Lettuce Soup (Vegan or VGT)

TooManyVeggiesOh, it’s been a long time indeed. So long that you surely find yourself with a refrigerator full of greens and no humanly possible way to consume them before they plummet southward. That is why I have invented the Kitchen Cleanup Soup, aka Lettuce Soup, aka Random Greens Soup, and plenty of other things we could call it. Be honest, how many times have you found yourself with way too many seemingly unrelated greens on your hands and no good plan for how to  quickly and easily use them all together? Broccoli, asparagus, kale, kohlrabi, romaine – how can we unite them with one minimal, all encompassing effort? This soup is the perfect answer to that dilemma.


This is a lovely, light summer soup, a tasty and comforting autumn soup, a crisp and energizing spring soup, and basically an all-around all purpose soup that you can make in a huge batch and then freeze for a rainy day. It’s super easy, but it does take some time, though it is mostly passive time, letting the soup simmer away covered on the stovetop. Also, I hope you have a gigantic pot. Otherwise, queue the “we’re going to need a bigger boat” jokes.

So many things can go in this soup, but here’s what I happened to toss together today.


  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ½ lb assorted leafy greens, including kohlrabi, kale, chard, arugula (random stuff we picked at the u-pick farm without a specific plan – never a good idea, btw)
  • 1 large russet potato, chopped
  • 1lb asparagus, cut in 1inch pieces (tips reserved)
  • 4-6 cups soup stock (how much you need depends on your volume of veggies – should just cover the veggies in the pot but not so much that they’re drowned)
  • Cream to taste – either vegan sour cream or heavy cream of your choice
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • White pepper to taste
  • Reserved steamed asparagus tips (as garnish)
  • Parsley as garnish
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil for cooking

The easiest way to think of preparation is to break it down in three key steps:

    1. Creating the base. In a large dutch oven on medium heat, heat the oil or butter. Start by sauteeing the mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion, optional garlic if you swing that way). When everything is softened and it smells awesome, you’re ready to move to step two.
    2. Making the soup. Add the soup stock and all the other vegetables and seasonings, except for garnishing vegetables and cream (eg, asparagus tips, parsley, cream – those go in at step 3). Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to simmer, stirring often, for 20-40 minutes (basically until you’re firmest vegetables are tender – if you’re including potatoes, they will take the longest).
    3. Finishing touches. This is where you will adjust the seasonings and stir in the cream. When the soup is done, ladle into bowls with a dollop of cream, parsley, and a handful of steamed asparagus as garnish. I also like to serve it with a crusty baguette and/or a side of rice.






Awesome Russian Borscht (Vegan or Vegetarian)

Mmm, sveklaI know what you’re thinking: “Borscht? Isn’t that made with beets? BLARGH!” If so, it’s probably just because you’ve never had beets prepared well. The atrocities that are commonly committed against beets have conspired to make multiple generations of Americans despise them, and understandably so. Oh believe me, I was one of the haters. My loathing of beets was so deep and profound that when I was given the opportunity to travel to Russia as a teenager in the 90s, my fear of having to eat beets was one of my top concerns, surpassing all of the following: fear of being in a country without speaking the language, fear of flying for 20 hours, fear of being separated from my family for the longest period of time so far, fear of visiting our notorious Cold War enemy, and fear of living with another family that I’d never met. Mind you, while I was there I learned how stupid that was, not just because beets are actually awesome if you know what to do with them, but because obviously there were plenty more valid things to be terrified about in post-Soviet Russia than my naive adolescent mind could ever have fathomed prior to my travels there. Of course there were also equally as many things to be moved and amazed by as well. Which brings me to …

A brief back story for the interested (all others, feel free to skip to the recipe)

So, back in 1993 I was part of a group of teenage students who participated in an exchange program to Russia about one year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.We stayed in a town called Izhevsk, and at the time that we visited, Izhevsk had been closed to foreign travel for 70 years due to its strategic importance to the USSR (there was a huge munitions plant located there). Hence, when we arrived, we were the first non-Russians that most of Izhevsk’s people had ever seen. Which may seem like a trivial detail, but let me explain what that translated to: Our presence there was such a marvel that our agenda was published in newspapers and on TV every day. What that resulted in was that everywhere we 15 adolescent Americans went, we were met with an ever-growing crowd of passionate Russian youths who saw us as harbingers of progress. I could go on and on here about the people I met, the gifts I was given, the lessons I learned, the heartbreak I experienced (these new friends of ours had some tough political times ahead of them, the likes of which few US citizens I know have ever had to face –  plus we were all fairly new to the concept of suffering and injustice and economic hardship. Not to mention, most of these new friends we would never see again). But I shan’t go on about that. If you want to know more, email me and I’ll share. What I will say is that the group I was part of was a brave, sensitive, intelligent and talented group, and yet, as we prepared for our travels, we had NO idea what was in store for us. And that being the case, with all of us being teenagers, and  with all of us hating beets, we took it upon ourselves to learn one essential Russian phrase, so universal to us it instantaneously reached permanent inside joke status: Nyet svekla. Translation: “No beets.” The one who conceived and coined the phrase will forever hold a place in my heart for her comic wit, resourcefulness and candor.

That said (and I think she’d agree), looking back on the scenario and knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine ever saying something like this to someone from Russia. But from the perspective of my teenage self, the concept seemed sheer genius and hilarity. When we did utter it to Russians, we were met with a quizzical furrow of the brow that was probably akin to how Americans would respond if a generally non-English speaking Russian teen were to enthusiastically proclaim “Decline potato!” – a reaction which would be a mixture of equal parts “Um, what?” and “Really? Why?”

In any case, “nyet svekla” being our eminently confident attitude, you can imagine our astonishment when we were unwittingly fed a mysterious, unbelievably delicious pink soup and then later learned it was the dreaded borsht, aka beet soup, we’d feared so much. How could this be?!?! For starters, we’d made it very clear – we wanted NO SVEKLA. But more than that, how could svekla be so damn tasty? Mmmmm. What else is in it? Can I get the recipe? And the people I’d baffled with my broken Russian, unnatural aversion to beets and weird American clothes were filled with glee.

Although the following is not the original Russian recipe, it is the closest one I’ve found to the soup I was first fed that made me such a pro-svekla devotee. So please give it a chance – I think you’ll be glad you did.

Russian Borscht

  • 1 c. potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. beets, thinly sliced
  • 4 – 6 c. water (to your desired soupiness/thickness)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 2 c. onion
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 3 c. shredded cabbage (a little less than half a head)
  • 1 tsp fresh dill (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1- 2 tbs honey
  • 1 c. tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream and dill for garnish

In a large sauce pan, place potatoes, beets and water and cook over medium heat until tender (~20 – 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt the oil/butter in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add onion, caraway seeds and salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until onions are translucent (~8 – 10 minutes).

Add celery, carrots and cabbage, plus ~2 cups of the cooking water from the potatoes and beets. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender (~10 minutes).

Add the remaining ingredients (including all the potato and beet water), cover and simmer for 15 – 30 minutes more. Taste to correct seasonings. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and dill to taste.

Make your own soup stock (Vegan)

So many recipes call for soup stock and the store-bought kind is boring and sodium-tastic. Make your own! It’s easy and it will make all of your recipes vastly more delicious. The trick is just to try new things, remember what works, write it down, and pair it wisely with the other ingredients in the dish you are cooking. More on that in a moment. First, how to make a stock:

  • Put a lot of water in a large pot
  • Bring the water to a boil
  • Throw in a lot of vegetables, scraps of vegetables, and/or their parts. For instance, corn cobs & onion skins are great in stocks, in case you didn’t know. So you don’t need to do a lot of cutting or peeling or prepping. Just chop things roughly, enough so that they fit in the pot and have exposed parts through which to leak their juices
  • Simmer everything for about an hour or so
  • Add salt and pepper while simmering, to taste

When the stock is done, allow to cool and then pour through a strainer to separate the vegetable parts from the stock. This will probably require doing it in batches. Discard the vegetables and refrigerate or freeze the stock until it’s ready for use.

What kind of vegetables can go in a stock? Pretty much anything you want, though some veggies are more reliable than others. Some general guidelines:

#1 – Follow the rules of compost: No citrus. No fats. Nothing diseased or spoiled.

Whenever possible, use onion, celery, carrots, thyme and garlic. As much or as little of any of these, but some combination thereof. For the garlic, just smash the clove, no need to peel or press it. I take a blunt object and crack it a couple of times. I usually throw in 4 large cloves per 5 qt stockpot.

Other strong contributors to stock excellence include: potatoes (any variety), brussel sprouts, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, beets, parsley, corn, parsnips, mushrooms, zucchini, and … ??? Totally up to you and what you’re willing to experiment with.

Now. As for the pairing of stock with recipe. Basically I just taste it and imagine what it would complement. It’s not hard. It may seem weird, and some of you who are sensory-challenged may be fearful, but trust me. You really can tell by the taste of a stock what its purpose in life is. And most of the time, stock is so mild, all it can do is enhance, not detract. Just be mindful of the ingredients you’re dealing with, and I am confident you’ll be happy with your results.

Creamy Asparagus Soup (Vegan)


This is the dawning of the age of asparagus.

Here’s how this soup happened. We were at the farmer’s market, and J was like “Ooooh, asparagus. Should we buy some?” And I was like, “Um, really? Uh, suuuure … I’ll use it to make asparagus soup.” And J said, “Great. What else do we need for asparagus soup?” And I said “OH, nothing.”

Which I knew probably wasn’t true, because I had no idea how to make asparagus soup. But for some reason I had a totally irrational moment where I thought that if J knew I had no idea how to make asparagus soup then he would try to stop me from making it. Which he never would have done. I have no idea what got into me. It was like I was momentarily possessed by the spirit of my 5-year-old self. And then I found myself in the situation where I had to figure out how to make it. So I spent a sizable chunk of time reading asparagus soup recipes and eventually concluded that I was pretty much on my own. Basically they just all seemed really boring and not what I wanted. Worse still, they all called for making a soy milk roux, and you know how I feel about making roux with soy milk (soy milk + flour + oil = liquid chalk). So, I made up my own. It’s kind of a hashing together of a few recipes with variations based on my personal preferences. Here it is. J and I both loved it.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (including leaves)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized potato, thinly sliced
  • 2 c vegetable stock (for this one I used a parsley-based stock)
  • 2 c water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
  • 1 – 2 tsp white pepper, to taste (possibly more if you love white pepper as much as I do)
  • Tofutti sour cream to taste

First, prepare the asparagus by breaking off the rough ends. You can do this by holding the very end in your fingertips and bending the rest of the stalk until it snaps. The rough portion should break naturally at the place where it’s supposed to, usually around an inch or so from the end. (Thanks to J for this tip!)

After breaking off all the ends, slice off the tips of each stalk (usually about an inch or so) and reserve for later. Take the remaining stalks and slice them in approximately 1 inch pieces.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot on medium heat, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the celery, potato, asparagus stalks (not tips) and salt. Toss in oil and saute for ~5 – 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring regularly. Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, semi-cover and cook for around 5 – 10 minutes, until a knife easily penetrates vegetables (timing depends on size of your veggies and how tender they were after sauteing).

In the meantime, steam the tips for about 5 – 8 minutes, or until tender.

After the soup is done simmering, puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot on very low heat and add the steamed asparagus tips. Cook a little bit longer (~2 minutes) but be very careful not to overcook or let the soup boil.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop or two of sour cream and sprinkling of dill. Serve immediately.

Z’s Spicy Corn Chowder (Vegan)

This party fave is the result of a combination of several different white bean chili recipes, actually, all originally meat-inclusive, minus the beans and plus a bunch of random stuff I added for fun, including a few special twists I like to include to make something mine (e.g., hella garlic, jalapeno, potatoes and homemade soup stock) alongside the requisite vegification. Enjoy!

By the way, please note: This is a fairly spicy chowder. If you have trouble with spicy things, I’d recommend starting with about 1/4 of the recommended jalapeño & cayenne, and then adding additional pepper to taste. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. However, if you luvah the spicy, preparing this with the maximum amount of pepper ingredients recommended puts it at about a 7 on a 1 to 10 spicy scale, IMO. So …

  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced or thinly sliced
  • 1 celery rib, chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or yellow or both, chopped or diced
  • 4 – 6 smallish sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I use Yukon gold or red or both, though you can really use any kind of potato, and you can use more or less if you like)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
  • 3 c. sweet corn (from about 4 ears)
  • Enough olive oil to sauté the veggies (~3 tbsp or so)
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños, de-seeded & minced (don’t rub your eyes!)
  • 4 c. vegetable broth (make your own, it’s easy!)
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 tbsp vegan cream cheese (or more, based on your preference)
  • Dry thyme*
  • Cayenne*
  • Freshly ground sea salt*
  • Freshly ground black pepper*
  • Ground cloves or nutmeg*

If you’ve never cut fresh corn from the cob, view this tutorial. If you are intimidated, however, please feel free to use canned or frozen corn. It won’t have quite the same freshness, but it will still be delicious, so don’t you worry. Anyhoo …

In a large pan, sear the corn for a few minutes, until it begins to brown slightly. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or big stock pot) on medium to medium high heat.

Saute the garlic, onion, peppers, celery until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add water, vegetable broth, carrot, potato, fresh thyme & cayenne and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 20 – 25 minutes.

Stir in the cream cheese & corn, gently whisking until well combined. Allow to cook for another 10 – 20 minutes or so. Add the salt, pepper, dried thyme & nutmeg. You can also add more cayenne & more cream cheese to taste, if desired.


A very loose & general guide to spice quantities:

  • Around a small handful of salt & pepper
  • More dry thyme than you would expect (6 – 10 shakes of the jar)
  • A few shakes of the clove or nutmeg (around a teaspoon maybe)
  • Around 1 teaspoon of cayenne

J’s Black-Eyed Peas (Vegan)

J says:

The thing to remember here is that thyme is your friend; it takes the part of the ham hock which is usually required in this Southern dish. I’ve listed dried thyme, but HIGHLY suggest getting it fresh. It’s easy to grow yourself to have on hand. Around our house, we normally include a jalapeño, slit four times down the sides, so that I can remove it after cooking. If you aren’t sure about your spice tolerance, cook with only a little pepper and finish with Tabasco or another pepper sauce on your plate. It is easy to reduce the amount of sodium by using less vegetable broth. I’ve made it with water instead and extra thyme and it works out great.

  • 16 oz black-eyed peas
  • 5 c. veggie broth
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried leaf thyme (~2 tbsp chopped, if fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp dried leaf oregano
  • Tabasco or pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt to taste

Rinse peas and pick over for bad or discolored peas and small stones; transfer to a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the onion, diced carrot and garlic.

Add  enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add pepper flakes, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Uncover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes longer (this is a good time to start some rice), or until peas are tender. Add more water as needed to keep them moist.

Serve with brown rice and steamed collard greens with lemon.

And because J is such a great guy, he’s included nutritional info for you:

1 cup = 143 calories
Protein        9g
Carbs        24.7g
Sugar        4.5g
Fiber        7.5g
Fat            .6g
Cholesterol    0mg
Sodium        Varies, depending on salt content of vegetable stock and added salt

Broccoli Leek Soup (Vegan)

I freely and shamelessly admit to you, this shiz is a straight-up Billy Sonoma ripoff. You see, they have this beautiful, delicate soup that is rendered unnecessarily non-vegetarian by the totally extraneous placement of chicken stock rather than vegetable stock. That being the case, I fully admit that my adaptation of replacing the chicken with veg stock is not particularly cunning. But the recipe is so thoroughly lovely and simple that I feel it warrants a bit of pomp and circumstance. Tah-dah!!!!

Courtesy of Billy Sonoma

You'll wish you made more.

Broccoli Leek Soup (adaptation from Williams-Sonoma*)

  • 23 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, including tender green portions,
    rinsed well and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb broccoli, trimmed, florets and stalks
    cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Tofutti sour cream
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until softened, 3 – 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 2 – 3 minutes more.Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. 

In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return the soup to the pan. (Alternatively, process with a stick blender in the pan until smooth. Reheat the soup gently over medium heat. Season with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the sour cream and chives. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma*


*If you’re wondering why I keep repeating the point, it’s because I don’t want them to sue my ash. Not that they would ever notice me in the first place. But you never know.