Be prepared for some serious veggies this month. Last month was beans. This month will feature loads of greens. A spotlight on the various ways of eating delicious cruciferous vegetables, which include veggies as seemingly varied as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and daikon (white radish). Each one loaded with vitamins and many of them top my superfood chart. Trust me, they do not need to be boring. Anything but!
Here we go, case in point here. A party in my mouth.
Brazilian food tends to do that for me.
Just like Moroccan food, Brazilian cuisine is known to be meat-heavy. However, there are endless recipes for delicious vegan alternatives. In my own kitchen, I can create quite the flavour fiesta.
While selecting a random recipe for this month’s No Croutons Required, I was thrilled when this Brazilian Black Bean and Vegetable Stew from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen was an option. It marries two other dishes I have made: a hearty feijoada with black beans and mushrooms as well as a a black bean soup spiced with cinnamon and mango. The results could not have been better – both in the flavour department and in the colour department!
This stew is filled to the max with colourful veggies (sweet potato, red pepper, green pepper, tomato, kale) on a background of black beans. Garlic, cumin and thyme flavour the broth. While I cooked the stew, it was also spiced with orange zest. I was worried it would be overpowering. It wasn’t until I added the final hit of lime juice that I was seriously satisfied with my beautiful and delicious stew.
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Sweet Heat featuring chilis in soups, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required (co-hosted by Jacqui and Dom) featuring random cookbook recipes.
While I adore winter soups and stews, and some of my favourite produce is abundant during the winter (butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kale), sometimes the local produce gets to me by the end of the season. One way to beat the winter blahs, is to incorporate fruit into my meals. This time of the year, citrus is abundant, which is a good way to liven any dish. One of my favourite soups this winter was the Spinach, Orange, Yam Soup, due to the lightness from the fresh orange juice. This week, I hope to highlights different ways of including tropical fruit into your meals.
Beans are a good way to add heartiness to a soup, and this is a hearty, healthy and tasty black bean soup. I first spotted this recipe for Brazilian Black Bean Soup on Joanne’s blog Eats Well With Others, and was amused because I also have The Tropical Vegan Kitchen but had skimmed over the recipe (oh so many recipes on my hit-list). I loved Joanne’s modifications, where she substituted mango juice for the orange juice, increased the vegetables and omitted the rice. I substituted the tomato with 1/3 cup of pureed tomatoes, removed additional stock and used red pepper instead of green. This would constitute all the components for a delicious soup, but the spices brought this soup to the next level: it includes cinnamon, cloves and thyme. Seemingly so different, but a wonderful merriment of content. This soup is like a Brazilian party on your tongue.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Jaya at Desi Soccer Mom, E.A.T. World for Brazil and this month’s No Croutons Required featuring legumes (since I was born in June).
My cooking escapades have brought me to the emergency department twice. Both times for cutting myself deep enough such that it wouldn’t stop bleeding. If your cut doesn’t stop bleeding with pressure after 15 minutes, you need to get yourself some help.
The first time I cut myself, three years ago, was when I made a similar potato-kale soup. I was chopping my potatoes, sliced and then stacked, when the top one slipped out from underneath and I ended up chopping my finger instead. Sharp knives don’t cut you, dull knives do! And sadly my dull blade made me use a bit too much force. I was in the middle of making a soup, so I put on a makeshift pressure bandage and finished cooking. Thankfully the soup was so easy to make, I could do it single-handed. I was still bleeding nearly an hour later, so begrudgingly, I hiked over to the urgent care center where I got a few stitches.
I thought I learned my lesson about dull blades, so when my parents visited next, I used their sharpener to get some smoking sharp steel.
However, last year, I ended up in emergency yet again. Secondary to dull blades chopping rhubarb for a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Rhubarb can be tough sometimes! I kept bleeding after 15 minutes, and this time I didn’t bother to finish making my pie before trekking over to the emergency department. I popped my pie dough and filling into the fridge and sat patiently for 4 hours for some glue to heal my cut.
When I returned, I discovered the secret to crispy pie crusts: chilling that dough. This was the same tried-and-true “Never Fail” pie crust recipe from the back of a Crisco container my mom uses, but she even conceded how much better the crust was this time. So light and flaky.
Three strikes and you’re out, right? Two times, no more!
I knew what my problem was. I love my knives dearly, but since I use them so often I need to keep them sharp.
I figured I would splurge and buy myself a good knife sharpener, the one recommended by America’s Test Kitchens. It may cost $150, but if it saves me another trip to the emergency department, it would be worth it.
I am pleased to report that since then, I have been cut-free. I even tackled this potato kale soup without incident.
But back to this soup: it is a healthy, hearty soup adapted from Viva Vegan. Caldo verdo literally translates to green soup and kale is a center star in this soup. The potato mashes down into a creamy base and there is a subtlety of flavour from the thyme and oregano. This soup is Portuguese in nature, and Portugese cuisine is very prominent in Brazil as well. It would be a nice, simple soup without the chorizo, but it is downright tasty with the chorizo. And yes, this soup is still vegan! I used homemade chorizo sausages for a definite flavour boost (recipe here).
I had a veritable Brazilian meal. Along with the Portobello Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew with Portobello Mushrooms), I also made a savoury side of rice, Brazilian-style of course.
This recipe was also found in Viva Vegan, which is a treasure trove for Latin food recipes. I must admit my bookcase was severely lacking in this area, and I am starting to learn more about Brazilian cooking. Brazil may be my next vacation destination, but since there are so many countries on my vacation hit-list, I will have to settle (for now) to cooking up Brazilian specialties at home. It is a lot cheaper than an airplane ticket, and a lot more fun too (the airplane ride is less fun, not the Brazilian vacation!).
This rice is unique because it incorporates not only slow-cooked onions and garlic, but also has a touch of sweetness from the orange. It paired well with the less-sweet Portobello Feijoada, but could work well with any other savoury dish.
I had forgotten how much I love black beans. I used to make a tasty black bean and salsa soup in university. With canned black beans, it was a quick and easy meal. At that time, I tried to cook black beans from dry but it didn’t work out well. I recall hard beans in a black soup. So I hadn’t really ventured to try again. Until now.
As I was reading through Viva Vegan, I was inspired to try cooking my own black beans again. I still had the 3+ year old black beans from my last adventure, so, first, I opted to buy fresh beans.
Then I got to work creating this lovely black bean and portobello Brazilian-style stew. I say Brazilian-style since authentic feijoada involves lots of meat. Instead of meat, this vegan stew does not compromise in taste. It uses both portobello mushrooms and TVP (textured vegetable protein) for a meaty texture. TVP soaks up the broth nicely and like tofu, tastes like its surroundings. It is plump and juicy, and feels like ground meat. It is also probably one of the cheapest forms of protein (I bought mine at Essence of Life, and it is at Bulk Barn, but I am fairly confident you can find it in well-stocked grocery stores as well). I really liked the flavourful combination of mushrooms, black beans, cumin and thyme in the stew.
A few pointers for next time, don’t start cooking the stew until your beans are at least 1.5-2 hours through their cooking time. I had a bit of a mismatch on my timing so I didn’t add them as early as I would have liked. As well, the leftover stew became thicker, so feel free to leave it more soupy, or add water to thin when reheating.
I also wanted to highlight how wonderful the black beans were cooked from dry. They really were better than canned, as they held their shape, had a smooth consistency and tasted better. Next time, I will cook up more black beans than I need so I can make this in no time. If you don’t want to cook up your own beans, feel free to substitute 2 cans of black beans instead for a meal with considerably less prep time.