Vegan Tomato Basil Bisque and a Grilled Cheese & Chiles Sandwich

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This soup was just a way for me to use up some vegetables & create a creamy, warming bisque – with tomatoes out of season.  Fresh tomatoes would be better but I did not have any & I am attempting to eat only what I have on hand – without spending any money on groceries.  I call it “the pantry challenge.”  I have done it a few times in the past with very strict rules.  This time – I have allowed a few cheats but I am still saving a ton of money.  I have so many leftovers frozen away & so many canned & dry goods – I could literally last months.  The only problem is that produce gets scarce – so – I have allowed a twice-monthly delivery from Farm Fresh to You.  Anyway – I a rambling.

This soup is easy & customizable.   You could sub out or lose a few of the veggie ingredients to suit your fancy.

For the sandwich – I used my homemade Vegan Basil Mozzarella Cheese for Grating & Melting – seen below.

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You can use any cheese you prefer.  I also topped it with some hot green chiles of the ilk seen above.  You can use whatever level of heat suits you.

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Grilled Cheese & Chiles Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

Bread of choice

cheese of choice

vegan butter or cooking spray

Chiles of choice

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DIRECTIONS

Treat a pan with cooking spray or melted butter.  Butter one side of each slice of bread & spray with cooking spray.  Over medium heat, place the UNBUTTERED side of each slice down for a few seconds to warm them.  Then flip one slice, top with cheese & chiles & the other slice of bread – buttered side up.  Grill, flipping a few times & pressing with a spatula until the cheese gets soft and/or the bread id grilled to your taste.

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 Vegan Tomato Basil Bisque

Makes a lot – enough for 4 to eat as a meal or for more people as a side

INGREDIENTS

2 TBS olive oil

1 leek – sliced (or a small onion)

1 red bell pepper – seeded & chopped

3 garlic cloves

5 carrots – chopped

1 jalapeno – seeded & diced (optional)

52 ounces of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (6-7 cups)

1/4 cup or more fresh basil

1/4 cup vegan cream cheese

1/4 cup vegan milk or cream

S&P

Garnish – fresh basil & maybe vegan cream or sour cream

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a large stock pot.  Add the veggies (carrots, leek, bell pepper, jalapeno) & saute a few minutes – until the leek (or onion) is soft.  Add tomato sauce & garlic.    Bring to a boil.  When the carrots & other vegetables are soft, add the cream cheese, milk & basil.  Combine.  Now – in batches – blend with an immersion blender or a regular blender.  Season with salt & pepper.

Serve with fresh cracked pepper & basil leaves.  Swirl in some cream or sour cream, if you desire.

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Baked Leftover Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Bisque, English Peas & Three Cheeses in Ramekins

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

As promised, another recipe made up from several other recipes posted this week.  This one uses leftover fettuccine from my Cilantro-Serrano Pasta post and leftover Tomato Bisque and some of my Homemade American Cheese.   You can use freshly cooked pasta or leftover, if you have it.   The soup can be replaced with ANY pasta sauce you prefer from a simple arrabiata to a marinara to an alfredo.  The cheese can also be substituted with goat or Parmesan or whatever you have handy.  I used English peas because I had them & I love them.

This particular effort isn’t that pretty because green noodles & a pink sauce make for an odd combination but let me tell you – it is friggin’ DELICIOUS.  I made it & just meant to taste one & stood there & inhaled an entire serving.   Really, really good!  I had intended to make little wonton baskets for each of these but forgot to – so a version using wontons is likely in my future.   At any rate – if you use a white pasta & a red sauce – or some other more compatible color combination – your effort should come out prettier.

I cooked 6 of these ramekins in a larger pan with water that came up about half way on the ramekins – and one just out there on its own in the oven.  In the future – I will blow off the whole water business because it achieved nothing that I could appreciate except maybe slowing the heating process a tad – and there is no practical purpose for that in this recipe.  So – you will see images of the larger pan & water but I am not recommending you do it that way.  The only thing it adds is a VERY real danger that you will scald yourself with the hot water as you remove these from the oven.

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Baked Leftover Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Bisque, English Peas & Three Cheeses in Ramekins

INGREDIENTS

4 cups cooked pasta

1 1/2 cups leftover bisque or other pasta sauce

1 cup fresh English peas (optional)

2 large balls fresh mozzarella – sliced

1 2″ cube homemade American cheese or other cheese of your choice

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Fresh basil and/or chopped fresh tomato – as garnish

Extra bisque or pasta sauce – as garnish

Fresh Parmesan to shave – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Blend the pasta, sauce and whatever cheese(s) you are using (NOT the mozzarella) in a bowl.  Add the peas – if using.

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Spray 7 ramekins (sorry – it just worked out to 7) with cooking spray.  Divide the pasta mix among them.  Try not to over-fill them or they will get messy in the oven.  Top with a little extra bisque/sauce & put a slice of fresh mozzarella on each. Grind some pepper on them.

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Place on a cookie sheet & cover each with a sheet of foil that has been greased with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Remove foil & bake another ten minutes.

Remove from the oven & let cool a minute or two.  These can be served in the ramekins or flipped over & served on a plate.  Either way, garnish each with chopped tomato and/r fresh chopped basil and/or some freshly shaved Parmesan.

Devour & be proud of yourself for using up your leftovers!  Maybe even serve with some leftover Artisan bread!!!

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Leftover Tomato & Artisan Bread Soup with Buffalo Mozzarella

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

Ok, kiddies.  I am going to post two different dishes today that are made from leftovers of the recipes I posted last week.  This one uses the Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque and the Crazy Super Easy & Quick Artisan Bread.

Simply, brush some olive oil on a slice of Artisan bread & toast it in your oven (at about 350 – 400 degrees) for about ten minutes.  Add a few slices of fresh mozzarella & return it to the oven for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Plunk this bad boy into the center of a warmed bowl of tomato bisque.  Garnish with leftover basil oil (I forgot to!!) and some fresh tomato (I used some Heirloom cherry tomatoes), fresh basil & fresh cracked pepper!  Ymmmmm!

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Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

This soup is spicy & tastes rich & creamy despite its total lack of dairy.  It gets the rich creamy element from soaked & pureed cashews.  Ymmm!  There are a few steps required but all are simple.  Do not be intimidated.  I used lots of celery because I had it & it needed to be used.  I also used heirloom cherry tomatoes – for the same reason as the celery – but larger tomatoes are more desirable.  You can use heirloom or Roma or any variety of tomato.  My soup came out less red than your average tomato soup because not all my tomatoes were red & because I did not use tomato paste.  Also – I used a red onion because that was what I had.  Yellow or brown might be better.  Also – since spending 90 minutes caramelizing an onion might be too labor intensive for you & make you blow off this recipe entirely – know that the caramelized onion ingredient can be omitted without a huge loss in flavor.  Also – cashews can be soaked overnight rather than boiled & soaked for an hour.  Also – this soup need not be vegan.  Heavy cream added at the end is a nice touch if that appeals to you – and would make the cashews unnecessary.  I recommend trying the cashew version at least once, though.  It is a healthier option.

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Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque

INGREDIENTS

2.5 – 3 lbs heirloom (or other) tomatoes

10 celery stalks – chopped (VERY optional)

1 vegetarian bouillon cube (optional)

4 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers (optional)

10 garlic cloves – or to taste

1 cup raw cashews

olive oil

6 or more fresh basil leaves – chopped

1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes (or less – to taste)

1/2 tsp dry thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 large onion – quartered & slices 1/4 inch thick

2 or more TBS tomato paste (optional)

S&P to taste

GARNISH OPTIONS – more fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, grated cheese, blue cheese or goat or feta (crumbled on top), fried sage leaves, shaved Parmesan, homemade basil oil, sour cream, creme fraiche, heavy cream, croutons – whatever you like.  And LOTS of fresh cracked pepper!

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

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In a small pan, cover the cashews with water & bring to a boil.  Remove from heat & allow to soak one hour.  Or, conversely – let them soak overnight.

Cut your tomatoes in half (or if using some cherry tomatoes, as I did, leave them whole) & toss all the tomatoes & FIVE of your garlic cloves & serrano or jalapeno peppers with 4 TBS olive oil, crushed red pepper, thyme, oregano & a sprinkling of salt.  Place tomatoes cut side down on a greased (with cooking spray) or parchment paper lined cooking sheet & roast in the 350 degree oven for about one hour.

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Meanwhile, saute the onions in 1/4 cup olive oil on low to medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 90 minutes.  This will release their sugar & caramelize them nicely.  Once they are caramelized, add tomato paste (if using) & saute for a few more minutes – stirring to blend with the onions.  Set aside.

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Once the cashews have soaked for an hour, puree them in a blender or food processor with the water until perfectly smooth.  Set aside.

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If using celery, saute the celery in 2 TBS in a large stock pot in olive oil for 5 minutes or until it becomes tender.  Add the 5 remaining garlic cloves & continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.  Or – if not using celery – start just by sauteing the 5 cloves or garlic for a minute or two & carry on as follows.  Add the caramelized onion & tomato paste mixture.  Add the cashew puree.  Stir.

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When the tomatoes are done roasting, see if any of the charred skins can be easily plucked off.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  Pluck off the skins that come away easily & discard.  If the skin resists, leave it be.  Cut the stems off your serrano/jalapenos & then add all the roasted items and any juices to the stock pot.  Stir to combine.  Add the chopped basil and the bouillon cube (if using).

At this point, you may or may not want to add some water.  This is a judgement call based purely on how thick or thin you like your bisque.  I went VERY thick & did not add much water at all – less than a cup in total.  I used & immersion blender & pureed everything in the stock pot.  You can do this or blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.   Whether or not you add much water, once the soup is blended, taste it & add salt & pepper to taste.  If you want a really creamy bisque, adding a half pint of heavy cream would achieve this nicely.

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Tomato Bisque three ways: with balsamic vinegar and with grated cheese & with fresh basil.

Vegan Broccoli Soup with Avocado & Jalapeno or Basil oil or Gremolata

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This recipe makes a lot  A LOT – of soup.  Be prepared to freeze some.  I had a 3 pound bag of broccoli from Costco & it had to be used & used fast.  I find freezing fresh vegetables renders them a yucky, mushy, unappetizing mess – but freezing dishes MADE with vegetables works out just fine.  I suppose you could cut this recipe in half easily – so maybe consider doing that.

This soup would be amazing with a homemade vegetable stock (there is a recipe at the bottom of the post HERE) but it works out just great using bouillon, too.

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This soup can be served with all sorts of little garnishes from the avocado-jalapeno combo to the basil oil drizzle I show here to the gremolata that I also show here of with crispy bacon crumbles or some blue cheese crumbles or feta cheese.  Use your imagination!  Add some corn or steamed broccoli or tortilla strips.  Go nuts!  I found these red jalapenos at an Asian market & I love them because they are so PRETTY!  But green ones work just as well.

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Vegan Broccoli Soup with Avocado-Jalapeno or Basil oil or Gremolata

INGREDIENTS

2 large heads of broccoli (or two pounds florets)

2 large onions – chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1 large potato – cubed

8-10 cups of vegetable stock – depending on how thin or thick you like your soup

S&P to taste

2 TBS olive oil

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GREMOLATA

1/2 cup parsley – chopped very fine

4-5 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 cup lemon zest

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OR BASIL OIL

1 packed cup of fresh basil

3/4 cup high quality olive oil

Salt to taste

JALAPENO -AVOCADO

Sliced avocado

diced jalapeno

cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Cook the onions until they are soft & translucent.  Add broccoli, potato, parsley and the stock.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer.  Once the broccoli & potato are tender – puree in batches or use an immersion blender.  Blend until very smooth.  If the soup is too thick – add a bit of water.  If it is too thin, cook it over med-low heat until it reduces to the thickness you prefer.

Zest the lemon, chop the garlic & parsley.   Blend them in a small bowl.

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BASIL OIL –

Blanch the basil in boiling water for 10-20 seconds than plunge into ice water.  Squeeze out the water & puree in a food processor with olive oil & salt to taste.  Go light on the salt.  Set aside.

Serve the soup with either the avocado/jalapeno combo or a drizzle of basil oil or a hefty portion of the gremolata.  MMMMM!

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Spicy Vegan Corn Chowder with Coconut Cream, Cilantro & Lime

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

I apologize for posting so many straight recipes & no adventures lately.  Year end expenses etc have kept me pretty much at home and alone nearly every day & night for at least the last month.   If I blow off the gym, as I did in the week between Christmas & New Years, I can go days & days without ever seeing another human, outside of Ed, my early morning donut dealer.  As fascinating as I’d like to consider myself – a month of watching Maury reveal paternity results & MSNBC squawk on & on about fake crises like the fiscal cliff & the debt ceiling has left me with something akin to a test pattern humming in my head & my jaw slack.  And weekends are worse. I fucking hate “Caught on Camera” which is MSNBC’s new weekend wall-to-waller for injury fetishists.  And SOMEHOW it got DVR’ed – so the fucking series is getting recorded every time it plays and I cannot figure out how to cancel it.  And Lock Up?  Seriously.  They run Lock Up marathons on MSNBC sometimes from Friday night at 7 through Sunday evening, only breaking for the insufferable Meet the Press.  Who watches six hours of prison inmates with tattooed faces & then thinks to themselves, “You know what I am in the mood for now?  Another hour of prison inmates with tattooed faces, bitchez!”   Ugh.

So – I sit in my kitchen & stare blankly at my TV and simultaneously play the 40 million Scrabble & Words with Friends games I have running – 30 million of which are with my mother who is the best GD word game player ever – in real life.  But on the iphone apps – she mostly just phones it in (get it?) – and I feel like I am doing endless homework way beneath my intellectual ability.  I am a hamster stuck in a Habitrail repeating the same limited and mindless actions ad infinitum just waiting for death or for someone to get close enough so I can bite them.

So – I drink wine so that I at least have an excuse for the stupid look on my face and I cook.  And cook.  And I eat some and freeze more & then I cook.  I wish I had more mouths to feed here & more money to do it with because the cooking is the best part of my days but I can’t just endlessly cook food in quantities I cannot possibly consume just so I can be distracted & then take some pretty pictures.

Aren’t you glad NOW that I have been keeping to myself?

OK – so – yesterday I had a bunch of fresh corn to use.  Again – I challenged myself to make a dish that didn’t require a grocery store run.  I wanted to make a corn chowder but I had no dairy or soy milk or anything like that in the house.  But I DID have cans of both coconut milk & coconut cream.  Not knowing the difference (having never yet used coconut cream) – I opted to use the cream version.  I still don’t know what the difference is.  Once I broke up & blended the solid chunk of whatever at the top of the can – it looked & tasted like coconut milk to me.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. The difference is mainly consistency. It has a thicker, more paste-like consistency, while coconut milk is generally a liquid. Coconut cream is used as an ingredient in cooking, having a mild non-sweet taste.

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Anyway – coconut cream/milk is a perfect substitute for the dairy in  this chowder.  The fresh corn is the real key here so try to use fresh corn rather than canned or frozen.  The fresh corn is far sweeter than the coconut cream & overpowers the coconut almost completely.  In fact – my boyfriend says he hates coconut but I bet if I served him this chowder – he would never guess what it was made from.

This is easy as pie.  And really good!  If you do not like spicy food, omit the jalapenos & hot sauce.  If you cannot find red jalapenos (or are eschewing them entirely) add some diced carrots or diced red bell pepper – just for color.

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Spicy Vegan Corn Chowder with Coconut Cream & Cilantro

INGREDIENTS

8 ears fresh corn on the cob

1 13.5 oz can of coconut cream or coconut milk (light version if you prefer)

1 large potato – peeled & diced

1 large onion – diced

2 (or more) jalapenos (red if possible) – seeded & diced (use a red bell pepper here if you do not like spice)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

1 lime

fresh cilantro

olive oil

S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

Cut the corn from the cobs.  Take the dull side of a large knife & run it down all sides of each corn cob with a bit of pressure – over a bowl.  This is called “milking the corn.”  Reserve this corn milk.

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Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a stock pot.  Add the onion & jalapenos & saute until the onions are soft & translucent.  Add potato & corn & stir.  Add the stock, hot sauce, corn milk & the coconut milk.  Stir.  Add about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low & simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potato & corn are tender.

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See the corn “milk” mush on the top??

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With a slotted spoon, scoop out some (maybe a cup or two) of the solid veggies & reserve in a bowl.  You will use this later to garnish the soup when you serve it.

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With a blender or food processor or immersion blender – puree the remaining soup.  Add S&P to taste.  At this point – you can squeeze in the juice of half a lime – or you can opt to serve the soup with lime wedges & let folks control the amount of citrus in their chowder.

To serve – ladle some puree into bowls.  Top with a spoonful of the solid veggies & some more chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley) and a wedge of lime.  Fresh cracked pepper – more hot sauce?  Your call.

Some crispy fried shallots would be pretty nice on this – as would a good drizzle of basil oil.

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