I was the lone vegan at my family’s Thanksgiving meal this year.
Don’t get me wrong—my meal was fantastic. (I made sure of it.)
But the leftovers and homemade turkey soup that my family has been eating this weekend? Not for me.
Instead I poked through the (very full) fridge to find some leftover, unused vegetable ingredients I could use to make myself a soup.
Let me start out with a caveat here. I like heat. I like a little spice. I don’t like my food to give me pain. When the “heat” moves into the “pain” tier, I’m no longer interested. I want a little heat and flavor, but I can’t handle spicy just for spicy’s sake. So this soup? It’s got a little warming heat to it. It might make your nose run a bit. But it’s not going to feel like your food is trying to punch you in the face as you chew and swallow.
This soup uses a serrano pepper. To the best of my knowledge, serrano peppers are a little hotter than jalapeño peppers. I used a green serrano here, which is also less hot than a fully ripe red serrano.
If you don’t have a serrano or want to replace it in this soup, the world wide web has a few suggestions. I’ve found a few from Pepper Geek.
You can go for the more common jalapeño. They’re considered a close serrano relative with a touch less heat. A poblano has a similar flavor but more mild heat level as well. If you want to avoid the heat but want to keep the texture in place, go for a sweet bell pepper. And if you’re pepper-less but want to make this soup anyhow? Go for cayenne pepper powder. A pinch can add a little warmth and it can be increased to your own taste. Pepper Geek suggests using bell peppers and cayenne pepper for a happy medium for those who are unsure about heat levels and want to customize, and I’d agree this might be a good choice if you don’t want to take leap with the serrano.
I just happened to have a serrano pepper sitting in the fridge. Why? Because I had planned another recipe that was long ago lost to the ethers of my memory and the pepper has been chillaxing in there ever since waiting for me to find a new use for it. I also happened to have some sad, mostly forgotten cauliflower and leftover potatoes from our Thanksgiving meal. Flipping through the Forks Over Knives magazine earlier in the month, I remembered a soup that used similar ingredients but it was not written for someone cooking for one and it was designed to be a little too hot for my taste. I made some adjustments and came up with this in answer.
Wild Rice Refrigerator Soup with a Kick in the Booty.
Time: 1 hour
Inspired by Chipotle-Potato Wild Rice Soup from Forks Over Knives Fall 2023 magazine, page 78.
This soup cooks up quickly with little prep and is warming on a cold Fall or Winter evening. It’s a great weekend meal, but could even be made on a weeknight after work. Serve with a salad and a slice of bread for a filling meal.
*As I mentioned, my serrano pepper was green. And when I sliced the sides off the pepper in order to dice the pepper, I left most of the inside of the pepper with the seeds where the real heat is. So, this is adjustable to your taste levels. Don’t let the “kick in the booty” in the title scare you off.
1/2 large onion, diced
3 gloves of garlic, diced or minced finely
1 fresh, green serrano pepper, diced finely
5 cups vegetable broth/stock
3/4 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large russet potato, cubed
1 cup cauliflower, cut into bite-sized peices
*Optional but highly recommended: Cashew Cream.
- Prep your vegetables. Dice, mince, cube. Place the potatoes inside a bowl of water while you prepare the soup so that they don’t turn brown.
- Saute the onions in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes, until they’re getting a little color. I do this without oil or butter and simply “dry saute” them with a little salt on medium heat. You can choose your preferred method.
- Once the onions have begun to cook and you can smell them, add the rice, pepper, and garlic. You want to toast the rice a bit and cook the pepper and garlic to pull out the flavors before adding the broth. A good rule of thumb here is to cook, stirring often, until you can smell the garlic. Garlic will burn in an instant and you don’t want burnt garlic because that can ruin a pot of soup. Or anything else. I usually cook for 2-3 minutes.
- At this point, toss in the cumin and stir it onto the veggies. The cumin will toast a little and, again, we’ll pull a little extra flavor out of it before adding the broth.
- You’ll see the cumin and garlic begin sticking to the bottom of your pan. This is when you want to pour in your broth. Stir.
- Add the bay leaves.
- Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook 30-35 minutes. *At this point, you could make the cashew cream if you don’t have any on hand. It doesn’t need to be chilled for the recipe, so the quick-soak method will work just fine and be ready in time for your meal.
- Stir, and add in the potatoes and cauliflower. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer again. You don’t want to boil your soup away, so watch the broth levels. Potatoes and rice will each soak up some of that flavorful broth. If needed, add more (or water). Cook until the rice, potatoes, and cauliflower are cooked through. This could be 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your veggies.
- Remove bay leaves and serve soup with a spoonful of cashew cream on top and instruct your diners to stir it in completely before eating.
I had a cousin taste it when it was ready and he was shocked at the flavorful, delicious soup I had pulled together from the odds and ends in the fridge. While I was cooking my family was doubtful of the wild rice/hot pepper/cumin combo—but, he begrudgingly agreed that it worked when he tried it and said, “Are you sh*tting me?”
I hope you try it and enjoy this unusual combo as well.
Thanks to Forks Over Knives for the inspiration, the confidence boost, and the proof in the pudding that vegan meals can 100 percent shock the sh*t out of people (in a good way).