Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Black Bean Soup

This is a great, easy, make-ahead soup. You can freeze it or refrigerate it - it holds really well. You can make it vegetarian if you like or add ham or bacon for extra richness.

Depending on your mood and supplies, garnishes can include sour cream, grated cheese, pickled
jalapenos, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, chopped hard boiled egg, salsa and lime. Serve it with cornbread, corn tortillas, or tortilla chips and some sliced cucumber as a salad.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried black beans, pick over them and check for any badly broken beans, chunks of dirt or pebbles
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine or put through a garlic press
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (these come in a can, pick out what you need and freeze the rest), chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder, maybe more
  • 1 cup of choppd tomatoes or tomato sauce (optional)
  • salt

Rinse the black beans - they may be dusty - rinse them until the water isn't dusty and runs clear (could be 1 rinse or 5, depending on your beans). Set aside.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in a little oil until soft. When softened, add the chipotle chiles and chili powder. Saute a few more minutes. Add the black beans to the pot. Add salt (about 1 tablespoon). Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer the soup for 1-2 hours - the beans will be soft. When needed, add more water, the beans should stay covered with water. If you like a little tomato in your soup, add them about 45 minutes into cooking (I like tomato in my soup. I don't think it makes the soup tomatoey, but it adds a layer of flavor that really enhances the black beans.)

When the beans are cooked through, use a potato masher or immersion blender to puree some of the soup - this will make the soup creamier. If you want a very smooth soup, puree the soup in a blender. You may need to add more water to make your soup "soupier". If the taste is too bland, add more chili powder to taste.

Makes 4-5 servings

If you don't need to go vegetarian, you can:

Chop some bacon, fry it up and saute your onion and garlic in the bacon fat (adding the cooked bacon into the soup pot), or add a smoked ham hock to the beans as they start to cook, or add chopped ham to the beans after they've been cooking for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mezze Plate

Eagle-eyed blog visitors will notice that this looks a lot like the falafel plate from a few weeks back. This is another variation on a frequently-recurring theme: The Mediterranean Plate.

The basic concept is easy: a fresh vegetable (or vegetables), some cheese, some olives, a little bread and the wild cards (at least one, but I usually like two): baba ganoush, tabouli, hummus or falafel. Little cheese or spinach pies are also nice.

Tonight the wild cards are tabouli and hummus. The hummus is made with green garbanzos (freezer section at Trader Joe's) so that why it looks a little funny. Yes, it's lime green. Also on the plate are black olives, lemon wedges, pita bread, fennel, roasted red peppers and feta cheese.

Bonus night - 2 recipes!


Ahem ... tabouli is not a grain salad with herbs, it is an herb salad with grain. The stuff you get in the supermarket is not bad, but it is not tabouli unless it's green. So there.
  • 1 cup fine bulgur wheat (you can buy this in mosts supermarkets)
  • lots of herbs, chopped: I like parsley as my main herb with scallions, mint, dill, and/or fennel fronds as nice counterpoints. After you chop them up, you want about 2 cups (or more) of herbs
  • pint container cherry tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Put the wheat in a bowl and pour boiling water over it - you just want to pour enough water to just cover the wheat. Let it sit on the counter for about half an hour while you do the rest.

Chop up your herbs - you want them chopped coarse, not too fine. Slice your tomatoes into bite size pieces. When I use cherry tomatoes, I cut each one in half or quarters, depending on size.

Fluff up the bulgur wheat with a fork. Toss the herbs and tomatoes in, squeeze the lemon over and pour on some oil (If you're uncomfortable with this casual approach: squeeze the lemon into a jar, add as much olive oil as you have lemon juice in the jar. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil. Proceed with recipe). Fold everything together with the fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This will store for three or so days with marginal loss of quality - your herbs will lose their greeniness toward the end there, but take a look at what's in the deli case at your supermarket: those herbs will be not-so-green too.


This is fall-out-of-bed easy. My recipe uses a food processor. I have been told you can use a blender, but I have not tried, and therefore cannot endorse this method.

I do not like tahini (sesame paste) in my hummus. If you do, add a tablespoon or so to this recipe.

  • 1 bag frozen green garbanzos (Trader Joe's brand) cooked as described on the package or 2 small cans garbanzos, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons dried oregano (optional)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

In your food processor, chop the garlic clove. (In mine, I turn it on, drop the garlic down the feed tube and it bounces about, getting minced up wonderfully.) Put the beans in the blender. Add the lemon juice, some oregano and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Turn on the processor and whirl everything about.

You may want to scrape the sides down a few times to make sure everything gets pureed in. If it's too chunky, add some more olive oil and/or a little water to loosen things up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse everything together again until it all look hummus-y.

This will hold for four days with no problems. At mealtime, it's nice to squeeze some fresh lemon on and drizzle on some olive oil.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stuffed Shells

This is nice when you want something a little "dressy" for dinner: you can make it ahead, so it's really nice for weeknights.

You can stuff a pasta shell with a lot of different things. I usually use a ricotta base with added cheese and vegetables. This recipe is highly variable. The basic principle is this: cooked pasta shell, highly seasoned ricotta-based filling, sauce on the bottom of the dish and over the top of the pasta.
This is this week's version, read on after the recipe for other ideas.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach, Artichokes and Goat Cheese

  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 16 oz. ricotta (I usually use part-skim)
  • 1 small package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 small package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • 2 small logs of goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 28 oz. (or so) tomato sauce (I use Trader Joe's Sugo al Pomodoro)

Cook the shells according to the instructions on the box. Don't overcook, they should be al dente to hold up to the baking. Drain and set aside.

Mix together the ricotta, spinach, artichokes, and 1 log of goat cheese. Add salt and pepper - depending on your ricotta, this will need more salt than you think. After the seasoning is right, lightly beat the egg and stir it in to the filling.

Put about 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff the shells using a soupspoon, small scoop or a ziploc baggie (put the filling into a baggie, seal, cut off one corner and use it like a pastry bag to fill the shells - for this to work, your artichokes need to be cut small).

As you fill each shell, lay it into the baking dish. When all the shells are stuffed and snuggled into the pan (the hardest part is portioning out the filling - I find that this amount of filling, stuffs about 28 shells - you may have shells left over), pour the remaining sauce over. Crumble the other log of goat cheese over the top.

To store, cover with foil and refrigerate. When ready to eat, bake at 350 for about 1 hour - covered with foil for the first 30 minutes. (If at room temp, probably only about 30 minutes.)

Other fillin' choices (presume the ricotta base and tomato sauce stays the same):

  • Sauteed sausage, oregano and mozzarella
  • Roasted peppers and onions, kalamata olives and feta
  • Sauteed bitter greens (radicchio is nice), carmelized onion, pine nuts and smoked provolone

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Week of February 25

This was a pretty active cooking day. I spent about 3 hours making everything. But, it felt really good to be in the kitchen today and I was able to add some soup to the freezer. (That's three days of dinners and lunches in this picture - the shells are in the foil-covered dish, you'll just have to take my word for it.)

Anything marked with an * means it was made on Sunday and (r) means there's a recipe for it on this blog.

Belated Chinese New Year dinner
Scallion pancakes (appetizer) *
Chinese-style barbecued pork (from this month's Cook's Illustrated) *
Sauteed bok choy *
White rice *

Black bean soup *

Stuffed shells with artichokes, spinach and goat cheese *

Sunday leftovers

Mezze plate
Tabouli *
Green garbanzo hummus *
Roasted red peppers *
Feta cheese
Kalamata olives
Pita bread

Monday leftovers

Baked chicken breasts with horseradish crust
Baked potato
Sauteed asparagus

Tuesday leftovers

Black bean soup *

Wednesday leftovers

Breakfast (probably omelettes and toast)

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The thing a cook-ahead cook must always keep in mind: don't cling too tightly to your menu plan if something exciting catches your fancy. So on Tuesday, when Peter, my optician, mentioned that our local butcher sold good shaved steak, I thought "... hmm, cheesesteaks ..."

So on his way home from work on Friday, Dave picked up the provisions and we had cheesesteaks for dinner instead of "breakfast" as we had originally planned.


There is no official cheesesteak recipe - everyone's got their favorite. For Dave, we tried to create a Geno's-style (a la Philly cheesesteak) sandwich, while I wanted more of a toasted-cheese experience.

  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin

  • 1 pound shaved steak (I have no idea what the true cut of this meat is - in the past I have bought a ribeye and sliced it very thin when shaved steak wasn't available

  • 2 long sub rolls, sliced the long way, but not all the way through (you should be able to open it like a book)

  • cheese (I had provolone on mine. Dave had Cheese Whiz, which if you go to Geno's is what you get. I could not bring myself to eat it after reading the ingredient listing.)

  • salt and pepper

  • sriracha or another hot pepper source (optional)
Heat a large griddle or cast iron skillet. Saute the onion until soft and some pieces are a little browned. When the onion is done the way you like it, push all the onion to one side of the pan. Scatter the shaved steak evenly over the rest of the pan, season it well with salt and pepper. Cook the steak, tossing it occasionally with tongs or a spatula until done to your liking.

While the steak is cooking, toast your rolls if you wish. I warmed Dave's through (mainly because our rolls weren't very good) for him. I spread the provolone out on mine and toasted it until the cheese got melty. If you are using, ahem, Cheese Whiz, heat it up in the microwave.

When the steak is done, portion out the meat and onions over the two rolls. Add the Whiz, if using. Add your hots if desired.

Call your cardiologist and eat.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Quick Garlic Shrimp

This a simple, light, quick and delicious way to serve shrimp. As with most of my recipes, this is just one way to make this. You can always add more chili, more garlic, lime and fish sauce instead of lemon, etc.

Dinner tonight was these shrimp, a cabbage stirfry and brown rice - not as a colorful as I'd normally like, really a very tan-colored plate, but good to eat and on the table in 25 minutes.

Quick Garlic Shrimp

As with most stirfry-type dishes, prep all your ingredients ahead and then start cooking.
  • a dozen medium-large or large shrimp (We usually figure out how many shrimp we want to eat and defrost that many. Depending on size, Dave usually wants 7, I usually want 5.)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, in a garlic press or minced fine
  • 1-2 teaspoons of garlic chili sauce
  • 4-5 scallions, sliced into rounds
  • small handful parsley, cilantro, mint and/or Thai basil, chopped
  • half a lemon

Heat a little oil in a large skillet. When hot, use a garlic press to squeeze in the garlic or toss in the minced garlic. Add in the chili paste. Stir this stuff around in the hot oil - you want to flavor the oil completly.

Toss in the shrimp and when they are almost cooked through, add the scallions and herbs. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon over.

The shrimp are cooked when they are opaque all the way through. This whole dish should take no more than 10 minutes - cooking time will depend on the size of your shrimp.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Product Alert: Magic Microwaveable Brown Rice

Ok Mom, I feel you cringing from here. :-)

But, when you're coming home late and want some nice healthy brown rice to put under your stirfry (and fast!) this is a great option.

Trader Joe's Microwaveable, fully-cooked brown rice. Not cheap (if you have time to cook your own from scratch), but very reasonable at under $2.00 with enough for two good sized portions.

Heats up nice and fluffy - no gummy or broken grains.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Welcome new readers!

Hello all,

I can see by my site stats that I have a lot of new visitors to the blog. A big welcome to Sideshow and Sisyphus Shrugged readers, and to anyone else who's getting here via routes unknown!

Happy cooking!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts

First order of business: Lydia, the sauce and meatballs were great. Thank you very very very much.

Ok then, on to the recipe. This is a very simple method for preparing a lot of different types of vegetables. This isn't really a pan roast. Technically a pan roast would be something you started in a pan and then moved into the oven. This all happens in the pan on the stovetop. Put calling it pan-fried broccoli just sounded less exciting.

Pan-Roasted Broccoli
  • 1 broccoli crown cut into small florets (enough for two generous servings)
  • small handful pine nuts
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil

Heat your large cast iron skillet (you have one now, don't you?) on medium high heat. When it's hot hot, put in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the broccoli. For the next 5-10 minutes let the broccoli sit still for a minute and then stir it around. The idea is to let the broccoli brown up and crisp a little and then stir it so it won't burn. Turn the heat down to medium if it's browning too fast.

While the broccoli is browning, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet or in your toaster oven. You want them just toasty brown.

When the broccoli is crisp-tender, toss the pine nuts over it. Use a lemon zester to grate the zest of one lemon over the broccoli. Toss a little extra olive oil over the broccoli, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

This technique works for a lot of vegetables - just make sure the pieces are similar in size and smallish. Combinations that work well:

  • green beans, pine nuts, roasted red pepper slices, balsamic vinegar
  • green beans, soy sauce, sesame seeds
  • cauliflower, lemon, chopped almonds
  • fennel, chopped kalamata olives, lemon, parsley

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cream of Potato Soup

This is a very soothing soup. It's cozy and hearty and warming. It will not give you a hug, tell you you've lost weight or do your laundry for you. But, when you need the gustatory equivalent of a cozy seat by a warm fire, this can work. This recipe makes 4-5 generous servings.

Cream of Potato Soup
  • 1 medium onion, chopped coarse
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped coarse
  • 6-7 cups of chicken broth, vegetable, water w/a boullion cube - (tonight I used 4 cups of homemade chicken broth, 2 cups of water and an Italian boullion cube)
  • 4 medium (about 2.5 pounds total) baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into largeish chunks - about 8 pieces per potato
  • 1/2 -1 cup chicken broth, milk, cream, yogurt or buttermilk - to thin the soup
Saute onion and garlic with a few tablespoons of oil and/or butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until softened. Add liquid (broth and/or water) to soup pot and bring liquid to a boil.

When the liquid is boiling, add the potatoes. Simmer the potatoes until soft all the way through. Use a blender or immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
Depending on how you like your soup, you may need/want to add some more broth or some milk or cream to thin the soup down to the appropriate "soupy" consistency.

Serve with your choice of garnishes. Garnishes can include:
  • Shredded or crumbled cheese: cheddar, montery jack, blue, goat
  • Sliced scallions or chives
  • Bacon, pancetta or ham, cut small and cooked crisp
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Minced herbs: parsley, dill, oregano, thyme
  • Potato skins: peel your potatoes, toss the biggest peeling pieces with oil or melted butter, and crisp in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes
  • Etc., etc., etc.

This week our soup was garnished with parsley, scallions, pancetta, blue cheese and crispy potato skins.

Week of February 18

This is a week where I'm going to take advantage of the freezer and pantry planning. Dave and I were away for most of the weekend, so I didn't really have time to do any cooking today, other than what we're eating for dinner Sunday.

Anything marked with (f) came from the freezer, an * means it was made on Sunday, and (r) means there's a recipe for it on this blog.

Cream of potato soup * (r)
Arugula salad *

Lentil soup (f) (r)

Pasta with meatballs and sauce (the sauce is a gift from my mother-in-law: Thanks Lydia!)
Broccoli with lemon and toasted pine nuts

Sunday leftovers

Polenta Lasagna (f) (r)
Green salad

Monday leftovers

Macaroni and Cheese (f)
Carrot salad

Tuesday leftovers

Shrimp stirfry
Chinese cabbage
Boiled rice

On your own

Breakfast (probably omelettes and toast)

Oy. Vey.

OK so last week sort of got away from me. Everything was cooked as served as expected, with one change. We ended up not being home on Friday night. Since I knew well enough in advance, and everything for Thursday's dinner was still in the freezer or pantry, we had Friday's dinner Thursday. That's one really nice thing about planning ahead: when circumstances change, you can usually roll with them and still eat well.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Week of February 11

This is a pretty "meaty" week for us. Maybe it's the cold weather but I'm feeling very comfort-food-focused right now. Stay warm out there!

Meal items with an * are made on Sunday and held. Items with a (f) are from the freezer and defrosted for the meal.

Beef daube with carrots and parsnips (from this month's Fine Cooking magazine) *
Mashed potatoes *
Steamed broccoli *
Flan for dessert *

Chicken salad with pickled brussels sprouts *
Carrot salad with cilantro *
Bread (for sandwiches or toast)

Pasta with Noney's meat sauce (f)
Green salad

Sunday's leftovers

Minestrone soup * with arugula pesto *

Monday leftovers

Chicken salad with pickled brussels sprouts *
Carrot salad with cilantro *
Bread (for sandwiches or toast)

Tuesday leftovers

Spicy shrimp stirfry (f - shrimp in the freezer - put in the fridge to defrost in the morning).
Steamed broccoli
Boiled rice

On your own

Chicken quesadillas
Cole slaw

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Beet & Cucumber Salad

OK, so this wasn't on the "official" menu plan for the week. But, I realized, while talking to my lovely friend Ann (Hi Ann!) on my drive home tonight, that I needed something vegetabley to have with our macaroni and cheese. This is the mac & cheese referenced on January 21 - it's been in the freezer since then.

So, here's what we had:

Beet & Cucumber Salad

  • 1 can sliced beets (really, canned is ok - not as good as fresh, but little is)

  • 1/2 of an English cucumber

  • sherry vinegar or another flavorful vinegar

  • fresh dill, if you have it (I had it)

  • salt and pepper to taste

Drain the beets and slice them into batons (sticks). Cut the cucumber into quarters the long way and then into slices. (see pic) Toss with chopped dill, a little vinegar and salt and pepper. Done.

Enjoy as a side dish with your rich, wonderful macaroni & cheese.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tuna & Bean Salad

Sorry no pic tonight. This is one of my favorite make-aheads - if you've stocked your pantry, even minimally, you have the makings of a make-ahead meal. It's basically a tuna salad with beans and an oil and vinegar (or citrus) dressing. So this is going be more of a "method" than a recipe.

Tuna and Bean Salad

To serve 4:
  • 2 cans tuna - you can use oil or water packed, solid or chunk. This week I used 1 can each of tuna in olive oil and solid white tuna in water.
  • 1 can beans - I like cannellini or navy or another "white" bean. This is more an aesthetic choice than anything else - you could use pintos or kidneys or whatever you have. Chickpeas are nice too. Drain them and rinse them off if they are covered with too much bean can gunk (you'll know the gunk if and when you see it)
  • 2 Tablespoons-ish of something pickled and salty - I use capers, or chopped black or green olives or giardinera or pickled brussels sprouts, etc. etc. etc.
  • 1 cup of chopped vegetable - crunchy is best. I use fresh red pepper, celery, carrot, blanched green beans, chopped radicchio. Think about color and texture when you select your vegetables. This salad should look interesting.
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup dressing - I make this with olive oil and vinegar and/or lemon and/or orange juice. (Orange juice, sherry vinegar and olive oil is nice in a salad with tuna, chopped fennel, oil cured black olives and navy beans.
  • handful of parsley and/or other herbs (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste - you may need less salt than you think because of the pickled item and the canned beans.

Toss all these items together, breaking up the tuna into bite-sized pieces as needed. Correct the seasoning - you will probably not need a lot of salt, but you may need more vinegar or citrus than you think. This salad is best when it's made ahead by at least a few hours. I make it on Sunday and have eaten it as late as Wednesday night with no discernable loss of taste or texture.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Quick Cornbread

My mom sent me this recipe last week. It looked like a nice accompaniment to the chili I was planning to make. I do think you should bake this the night you want to eat it. To speed up prep, put all the dry ingredients together on your prep day. Then when you bake it all you need to do it fuss with the wet stuff.


Preheat oven to 425 and put a 10" cast iron skillet in oven to preheat (no substitutes - cast iron really is the way to go here)

Mix together:

  • 2/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. coarse polenta meal

Whisk (or use a fork) together:

  • 3/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. veg oil (canola or light olive or peanut)

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix with rubber spatula and add a little more buttermilk if seems too dry.

Remove hot skillet from oven and brush with oil. Scrape batter in and smooth the top to level it out (it will be a thin layer).

Sprinkle the top with:

  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons dry roasted, salted pepitas (get them at Trader Joe's - I did not have any, therefore the top of my cornbread is nude.)

Bake 15 minutes. Run it under the broiler to brown if necessary (was not for this batch). Cut into wedges and eat.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Indian Style Red Lentil Soup

This is an easy soup made with red lentils. It has a very southern Indian influence, but should not be considered authentic unless someone tells me otherwise.

This is the basic recipe, feel free to adjust or add spices (depending on my mood and the spices and time at hand, I will use whole or ground spices), the amount of broth (to make it thicker or soupier), etc. This makes about 11 cups of soup: enough for 4 large or 6 or more smaller portions (you can make half the recipe, but then you need to decide what to do with the half can of coconut milk). It freezes well.

Red Lentil Soup

  • 2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • pinch cayenne (to taste or fresh chilies, I used green Thai chilies in this batch)
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 can coconut milk (light coconut milk is fine)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/4 cup tomato sauce, or some chopped tomatoes - fresh or canned)
  • 2 quarts-ish chicken broth or vegetable stock, or a blend of broth and water
  • 1 lime

Saute the onions until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and saute one more minute. Add spices and saute one minute.

Add lentils, coconut milk and 1 1/2 quarts broth. Simmer soup 30 - 45 minutes, adding more broth for a soupier consistency as desired. It's done when the red lentils have dissolved into the soup and they do not feel grainy or sandy when you try some.

Squeeze the lime's juice into the soup. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve: Top with a dollop of yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Week of February 4

This week contains three of my favorite prep-ahead meals: tuna & bean salad, chili, and red lentil soup. It also contains a Superbowl "meal" (if you can call it that) of extreme artery-clogging proportions. Sorry Mom.

As always, an * denotes what I cooked on Sunday.

Superbowl Sunday
The Cardiac Impairment Bowl
Buffalo chicken & shrimp *
Fried pickles *
Poppers *
Bean & cheese dip with chips and crudites *

Tuna and white bean salad with celery, lemon, green olives, and red peppers *

Red lentil soup *
Naan (Trader Joe's frozen)
Cucumber and yogurt salad

On your own

Chili *
Skillet cornbread * (prepped dry ingredients on Sunday - will bake on Tuesday)

Monday leftovers

Tuna salad (from Monday lunch) *
Green salad with oranges

Tuesday leftovers

Macaroni & cheese (from the freezer)

Red lentil soup * (I put these portions in the freezer on Sunday and took them out Thursday night)
Naan (Trader Joe’s frozen)
Celery, carrot & red pepper sticks

Takeout pizza

Ingredient Spotlight: Lentils

After reading the Lentil Soup recipe, I got questions from a few folks on what lentilles du Puy are. So I thought I would put lentils in the spotlight so people could see how the types differ and what (and what not) to use them for.

Here's a photo of the four types you're most likely to see. They are described, left to right, below the picture.

Green Lentils
This is the traditional lentil that is most commonly used for soup. To be honest, I never use this type of lentil. Advantages: they're cheap, readily available and cooks quickly. Disadvantages: when you overcook them (easy to do) they fall apart and get mushy, and to me the flavor is muddy and not very pleasant.

So, with that endorsement, these are best used in lentil soup where the mushiness can dissolve into the soup. I brighten the flavor of a green lentil soup with lemon juice, sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar.

Lentilles du Puy
These are a French lentil. They have a deep, rich flavor and have the advantage of not falling apart when you cook them. As a result, they can be used in soups and warm or cold salads. They are excellent in the Lentil Soup recipe on this site.

You can make a really warming dinner of warm cooked lentilles du Puy tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette, sauteed onions and black pepper. Serve this alongside browned kielbasa or other ham or sausage. Another nice thing to do is toss the cooled lentils with diced beets, crumbled goat cheese and a sherry vinegar and walnut oil vinaigrette. Serve over lettuces with some toasted rustic bread (walnut bread would be nice).

David Lebovitz has a really nice discussion of these lentils (and a good method for cooking them for salad) on his web site at this link:

Black "Beluga" Lentils
These lentils are little smaller than lentilles du Puy. Cook them in the same way though. They are best in salads and they are so pretty on the plate. They stay very dark in color and look beautiful against roasted yellow peppers, white goat cheese, purplish radicchio and rich greens.

Red Lentils
These are for soups or purees only. Red lentils fall apart when cooked. This is a great advantage when you know what's going to happen. If the first time you met these and you were expecting them to behave like a green lentil, you may have learned this lesson the hard way.

I will be posting an Indian-style soup recipe for these later this week. They are also easily cooked for a side dish: For four people, use 1 cup of red lentils. Put them in a saucepan and cover them by 1/2" with chicken broth or water or both. Toss in a crushed clove of garlic, a pinch of cayenne, and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. When they are done, the lentils will have turned into a soft orange puree. (To keep the color bright, add a pinch of turmeric when you start the cooking.) Season to taste with salt and pepper (white pepper is nice) and a squirt of lemon or lime juice.

What is a lentil?

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Ok, this worked pretty well. This not "real" falafel - it's not deep fried, there's no sesame sauce, etc. But, it's good.
This is definitely a dish that wins or loses on the garnishes. So, chop away, my friends, no boring plates. On this plate: cilantro, mint, scallions, sliced pickles, Greek yogurt, Meyer lemon wedges, a few wedges of cheese, a cherry tomato salad with sliced shallots (cherry tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, a small shallot sliced in rings), and warm pita bread. Also nice: olives (green or black), parsley, fennel, cucumbers, radishes, and lovely lettuce.

Falafel (for two)
  • 1 can chickpeas (also called garbanzos)

  • 1 shallot or 1/4 of an onion or a few scallions - rough chopped

  • small handful cilantro - rough chopped

  • 1 egg

  • 2 Tablesppons flour

  • salt and pepper

  • pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes (to taste)

  • panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), breadcrumbs or flour

Pulse everything but the panko together in a food processor. You don't want a smooth paste - it will still be a little chunky. If you want it a lot chunky, hold half the beans back and add them back in after mostly everything is blended.

Put the panko or other breading onto a plate. Scoop large tablespoonsful of the puree onto the crumbs and coat gently. The patties will be floppy, do not fear.

Heat a little oil in a nonstick skillet and fry the patties - about 5 minutes per side - until brown. Serve with many wonderful , fresh garnishes.

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