BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Winter Warmer

34 Comments

Not yet winter, you say? I dare you to repeat that after this last week in stormy New England. Losing power for 2 1/2 days in the sub-freezing temperatures would have been bad enough, but the cherry on top of this snow sundae was sliding on the ice and crashing my car into a telephone pole. Minimal at worst, the air bags didn’t even deploy, and yet the damage somehow totals upwards of $4,000. Completely incomprehensible to this car-illiterate new driver.

The point is, it’s never too early for some comforting winter dishes that can warm you up from the inside, especially when it’s damn near apocalyptic outside. I may have lacked the resources to make this particular soup in my moment of greatest need, but the craving for a bubbling cauldron of savory stew reminded me of this previously unpublished recipe.


Please excuse the dark, mediocre photo… It’s almost a year old and I haven’t had a chance to shoot a new one!

Inspired by saag paneer, and Indian dish with gently stewed spinach and cubes of soft cheese, this vegan version utilizes kale, the leafy green of the moment, and achieves a silkier texture through the use of pureed potato. A stunning one-bowl meal, complete with greens and protein, not to mention a crave-worthy spicy flavor profile, my hesitation to share it stemmed from impatience. Factoring in the time it takes to press the tofu, bake the tofu, and simmer the soup, it’s not one to make on the fly.

However, thanks to the new tofu innovation from Nasoya, their latest vacuum-packed Sprouted Tofu cuts the prep time in half. Packaged and sold already pressed, the firm, dense texture is perfect for this application, as well as any other dish that calls for pressed tofu. Thanks to this simple improvement, I can see many repeat performances for my green monster of a soup coming up in these colder months!

Kale Saag Soup

Tofu Paneer:

1 16-Ounce Package Vacuum-Sealed Sprouted Tofu, or Extra-Firm Tofu, Pressed for 1 Hour
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Kale Saag Soup:

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 Small Yellow Onions or 1 Large, Chopped (About 1 Cup)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
4 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
2 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3 Cups Water or Vegetable Stock
1 Medium Potato, Peeled and Chopped (About 1 Cup)
1 Bunch Kale, Stemmed and Chopped
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste

Fresh Parsley or Cilantro for Garnish

First things first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees so that you can get the tofu “paneer” going. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes, and toss them into an 8-inch baking dish along with the remaining ingredients. Mix well to coat the tofu, and then arrange the cubes in one even layer, so they’re not overlapping (touching is fine.) Bake for 45 minutes until just barely golden around the edges. I don’t recommend tasting them plain; on their own, the “paneer” Will taste fairly sour and salty, but can balance out the soup (or most other dishes you want to throw them into) beautifully.

Meanwhile, get the soup going by melting the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the chopped onions, and saute until softened and translucent; about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic, continuing to cook until the onions take on a tinge of golden-brown color, which could be around 5 – 8 more minutes. Throw in all the spices next, and saute with the other aromatics for just a minute or two to bring out the flavors, but be careful not to burn anything.

Pour in the water or stock, and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot thoroughly to loosen and incorporate anything sticking. Follow that with the potato, and cover the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a lively simmer. Let bubble away for about 15 minutes, until the potato pieces are fork-tender. Mix in the chopped kale a little bit at a time so that it can wilt down and fit properly in the pot. Cover once more, and simmer for a final 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and add in the coconut milk. Either transfer the soup to your blender in batches to puree, or hit it with an immersion blender, until very smooth. Add salt to taste.

Ladle your smooth kale saag soup into bowls, and top with cubes of tofu paneer and the chopped fresh herbs of choice. Serve piping hot.

Serves 4 – 6

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

34 thoughts on “Winter Warmer

  1. So funny: I’ve been working on a Saag Paneer for a couple of weeks, too. trying to get it perfect: this looks fantastic!

    So sorry about your car, love.

  2. Ohhh thanks for the tofu idea! I make an equivalent soup with kale (but no vegetable stock, which I find useless) and now I’ll try with the tofu cubes.

  3. Sorry to hear about your accident! We got snow here in Philly, but nothing that was actually sticking to the roads. Hope you can get your hands on some of this soup to bring you comfort! I love saag paneer.

  4. Lovely. This satisfy the devoted soup eater in me. I thought originally your recipe would contain spinach (which I love), but I see you have used kale – which is just as well, I need more kale recipes anyhow!

    Might try this with tempeh too.

  5. Oh Hannah! Glad you’re okay!

  6. I am so sorry to hear about the accident. New England started early this year for sure. I am from Maine originally and sometimes, you just have those years. It is going to be brutal this time. At least the stew looks amazing! :)

  7. This looks amazing, and I love kale!

  8. That picture certainly is not mediocre Hannah, but very good!
    Lovely looking soup and tofu paneer sounds yummy!
    So sorry to hear about your accident,hopefully you feel better already!

  9. Hannah, I’m so sorry to hear about your accident! Sliding on ice is terrifying when you’re behind the wheel – that sense of being out of control feels so wrong. We just got our car back from repairs after an accident a few months ago (not ice, but a wayward semi in this case) – I feel your pain…it’s such a yuck experience all around. The main thing is that you walked away – so glad you’re okay, *hugs* xoxooo

  10. Gorgeous photo! So sorry to hear about your car. A deer jumped out in front of our daughter, $2200 in damage, the deer unscathed. It didn’t even look that bad, very disappointing. :(

  11. Hannah, I’m so grateful you weren’t injured! I’m sorry to hear about the accident, though; I’m sure it was jarring since driving is new to you. I can’t wait to make this recipe…I wish I were home in my kitchen making this right now!

  12. So glad you are O.K.! My mom always used to say, “Cars can be replaced, people cannot.” I’m so sorry you had to go through that though, and hope you are able to get your car repaired. Thanks for the great recipe! (((hugs)))

  13. Mediocre? That photo is beautiful! Sill girl. That stinks about the car, glad you’re ok. And that soup? Absolutely delicious looking! Love the bright green color especially!

  14. Oh, Hannah, I’m sorry about your car :( but glad you’re okay. I can’t believe this crazy weather, either. My brother has been without power since Sunday (he lives in central Mass)! It’s nuts. That soup looks amazing, and I have everything on hand to make it. I think it might be on the menu Sunday!

  15. Oh crap Hannah, I’m sorry about your car – that blows!! I think this looks awesome, I used to like sag paneer in my pregan days!

  16. Bummer about the accident and the cost — I hope you weren’t in any way injured. Your storm was the first blast of winter, but what I really dread comes this weekend, when daylight savings ends and it gets dark so early. We’ll need lots of soup to get us through the dark and chilly nights ahead.

  17. Oh, Hannah! You poor thing! have you only just started driving? This must be a Hannah thing then. I had an accident only a few weeks after I got my Ps, on the way to my work’s Christmas party. It feels rotten, but the important thing (trite as it sounds) is that you’re safe. And still making delicious things :)

  18. I’m glad that the accident didn’t do any damage to you, at least. Driving in any kind of ice/snow is super scary. I do my best to avoid it at all costs.

  19. Ohmygawd, how freaky was the weather?! I am *so* glad to hear you are ok. The roads near us were really dangerous too and we lost power for 3 whole days. I think it’s finally time for a generator.

    And by the way, I love how your “mediocre” shot would be one of my best, ha!

    • Seriously! We were just saying that this year for Chanukah, we’re buying each other a family gift of a generator. Every time this happens, the freezer goes out and I lose gallons of ice cream, after all.

      And you’re far too kind- I know you could do better with that photo. :)

  20. Sorry to hear about your car accident. :( Those are always scary. I hope you’re okay.

    I love how green and full of kale this soup is! And coconut milk too yum.

  21. Hannah, I’m very sorry to hear about your wintry misfortunes and the car accident. That is frightening, but it sounds like you’re all right. Good luck for the rest of Autumn and Winter and keep smiling.

    Also… duuuude… this saag paneer is beautiful. An Indian friend of mine whose mum is very health conscious replaces paneer in her curries with tofu. We can call this authentic, no? :-)

    • Aw, thank you. I will definitely be driving very cautiously as the snow keeps coming and there’s ice on the road… And perhaps, I’ll avoid that hill in bad weather in the first place.

      Ha, who knew, I thought this was the most inauthentic bastardization of saag paneer possible! What a nice surprise. ;)

  22. At least you’re alright, bummer on the car accident. :-( Yummy looking soup though, and the just the weather for it too.

  23. This sounds great! Love the idea of it as a soup!! Will definitely be on the lookout for the sprouted tofu as I have to admit, one of the reasons I don’t use tofu too often is I hate pressing it.

    Sorry to hear about crashing your car! Thankfully I’ve never crashed my car but i have been hit by other cars a few times so I know how much it sucks!!!! Glad your alright!!

  24. Oh no, Hannah, I’m so sorry about the car accident! I’ve been there, and that is terrifying. I’m so glad you’re ok though!! Sending hugs your way, my friend!

    I absolutely love saag paneer and I’ve actually been thinking of making it at home. This soup looks like a beautiful variation!

  25. Oh, yum! That looks amazing. I love stuff like that.

  26. This sounds like super comfort food. So sorry about your car accident. I saw you tweet about it. The damage looked bad.

  27. Too bad to hear about the car:(
    The soup though is looking special & very appetizing too & I love the picture!

  28. ACK! That SUCKS about your car! I’m so sorry, girl. :(

    On a brighter note, this tofu saag “paneer” sounds fantastic! That’s one of my favorite dishes and I’d love to make it healthier with the tofu!

  29. this was great!! We loved loved loved the tofu and the saag was creamy and flavorful. FYI I did it with soy milk to cut down on the fat a bit and it was still super yummy:)

  30. I used to love saag paneer, what an amazing healthy take on this dish.

  31. My step mom gave me a whole bag of kale from her garden today and I decided I’d go into Kale Mode (Kale Chips, Kale Walnut Pesto, and this recipe) this evening before school starts up again next week. I added two habaneros (I like heat), used a bit more kale and a full can of lite coconut milk, and it tastes absolutely delicious. Thanks for the recipe! It’s definitely going to be added to my collection.

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