Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thou shalt break them

On Saturday Jeff and I took a walk down to Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore to get his super natural cookbooks signed by Heidi Swanson, a food blogger about whom I have written psychological thriller fan fiction ("It's Julie & Julia meets Notes on a Scandal"). Jeff was a little worried that his copy of Super Natural Cooking was too dirty for Heidi to sign, but it ended up that she was excited to see that he was actually using her cookbook and getting it all stained with coconut butter and whole grain flours.

Because we live in the Bay Area, this book signing was actually a book signing/potluck. Jeff decided to make a strawberry panzanella, which nobody at the book signing recognized as being Heidi's recipe because Jeff used six times as much butter and brown sugar as was printed. My only contribution was a cardamom whipped cream on top, because seriously, cardamom and strawberries is such a lovely combination in a hot exchange student kind of way. I was going to make a buckwheat ginger angel food cake but we had gotten a late start in the morning so I didn't have time. I ended up making it tonight instead. Actually, it should be coming out of the oven right... about... now.

Someone asked us at the book signing: "Do you guys have food blogs of your own?" "He does!", replied Jeff. I said that my food blog would never be as popular as 101 Cookbooks, because I'm too lazy to ever write down my recipes. Seriously, BORING. Heidi is currently #6 on the New York Times Best Seller list as a result of enjoying the act of writing down her recipes, whereas this blog got like a couple dozen hits yesterday. Oh well.

Since Jeff and I had eaten only strawberry dessert and 22 kinds of cheese on Saturday night, I decided that something kind of healthy would be order for Sunday afternoon. So, raiding my fridge, I saw that I had a few quarts of vegetable stock to use up, a head of red cabbage that Shana had left here, and a bunch of yukon gold potatoes. I threw everything together in a vegan tortilla soup, which is one of my go-to recipes when I can't think of anything else to make--it uses up some staples that I almost always have on hand, it's pretty healthy, it's tasty, it gets all the major food groups in there, it's hot, it's cold, it comes together in half an hour or so. So, inspired by my brief meeting with Heidi, and because it's such a Heidi recipe anyway, I thought I'd post a recipe for tortilla soup.


two quarts vegetable stock
a cup of green lentils

an onion (or some shallots)
a few yukon gold potatoes (maybe half a pound?)
half a head of red cabbage (or chard, kale, any sturdy green)
a tablespoon of cumin
half a tablespoon of smoked paprika
a pinch of cinnamon
chile powder
peanut oil

six tortillas, cut into thin strips

two or three avocados
half a red onion (or some scallions / spring onions)
a handful of cilantro
a lime or two


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and salt to taste (don't add salt if using boxed stock). Add the lentils and cook until tender, about 10-20 minutes depending on your lentils.

Cut the onion in half and then cut each half lengthwise into thin strings. Heat a little peanut oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onion, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, chile powder to taste, and a little salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 or 6 minutes. In the meantime, dice the potato into cubes half an inch thick. Drop the potato into the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add salt again. Cook until the potato is tender, about 10-20 minutes. Add more cumin and paprika if necessary. Chop the cabbage into thin strips.

Toss your tortilla strips with a tiny bit of peanut oil, just enough to get them moist, and a little bit of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, shaking occasionally, until just browned, around 15 minutes.

Now, while everything else is cooking, start making guacamole. First, dice the onion finely. Put it in a bowl and juice half the lime onto it and add a little salt. Mix that around and let it pickle for a bit. In a separate bowl, squeeze the other half of the lime, maybe add some lime zest if you feel like it. Add the avocados to this bowl and mash them up.

Okay, now, when everything above is ready, it's time to put it together. Add the cabbage to the pot with the potatoes and stir. Add the stock and lentils to the potatoes and cabbage, stir, and let sit on low heat for about 3 minutes. Taste the broth and add seasoning as necessary. A few drops of vinegar might help bring out the flavor. Mix the avocados and the onions together to finish the guacamole.

Ladle some of the soup into a bowl, top with some tortilla strips and the guacamole. You made soup!!


Let me know if this is something you like in this blog--so I can ignore you because, girl, writing recipes is hard, and Heidi Swanson is a super genius, because she has to do this like three times a week.


  1. I'm still waiting for you to post a recipe on duck confit! But, there are apparently no butchers near me, and none of my grocery stores carry duck or duck fat, rush.

  2. I made duck confit straight from the Ad Hoc at Home recipe!

    Do what Jeff and I did and make a field trip to a duck farm! (by that I mean nondescript warehouse from which disarticulated duck parts are sold wholesale)