savor — guide to food & dining on the azalea coast 87 THAI PUMPKIN LEMONGRASS COCONUT SOUP Recipe courtesy of Nikki Spears, Sealevel City Gourmet SOUP INGREDIENTS: 1 kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) or other pumpkin 1 ginger root, washed 10 garlic cloves 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced ¼ cup coconut oil GARNISH: Chopped cilantro Crushed peanuts Steamed rice Sliced scallions PREPARATION: Tip: The home cook should start two days in advance. Do the shopping at Saigon Market and cut and peel all the vegetables and clean and prepare the herbs in advance. Using a small, thin-bladed, sharp knife, pierce the pumpkin at its equator. Rock the knife, rolling the pumpkin and cut-ting down toward the board in small 3 carrots, peeled and trimmed 5 cups coconut flakes 3 quarts water 1 handful of Thai chilies, sliced thin 2 16-ounce cans regular coconut milk increments until it is halved. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and membranes. Peel green skin lightly and gradually, to remove just the tough outer skin. Make parallel cuts along the flat edge to cut bite-sized pieces. Cut up whole pumpkin into large dice. Peel the ginger with a spoon or small sharp knife. Save ginger peels. Slice the root into disks across the grain. Finely chop in food processor, set aside. Chop garlic in processor, set aside. Trim tops and bulbs of lemongrass to expose tender stem. Thinly slice entire stalks with sharp chef’s knife. Put cleaned, washed trimmings, ginger peels and carrot trimmings in small pot, cover with water and simmer on medium heat 45 minutes to make a stock. Place coconut flakes in 3 quarts water and simmer for 20 minutes, let cool. Process softened flakes in blender with some cooking liquid and strain to make coconut milk. Cover strained solids with water and boil 20 minutes to extract more oils and milk. Discard solids. Strain vegetable stock into large stock pot. Add both cans of coconut milk, the chopped ginger, garlic and sliced lemongrass. Put on low flame. Add pumpkin pieces and homemade coconut milk. In separate skillet, cook sliced onions and carrots in coconut oil, add vegetable stock when browning begins. Simmer until tender. Puree in blender with a little vegetable stock and strain into big stockpot (off the heat). Add sliced Thai chilies. Season with salt and agave for sweetness; adjust with coconut milk if too spicy. Garnish with cilantro, crushed peanuts, steamed rice and scallions before serving. QOVegan QUINOA TABBOULEH WITH LEMON & MINT Nikki Spear’s tabbouleh is made with organic rainbow quinoa lightly steamed and seasoned with equal parts chopped parsley, fresh organic mint, a clove of garlic, chopped cucumber and tomato, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM Seasonal Soup For an opening course, Nikki Spears, chef/owner at Sealevel City Gourmet, sug-gests starting with her Thai-inspired vegan soup featuring spicy chilies, freshly carved pumpkin, citrusy lemongrass and creamy coconut milk. Sealevel City Gourmet, an eclectic, casual diner inconspicuously nestled into a strip mall on Kerr Avenue between Wilshire Boulevard and Wrightsville Avenue, features a menu with gluten-free and vegan choices. Spears — founder of long-time Wilmington favorite Nikki’s Sushi — is the wizard behind the curtain of culinary magic. After selling the prosperous Nikki’s chain, she moved on to establish Sealevel, now known as a favorite alternative eatery in town, offering revamped comfort-food favorites to meet the needs of those with dietary restrictions. “My inspiration for promoting gluten-free and vegan food is my father’s wife,” Spears says. “When she discovered her multiple food sensitivities, I wanted to create a place where she had a lot of freedom of choice.” Spears lives for the challenge of dupli-cating popular recipes without relying on animal products. For a starchy-sans-gluten side, try her garlicky quinoa tabbouleh with lemon and bright, grassy mint.
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