OK, I didn’t really pull the wool over Omnivore’s eyes, but I also didn’t make a big deal about the fact that both the chilled soup and the lemon bars I made yesterday were vegan. I was looking through a list of summer recipes and found the soup recipe, so I decided to brave the grocery store to get what I needed and made it for dinner. I also figured I would surprise Omnivore (who, yes, is a giant brownie fan, but is also a big lemon fan–if you get a lemon wedge with your water in a restaurant, she always wants it) with lemon bars, which I had a hunch she had never had (and I was right, she hadn’t). I actually made the lemon bars first, and let them cool a few hours, then cut them prior to starting the soup. So Omnivore got to try one lemon bar (which she said were her new #1, ranking above all brownies) before dinner.
The soup recipe is minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, minus lactose, and minus overheating your kitchen in the mid-summer. I think it’s relatively minus a lot of smartpoints, but that depends on how big of an avocado you use, since the only things with smartpoints in it are the avocado, oil, and coconut milk.
Chilled Green Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil (the original recipe says you can use butter, too, but that de-veganizes it, so I used olive oil)
2/3 cup chopped onion (the original recipe says you could use shallot; I used about 1/2 the onion in the photo)
pinch of sea salt (the original recipe says you could use kosher salt, too, I had sea salt available)
1 3/4 cup water (not pictured; the original recipe says you could go up to 2 cups to make a thinner soup, or you could also use broth)
~12 oz frozen green peas (the original recipe says you could also use fresh; it also says exactly 12 oz, but my scale decided to break as I was weighing the peas, so I had to estimate, based on the fact that I had 2, 9-oz packages, so I used about 1 1/3 packages)
1/3 cup canned or jarred artichoke hearts (I chopped them each in half to make them easier to measure)
1 garlic clove, pressed through the press
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup light coconut milk (the original recipe says Greek yogurt [de-veganizes it] or coconut milk, I decided to go with light, since I figured there was enough fat from the avocado)
ground black pepper (the original recipe says 1/4 tsp; I just ground some in)
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (the original recipe says red pepper flakes)
Heat a saucepan (not a saute or frying pan!) over medium heat and add the oil. Once it’s heated up, add the onions, and saute about 5 minutes, until the onions are fragrant. Add the sea salt and water to the pan, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and artichokes and cook about 2-3 minutes, or until the peas are tender (frankly, I was in a hurry, so I didn’t even check for tenderness).
Tackle your avocado: cut it in half, and twist the two halves apart. Cut the half without the pit in half again, and peel the peel off. Do the same for the half with the pit, but also twist the pit off of the quarter that kept it.
Put the onion, pea, artichoke, and water mixture into a blender (great time to have a VitaMix!), add the avocado quarters, garlic, basil, coconut milk, black pepper, and Aleppo pepper, and blend until smooth. Pour into a small or medium serving bowl and add salt and pepper to taste (or forget, like I did, and people can add it to their individual servings). Cover, and put in the refrigerator to chill. The original recipe says to chill for 30 minutes. I chilled it for about 75, while I did virtual yoga, and it still wasn’t completely cold, so I’d say at least 90 minutes to be sure it’s cold (because the small amount of leftovers were actually much better today, after being thoroughly cold). I would recommend a quick stir after taking it out of the fridge, because the top starts to brown a little, and just underneath that is a brilliant green.
There are a bunch of optional toppings that the original recipe suggests. You can go check them out if that’s something that interests you. We just had the soup with store-bought sourdough bread, and it was very tasty that way.
I decided to look for a vegan lemon bar recipe on chocolatecoveredkatie.com, but when you search for “lemon bars,” you get: this recipe, which is not what I was thinking of. But I did some more searching on the site and eventually found the recipe I used. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber.
Vegan Lemon Bars
1 cup all-purpose flour (Katie says you can also use whole wheat pastry flour)
6 Tbsp powdered sugar (Katie says you can also use sugar-free powdered sugar; I should also point out that you never know for sure if powdered sugar is totally vegan, because they often whiten it with bone char, so if that matters to you, seek out vegan powdered sugar, or google how to make it yourself, which isn’t hard)
3/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil (Katie says virgin coconut oil, but I don’t know how to tell if my coconut oil is a virgin or not)
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch (Katie says you can also use arrowroot powder)
6 Tbsp lemon juice
6 Tbsp powdered sugar (Katie says 1/4 cup powdered sugar + 1/16 tsp uncut stevia, or sub in 2 Tbsp powdered sugar for the stevia, which is what I did)
1 cup silken tofu (Katie specified MoriNu brand, but I used Nasoya, because that’s what my local grocery store had; I found it useful to scoop this out with a spoon and smoosh it into my measuring cup, since there’s really no other way to measure a cup of it)
1 Tbsp Penzey’s lemon peel (Katie calls for optionally zest of one lemon)
(Katie says you can optionally add yellow food coloring or turmeric to make it yellow, but why?)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray an 8″ x 8″ square pan liberally with cooking spray. I used a Corningware pan, but you could probably use metal. Using a food processor, combine the crust ingredients (pulse a few times, then run it, stop it, scrape down the sides, run again, stop, scrape, etc.). It will end up looking like a kind of crumbly sand. Pour that into your prepared pan, and place some waxed paper on top, to make it easy to press it into the pan with your hands. Bake for 10 minutes. It will emerge slightly brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Don’t turn the oven off.
Meanwhile, pull out the VitaMix (or another favorite blender) and put in the filling ingredients, in the appropriate order. For the VitaMix, that order is: lemon juice, tofu, powdered sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel. Blend until it’s smooth, and pour evenly on top of the hot crust, which will have recently emerged from the oven. Bake for 26 minutes. When it comes out, it should look brown on the edges and a little jiggly (like a cheesecake), but not sloppy. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then cover lightly (I used waxed paper, but Katie says not to cover it, but I didn’t want the lemon bars to taste like refrigerator) and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the filling set. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. I actually did this and decided it was a bit too loose still, so I put it in to chill longer, covered in foil, before I let Omnivore have the first one.
All three of us had a lemon bar (or in hubby’s and Omnivore’s case, two lemon bars) for dessert after our soup. They were a hit! Hubby even liked them, and he’s not a big fan of sour–and these are quite sour-lemony. I would say these are some of the best lemon bars I’ve ever had.