Today I welcome Southern California friend Ted Lai to Cowgirls & Collard Greens for the first time!
Ted and I met a couple years ago at one of the many SoCal vegan events and have stayed in touch ever since. Perhaps best known through his many colorful and fun vegan foodie Instagram accounts, Ted is a master chef, a father, a husband and a guru when it comes to being creative in the kitchen. He is also a pro when it comes to hosting foodie events with his family, who are all vegan too. Thanks for sharing your Easy Creamy Tomato Soup recipe with us today Ted!
When people find out that I’m a chef of sorts, they always ask me what type of food I cook. I’m not trying to brag, but I can cook almost anything… So it’s a difficult question to answer. I love cooking things with an Asian twist as well as any type of new cuisine I’ve never experimented with as well as difficult things most home cooks wouldn’t think about doing (like making fresh Udon noodles). With my Plant Alchemy business, I make vegan cheese, seitan, and other protein substitutes. In casual conversation, I usually don’t bring that up.
So what type of food do I cook? Pretty much anything. But people don’t want to hear that. What they’re really asking me is my specialty. There are many things that I love to cook, but if I had to choose, my superpower in cooking would be soup. Whether it’s a multi-hour, multi-step process where I first make my own stock as a base for a soup or stew, or a superfast soup done in a blender, or something in between, my family loves it when I make any type of liquid comfort food.
Here’s one of my Go To recipes that I can whip up in ten minutes or less if I want to keep things simple.
Easy Creamy Tomato Soup
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil or less depending on your preference
• 1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 oz.
• 1 cup vegetable broth
• 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
• handful of basil leaves
• salt and pepper to taste
• Optional: chili pepper flakes, chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, chipotle
in adobo sauce, or whatever additional flavors you like!
• In a sauté pan or other frying pan, add olive oil and turn fire to medium. After about
30 seconds, add chopped onions and a pinch of sea salt or kosher salt. Stir up the
onions and let sit. The goal is to sweat the onions. You don’t want a lot of frying
sounds because you’re trying to develop the flavors without browning the onions.
You should just a hear a gentle sizzle. Stir every 30 seconds or so. If the onions
stick a little, lower the heat and add a tablespoon of water or so.
• After about two minutes, or when the onions are just getting translucent (more
clear), add garlic, stir, and continue cooking for another minute or so. Turn off
burner and take off heat.
• In a Vitamix or other blender, add the cashews. Pulse or turn on the blender to
powder the cashews. You don’t want to process too long or it will become Cashew
butter. You just don’t want any large pieces.
• Add broth, the cooked onions, and the can of ground tomatoes, and blend on
highest setting for three minutes. Scrape down sides and add any other seasonings
you want to… basil, chili, cumin, smoked seasoning. Blend on high for another two
minutes or until the soup is smooth and hot. Note: If you don’t have a high speed
blender, then you may need to blend it for longer. You also may need to put it into a
pot to warm till it’s fully hot.
• Taste for additional salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Serve hot and garnish with
shredded basil, a dash of oil, vegan sour cream, or whatever other flavor profiles
you feel like adding.
About Ted Lai
From humble beginnings as a four-year-old making peanut butter and pickle sandwiches to his current work starting a food business and sharing meals with friends, family, and at special events, Ted has always understood the power of food in life. A vegan father of a plant-based family, Ted is known best on social media as @WokWildside but also hosts the Vegan MacGyver show where he creates meals in a hotel room with minimal equipment and ingredients (distributed on FaceBook through Vegan Outreach). His latest venture is Plant Alchemy, a small-batch vegan cheese, seitan, and plant-based protein substitute business in Southern California. You can find information through EatPlantAlchemy on Instagram.