Books and soup, a marriage made in polar vortex heaven. They’re a perfect pair; they go together like Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (just can’t get enough Sherlock). This winter, my reading seems to be about discovery…or rediscovery. I’ve been delving back into some cookbooks I’d shelved for a couple years (Power Foods and Forks Over Knives), getting super stoked about new recipes and techniques in the kitchen (The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Wild Fermentation), and FINALLY reading some Michael Pollan (I’ve read several essays and articles by him, but not one of his books). I’m also about halfway through Outliers by Malcome Gladwell (more on that in a minute). I’m not the best at reading BOOK-books; I usually just read cookbooks. And I do mean I read them; I love reading recipes. My husband will sit in bed at night with a book-book — ya know, lots of words, no pictures — while I sit in bed with cookbooks, reading recipe after recipe and ogling the beautiful food photos. But I am trying to read more non-cookbook books and cram some knowledge into this food-obsessed brain.
Outliers: The Story of Success was a gift from my best friend. It’s a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up myself, but it’s sociological deconstruction of inherent talent and drive as the sole means of creating ultra successful people is right up my alley (I was a sociology major, or “soc” major ~ sōsh ~ as we called it, it felt cool). Malcolm Gladwell presents several true stories of hyper successful people – people whom society typically deems as extraordinary individuals who’ve pulled themselves up by their own insanely talented bootstraps (Bill Gates, the Beatles) – and breaks their success down into a series of luck, circumstance, upbringing and even birth date. He lays out why (and how) high achievers are not solely responsible for their success. It’s the sociology of individual achievement; turns out it’s not so individual after all.
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz has rocked my food preservation world. Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of preserving food and involves the creation of microbial life by way of lactic acid production. These microorganisms are good bacteria that produce a harmful environment in our digestive system for bad bacteria; it’s as if they put up a Keep Out sign in our tummies for the bad guys. So, not only are you preserving food with fermentation, you’re also doing something very good for your body. And it’s limitless; fermenting isn’t just for pickling or making sauerkraut, it’s for making cheese, yogurt, bread, wine, beer, miso, tempeh, tofu, kombucha, vinegar, and more. In Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz gives us recipes and techniques, but also history, tradition, and passion. He mentors us on this old-new journey, page-by-page.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman is both out of this world and incredibly down-to-earth, just like her spectacular food blog. Her writing is witty and real, her recipes beautiful and humble, and her photography is exquisite and unpretentious. I’ve read through the whole cookbook once and am on my second go round. If any cookbook could be likened to a thrilling, page-turner, this is it! I’m going to dog-ear the heck outta this book!
Forks Over Knives The Cookbook and Power Foods have me revisiting vegan and healthy cooking. I’ve gone through some food phases in life – being vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian – and have come to realize that I prefer not subscribing to an “only this, none of that” type of diet. My diet and culinary or enviro-culinary views (meaning the food – environment relationship) are fluid and ever-evolving. Which is why I describe myself as a veg head. I’m mostly vegetarian, but not completely. I eat seafood occasionally and lately have even been eating some meat, but what I ultimately love most, and think is very beneficial nutritionally and environmentally, are veggies and whole (animal-free) foods. My reacquaintance with vegan eating is to add more vegan recipes to my cooking repertoire and shake it up a bit…but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing kind of mentality. We don’t have to put ourselves in boxes, nor do we need to always live by a fixed definition. We can be both thoughtful and varied eaters and cooks. Which brings me to…
Michael Pollan. He’s a journalist, author, and food/food system critique. And I have not yet read one of his books. I know, facepalm. I’m off to read…
But first, reading is much more fun when you have soup. Aromatic Indian spices, rich coconut milk, hearty cauliflower, and milky cashew cream come together in this Vegan Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup, adapted from Andrew Weil’s True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. So satisfyingly creamy and bursting with flavor, you might as well make a double batch. Happy reading and eating!
A gift my from my husband: Masala Dabba – an Indian spice box
Spices: cumin seeds, red chili powder, coriander powder, tumeric powder, cumin powder, garam masala, black mustard seeds
Ultra creamy and vegan…the secret? Cashew cream. Mind. Blown.
Vegan Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
1 can coconut milk (can use light for lower fat)
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar, plus more for garnish
salt to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Put the cashews in a blender and blend until finely ground. Add 3/4 cup water and blend for 2 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon. Discard solids.
In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until golden. Add the cauliflower, coconut milk, cashew cream, spices, sugar and salt. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat and simmer until the cauliflower is tender (about 10 – 20 minutes). At this point, you can either leave the soup chunky (which is what I like to do) or blend with an immersion blender or transfer to a standing blender. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!