Category Archives: Cruciferous Vegetable

Creamy Broccoli Soup

creamy vegan broccoli soup

The phrase “comfort food” conjures up images in my mind of Italian grandmothers slaving over hot stoves all day, of Southern dishes laden with butter and bacon, and of slow-simmered Indian dishes served with more rice than should fit in a human stomach.  But for me–and for many people who grew up in my generation–our real comfort foods are often the packaged, industrial kinds that frequently nourished us at dinnertime and whose cartoon mascots coached us after-school on TV.  Foods like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Trix Yogurt are often what pop up when millennials think of our first food memories.  I mean, I’ve already shared how Nutella was basically a third parent to me.

But one of the weird packaged foods like I absolutely loved as a kid was Lipton Cup-a-Soup in the Broccoli Cheddar flavor.  Basically it’s a “food” powder that you rehydrate in hot water and that should only be served to monkeys in space.  Somehow we thought that feeding this to a sick person would make them healthy again.  But admittedly, a lot of things that happened in the late 80s/early 90s don’t make that much sense to me: (See: shoulder pads, mall bangs, crack cocaine, WHY WINNIE AND KEVIN DON’T END UP TOGETHER etc. etc.)

But what does make sense to me is creating a healthy, vegan version of broccoli cheddar soup with–gasp!–real food.  Onions and garlic give a solid flavor base, and cannellini beans create that creamy texture and pack the protein, while lightly cooked broccoli adds vitamins C, K, and A, folate, and a brilliant green color.  Broccoli, like kale, bok choy, collards and other members of the cruciferous family, is thought to help prevent cancer because of its anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant concentration.

If you are hungering for that old-school broccoli cheddar flavor, you could even add a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast flakes to give it a cheesy flavor and add B vitamins.  Like most blended soups, this freezes beautifully and is great to have on hand for days you aren’t feeling great or just don’t feel like cooking.  No food powder required.

Creamy Broccoli Soup
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups of water
2 heads of broccoli, broken into small florets (about 1 lb)
juice of half lemon
salt, pepper, and chili flake to taste

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot and add onions.  Saute until they soften but don’t brown, about 5 – 7 minutes.

2. Add garlic and saute an additional 30 seconds.  Stir in the beans and add salt and water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Add broccoli florets and let sit until they turn bright green, about 30 – 60 seconds.  Remove a few florets and set aside for garnish.  Blend the soup in batches in a blender until very smooth, adding lemon juice, salt, pepper and chili flake to taste.

3. Serve immediately, garnished with broccoli florets and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Note: The lemon juice will turn the broccoli an olive green as it sits.  If you aren’t serving the soup until later, add the lemon juice and re-season right before serving if you want to keep it bright green.

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Wintry Butter Bean and Kale Saute

wintry butter bean and kale saute

Since the clock struck midnight on January 1st, it seems like every newsletter from the ever-proliferating world of daily deal websites has contacted me about my New Year’s resolution to sculpt my flabby arms, consume only liquids until the point of collapse, or finally lose that baby weight.  I was surprised because not only did I not make these resolutions in a public forum, I also did not make them at all (or even gain baby weight in the first place).

It’s not that I’m opposed to resolutions; in fact, the opposite is true: as a New Year’s baby I’m especially prone to thinking about January 1st as a time for change and renewal.  I even made a few resolutions of my own this year (ranging from being more giving to using a purse).  However, it’s disturbing to see this dietary yo-yo culture propagated by those who aim to profit off of it.  If Hallmark is believed by conspiracy theorists/bitter singles to have “invented” Valentine’s Day, then the American weight loss industry certainly concocted the concept of new and old years.

So this Wintry Butter Bean and Kale Sauté recipe isn’t because you made a resolution to eat healthier, cook more, eat vegetarian meals a couple days a week, or even–gasp!–lose weight, although it certainly fits the bill for those physical goals.  Instead, it’s a nutrient-packed, high-protein simple meal that will leave you energized to accomplish all your other goals and daily activities.  Like using a purse.

While many meat-eaters get too much protein in their daily diets, getting ample protein can still be an issue for some vegetarians and vegans if they don’t plan their meals well.  Personally in winter, I’m attracted to sweet complex carbohydrates like whole grains, squashes and fruit that leave me feeling sluggish if I don’t balance them out with proper proportions of beans, nuts, lentils, soy proteins or eggs and dairy.  This recipe is a balanced one-pot meal that has a hearty wintry feel, without relying too heavily on the classic starchy vegetables of the season.  Assembled just like a stir-fry, you can sub out beans, greens, and veggies based on what you have in your fridge.  If you do dairy, a tiny pat of butter and a sprinkle of Parmesan will make this divine.

This year, I’ve got a lot of exciting things planned for Urban Chickpea, including sharing recipes from my new supper club Seek and introducing a new series called Healthy Kitchen Essentials, which highlights key ingredients and tools to keep on hand to make healthy eating a snap.  Feel free to share with me anything else you’d like to see on the blog this year in the comments section.

Happy New Year!

wintry butter bean and kale saute 2

wintry butter bean and kale saute 3


Wintry Butter Bean and Kale Sauté

serves 2 as an entree

2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
1 teaspoon chili flakes, or to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (an 8-ounce package)
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into small (1/2-inch) florets
1 can of butter beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons of tamari (or other high quality soy sauce)
zest of one lemon
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
optional garnish: diced avocado/chopped nuts/ground flax seeds/shaved Parmesan

1. In a large skillet or pot, heat oil on medium until it shimmers and add chili flakes and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds. Add the shiitakes and a big pinch of salt and turn heat up to high. Saute until mushrooms have released their moisture and begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the cauliflower and another pinch of salt and saute until cauliflower is browned at edges, about 3 minutes. Remove cauliflower and shiitakes from skillet into a bowl and set aside.

3. Over medium heat, add a little more oil to the pan and add the butter beans and a pinch of salt, browning each side, about 2 minutes. Add the tamari and lemon zest and stir to combine. Then add the kale, stir and cover for 2 minutes until it wilts slightly. Stir the cauliflower and shiitakes back to the skillet and let remain on heat until everything is warmed through. Turn off heat and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish each portion with half an avocado, diced, or anything you’d like.

Seared Bok Choy and Rice Noodles in a Light Coconut Broth

seared bok choy and rice noodles in coconut broth

Ah, one-pot meals.  Few things are more satisfying to make or eat than a complete balanced meal in a single dish.  Seared Bok Choy and Rice Noodles in a Light Coconut Broth is one of those meals, except, well, I actually used three different pots to make this “one-pot meal”: I soaked the rice noodles in one bowl, seared the bok choy in a pan and then added them both to a big simmering pot with the rest of the ingredients.  You might think that’s cheating, and it is, but it also reveals a secret about good restaurant or gourmet cooking: when ingredients are cooked separately and then combined, they retain unique textures that make the final product more interesting and satisfying than if they were all cooked together using the same method.

Following this recipe will give you some insight as to how restaurants get Asian soups to have firm noodles, crispy vegetables, and clear broths.  The rice noodles are soaked separately in hot, but not boiling, water.  This keeps the noodles from falling apart and prevents the broth from getting cloudy from the starch in the noodles.  The gingery, coconut broth is then cooked separately, with the tofu, snow peas, and separately seared bok choy added at the end, so nothing will overcook.  The dish is then finished with fresh lime juice and raw scallion slivers to provide contrast to the cooked broth and vegetables.

The coconut milk in the broth makes this dish luxurious and special.  While coconut milk is certainly not a low-calorie food, it provides the richness and fat necessary to round out this light meal.  While saturated fat from coconuts was maligned in past decades, science and the press–including The New York Times–has been kinder to this fat in recent years, touting the fact that it is one of the few significant sources of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that perhaps has anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties and is converted into energy rather than fat in the human body.  However, if you are concerned with reducing the amount of coconut milk in any recipe, you can buy a light version of canned coconut milk or simply dilute the regular version with water.  Even with the full fat coconut milk though, this meal is only about 500 calories per serving.

Thanks to Tom Blakely for taking another great photo!  He so generously came over with all his camera gear and in return, I made him tofu.  Which he hates.

Seared Bok Choy and Rice Noodles in a Light Coconut Broth
Serves 4

1 package of rice noodles (also called pad thai noodles)
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 small red chili, minced (vary according to your chili tolerance)
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk (regular or light)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 baby bok choy, each sliced through the root into 4 – 6 vertical spears
1 cup of snow pea pods, ends trimmed
1 block of tofu (usually 14 oz), cut into 3/4 inch dice
2 teaspoons of salt
juice from one lime, or more to taste
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced on the diagonal

1. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions or use this steeping method: Place the rice noodles in a large bowl. Bring a kettle or pot of water up to a boil. Let the water cool for a couple of minutes, and then pour it over the noodles, completely submerging them. Let the noodles steep in the water until they are soft but still have some bite. Then drain the water and hold the noodles in the dry bowl, tossed with a little oil, until you are ready for them.

2. In a large pot, make the coconut broth. Over medium heat, add the sliced onion and saute, letting the onion soften but not brown, about 5 minutes. Then add the minced ginger and red chili and saute for 1 minute more. Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk and 1 cup of water and whisk to combine. Bring this up to a simmer.

3. In a large skillet, heat up one tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Then over high heat, add enough baby bok choy spears to fill the pan and let them get a light brown color one side and then flip over and repeat. They will still be firm but with a nice seared appearance. Remove the cooked boy choy from the skillet and repeat with the rest of the baby bok choy.

4. Add the seared baby bok choy, snow peas and tofu cubes into the coconut broth along with the 2 teaspoons of salt. Let simmer lightly for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and add the lime juice and scallions. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if necessary.

5. Using tongs, divide cooked rice noodles among 4 serving bowls and ladle the broth and veggies on top.

Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds


This recipe was born out of revenge.  When I visit my parents’ house, I become the de-facto short order breakfast cook for my father.  As he’s walking out the door to grab the newspaper, he’ll call out a breakfast order which usually includes how he wants his eggs to be cooked and a non-negotiable number of pieces of toast.  One morning, I tried to mix it up by making him basic oatmeal, sweetened with sliced bananas.  This was a mistake.  Like many men of a certain age, he’ll refuse to try anything that screams “health food,” but I thought I could win him over with my charm as the youngest daughter in our family.  This was my second mistake.  After one bite, he ran to the trash, spit out the oatmeal, then looked to the heavens and exclaimed, “THIS IS FOOD FOR ANIMALS!”

Little bit of a drama queen, that one.  However, let the record state: I make damn good oatmeal.  This was war.

Now, I always sneak a veggie or two into his breakfast, whether its spinach in a frittata or sliced tomato on the side.  But fuming over this tantrum, I decided to go extreme: that man was getting a plate full of steamed broccoli for breakfast.  I quickly pan-steamed broccoli florets and, feeling benevolent, gave them a quick saute in oil with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and plenty of salt.  I still wanted to win him over to the green side.  The result was perfectly tender broccoli with Indian flavors crusted on top and none of that cabbagey flavor that broccoli-haters crinkle their noses at.  Not only did he gobble it up, but he requested more.

I prefer to keep whole spices on hand since they last longer and have more flavor.  But if you only have ground cumin, you can definitely substitute that for the cumin seeds.  Just add it to the oil and then immediately add the broccoli.  Unlike whole spices that take a minute bloom and give flavor to hot oil, ground spices will generally just burn if left in a pan alone to sizzle with oil.

This dish takes 3 minutes to make, and it’s still my favorite way to eat broccoli.  Love  you, Dad!

Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds
Serves 2

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Take a large saute pan with a lid and fill it with a half-inch of water.  Generously salt like water and then bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets in an even layer and then cover.  Let steam for about 30 seconds or until bright green.  Remove the florets from the water and let drain in a colander or on a kitchen towel.  Drain the water and wipe out the saute pan.  If you have a steamer basket, you can use that to steam the broccoli, if you prefer.

2. In the same saute pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let it heat up.  You’ll see a slight shimmer across the surface of the oil.  Then add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds.  Once they heat up, the mustard seeds will start to sizzle and pop.  As soon as they start to do this, add the red pepper flake and the drained broccoli florets.  Sprinkle the salt evenly over the whole pan, adding more to taste if necessary.  Saute for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.