Italian Wild Rice and Chickpea Soup with Asparagus and Leeks

Italian Wild Rice Asparagus SoupWhen you live with a dog, you soon start to see the world through his eyes.

A dog’s world is rich–  infinitely richer than our human one. We only appreciate the familiar and we are held back by our inhibitions and all those pesky little things like behaving ourselves in public. A dog, with no such irritants in the way, launches full-scale into appreciating everything he encounters on that hallowed daily ritual called the Walk. And by that I mean EVERYTHING. Plants, twigs, something incredibly delicious you can’t even see but must be there because your dog just spent five whole minutes trying to dig it out of the grass, a fire hydrant, even that bright orange cone left behind by a roadside crew gets a dog’s full attention followed, most likely, by a shower.

But the most attention is reserved, of course, for the animals.

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OpieNot the human animals so much because, let’s face it, humans are boring. All they will do is hover over you and hold out a hand to sniff, and after you’ve sniffed it in hopes that there was a treat in it what do you find? There isn’t. Give me a break, you can almost hear the canine say.

Luckily, other animals are much more fun. There are the squirrels, those little busybodies with their incessant ritual of picking up acorns and oversized objects in their tiny mouths, then carrying them back to little tree holes to stash them away. For dogs a squirrel embodies the final prize: this is the creature they were put on earth to chase. And no matter how many generations of dogs come and go, and how few the squirrels they catch, the mission stays alive and fresh and festering, like a vendetta in a Manmohan Desai movie.

At nearly 12, Opie walks slowly most of the time with lots of sitting breaks, but when he sees a squirrel– at least for a moment– he forgets he can’t run like the wind anymore. He will race away, tugging at the leash, me flying helplessly behind. It’s a picture I am glad you are not around to see.

And then there are the bunnies. Oh my god, the bunnies. Opie loves  bunnies even more so than the squirrels because they’re rarer and therefore worth the exercise. Sometimes, as we drive through the neighborhood, Desi will slow down to point out a bunny with big, beady eyes to our furry little Playboy and it takes all of my strength to stop him from jumping out the window.

The raccoons drive Opie just a little mad, the little ones and the big ones, with their lovely, black-and-white painted faces. They slink up and down the trees in packs and they baffle him because he never quite sees them, but he knows — he just knows– they are around. Arrgh. And the deer, all too visible when they visit our suburban neighborhood at night in groups to nibble on new plants. The best Opie manages, when he spots them, is a bark, because he’s not quite sure what he can do to a creature so elegant and so oversized.

There’s the fox. This beautiful, nimble little creature that stalks the neighborhood at night looking for food. He’s barely bigger than a cat with a pert, intelligent face and a bushy red tail. Each night, after his walk, Opie squats out in the front yard, looking for action. Occasionally I’ll hear him bark and go out to find the fox staring disdainfully at him, wondering why this fluffy creature is making all this noise.

But if there’s one creature Opie is truly besotted with and looks for each time he walks, it has to be Georgia the cat.

Georgia, a gorgeous tabby with huge eyes that talk, is a feral cat who gets fed by just about everyone in the neighborhood, including Desi who is madly in love with her and would have brought her home long ago except that she knows how to put him in his place with a well-timed hiss. Like his dad, Opie is obsessed with Georgia, although for different reasons: he’s not happy she’s eating all that delicious cat food daddy puts out which  should be going into his own tummy by rights. So every time he steps out of the house he starts looking for her, nose working fast, so he can chase her away whereever she is. He’s done it too, many times, but she is just too fast for him.

I am not even going to talk about the dogs here because that’s a long story for another day. For now, let’s just say that there isn’t a doggie butt for 10 miles around that Opie hasn’t sniffed.

So what are you still doing here? Don’t you have anything better to do on your Saturday morning, like sniff the fence, circle a fire hydrant, and squint up a tree to see who might just have scurried up there? Go on, have fun! It’s the weekend.


Italian Wild Rice Asparagus SoupItalian food is what I cook most often in my kitchen– after Indian food– and that just goes on to show just how popular, and delicious, this cuisine is. And how versatile and easy. No matter where in the world you live, pastas and pizzas are quite likely among your favorite foods.

My love for Italian food perhaps started, like many others, with a delivery pizza that has very little to do with real Italian food, but it was honed and refined over years of  watching public television chefs like Lidia Bastianich and Mary Ann Esposito create magic in their kitchens. The one thing that had always put me off about Italian restaurant food was that everything seemed to be drowning in tomato sauce or in cheese or both. But watching Lidia and Mary Ann taught me that real Italian food can be fresh, wholesome and even healthy. I still love watching them because although neither of these cooks is vegan or even vegetarian, a lot of the foods they make are, to my mind, very vegetarian friendly.

I adapted the Italian Wild Rice Soup with Asparagus, Leeks and Chickpeas I have for you today– a soup with the true Spring flavors of fresh vegetables– from a recipe in the cookbook Lidia’s Italy. Her version is vegetarian, although it contains cheese. I subbed out the arborio rice for some nutty, delicious wild rice and the cheese for some heart-healthy chickpeas. It was divine.

I am going to run now to enjoy my weekend, but first, here’s the recipe. It’s super easy with very little prep and although you need to let the soup cook for more than an hour, it is a labor-free hour because you have to do precisely nothing.


Italian Wild Rice Asparagus Soup

Italian Wild Rice and Asparagus Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
  • 6 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 15 stalks of asparagus, hard ends trimmed. Cut the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 leeks, washed thoroughly and green and white parts cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup wild rice (can substitute with brown rice)
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  1. Place the oil and garlic in a large pot over medium heat. Let the garlic cook, stirring often, until the garlic becomes lightly golden.
  2. Add the potatoes and let them cook for about five minutes, stirring ever so often, until they begin to lightly color.
  3. Add the leeks, red pepper flakes, season with salt and ground black pepper, add the sage, and the add 10 cups of water or vegetable stock to the pot.
  4. Add the asparagus and the wild rice. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower heat until the pot is gently boiling and let the soup cook, uncovered, for about an hour. If the soup gets too dry (it shouldn’t with this much water) add some more water.
  5. Add the chickpeas and more salt and black pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and drizzle on some EVOO– it’s really worth the few additional calories, trust me, and olive oil is actually good for you.
  6. Serve hot with a crusty Italian bread or by itself. This soup is a one-pot meal.
Calories: 244 Fat: 3.5 grams Fiber: 9.1 grams Protein: 10.4 grams


Black Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

Black Rice RisottoThis one’s going to be a short post today because it’s 10 pm now and the only reason my tired eyes are open is because I can’t wait to share this recipe with you: my Black Rice Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions.

You know I am always looking for easy weeknight recipes to brown bag for lunch, and this one is one of my favorites so far. Black rice, if you’re not familiar with it, is a glutinous rice which makes it perfect for risottos. It cooks up purple rather than black and tastes nutty and quite delicious.

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Black Rice Risotto

It’s also a nutritional star — much healthier than white and even its brown counterparts. It’s packed with antioxidants and ounce for ounce it has more protein and more iron.

But forget about all that for a moment and think of this: isn’t it a little special eating something that — if you were born a few centuries ago– you could have only eaten if you happened to be the emperor of China? True story.

So I promised a short post and a short post it will be. Enjoy the recipe, all, and if you feel just a little blue blooded after eating this incredible dish….well, you could always go to London and look up the queen.


Black Rice Risotto

Black Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
Recipe Type: Side
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
  • 1 cup black rice
  • 4-5 cups of hot water (vegetable stock is even better)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onion, one chopped and the other two thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of white wine (optional)
  • 12 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste (optional)
  1. Make the cashew cheese for the risotto by blending together the cashews and the miso with enough water to make a smooth paste. If you don’t have miso you could use 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, or leave it out altogether and just use the cashew paste.
  2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan.
  3. Add the chopped onion, season with some salt, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and saute until softened, about three to four minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, saute for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms and white wine.
  5. Turn up the flame to medium-high and cook until the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms have taken on a nice sheen.
  6. Add the black rice, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and saute for a minute. Now add 1/2 cup of water and let it cook until the water evaporates, stirring frequently. Just before the rice dries completely, add another 1/2 cup of water. Repeat, stirring the risotto frequently, until the rice is cooked but still has a bite to it. This process takes some time, so be patient.
  7. Now add the cashew cheese and mix well. The risotto should have a creamy, slightly soupy consistency when done. Add more salt if needed.
  8. Now heat the remaining 2 tsp of oil in another saucepan, add the sliced onions and sugar with a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions turn golden brown.
  9. Top the risotto with the caramelized onions and serve hot.
Calories: 246 Fat: 9.2 grams Sugar: 6 grams Fiber: 3.3 grams Protein: 7.7 grams

Black Rice Risotto


Asparagus Potato Pizza with Kale Pesto

Asparagus Pizza
This past weekend was pretty much a washout here in the Washington area. It rained in the morning, it rained in the afternoon, it rained in the evening and it rained all night. It rained on Saturday and it rained on Sunday. In fact, it even snowed for a couple of hours. Imagine.

Opie, who will not give up his walks for hail or high water, put his best face on the weather. On Sunday morning he went to his favorite trail, got soaked in the rain, sniffed around three other intrepid (and equally soaked dogs) who were also braving the weather, sat around on the slush-covered grass, and came home smelling like… wet dog. It took Desi the best part of an hour and multiple towels to dry him out.

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Asparagus PizzaWith Opie’s walk out of the way and not much else to do, it was time to get cooking. Something warm and comforting, like sunshine for the belly. And what’s sunnier than a slice of crispy, crusty pizza?

I have been dreaming of an asparagus pizza for months now, and I’d been dreaming of a potato pizza for even longer. Why not combine the two, I thought. I love the idea of potatoes on pizza — in fact, there isn’t a better substitute for cheese, in my mind. Potatoes are just as satisfying as cheese, most people love them, and icing on the cake, they are far healthier with no cholesterol or fat to worry about. Yes, they do have carbs but you are not eating so much potato here that you have to worry about that. In fact, there are just about four super-thin potato slices in each slice of pizza.

Besides, you have all that great healthfulness from the kale pesto that also goes on this pizza, making it super delicious and super good for you. In fact, this kale pesto is perfect not just for this pizza but for pastas as well. Try it and you’ll never stop making it.

Gotta run now, but here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Potato Pizza with Kale Pesto
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • [u]For the pizza dough:[/u]
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or sugar
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • [u]For the kale pesto:[/u]
  • 1 packed cup baby kale
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • [u]For the toppings:[/u]
  • 20 asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed
  • 4 red bliss or yukon gold potatoes, sliced very thin (1/8th of an inch). Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water and let them stand 30 minutes.
  1. [u]Make the pizza dough:[/u]
  2. Combine the yeast, warm water and sugar or maple syrup in a bowl and set aside to activate the yeast.
  3. After five minutes, add the whole wheat flour and a cup of the bread flour along with salt.
  4. Knead by hand or on low speed in a stand mixer until the dough comes together. If needed, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time. You want a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead for another five minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top. Cover loosely with a plastic bag or kitchen towel and set aside to rise and double, about 2 hours.
  6. [u]Make the kale pesto:[/u]
  7. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until they have broken down into a fairly smooth paste. Set aside.
  8. [u]Prep the veggies:[/u]
  9. Heat a large pot of water and add some salt to it, like you would for cooking pasta. Blanch the asparagus and the sliced potatoes by adding them to the pot of boiling water. Let them be for three minutes, then turn off heat, strain the vegetables and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  10. [u]Assemble and bake the pizza:[/u]
  11. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it slightly to deflate, then let it rest for 10 minutes, covered.
  13. Roll out the pizza dough as evenly as possible to a diameter of about 15 inches. If the dough is too resistant, let it rest for a few more minutes, then roll.
  14. Transfer the pizza dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or, if you have one, a pizza peel also sprinkled with cornmeal. Shape and stretch again with your fingers if the dough shrinks. Using your fingertips, make dimples in the surface of the pizza. This will keep the pizza from forming air pockets when it bakes.
  15. Slather the pesto on the pizza, then top with the blanched slices of potato and asparagus spears. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top, if desired and sprinkle some salt and pepper.
  16. Place the pizza directly on top of a pizza stone in the preheated oven or leave it in the baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is all crispy and golden.
  17. Remove carefully, slice, and serve hot.
Calories: 320 Fat: 5 grams Sugar: 4.2 grams Fiber: 6.5 grams Protein: 10.8 grams

 Asparagus Potato Pizza

More pizza recipes at Holy Cow!

Basil Pizza

 Caramelized Onion Tart with Olives

Pizza topped with Tandoori Tofu

Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus

Beet BurgerGet a delicious start to Spring with my Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus.

This burger is simplicity itself: instead of making a patty with grated beet and other ingredients, I take a thick, juicy slice of roasted beetroot, saute it with some seasonings to add more flavor, then sandwich it between layers of caramelized onions, hummus flavored with chipotle chili,  and crisp, clean greens. All of this goodness goes on my whole wheat burger bun. Yum.

This is the perfect recipe for the grill: you could marinate the slices of roasted beet in the seasonings and then saute them in a grill wok, adding yet another layer of smoky flavor.

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Beet Burger

The hummus recipe, which I’ll also share with you, is a simple variation on the traditional recipe. I love adding chipotle chilies to various sauces (remember my Pasta with Chipotle Cashew Cream?) and this time, instead of tahini, I decided to use roasted cashews in the hummus. The experiment really worked– I know I’ll be making this amazing hummus again and again.

I won’t chatter on too long today because I can’t wait to share the recipe with you. It involves a few steps, but none of them is hard. If you try this once, I guarantee you will be making it again. And again. I know I will.

Beet Burger

Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: American
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
  • [u]For Beet Burger Patty:[/u]
  • 3 large beets, scrubbed clean
  • Oil to spray
  • 2 tsp minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Ground black pepper and salt to taste’
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • [u]For Chipotle Cashew Hummus:[/u]
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas. If using canned, drain thoroughly.
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • 12 roasted cashew nuts
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • [u]For Caramelized Onions:[/u]
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Leafy greens like baby spinach, baby chard or baby kale. A mix of spring greens would be great here also.
  • For the buns, follow my [url href="" target="_blank" title="Whole Wheat Burger Buns"]Whole Wheat Burger Buns[/url] recipe but shape into 12 buns instead of 6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23 minutes.
  1. [u]Make the beet patties:[/u]
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, spray with oil, place the beets inside in a single row, and fold the foil over to cover completely. Crimp the edges of the foil to seal.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the thickest part of the beet goes through cleanly and without resistance.
  5. Remove the baking sheet and let it cool for 15 minutes, then open the foil and let the beets cool until they can be handled.
  6. Peel the beets by rubbing the skins off, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  7. Heat the olive oil in a wok or large saute pan.
  8. Add the garlic, sage and salt. Add the beets and salt and saute for about five minutes.
  9. Sprinkle on the lemon juice and set aside.
  10. [u]Make the chipotle cashew hummus:[/u]
  11. Place the garlic pods in a small piece of aluminum foil sprayed with oil, roll up the foil into a ball, and roast with the beets for 30 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, discard the skins and reserve the gooey, roasted garlic.
  12. Place the chickpeas, cashew nuts, roasted garlic, chipotle chili and salt in a food processor. Add enough water to make a smooth paste that’s thick enough to smear on a burger bun. Blend into a really smooth paste. If you are using the extra virgin olive oil, pour it in through the feed tube as the hummus is blending.
  13. [u]Make the caramelized onions:[/u]
  14. Heat the oil, add the caramelized onions and a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute, then add the ground black pepper and sugar.
  15. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become golden brown and soft. Turn off heat and remove to a bowl.
  16. To build your burger, cut a whole wheat burger bun in half, smear some hummus on the base of the bun, layer on some greens, then a beet patty, and finally some caramelized onions. Smear some more hummus on the top half of the bun before capping off your burger.
  17. Dig in, and enjoy!

Beet Burger

Irish Lamb Stew

Irish Lamb Stew Stir up the pot this St. Patrick’s Day with my delicious and meatless Irish Lamb Stew.

I must confess that in days long past, when I ate meat, lamb was a big favorite. Partly because it was the meat I grew up eating in my omnivore Indian home, much more so than chicken which — funnily enough– was rarer to find in India in those days. After becoming vegan I have created meatless versions of many favorite lamb recipes, replicating the same spices and herbs and other seasonings used in the originals to create authentic-tasting dishes, like My Dad’s ‘Not-Mutton’ Mushroom Curry or my Lamb and Cauliflower Curry.

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Irish Lamb StewFor this Irish Lamb Stew made without lamb (honestly, wouldn’t you rather just cuddle one?), I used TVP chunks or soy nuggets which I browned first, just as you would brown meat, to add deep and rich flavor. Browning the TVP first makes the nuggets chewier, giving them a very meat-like texture that’s often hard to replicate in vegan substitutes.

The TVP also gives the stew a big protein boost, making it pretty much a meal in itself, what with all the veggies in there– the comforting kind, like potatoes and carrots and mushrooms. You can serve it with some crusty bread or some rice or, in true Irish style, with a side of potatoes and cabbage.

Have a great weekend, all, and a happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Irish Lamb Stew

Irish Lamb Stew
Recipe Type: Stew
Cuisine: Irish
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup TVP chunks or soy chunks
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (you can use whole wheat or even a gluten-free flour like rice flour)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups button or crimini mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into rounds about 1/6th of an inch thick
  • 3 potatoes, cut in a chunky dice
  • 1/2 bottle of beer (use a Guinness for more authenticity. If you don’t want to add beer, use wine, or just leave it out)
  • 3-5 cups [url href="" target="_blank" title="Vegetable Stock"]vegetable stock[/url]
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced (substitute with 1 tsp dry)
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (substitute with 1 tsp dry)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Soak the TVP or soy chunks in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain.
  2. Mix the flour with some salt and pepper and dredge the TVP chunks in the flour. Shake off any excess flour.
  3. Heat all but 1 tsp of the vegetable oil in a dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  4. Place the TVP chunks in the dutch oven in a single layer, being careful not to crowd them. Brown the chunks on all sides over medium heat.
  5. Remove to a dish lined with a paper towel and set aside. Also reserve any flour remaining from dredging the TVP because we’ll use that to thicken the sauce.
  6. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the dutch oven and add the onions and garlic. Season with some salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the onions are softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the thyme, rosemary, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes and celery and saute until the vegetables are all well mixed together.
  8. Add the remaining flour and stir well to mix, about two minutes.
  9. Add the beer and 4 cups of the vegetable stock along with the reserved TVP chunks.
  10. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are all tender and the flavors have melded together. Add more stock or water if the stew looks too dry. I made my stew rather thick because that’s how we like it, but you can definitely make it soupier.
  11. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  12. Serve hot. Stew always tastes best when it has had some time to stand and the flavors have mixed together, so this is a great dish to make the day before you want to serve it.
  13. Enjoy!
Calories: 229 Fat: 4 grams Fiber: 9.3 grams Protein: 17.2 grams

Irish Lamb Stew


For more St. Patrick’s Day recipes, check out these posts:

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Irish Cream Cupcakes