Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the smartest thing i ever did: carrot soup turned curry sauce.

this past week, i have been preparing a number of recipes to post. from an apple couscous salad to a summer squash tart, there have been some nice successes in the kitchen recently. but none perhaps so great and so incredibly unexpected as the one which occurred yesterday.

and thus, i have decided to put the other almost-finished recipe posts on hold and indulge my over eagerness and poor time management tendencies to tell you about yesterday's delicious lunch-turned-dinner-turned-lunch dish. the added bonus? one post, two recipes!

the first is for lunchtime's carrot soup.while this simple pot wasn't quite as minimalist as my (or should i say gordon ramsay's) most recent three-ingredient broccoli soup, it was a certainly in that tradition. more and more, i'm convinced that the best soups are ones comprised of just a few raw foods. i threw this one together in under a half hour with ginger, garlic, shallots, carrots, and a vegetable broth. with a few bread rolls and some roughly chopped cilantro for garnishing, it was the perfect lunch to usher in autumn (which actually arrived in a bremen about a month ago... not that i'm bitter or anything...).later in the day, i received an email from a friend mentioning her desire to incorporate curry into everyday meals. despite being a huge fan of indian spices, i'm not head over heels for coconut milk. 


you still here? if you weren't so gravely offended by this confession that you just furiously slammed your laptop screen shut - or if you're even one of those people who also maybe, sometimes, once in a while doesn't have a hankering for coconut milk (don't worry, i won't tell!) - then first of all, thank you for your tolerance and open mindedness. let's continue.

i did some online research about coconut milk substitutes. soy and almond milk and greek yogurt were all frequently mentioned. but none of these seemed appealing... which was when i realized that the real issue was that i didn't want anything of the dairy variety. which was when the even greater realization dawned upon me that the sauce i wanted was a creamy, vegan indian flavored broth. and then, dear reader, it was crystal clear: the bit of leftover carrot soup would do the trick!lo and behold! tofu and vegetables in a curry carrot sauce. served over a mound of steaming, basmati rice. aka the most heavenly, flavorful, healthy dinner i've had in a very long time. even my boyfriend declared that this was the first rice dish he had ever consumed which he actually loved! and me? well i wiped my plate clean, went back for seconds, and then ate it again today for lunch over a salad. while now i'm flying high from my culinary ascendancy to greatness and pretending like i knew it would work all along, my confidence was less than overwhelming as i prepared to undertake the  soup-to-sauce venture. even as i was pouring the soup into the pan of tofu and vegetables (and ranting about how delicious this was going to turn out), i was secretely regretting not having bought and stored a frozen pizza in the freezer for back up.and yet, frozen pizza ended up not being necessary, and i think there are a few reasons why: we all know that the longer a soup sits, the better it tastes. the flavors meld and the consistency thickens. essentially, it naturally turns into a flavorful sauce anyway. so why not take advantage of that?! secondly, this vegan alternative to a milk or cream sauce gives the hearty dish a lightness that doesn't weigh you down afterwards (aka there's room for seconds! and dessert!). finally, the spices. pan frying the tofu and vegetables in mustard and cumin seeds, and then adding ground spices to the sauce give the dish a kick and reinvent the soup from earlier. so for the next time you'll be home for lunch and dinner, here are two recipes for your day.early autumn carrot soup
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, diced finely
1 tablespoon olive oil
7 carrots, washed and diced
6 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup cilantro, chopped roughly
salt and pepper to taste

in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. once hot, add the ginger, garlic and shallots. sauté for about 5 minutes to let soften up. add carrots and enough broth to cover them. let cook, partially covered, for about a half hour, until carrots are soft but not overcooked.

puree the soup according to your chunkiness preferences. add some more water if you like a thinner consistency. salt and pepper to taste. serve with a sprinkling of cilantro.

*this will leave up to two people fully satiated. leave about 3 to 4 cups in the pot for dinner's sauce.

tofu and vegetables in a carrot curry sauce

1 small head broccoli, in small florets
400 g extra firm tofu
100 g chanterelle mushrooms, washed and halved
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, in long strips
4 cups leftover carrot soup (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground curry
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup cilantro, chopped roughly

begin by preparing the tofu. unwrap and wrap in paper towels to drain the water. repreat 2 to 3 times until the tofu is dry. cut into thick strips for searing. heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. add the mustard seeds. once they begin to sizzle, add the tofu and distribute it to cover the floor of the pan. let cook, undisturbed, for around 4 minutes to sear on the first side. once lightly browned, flip over. when they are seared on both sides, remove and set aside for later.

using the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium-high. add cumin seeds. once sizzling, add all the vegetables. give them a good pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium. sauté for about 10 minutes, until almost completely cooked. if the mushrooms have released some juices, turn the heat up to high for 2 minutes to let the liquid evaporate. add the tofu back to the pan.

now it’s time to add the sauce aka the soup! pour at least 4 cups of it into the pan and give it a good shake to coat the vegetables. add the curry, turmeric and coriander and give the mixture another stir. cook for 4 or 5 minutes on low to medium to let the sauce heat up and the vegetables absorb the spices. the if the sauce is too watery for your taste, turn the heat up to high for the last two minutes before serving to thicken up the dish. 

right before serving, add the cilantro to the pan. serve with basmati rice.