Loaded Cauliflower Soup

Bacon wrapped shrimp adds a little something extra to an already satisfying loaded cauliflower soup. When the cauliflower florets were done, I picked out a few to save for garnish when serving. It’s all about plating!

Cauliflower subs for potatoes in this fall comfort supper soup.
Loaded Cauliflower Soup
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped leek
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chopped cauliflower florets and steams from 1 (2-1/2 lb) head)
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 pz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp – 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pan, discard excess drippings.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add leek, celery and garlic to pan; cook, stirring often, until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Add cauliflower, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduced heat to medium. Simmer until cauliflower is very tender – about 15 minutes.
Remove 1 cup vegetables with a slotted spoon; finally chop.
Pour remaining mixture into a blender; add half-and-half. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape. Place lid on blender and cover opening with a clean towel. Process, starting slowly and increasing speed until contents are very smooth. (I use the puree setting on my 1970’s vintage Osterizer for about a minute). Return to pan with chopped vegetables and cook until warmed through – 2 or three minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, cheese and chives.

NOTE: This is a rich and satisfying soup. I felted it needed a little something extra so I wrapped peeled and deveined large shrimp with bacon and broiled them three minutes on a side (Turing once) for a tasty garnish. I allow three shrimp per serving. Without the shrimp and bacon it would still be a pretty good vegetarian soup.

Stuffed Potatoes with Lentil Chili

Sometimes finding a vegetarian or vegan recipe calls for making it just because it sounds good. Such was the case with “lentil chili” in the recipe name. Had to give it a try and found it very good! Of course, it needed a little more chili powder than called for to satisfy the Gringo Gourmet taste buds. It seemed a bit sweet when tasted during cooking. A couple of teaspoons of rice vinegar balanced the sweetness nicely.

Stuffed potatoes with Lentil Chili – Vegetarian version.

Stuffed Potatoes with Lentil Chili
4 russet potatoes (about 8 oz. each)
1 small red onion
1 poblano chile pepper
1 carrot
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 15-oz can lentils, drained and rinsed (or cook 1 cup dry lentils in 4 cups water 20-25 minutes until tender, but don’t overcook to mushy)
2 tsp chili power (or more to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1. cup shredded cheddar cheese – about 4 ounces (Substitute vegan cheddar to keep this dish vegan)

Preheat oven to 425º.Prick potatoes with a fork and microwave until tender -15 – 20 minutes. Transfer to oven rack and bake until soft – about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely chop the red onion. Put 2 Tbsp chopped onion in a small bowl, cover with water and let soak for 10 minutes; drain, pat dry and set aside for topping.
Chop the poblano. Peel and grate the carrot.
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the remaining red onion, the chopped poblano and carrot, season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally,until tender – about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook about 1 minute until toasted. Stir in lentils and add the tomato paste and cook stirring, until vegetables are coated. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, 1-1/2 cups water and a large pinch of salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened – about 10 minutes.
Split the potatoes open. Drizzle with the remaining Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper and fluff with a fork. Top with half the cheese, then top with the lentil chili. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and reserved red onion.

NOTE: This is a very good stuffed potato! Omnivore/carnivores can use smaller potatoes and use this as a side dish with a nice grilled steak if desired.

Have it both ways – as a meal with a big potato, or as a side with a smaller potato.

Sweet Potato Tostadas

As a devoted omnivore with carnivore proclivities the occasional experiment with vegetarian and vegan recipes can be an adventure. It is interesting to see how many “V” recipes are base on a combination of sweet potatoes and black beans. And is is great that this combination works so well in so many different ways. This Sweet Potato Tostadas recipe is about as far removed from a Mexican tostada as one can get, but it is delicious and will probably show up on the Gringo Gourmet menu again!

Sweet Potato Tostadas with a side of sliced prickly pear tunas. See note below about the sweet potato topping and prepping the tunas.

3 sweet potatoes (about 1-1/4 lbs) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 small head red cabbage, shredded )about 1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo plus 1 – 2 tsp adobo sauce from the can
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 15 oz can refried black beans (vegetarian if desired)
8 tostada shells
1/4 cup Mexican cream or sour cream

Put sweet potatoes in a large skillet using enough water to cover, season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender – 20 – 25 minutes. Drain, return to skillet and set aside.
Meanwhile, mix the cabbage, 1 Tbsp lime juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Pineapple Salsa: Toss 1 cup pineapple with the cilantro and 1 Tbsp lime juice in a small bowl and set aside.
Pineapple Sauce: Puree the remaining cup of pineapple with 1 Tbsp lime juice, the garlic, chipotle and adobo sauce, cumin and water in a a blender until smooth. Stir this pineapple sauce into the sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until warmed through – 3 – 4 minutes.
Put the black beans into a small sauce pan, add 3 Tbsp water and warm over medium high heat.
Spread black beans on tostadas; top with sweet potatoes, pineapple salsa and cabbage. Drizzle with the crema.

NOTE: These tostadas boast wonderful flavors and textures, but are very rich. Spread the beans and sweet potato mix thinly. If you spread the sweet potato mix to thick, it can be a bit much! The photo includes a few slices of prickly pear fruit (tunas). Sometimes the fresh tunas from the grocery store are not glochid-free. Carefully check and removes the glochids from the “spots” on the tunas, or peel them. You might like to wear rubber gloves so you don’t get glochids in your fingers.

Mole Poblano Goes Vegan

Moles maybe be an acquired taste, but once it is acquired, it is something you’ll crave. I’m enjoying trying Mexican dishes made vegan by chef Jason Wyrick in his new cookbook Vegan Mexico. My own feeling is that vegan never will taste like foods that are not totally plant based.  They are good on their own and should be appreciated for that, not compared to non-vegan or non-vegetarian recipes with similar names.  Accept and enjoy the differences.  In this case, sweet potato and black beans will never taste like mole on chicken or pork enchiladas, but you’ll be surprised at how good they are together in many vegan dishes. I’ll be playing with more recipes from this cookbook and sharing recipes with my vegetarian- can’t give up her dairy and eggs for a vegan lifestyle- daughter and our v-word friends!

Vegan Mole Poblano and a couple of vegan tamales from the freezer section at the grocery. I love the mole; I like the tamales, and next time I’ll put more red sauce on the tamales!

After all the typing this post took, you owe it to me to give this mole a try, even if you use just the short cuts, as I do!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
From Vegan Mexico by Jason Wyrick
Jim’s notes are in italics.
1 medium white sweet potato (if white is not available, an orange sweet potato can be substituted)
¾ cup[ Oaxacan-style black beans (recipe and my simplified version follow)
1 cup mole poblano (homemade recipe follows, but you may substitute Doña Maria Concentrated Mole Poblano and follow the recipe on the jar. If you are cooking for one or two, look for the Doña Maria Mole ready to serve 9.5 oz box. It is a new discovery for me and will encourage me to make more mole at home.)
¾ cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Rich depth mole flavor and quick and easy ready-to serve for small batch cooling! Best discovery of my week!

12 6-inch corn tortillas
Corn oil for frying
3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
¼ cut chopped salted roasted peanuts
Preheat oven to 450°F. Wrap the sweet potato in foil and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool, remove foil, peel sweet potato and chop into 1-inch chunks. Toss sweet potato chunks with Oaxacan-style black beans and set aside. Or, wash and dry the sweet potato, pierce skin all over with a fork, place on a paper towel in your microwave and zap it for 12-15 minutes. Test with a fork. When tender and cool enough to handle, split potato in half. Score flesh vertically and horizontally at one-inch intervals , but don’t cut through the skin into the palm of your hand! Use a table spoon to scoop potato cubes out of skin. How easy, cooler in your kitchen and faster is that?
Combine mole poblano, water and salt in a medium skillet. Warm to medium heat.
Add ¼ inch of oil to a deep skillet and heat to just above medium. Fry tortillas in oil for about 3 seconds each, then dip on mole poblano sauce for bout 10 seconds.  Transfer each tortilla to a “work” plate and add about 2 Tbsp filling. Roll tortilla and transfer to a serving plate or platter. Repeat with all the tortillas and pour remaining sauce over them.
Drop the sage into the hot oil and fry for about 45 seconds, remove from oil and sprinkle the sage and on the enchiladas. I like to fry individual sage leaves as a garning for several different dishes. They are delicate to handle, but I find it more attractive and easier to managed that sprinkling fried sage bits.
I find Wyric’s Oaxacan-style black beans to be a fascinating recipe. Because I usually cook for one or two, I reduce recipes regularly so I don’t have too many leftovers stacking up in the fridge. I would like to make his recipe one day and compare it with my shortened version. Both are here for your reference.

Oaxacan-Style Black Beans
1 lb dried black beans, picked over, rinsed and drained
6 cups water
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
2 whole ancho, mulato or pasilla chiles
1 dried chipotle meco chile or 1 chipotle in adobo
1 Tbsp cumin seeds or 2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick or ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 avocado leaves or ¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt.
Preheat oven to 275°F. Combine beans, water, onion, chiles, cumin, pepper, cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon, avocado leaves or fennel seeds in a 10-X10-inch baking dish. Mix well, cover tightly with foil and bake for 8 – 10 hours until beans are tender.  Serve as is or mash the beans before serving.

Oaxacan-ish-style Black Beans
I guestimated that Wyrick’s recipe would yield about six cups of beans. I used one can of rinsed black beans, figuring that to be about 1/3 of the volume of the original recipe.
I tried to use 1/3 of the rest of the ingredients in the recipe. I substituted a heaping teaspoon of ancho powder and about 1/3 chile in adobo for the chiles. I approximated the measure of the other ingredients using a tsp as a tool for eyeballing the amounts.  I did use the whole 1/t tsp fennel seed because I love fennel. I crushed the seen in a mortar before adding them to the recipe.
I heated the bean mixture through while I did the rest of the prep then followed the enchilada cooking and assembly instructions. I was pleased with the flavor of the abbreviated Oaxacah-ish beans enough to think about making the scratch recipe someday.
I said I’d include the homemade Mole Poblano recipe. I think typing it is about as much work as making it from scratch!
Mole Poblano
2 tsp chile seeds (ancho, guajillo or mulato)
¼ tsp coriander seeds
4 cloves or 1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 black pepper corns or 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp anise seed or a pinch of ground anise
1 (½-inch) Mexican cinnamon stick or 1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
½ cup corn oil, divided
½ cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw pepitas
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 5-inch corn tortilla
2 (1/2) inch thick French baguette slices
1 small ripe plantain, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 ancho chiles, stemmed
4 pasilla or additional ancho chiles, stemmed
4 mulato chiles, stemmed
Boling water, as needed
2 Roma tomatoes, pan-roasted
3 cloves garlic, pan-roasted
1 (1-ounce) wedge Mexican chocolate
1 (1-ounce) piece piloncillo or 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar
Salt to taste
In an iron or other heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, toast the following individually, stirring slowly, then remove from the heat, grind into a powder and add to a blender:
the chili seed until blackened, about 2 minutes;
the coriander seeds for 1 minute;
the cloves for 1 minute;
the peppercorns for 30 seconds;
the anise seeds for 30 seconds;
the Mexican cinnamon stick for 1 minute’
the sesame seeds for 1 minute
Add ¼ cup of the corn oil to the skillet. Working one at a time, fry the following individually. Transfer each to the blender as it is finished.
the almonds until they are browned, about 2 minutes
the pepitas until they are browned, about 2-1/2 minutes
the raisins until they are plump, about 2 minutes
the tortilla until it is golden, about 1 minute
the French baguette slices until they are golden, about 2 minutes
the plantain until it is browned, about 3 minutes
and the onion until it is browned, about 5 minute
Add the remaining oil to the skillet and bring back to medium heat. Working in batches, fry the anchoes, pasillas or additional anchos and mulatos for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn them. Transfer the chiles to a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave the oil in the skillet, but turn the heat off.  Wait 20 – 30 minutes for the chile’s to rehydrate, then transfer the to the blender along with the tomatoes and garlic. Reserve the chile water.
Puree the spice mixture, slivered almond mixture and chile mixture adding enough of the reserved chile water as you blend to create a smooth sauce. Press through a fine-mesh strainer for the smoothest sauce. Bring the oil in the skillet to medium low heat. Add the sauce, Mexican chocolate, piloncillo or turbinado sugar and salt to the skillet.  Slowly simmer for at least 40 minutes until oil pools on top of the mole. As the mole thickens, add just enough water to keep it from sticking to the skillet.  If you have time, let the mole simmer for 1 to 2 hours. The longer the better.

According to Myrick, you can save time by using ground spices and not toasting them. You scan skip frying the almonds and pepitas by buying the pre-roasted and salted. You can add the chiles, onion, raisins and plantain to the blender without frying them, but the result won’t be as rich-tasting.
The greatest time saver is buying a jarred mole poblano sauce such as Doña Maria because it is vegan and commonly available in Mexica or larger supermarkets. Wyrick recommends adding ½ cup caramelized onion to the jarred sauce and puree it.