dipping into soup

There is something so very gratifying about making soup again —  despite the sweltering August heat. The kitchen garden is busting with basil, tomatoes and zucchini. Meanwhile, the fridge is crowded with leftover this and that, daily harvests tucked into bags and fresh produce splurges found on sale.  

I open the crisper and am determined to find a destination for a clutch of golden beet greens that are still fresh and vibrant a whole week after their yellow orbs were removed. Wouldn’t these greens taste fine in a vegan bean soup? I pounce on two cups of leftover bean dip:  the genesis.  Laced with lemon, rosemary and smoked paprika, this luscious dip on the blog last week will be this week’s soup base.  

I yank out a medium pot, heat it on medium-high, waiting a minute or two before drizzling the base with two tablespoons of olive oil. Next up, a chopped yellow onion and two stalks of celery sprinkled over by a confetti of golden beet leaf stalks. 

Down in our basement, where the rat once lived, I survey the contents of my standup freezer door where each of the four shelves is lined with green-lidded yogurt containers.  Most are full of chicken or bean stock.  Others contain soup. Some are pasta sauces. All are meticulously labelled. I grab two white bean stock containers and climb up the rickety wood stairs.

In a flash, a soup base is born. It’s strange to spoon my cold bean dip into the caramelized onions, celery and beet stalks but magic happens when I pour in the broth and a cloudy, creamy liquid swirls beneath.

More veg! I cut a yellow bell pepper into mouthfuls and a dozen grape tomatoes into quarters. A cob of corn is sliced into a pile of niblets that are shoved with my chef’s knife into the mix. I find a small patty pan squash and a zebra-striped zucchini from today’s harvest and chop them up. 

I fiddle with seasoning, starting small with salt — just a  teaspoon — then lashings of ground black pepper, a big pinch of chilli flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika.  On with the cover and a low simmer for 10 minutes or so. 

Another taste of this soup-in-the-making tells me lemon from the dip is too loud.  I blunt it with tomato paste.  I don’t open a can, I find a flattened sheet of tomato paste frozen into a thin, easy-to-break sheet from the flavour drawer in my kitchen freezer. Baggies full of frozen bay laurel and kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chopped herbs, galangal, whole Thai red chili peppers and lime juice cubes are just a reach away from stovetop soups, curries and sauces.

I toss in a square inch of paste along with another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a sprig of basil, pinched from the garden just moments ago,

Another taste. This soup is still asking for more…

I give it a wallop, smashing two cloves of hard-neck garlic just harvested by a Cowichan Valley young farmers’ collective. The smash is so sticky, papery thin garlic skins become glued to my fingers. Sticky garlic can only mean one thing: Rich, garlicky bite. I sprinkle the sticky crumble over the bubbling soup’s surface and chuckle and natter on to myself, laughing like a witch.

Last step and we find ourselves at the beginning again. Those beet greens. I slice then slide them off my cutting board, the green mound melting instantly into a sea of beans. I turn off the heat.  It’s done. Soup again. 

Garden Vegetable Bean Dip Soup

Totally unorthodox, this soup’s success rests on humus or bean dip. Clean out the contents of your fridge with this nutritious brew, substituting any of my additions with your own fridge or garden finds. 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cooking onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 bunch golden beet stalks, minced 

2 cups bean dip

6 cups white bean vegetable stock

1 yellow bell pepper, cubed

1 small zucchini, 1/2-inch dice

1 patty pan squash, sliced

4 small boiled potatoes, cubed

6 grape tomatoes, quartered

Niblets from one cob of corn

1-2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Big pinch chili flakes 

2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

Beet greens, sliced 

Heat a medium pot on medium-high. Add oil, onion, celery and beet stalks and saute until tender. Add bean dip and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add bell pepper, zucchini, patty pan squash, potatoes, tomatoes and corn. Season with salt, black pepper, tomato paste, paprika, chilli flakes and simmer, covered for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and beet greens and cook a final minute or two.

White Bean & Rosemary Dip

Let’s take the pulse on pulses. I’m talking dried legumes that grow inside pods, be it beans, peas or lentils. 

So much value in every bite.  Full of protein. Packed with fibre. What kitchen can survive without these yummy little packages?

Open my pantry and you’ll find shelf upon shelf of peas – like chickpeas, green peas and black-eyed peas. 

Then there are beans. Kidney-shaped in black, red and white. Black ones, often called turtle and fermented into a salty Chinese condiment. Italian variations like cannellini (white kidney) beans or ceci (chickpeas) beans, borlotti, butterbeans, lupini beans and fava. 

We haven’t even mentioned lentils! Small red ones (also called Egyptian) are one of the quickest you can cook, while green and brown lentils take a few more minutes. But those French babies dubbed Le Puy are my favourite. 

Indian cuisine revels in pulses and you’ll find the largest selection with the most confusing appellations in ethnic food aisles and Indian grocery stores.

Many turn to canned beans instead of dried, for convenience sake. I like to soak and cook pulses in bulk. Once they’re tender, drained and cooled, I freeze and label in two cup containers.  

No matter which pulse moves you the most, your health (and the earth) will thank you if you eat them regularly. 

White Bean and Rosemary Dip

This easy dip needs a food processor to become sublime.  Yes, you can hand-mash canned beans into a delicious affair but I like to use cooked dried beans, which provide more flavour and texture but call out for strong maceration. Do NOT use a blender. Dried beans you hydrate and cook yourself are not only cheaper than canned, but contain zero sodium compared to the oodles found in canned.

1 garlic clove

2 cups cooked white beans such as kidney, navy or cannelinni

Juice of one lemon

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (aprox 5-inch sprig)

1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2-1 tsp kosher salt

1-2 tbsp water * optional

Freshly ground black pepper

With the food processor blade running, drop garlic clove down the tube to mince. Add beans, lemon juice, rosemary and paprika and mix until well combined.  Pour oil through feeding tube while the blade is running.  Add water, if needed, to make the puree the right consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper. Serve in a bowl, garnished with a whole sprig of rosemary, a light drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of Vancouver Island flaky salt.

Corn Salsa Salad

Corn Salsa Salad

This colourful summer salad is full of spunk thanks to key salsa notes: lime juice, garlic, chilli flakes and a big handful of cilantro. For the best optics, chop all your veggies the same size. This salsa/salad holds well in the fridge for 2-3 days if you have any leftovers.

2 cobs fresh corn

1/2 large red onion, chopped

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

10 grape tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup chopped honeydew or cantaloupe

1 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of one lime

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2-1 tsp chili flakes 

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Bring a medium pot of unsalted water to boil and cook corn 8 minutes. (Salt toughens the kernels). Remove corn and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the kernels and place in a large bowl, mixing with cucumbers, red bell pepper, tomatoes and melon. Toss with oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, chilli flakes and cilantro.

Shanghai Bok Choy

Whether it is green stemmed Shanghai bok choy or “regular” white-stemmed bok choy this vegetable is meant for the wok. Baby or full size, bok choy stir-fries beautifully when it is washed and chopped in similar sized pieces. Stir-fry the thicker stem portions first and toss in the chopped green leaves afterwards. Because greens release a lot of water while cooking, no extra water or stock is needed, but you will need a cover to steam until just done. 

2 tbsp oil  

1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 lb/400g bok choy

1/2 tsp sea salt

Wash and prep the bok choy and ginger, arranging in bowls or plates beside the stove-top. Heat the wok on high.  Add oil, swirl to cover the sides of the wok and toss in ginger. Using a large Chinese spatula, stir for 10 seconds then add the chopped bok choy stems and sprinkle with salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes or until slightly tender. Add all the chopped leafy ends, mix and cover. Leave to steam 1 or 2 minutes or until leaves are wilted and stems still firm but deliciously tender.

Smeared Cauliflower

Ginger Turmeric Smeared Cauliflower

Make this a vegan one-pan meal with the addition of chickpeas.  Serve with hunks of whole grain bread and a leafy green salad. 

Paste: 

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp water

1 cooking onion, small, peeled and quartered

1 inch ginger, coarsely chopped

I inch turmeric, coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic

1 tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp hot chili flakes

1 tsp cumin seeds

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 head cauliflower, rinsed whole, cut into steaks, loose greens

6-8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup chickpeas * optional

Preheat oven to 400 F

Whirl oil, water, onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, coriander powder, hot chilli flakes, cumin seeds, salt and pepper in a small food processor.  

Brush oil evenly over the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter cauliflower steaks and pieces and smear on paste with a spoon or basting brush. 

Bake 40 min. flipping halfway through.

Kale Winter salad

Kale winter salad


Whenever I find leftover cooked vegetables in my fridge, I like to incorporate them into a salad. Squash pairs beautifully with baby kale and apple gives this crunch. Toasting the pecans and seeds makes it even better!

6 cups baby kale
1 cup chopped apple
1 cup roast squash (acorn, butternut or kabocha), broken into bite-size pieces
¼ cup dried cranberries

Dressing
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp pecans
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

In a large salad bowl, toss kale, apple, squash and dried cranberries.

In a small jar, combine dressing ingredients, close with lid, shake to emulsify and taste for seasoning.

Pour over kale and sprinkle over with pecans and seeds.