Monday, October 31, 2011

The Soup Project: Autumn Harvest Soup

I'd been thinking about an autumn harvest soup ever since the weather turned cold. This is the kind of soup Tom likes too--thick and chunky with lots of vegetables and just the right seasonings. It's also a good way to use up a pumpkin since many CSAs include them this time of year.

The market is shifting to a winter focus now. Not only are the vegetables changing, but farmers are leaving and new farm and food vendors have been arriving to fill their spaces. One of the farms leaving is Rent's Due Ranch where I got quite a bit of produce for this soup.

I'll miss the vibrant produce, JoanE's cheerful smile and her great produce displays. This week she had purple and golden cauliflower, as well as Romanesco and corn. Maybe it's the damp and rainy weather, but I chose golden cauliflower. Golden cauliflower is like a little piece of sun on a cloudy day.

I created Autumn Harvest Soup for my first book. In 2003, it was was before the U-District Market continued through the winter, and I had signed up for Willie Green's Winter CSA. We got our weekly vegetable boxes delivered in a church parking lot behind Dick's Drive In in Wallingford.

Michaele Blakeley of Growing Things had arranged this little market with the church pastor. Michaele sold eggs and at that time, it was really had to find local eggs. She also sold vegetables and soap. Donna, the mushroom lady sold mushrooms was also there and I think there was a baker, too. John Huschle of Nature's Last Stand delivered CSA boxes across the street.

Anyway, one week, I created this vegetable soup using a sugar pie pumpkin. We'd already eaten a boatload of pumpkin bread and I couldn't take one more bite. Neither one of us is a pumpkin pie fan and I had to think of some way to get Tom to eat the pumpkin. Sometimes you have to think up creative ways to get people to eat squash and pumpkin. I learned to be sneaky with vegetables from a CSA box. That's part of the fun and the challenge of a CSA. You can use a whole little pumpkin in this soup and your guests may never suspect it's there, because as the soup simmers, the pumpkin melts away into the background.

Buy or harvest a small sugar pie pumpkin for this and you'll end up with about 2 cups of cooked pumpkin. That's the perfect amount.

I'm a lazy cook and I like to take the easy route in recipes, so instead of sawing through a pumpkin or winter squash, I usually just poke holes in the skin and bake the pumpkin or squash whole. Just a medium temperature, the same as you'd bake cookies or potatoes. It takes about an hour. I take the seeds out when it's done.

My Cooking Assistant hasn't figured out how to get into the pumpkin. But give him a few minutes alone with it, and you'll be sorry you left, because he works quickly once he knows you've turned your back and forgotten about "his" interest. I bet a dog choking down the last bite of stolen food is how we got the saying "wolfed it down." Finn would rather choke it down than let you take it away.

He did give it a few licks, but I took the skin off and he'll get that with dinner tonight.

This "Autumn Harvest Soup" recipe is also in my second book The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

This is how the recipe looked in my first book. I like to use that book for cooking because the pages flop open perfectly. The printing is big enough so I don't need to use glasses.

Besides pumpkin, I used golden cauliflower, a few peppers from River Farm, and carrots from Rent's Due Ranch. I like the sweetness of white cauliflower the best, but golden and purple cauliflowers are fun to use in recipes where you want some vibrant colors. Look close and you'll see someone has his nose in the top picture, too.

I added more produce and I toasted fennel for this version, otherwise it's mostly the same. The toasted fennel has a more intense flavor than untoasted. Buy the seeds from a bulk bin. Then roast the seeds in a medium oven (350F.) for 5 to 7 minutes. Don't let the seeds burn. Crush them in a mortar with a pestle. Fennel pairs well with tomatoes.

Autumn Harvest Soup (Revisited)
(Serves 6-8)

1 small sugar pie pumpkin
2 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion (any size), peeled and diced
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 rutabaga or turnip, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons dry basil
1/2 cup French lentils, rinsed
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted whole or diced tomatoes
4 cups water
Corn scraped from 1 ear of corn, about 1 cup
About 1 cup coconut milk to thin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Poke holes in the pumpkin with a fork. Place it on a small baking sheet and bake at 350F. until tender, about 1 hour. The pumpkin should be very soft. Let cool before cutting it open and removing the seeds.

2. While the pumpkin bakes, heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and onion. Cover and sweat the onion until soft.

3. Add the peppers, fennel, celery, carrots and rutabaga. Stir and cook until the peppers are soft. Blend in the potatoes, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, basil, French lentils, tomatoes and water.
Add the pumpkin and mix into the soup. Cover and simmer for at least 1 hour or until vegetables are tender and lentils are soft. The pumpkin should be blended into the background, so you don't really see it in the soup.

4. Stir in the corn and add coconut milk to thin. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.

I found this goofy headband with blond hair extensions at the dollar store.

I think Finn likes his new look.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Soup Project: Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Red Currants

The road to soup is sometimes filled with detours

Last Friday evening I flipped through one of my favorite vegan cookbooks and became intrigued with the "Butternut Squash and Pear Soup" recipe. Ginger was the first ingredient and since this is the time of year for fresh ginger at the market, I bookmarked the page.

If you want fresh ginger at the market, this is the time to get it in the Northwest. It freezes well, so you could buy extra. That's what I do. I found these tips at Steamy Kitchen if you want to freeze ginger.

I jotted down a rough list and the next day at the market, I got ginger from Mair Farm-Taki, and I bought bosc pears and a bag of organic golden delicious apples from Cliffside Orchards. Farmers Jeanette and Jeff Herman come to the market later (September through November) than row crop farms, and Cliffside is the only farm I know that grows and sells perfect golden delicious apples--my favorite apples. I thought about adding one to the soup, but I added apples to last week's soup.

I love these goldens, and I've tasted goldens everywhere--at PCC Natural Market, Whole Paycheck and even Top Foods--but none have goldens that compares with the crisp delicate sweet-tart flavor from Cliffside Orchards. "The problem," says Jeff Herman, "is these apples aren't keepers." The skin bruises easily, and the apple doesn't ship well. Picked green, they never get sweet and flavorful.

My friend Bill rolls his eyes when I mention golden delicious apples. He grows apples, works for WSU extension and he prefers Rubinettes. But look into the family of Rubinettes and you'll find golden delicious and cox orange pippin as apple parents. Golden delicious is one of the founding varieties of many of our favorite apples today. Try Jonagold, a direct descendant or Honeycrisp which came from a cross between Honeygold (a golden cross) and Macoun. With so many apple contenders in home gardens these days, it's easy to fall in love with an apple no one else has ever heard of.

Seattle Tree Fruit Show

I came home with soup ingredients plus a big bag of goldens, O'Henry peaches, elephant heart plums and bosc pears. Then on Sunday I went to the Seattle Tree Fruit Show where I'd vowed not to bring home apples but of course I came home with 5 pounds of Rubinettes. The price was right and they were good with a complex sweet-tart flavor and just a hint of golden flavor. Try them side by side and you'll see.

The Seattle Tree Fruit Society show was in my own neighborhood at the Lynnwood Grange. Next year, it will be held at Sky Nursery. Look for it around the same time next year.

There were lots of apples to sample and it was amazing how different they all tasted. Some had hints of spices, the tart varieties seemed more complex and even the sweet tones varied.

I spent a long time looking at the new blueberry threat--the spotted wing drosophila--under a microscope. Magnified, the big red eyes looked frightening. Home gardeners hang homemade traps for it--water bottles with apple cider vinegar on fruit trees where the flies will enter but drown in the vinegar. All soft fruit is at risk now in the state; fruit experts at the show said they start hanging the bottles in February since the fly attacks green fruit.


I also lingered over the table with all the apple and pear diseases. One often hears about coddling moth, apple maggot disease or scab but when you actually see it on the apples and pears you realize growing fruit isn't easy. And apples stay on the tree longer than any fruit, so plenty of things can go wrong.

When I arrived home from the Sunday event, Finn was intrigued by the tiny Rubinettes with stems. These apples are keepers and if you keep them cool (store them outside in the garage) they will keep until January. Tasted together, I think the Rubinette slightly edged out the golden in flavor but the skin of the Rubinette is tougher. Five pounds won't last long at our house.


Golden delicious

The Soup

You could probably substitute apples in this soup, but my idea was to follow a recipe from a book. At first glance I thought the recipe listed cooked squash, so the minute I popped the squash into the oven to bake, the written recipe was altered in a major way. Also since it never specified what type of pear to use, I selected Bosc because it's my favorite. So use the any kind of pear you prefer.

I got Refresh by Ruth Tal last year when I went to Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver, BC. The book contains contemporary vegan recipes from a famous vegetarian restaurant in Toronto and not only are the recipes healthy with whole grain flour and fresh fruits and vegetables, they're all really good.

So for all those people out there who think vegetarians are bad cooks and serve up bland vegetables, they need to read this book. Flavorful, fresh and vegan--I'm tired of people like Anthony Bourdain who continually dismiss vegetarian cooks as people who don't know how to cook vegetables. Really? Is he serious or just drumming up more support for the meat camp?

Enough whining--my Cooking Assistant is tired of the costumes. One last Halloween outfit, I'd said. But from the stink eye he gave me, you'd think I'd asked him to fetch a stick.

It turns out, I changed this recipe more than I'd anticipated.

I had red currants in my freezer and decided to use them to tweak the flavor, much the same way fresh lemon juice does. I freeze the currants, stems and all. They're easier to remove when frozen but still take a bit of time.

If you don't have red currants in your freezer, no worries, add fresh lemon juice to kick up the flavors. Just make sure it's fresh lemon.

I used Rockridge Orchards Skipping Stone hard apple cider, but the original recipe listed white wine.

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Red Currants
(Serves 4)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced shallots
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 pear, core removed, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup hard cider or white wine
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (or cooked pureed celery root)
2 cups cooked butternut squash
2 roasted red peppers, seeded and stem removed
3 cups water or stock
1 to 2 cups coconut milk
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Red or orange currants or fresh lemon juice to taste

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add oil and shallots. Cook until shallots turn translucent. Add garlic and carrots. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Try not to let the garlic or shallots brown because the soup will turn a darker color.

2. Add ginger, pear, cinnamon stick and wine. Simmer over medium low until carrots are soft.

3. Remove cinnamon stick and puree shallots and wine with potatoes, squash, roasted peppers, water and 1/4 cup currants. Return to soup pot, heat and gradually add coconut milk until you have the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with red currants.

Someone doesn't mind clean up duties at our house.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Post from the Dog Picker

I recently received an email asking if I wanted a guest post. The content and focus weren't quite right, but it got me thinking, if I wanted a guest post who would I get? Guess what my answer was? And now a word from my Cooking Assistant.

Guest post by the Dog Picker

This is my first guest post and I must say "it's about time!"

If you want to know the truth, my sister came to live with my family a few years ago. She's more comfortable behind the scenes, but as for the rest of the original brood, I'm not sure any of them left the nest, so to speak.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I get to do what I love because I don't mind playing second fiddle to an apple, as long as I get a bite or two. Waiting can be a challenge when you've got a novice photographer. My motto is be patient and you'll be rewarded.

The beginning of my new found calling was the summer of 2009. A CSA comes to mind.

There I was just sitting there, taking it in, and now I've been posing for so long, it's what I do. I see a camera and I'm ready to strike a pose for a biscuit. I put my nose next to the food and look intently. It can be challenging with baked foods, but the only command I learned in dog school was "Wait," otherwise I'd have been drummed out that first day. Sit, stay, come--who are they kidding?

I've got a dream job now, and I'm not giving it up. Who would? A soft bed, a yard and people who believe in premium dog food and rarely go on vacation.

The job? Seriously it's a piece of cake. And get this: they pay me. Oh it's not much, a crumb here and there, but what joy to be appreciated for your true talents.

I'm good too, I could do this job anywhere. Well, the beach--you know, that's really asking a bit too much. I see another dog.

This my apple portfolio.

I can't complain about this job much, but occasionally, the photographer messes up. My contract clearly states, food photos. And I ask you, is apple cider food? Come on, can you smell it without taking off the cap? I can't even bring myself to pretend to look. Give me a raise.

Then there's Halloween. Devil horns--I'm sick of it. Every year. I think the last 5 dogs that lived here wore them. Who are they kidding? Can't they think of anything new?

This is one from last year. Same horns.

And the witches hat. First of all, let me say I am not a witch. Wasn't there a politician who said that?

And the pimp hat. Really! I was told it was once a cowboy hat. I wonder do other models complain about their lame outfits?

The whole fresh apples usually aren't mine to keep, but I once found an apple, discarded in the bushes. It was big and juicy. Hard to believe what people throw away. I got to eat the entire apple.

Another time a box arrived with apples. I didn't to eat the entire apple, but the core was pretty amazing. I know a few other dogs that appreciate a good apple core.

Most of the apples at home come from the farmers' market. I once went to the Ballard Market. and could barely control myself it was so exciting--all the food scents, people and dogs. I pulled this way and that. I heard a lot of "Nos," but what a great time. I don't know why I never got to return.

Now I stay home with sister Chloe on market days. I know exactly what day it is and when the photographer returns, we sniff the bags. I the first one to smell the carrots. But lately the scent of apples fills the bags.

Last week I helped myself. I mean what did she expect, a bag on the floor is an invite. The photographer calls is "stealing," said as if I should feel remorseful. I shrug it off. What's her problem? I say, when the opportunity arises, go for it. As for the whining afterwards, you've got to have a thick skin for the naysayers in life.

I'm crazy for apples anytime. If I'm lucky, I get a bit of Massa Organics almond butter left on the plate in the morning.

And if I can lick the crumbs of Margie's Raw Apple Cake in the evening, I'm in heaven. Seriously try this cake.

I love my job!


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Soup Project: Curried Pumpkin Soup

I can't believe I live in a house where no one but me and my long-eared kitchen assistants like cooked winter squash and pumpkins. Okay, you bond over food, get married for better or worse but there are bound to be a few food adjustments in every household. The line appears to be drawn over winter squash at our house. Okay, Tom eats meat alone, I eat squash alone.

Well, not exactly alone when two hungry basset hounds are eyeing every bite. Anyway, I wanted pumpkin soup.

I planned on making enough soup for a few days, then I'll freeze the rest for lunches. It's a no-brainer easy lunch. One of my friends always makes extra soup and freezes some for those times when you just don't want to cook.

I'd been thinking about ginger ever since I saw some at a Boston farmers' market. I kept imagining it with pumpkin and pears and maybe a few mint sprigs as a garnish. Ginger is something you have to look for at markets. I don't think very many farmers have tried growing it for market yet.

But look how pretty it is. How can you resist it? Only one farmer that I know of grows it around here. Mair Farm-Taki brings fresh over the mountains to the Saturday market in the fall.

That's where I planned on getting it, but I was shocked when I farmer Katsumi Taki behind the River Farm booth and he said his truck had broken down at the top of the pass. He couldn't get this produce to market this past Saturday.

I was sad also because he also missed a week of income at a crucial time. The season is nearing the end and it's usually a big push to sell squash and pumpkins in these last weeks and that's exactly what I wanted.

A pumpkin is really just another winter squash, but I was still focused on pumpkin and wondered what I'd do with it without the fresh ginger. I'm not really into going to a store for ingredients, so I was mentally checking off the options.

Sugar pie pumpkins and Jack o'lantern pumpkins are everywhere now. It's a big mistake to confuse the two. Sure you can also cook with the Jack 0'lantern varieties but they don't have much flavor and the bigger they are, the more likely they'll be stringy and tough. The first pumpkin pie I made was with a Jack o'lantern pumpkin. Oh, it was bad, nothing you'd want to serve to company. It was one of the big landmark mistakes in my cooking career, and I didn't have a Cooking Assistant willing to eat my mistakes then.

Use sugar pie pumpkins for cooking and baking.

This Anne Schwartz of Blue Heron Farm was harvesting sugar pie pumpkins three week ago. I love this picture. These sweet treats traveled to the produce department at Skagit Valley Co-op. Lately, I've been seeing pumpkins so many places that they were on my mind long before I got to the market.

Seriously, they're so beautiful, how can you resist them?

These sugar pie pumpkins are from Nature's Last Stand in Carnation.

I knew the soup had to have garlic after all it's also garlic season. I have 3 garlic braids from Rent's Due Ranch. Garlic is harvested and hung up to dry.

This is garlic dring at Blue Heron Farm. This garlic also went to Skagit Valley Co-op.

Buy garlic for winter now. Keep it in a cool dry place and it keeps till spring. While you're at it, plant a few garlic cloves in the garden, so you'll have your own garlic bulbs next summer. You can get special garlic to plant from a nursery or you can plant cloves from a head you buy from a farmer.

Here's another ubiquitous fall ingredient I wanted to use for this soup--apples. There was an apple tasting event at the market last week. The apple flavors I wanted for the soup are tart-sweet with emphasis on the tart because squash is sweet and helps balance the flavor.

I didn't really have any soup ideas beyond the pumpkin, garlic and apples, but after the market Ed, Patty and I went to this restaurant to celebrate Patty's birthday, and guess what was on the menu? Pumpkin soup, of course it's that time of year. (Sometimes I wonder--does anyone have an original thought at all? Seriously.) Anyway, the soup on the menu was also dairy-free, so we all ordered bowls of the steaming soup. The flavor was was light, yet creamy tasting with a mild curried flavor and just the right amount of heat. At last I'd found a place that serves not only decent, but delicious soup.

It was so simple and creamy. I was sure I could recreate it without even asking for the recipe.

The hard part about this soup might be picking the right bowl to eat it in.

Did I mention I'm a sucker for thrift shop/garage sale soup bowls? For me, it's part of the soup experience--eating out of the perfect soup container. Someday I'd love to host a soup bowl exchange, where you sample soups and bring extra bowls to exchange.

Which bowl would I take?

I wanted the soup to be simple--just a pureed soup, but I couldn't resist also adding roasted peppers as a garnish. I probably mentioned this before, but be sure to use only fresh lemon to tweak final flavors. I'm not sure about those plastic squeeze lemon concentrate containers. It just doesen't seem like the same thing and flavor is everything with soup. Lemon wedges on the side would do the trick.

Here's the recipe:

Curried Pumpkin Soup
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup cashews
1 cup apple cider
1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 4 cups cooked pumpkin)
1 Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet tart apple, cored and diced
2 teaspoons curry
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
3 to 4 cups water
Sea salt
1 or 2 roasted red peppers, cut into strips

1. Soak the cashews in apple cider. With a fork, poke holes in the pumpkin and bake it in a moderate oven (350F.) for about an hour or until pumpkin is tender. Remove the pumpkin, let it cool. Then skin; scoop out the seeds and set it aside while you cook the onions.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir and cook until onions soften. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Reduce heat, add apple, curry, tumeric and hot pepper flakes. Stir and cook until apples become soft.

3. Puree the cashews and apple juice until smooth and creamy. Reserve.

4. Puree the onion mixture with pumpkin and water, adding them alternately. Add the cashew cream and enough water for the soup consistency you want. Add sea salt and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with strips of roasted red peppers.

Nothing says fall better than a simple "creamy" pumpkin soup. Who knows, maybe next time I'll actually get Mair Farm's ginger and try out Pumpkin Soup number 2.

The swirls of color are the cashew cream and soup. I like it better than one even color, but make it your way, and have fun with it.

It was so good, I ate some for breakfast this morning. My Cooking Assistant Finn didn't mind a bit. Clean up is his specialty.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Soup Project: Dairy-Free Fresh Tomato Bisque

You could probably tell from my last post I never get tired of soup. I often order soup in restaurants and one thing I've discovered is there are way too many boring soups out there. While imagination plays a big role in soup flavors, in my opinion using poor quality soup stock is a huge problem.

Here's my take on stock: make your own stock or use water, but stay away from the packaged stuff, no matter what brand it is. Aside from paying too much money for mostly water, when you use packaged stock for every soup, all your soups will taste the same. And sooner or later that packaged flavor starts eating away at you. It jumps out with every bite, and you recognize it any time someone else uses it. It's a soup turn-off, and if any food on the grocery store shelf can be considered a RIP OFF it's packaged soup stock.

If everyone refused to buy the stupid one size- fits-all soup stocks, and stores removed it from the shelves, the world might just be a much tastier place.

And while I'm at it, people should ask for their money back when they get a boring soup.

Waiter: "How's your soup?"

You: "Pretty boring. I'm not paying for boring today."

I digress. Back to my trip to Portland and the soup of the week.

I went to Portland after my publishers (Timber Press) invited me to WordStock, to sign copies of my book. And by the way, it's such a cool annual event for writers and book lovers.

I picked a time a few hours after the farmers' market opened; I figured I'd get up early (5am on Saturday), visit the market, load up on some good fall buys, enjoy a vegetarian tamale. Then I'd head over and spend the afternoon at WordStock. So, that's what I did.

The market had plenty of season's end offerings--peppers, eggplant, melons and tomatoes. I was in heaven and could have easily stayed another hour.

WordStock featured well-known authors and had tables for self-published and wannabe authors--all things connected to words and writing.

I served up biscotti from a recipe in my book. A few people noticed the nutty flavor of Nash's whole wheat pastry flour. I checked out all the tables, listened to an interview with Jennifer Egan, and met Cole Danehower, editor in chief of Northwest Palate (food, drink and travel in the Northwest) and author of Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest (2011, Timber Press). His book is on my wish list now.

When I got home, I spread out my Oregon treasures and realized, I had work to do if I wanted to preserve the tomatoes and peppers for winter meals.

My Cooking Assistant was eager to help. Pick up a camera and he's already waiting to inspect the peppers and sweet potatoes. I often wonder what it would be like to smell everything like a basset hound.

I'd gotten a box of Roma tomatoes for $25 at Deep Roots Farm. (Good thing I'd taken my market wagon to put the box in.) I'm not sure how much the box weighed, but it felt like at least 20 pounds.

Not many dogs like tomatoes, but if it's edible, Finn is willing to try it.

First, I sliced tomatoes and filled my dehydrator. The cost of a small jar of organic sundried tomatoes is up to around $9 at PCC Natural Markets and possibly more at Whole Paycheck.

I sliced more and drizzled them with olive oil. I popped them in the oven on the lowest setting. I did this last year with tomatoes I'd brought home from Ayers Creek Farm and I remembered the flavor of those amazing tomatoes in soups and sauces all winter.

After inspecting all the tomatoes, Finn seemed like he really wanted to try one. I had many tomatoes left so I handed him one. He bit it once, spit it out and then did it again. He wasn't sure he wanted to continue, until I asked him to hand it over.

He didn't want to give it back and finally ate it.

I decided to look for a recipe to showcase tomatoes and surprisingly I didn't have to look far.

I opened this calendar of recipes that I'd purchased from Whatcom Locavore Nancy Ging. I flipped through the 12 months of recipes not really expecting to find a tomato soup, but when I got to September, there it was--Fresh Tomato Bisque. I stared at the picture before flipping it over to read the recipe. It listed cream but then that's not unusual.

Ask for a bisque in a restaurant and you get a boatload of cream, so I thought cream was a requirement of bisque until I looked it up. Epicurious give this definition of pureed seafood. I thought that was a mistake but Culinary Arts supported that definition and also said thick vegetable soups are also sometimes referred to as bisques. I found a few vegetarian tomato soups but most were uninspiring and not worth repeating.

Nancy's recipe does list cream (after all it's a local product) but it's easy enough to replace--cashew cream, silken tofu, coconut milk or for the locavore, potatoes. Her ingredients also listed 3 pounds of potatoes. I wasn't sure how much that was so I weighed the tomatoes. That's about 14 medium Roma tomatoes or about 6 cups of chopped tomatoes.

I also changed the seasonings and used oil instead of butter, but that's the joy of soup. The vanilla bean was a bit of a risk, but I have to say this soup was astonishingly good because of it. It blended well with the other flavors and Tom had no idea vanilla was even remotely involved with this soup. Also this soup was so good before I added the coconut milk that you could leave it out and add more water.

For me, the soup was even better with a wood fired bagel from the Portland farmers' market.

Here's the recipe:

Dairy-Free Fresh Tomato Bisque
(Serves 4 to 6)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup diced red pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 vanilla bean, slit down the middle (lengthwise)
3 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's peppers or 2 jalapenos, minced
5 small red potatoes, chopped
1 small to medium sweet potato, chopped
1 cup water
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (approximate measure)
Sea salt to taste

1. Saute shallots in canola oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Stir and cook until soft. Add garlic and continue to stir for a few minutes.

2. Add vanilla bean, tomatoes, Mama Lil's Peppers, half the potatoes and sweet potatoes, and water. Cook over medium heat until tomatoes and potatoes are soft. Remove vanilla bean and puree, a cup at a time until smooth can creamy.

3. Return to heat. Add remaining potatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut milk and honey or sugar. Cook on low until potatoes are done. Add lemon and salt to taste.