My first boss used to joke that I’d probably be happy on a diet of mostly baby food. He said this because of my obvious love of mushy-textured foods, which I snacked on constantly at work: refried black bean dip, nut pate, and hummus. Especially hummus.
My love of mush hasn’t budged as the years go by. If anything, it’s gotten deeper. I love not just mushy dips, but also mushy porridge, soft/mushy grain dishes, smashed beans, and mushy soups and stews. This is especially true when it comes to puréed soups: the thicker the better, which means the texture sometimes walks a pretty fine line between soup and mush.
This creamy roasted garlic and chickpea soup isn’t offensively thick or mushy, and the addition of tender greens gives it some texture contrast. But it does have that thick, puréed texture that I love so much, and since the base is roasted garlic and chickpeas with a touch of lemon, it’s not so different from hummus soup. I’ve just given it a slightly fancier name 🙂
The soup begins with two whole heads of roasted garlic. It sounds like a ton, but the reason I’ve called for it is because the first time I made the soup, I only used one head of garlic. I liked the flavor, but I thought it could easily do with double the roasted garlic. Roasted garlic has none of the kick of the raw stuff, and in fact it gives this soup a mellow sweetness. If you’re very sensitive to garlic, of course, feel free to reduce the amount, but if your garlic heads are medium or small, I suspect you’ll find that two of them is just right.
Otherwise, the soup is super simple. Roasting the garlic is actually the most time-consuming step. Once that’s taken care of, you just sauté some chickpeas and onion, add broth and salt, and blend it all up. Here’s how it comes together.
Creamy Roasted Garlic & Chickpea Soup
- 2 heads garlic, top sliced off crosswise to expose the cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans, drained and rinsed)
- 5 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or 4 cups broth + 1 cup water)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, and more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, as desired
- 4-5 cups tightly packed chopped spinach, chard, kale, broccoli rabe, or another leafy green
Preheat your oven to 400F. Lightly drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil. Wrap each head in foil and roast for 45 minutes, or until the cloves are becoming caramelized and the garlic is very fragrant.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, or until the onion is tender and clear. Add the chickpeas, broth (or broth + water), salt, and pepper.
Transfer the chickpeas and broth to a powerful blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from both heads into the blender, too. Blend on high till the mixture is very smooth, taking precaution with spattering (the soup will be very hot). You can do this in batches if your blender is on the small side. You can also use an immersion blender.
Transfer the pureed soup back to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the greens and cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until the greens are very tender. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste, season as desired, and serve!
If you like, you can roast the garlic 1-3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to blend.
When I first made the soup, it was in the middle of a week of seasonal peaks and valleys temperature, sunny days and drizzle. I enjoyed it for many lunches with a hunk of homemade sourdough and a little salad. It felt like the perfect transition meal between winter and spring: still hearty enough to be warming and grounding, thanks to the chickpea base, but the puréed texture, spring greens, and burst of lemon made it feel fresh, too.
I could imagine making it again very soon, as New York continues to ride the customary April weather. And although I love the chickpeas here, I’m also eager to try it with some white beans.
Wishing you an easy transition between seasons this week, and I’ll see you back here for the usual roundup on Sunday.
Simple Baked Bulgur & Chickpeas
I’m debating whether I should keep including “simple” in my recipe titles, since simple food is the name of the game lately, and really since my internship year started. But I guess it never hurts to call it out.
Anyway: this bulgur chickpea dish is indeed very simple, as the name implies. There’s some cooking time involved (though it’s worth saying that it can be shortened if you tweak the recipe ingredients a little), but the dish involves almost no active work. It’s as easy as mixing ingredients up and slow cooking, but in this case the oven does the work for you.
Beyond that, the recipe is full of nutrition—fiber, protein from the combination of bulgur and beans, adjustable on sodium and naturally low in fat—and incredibly easy to customize. I’ve been using a combination of chickpeas, sweet potatoes, canned tomatoes, and the un-seasonal addition of zucchini. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and cabbage would all be great additions or substitutions.
Speaking of that: I’ve tried the recipe with butternut squash in place of sweet potato and without either. The cooking time can be reduced to 25 minutes without the sweet potato or winter squash; with one or the other, it needs a full 45 minutes in order for those vegetables to be cooked through. So if you’d like to make this in a pinch, you could try another, faster-cooking veggie instead.
I kept the seasonings simple, but as I’ve been saying often these days, customize with what you have. Plenty of spices would be lovely in the recipe, including crushed red pepper flakes, which I didn’t add only because I tend to be conservative with spice. I don’t recommend skimping on the everyday lemon tahini dressing that’s linked in the recipe below; it gives the dish a touch of acid and creaminess that really enhances the experience of eating it! But if that dressing isn’t your thing, yum sauce or delightfully green tahini dressing would be great, too.
Here is the nourishing, hands-off, and simple indeed recipe.
Simple Baked Bulgur & Chickpeas
This dish of simple baked bulgur & chickpeas is rich in fiber, protein, an array of phytonutrients, and it’s easy to prepare. Served with a bright, creamy tahini dressing!
- 1 cup bulgur wheat (dry)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
- 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed or peeled and chopped (substitute 1/2 lb cubed butternut or other winter squash)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced (substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout (substitute 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 batch everyday lemon tahini dressing
Preheat your oven to 375F. Mix all ingredients together in a Dutch oven, a cast iron baking dish with a lid, or any other casserole dish with a lid. Cover and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes.
While the bulgur bakes (or ahead of time) make the everyday lemon tahini dressing. To serve, drizzle the bulgur generously with the dressing and enjoy!
To shorten cooking time to 25 minutes covered and 5 uncovered, omit the sweet potato or replace it with a faster cooking vegetable (like cauliflower or green beans).
This recipe is a truly perfect option for meal prep/batch cooking, since it can simmer away in the oven while you do or prep anything else you need. And it makes generous portions: enough for four hearty dinner components (I’ve been serving it simply, with steamed greens and lots of the dressing) or six portions if you’re using it as a side dish with something else that’s substantial. No matter how you serve it, I hope it saves you time and gives you pleasure.
This week has been busy so far, with a nutrition workshop/conference yesterday and my final week at my current internship site. I’ve used my evenings to get grounded as best I can and my mornings to reflect on things during my commute. It’s all a work in progress…but it’s progressing. Happy Wednesday, friends!
Weeknight Vegan Cashew Chickpea Korma
My latest dietetic internship rotation is at a community institution that has a teaching kitchen. Like many organizations with a farm-to-table emphasis, the teaching kitchen tries to encourage meatless meals, at least on a part-time basis (à la Meatless Monday). One of their go-to offerings is a vegetarian korma. When I first saw the recipe it occurred to me that I’d never posted a vegan korma here on the blog, in spite of having made many non-traditional versions of the dish at home.
I’m emphasizing the non-traditional bit because my understanding is that korma often involves a braised meat and a yogurt or cream-based sauce. Yet it’s also one of the Indian dishes I’ve most often seen veganized, which is what has encouraged me to try it over the years. I’ve appreciated how simple it is to make and how versatile. This vegan cashew chickpea korma (which I make with my homemade cashew cream) is the one that I turn to most often, even if the vegetables I use change all of the time.
I’m giving you two variations of this dish. The first is the recipe that I started with. It’s plenty simple, and the vegetables that it calls for can be adjusted to fit what you have at home. So long as they’re relatively quick-cooking, they should work as the recipe indicates (sweet potato or winter squash might take a bit longer).
The second variation is the one I’ve been using since the DI started. This is probably a topic for a longer, batch cooking-themed post (which I’m planning on sharing), but frozen vegetables have been a lifesaver this year. Yes, fresh usually is crispier, and it’s often tastier. But right now the benefits of pre-cut vegetables that keep for a while, don’t require a lot of cleaning or prepping, and are super inexpensive to boot outweigh any strict adherence to fresh produce that I might have.
So, option #2 involves a couple bags of frozen veggies, which you can heat up in the microwave before starting the korma. Prepared this way, the recipe takes about 15 minutes to make–provided you’ve made the cashew cream beforehand, and substituting full fat coconut milk is an option, too. It’s a nutrient dense, flavorful meal that tastes as if it’s been simmering for a lot longer than it has. Piled over rice and topped with fresh herbs or green onions, it’s a perfect weeknight supper–one that’s kept me fed on many evenings when cooking felt insurmountable. Here’s the recipe.
Weeknight Vegan Cashew Chickpea Korma
A quick, easy weeknight vegan cashew chickpea korma that you can modify with whatever fresh or frozen vegetables you have!
Servings: 4 servings
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or refined avocado) or a few tablespoons vegetable broth
- 1 small or medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower or broccoli stems and florets (or a combination of both)
- 1 cup chopped green beans
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup cashew cream (substitute full fat, canned coconut milk)
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- Chopped green onion tops or fresh cilantro (optional, for serving)
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet (or a medium sized pot) over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onion is clear and tender. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
Add the cauliflower, green beans, carrots, peas, chickpeas, broth, and cashew cream to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Stir in the baby spinach and lime juice and simmer for 2-3 more minutes, or until the spinach is tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Serve over cooked rice, quinoa, or another grain, or with a flatbread of choice. Top with chopped green onion tops or cilantro.
For a shortcut version: Replace the vegetables with 4-5 cups (about 2 bags) frozen, pre-cut vegetables of choice. I usually use any mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green beans, red peppers, and peas. During step 1, when the onion and jalapeno is cooking, cook the the vegetables in the microwave as instructed. Drain the vegetables and add them for step 2. Reduce the simmering time to 5 minutes instead of 10. Voila!
Rice is my favorite serving option for this one–it soaks up all of the creamy, spicy sauce perfectly–but it’s also great with quinoa, whole grain pita, or even some of these homemade chapatis. Cashew cream is definitely my preference (I always make it in double batches and freeze some so that it can be as convenient as using canned coconut milk), but coconut milk is traditional and works well, too. Some of the newer, creamier cashew/nut milks (like Elmhurst 1925) might also be a good option.
Glad that this rotation prompted me to post a recipe that’s been a favorite at home for a while now. And hope that some of you might enjoy it and find it as convenient as I do!
Alright, friends: another busy day of the internship waits for me tomorrow, so it’s time for me to do a little unwinding. See you this weekend for the regular weekend roundup.
Simple Slow Cooker Chana Masala
When I went to Prague last summer, I brought reading material that consisted almost entirely of food writing. One of the books was Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, in which she describes, among other things, the role that food played in her courtship with her former partner, Brandon.
There are many sweet anecdotes about intimacy developing over meals: shared excitement over the prospect of digging into a buttered baguette and sliced radishes for dinner, spontaneous dinner salads that turned into feasts. My personal favorite is Molly’s ode to Brandon’s chana masala. In a 2006 blog post dedicated to the recipe, she writes,
Mine is certainly not the first man to make chana masala, nor does he have any sort of pedigree—ethnic or otherwise—to lend him an air of authority in Indian cookery, but he does have a palate, and a very precise one at that.
Precise, maybe, but not in a way that lends itself to documentation. Wizenberg jokes about her tendency to follow and transcribe recipes, while Brandon cooks by touch, smell, and feel. I fall into Molly’s camp—a recipe follower at heart, instinctive only through practice (heh)—which makes me glad that she’s recorded Brandon’s approach to this well known dish. I’ve been making it since last summer, and it’s a keeper.
Lately, it’s often easier to let something simmer in my slow cooker than to keep an eye on it over a burner. If it slow cooks, I have a chance to dash outside for errands or to focus on coursework for the DI intently, which isn’t possible for me when I know that something’s on the stovetop.
So, last weekend, as a part of my usual batch cooking frenzy, I decided to try adapting the chana masala recipe to be slow cooker friendly. It felt almost irreverent, as Brandon’s recipe is, by Molly’s telling, defined by its spontaneity and stepwise, taste-based adjustments. The recipe also starts with caramelized onions, which is a step I didn’t preserve.
For the most part, though, I kept the proportions and spices intact. I sautéed my onions, if not taking the time to caramelize them, before allowing the slow cooker to do its thing. This isn’t really my slow cooker style—for the most part, the whole appeal of the device is the fact that I don’t have to sauté or closely watch anything—but here I think it does make the recipe better. I give you the option of doing either: lightly browning the onions before the get added to the slow cooker, or not. The chana masala will taste rich and flavorful either way.
This decision aside, it’s a very simple recipe. I used my slow cooker to cook chickpeas from dry beforehand (I usually do this following Alton Brown’s instructions, on the high setting for 3 1/2 hours or so), but canned chickpeas will work nicely, too. Feel free to add more or less spice to suit your taste, especially if you know how you like chana masala or a similar dish to taste already. That modification would definitely keep within the spirit of the original dish.
|Simple Slow Cooker Chana Masala||
Recipe type: main dish, side dish
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, tree nut free, soy free, no oil option
Author: Adapted from Molly Wizenberg
Serves: 4-6 servings
- 2 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or refined avocado)*
- 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger, or ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes
- 3 heaping cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I use 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
- A pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1½ cups water (more as needed)
- For serving: plain vegan yogurt, fresh cilantro, cooked rice, homemade naan or chapati
- Optional: heat the oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Sauté the onions till they’re gently browning, about 7-8 minutes, stirring continually. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Transfer the onions and garlic to your slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, then crush them with a spoon or a potato masher in the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients. (Alternately, if you don’t want to sauté the onions and garlic, begin by crushing the tomatoes in the slow cooker, then add the rest of the ingredients.)
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours.** If the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can thin it with additional water. Taste and adjust salt. Serve.
**If you don’t wish to use a slow cooker or don’t have one, sauté the onions and garlic as instructed in a large saucepan or wide, deep skillet. Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients as instructed. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Taste, adjust salt, and serve as desired.
In Molly’s recipe post, she notes,
This chana masala can be served in two different styles: with a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt to smooth and soften the flavors, or sans yogurt, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of fresh cilantro. I prefer the former, but Brandon leans toward the latter. Either way, this dish is even better the second—or third—day.
She’s so right about the leftovers being better as they age. I also agree that it’s lovely served either with or without yogurt; the former is less traditional but more mild, the latter spicier. I can go either way, and I tend to vary based on my mood.
As for serving, I almost always pile the chickpeas over brown rice, but last weekend I happened to have some of my homemade chapatis in the freezer, so I decided to add a few wedges of those, too—with this dish, it’s a shame not to have something to scoop up every last bean!
I’m so excited to have some of the masala now in my freezer for next week, and to have savored it pretty regularly in the last month. A big thanks to Molly for what has become a staple for me, new cooking method aside. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too, and look forward to circling back at the end of this long week for the usual roundup.
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