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.

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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.

Enjoy!

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
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.

Ciao.

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
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  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
Ingredients
  • [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.
Instructions
  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
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More pizza recipes at Holy Cow!

Basil Pizza

 Caramelized Onion Tart with Olives

Pizza topped with Tandoori Tofu

Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese

lentil bolognese Desi often teases me (not seriously, he gets the vegan thing) about how, when we travel, I miss out on the best food.

In New Orleans, while he was enjoying the seafood this city is so famous for, I was scouring menu cards– often fruitlessly– for beans and rice made without meat stock. He won’t let me forget the day we traipsed a mile or more to get to a Greek restaurant where I could finally order some hummus and felafel and the usual vegan suspects.  As I devoured the tasty (albeit not adventurous) food, I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days.

When we go to India, it is he that my parents love to feed more because he will eat all that fresh fish they tend to gorge on in coastal Goa. When we traveled through Mexico, a food-lover’s paradise, I often had to make do with sides (delicious ones) or scour my Happy Cow list for veg-friendly restaurants and then get a bus or a train to get there.

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Lentil BologneseEating vegan when you travel is not always difficult, as my prelude might have made it seem, because more restaurants are vegan-friendly these days. But truth is, it’s not always easy either, especially for someone who loves delicious food as much as I do and hates the idea of salads for most meals.  I do remember a time I did do that — it was when we took a road trip through the south a few years back. The trip was wonderful but while Desi was out sampling all kinds of dishes that the south is famous for, I was picking at raw leafies and wondering if I’d ever see a decent meal again.

Of course, being vegan and eating out also makes for some great memories. Like the time we were in Lisbon, exploring the port neighborhood of Alfama. The winding, narrow streets are dotted with taverns where you can listen to Fado, the melancholic but sweet music that springs from Lisbon’s belly, and we came across a particularly beautiful one outfitted with what looked like wood parts of a massive, ancient ship.  As we stood outside, scouring their menu to see if I could find a vegan-friendly option, the cook — who happened to be passing by– offered to make one for me.

Happy as can be, we went in, listened to some beautiful music, and I ate a meal I will never forget– a delicious pasta with beans and herbs– made specially for me.

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Lentil BolognesePasta and legumes are made for each other. Together they are perfectly nutritious and delicious vegan eats because they pack a huge protein and fiber wallop. And although you’d think — with all that olive oil floating around every pasta recipe you see– that you’d never be able to make one that was tasty and low-fat, truth is that legumes offer a perfect opportunity to create  pasta dishes that are low-fat or even fat-free and utterly flavorful.

My Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese recipe today is a perfect example of a pasta sauce that’s meaty, delicious, healthy and — best of all– easy.  This is also a versatile dish that would  go great with not just pasta but also with quinoa or brown rice. I have a fat-free option for you in the recipe, but keep in mind that you are using just one teaspoon of oil for a recipe that makes eight servings, which means you get no more than 5 calories per serving from the fat.

To serve the bolognese, use a pasta that’s either broad– like pappardelle– or a shaped pasta like penne rigate, elbows, or shell pasta. You want something that’s wide enough to serve as a vehicle for the bolognese, or shaped so it will suck in and hold the sauce. The bolognese is gluten-free, so  if you are a gf’er you can make it with gluten-free pasta. You might want to first read my helpful hints on cooking gluten-free pasta.

Now for the recipe. Enjoy!

Lentil Bolognese

Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup French puy lentils (brown lentils or masoor dal are a perfectly delicious substitute)
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (use water if you don’t have this)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Soak the lentils in enough water to cover and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a crockpot turned to the high setting, combine the oil, onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Add 1/2 tsp salt and half of the ground black pepper. Give it all a good stir, cover with the lid, and walk away from it for 30 minutes. (You can make this dish fat-free by adding a couple of tablespoons of stock instead of the oil). I find this first extra step of “sweating” the mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery really helps build the flavor.
  3. After 30 minutes, take off the lid, give everything a good stir, and add the lentils, tomatoes, vegetable stock, dry herbs, chipotle chili, remaining black pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Mix well and cover the crockpot again. Let the bolognese sauce cook for two hours on the high setting or until the lentils are tender. The carrots will still have some bite, which is wonderful. Check salt and add more if needed.
  5. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add to the crockpot and give everything a good stir. Add some of the pasta cooking liquid if the pasta is too dry.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
Calories: 123 Fat: 1 gram Carbohydrates: 21.6 grams Fiber: 9.1 grams Protein: 7.6 grams

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Greens and Beans

Pasta with Greens and BeansI made this Pasta with Greens and Lima Beans in an awful hurry the other night. I was nursing a cold but I was also craving a big, comforting bowl of pasta with great texture and flavor. It had to be nutritious enough to see me through the illness, and  flavorful enough to appeal to my hibernating tastebuds. But above all, it had to be something that didn’t keep me in the kitchen for more than 30 minutes, tops.

So into the pot went a bunch of Yu Choy greens that I had picked up at the Asian store. It’s a veggie from the broccoli family with thin, edible stems and it’s very, very tasty. You can substitute spinach or kale if you can’t find this or don’t want to use it. I also had on hand a bag of frozen lima beans that I zapped in the microwave for a few seconds and in they went.

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Pasta with Greens and Beans
The rest of the ingredients were pantry staples: garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley, ground black pepper and a few walnuts for crunch and more protein. I used orzo because it is always the one pasta I can count to have on hand– I dunno, it’s something about that rice-y shape. But you could substitute another pasta– bow ties would be fabulous here, or even spaghetti broken into 2-inch bits.

I need to crawl back under the covers now, but before I go here’s the recipe. Enjoy the weekend, all!

Pasta with Greens and Beans

Pasta with Greens and Lima Beans
Recipe Type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
An easy pasta recipe that’s perfect for a healthy dinner or a takeout lunch.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of orzo pasta (feel free to substitute another pasta, like bow ties or spaghetti. You can use gluten-free pasta to make the recipe gluten-free)
  • 2 cups of frozen lima beans. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and zap for 6 minutes. Set aside.
  • 1 big bunch of Yu Choy greens, chopped. Use spinach or kale as a substitute.
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tbsp capers
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in the microwave for two minutes, then chopped into smaller pieces
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta per package directions until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic and heat them together, allowing the garlic flavor to infuse the oil.
  3. As the garlic starts to turn color and becomes lightly blonde, add the red pepper flakes and ground black pepper.
  4. Stir for a few seconds, then add the chopped Yu Choy greens and salt to taste. Stir thoroughly. Don’t be alarmed if the greens look like a lot– they will wilt down quite a bit.
  5. Cover the saucepan and let the greens cook about five minutes until they have wilted and cooked down. Add the lima beans and stir well to mix.
  6. Add the zest, capers, lemon juice, walnuts and parsley. Now add the cooked pasta and stir everything together.Check salt and add more if needed.
  7. You can eat as is, or drizzle some more extra virgin olive oil before serving, if you don’t mind the extra calories (hey, EVOO is good for you). It’s delicious either way.
Calories: 289 Fiber: 6.4 grams Protein: 11.8 grams