Many of us living in Coeur d’Alene have often wished we had more food options similar to home cooking. Small owner operated cafes offering creative, healthy, and convenient options. We do have a few; like Cafe Carambola (actually Soul Cafes neighbor), and The Garnet Café, and I guess you can consider Pilgram’s Deli a choice as well.
Around the country healthier food is making a comeback. Also our tastes and ideas about what is healthy have been evolving and I think we’re starting to finally move away from the era of “fast food”. Sadly though, in small towns like Coeur d’Alene, not to many restaurants have caught onto this.
So then I stumbled upon Soul Cafe. Somehow missing it these last few years as never before had I considered pulling into the shops on Northwest boulevard for food.
My first impression, as I’m sure is the same for many before me, was the joy coming from owner Susan Coby as she spoke with me about her soup choices that day. Quite honestly I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything like it!
Turns out Soul Cafe has been offering soup and coffee for three years now. Adding to the menu this last month, grain bowls. What are grain bowls? I’ll come back to that in a few.
When you think of an owner operated restaurant, Susan Coby is in a league of her own. Literally planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, serving, and cleaning every day she is open! She does have help, recently from her daughter returned from Germany, but she is truly the “Soup Goddess” as she likes to put it.
Coeur d’Alene was blessed with Susan, when about three years ago her sister, already living in Coeur d’Alene, invited her over from Oregon to partner on a cafe together. At that point Susan was well into her love for cooking and decided soup was the best way to share her passion for flavor and freshness.
Susan believes that “soup is the antithesis of fast food” and I have come to realize she is right. When you stop into Soul Cafe it only takes a few minutes to have a bowl of soup or grain bowl in front of you. And if you’re just on lunch break you can call in and easily take it out.
Susan says that “the most humble ingredients make the best soup”. And as if soup and grain bowls weren’t enough of a culinary work of art she daily complements her soups with the kinds of side salads you’d expect to find in a high end grocery deli. Creative, full of color, vegetables, and flavor!
So let’s get to the grain bowls. Grain bowls are just as their name suggests. A bowl of grain, usually brown rice or quinoa, topped with all types of creative ingredients. I kind of think of it as a dry soup, though it’s not dry at all, because it always has a delicious sauce to go with it.
Grain bowls are already very popular in places like Portland at The Whole Bowl, and The Canteen. As well as in New York, San Fran and other foodie cities. A grain bowl is a creative, delicious way, to get a healthy meal on the go. Offering carbs, veggies, protein, flavor, and convenience. And Soul Cafe is the only place in the Inland Northwest that is doing grain bowls that I’m aware of. So when you start to see them other places remember Soul Cafe started the trend here.
There is one more important point I’d like to share about Soul Cafe. This really is a cafe for community. Many restaurants are set up to give us our space and privacy. Soul Cafe is set up like your kitchen at home. Featuring a variety of funky tables that you can often share with a perfect stranger, if you’re willing, and I think this is exactly what Susan wants.
It has become clear to me, in the time I’ve known Susan, that she loves people even more than she loves food. Her cafe is her way to show us the community she wants to live in. A community where we support each other in doing what we love; where health, flavor, and convenience can be one, and where we can sit down at a table together to share a meal without thinking twice about it.
It’s my hope you will treat yourself to Soul Cafe. It might not be what you’re used to, but trust me change is good. So so good! You can like Soul Cafe on Facebook to see their daily menu.
Caribbean Grain Bowl
Recipe & Instructions
For the Grain
Equal parts brown rice and quinoa (I like using a rice cooker) instead of the classic 2 to 1 ration use a bit less of the grain (ie 2 cups water to 1 and 1/3 cup rice) add a bit of salt and olive oil to pot. If you don’t have a rice cooker (which you can get at a thrift store for a steal!) bring water to boil and add grain reduce to simmer and cook until water is absorbed, around 20-30 minutes.
Add to the grains
2 roasted sweet potatoes ( peel, cube, toss in olive oil and sea salt and bake on a parchment lined pan at 375 for apx 20 minutes (check to see if tender and slightly browned) Here’s a great tip: Roast your potatoes ahead of time and chill—they keep their shape so much better!
2 cups black beans (if using dried, soak overnight bring to boil in pot with lots of water then simmer til tender apx 45 minutes—drain and rinse thoroughly) if using canned, get unsalted beans and rinse thoroughly.
A head of massaged kale ( remove kale from stem, tear into small pieces and put in large bowl with a little olive oil and salt and then go to town –great way to get out your frustrations!)
Orange vinaigrette: whisk a generous tblsp of frozen orange juice,4 tblsp of white wine vinegar, honey and salt and cayenne to taste, slowly whisk ½ cup olive oil .
Tropical fruit slaw
Dice several kiwis, a couple of mangoes, pineapple and ½ head of purple slaw. Fine dice a head of cilantro and 2 serrano chilies. Toss with fresh lime juice, salt and a bit of honey.
Jerk yogurt dressing
Carefully whisk equal parts greek plain yogurt and sour cream with jerk type seasoning…allspice, dried ginger, thyme, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.
Grilled Chicken Breasts
Rub chicken breasts in olive oil and sea salt. ( I highly recommend grilling using a “George Foreman” type grill—it works amazing! And you can find it at the thrift store) Otherwise pan sear on medium heat or grill on the BBQ—the chicken breasts should be beautifully browned and firm to the touch. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes and cut cross grain for tenderness.
Grains on bottom of bowl, top with a good amount of the slaw, then the chicken and lastly drizzle with the dressing!!
Green Chicken Posole
Recipe & Instructions
- Sauté in a good heavy pan at med high temp a nicely diced onion in olive oil till translucent.
- Add 3 diced Anaheim peppers (and a jalapeno if you like a bit of heat).
- Let the veggies cook until slightly browned and then add 6 finely diced cloves of garlic.
- When the garlic is browned add a generous tbsp or 2 of cumin, 1 tsp of coriander and oregano, and a bit of salt.
- Vigorously stir and then add about a pound of tomatillos (if you haven’t worked with tomatillos before remove the papery skin if the fruit is sticky run under hot water and then dice) reduce the burner to medium and cover.
- Maybe stir a couple of times for 15 minutes or so until the tomatillos have broken down.
- Scrape all the veg into your soup pot. If there is still brown stuff in your sauté pan put back on stove top with some water and scrape all that goodness up and add the deglazing liquid to the veggies.
- Generously cover the veggies with chicken stock (I highly recommend making your own! It’s kinda a pain but freezes beautifully) and bring to a simmer.
- Add a large can—or 2 or 3 small cans—of carefully rinsed white hominy (can be found in the Hispanic section of any grocery store)
- Add 6 diced boneless skinless chicken thighs (here’s a tip you will major thank me for—it’s a LOT easier to dice semi frozen chicken thighs) and simmer until chicken is very tender, stirring now and then (around 45 minutes)
Serving: Put some nice buttered white rice in the bottom of the bowl. Add the soup. Top with cilantro, sour cream and green onions!!