Suddenly the snow is melting. Spring may be almost here. The snowdrops thought it was coming in late January already but they had to endure who knows how many heavy snow blankets after that. Finally, here they are in all their glory, looking down at the mud.
Lots of mud. Mud is a special treat for our two-year-old, Hazel, who came to visit over the weekend with her mommie and daddy to help make maple syrup in my brother’s woods in northern Indiana. There was enough mud to make Hazel very happy, along with piles of slushy snow to tromp through, sap to sip direct from the tree, and syrup to guzzle warm from the cooker.
Maple sugaring gives us something to look forward to in this northern, muddy end of winter/beginning of spring. The ground has to be a mess for the sap to run well—thaw by day, light freeze at night. It happens right around spring break. Even though I am impatient for warm weather, I wouldn’t trade a day in the sap shack with my family for a week in the Florida sun.
When I go to the maple woods I bring food. Traditionally it’s brats, which we cook in sap on a potbelly stove, but this year I took a vegan soup and guacamole to go with more or less healthy chips. My oldest brother pretends to turn up his nose at healthy food but he did not complain at all about this soup. The large soup pot emptied over the afternoon, along with a goodly number of beer bottles.
Here is the recipe, which is my enhanced version of a chickpea-cashew soup recipe I got from a friend.
Practical Mystic’s Vegan Chickpea–Wild Rice Soup
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, thin sliced
2 large carrots, cut in chunks
1/2 lb. mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
6 cups vegetable broth
4-6 cups chopped kale or spinach
In a stockpot over medium-high heat sauté onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic, mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and sauté until garlic and mushrooms are fragrant.
Add rice, wild rice, chickpeas, and broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until chickpeas and rice are tender, about an hour.
Meanwhile drain the cashews and place them in a blender with one cup of fresh water. Blend until completely smooth.
Add the cashew cream and greens to the soup after rice is tender and simmer until greens are wilted, 3 to 5 more minutes. You may need to add water to thin the soup if it seems too thick. Taste for salt and seasonings and let sit for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to marry.
It thickens as it cools, so if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, just thin with a little water when you reheat.