Lamb and White Bean Chili

Lamb and white bean chili

Frances and Matthew arrived Sunday for the  Thanksgiving holiday. The weather was chilly and damp and I wanted to serve some comfort food that wouldn’t take me forever to make and also would not suffer if their flight were delayed. I came across this recipe on the New York Times website and it sounded perfect. Initially I was going to use a good canned cannellini bean, but I remembered I had some wonderful Rancho Gordo Heirloom dried beans that I could use instead. They were the giant Royal Corona Beans, an enormous, thick-skinned runner bean that cooks up to a creamy center. I had to soak them overnight and then cook them in my slow cooker for several hours, but frankly, it was worth it. However, if you are in a hurry, this recipe would still give you a good result using a quality canned bean. It might not be the prettiest dish you will ever come across, but it is the ultimate in comfort food.

Lamb and White Bean Chili by Melissa Clark and slightly modified by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 pounds ground lamb

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 large Poblano peppers, seeded and diced

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped

1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped, including the stems

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (If you want this to have more heat, do not remove the seeds.)

4 Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 Tablespoons double-strength tomato paste

1 pound of dried beans, soaked and cooked or 4 cans of cannellini beans (If you are using homemade cooked beans, reserve the liquid to use in the recipe. If you are using canned beans, rinse the beans.)

For Serving

Plain whole milk yogurt, preferably sheep’s milk

Chopped cilantro

Sev (An Indian snack made from chickpea flour. It is a very, very fine cooked noodle-like food that adds protein and also can be used as a thickener. It can be found in Indian markets or online.) Optional

Directions

  1. If you are cooking your own beans, then soak them overnight and cook them until tender.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the EVOO in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the lamb and brown it, breaking up the pieces with a fork. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Transfer the cooked meat, using a slotted spoon, to a colander. Wipe out the pan.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and add the onions and Poblano peppers. Cook until the vegetables have softened – about 5-7 minutes. Add 4 Tablespoons of the chopped cilantro stems and stir. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeno peppers and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cumin and coriander an cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until everything is very fragrant.
  4. Return the lamb to the pot. Add 5 cups of water (or reserved bean liquid, if you cooked the beans yourself) and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. You want this to have an almost soup-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. (I did not need to make any adjustments.) Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and the Sev, if using. I served this with a crusty bread, my Sunshine Kale Salad and a rich Zinfandel.

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce

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This is a wonderfully fragrant heated yogurt sauce. The chickpea flour not only keeps the yogurt from curdling when heated but it adds a nutty flavor and extra nutrition, which is especially great for those following a vegetarian diet. The sauce is poured over rice or eaten with whole-grain flat-breads.  There are regional varieties and I look forward to trying them all. It is also enjoyed by meat-eaters and I served it with Lemony Ground Lamb with Mint and Red Lentils with Ginger. (See previous recipe)

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey and halved by me

Yield: About 1 quart

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons chickpea flour

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt with acidophilus

3 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

3/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds (I used brown)

1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

2 dried hot red chilies

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

8 fresh curry leaves, chopped (I bought these online and keep unused leaves in my freezer, which I pull out as needed.)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Put the chickpea flour in a large bowl. Very slowly add 1/2 cup of water, beating with a whisk as you do so. Keep beating until there are no more lumps.
  2. Add the yogurt and whisk until smooth. Add another 2 cups of water, gradually, whisking as you go.
  3. Pour the oil into a 3 or 4 quart pot and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the seeds and the chilies. As soon as the seeds begin to pop, add the turmeric and curry leaves. Stir once and add the yogurt mixture. Stir with a whisk.
  4. Add the salt. Keep stirring with a whisk until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Partially cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes.  IMG_3996

 

Red Lentils with Ginger

Red Lentils with Ginger1

I am watching so many Indian movies these days, that now when I see an American show it sounds strange to my ears. I have become a big fan of the classic style Bollywood film, but also have seen many of the newer films like Dangal, Neerja, and Pink, which have little to no dancing but a very strong story, especially about woman power. Having always enjoyed Indian food, these movies are only making my cravings more immediate. Dal is a staple in the Indian diet whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-eater. If you have never eaten dal before – or even if you have – this recipe will make you a believer. It is a wonderful side dish or can become more of a main course served with rice and other vegetarian dishes.

Red Lentils with Ginger from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

3 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger (Make your life easier and buy this already prepared in a jar.)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 cup finely diced tomatoes (I actually used canned this time and it was wonderful)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained (skinless masoor dal – these are split red lentils and are readily available in Indian markets and online)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (optional, but I used it)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Mix together the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric.
  2. Pour the oil into a wide pan (I used a 10-inch pan with 3-inch sides and a lid) and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onions and fry until the edges begin to turn golden.
  3. Add the spice mixture and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. If you are using canned tomatoes, cook for about 2 minutes. If using fresh tomatoes, cook until the tomatoes have softened.
  4. Add the red lentils and 3.75 cups of water and the salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan partially and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  IMG_3988
  5. After 45 minutes, add the butter, if using and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

 

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Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Harira

My family can never have enough soup – especially now that we have entered the dreary, damp, chilly season. I have many soups that I go back to again and again, but it is always fun to find a new one. This soup comes from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. This is no “first-course” soup, but an entire meal in a bowl. As with most Moroccan food, it is well-seasoned, but each person gets to control the amount of heat by adding harissa or filfel chuma to his own bowl when it is served. I’m serving mine with some garlic naan, but pita or even a really good homemade white bread or challah will do.

Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur and tweaked by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup EVOO

1.5 pounds of lean, boneless lamb stew meat cut into 1-2 inch pieces

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or finely minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or longer) and drained

1 cup brown lentils

Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper OR Aleppo pepper (Don’t be stingy – it’s a big pot of soup!)

1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon dried ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground coriander

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

About 1 pound of tomatoes, cut into small dice (You could use a  14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes if there are no decent tomatoes available or if you don’t want to be bothered with chopping them)

About 10-12 cups of chicken stock or water (I use stock)

12 chicken drumsticks

1/2 cup rice (I used brown Bismati, but keep in mind that if you use white rice it doesn’t take as long to cook.) I like to soak my rice in cold water for about 15-20 minutes and then drain it to remove additional unwanted starch.

To Serve

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Harissa or Filfel Chuma (Harissa is pretty easily accessible in grocery stores these days and either red or green will do. I have linked to recipes for both Harissa and Filfel Chuma should you wish to make your own. There are endless variations of both so feel free to experiment. IMG_3949

Directions

  1. Depending on how old your dried chickpeas are, you should soak them at least overnight or longer. If longer, I would refrigerate them after about 8 hours, changing the water once. Drain them before using. See Note.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan (I love cast iron for this) and brown the lamb pieces. Transfer the browned lamb chunks to a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the chicken and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly, cooking for 90 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and drained rice and cook for between 30-50 more minutes, depending on the type of rice used. Taste and adjust the seasonings. IMG_3950
  5. When ready to serve, garnish with the lemon juice and parsley or cilantro. Allow each person to add the Harissa or Filfel Chuma. Serve with bread.  IMG_3954

NOTE: If you are in a hurry or forgot to soak your chickpeas (or are simply lazy!) you could use canned. However, I would not add them until I add the chicken drumsticks and the rice. I would use 2 drained and rinsed 15 ounce cans or its equivalent.

 

 

Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread

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I had planned on surprising my husband with my Ricotta Rum Pound Cake when I realized that my ricotta cheese, which had been shoved to the back of the fridge, had gone bad… I hate when that happens! It was too late to go to the store to buy more and it also was raining heavily. I could have scrapped the whole idea of baking but I was all psyched to make something so decided to experiment with what I already had in my pantry. I tried to think of what I had that was a similar texture and consistency as whole milk ricotta and remembered that I was bullish on pureed pumpkin. At first I was going to try making the same recipe just substituting the pumpkin for ricotta but then decided that the pumpkin deserved its own special bread. I tinkered around and came up with this delicious pumpkin bread with a twist.

Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread 

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

1.25 cups cake flour

1/4 cup of toasted wheat germ

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1.5 cups granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured dark molasses

3 large eggs

15 ounce can pureed pumpkin

2 rounded Tablespoons orange marmalade

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 strips of cooked bacon (any kind) cut into small pieces (Optional but recommended)

3/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You can toast the walnuts in the oven or in a dry frying pan on the stove top. Either way, be sure to watch them carefully. You really just want to barely toast them – just enough to bring up the flavor.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the pumpkin, molasses and marmalade and mix well on low speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing through on low speed so you don’t make a mess or over mix. Add the walnuts and bacon pieces and just mix through on low speed or fold in by hand.
  5. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray with flour or grease the pan well and line the bottom with waxed paper, which you then also grease. Pour the mixture into the pan and gently shake the pan to even things out. Place the pan in the center of your oven and bake for about 75 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. The outer edges make get quite brown which is not a problem. If it bothers you, carefully wrap some foil around the edges after 45 minutes to an hour to keep it from getting too browned. (I didn’t bother doing this.)
  6. Remove the pan from the oven rack and allow it to cool enough to handle – about 20 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto the rack and allow it to cool until just slightly warm before cutting.

Pumpkin Bread2

NOTE: The bread is delicious as is, but it can also be spread with cream cheese or butter. The bacon adds a subtle flavor and makes for a wonderful texture. You could leave it out if you really are averse but it really made this special in my opinion. Wrap any left-overs well and it will keep for up to a week, getting a bit moister and with the spices becoming more intense each day. While delicious at room temperature, it tastes even better when eaten slightly warmed. My husband likes to have some for dessert with a little vanilla ice cream….

Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

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I came up with this recipe about 20+ years ago when my son went through a period of not eating any meat. I was looking for something that screamed “autumn” to me so I could serve it for the holiday of Sukkot, which we recently celebrated. If you do a lot of North African/Mediterranean and Indian cooking, as I do, then you will always have these seasonings on hand. The main ingredients can be varied to taste, substituting cauliflower for the eggplant for example. Just keep in mind textures, colors and cooking times for the different vegetables that you may use. And, of course, this can be doubled or tripled if desired. Left-overs are delicious but keep in mind that after a time some of the vegetables will get mushy with aggressive reheating. I usually serve this over cooked millet, couscous or rice but you can use any grain or bread that you prefer. My husband is not a big fan of very hot/spicy foods and neither was my son when he was little; however, if you do wish to add some heat to this otherwise well-seasoned dish, you have a few options. You can serve harissa on the side for diners to add their own level of heat individually or if you know that your crowd likes it hot, you can add some hot peppers along with the sweet bell pepper and/or add some cayenne pepper to the spice mix. There are no strict rules here.

Lisa’s Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

Yield: 4-6 servings     IMG_3683

Ingredients

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice

1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1 long Japanese eggplant, cut into large dice

15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (save the liquid for aquafaba!)

1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple, cut into large dice (no need to peel it)

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with liquid

1/2 cup of raisins

15 ounce can of pumpkin puree

About 1.25 cups of vegetable broth

About 3 Tablespoons apple juice or cider

1 teaspoon each of turmeric and cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of curry powder, ground cumin, salt and either freshly cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and ground sumac

2 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Optional Garnishes

Chopped cilantro

Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, pine nuts or almonds

Greek Yogurt

Harissa (red or green)

Directions

  1. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Stir in the spices and add enough of the apple juice to keep the spices from sticking and burning. Stir for about 3 minutes or until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Add all of the vegetables except for the eggplant. Add the tomatoes, tamarind paste, apple, pumpkin puree, broth and raisins and stir through. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, add the eggplant, re-cover the pan and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over a cooked grain of your choice and with one or more of the optional garnishes.

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Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

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The French and Italians learned a long time ago that more does not always mean better. While I love a really good “mile-high” apple pie (and my mother still made the best, in my opinion) there is definitely something to be said for a simple fruit tart with just a thin, but very flavorful filling. This recipe (and I use the term loosely) is very flexible. I made it with golden delicious apples for Rosh HaShana and it would also be delicious with other stone fruit such as apricots or peaches. It is easy to throw together and the resulting tart will draw surprised looks and oohs and aahs with that first bite. The surprise comes from the layer of almond paste that lines the pastry shell and makes this seemingly simple dessert so decadent and satisfying. This tart was made with some end of season plums that were available in the market.

Lisa’s Plum (or Apple) and Almond Paste Tart

Yield: One 9-inch tart that serves 6-8 (A little goes a long way)

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Ingredients

One unbaked 9-inch pastry shell (This is my go-to crust, which is also vegan)

About 4 medium plums or about 3-4 apples

7 ounces of almond paste (I like Odense brand)

1/4 cup of granulated, raw, or Demerara sugar

2 Tablespoons sliced natural almonds (optional)

1 Tablespoon of Amaretto (optional)

2 Tablespoons of good margarine or unsalted butter (My preference is for butter, but a good margarine will do)

About 2 Tablespoons apple or red currant jelly

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a shallow pie plate or fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (If you are going to be baking , you really should buy one of these.) Roll out the almond paste into a 9-inch circle. Don’t worry about being perfect. A little patching won’t show. Refrigerate or freeze the dough while you prepare the fruit.
  3. Wash, dry and slice the fruit into thin (but not so thin that you see through!) slices – between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer. Lay out the slices of fruit so that they slightly overlap and form concentric circles. Sprinkle with the sugar and scatter the almonds, if using, and then generously dot with the butter.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any oozing that might occur. Bake for about 45-55 minutes. Ovens vary so watch the tart. You want the fruit giving off some juice and the pastry should be golden.
  5. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the tart with the Amaretto, if using. While the tart is till warm, carefully brush the fruit with a little of the apple or red currant jelly. It isn’t essential to do this step, but this not only adds a bit more fruit flavor but it also gives the tart that gem-like glisten you see in professional tarts. I was able to buy a wonderful apple jelly online that is very clear and which just melts beautifully over the fruit. If you can’t find a really clear jelly you might need to heat and strain the jelly before using it.
  6. Allow the tart to completely cool before removing it from the tart ring. You should slice relatively small wedges for serving. It may not look it, but this is quite rich and a little goes a long way.