Monday, January 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Risotto

Well, I'm back, and happy (belated) 2012.  Hopefully some of you are still sticking to your New Year's Resolutions.  One of mine is to participate officially in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which means that, unlike back in September, I've actually signed up to do the full three weeks instead of noncommittally seeing how long I can stand it.  I hung in for three weeks and change a few months ago, so I figure I can do it again.  One of the neat things about participating in the Kickstart is the daily emails from vegan celebrities: until today I assumed that Alicia Silverstone and John Salley (of Bulls, Lakers and Pistons fame) were their best-known celebrity spokespeople, but today's message of encouragement was from none other than Steve-O!  Did anyone else out there know he's a vegan?  I thought that was very surprising and cool.  Anyhoo...

Day 8 is winding down after a thoroughly enjoyable meal of soup and risotto.  The inspiration for the soup was in the current issue of the Vegetarian Times, and the risotto was inspired by the availability of broccoli in the fridge and arborio rice in the cupboard.  After working all weekend and having today off, I was finally able to make this happen, which also means that I have leftovers for later in the week!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
half of one large white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Spinach pesto for coulis (recipe follows)

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.  Add next three ingredients and stir well to coat with oil.  Saute for 7 minutes.  Add next three ingredients, stir and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and broth, cover and simmer on medium-low until potatoes and peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, then puree in batches and return to pot.  Add salt and cayenne if desired.  Serve hot with a dollop of spinach pesto in the center of the bowl.

Spinach pesto:
2.5-3 packed cups baby spinach
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place first four ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth, pouring in olive oil through chute.  (Alternatively, just throw everything in your food processor or blender and puree until smooth.)  Add salt and pepper to taste and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Broccoli risotto:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/3 cups arborio rice
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed in microwave with salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Once heated, add rice and bay leaf and stir well.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add broth one cup at the time, stirring often, until all broth is incorporated and rice is creamy.  Turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast.  Fold in broccoli and serve.

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