September 27, 2009

Love Soup by Anna Thomas

When I became a vegetarian, one of the first cookbooks I bought — maybe the first — was "The Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas. It was filled with recipes that not only I, but my omnivore friends, found delicious. It was a book that made vegetarian cooking seem almost mainstream and gourmet at a time when vegetarians were still seen as a little odd. Anna Thomas was a graduate student in film production at UCLA in 1973 when she wrote that classic book. She went on to write "The Vegetarian Epicure Book II" in 1978 and "The New Vegetarian Epicure" in 1992. In addition to writing cookbooks, Anna Thomas is a screen writer and producer. She won an Academy Award for best writing/screen play written directly for the screen for El Norte, and additional kudos for My Family/Mi Familia which she co-wrote and produced. She was also a screen writer on Frida as well as other films.

Ms. Thomas has just released a new cookbook, "Love Soup," devoted to wonderful-sounding soup recipes, and I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to review her latest effort. Although the book is described as vegetarian rather than vegan, it's "vegan friendly" in the friendliest of ways. Ms. Thomas' two sons are vegan, and she knows her way around a vegan recipe. In nearly every chapter (desserts might be an exception) the vegan recipes outnumber the vegetarian ones, and most of the non-vegan ones could easily be made vegan with the simple substitution of Earth Balance or olive oil for a bit of butter, by using a vegan garnish instead of a non-vegan one, or by substituting vegan sour cream or cheese in the few recipes using those ingredients.

The veggies from spicy Indonesian yam and peanut soup

The Book begins with lots of useful information about stocking the pantry, choosing ingredients and equipment, and measurements. It continues with a chapter on homemade broths, offering seven recipes for soup stock, all vegan, for those who like to make their own. The main soup chapters are arranged by season, to facilitate shopping at farmers' markets or using produce from your garden. There are also chapters for breads, enticing condiments and spreads to round out your meal.

I was planning to try a fall soup, but was too attracted to certain winter and summer recipes to do that. The summer soup I chose features zucchini, Yukon Gold potatoes, and fresh basil - all of which are in abundance at our farmers' market now. The second recipe, spicy Indonesian yam and peanut soup, sounded so delicious I just couldn't wait until winter. The next soup I plan to make is also a summer recipe, roasted eggplant and garbanzo bean soup. Doesn't that sound tempting?

Zucchini and potato soup
I decided to make zucchini and potato soup first, and I chose to make the puréed version because I was in the mood for a creamy soup. The author warns not to over-blend because potatoes have a tendency to become gummy when over-worked, and I under-blended at first. I didn't achieve the creaminess I was after, so I re-blended to creamy perfection. The taste was rich and delicious, and the texture lush and smooth. The soup was truly sumptuous - can't wait to make it again! I served it with an Irish soda bread. The soup took me one hour to make, start to finish.

Spicy Indonesian yam and peanut soup, simmering
My next test-recipe was spicy Indonesian yam and peanut soup. Would you believe this soup contains an entire half cup of shredded ginger? Well, it does. It's a root vegetable soup with yams, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, peanut butter, tamarind, lemon, and fragrant herbs and spices.

It was a little more complicated and time-consuming than the zucchini soup, but it was worth the effort. (And it wasn't hard to make.) I asked my husband what word he would use to describe the taste, and he said, "exquisite" - this is from a person who doesn't usually get beyond "very good" when describing something. The flavor was rich and complex, and I'd love to make this soup for company. In fact, there was SO MUCH soup that I was wishing we'd invited a few people for dinner. It was filling, too, and along with a salad, made a fabulous meal.

I'm looking forward to trying lots more of the soups from "Love Soup," if I can stop myself from making these two over and over! If you enjoy making soups filled with seasonal vegetables, beans, fresh herbs and condiments, you should take a look at "Love Soup."


  1. Hi Andrea! I stumbled upon your blog today, and I'm so glad I did! I love your blog, keep up the good work :) Will be visiting often!

  2. This was a great post! I love autumn because I can eat soup all the time. Those look all so good.

  3. That eggplant chickpea soup sounds so amazing my mouth is watering! I *LOVE* fall because it finally becomes soup weather again...any excuse to make and eat soup is a good one in my book :-)


  4. Great review--thanks! I hadn't even heard of this book. The Indonesian spicy soup sounds fabulous (1/2 cup ginger?!). I think I may need to buy this now! ;)

  5. Mmm - I love the cover of that book. It has already magically jumped into my Amazon shopping cart.

  6. adline,
    Thanks for visiting and thanks for the compliment!

    Thank you. I love making soup, too, but I hate to see the hot weather go.

    The idea of roasted eggplant soup is very appealing to me, too.

    I thought the ginger must be a misprint but it really worked! Of course as I mentioned in the post, it was a LOT of soup. But still...

    You should see my Amazon shopping cart. The "save for later" section is packed with cookbooks. I think the only solution is to become a non-stop cookbook reviewer!

  7. You picked some great soups to try. There are so many recipes I want to make from this book, including the ones you made.

    The cookies I made from Raw for Dessert did not require a dehydrator. They are almost a little too easy to keep on hand!

  8. Diann,
    The two soups I tried were excellent. Now I'd like to make the brownies you just made!

  9. I keep saying I'm done buying cookbooks..... but you have caused me to change my mind. The Veggie Ep 1 was the first cookbook Alan ever owned, and we have loved ours to pieces. Now I'm sure I must have this one as well.

  10. Hi Andrea --

    Thanks for the thoughtful and enthusiastic review of my book! I'm impressed that you already made so many of the soups, and your pictures are lovely. I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but it just turned very cool here (after 107˚ the other day!) and I am making winter squash soups for all my book signings/soup tastings. If you like spicier flavors -- try that Winter Squash and Yam Soup with Poblano Peppers. I'm crazy about it!

    Keep up the great work -- and I love the online vegan community! I owe thanks to my son Teddy for introducing me to it.

  11. Claire,
    I keep saying I'm done buying cookbooks, too but I'm just lying to myself.

    Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting on the review. The two soups I tried were really special, so it was easy to be enthusiastic.

    It's suddenly gotten much cooler here, too. I'm scheduled to take a raw foods class tonight but I think I'd rather just stay here and make soup!


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