Monday, February 23, 2009

Vegan recipe week, Day One

I've been feeling a little under the weather for the past 36 hours or so. Woke up yesterday feeling really sore and attributed it to a hard workout the day before. As the day went on, though, I started to have a congested head and sore throat which carried into this morning.

I'm not a believer in pharmaceutical products. I avoid them at all costs. My solution to colds is Asian soups. As it so happened, I had lunch with a former co-worker and we had Thai food. Had some soup and began to feel better.

I still felt like some soup was in order this evening and so I went with a soup recipe from the Veganomicon. Ancho-lentil soup with grilled pineapple.

Cookbooks like this one drive me a little nuts. One of the problems with most vegetarian cookbooks (and many cookbooks in general) is that they assume you live in sunny California like they do and have access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Either that or you live in New York City and have an abundance of farmer markets. While I do feel that produce is much more accessible here than it was in Delaware, I still don't have access to everything that this cookbook calls for (either because of unavailability or cost). All this is to say that sometimes I take some liberties.

One of the things that grabbed me about this recipe is that you make your own chile powder. Why it's necessary, I don't know. You're to take a couple dried ancho chile peppers, remove the seeds, and grind them into a powder. I was thrilled recently to find de arbol chiles dried and have a whole bag of them so I went with them instead. Added a tablespoon each of ground cumin and coriander (I ground my own coriander but my cumin is pre-ground) and there's your chile powder.

That's the toughest part of this recipe. Saute an onion and a trio of garlic cloves, all chopped, in a saucepan with some oil. Add a couple bay leaves and a dash of salt. Add two cups of lentils. Add eight cups of liquid (I used two of vegetable broth and six of water). Add the chile powder. Simmer until the lentils are cooked. Puree half the soup to thicken it up a bit.

While it simmers, you're to grill some fresh pineapple rings. I opted to broil canned pineapple rings. Toss some pineapple in a bowl, add some lime juice and Tabasco and serve.

I'm always a little leery of lentil soups. I like them but they tend to have a strong earthy taste and often feel heavy. Not this one. The chile powder and hot sauce give it a nice bite and the acid from the lime and pineapple bring it out. It had a very Asian feel to it and really helped loosen up the congestion. It was a very light soup and bore no resemblance to any lentil soup I've ever had previously.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the debut from this cookbook.

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