You never know when inspiration will strike.
We had to feed our dog a "mild" diet for a few days because of a digestive issue, so we bought some cottage cheese for her. It's been years since I've had cottage cheese and I hadn't really missed it at all until then. After smelling it, I immediately craved a thick, creamy cheese-type thing. So I started straining soy yogurt to make some yogurt cheese.
The next day I was driving and vaguely thinking what I would do with this yogurt cheese. Then, out of the blue I had it- I needed to make a soup combo. Two Tex-Mex soups in the same bowl with the yogurt cheese mimicking a creme frache/sour cream type dollop.
I was ready to make the soups today- the yogurt had strained for 2 days and was thick enough to hold its shape. Then when I woke up this morning I remembered a salad that I ate about 13 years ago with my friend Rubann and her mom. We were at Eastern Hills Country Club after work (Rubann and I worked at a Ford dealership with her mom). I had the most fabulous salad ever. (Obviously- I still remember it). It was a huge bowl of spinach with shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, and fried jalapenos, topped with honey mustard dressing.
So tonight it all came together. I made a corn chowder and black bean soup and served them in the same bowl, topped with a dollop of yogurt cheese. The salad was spinach, avocado, green onions, cilantro, and fried pickled jalapenos, topped with agave mustard dressing.
First the yogurt cheese:
This was not a 100% success, but I have more to work with.
I strained 32 oz of Wildwood plain soy yogurt through a coffee/tea filter and a strainer for two days. Then I mixed 1/4 cup of the thickened yogurt with a pinch of salt and about 1 Tbsp. of flax oil. It tastes pretty darn good like this, I think, but Mike thought it was too yogurty still. I added some nutritional yeast to up the cheesy factor, but that didn't do much for him. I thought it tasted like when you're eating nachos and the nacho cheese sauce mixes with the sour cream. Yum! I thought it tasted like a good sour cream before the nutritional yeast, too, though. This needs more work.
Now the soups:
The black bean soup I made in advance, thanks to my handy pressure cooker.
4 cups soaked black beans
16 oz diced, canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
the juice of 3 small key limes
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Enough water to cover
I cooked them for 10 minutes under pressure, cooled slowly, and then seasoned with salt to taste. This makes a ton of beans, so we used about 1/2 on past meals (like the taco salad I posted previously). Tonight I just added a bit of water to the beans, pureed them, and heated them up. Then they were "soup".
The corn chowder was really easy, too.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 ancho chili, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups frozen corn (or fresh if it happens to be warm where you live)
3 cups almond milk (or other milk that you like)
1 tsp. salt
Saute the onion, chilies, and garlic in the olive oil until beginning to brown. Then add everything else and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Then puree half with an immersion blender. You can keep simmering it if you want it thicker.
Fold a piece of aluminum foil to make a little dam that fits across the diameter of your soup bowls. Hold it in the center as you ladle one soup on one side. Keep the bowl slightly tilted to the filled side, then ladle the other soup in the other side. Place the bowl on a level surface and carefully and slowly remove the foil dam. Then play in the soups with the tip of your knife to make designs. Top with some yogurt cheese, sour cream, or just cilantro and green onions.
To make the fried jalapenos, I recommend using homemade escabeche (pickled jalapenos with onions and carrots). If you don't have any handy, you can buy cans of pickled jalapenos at most supermarkets. Find some nice thick slices to use - I fried about 15 slices for 2 salads.
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Toss the jalapeno slices around in the cornmeal mixture until coated.
Heat 1/4 cups (or so) of canola oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. When you drop a bit of cornmeal in the oil and it bubbles up around it, it's time to throw in the jalapenos. But don't throw them in, really. Carefully place them in the oil and don't burn yourself. Flip the slices when they are browned on one side. When the other side looks golden brown, rescue them from the oil onto a landing pad of paper towels, newspaper, or an ugly kitchen towel you don't like that much. Let cool.
2 Tbsp. stoneground mustard
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 Tbsp. flax oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (I used some infused with thyme and it was great)
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
Other salad stuff:
a big bunch of spinach, washed and torn
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 couple of green onions, sliced
a small handful of cilantro, chopped
Put it all in a bowl, drizzle with dressing, and pretend you're in country club in Garland, Texas.