Kitchen Spotlight: Actress shares vegan pesto soup recipe

2013-10-16T00:00:00Z 2013-10-16T15:04:37Z Kitchen Spotlight: Actress shares vegan pesto soup recipeEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

Landree Fleming has experimented with a variety of vegan and vegetarian recipes.

Fleming, who's currently in the ensemble cast of "Godspell" at Munster's Theatre at the Center through Oct. 20, said she enjoys the many creative meatless dishes that can be made. (For more information on "Godspell," visit TheatreattheCenter.com).

"I make a lot of tofu dishes and sandwiches. I also make a lot of Asian dishes," Fleming said.

"I've been a vegetarian for nine years and I've gone back and forth being a vegan," she said, adding she's never found that eating style limiting.

"Actually, my diet is a lot more varied now that I don't eat meat and I have a lot more freedom to explore."

Fleming, a native of Pennsylvania, said she was inspired in the kitchen craft by her grandmother, who was "a huge cook."

As an actress, Fleming said, she makes sure to keep a healthy diet but can definitely splurge on coconut ice cream or pizza.

The following is one of Fleming's favorite recipes which is taken from chef Isa Chandra.

Pesto Soup with Gnocchi, Beans & Greens

"I’m always going on and on about vegan creaminess, so here I go again. Usually creamy texture is brought to us in the form of delicious fatty vehicles like cashews, tahini and avocado. Instead, here is an almost fat-free method that might not pack the decadent punch of a cashew based cream but gets you there all the same.

Cauliflower is pureed with a few other veggies and lots of basil until silky smooth. It’s actually a wonderful soup on its own, but bulked up with a pillowy gnocchi, white beans and wilted greens it becomes a meal unto itself.

I used Rising Moon Gnocchi (it’s not on their site for some reason) but there are lots of vegan gnocchis out there and if you’ve got "Vegan With A Vengeance" you can even make your own. I mean, you can use whatever cookbook you’d like to make your own, I’m just saying.

And keep this a secret, but the soup base on its own makes a great pasta sauce the next day, even without the basil. So if you don’t have all of these ingredients on hand right this second, definitely keep the cauliflower base in the back of your mind for the next time you’ve got a few florets impatiently staring back at you.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small head cauliflower (about a pound), leaves removed, cut into florets

4 cups vegetable broth, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

Big pinch dried thyme

Lots of fresh black pepper

1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, plus a little extra for garnish

8 ounces  frozen gnocchi, partially thawed (leave on the counter for 30 minutes or so)

1 15-ounce can navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems discarded, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Optional: I didn’t add them here, but toasted pine nuts would make a great garnish.

DIRECTIONS: Preheat a 4-quart stock pot over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add cauliflower, 3 cups of broth (alert! only 3 of the cups! you’ll be adding the last cup in a bit), salt, thyme and several dashes fresh black pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, stirring every now and again for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Vigorously mix together the final cup of broth and the arrowroot until dissolved. Lower heat a bit so that the soup is at a slow boil. Mix in the broth/arrowroot and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring often. Add the basil leaves, and remove from heat. Use a submersion blender to puree until smooth*. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Return to the stove over medium heat and add the gnocchi, cover and let cook for 3 minutes or so. Add the greens and beans and cook until greens are completely wilted and beans are heated through, about 5 more minutes. Be careful as you stir not to crush the gnocchi or beans. Serve garnished with extra basil and pine nuts, if you like.

*If you don’t have a submersion blender then use a blender or food processor to puree in batches, being careful to lift the lid once in awhile so that the steam doesn’t build up and explode.

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