Vegan White Gazpacho with Green Grapes and a Twist
A Spanish Favorite My Way

White Gazpacho 2(To go straight to the recipe, please scroll down.)
At cocktail hour on Friday evening, the only thing that kept me from setting upon the ravishing vegan Spanish repast prepared by Juan and Barbara Gelpi for their daughter, Amalia’s, high school graduation party like an aunt at a picnic was a hot yoga class two and a half hours later.  So, while I treated myself to only the tiniest tastes of most everything, including a little sangria, I felt completely satisfied when I left.  

Since declaring this the Year of the Mini-Meal upon my husband’s untimely death in July, I prefer to eat this way anyway, letting my eyes consume what my stomach once did. And, besides, when I am less focused on devouring food, I can enjoy all of the other aspects of a party: the conversation, the setting and, in this case, a private mini concert by the brilliant and multi-talented Amalia accompanying herself on baby grand as she did dynamic justice to Nina Simone’s, “Feeling Good” before other guests arrived.

Juan, a surgeon, is of Cuban decent and, while everything he and Barbara cook is inspired, his deft hands may be particularly at home with Spanish and Cuban food, improvising with as much skill in the kitchen as Amalia does at the piano. Many new traditions have arisen since Joe died.  One favorite is joining forces with the Gelpis every few weeks, alternating houses, to cook fairly technical, but relaxed, vegan meals together because we all really love cooking, not just tossing together a few ingredient.  Paella, gumbo, pigeon pie, and crabcakes have been on recent menus.

Eggplant and Chickpea SaladHearts of Palm CevicheAt last night’s party, golden sangria and desserts–Barbara’s silky chocolate pie, a cake, and a cheesecake topped with a glistening fruit pinwheel–were set out on the breakfast room table.  Sliced and spreadable cheeses (all from Whole Foods), Marconi almonds roasted with paprika, three kinds of black and green olives, and a luscious white gazpacho lined the kitchen buffet.  And a veritable groaning board of “meats,” salads, and savory pastries covered the dining room table (which is usually covered with beautiful quilts that Barbara, also a doctor, creates for charity): spinach and puff pastry squares; a carrot, an eggplant and chickpea, and a tomato salad; hearts of palm ceviche; roasted red pepper and goat cheese crostini; meatballs in a tomato-based sauce; chorizo (really cripsy on the edges like I like it); and two of Juan’s special potato tortillas made with Follow Your Heart egg substitute.  Because families have been known to split over whether onion should be included in a tortilla, he made one each way.

Black Olives and Paprika Marconi AlmondsI couldn’t begin to choose a favorite dish, though I had to steer clear of the ceviche as I am wildly allergic to avacado.  (How cruel, right? Allergic to this staple of the vegan diet.)  Pretty high on the list, though, was the little chilled shot glasses of white gazpacho served with green grape halves.  In fact, I was so smitten that I purchased what I needed for my own version, based on Juan’s quickly recited list of ingredients, while on my Saturday morning post-yoga Whole Foods shopping spree.

In truth my “white” gazpacho is more of a pale spring green.  One reason is that I can’t bear to remove the nutritious skin from most vegetables, so I left it on the cucmber.  The other is that, though I had purchased fresh fennel for another dish, I used some of the licorice-y fronds in the soup for a beautiful pairing with the hint of sherry.  By all means, if you want a nearly pure white soup, peel the cucumber and perhaps only use the fennel fronds as a garnish, or omit them entirely, though I love the flavor.

Cheesecake Topped with Fruit PinwheelThis version of white gazbacho is made with soaked bread and my bread selection was based entirely on wanting to dip a little pretzel loaf in the cup of vegan lentil soup I purchased from the prepared foods bar at Whole Foods. But the remaining pretzel loaf was delectable in the gazpacho.  Yet, virtually any plain bread would do.  Just avoid breads studded with seeds, nuts, fruits, garlic, rosemary, and the like.

For the milk, I purchased unsweetened almond, as I wanted to play up the flavor of the actual almonds, which are also soaked add pureed into the soup.  What I didn’t realize until I got home, though, is that I had purchased “vanilla” unsweetened.  Afraid I had blown it, I tasted a little, and the vanilla was so barely-there subtle that I went with it.  My thinking was that vanilla notes would be more appealing than sweet ones and I loved it.  Regardless, be sure to use plenty of sea salt to awaken all of the flavors.  The soup shouldn’t taste salty, but one of the secrets of restaurant food is adequate salt.  Finding the sweet spot of just the right amount of salt makes magic out of the mundane.

In terms of processing the soup to pureed perfection, I didn’t time how long I let the motor run.  But it was however long it takes to slip off to the ladies room, wash my hands, and return to the kitchen.  Maybe 3 minutes?

This soup is so perfectly creamy, yet light, that a cup or bowl would not be too much.  But it does look irresistably fetching garnished and served up in chilled shot glasses, arranged on a tray.


White GazpachoVegan White Gazpacho with Green Grapes and a Twist

Yield: approximately 8 cups

2 cups bread torn into bite size pieces

2 cups whole or slivered blanched, skinless almonds

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (believe it or not, vanilla unsweetened is just delicious)

1 large European seedless cucumber, peeled or unpeeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (I prefer unpeeled)

1/4 cup fennel fronds and tender stems

2 large cloves garlic, halved (use roasted garlic if you prefer less pungency)

1/4 cup dry sherry (you can begin with less if you’re not too sure abou the shrry)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: finel chopped fennel fronds and green grape halves

Place bread and almonds in a large bowl.  Scald milk in a saucepan on top of the stove or heat for 2 minutes in the microwave and pour immediately over bread and almonds.  Let soak for an hour, pressing solids down into milk every so often.  At the end of the soaking time, place cucumber, fennel, garlic, sherry, vinegar and a large pinch of sea salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a couple of minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth.  Add bread, almonds, milk, and another pinch of salt and pepper and process for about 3 minutes, again scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, or until very creamy and smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Be sure to add plenty of salt to amplify the flavors, though the soup shouldn’t taste salty.  Garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds, if desired, and green grape halves. If serving in a shot glass, I like to spear a grape half on a cocktail pick and rest across the rim of the glass.

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Vegan Kale Chips–The World’s Best Croutons for Soup!

Lentil Soup with Kale CroutonsSince my husband’s passing last July (has it really been almost 6 months?) led to my profoundly changed relationship to food and to my proclamation of this as the “Year of the “Mini Meal,” I wanted to share this little tip that I just disovered for turning a cup of your favorite vegan soup into something a little more special:

Crown heated soup with a dollop of vegan sour cream and kale chips or even the little crispy bits at the bottom of the container (I love to make them, but I purchased these flavored vegan ones at Whole Foods).

Addicting!

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Vegan Smoky Pumpkin, Black Bean, Chorizo and Kale Bisque

Soup 2Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This rich, smoky and healthy bisque is perfect for a day like today in Eastern, Virginia: cool, rainy, and a bit dreary.  This soup will warm you from the inside out and brighten the darkest of days and nights which come so early this time of year.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

7 ounces vegan chorizo (I use a half a package of Trader Joe’s brand)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (adds richness and depth of flavor)

1 tablespoon adobo sauce froma can of chilies in adobo

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

12 ounces flavorful vegan beer (check out Barnivore for an A-Z list of vegan beer, wine and liquor)

1-15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, drained

3 to 4 cups fresh baby kale

2 cups vegetable stock or broth

Juice of 1/2 medium lime

Opttional: 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese or your favorite nut cream

Toppings: fresh cilantro leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds, sliced avocado, halved grape tomatoes, vegan sour cream or more nut cream, etc.

 

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes.  Add chorizo and garlic and continue sauteeing and stirring for another couple of minutes.  Lower heat if the onion or garlic starts to scorch.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, except lime juice, until well combined and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Stir in lime juice and serve warm topped as desired.

 

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Vegan Pumpkin, Kale, and Cannelini Bean Bisque

Pumpkin, Kale, and Cannelini Bean BisqueYield: 4 to 6 servings

Contrary to my best intentions, I am not posting as much as I’d hoped since my husband passed away–suddenly and unexpectedly–on July 30…

…but I hope when I do, the recipes are worth waiting for.

As those of you who have experienced a loss such as this know, it’s a game-changer.  And, while we basically understand the rules of the game, we don’t know–and can’t necessarily anticipate–how they will play out, both in positive and negative ways.

I knew I would be busy with schoo, once it started on September 8, and my freelance work.  But, add to the mix a pair of 8 1/2 month old puppies (my dear, dear Minnie passed away less than a month after Joe); the administration of Joe’s estate; and a fuller, more diverse, and less predictable social life than I was accustomed to (I’m “trending,” don’t you know–ha!), and time has a way of ticking past, albeit in very meaningful ways, though sometimes with a steep learning curve.

However, I deeply value this blog and the opportunity to, not only share recipes with all of you but to connect with you arouond food, so I hope you will forgive me the infrequency of posts as I figure out how to achieve balance.

Speaking of that less predictable social life…last night, I served this impromptu soup–inspired by a recipe in my latest Southern Living Magazine (worth the subscription just to read Rick Bragg’s “Southern Journal” essay in the back of each issue)–to two girlfriends, one of whom brought her guitar, played a mini-concert in my breakfast room, and spent the night.  What a beautiful, beautiful gift.  This woman’s spirit is infused with magic.

The soup was a hit.  So, as the weather begins to turn colder, nourish body, mind, and soul with a cup of this nutritious deliciousness.  On the side, I like to serve a rice cake topped with one of my vegan cheese spreads (search this website for lots of tastt options) and a dab of my friend Rich’s chimichurri.  It’s the perfect mini-meal and, remember, I have proclaimed this the Year of the Mini-Meal.

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1/8th teaspoon salt + more to taste

2 large gloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I love its sweetness)

1/2 teaspoon coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1-15 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth or stock (I use one called a “no-chicken” broth that tastes richer to me) OR 4 1/4 cups vegetable broth and 1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 to 3 cups chopped fresh kale

1-15.5 ounce can rinsed and drained cannelini beans

Optional garnish: dollops of vegan sour cream or crema

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high.  Add onion and salt and saute, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until softened and beginning to show color around the edges.  Add garlic and sugar and saute, stirring, until nicely caramelized.  (This only takes a few minutes because of sugar.)  Stir in spices, followed by pumpkin, and slowly stir in liquid and nutritional yeast.  Add kale, a handful at a time, and let it begin to wilt before adding the next handful.  Stir in beans and heat through, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasoning, as you might choose to add more salt–since pumpkin is naturally sweet–cumin, and smoked paprika.  Serve topped with vegan sour cream or crema.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegan White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho

White Bean-Fig GazpatchoYield: 2 servings

I deeply regret my 2 1/2 week hiatus from The Blooming Platter, and hope this is the beginning of the end of it.  As many of you know, my love, my husband of 25 years passed away from an acute coronoary on July 30 and life took on a new rhythm.

But, this past weekend, I already had a trip planned to meet my best friend from graduate school–we were both art history majors at Vanderbilt University–in Philadelphia for an “art tour.”  Joe was from Philly, so we had also planned a dinner at *Vedge (oh, wow–cannot recommend highly enough!) with his two sisters and our niece on Saturday night.  Knowing the trip would be “good medicine,” I didn’t change my plans, and I am thankful that I didn’t.

When I returned home, a friend picked me up at the airport and I invited another to stop by for dinner of chilled gazpatcho on her way home from the hospital where she had been with her mother.  Gifts of food are as much a part of death as flowers, and our friends had filled my refrigerator and freezer with a bounty of beautiful  fruit, vegetables, prepared vegan dishes and, okay, vegan cupcakes from My Vegan Sweet Tooth, a new vegan storefront bakery in town.

So, I swirled together cantaloupe, watermelon, fresh figs, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a half-pint of heirloom tomatoes, and some basil from my garden with cumin and smoked paprika to make the most beautiful of soups.  Then, as if to prove correct the “grieving” books and their gentle warnings of forgetfulness as part of the process, I left it on the counter in a sparkling crystal bowl in full reach of Minnie.  It got very quiet downstairs and then she came up with gazpatcho breath detectable from a foot away!

Not angry, just fearful, I first called our vet’s wife–on a Sunday–to make sure she’d survive.  And after learning that she would, I went looking for something else with which to make a cold soup.  And, though this combination of ingredients may sound a bit odd, my guest and I both thought the following combination of ingredients was delectable and I will be making it again and again.  Minne can’t say, as she didn’t get to taste this batch.

*V-Street, Vedge’s sister street food bar, specializing in flavor- and texture-forward small plates, is not to be missed either.  We ate three of our five meals at there, each one as delightful as the previous.

White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho

1 can white beans with juice

1 large tomato, cored and quartered

approximatley 8 to 10 fresh figs

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnishes: vegan sour cream, a few marinated veggies (onion, tomato and cucumber in a light vinaigrette), green or purple basil, and spiced pecans (I used rosemary-lime)

Place all ingredients except garnishes in food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached.  Serve chilled, garnished as desired.

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Vegan Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho with Lime Sour Cream

Grilled Watermelon GazpachoYield: 4 main dish servings

Monday evening, I hosted a mini-dinner party for two foodie friends.  Our temperatures here in Eastern Virginia spiked that day after quite a cool week, so I wanted to serve a light menu and maybe a chilled soup.

On my DC day-hiking experience with my cousin last weekend, we had enjoyed two(!) meals at Nora–America’s very first and still chart-topping organic restaurant–in Dupont Circle where I was enchanted with the asparagus vischysoisse.   I toyed with that idea, but on our Rock Creek Park hike, I had packed a picnic lunch that included watermelon cubes, which I seldom eat.  I confess to not eating a lot of fruit, probably because of its high sugar content, but this was addicting and so hydrating.

I came home from our trip sort of obsessed with the idea of grilled watermelon and I’m not sure why; maybe I saw it on a menu somewhere in the city.  So, not long after I had decided against the vischysoisse–asparagus isn’t still in season here–I thought of grilled watermelon gazpacho.  I saw only a couple of recipes for it online and I consulted one of them, but then just made up my own creation, choosing what looked the most enticing at the grocery store.

Wanting a more golden rather than rich tomato-ey soup–of which I’m not a big fan and often prevents my ordering gazpacho in restaurants–I chose golden grape tomatoes and an orange bell pepper, among other ingredients.  But choose whatever you like, using my recipe as is or as a guide.  My dinner guests will attest: this is one amazing soup, even with no herbs and spices other than salt and pepper and a garnish of cilantro and I will make it again and again just like this!

And it was the perfect supper served with a pair of Beet Bruschetta.  Oh, and a couple of glasses of wine.

Happy Independence Day!

2 1-inch thick slices of seeded watermelon about 9″ across at the widest point (basically enough to completely cover the bottom of a 10-inch indoor grill pan in one layer)

10. 5 ounces yellow grape tomatoes

1 10-inch English cucumber, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 medium red onion, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/8ths

1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered

3 large cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon of pepper or to taste

1/4 cup vegan sour cream

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Recommended Accompaniment: Beet Bruschetta

Preheat oiled grill pan over medium-high.  Arrange watermelon slices in pan in one layer.  Cook about 3 minutes or until nice grill marks appear, carefully flip, and repeat.  Remove watermelon to a plate and, when cool enough to handle, slice off rind.  Then place all ingredients except sour cream, lime zest and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor in about three batches and process until desired consistency is reached, transfering each batch to a storage container or serving bowl.  Stir to combine completely and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until serving time.  Just before serving, stir together sour cream and lime zest.  Serve each bowl topped with 1/4th of the Lime Sour Cream and the chopped cilantro.

Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho--Aerial

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Vegan Chickpea, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Stew

Chickpea, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Stew

Seriously, this soup will make you ‘wanna ‘holla…for more!  This is, quite honestly, one of the best soups–flavor, texture, color, etc.–that I have ever eaten…of mine or anyone else’s.

My recipe was inspired by a couple in recent culinary magazines.  Only, one of the recipes called for a whole cup of peanut butter.  I love peanut butter as much as the next gal but, honestly, that made me feel a little queasy just thinking about so much of such a rich ingredient.

So, I use a mere 1/4 cup.  That same recipe–or was it the other?–called for a making a sweet potato broth and using that in the stew.  If I can skip a step, I do, so I just made aromatics like onion and garlic plus the sweet potaot part of the soup.

Love!

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion (half a medium onion), diced

Sea salt

1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 cups vegetable stock

1-14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomoatoes with juice

1-15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1-15 ounce can coconut milk

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

2 lightly packed cups coarsely chopped mustard greens

Juice of 1/2 medium lime

Garnish: lime zest and roasted and lightly salted peanuts

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until softened and translucent.  Add bell pepper and garlic and continue to saute and stir for about 3 more minutes.  Add sweet potato and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add all remaining ingrdients except greens and lime juice, bring to a simmer, and stir until peanut butter is melted and soup is heated through.  Stir in greens and cook just until wilted, but still bright green.  Add lime juice and serve hot garnished with lime zest and roasted and lightly salted peanuts.

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Vegan Tomato-Pumpkin Bisque–“Souper” Quick and Easy

Photo Credit: Trish Pfeifer
Photo Credit: Trish Pfeifer

Yield: 6 serving

Necessity was definitely the mother of invention with this soup: I was hungry for dinner and there was a can of diced tomatoes and pureed pumpkin in the pantry, and lemons and Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese in the fridge.  Voila: soup!  I was drinking a glass of wine while I was cooking, so in went some of it and, honestly, not a whole lot more save some aromatics, spices, and veggie stock.

The results received raves from three friends who were recipients: my yoga teacher (who is a foodie and cooking instructor in her own right), and two others who are nursing some kind of bug that is going around, both also excellent cooks and, as it happens, artists, one of whom took the photo at right before she and her husband tucked into it. Her photo has an artist’s touch no?  She said I should describe this recipe as, “The soup that briangs you back!”

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried sage

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes

1-15 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Optional: 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup dry red wine

4 ounces vegan cream cheese

1 teaspoon lemon zest (do not omit–adds such a lovely freshness!)

Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high.  Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and spices and continue sauteing, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Add tomatoes and pumpkin and stir until well combined.  Whisk in stock, 1 cup at a time, followed by red wine.  Heat through and then add vegan cream cheese in pieces, whisking until completely melted.  Stir in lemon zest and serve.

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Vegan Thai Coconut Milk and Vegetable Soup

Thai Coconut Milk and Vegetable Soup 1Yield: 4 servings

This soup is as delicious as it is nutritious and lovely. Thicker than most Thai restaurant soups (due to the starch in the squash), it is very filling, yet still light.

It was inspired by my love of all things Thai, but also by an over-zealous trip to the farmer’s market this week considering I am leaving town on Sunday.  In a little bit of a panic about not wasting food, I created this soup brimming over with vegetables like red bell pepper, fresh chili pepper, pattypan squash, grape tomatoes and Swiss Chard.

I had purchased 2 bunches of the chard–what was I thinking–so I created a really tasty Swissh Chard and Pumpkin Seed Pesto out of the remainder, which will freeze nicely.

I used the vegetables I had on hand, but feel free to substitute other veggies, keeping flavor, texture and color contrast in mind. In addition to the onion and bell pepper, you will want about 4 cups of vegetables. Precokl firmer vegetables like squash and carrots, and simply heat softer ones like tomatoes and mushrooms.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced red or green mild chili pepper
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-15 ounce can coconut milk or lite coconut milk
2 cups water
2 regular or 1 large vegetable bouillon cube (enough for 2 cups of water)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 pounds pattypan squash (unpeeled and unseeded weight), baked, roasted or grilled until tender, peeled, and cut into wedges [you may substitute eggplant, zucchini and/or yellow squash]; approximately 2 cups cooked chunks
1 cup (approximately) red or gold grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup finely chopped Swiss chard (I use a food processor for this task)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, rough chopped
Zest of 1 large lime
1/4 cup basil leaves, preferably Thai basil
4 teaspoons vegan fish sauce (sold a “vegetarian” in Asian markets) or rice wine vinegar
Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped roasted and lightly salted cashews and peanuts and sprigs of basil or cilantro

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion, bell pepper, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and a pinch of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, water, bouillon cube, and soy sauce, and heat until barely simmering. Add squash, tomatoes, and Swiss chard, and return to a gently simmer. Avoid boiling. Stir in cilantro, lime zest, and basil leaves and heat through. Serve in large bowls with 1 teaspoon of vegan fish sauce or rice wine vinegar stirred into each. Garnish with chopped nuts and a sprig of basil or cilantro.

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