My Really Good Curried Vegetable Soup

Posted by Marie - January 27th, 2012

This recipe began its life called cabbage soup. I don’t mind if you think “ yuck” because that’s what the original recipe deserved. Bland, depressing and a bit scary, I gave this unlikely soup the Simmons spin and it is now firmly in my repertoire of favorite soups reincarnated as Curried Vegetable Soup. Cabbage Soup, no more, although it does have cabbage as one of the ingredients.


The original recipe called for chopped cabbage and a few veggies simmered in fat free broth. Bland, insipid, a bit scary, I tried to fix what was left in the pot with a few low calorie flavor enhancers: fresh ginger and basil, grated orange zest, crushed garlic, a lump of tomato paste, and a squirt of lemon juice. It was beginning to show some hope.


Next rather than simmering the veggies in low fat broth, I threw caution to the wind and sautéed—or rather slowly sweated– the vegetables in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. A simple technique, it added a deep aromatic base to the broth, which is basically water added to the sweated veggies. No boxed broth need apply.


From here I kept tweaking the recipe trying to make it taste better and better. In a recent version—the best so far— I added a spoonful of Madras curry powder, a can of diced tomatoes, and a finely chopped jalapeno. Yum. What a difference. I especially like this curried version with a spoonful of plain nonfat yogurt to tame the heat of the jalapeno and a generous shower of chopped fresh cilantro. The orange and ginger are add delicious high notes. It is a really good soup.


Today as I zipped a pair of slacks that haven’t been comfortable in awhile, I remembered a quote from Sophia Loren, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” In my case, I owe my almost, but not quite, slim slacks to a slowly pot of Curried Vegetable Soup that started its sad life as a diet cabbage soup. It’s still low cal, but diet it’s not.


Curried Vegetable Soup


Be lazy here and chop the veggies in the food processor. This is delicious for breakfast with a poached egg floating on top. Add lots of chopped cilantro or dill, too. Or, serve it with a swirl of plain yogurt to tame the heat of the chiles.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled, ¼ inch dice or coarse chop
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed, plus some leaves, 1/4 inch dice, or coarse chop
  • 2 medium onions, 1/4 inch dice, or coarse chop
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, 1/4 inch dice or coarse chop (optional)
  • 6 garlic cloves, bruised with side of knife and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder, or more to taste
  • 2 strips orange zest, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 quart water, plus more as needed to thin soup
  • 4 to 6 cups chopped Savoy or other cabbage
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 4 large basil leaves, 1 tablespoon chopped dill plus stems, or 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro plus stems
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped


Garnish: Nonfat yogurt, thin sliced Serrano chiles and/or and finely chopped cilantro.


Makes 2 plus quarts or enough for at least 6 big bowls for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.



1. Drizzle the oil in a large broad soup pot. Add the carrots, celery, onion, pepper and garlic. Cook, covered, over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften and the onion is straw colored, about 15 minutes. Stir in the curry until blended; cook, 1 minute.


2. Add the water, cabbage, tomatoes, orange zest, ginger, salt and black pepper; heat to a boil. Add any or all of the ingredients listed under flavor enhancers. Cover and cook the soup over low heat 15 minutes. Taste and correct the seasonings adding more salt and pepper or curry and ginger to add more flavor, if desired.


3. Reheat it by the bowlful. Add a spoonful of yogurt, sliced Serrano and chopped cilantro before eating, if desired. (Add small amounts of additional water, as needed, as the week progresses and the liquid becomes depleted.).


So Slim. So Sweet: Summer Carrots

Posted by Marie - July 5th, 2011

While still in the parking lot before I leave the Farmer’s Market I retrieve the carrots from the bottom of the market basket and give them a quick rinse with splash from my water bottle. On the ride home I munch happily marveling at their sweet taste. These carrots don’t compare to the ones I buy in bags during the winter. Short and slender they don’t need to be peeled or trimmed and taste great au natural. But sometimes, when I arrive home, I set out a saucer of Lemon Herb Dressing (from previous blog) and dip the end before each bite. Delicious.


Grated, shredded or chopped carrots make a colorful addition to almost any salad. They are splendid in a cold or hot soup, delicious in a simple sauté—I especially like them sautéed with diagonally sliced asparagus– and of course there are always carrot cake, carrot muffins, carrot custard and carrot pudding.


Often, before I write about a vegetable, I reach for my dog-eared, much loved, much read and often quoted “Vegetable Book” by the esteemed British writer, Jane Grigson. Ms Grigson never fails to delight me with her prose and provoke me to laughter or a raised eye-brow with her candid comments. She never disappoints.


On carrots she launches into a commentary on the beauty of carrot tops in garden landscape and how they were grown in a “small dish of water” in the nursery when she was a child. True, the British have different customs.



But, it was her suggestion to roast carrots wrapped in foil (much like I like to roast beets) that took me by surprise. Why, surprise, I can’t say. But, I do like the idea. It makes perfect sense, except when you’re in a hurry. The carrots, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with a bit of coarse salt, wrapped in foil and roasted in a 350°F. took 35 minutes. But they were intensely flavored and silken in texture. If you try this method I suggest you test them for doneness— with the tip of a paring knife— after 15 minutes and then at 10 minute intervals.


Carrot and Jicama Slaw with Pineapple

  • 4 carrots
  • 1 (1 pound) jicama
  • ½ ripe pineapple (cut lengthwise through the stem end)
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on diagonal
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup mild tasting olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or crushed
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts (optional)


1. Trim the ends of the jicama and remove the thick outside skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Cut into pieces that will fit into the feed tube of a food processor.


2. Fit the food processor with the shredding blade and shred the jicama and carrots, emptying out the work bowl into a large salad bowl, as needed. Or, if preferred, shred the jicama and carrots on the largest holes of a box grater-shredder. Chop the pineapple into 1/4 inch pieces. Add the pineapple, scallions and cilantro to the jicama and carrots.


3. Whisk the rice vinegar, olive oil, ginger, garlic and salt until blended. Add to the jicama mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle with peanuts, if using.


Makes 6 servings


It’s Asparagus Time

Posted by Marie - July 5th, 2011

For me the first sign of spring, in addition to the sweet smell of orange blossoms, are the bundled bunches of bright green asparagus on display at the farmer’s market. Much to my delight, the asparagus seasons lingers on and on. Here it is the past the summer solstice, and bunches of asparagus are still everywhere.


My favorite spring/summer dinner is a large platter of freshly harvested, hot cooked asparagus surrounded by steaming tiny red skinned potatoes and hard cooked eggs with creamy yolks cut into quarters. I smother this handsome trio in a dressing of rich buttery olive oil (I am partial to California Olive Ranch Arbequina) whisked with lemon juice, handfuls of dill, mint and parsley and a garlic clove. Heavenly.


I mostly buy asparagus at the farmer’s market. Here I am almost certain they have been harvested within the last 24 hours which guarantees their peak of sweetness and flavor. They are often bundled according to their girth: pencil thin, medium-sized and big and fat. They remind me of the three bears: baby, Momma and Poppa. In the spirit of “research” I’ve bought all three sized and compare the tastes. I was surprised to discover the baby, or thin spears, while tender enough to nibble raw, have a “grassy” and quite assertive, but pleasant, taste. The Momma, or medium sized, are tender and moderately flavorful and the Poppa, or big ones, are sweet and juicy. I find I favor the fat ones, especially for this celebratory entrée of asparagus, boiled potatoes and warm hard cooked eggs.


To prepare asparagus grasp the end just below the tip in one hand and the stem in the other hand and bend the spear. Where the spear breaks it is most tender. Rather than discarding the stem ends, chop, cook in broth with onion and puree with heavy or sour cream for a dreamy soup.


Once the stems are trimmed, if I have time, I soak the asparagus in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes before cooking. I cook asparagus a couple of ways. For this entrée I boil enough water in a deep skillet to cover the asparagus, add a pinch of salt and the asparagus and boil, uncovered, until fork tender. Freshly harvested asparagus will be tender in as little as 2 minutes, they could take as long as 5 minutes, depending on their girth. Another easy way to cook asparagus is to roast them in a very hot oven. Turn the oven to 400°F., spread the asparagus on a rimmed sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once, until crisp tender. (If serving the asparagus without the potatoes, eggs and herb dressing, I shave Parmigiano Reggiano on the asparagus and let it melt in the oven for a few minutes.)


I used to peel the “scales” from the asparagus stem with a vegetable peeled but, I’ve stopped. I decided life is too short to spend time peeling asparagus. Now I have more time for eating them while they’re still in season.


Asparagus, Potatoes and Hard Cooked Eggs with Lemon and Herb Dressing

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new or other potatoes
  • 2 bunches (about 1- 1/2 pounds) asparagus, stems trimmed


Lemon and Herb Dressing:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 handful (about ½ cup packed) dill sprigs with tender stems
  • 1 handful (about ½ cup packed) mint leaves, thick stems discarded
  • 1 small handful (about ¼ cup packed) Italian parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1 garlic clove, bruised with the side of a knife
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, or more to taste


1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over medium high heat and heat the water just to boiling. Cover and let it sit off the heat 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and rinse the eggs with cold water. Crack the shells on the side of the pan to allow the water to seep until the shell. Then roll the egg on a flat surface to break the shell. Carefully peel the shell from the warm egg. Set aside.


2. While the eggs are cooking, place the potatoes in a separate saucepan, cover with water and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about minutes. Drain.


3. Blend the olive oil, lemon juice, dill, mint, parsley, garlic and salt until the herbs are very finely chopped. Set aside.


4. Boil enough water in a deep skillet to cover the asparagus, add a pinch of salt and the asparagus and boil, uncovered, until fork tender, 2 to 5 minutes depending on their girth. Drain.


5. Cut the potatoes into halves or cubes. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Arrange the dressed potatoes on one side a large platter. Arrange the asparagus next to the potatoes. Quarter the eggs and place them between the potatoes and asparagus. Serve the remaining dressing on the side for each person to add to taste.


Make 2 to 4 servings

Welcome To My “New” Blog

Posted by Marie - March 21st, 2011

A couple of years ago I started blogging while I was working on my new cookbook. But along the way I realized I was spending too much time on the blog postings and not enough time on the book. Since completing the book meant I’d be getting a check in the mail, I wisely decided to pull away from the blog and work instead on the book. But now the book–Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal– is published and my new website and blog are ready to launch. Therefore I am excited to re-join the blogosphere once again.


I’m starting this blog with one of my favorite spring vegetables: beets. I have many recipes in Fresh
& Fast Vegetarian
for beets among them a hearty soup, a puree with tahini that I spread on crostini or scoop into an endive leaf, a beet and apple salad, and a couple of side dishes. The seasonings run the gamut from cider vinegar to grated orange zest. I even have a recipe for Beet Slices with Pistachio Pesto. Yummy, and pretty, too.


                                    Beets by County Line Farms at Marin Farmer’s Market March 27, 2011


I cook beets in one of three ways: roasted, steamed or sautéed. Whole roasted beets take the most time to cook. Next comes steaming, especially if you peel and cube the beets first, and last comes coarsely shredding beets and sautéing them in a skillet. When I’m in a hurry I opt for the skillet method.


This is how I do it:


Sautéed Shredded Beets with Orange and Basil


Cook Time: 5 minutes


Serves: 4


  • 1 -1/4 to 1- 1/2 pounds medium beets, preferably with green tops attached
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or other herb (mint, tarragon, thyme or dill)


1. Cut the tops from the beets and reserve for braising separately, if desired. If the beet skins are thick, peel them with a vegetable peeler. Coarsely shred the beets using a box grater or the shredding blade on a food processor.


2. Heat the oil in a large skillet until it is hot enough to sizzle a pinch of shredded beet. Add the shredded beets and orange zest and cook, stirring, adjusting the heat between medium and medium-low, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.


Recipe adapted from Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipe That Make a Meal (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)