Cucumber Soup with Mint

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A while ago I was at the New York Vegetarian Festival. It takes place once a year and the objective is for branded vegetarian food items to get showcased. So you can find anything and everything related to vegetarian cooking. It was at that expo where I discovered the VITAMIX. That machine can do it all. It makes smoothies, soups, ice cream, nut butters…. you name it. I was sold.

Since then, every opportunity I get to pulverize down the proliferation from my CSA, I pull out my Vitamix and hit, pulse. One week this passed summer, I received 6 giant cucumbers. (Sorry for the late post, just found these photos in my camera) While cucumbers are a welcome respite from the hot summer months, it was just too much of a good thing. That’s when I decided to stir up this cucumber mint soup. I grow mint in my garden and use it regularly when I want to freshen up a dish and it especially pairs nicely with yogurt. What I love about this soup is its simplicity and yet its layers. The ginger and cumin seeds form the undertone in the soup, with just the right amount of bite, while the yogurt cools you down with its creamy tang. As in all soups, it’s best slurped the day after, when the flavors have had a chance to marry.

From the Silk Road, I present this chilled cucumber mint soup.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
3/4 cup scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 medium sized cucumbers
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Freshly grounded black pepper, to garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the scallions and grated ginger and saute for about 5 minutes or until the scallions have turned a dark green color and wilted.
  2. In a blender, like a Vitamix, combine the cucumbers, yogurt, fresh mint and salt. Slowly stir in the scallion mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. Chill the mixture for a least 2 hours in the fridge and serve with freshly ground black pepper and a few sprigs of mint.

Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Gluten Free Ginger Bread


About 20 years ago, I was a practicing Naturopathic doctor in Manhattan. The philosophy of naturopathy, is to feed the body the nutrients it needs to heal itself. By and part, this also means avoiding certain foods that may trigger the body to attack itself. I entered the field of natural medicine as a consequence of a debilitating ulcer. After seeing many gastroenterologists, who medicated meds that were not helping me feel any better,  I went to see a holistic practitioner.  Dr. Michael Wald– who now practices in Westchester guided me to avoid all wheat and dairy. After a couple of months on an elimination diet, I was on my way to healing my ulcer. I was fascinated by the outcome, and spent many hours in the NY Academy of Medicine researching medical documentation on how to cure an ulcer naturally.


In any event, and not to digress too much, that was the turning point in my life that led me to study naturopathy. Although, I was told by my MD’s to avoid spices, ginger was my ally. Ginger has been a popular culinary spice and medicinal herb around the world for centuries, especially in Asia, India and the Middle East. It is used regularly to treat indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, early references to ginger bread to treat an upset stomach has been documented from the 15th century in Sweden. Thereby this recipe….

At one time gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it was adapted to meet the tastes of different cultures. And of course, I always love to morph a recipe to suit my culinary taste. That is why if you sample gingerbread in a country other than your own it may not look or taste as you expected. It can be a bread or a spicy sweet cake in a molded shaped. My version is gluten free- and now that you know a little about my history, you can undertand why all the recipes on this blog are gluten free. 

Akin to the original Middle Eastern recipes, English gingerbread is a dense, molasses-based, spice cake- which is the way I like it too. Some recipes add mustardpepperraisinsnutsapple, and other spices to the batter. If you want to sprinkle any of these into your version, I strongly encourage that you mix in the flavors you fancy.

This recipes utilizes the classic method for making gingerbread, which requires melting the butter in with the molasses, and sugar before adding the dry ingredients – in this case they are gluten free. To give it some extra kick I used two forms of ginger: ground, and candied to ensure a pronounced ginger flavor. A heavy dose of other classic gingerbread spices give the cake some more dimension. These methods and ingredients together create a gingerbread that is dark, dense, a little bit sticky, and outrageously flavorful.

Serves 10

Ingredients


1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup molasses
7 tablespoons coconut milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Gluten Free oat flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup crystallized ginger (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease and line a 13 x 4 x 4 inch loaf pan. Place the sugar, butter, and molasses in a sauce pan and heat gently until melted and blended, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool slightly, then mix in the coconut milk and egg.
  3. Mix the flours, salt, spices and baking powder in a large bowl.
  4. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid mixture and beat well.
  5. Add crystalized ginger and mix into the batter, if you desire a more pronounced ginger taste.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or wrap in foil.

Ginger Pear Crumble

I make this crumble most often once when the fruits of summer give way to apples and pears in the fall. Crumbles are easier to prepare and faster to bake than pies, crisps and cobblers and are the perfect showcase for seasonal fruits.





This dessert is the simplest of all: fresh pears are covered with a ginger snap topping and baked until the crust is crispy and the filling bubbles and thickens. Gingersnap cookie crumbs is the base for this sweet, nut-filled crumble that tops this pear crisp. I used Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Ginger Snap cookies, however feel free to use any other brand of your choice. Serve with light cream or a scoop of vanilla yoghurt.






Serves 8


Ingredients


4 medium pears, pared, halved and cored
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup finely crushed ginger snap cookies
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place pears, cut side up in a 9-inch pie pan. Drizzle orange juice over pears.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine ginger snaps, sugar, walnuts and butter. With your hands work it until it looks something like mortar.
  4. Pat ginger snap mixture over the pears. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Cauliflower & Mushroom in Scallion Ginger Broth (Vegan, Gluten Free)


This dish is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something of a Thai curry which always has chili and ginger. Chilies were introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them while serving in South America. The overpowering chili spice is toned down in this dish with yoghurt and enhanced with fresh ginger and scallions.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 cauliflower florets, divided into small florets
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
4 cloves garlic
2 inch piece fresh root ginger
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound large button mushrooms, sliced
1 small chili (seeds removed)
¼ cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cilantro (coriander)
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces of plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mango chutney (or any other of your choice)
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions

              1.  In a large stock pot, simmer cauliflower after reaching a boil in lightly salted water for 5 minutes.         Drain and set aside.
             2.  In food processor, puree scallions, ginger and garlic with 2 tablespoons of water.
             3.  Heat half of the oil in a frying pan and toss mushrooms and pureed mixture to sauté for 5 minutes or until browned.
             4.  Remove from pan, pour remaining oil and add tomato puree, ground coriander, salt, chili, chili powder and fry for a few minutes.
             5.  Add yogurt and stir well, bringing to a simmer. Once simmering add the chutney and whisk to blend and emulsify the ingredients together.
            6.  After 5 minutes, add cauliflower and mushrooms and gently simmer 10 minutes more. When done, garnish with cilantro and serve.