Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ginger: it's not just for soda anymore

When I was a kid, ginger ale was more or less a staple in our home, if I recall correctly.  It was always available to soothe my savage belly or quench my father's summertime thirst (I think there might have been something sharing the glass with the ginger ale, though).  I can remember my mother having me sip flat ginger ale one teaspoon at a time when I was sick to my stomach, and though it seemed like the Chicken Soup/sugar pill of the nausea realm, apparently ginger really does have the ability to calm an unsettled stomach.

I find myself craving ginger ale sometimes, as a kind of creature comfort.  That was not the case tonight, however.  Tonight, my husband specifically requested a quick-cooking dinner, so I selected the quicker of my two Vegan Express recipes, Quick Green Veggie Soup with Couscous.

When I was perusing my books, I rolled the flavors of this soup over my tongue as best I could without actually tasting it.  It seemed like a risk worth taking and I am so glad I went with it.  The base is a pungent combination of vegetable broth, tamari, and ginger.  It smelled a little bizarre, but I played that off as my additions of freeze-dried chives and dried dill - that stuff (dill) really smells awful but it somehow managed to play a helpful role in the overall flavor of the broth.  I added to this a surprising party of green foods: zucchini, spinach, and broccoli and was treated to the beauty of a same-toned soup.  I normally prefer to eat the rainbow, so a meal that is primarily one color does not normally find a place on my table.  You'll notice I spiced things up a little by including a red chili wrap, but we'll talk about that in a moment.  I realized a couple of hours days too late that I didn't actually have any couscous, so I broke up some cappellini noodles and they worked just fine.  I think I would like to make it "correctly" someday, though, so this isn't the last you'll see of this tasty soup.

One of the first things I recognized in Vegan Express was Nava's willingness to prevent me from thinking too much.  I've mentioned before that although I am trying to branch out and present more "balanced" meals, complete with salads and side dishes, I really don't enjoy the extra effort required to fill out our dinners.  Since Mister wanted a fast dinner and because Mister generally does not consider soup to be a complete dinner, I was planning to construct a relatively masterful (but still fairly simple) salad to accompany the soup.  While the soup was doing its thing, though, I happened to glance down at Nava's serving suggestions and it couldn't have been more perfect.  She suggested simple veggie wraps - what's easier than using up what's left of the hummus, the last couple of red chili tortillas, and some of the mixed greens I had planned to turn into a salad?  So, for the five minutes the soup needed to simmer, I busied myself making salad wraps and pinning them closed with toothpicks.

The two flavors really didn't go together, but were each tasty in their own separate way.  The red chili tortillas are actually a little hot which is always a surprising quality in a bread product.  I needed to cleanse my palate a bit before enjoying my soup but a swig of water was quite enough to do the trick.  The soup has a distinctly Asian flair to it, which should not be a surprise due to the prevalence of fresh ginger and tamari.  I was supposed to swirl in a Tbsp of oil but the soup was not lacking in flavor or texture when I neglected to do so.  From the first slice of zucchini to the last steaming simmer before serving took roughly 30 minutes - this is a great soup for when you crave something comforting but don't have an hour and a half to three hours to make a soup from Veganomicon or any of Sarah Kramer's books.  It's too brothy to serve alone, but a simple wrap, salad, or sandwich would fill it out nicely.  I can also imagine this being a delightful rainy day lunch, finished off with a single freshly baked brownie.

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