I learned a valuable lesson this week, two of them actually:
- Always have homemade soup in the freezer; and,
- When you can’t quite see straight, check twice.
I thought I was going to make it through this season of illness unscathed, protected by my special cloak of invincibility, but alas I fell victim to a nasty bug last week. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the details, not only because I like you but also because I’d like to forget them myself. After a couple of days of lying on the couch hugging a hot water bottle and not eating I began to rally and developed the faintest hint of an appetite. Making anything myself was out of the question in my feeble state. All I really wanted was soup. Nothing from a can, nothing from a local take-out place; just good, soothing homemade soup. So, clutching the bannister I teetered down to the basement freezer where I found tomatoes, chickpeas, peppers, legume stock … all makings of soup, but not soup itself. I was so disappointed (not to mention exhausted from the exertion). We resorted to lacklustre takeout something-or-other that I picked at and then abandoned.
A couple of days later, feeling stronger, I decided it was time to make a big batch of soup, both to enjoy now and to freeze for later. When I went downstairs to get the ingredients, what did I find in the freezer but two containers of my Neighbour’s Vacation Soup! Right there, on the top shelf, partially obscured by something but in plain enough sight. I sure wish I’d seen those when I had that first craving for soup. Oh well, moving on …
The soup I ended up making is a riff on the Summer Soup with Cauliflower, Split Peas and Corn that I developed last summer. I’ve made that recipe two or three times, but this time wanted the same starring duo of vegetables (I love, love, love the combination of cauliflower and corn), with more spicy heat and other healthful ingredients. I used a generous amount of chili powder as the main seasoning, and to brighten the flavours finished the soup with freshly chopped herbs along with lemon and lime juice. For a good health boost, I fortified it with chickpea stock and added fresh baby spinach. I feel stronger just writing about it!
Normally I prefer to work with fresh vegetables, but the sad, wilted excuse for cauliflowers at the grocery store (and for top dollar, to add insult to injury) sent me to the freezer aisle instead. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and processed at the peak of their freshness, and are an excellent alternative when ‘fresh’ produce isn’t.
The Culinary Enthusiast and I loved this hearty, zesty, warming soup and ate a ridiculous amount of it the first night. I managed to smuggle a couple of containers of it into the freezer before it was all gone. Hopefully we’ll be enjoying it in good health, but if we heat it up when we’re under the weather no doubt it will have us up and about in no time!
Chili-Seasoned Corn and Cauliflower Soup With Chickpeas and Spinach
As with most recipes where you’re working with fresh vegetables, measurements are somewhat of an approximation. After all, no two onions are the same size, and I’m not about to weigh them out. (I’m going for art here, not science!) When you’re making this, after all, you’ll be adding a little more of this, a little less of that and maybe making substitutions or additions to suit your taste and what you have on hand. So, here is my recipe as a guideline. Enjoy!
- 2 medium onions, quartered and sliced thinly
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 4 small to medium sized carrots, finely chopped
- 1 500 gram ( just over 1 lb) package frozen cauliflower, roughly chopped
- about 2 to 3 beefsteak tomatoes, skins on, chopped (I freeze my own)
- 3 cups organic low-sodium vegetable stock
- 1-3/4 cup chickpea stock
- 1-1/2 cups chickpeas (also from my freezer)
- 2-1/2 cups frozen corn
- 1-1/2 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- large handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- juice of 1/2 lime
- juice of 1/2 small lemon
- 1/2 package fresh baby spinach (about 2-1/2 oz or 70 gr)
- small handful cilantro, chopped for garnish
Heat the oil over low heat in a Dutch oven or large soup pot, then add onions and gently heat them, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, add the garlic and carrots. Stir in ground pepper and a bit of salt, as well as the chili powder and cumin. Heat a few more minutes, stirring from time to time.
Add the cauliflower, tomatoes and the vegetable stock and stir well. Add the chickpea stock (I add mine as a frozen block, which is why I it’s a separate step). Then add the chickpeas, corn, dried oregano and parsley. Give it all a stir, cover and turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to a simmer.
After about 20 minutes, test for seasoning and add more chili powder, salt and pepper if desired and simmer for about 15 – 20 more minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Add the lime juice, and then the lemon juice in increments until there’s enough to brighten and lift the flavour of the soup, but not to have citrus as a top note. Add the spinach and cilantro and continue cooking for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted.
Like many soups and stews, the flavour of this soup intensifies with storage. We enjoyed it for dinner, and then a few hours later as a nighttime snack and noticed the spiciness was already more pronounced. I had some more two days later and would judge it was at the same level then.
To your good health! What foods do you turn to when you’re feeling under the weather?