soup and such

simple, fresh vegetarian soups and more


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vegetarian crab cakes

Several years ago my sister sent me a recipe for vegetarian crab cakes. This was when we both lived in Washington, DC. When you live in that part of the country, it kind of seems like your duty to find a good crab cake recipe. I’ve since moved to Chicago but I still make these veggie crab cakes all the time.

The base is a mixture of shredded zucchini and panko bread crumbs. Then you add lots of flavor with Old Bay seasoning, fresh garlic and parsley, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt. Form the mixture into small patties and cook ‘em up. So simple! They are very moist and hold their shape really well in the skillet.

I especially like to make these little guys in the summer with zucchini from the farmer’s market. The original recipe was actually from a newspaper article about ways to use up summer zucchini. The article’s author refers to a well-known Garrison Kiellor quote about zucchinis and country life. Do you know this one? The only time of year when Lake Wobegon residents lock their car doors is summer so neighbors won’t leave bags of zucchini on their back seats. I haven’t found any mystery bags of zucchini on my apartment doorstep yet, but my veggie drawers in the fridge are always full of zukes these days. It is a favorite vegetable around here. And this recipe is an excellent way to use them up.

We usually eat these cakes with a garlic + lemon yogurt sauce. This yogurt sauce is pretty much a staple in our kitchen, so I included a recipe for it below. Other suggested toppings for your cakes: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh basil, tartar sauce, a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce. They also go really well with a tomato + onion salad on the side.

veggie crab cakes + tomato and onion salad + lemony-garlic yogurt sauce = the best summer meal

Something I haven’t tried yet is using these cakes as a filling for a little sandwich. Maybe with some butter lettuce, tomato slices, and a schmear of avocado? So many possibilities!

Happy cooking and weekend-ing, everyone! ~Inge

Vegetarian crab cakes
Adapted from here

Just a few notes. I really love whole-wheat panko here, but feel free to use whatever kind of bread crumbs you like. It’s difficult to say how many zucchinis you will need to get 2 cups shredded. Maybe one big one or two smaller ones? Zucchini math is an inexact science. I recommend shredding up a little more than 2 cups because you do lose some during the transfer from towel to bowl during the squeezing step (described below). And finally, I always double the recipe when I make this so there are leftovers. As written, this recipe makes 8 small patties, which I find serves two people as a main course. If you double it, you should get 16 patties, which will serve two people for dinner and then again for lunch the next day.   

2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed dry
1 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
vegetable or canola oil, for frying

Shred your zucchini however you’d like; I always do it by hand with a box grater. Do this over a big cutting board because the little shreds like to fly around, in my experience. When you’ve got 2 cups worth (or a little more, see above note), the next step is to get the zucchini as dry as possible. My method is to place the shredded zucchini in a tea towel and squeeze the water out over the sink. This is the same method I use to squeeze water out of frozen spinach. I have a dedicated “spinach towel” in my kitchen because of its permanent green stain, and that’s the one I use for the zuke squeezing, too. There are other methods for getting water out of zucchini. The original recipe instructs you to put the shredded zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let it sit for 30 minutes. I’ve tried this, but I always end up giving it a good squeeze anyway at the end. So now I just use the towel method and avoid the colander step entirely.

Place the dry shredded zucchini in a bowl and gently stir in the bread crumbs. Next, put the garlic, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, yogurt, and Old Bay in a small bowl. Add the beaten egg and stir everything up. Add the wet ingredients to the zucchini mixture and gently stir so everything is thoroughly combined. Form the mixture into 8 small patties.

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet (I use a cast iron skillet for this). I usually start with 2 tablespoons of oil and see if I want to add more. When the oil is hot, carefully add the patties and cook on both sides until brown. When I remove the cooked patties from the pan, I place them on a paper towel-lined plate to cool a little.

I recommend serving these little guys with small dollops of lemon + garlic yogurt sauce (recipe below). Enjoy!

lemon + garlic yogurt sauce

1 small container of plain Greek yogurt (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
Juice from ½ lemon
1 garlic clove
Good pinch of salt

Put the yogurt into a small bowl. Use a microplane zester to grate the garlic clove directly into the bowl. If you don’t have a microplane, you can just mince the garlic up really well. Just make sure the pieces are tiny. Add lemon juice and salt. Stir it all up. That’s it, you’re done!

Other additions that make this sauce sing: chopped scallions, chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or dill, chopped cucumber, or a dash of cumin powder.

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couscous salad

I make this salad all the time in the summer. It’s got couscous and chickpeas tossed with lots of fresh ingredients, like cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. There’s a good amount of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, some salt + pepper, and a touch of olive oil. I also add feta, but that’s optional.

couscous salad

My strategy is to make a big batch of this salad in the morning, and then snack on bowls of it throughout the day or pack it in a container to bring with me.

This salad travels really well. I mostly take it to libraries. When I was in grad school, I did most of my work in libraries. I needed lunch options that were portable, easy to eat while staring at Word documents on my computer, and didn’t require any more refrigeration than library air-conditioning provides. This salad covered all those needs. As it turns out, I still do most of my work in libraries in my post-grad school life. So, I’m still making and eating a lot of this salad.

This one is a no-brainer and endlessly customizable, I think. Not a fan of cilantro? Add something else, like chopped mint or parsley. I made a batch of this salad the other day and my cuke was looking a little worse for the wear, so I subbed chopped raw zucchini instead. You could throw some nuts in. When I don’t have lemons on hand, I just use a couple of shakes of red wine vinegar instead. You get the idea.

Happy summer salad-ing!   ~Inge

Really easy couscous salad

I didn’t include exact amounts for the veggies because you can really do what you want. I mean, it’s your salad, do what you like! I included suggested amounts of lemon juice and olive oil even though I never measure anything when I make this. I usually use the juice from about 3 lemons, depending on how juicy they are. I like this salad on the lemon-y side. And I definitely use just a touch of olive oil. Adjust for your own tastes, of course. 

1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup boiling water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
little tomatoes (cherry, grape, etc.), cut in half
cucumber, chopped
green onions, thinly sliced
handful of cilantro, chopped
lemon juice (2-4 tablespoons)
olive oil (1-2 teaspoons)
feta crumbles, optional

First, make the couscous. Put the uncooked couscous with the salt in a bowl large enough for the entire salad. Add 1 cup boiling water and put a plate over the top of the bowl. No need to stir! Let the water do its thing with the couscous for about 5 minutes. Then, take the plate off the top of the bowl and fluff the couscous with a fork.

Then, prep all of the other ingredients and just toss them in as they are ready. Add the lemon juice and olive oil at the end. Add salt + pepper, to taste. Have a small bite and see if you need to add more of anything. If I’m storing the salad to eat later, I find that I sometimes need to add more lemon juice before eating to perk it up a bit.


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basil popcorn

Hello, readers!

Has your part of the world been as steamy and sticky as mine the last several days? I’ve been cooling off with multiple pitchers of iced tea, really simple salad suppers, and frozen chocolate-covered bananas. There was also a failed watermelon margarita experiment around here last week. Good thing we had enough limes left to make our regular house margaritas* instead – crisis averted!

I barely cooked last week in an effort to avoid the heat in the kitchen. But I did make a tasty snack that is worth sharing. Last summer I found this recipe here. I made this basil popcorn all the time last summer, so when I made it for the first time this season a few days ago, it officially felt like summer to me. Of course, the heat wave helped with that feeling, too.

really yummy basil popcorn

It’s such a great way of preparing popcorn. It’s easy and takes about 5 minutes of kitchen time. I make the basil + olive oil blend first, then pop the corn, then toss it all together. The basil makes it super summery, but I suppose you could use other herbs, like rosemary or thyme. Let me know if you fiddle with this and how it comes out.

I hope summer is being good to you. I’ll see you later in the week with one of those salads I’ve been making. And then I should probably start writing about soup, right? Anyone have a good gazpacho recipe? ~Inge

*Our house margarita recipe is straight from Rick Bayless. Watch out, these puppies are strong!

Basil Popcorn
from Tend

½ cup unpopped corn kernels
½ cup good olive oil (the kind of olive oil you would use in a salad dressing)
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
fresh grated or shredded parmesan cheese, optional
salt + pepper, to taste

First, combine basil and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend it up. Then, pop the corn using whatever method you like. While the corn is popping, get the cheese ready, if using. In your biggest mixing bowl, toss the popcorn with the basil oil, cheese, and salt and pepper. Use whatever amount of cheese floats your boat. Eat immediately. This goes really well with lemonade or limeade.


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a summer breakfast :: overnight chai oatmeal

I go through a phase during winter where I eat oatmeal for breakfast for weeks. It’s inexpensive, quick, and makes you feel good that you ate something super healthy first thing in the morning.

I’ve never even considered making oatmeal in the warmer months. Usually, whatever oats I end up with in my cupboards post-winter are the same ones I pull out in late fall. Oats don’t see much action in my kitchen during the summer. Until now, that is.

This week I discovered this amazing thing called overnight oatmeal. And then I discovered something even more amazing: chai overnight oatmeal. It’s cold, creamy, and just a tad sweet. With a little chopped fruit on top, it makes the most refreshing summer breakfast. It reminds me of a cross between an iced chai latte and cold rice pudding. Does that sound as good to you as it does to me?

tasty!

I’ve made this recipe three times this week. I guess you could say I’m hooked. The only tricky part is that you have to remember to mix everything up the night before. It only takes 5 minutes, but still, you do have to remember. My brain sort of turns to mush after 10pm, so I will start writing myself little notes to remember to get this ready before I go to bed.

I live in Chicago, and we are in the middle of a stretch of hot and muggy summer days. Having a bowl of cold chai oatmeal waiting for me in the fridge has made mornings this week just a little easier and a little cooler.

I hope you like this summer breakfast idea. Stay cool, everyone! ~Inge

Overnight Chai Oatmeal
Inspired by this reader recipe from Vegetarian Times

The biggest change I made to the original recipe was to use old-fashioned oats instead of steel-cut oats because that’s what I had on hand. If anyone tries this with steel-cut oats, let me know how it works! I used almond milk because that’s what I always have in my fridge, but I think you can use any kind of milk you like – regular, soy, vanilla soy, etc. I saw that Blue Diamond has come out with a new kind of coconut-almond milk, and I bet that would be really good here. As for the chopped fruit, I tried it with peaches and mangoes. Both were tasty, but I preferred the peaches. If you want some crunch, add some chopped almonds or pistachios right before you eat it.

(makes one serving)

½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup almond milk
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of black pepper
½ tbsp. agave nectar (I prefer my oatmeal on the sweeter side, but if you don’t, you could either leave the agave out or use less)

Optional toppings: chopped fruit, shredded coconut, chopped almonds or pistachios

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass bowl or jar with a lid. I used a small pyrex bowl with a lid, but you could also use a small mason jar. Stir, close lid, and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, open the lid, give it a little stir, and add any of the toppings you’d like. Eat up!