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

Creamy Vegetable Soup with Roasted Garlic

Creamy Vegetable Soup with Roasted Garlic, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegetable soups are supposed to be healthy and good for you. But on a recent plane trip I realized that some of the cooking shows out there go out of their way to make absolutely everything in their reach as unhealthy as possible, or even worse – talk up these recipes as good for you, usually referring to them as “soul food”.

Of course, all of us have a soft spot for rich food, the one our mom or grandma used to make… Most people have warm memories associated with big family meals and joy that comes from being surrounded by the loved ones. And, yes, it is true that most of the food consumed in those occasions is not something that any nutritionist would approve off!

To be honest, I don’t disprove an occasional overindulgence, but what rubbed me the wrong way was that during the three hours of different cooking shows there was not a single recipe that would qualify as healthful, and even couple of soup and salad recipes included exuberant amounts of butter, cream, bacon…

As I was watching the continuous array of that heart-attack-in-the-making “soul food” recipes I could not stop thinking that there must be a better way. Actually, I started jotting down recipe ideas and ingredient lists while still on the plane, and this creamy vegetable soup is the first one that I have now fully developed.

I’ve made quite a few creamy soups in the past, like the Cream of Carrot Soup, Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup, and the New England Clam-less Chowder, which are all rich in flavor and light in calories, or at least far lighter than the more conventional soups of their kind. The recipe below is super simple and cheap, so there’s no excuse not to try it.

The only slightly more time-consuming bit is the roasted garlic.  I am not even sure if you can get roasted garlic in the store, if you can you may try using the store bought stuff as a short cut. But roasting your own batch and then using it as needed is simple so you might just as well do it yourself, and here is a good recipe for you to follow (it’s basically putting a head of garlic in an hot oven for 30 minutes or so and you- there, I told you it was easy!)

To re-cap: angered by cooking shows that succeeded in making even soups and salads into a health hazard, I decided to roll my sleeves up and show the world that couple of simple ingredients, like a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, some starch and a carton of vegetable stock, when combined with flavor enhancing agents, like the roasted garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest, will make a wonderful, flavorful and rich-tasting soup without any butter, cream, bacon or cheese. Now that’s some real soul food!


Creamy Vegetable Soup with Roasted Garlic

What you’ll need:

1 bag (1 lbs, 454 g) bag mixed vegetables, frozen

2 tablespoons corn (or potato) starch

4 cups (960 mL) vegetable stock

2 cups water

4 cloves roasted garlic

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 tablespoon oil (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Place a large post over the medium to medium-high heat, add the oil (if using), and all the vegetables. Let defrost and sauté with frequent stirring for 3-5 minutes.
  2. When the veggies have softened, add the starch. Make sure that vegetables are fully coated with a thin layer of starch. Sauté for another minute, just to let everything fully combine.
  3. Add the vegetable stock in a slow and steady stream, while mixing continuously. This vigorous mixing is essential to prevent lumps, so keep at it! You can use a large whisk for this if you like – the whisk works well for me.
  4. Next, add the water still mixing/whisking as you go, then let the soup come to a steady boil. Once you reach that point, lower the heat all the way down, add the chopped up roasted garlic, and allow the soup to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat off, and mix in the juice of one lemon, and all the lemon zest. Serve warm and enjoy! (As you can see from a photo above I had mine for lunch with some buttered homemade bread. If you are into making your own bread via a bread machine, my recipe is here.)

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Super Summer Soup Supper – CSA Week 8

Super Summer Soup with Italian Flat Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

The adventures of the CSA share continue! This is our week 8 share and the eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers are in full swing. If you need some zucchini inspiration, check out my stuffed zucchini boat recipe from last week. There are also some new items this week, and that’s my focus here: corn, green peppers, and flat (romano beans)! And this is what makes taking part in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program so great – finding surprise ingredients that your local supermarket may not carry, and figuring our what to do with them.

The credit for this soup goes entirely to my 7 year old who suggested we use flat beans for a soup, add corn to it, plus one tablespoon each of dried dill, dried basil and onion powder. Oh, and garlic and vegetable broth! Then I stepped in with some carrots, bay leaves, and green pepper (also courtesy of the CSA share this week). The rest is history and the recipe below!

What are flat beans?

Flat Beans, Raw – By Andrewa, from Wikimedia Commons

Before we dive into cooking, let me just share what flat beans are. I don’t think I ran into them before, and I am guessing many of you are in the same boat! These beans are also known as romano beans, and also Italian flat green beans. They are similar to green beans, but much broader – about one inch (2.5 cm) or so, and they are quite long too. They have a good bite to them, although my seven year old helper did not like their taste when raw. These beans are meaty and that’s another reason why putting them into a stew or a hearty soup makes a lot of sense as they need a bit of time to cook, and I don’t think steaming them would work. So, if you like to try a green bean variety with a bit more meat and bite to it, these are a great option.

Super Summer Soup with Italian Flat Beans

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (about 500 g) flat beans (romano beans), trimmed and cut into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces

2 cups grilled corn, just kernels (frozen or canned whole kernel corn would work too!)

2 large carrots, chopped very finely using a food processor

1 green pepper, diced to small pieces

4 cups (about 1 L) vegetable broth

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried dill

1 tablespoon dried basil

4 dried bay leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

Squeeze of lemon for serving (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Place a large pot over the medium-high heat. Add oil then garlic and let the garlic brown just slightly for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Next, add diced green peppers and sauté for 2-3 minutes, with occasional stirring.
  3. Add finely chopped carrots, mix well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. When the peppers have softened and the carrot pulp starts to brown, add the beans, corn and all the spices and sauté for another 5 minutes, then pour in the vegetable stock, bring to boil, lower the heat to simmer, put the lid on and leave it for 15 minutes.
  5. Serve this soup as a light supper, lunch, or pair with a salad and some bread for a meal!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018