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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Cooks’ Books: Drown out cold weather with these all-time favorite vegan soups

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  • “Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons” by Nava Atlas (Clarkson Potter, $17.95)
    Even during years when the polar vortex is not blanketing the country, winter is the perfect time to try eating vegan. Hearty soups and stews packed with grains, beans and vegetables are at the top of just about everyone’s cold-weather wish lists anyway, and they’ll probably never guess that animal products aren’t part of the mix.
    Nava Atlas grants those wishes many times over in her “Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons.” By the time the clan has downed specialties like Four-Grain Tomato Soup, Baby Carrot Bisque, Macaroni and Nondairy Cheese Soup and Thai-Spice Sweet Potato Stew, they’ll probably be clamoring for tastes of the other three seasons, too.
    Vegan dishes like these are so filling that what’s lacking is never missed. The standout tomato soup includes hearty doses of brown rice, wild rice, pearl barley and millet or quinoa. A whole can of coconut milk floods sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers and green beans in the Thai stew. Expertly spiced bulgur and four cups of pinto beans spotlight a taco soup.
    Thick slices of accompaniments, like sunflower-nondairy cheese bread, green chili cornbread, onion-rye scones and whole-wheat muffins that are packed with chopped vegetables, squelch the appetites of lucky diners even further.
    Atlas is the perfect compass when it comes to healthful cooking. This was the ninth in her popular series of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, such as “Vegan Express” and “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.” The heartiness of the soup and stew theme, combined with Atlas’ unique expertise, has made this my favorite vegan cookbook of all time.
    Innovative rib-sticking fare that pleases usually picky palates is her specialty. Vegan comfort food fills the menu in this book, but happy tasters will probably just shorten that description to “comfort food.”
    FOUR-GRAIN TOMATO SOUP
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
    • 2 large celery stalks, finely diced
    • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
    • 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced, or 2 large turnips, peeled and diced
    • 1 (28-ounce) can salt-free pureed or crushed tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup (preferably raw) brown rice, any variety, rinsed (see Note)
    • 1/4 cup (preferably raw) wild rice, rinsed
    • 1/4 cup (preferably raw) millet or quinoa, rinsed
    • 1/4 cup (preferably raw) pearl barley, rinsed
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 t salt-free seasoning
    • 6 cups water
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
    • Salt, to taste
    • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    Heat the oil in a soup pot.
    Add the onions and saute over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients except the dill, salt and pepper. Bring to a rapid simmer then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
    Page 2 of 2 - If the soup is too thick, adjust the consistency with more water as needed, and return to a gentle simmer. Stir in the dill and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the grains and vegetables are completely tender. Discard the bay leaves.
    Serve at once or, if time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two, then heat through before serving. This soup thickens quite a bit as it stands. Add water and adjust the seasonings as needed.
    Note: If you use brown basmati rice, the soup will be wonderfully aromatic as it is cooked and served.
    Yields 8 servings.
    Atlas’ soup and stew accompaniments, like this nutty-cheesy bread, are also standouts:
    SUNFLOWER-CHEESE BREAD
    • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
    • 1 1/2 t baking powder
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1 cup plain soy yogurt
    • 2 T safflower oil
    • 1 T maple syrup or agave nectar
    • 1 t prepared mustard
    • 1/4 cup rice milk, or more as needed
    • 1 cup firmly packed grated cheddar-style nondairy cheese
    • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
    Preheat the oven to 350 F.
    Combine the first 4 (dry) ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together.
    In another bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, syrup, mustard and rice milk. Whisk together until well-blended. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir until well-combined, adding more rice milk as needed to make a smooth, slightly stiff batter.
    Fold in the cheese and half of the sunflower seeds. Pour the batter into a lightly oiled 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the remaining sunflower seeds over the top.
    Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crusty. When the loaf pan is cool enough to handle, remove the loaf, place it on a rack and allow it to cool somewhat before slicing.
    Yields 1 loaf, about 12 slices.
    Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including “Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook” and “The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.”
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