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Vegan for the Holidays

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 Vegetarian Cooking with Zel

An instant family favorite, this traditional Italian fisherman's stew takes on a distinctive new personality with its vibrant vegetarian base and a delightful burst of sweetness that chestnuts bring to the dish. The ragu still retains its Italian roots with an array of Mediterranean seasonings that contribute to richly flavored tomato sauce.

Typically, the cioppino is served over pasta, which is always a delicious option, but this presentation is simply wholesome, homespun chowder that stands on its own. For a lovely meal begin with a bountiful salad of leafy greens and plenty of chopped veggies dressed with a light balsamic dressing. Then, accompany the cioppino with plenty of lusty whole-grain bread for mopping up the savory sauce.

Tofu Chestnut Cioppino


Yield: about 6 servings

    2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 pound (453g) extra firm tofu, well drained, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

    1 large onion, diced
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 to 3 tablespoons water, plus more if needed

    3 1/2 pounds (1.59 Kilos) fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped

    1 green bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
    1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
    1/2 pound (226g) white or red potatoes, unpeeled, chopped into bite-size chunks
    1 zucchini, chopped into bite-size chunks
    1 (6-ounce/169g) can tomato paste
    1 cup (240 ml) water
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    3/4 teaspoon dried basil
    3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle
    Pinch cayenne, or more if desired

    1 cup (240 ml) cooked chestnuts, cut in half

    2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley
    6 sprigs fresh basil
    2 tablespoons pine nuts

  1. Combine the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and tofu in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high heat, frequently tossing the tofu with a wooden spoon for about 5 to 7 minutes until the liquid evaporates. Continue tossing the tofu cubes until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the onion, olive oil, and water in the same skillet and cook and stir over high heat for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onions begin to brown. Add more water as needed to prevent burning the onions. Transfer the onions to an 8 to 10-quart (8 to 10-liter) stockpot.
  3. Put the tomatoes in the food processor in batches and pulse-chop them until coarsely pureed. Transfer them to the stockpot.
  4. Add the bell peppers, potatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, water, garlic, salt, oregano, basil, fennel seeds, and cayenne to the stockpot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Add the browned tofu cubes and chestnuts and cook another 2 minutes to warm through.
  5. To serve, spoon the cioppino into wide soup bowls and garnish with a pinch of minced parsley. Place a sprig of basil in the center of the bowl and finish with a tiny mound of pine nuts in the center or sprinkled over the top.

Note: If you decide to use Roma tomatoes, which tend to be a bit less juicy, add an extra 1/2-cup (120 ml) of water.

Helpful Hint: The secret to successful chestnut cookery is to always have at least one cup of cooked and peeled chestnuts on hand. Then, you can be spontaneous and plunge right in to cook up a tasty chestnut-based meal without advance preparation. Many markets now carry cooked and peeled chestnuts in 6 to 8-ounce (170 to 226g) vacuum-sealed pouches. These time savers make it possible to enjoy chestnut-enhanced dishes year-round.

Click here for past cookingwithzel@home.comeonin recipes

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