The Other Green Meat (featuring Vegan Zucchini, Avocado and Basil Soup)
Have you ever felt like you’ve run out of food? I’m not talking about empty cabinets or a barren fridge, I’m talking about the feeling that you’ve tasted all the food that you could ever want to eat and none of it is appetizing and, fine, you’ll just sit and starve and pout. Have you? I experience it about 3 times a year. And it’s deadly – not only because I feel I might starve (clearly not actually going to happen any time soon), but because this is my job. People come to me specifically to delight them with food ideas. Cheffing is a game of setting high expectations and then surpassing them. I take a large amount of pride in my ability to get people excited and anticipatory. If your mouth isn’t watering by the end of my pitch, then I’m not doing it right. So these times when I reread old menus I’ve designed and feel nothing, or thumb through trusted cookbooks and experience no wetness, I think maybe it’s time to hang up the old toque. (Btw, I do not wear a toque. Never have, never will because I, in a big hat, look like I’m being attacked.)
I recently fell into a dry spell. My phone was not ringing and I was in a bit of a standstill with my company and I know it’s all connected. It’s a self-fulfilling downward spiral. If I can’t think of food to cook, even for myself, then how can I get paid money to cook for others, blah blah blah. I can talk myself into a pretty deep hole. But then a client called with a couple of vegan requests. Suddenly the lights turned back on.
Zucchini is something I buy regularly. But it is not something I think about much. I like to chop it into salads or quinoa or put a thinly sliced layer of it on a sandwich, but I think it gets too slimy when it’s cooked so I have quarantined it from the vegetables I use more frequently. I continue to buy it because it hits all the right marks- it’s cheap, it’s easy to find and it’s good for me. Heck, I’ve even grown it – and I have no gifts when it comes to gardening. It’s practically falling from the sky and all I can do is put it on a sandwich? There’s got to be a better way.
This soup is incredible. It’s something that can be served hot or cold- I add a bit of cayenne pepper at the end to give it a nice little kick- but it’s not required for enjoyment.
- 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 4 Medium Zucchini, cubed
- 1 Large Onion, chopped
- 4 Cloves Garlic, crushed
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
- 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, packed
- 1/3 Cups Raw (soaked) Cashews
- 1 Avocado
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Additional salt & pepper, to taste
1. Cook onion in olive oil in a large saucepan for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the chopped zucchini, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool for about 30 minute before proceeding.
2. Pour half of the mixture into a blender. Be careful not to overfill because the hot liquid will explode and give you a mess and possibly a burn. I like to put a cup in, turn on the blender and then add more with the blender running. Add the basil, cashews, and avocado. Blend until smooth.
3. Return soup to the pot, season to taste, and keep warm. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with chiffonade of basil.
This bread will change your life. Not only does it contain about 20 things that are good for you but it’s easy to make. Even if you’re not a baker, in fact, EVEN IF YOU COMPLETELY FUCK IT UP, it’s delicious. Since I started experimenting with this loaf, I always have it in the house. I like a slice of it toasted with butter and honey in the morning. Makes my day.
- 1/2 Cup Warm Water
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Yeast
- 2 Teaspoons Honey
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1 1/4 Cups Zucchini, shredded
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Cup Oats
- 1/2 Cup Walnuts, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons chopped Rosemary
1. Stir the yeast and honey into the warm water and let sit to proof for 10 minutes.
2. Put the flours, the salt and the oats in a large bowl. Add the zucchini and the oil and slowly mix in the yeast mixture, the oats and walnuts, and the rosemary alternating between wet and dry. Knead for 5 minutes on a floured surface (The mixture might feel strange. There is a low water content in the recipe because Zucchini is so moist. I know it feels like you’re doing it wrong, but it works itself out in the rise).
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour.
4. Knead for 3 minutes on a lightly floured surface and put dough into a loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 40 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
6. Place loaf into oven and bake for 45 minutes.
7. Let cool before slicing, which will be the most difficult part of the whole process.
Makes one loaf.
I should note here that not only did I find two incredible ways to use a common vegetable, I turned my slump around. I booked a gaggle of parties that all were huge successes. So the green brought the green in the end. Is there such a thing as an upward spiral?