Szechuan Soup

Wow…I made a draft of this post on May 12, and the only reason I didn’t publish it that night was I was too lazy to process the photo of the soup. Everything else was written. OK, in fairness to me, I have NOT been lazy; I’ve been very much the opposite of lazy. But I never found the time to deal with that one photo, which is ridiculous since I’ve processed hundreds of photos since then. If anything I’m even busier now than I was then, but I made the time to publish this now while tonight’s soup simmers. 🙂

So here’s my old post:
I feel like on those random times I actually manage to post a recipe here lately that it’s always soup. There are a few reasons for that:

  • I love soup.
  • I’ve had to eat alone most nights this year and making a huge pot of soup is an excellent way for me to have a lovely dinner and then a week of lunches.
  • I love soup.
  • I eat dinner ridiculously late year-round but as I have this weird thing about not eating dinner when it’s light out, my dinner hour just gets absurd in the spring and summer, so I like eating something lighter like soup.
  • I love soup.
  • Also since it’s spring, I usually go for a hike after work and usually eat something to tide me over for a while before doing so, so when I get home for dinner, I don’t want a large meal.
  • I love soup and shouldn’t have to explain myself.

As I’ve mentioned, we are moving to California in a couple of months, and it’s finally starting to feel real. I’ve started cleaning out the house of things that won’t move with us so I can donate them. I also need to start cleaning out the cupboards so I don’t have to either throw away food or move it across the country. Tonight’s soup used up all kinds of things from the fridge and the cupboard! Cans of baby corn and young jackfruit I don’t remember buying, the remainder of a cabbage that needed to be used up, a random hot pepper I found, a zucchini that was on its last legs, the rest of an open jar of tomato sauce. And bonus: it tastes awesome! And very spicy, just the way I like it!

Szechuan Soup

1 onion, cut into half-moons, then cut into quarter-moons
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1-2″ of garlic, peeled and grated
8 cups vegan “chicken” broth
12 oz tomato sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1/2 cup soy curls
1 small can young jackfruit in brine, drained and shredded
1/4 cabbage (green, Napa, or Savoy are all fine), cored and chopped
1 cup baby corn, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium orange hot pepper, sliced
Szechuan pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven, then add the onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, then add the broth, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then add the soy curls, jackfruit, baby corn, zucchini, and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour or until everything is cooked. Add the Szechuan pepper to taste.

I am nearly finished the Virginia Master Naturalist training. We had our last field trip this Saturday at Huntley Meadows; we learned about birds on the first leg and herps on the second. We saw a lot of cool stuff, including this green heron:

And LOTS of frogs; this is a green frog:

Also lots of turtles. This is a totally adorable baby snapping turtle, probably born in September of last year. He’s smaller than a silver dollar and SUPER CUTE.

Here’s a different baby snapping turtle with some chapstick as a size reference:

And here’s a sign of spring: red-winged blackbirds mating:

Back to the present: I just got back from California; if you want to see some pictures from there, tune into; I’ll be adding a couple every day this week.


  1. Chantal Said,

    June 4, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

    Wow… I must have missed a blog post or three: I didn’t know you were moving to California. My husband is from Virginia. I thought a few times how neat it could be to trek one of the nature reserves with you one day. Your pictures always make it all look awesomely adventuresome. Looks like it won’t be happening. I might still ask for recommendations if we ever do go back to VA. Enjoy California!

  2. renae Said,

    June 9, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

    Chantal, I’ve mentioned it in passing a couple of times but haven’t made a big deal out of it in case it ended up not happening. However, it’s now official and I’m moving on July 8 (Mark has already moved). I will still be in Virginia occasionally as my office is located there and my parents are not too far away in Maryland, so if you ever plan a trip to Virginia, you should contact me – you never know, I may be there at the same time! And I can certainly give you suggestions of places to check out even if I’m not.

  3. Josiane Said,

    June 10, 2015 @ 10:44 pm

    Those turtles are so tiny! It’s really cool that you could see them; given their size, I imagine it must be quite hard to spot them outside the context of such a field trip.
    Your picture of the red-winged blackbirds mating reminds me of something I saw a few days ago: two male red-winged blackbirds defending what was probably the spot where they had eggs hidden, against a couple of crows that not only had gotten too close to their liking, but one of which had even started digging eagerly around that spot (the nest – or at least what seemed to be the hiding place for their eggs – was at the foot of a tree; I had no idea this was how they did that!). While I was fascinated by the red-winged blackbirds attempts at intimidating the crow, it didn’t seem to be bothered at all… After observing the scene for a while, I decided to move a little closer, still keeping a respectful distance, to see what would happen. I stood still, quietly, not doing anything to impact the scene other than simply being there. After a little more digging, the crow finally decided to fly away, an angry red-winged blackbird following closely behind. It was the third time during that short walk that I was seeing birds defending what I assumed were their nests against crows or, in one case, a chipmunk. I really could feel the birds were more agitated and seemed more stressed than usual. That was pretty fascinating.

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