During winter months, I'm normally quite the soup monster. This time of year I'm typically making at least one or two pots of comfort every week. This winter, however, has been superbly mild here in southwestern Ontario. It's been more of a "Let's Grill!" winter than a "Let's Eat Piping Hot Soup!" winter, which is strange, because by mid-February our BBQ is usually buried under thirty million feet of snow. Today is February 10th and there isn't a single fleck of snow anywhere near our backyard BBQ. Truthfully, despite my severe dislike of winter, the lack of snow is making me quite uneasy. I'm having unsettling visions of blizzards in June. Or no blizzards at all ever again, which sounds appealing but is really, really not. At least in terms of our survival as a planet.
Because it's been so mild all winter, I've inadvertently found myself forgetting about soups and stews as dinner options, although I hear there's some snow on the way tonight, which in turn just might spur on some more soup sampling.
Mild weather aside, I did try a couple new-to-me soup recipes over the last month, both by vegan cookbook author Nava Atlas. The first one, pictured above, comes from Vegan Express. A simple, mild soup made of roasted red pepper, celery, carrots, mushrooms and turnip as well as orzo pasta. Orzo are tiny, rice-shaped noodles and they are a perfect way to incorporate pasta into soups without having the pasta taste and texture take over. I am an orzo fanatic, but the one minor annoyance that comes along with it is that I can never seem to find healthier orzo options, such as whole grain or gluten free, here in Kitchener. The only options around here seem to be the highly processed white variety. Hopefully this will change soon, because I really would like to work with orzo more often.
The second soup I tried comes from Nava's most recent book, Vegan Holiday Kitchen. The recipe for this Spiced Vegetable Peanut Soup (which is both gluten and soy free) is listed under the "Thanksgiving" section of the book. Since I will never have enough time to try all of the recipes in the book during their corresponding holidays, I'm using these In-Between-Holidays weeks to sample recipes that I wasn't able to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is, until it's really spring (not this February "Fake Spring") and it's time to dive into the Easter section of the book.
The one concession I did have to make, making this soup in the winter rather than the fall, was substituting a standard issue zucchini in place of the yellow summer squash that the recipe calls for. I'm lucky to even find a zucchini in February that isn't half rotten from a journey to Canada from warmer climates - there's no way I'd have similar luck with yellow summer squash.
I love this soup because it combines three of my favourite things: peanut butter, curry powder and red pepper flakes. Further, like anything featuring curry, it gets better the longer you let the flavours sit and mellow. Make this soup on Sunday night, warm it up on Monday night et voilà - a perfect vegan meal for Meatless Monday without any weeknight stress!
You can find each of these recipes in their respective cookbooks. Nava also has a great recipe program set up via email, and often times she shares recipes that were previously available only in her books. You can sign up for the Recipe-of-the-Week online newsletter here - maybe one of these recipes will be featured soon!