Healthy, hearty and good for the soul

It’s cold outside. One of those bleak, cheerless, raw early March days when the wind howls. Although you try to believe that spring is just around the corner, it is definitely not. The thought of a fresh green salad is loathsome. You yearn for – yes, crave – comfort, something warm. Something healthy, hearty and good for the soul.

These three are designed to chase the chills away. Perfect for the vegan as a main course, they can be served with good crusty bread or as a side dish for the carnivore. Perhaps spring is just around the corner after all.

Soup Pasta Fagioli
A version of this soup was made by the student group Me to We at Eastdale Collegiate to serve to the homeless at a community centre nearby. It smelled enticing while it was simmering and even better when tasted. Since then, it has been a regular on the menu for lunch or a simple supper at my house. Guaranteed to cure the cold and make you believe the sun will shine soon.
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock or water
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
1 can (19 oz/540 ) cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup (125 ml) small pasta
2 tbsp (25 ml) tomato paste
1 tsp (5 mL) each, basil and oregano
1/2 tsp (2 mL) thyme and hot pepper sauce
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley; fresh grated Parmesan cheese; salt and fresh black pepper to taste
In a large stainless steel saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Stir in onion and cook covered about five minutes until softened. Stir in garlic, celery, carrots and vegetable stock. Cook about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender crisp. Stir in tomatoes, beans,pasta, tomato paste, basil and thyme. Cook until pasta is tender about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste. Add salt and pepper if necessary; serve each bowl with a sprinkle of parsley and fresh grated cheese. Makes four servings.

Far East Cabbage
You can use bits and pieces of vegetables in your refrigerator to make this dish. By using tofu it becomes a main course or, if you prefer, leave out the tofu and simply serve it as a vegetarian side dish. This is your chance to experiment with various calcium-rich members of the cabbage family: bok choy, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, Chinese lettuce, kale or collards.
Marinated Tofu (optional):
1 cup (250 mL) firm tofu cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbsp (25 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly grated ginger root
Stir Fry of Vegetables:
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp (25 mL) freshly grated ginger root
2 tbsp (25 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) each, hot pepper sauce and curry
2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced cabbage of your choice
1 carrot, coarsely shredded
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
Marinated tofu: In a mixing bowl, stir together tofu, soy sauce, ginger root and garlic. Cover and refrigerate.
Vegetable Stir Fry: Slice onion, celery, mince garlic, peel ginger root and grate on coarse side of box grater; shred carrot on coarse side of grater and thinly slice cabbage and pepper. Measure out soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hot pepper sauce and curry. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large stainless steel saucepan or wok. Add onion and celery; cover with wax paper and let it simmer five minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, cabbage, carrots and red pepper. Cook, stirring, five minutes. Stir in hot pepper sauce, curry, and tofu with marinade if you are using. Continue to cook another five minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp; serve over rice (such as following recipe). Makes four to six servings.

Basmati Rice with Orange, Almonds and Raisins
Basmati rice has an enticing popcorn like fragrance and specific taste which should go well with meat, fish and vegetable dishes alike. Because it is so delicious, I always double the quantity.
2 cups (500 mL) basmati rice
2 cups (500 mL) water
1/4 cup (50 mL) butter
1 each. bay leaf and cinnamon stick
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated orange rind
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins, washed
1/2 cup (125 ml) slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 F( 180 C) toast nuts on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
In sieve, wash rice in several changes of running water then let it sit in a bowl of fresh water for up to 1 hour. Drain; rinse again.
In a heavy saucepan bring a generous cup of water to the boil; add rice, butter, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and orange rind. Cover; let rice simmer about 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Stir in raisins and almonds. Makes 4 servings.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

Was this article informative? Become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter today! For 50 years, we have worked hard to be the eyes and ears in your community, inform you of upcoming events, and let you know what and who is making a difference. We cover the big stories as well as the little things that often matter the most. CLICK HERE to support your Beach Metro Community News!


Does Jan Main mean cannellini beans? The recipe says “cannelloni” beans. I can’t find any reference to such a bean.

The “Soup Pasta Fagioli” recipe calls for “1 tsp (5 mL) each, basil”. Basil and what else?

In the “Basmati Rice with Orange, Almonds and Raisins” recipe, the list of ingredients includes a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and that’s the end of that.

Do we just leave it on the kitchen counter? Should we drink it separately to celebrate once we’ve served the rice? Or are we to use it in the recipe? If so, when?

Add the lemon juice along with the other ingredients when adding the rice to the boiling water. Add salt to taste.

Click here for our commenting guidelines.

Leave a Reply