups of water to begin with.
  4. Turn up the heat, bring the pot to boil, then lower the heat down to a gentle simmer. Let the soup simmer for 45 minutes or so, with occasional stirring. If you think the soup is getting too dense, add some more water in – but do go slow and only add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water at a time. After about 45 minutes of simmering the soup will be ready to enjoy. Taste test first to make sure it is salty enough for you (I don’t add extra salt since the vegetable stock I use is usually enough, but this is something you can easily adjust depending on your preferences), and that lentils are fully cooked – they should be soft by this point.
  5. Enjoy the soup with some bread, or with a salad. You can top it with a dollop of vegan sour cream, yogurt (my favorite brand is kite hill plain almond milk yogurt), or parmesan cheese, and sprinkle of fresh chives or fresh flat leaf parsley!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Potato-Carrot Mad Mash

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Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Meatloaf – that one dish that is universally despised yet it persists against all odds. During my meat eating days, I may have made meatloaf once or twice and it did not make a great impression. This Lentil-loaf is different. It’s full of flavor and lightness, while at the same time a little goes a long way.

The key ingredient are the lentils. They are one of those ingredients that can replace minced or ground meat in almost anything. I used them in Shepherd’s Pie, and in Lasagna, as well burgers, meatballs and in that staple of vegan cooking, Lentil Soup. Lentils are cheap, available, nutritious, and lend themselves to many spice and flavor combinations.

In this meatloaf, lentils are the meat, but meat is not all it takes to make a loaf. So, to bind everything together I use a can of pumpkin. The pumpkin holds things together almost as good as an egg would. If your loaf turns out a bit softer than you like, add some oats or some bread crumbs to it. I also recommend letting the loaf sit for 15 minutes or so after coming out of the oven to firm up before serving.

Finally, what really makes a huge difference is what you do to onions and celery before you mix them all into a loaf. I recommend that you place the diced onions and celery, with a dash of cooking spray or oil, into a microwave for five minutes or so. You want the aromatics to soften and brown as they will not have a real chance to do so while the loaf is baking. This will add a nice sweet and savory tone to the loaf and help lentils and the pumpkin, as neither one has a strong flavor. To help them out even further, you will need to add some more umami-type of components, like the Worcestershire and the tamari sauce.

You can serve this meatloaf with any sides you like. Here, I paired it with mashed carrots and potatoes. Adding some carrots to the plain, white potato mash makes it more colorful, playful and in some ways healthier. Plus, it offers a break from the routine! You can make the mash withou adding any salt or butter (oil), it would taste just fine, especially when served with this lentil and pumpkin loaf which has plenty of flavor itself.

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Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash

What you’ll need:

For the Meatloaf:

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 stalks celery, diced

16 oz (454 g) brown lentils, cooked

1 15 oz (425g) can pumpkin

1/3 cup tamarind sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup ketchup

Cooking spray

For Carrot-Potato Mash:

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 potatoes, white, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon butter, vegan

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and sorted. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are fully cooked. Drain the excess liquid and transfer the lentils into a large mixing bowl. Let them cool while you assemble the other ingredients.
  2. Peel, wash and chop the carrots and potatoes into smallish cubes of about similar size. Place in a large pot or a pressure cooker, cover with water, bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes if using a conventional method or 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. Drain from excess liquid, add the salt and butter and mash it with the potato masher. Place into a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm until the meatloaf is ready. If you like you can even place the mashed carrots and potatoes into an oven safe dish and let the top get crunchy.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  4. While lentils are cooling and carrots and potatoes boiling, dice onions and celery. Place into a microwave safe bowl, spray with cooking spray or with 1/4 teaspoon oil and microwave on high for 5-6  minutes, until soften and slightly browned. Add to the lentils when ready.
  5. Add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients (except ketchup), and using a stick blender form a well blended mixture. You can also use a food processor. In both cases, do leave some lentils whole to add to the texture of the final meatloaf.
  6. Line a large baking sheet, or a loaf pan if you prefer your meatloaf more loaf-y, with a foil, spray with come cooking spray to prevent loaf from sticking, form the loaf with your hands if you are using the baking sheet, and place into the oven (if you are using regular size loaf pans you will have enough of a mixture for two loafs).
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, take the meatloaf out and spread the ketchup across the surface, and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the loaf out and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve the meatloaf with the mashed vegetables and enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Oh My… It’s Another Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

The first full meal post on this blog was my version of that classic, Shepherd’s Pie. The reason I kicked things off by veganizing a classic was that I wanted to push the limits and see if I can do it and be happy with the results. At that point I was one month into plant-based diet, and felt that I need to step it up in terms of how I create my meals. That’s a quick story behind the first Vegan Shepherd’s Pie.

Once that recipe was published I did get some backlash from people who firmly believed that a Shepherd’s Pie without meat is an abomination. I obviously don’t agree and have now created another version of Shepherd’s Pie that is so close to the original that very few people will know the difference. I served this for Easter Sunday dinner few weeks ago, and it was a hit!

The three main tricks I used are to fully cook the lentils on their own in water, to use full sprigs of rosemary without chopping, and to grind the mushrooms in the food processor before using. All these three things put together make this Shepherd’s Pie taste very, very similar to the ground lamb containing version. Except that this recipe leaves the lambs alone – which can’t be bad, right?


And if you are not concerned about the well-being of lambs much, perhaps you’ll find the health benefits of this recipe or its budget-friendliness more appealing. Regardless of your reasons, I hope you find at least one to compel you to try this meatless Shepherd’s Pie. Enjoy!!!

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

What you’ll need (for 8 HUNGRY people):

14 oz (400 g) dark (brown) lentils

4 large carrots, chopped

5 celery stalks, diced

1 onion, diced

20 oz (570 g) mushrooms

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

4 cups green peas, frozen

6 potatoes, medium size

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

    1. Cook lentils according to bag instructions. In brief, for this amount of lentils you’ll need 4-6 cups of water that you need to bring to boil. Once the water is boiling add rinsed lentils in and simmer until lentils are done, which will take 20 to 25 minutes. Set cooked lentils aside.
    2. Peel and cube the potatoes. Put them in a large pot, and add the garlic cloves too. You don’t need to chop the garlic as it will soften during boiling and you will be able to mash it with potatoes. Cover the potatoes with water and bring to boil. Decrease the heat and boil until potatoes are cooked through. Take the pot of the heat, and let it cool off before mashing.
    3. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any visible bits of dirt. Use a food processor to chop the mushrooms until they are about the same size as little bits of ground meat.
    4. Spray the bottom of a large frying pan with cooking spray and turn the heat on to medium high. Add onion,  carrots and celery. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
    5. Add whole sprigs of rosemary and chopped thyme and stir everything together. Sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes.
    6. Add chopped mushrooms, stir well and sauté until mushrooms are softened, which should not take longer than 5 minutes.
    7. Add frozen green peas, and mix everything together.  You can lower the heat or turn it completely off as all you need to do now is mix the pie filling until the peas thaw.
    8. Take rosemary sprigs out and discard. Some of the leaves will fall off and that’s OK. Remove as many as you can but leaving some in will help the flavor develop further.
    9. Add cooked lentils and mix everything together. Set aside.
    10. Preaheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
    11. While the oven is preheating, mash the potatoes. To the pot of boiled potatoes that have been drained and cooked, add almond milk, olive oil and mash using a potato masher until the mashed potatoes are soft and smooth. You can always add more almond milk to get the consistency just right.
    12. Spay the bottom and the sides of a large baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the Shepherd’s Pie filling in and smooth out.
    13. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top. Smooth out the mash and then using a fork create nooks and ridges. Spray the top with a bit more cooking spray and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potato topping is nice and browned.
    14. Serve with your favorite salad or even some vegan gravy. Trust me, this Shepherd’s Pie will leave you speechless!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017