Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup (Dal Adas)

Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup

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Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup bursts with warming spices and the fruity tang of tamarind. Eat it as a satisfying soup with naan or over rice as a stew. While it may not be traditional, add some torn kale, spinach or chard for extra flavor and nutrition. This hearty vegan one-pot meal is perfect as we enter into fall.

While many of us are still facing summer temperatures thanks to climate change, the shorter days and some cooler nights are harbingers of the autumn and winter that really will finally arrive. We love soup anytime of the year and when it contains beans, lentils or pulses – so much the better. These perfect little nutrition bombs that come in so many guises are a superfood that we all can enjoy. Everything from creamy cannellini beans to dal in colors of the rainbow, runner beans, pinto, black-eyed peas…. I could keep going – and likely have tried most of them.

Persian Red Lentil and Tamarind Soup

Some legumes, like the masoor dal (or split red lentil) used here, cook up in under 30 minutes. You may see some in your stores that are much brighter, orangey red. This is because of added food coloring. Try to always buy organic dried beans.

These days I mostly cook from dried beans. They store beautifully in an airtight container and even older beans will revive with a long soak and slow cooking. They define comfort food, are budget friendly, nutritious and appear in almost every culture in one form or another. Everything from a cassoulet to frank and beans, Hoppin’ John and chili. South Asians wouldn’t think of a meal without some form of dal. And if you are trying to eat more vegetarian or vegan meals, there is no single food that packs a more nutritious power.

Now I’ll admit, that it can sometimes be challenging to take food-porn worthy photos of cooked lentils. This is especially true if they are the main ingredient without the benefit of other colorful produce. However, once you give them a taste in one of the myriad ways that they can be prepared, I think you’ll come to agree that delicious things occasionally come in slightly less attractive packages. What the French might refer to a person as “jolie-laide” or beautiful-ugly.

Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup

So whether you call these Nature’s gifts lentils, dal, pulses, or legumes, be sure to incorporate them into your diet.

For two other delicious red lentil soups that will give you dinner in under an hour:

Red Lentil Soup With North African Spices

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Persian Red Lentil and Tamarind Soup

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

A 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

About 12 to 15 fresh cilantro stems, finely chopped

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal preferred)

2 rounded teaspoons ground cumin

1 rounded teaspoon turmeric

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo Pepper

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

2.5 cups split red lentils (masoor dal), rinsed well and drained

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons tamarind paste (more or less depending on brand) or fresh lime juice

Summer Garden Pasta

Summer Garden Pasta

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This simple Summer Garden Pasta makes the most out of the tomato and basil harvest. With only a few ingredients, this delicious pasta comes together in under an hour. If you have the time, pair it with one of these wonderful focaccia.

When choosing a pasta to use for this Summer Garden Pasta, I like to use a fusilli, but any pasta with ridges or twists will be great. They are both sturdy enough and have loads of nooks and crannies to hold the sauce. You want want to miss even a speck!

I made this dish one night when I had some heirloom tomatoes to use up and a flourishing basil plant. My husband LOVED this simple Summer Garden Pasta so much that he ate seconds and thirds! While I used heirloom tomatoes the first time, any good ripe tomato will work. This time I used organic Roma and grape tomatoes.

This is a sort of non-recipe recipe. Don’t get too bogged down in exact measurements. Another clove of garlic? Great. You like things really spicy. A few more red pepper flakes? Fine. More than a pound of tomatoes to use up? Go ahead. The basic recipe is below but be free to tailor it to your preferences. Just keep it simple.

Summer Garden Pasta is wonderful for those steamy summer days when turning on the oven is unthinkable. So buy your bread and feast!

Recipe

Summer Garden Pasta

Yield: 4 generous servings

Ingredients

Summer Garden Pasta

About 1.25 pounds of ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced

5 to 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

2 to 3 anchovies in oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Mediterranean flavored oil, but any good EVOO will do )

2 Tablespoons Canola or other neutral oil

1 cup roasted bell peppers (homemade or from a jar), rinsed, patted dry and coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (it balances the acidity of the tomatoes)

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup of pasta water

1 pound of dry pasta like a fusilli

Lots of fresh basil leaves (a large handful), with about half kept for garnish

Directions

In a large pan with a tight fitting lid, add your oils, garlic cloves and anchovies. On a low heat, cook the garlic until it is golden, bathing it occasionally in the oil. The anchovies will have broken down and become indistinguishable from the oil. This took me about 15 minutes.

Once the garlic is golden (do NOT burn the garlic!) add the chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers, salt, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook on gentle heat, covered for about 12 to 15 minutes or when the tomatoes have broken down and become saucy. You don’t want mush. I like to still see some of the tomato chunks.

Up to this point, you can make the sauce ahead if you choose. The other ingredients will be added when you are ready to eat.

When you are ready to cook your pasta, bring the sauce to a simmer. Crumble in the goat cheese and mix through. Add the pasta water just before draining the pasta and half of the basil. The leaves can be torn or left whole. Your preference.

Mix everything through and simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes. Drain your pasta and add it to the sauce, mixing it well. Alternatively, add the sauce to the plated pasta. Garnish with lots of basil that has been chiffonaded and some grated parmesan or pecorino, if desired. Mangia!

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

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Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

This Upside Down Nectarine Pancake makes the most of these luscious stone-fruits. The delightful, juicy nectarines are enhanced by the melding of cardamom, nutmeg and caramelly jaggery. Of course, if you don’t have jaggery available, Muscovado, light brown sugar or even plain old granulated sugar will do.

We are at the height now of stone-fruit season. It doesn’t last long enough for me. So I have a tendency to get a bit carried away when I see beautiful nectarines, peaches and plums at the store or farmer’s market. And unfortunately, they all seem to achieve their peak eating at exactly the same moment. That’s what happened with these gorgeous nectarines. Thankfully, my husband had the brilliant suggestion of taking my absolute favorite Upside Down Blueberry Pancake and tweaking it to use up the nectarines. The photos don’t quite do it justice.

You could also substitute or even mix ripe peaches or plums here. And of course, nectarines and blueberries also make for a great combination. The beauty of nectarines is that they have no fuzzy skin like peaches that needs to be peeled. In fact, the peel in the Upside Down Nectarine Pancake seems to absorb so much of the flavor and is so tender that it was an integral part of the dish. The liquid in the pan is all syrupy deliciousness which also means that there is no need for maple or any other syrup. I soak up every drop with the spongey pancake. And if there is any leftover, I eat it up with my finger.

Be sure to check out the the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Ingredients

For the nectarine filling:

    1/3 cup jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    26 ozs. of whole nectarines or other stone-fruit (A bit more is fine), cut into slices/wedges about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. (If using jaggery, the sugar will melt into almost a paste.) If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the nectarine. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the nectarines into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the nectarines.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the nectarines, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Spinach Avocado Hummus

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These days any bean spread or dip is called “hummus.” It used to bother me because hummus is such an iconic dish in the Middle East. It just seemed disrespectful. And then I thought – “loosen up! Get a grip.” So while this Spinach Avocado “Hummus” definitely includes chickpeas and tahini, it also includes spinach and avocado to create a vibrant green deliciousness. This wonderful riff on a classic just might become a new favorite.

The seemingly long time in the food processor creates a beautifully fluffy spread with every element well blended. This almost light-as-air hummus practically melts in your mouth.

And while I had never seen nor tasted this Spinach Avocado Hummus before, when I went searching for recipes to compare, there were about a dozen. All were pretty similar and I have no idea which one came first. For me, I became aware of it here.

The measurements given should be viewed as a starting place. Obviously, you can fine tune things to suit your personal tastes. I changed up a few things to suit my tastes, adding more spice and lemon juice. So definitely don’t get bogged down in having exactly 200g of baby spinach or one cup of onions etc.

One thing I do feel pretty strongly about is that whenever possible, I like to cook my own beans. If I am making soup, the cooking liquid is a great base for the broth. (The liquid can also be used as aquafaba.) But while the beans do honestly taste better (just ask my granddaughter!) this Spinach Avocado Hummus will also be quite good if you only use canned chickpeas. However, if you must use canned beans, please use a good quality organic bean. This is especially important if you are vegan or vegetarian where beans may be a big source of daily protein.

This gorgeous dip will brighten up any table. As I have written before, we always have at least four or five salads, dips or spreads for Shabbat that we then enjoy all week. It is a habit that I picked up after living in Israel for almost a year. There and throughout the Middle East, salads are served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Unlike my traditional hummus, which I prefer to eat still warm, the Spinach Avocado Hummus tasted best after refrigeration. I thought that the flavors had more time to meld and enjoyed it even more the second day.

Just be sure to have plenty of fresh pita, naan or challah to scoop up the Spinach Avocado Hummus. Of course, crispy veggies or pita chips work well too.

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Check out some of my other salads and spreads:

Salads for Every Meal

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Beet Caviar

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Farro Salad

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Ingredients

2 cups (340g) cooked, drained chickpeas

2 T EVOO plus more for serving

1 cup (52g) thinly sliced yellow onions

¾ cup (177ml) tap water

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

53.3 oz. (200g) baby spinach

Juice of 1.5 lemon or to taste

3 Tablespoons tahini paste

Flesh of one ripe avocado (avocado weighing about 6 oz. (170g)

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Optional)

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste

Directions

Place 2 T EVOO in a med. large saucepan and heat on medium. Add the onion and fry until brown (about 8 to 10 minutes.)

Add the drained chickpeas and water to the pot. Bring to a rapid simmer. Then reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chickpeas begin to breakdown.

Add the baby spinach and stir through until wilted. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool somewhat.

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Place everything (including any liquid) in a food processor along with the flesh of the avocado, lemon juice, tahini and spices. Process for about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. The hummus should be creamy and fluffy. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but is even better the next day.

When ready to serve, spread out the hummus on a plate. Garnish with finely chopped pepper, chives, scallion or cilantro and drizzle all over with a good quality olive oil.

The hummus can be refrigerated for several days.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

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This killer Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is decadently rich, dark and velvety. Did I mention that it has an Oreo crust?! And for those with an egg allergy – NO EGGS! I had seen a recipe for a chocolate cheesecake on the King Arthur website and it got me remembering a Mocha Cheesecake that my Mother used to make occasionally when we had guests over. It may have been based on one that was published (we’re talking almost 60 years ago, folks) in the New York Times. I’m pretty sure that the author was Maida Heatter, that doyenne of fabulous desserts.

The only problem is that it’s just me and my husband these days and that cake fed 16 people. Now I REALLY love a great New York-style cheesecake. However, even I cannot eat that much of it. And unfortunately, I never have enough room in my freezer. You know, to put some away for a pretty rainy day – or Congressional Hearings into January 6.

So, it got me thinking that I needed to come up with a version that uses my 6-inch springform pan. I found that this is the perfect size to yield 6 servings. We can definitely consume that over the course of the week.

The base of the cheesecake started with one that I published last year with a blueberry topping. Please use a really good quality dark bittersweet chocolate like Valrhona or Scharffenberger. 70% cacao is perfect. (And actually – never use poor quality chocolate. It’s just not worth it. Better to make something else entirely!) This will counter the rather sweet cookie crust and the sweetened condensed milk. The espresso powder will emphasize the deep chocolate taste.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is for serious chocolate lovers. It has a true, clean chocolate taste and a smooth, truffle-like mouthfeel that starts melting as soon as it hits your tongue. And as rich as this cheesecake is, compared to other New York-style cheesecakes, you don’t have to feel too guilty. Go for it.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)

250 g of crushed chocolate cookies such as Oreos (This is about 2.5 cups)

1/2 cup (113 g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)

Filling

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/25 cups of dark (70%) chocolate (about 175 g)

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 Tablespoon Black Natural Cocoa Powder (Dutch cocoa could be used instead)

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or Dark Rum

1 cup (306 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions

Lightly grease the bottom of the springform pan and line it with a round of parchment. You don’t have to do this but it will make it easy to transfer the cake off of the bottom of the tin.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Do not wash the food processor. Just try to remove any excess crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until all of the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Using a hand beater or the food processor (why dirty another utensil?) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

In a smallish bowl, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the crust from cracking.

Remove the cooled cake to a wire rack and using a sharp, flat blade, just carefully run it around the circumference of the cake. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

When you are ready to serve, unlock the springform and carefully remove the ring. You can then either leave the cake on the bottom for serving or it should come off easily once the suction has been broken. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Savory Asparagus Tart

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This fabulous Savory Asparagus Tart is ready in under an hour, but looks like you slaved all day. I served it for our Shavuot dinner with a salad and Lemon Almond Semolina Cake for dessert. Our drink of choice was a beautiful Vermentino from Ryme Wine Cellars. But this easy-to-prepare savory tart would also make a beautiful brunch meal or a perfect Meatless Monday option.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Believe it or not but I came across this recipe in a folio sent by my grocery store a couple of months back. I made a couple of changes and my presentation was a simple change that just made this tart a visual stunner.

This Savory Asparagus Tart comes together so quickly because you use a prepared frozen puff pastry. It was even quicker because this time I bought cheese that was already grated and crumbled. Something this pretty AND delicious doesn’t have to be difficult. My husband and I were able to spend the entire day outside enjoying the gorgeous weather and we still sat down to a beautiful and delicious meal. Give it a try. And if you don’t wish to use puff pastry, a regular tart or unsweetened pie pastry or phyllo dough would also work.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Recipe

Yield: 6 generous servings

Ingredients

1 full package of frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions

2 teaspoons EVOO

1 pound (1 bunch) fresh asparagus, trimmed

8 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper or to taste

4 green onions (scallions), trimmed and thinly sliced

5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a combo of asiago, parmesan and fontina, but any one of those would also work)

4 ounces of goat cheese crumbles

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped (or snipped) fresh chives. (You can use other fresh herbs if these are unavailable or to suit your preferences.)

Savory Asparagus Tart

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 1/4-sheet pan (9 x 13) with parchment or lightly brush with oil

Flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to fit the pan so that it will go up the sides. Place it in the pan. You can trim any excess or fold it under. Prick the pastry all over and place it in the fridge while yo prepare the filling.

Set aside 5 asparagus spears that are about the same size and that have straight stems. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the stems and trim off the woody bottoms of the asparagus.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Trim off the woody bottoms of the remaining asparagus and cut the spears into pieces that are 2 to 3-inches long. Place the cut pieces in a large sauté pan with the EVOO and cook on medium high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Whisk the eggs, ricotta, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Remove the sheet pan from the fridge and scatter the cut, sautéed asparagus and the sliced green onions evenly across the bottom of the pastry.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Top with the shredded cheese.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Pour the egg mixture over the top and spread it evenly. Then top with the goat cheese crumbles. Carefully lay the asparagus spears that you set aside across the top on a slight angle. Press them gently into the cheese. Sprinkle the entire top of the tart with the fresh herbs.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Bake for 10 minutes in the middle of the oven and then lower the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking until the edges are puffed and golden and the eggs are set and beautifully browned – about 25 minutes.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Remove from the oven and allow everything to set for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serve with a beautiful salad, crusty bread and a crisp white wine. Leftovers can be wrapped in parchment and reheated in the oven, preferably on a pizza steel or stone.

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

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Like many people these days, my husband and I are eating more plant-based meals. Maybe you are choosing to eat less meat for your health or because it is better for the planet. Perhaps you are making this choice for ethical or moral reasons. With so many wonderful options for meat substitutes now readily available, it has never been easier to try making this transition.

Not too long ago, my niece gifted me a beautiful cookbook called I Cook in Color by Asha Gomez. Based now in Atlanta, GA, Ms. Gomez originates from Kerala in Southern India. The dishes are visually striking with fresh flavors, lots of herbs and spices and fruit/vegetable forward.

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan is her take on a famous Persian stew or khoresh. It is generally made with some kind of ground meat or poultry. Redolent with walnuts, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, orange zest and pomegranate molasses, it is rich without being heavy. Following Ms. Gomez’s suggestion, I served the vegan Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan with a Dilled Red Onion Basmati Rice. For a bit of extra richness and umami, the rice cooks in coconut milk.

Dilled Red Onion Basmati Rice

Since it is not really pomegranate season here, I was unable to garnish my dish with that beautiful pop of red jeweled fruit. But the resulting dinner was nevertheless amazing and I would be proud to serve it to guests. I accompanied my tangy, sweet fesenjan with some ripe cantaloupe as a starter and the Saffron Pistachio Blondies for dessert. Meat? Never missed it!

However, if you really aren’t ready to go meatless, you can try this more traditional version of fesenjan.

Recipe

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Servings: about 6

Ingredients

2 cups lightly toasted walnuts

3 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground turmeric powder

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds’1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cinnamon sticks

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar or jaggery

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

3 wide strips of orange zest from a navel orange

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (readily available these days, but a recipe is linked)

4 cups of cooked chickpeas (I like to cook my own, but canned are fine too)

4 cups torn fresh spinach leaves (About 2 big handfuls)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (This can also be done in a dry pan on the stove if you are not using your oven for anything else.) Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan in a single layer and place them in the oven for about 5 minutes. As soon as you begin to smell the walnuts, immediately remove them from the heat and allow them to cool.

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Once cooled, pulse the walnuts in a food processor until almost a fine powder. Be careful not to turn them into a paste.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until they are golden (about 8 minutes). Next add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Now add in the spices and roast for about 30 seconds to help them bloom. Once they are fragrant, add the brown sugar and salt and give everything a quick stir.

Once combined, you are ready to add the orange zest, stock, pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Simmer for 2 minutes, mixing everything through. Then lower the heat to medium-low and add in the chickpeas. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes. The fesenjan can be prepared ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve, add the torn spinach leaves. Give everything a good mix and remove from the heat.

While the fesenjan is cooking, you should prepare your rice, if using. Of course, this would also be delicious with naan or some other flat bread.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

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If I had to choose a last meal on earth, it would be this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake. My husband created this incredible skillet pancake over many months of trial and error. It would be too cruel of me not to share it.

Breakfast foods are a favorite of mine – but only when I eat them for dinner. I just can’t consume that much first thing in the morning. About once a week, I ask my husband to make this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake for dinner. And as soon as I have devoured it, I begin counting the days until he makes it again.

Without any shame, I eat half of the pan with vegan sausage patties in one sitting. There are 18 ounces of blueberries in this pancake! My tongue and teeth are purple when I finish – but that is what baking soda is for!

The gorgeous, fat purply blueberries burst in your mouth and the delicious tang of fresh lemon – zest and juice – enhances the fruitiness. This is AMAZING! The pancake part of this dish is spongey and lofty, perfect for absorbing all of the fruity, blueberry, lemony juices. And if there is anything – and I mean anything – left on my plate, I use my finger and tongue to lap up every delicious bit.

For a lot of people, this dish would serve 4. But I have never felt uncomfortably stuffed or heavy after eating half of the pan. Upside Down Blueberry Skillet Pancake is neither overly sweet nor heavy. This will knock any other skillet or griddle pancake right out of the running. And because it bakes up in the oven, there is no standing over a griddle or fussily flipping pancakes. Everything is done in one pan.

Other than a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, there are no special tools or skills needed for this recipe. This is dinner AND dessert in one go. If you don’t make this right away – well, I can’t be held responsible.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

For the blueberry filling:

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    18 ozs. of blueberries, rinsed and well drained

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the blueberries. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the blueberries into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the blueberries.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the berries, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Falafel

Falafel and Pita

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Falafel is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern food adopted by the world. Delicious, budget-friendly, vegan and nutritious. Made from chickpeas with lots of fresh herbs and fragrant spices, these crunchy, moist nuggets are a go-to street food that I was first introduced to on a trip to Israel. Stuffed into fresh pita with pickled vegetables and tahina sauce and/or Amba, it is enjoyed standing up chatting with friends. If the juices don’t drip down your arm as you eat then you aren’t doing it right! Veteran falafel eaters learn to adopt a stance when eating where you arch your body a bit back and lean over the falafel.

Of course, Falafel also is great as an appetizer or over a salad. Chickpeas are loaded with protein, cook up beautifully and have great flavor. They are a versatile staple that should be part of everyone’s pantry. Even the cooking liquid known as aquafaba, is a wonderful substitute for egg whites and whips up to make a beautiful meringue-like substance that can be used in all kinds of baked goods.

Having tried several falafel recipes, this one has best suited my tastes. It comes from Molly Yeh with a few tweaks from me. My husband made the pita, but feel free to use store-bought. Generally I am not a huge fan of Ms. Yeh. I find a lot of her recipes very fatty, unhealthy and a bit twee. But she has made a few things that have turned out well and exactly as written, even if over time I have made some changes. This is one such recipe.

Falafel

My husband mistimed the pita, so as a consequence, I made the falafel mixture and ended up refrigerating it in an airtight container overnight. It worked out perfectly. I probably would not keep it uncooked for more than a day, however, given all of the fresh herbs and soaked , but uncooked chickpeas.

We don’t consume a lot of fried foods, but during the pandemic I treated myself to a mini-fryer. This was definitely one of those lightbulb moments. The particular fryer I bought is inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of space, which I don’t have. It is easy to use, clean-up is a snap and best of all – no fried food smell. The temperature is constantly controlled with almost no absorption of oil by anything you are frying. (No, I am not compensated by the company.) That said, the original recipe called for shallow frying in a pan. Either method would work well. As you can tell from my photos, I love a really well-browned outside with just a wonderful crunch. The inside is still moist and green from the herbs.

Many street vendors sell their falafel stuffed into pita with french fries on top. I have to admit that I never quite got that, especially as someone who REALLY likes crispy fries. They also have a knack, built up over time, of stuffing a simply enormous amount of stuff into a pita. I do not yet have that knack. However you decide to eat your falafel patties, you won’t be disappointed. Make them soon. They are a perfect addition to Meatless Mondays.

Falafel and Pita

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds 

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 10 hours or overnight and drained 

1 small onion, coarsely chopped 

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with stems, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves with stems, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh dill, leaves and stems, roughly chopped

3 to 4 Tablespoons, fresh mint leaves, torn

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (Optional)

2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour 

Fresh Juice of one large lemon

Olive oil or flavorless oil, for frying 

Falafel and Pita

Directions

Toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, then grind in a spice grinder. (I grind my spices a medium amount. I think the spices are better distributed throughout if done on a medium rather than a course grind.)

In a food processor, combine the cumin, coriander, soaked chickpeas, onion, garlic, fresh herbs, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, a few turns of black pepper, Aleppo pepper, if used, flour, and lemon juice and pulse quickly, 80 to 100 times, until the mixture is combined, but still slightly grainy. If you squeeze a spoonful in your hand and it holds together, you have the right texture.

Falafel

In a large skillet, heat ¼-inch oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Form balls of falafel mixture, 2 to 3 tablespoons each, packing them firmly and then flattening them slightly. Fry on all sides until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel.

If using a deep fryer, then use as directed with the oil set to 350 degrees F. Carefully drop the falafel balls into the fryer a few at a time. I like my balls well-browned and with a crispy outside and a just moist inside. There is no need to turn the patties since both sides get cooked at the same time. I didn’t time things but the patties cook in about 3 minutes. You want to be sure that the falafel is fully cooked since you are using raw, soaked chickpeas.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Poor Man’s Pasta

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Poor Man’s Pasta has just a few simple ingredients. But never has poor seemed so rich! The humble cauliflower, garlic and some good olive oil makes a creamy, flavorful and very satisfying sauce for the pasta of your choice. Do choose a pasta with some shape that will trap and hold the sauce. I used a small shell, but orecchiette would also be a great choice.

And after watching Lidia Bastianich during the early shortages of the pandemic, I learned a trick that poor Italians used to replace cheese on their pasta. Breadcrumbs sautéed in olive oil with garlic and parsley until they have achieved a crunchy deliciousness makes parmesan cheese unnecessary. Have you ever wondered what to do with those left-over, dried out pieces of bread? Wonder no more! Of course, you can also use Panko or other store-bought breadcrumbs for this topping.

You will need a food processor to blitz the cauliflower into an almost powdery state. Store-bought riced cauliflower is still too big to achieve the right level of creaminess that you want here. Nothing gets wasted. You can include any fresh, young cauliflower leaves and the more tender parts of the stem. They all add flavor.

Olive oils can be pricey, it’s true. So buy the best EVOO that you can afford. I love the Mediterranean Olive Oil that I buy from Sciabica online. My daughter-in-law Frances introduced me to it and I have never looked back. There are, of course, other good brands out there, so choose one you like.

Fresh garlic is the other essential ingredient in this simple dish. Don’t use old garlic that has become bitter! Full disclosure, I did use shmushed up anchovies in my sauce. However, if you want to keep this vegan or just hate anchovies, the sauce will still be delicious if you leave it out.

I used fresh parsley in the breadcrumb mixture but you could use dried if that is all you have.

The richness in this dish comes from the cauliflower, pasta water and olive oil. When cooked together some wonderful alchemy occurs that provides depth and comfort in a healthy and affordable dish. One pound of pasta will easily make 6 servings, especially if served with a salad and some bread. I made a delicious kale salad and Andrew baked focaccia. A glass of red wine and this humble dinner became something extraordinary.

After the recipe directions is an idea of what you can do with left-overs – assuming you have any.

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of a curved pasta like orecchiette or shells

6 Tablespoons EVOO, divided

3 anchovy fillets (Optional)

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed, divided

1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or to taste

kosher salt to taste

About 1 cup of dried breadcrumbs (Panko is great because it isn’t too fine. Those bumps soak up the flavor best.) You can make more of this mixture if you really like the topping. Just adjust the oil and parsley for the larger amount.

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley or 1 Tablespoon dried

Directions

Trim the cauliflower and cut into florets. Place these along with any fresh leaves and the more tender stems in a food processor. Blitz until the cauliflower is almost powdery.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Set a pot of well-salted water to boil. While this is coming to a boil, place 5 Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. If you are using anchovies, put them in the oil on medium high heat, shmushing them around until they break up and melt into the oil. Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds. Do not burn the garlic.

Now add the cauliflower and mix it through to coat with the oil and garlic mixture. You can sprinkle on some kosher salt. If you are not using anchovies, add 1 teaspoon of salt to start. If you are using anchovies, only start with 1/2 teaspoon. You will be adding the well salted pasta water to the sauce so don’t over salt here. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it!

Sauté the mixture until the cauliflower breaks down and softens. Meanwhile cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package. Use the shorter cooking time given.

Just before the pasta is ready, take a bit more than a cup of the pasta water and add it about 1/4 cup at a time to the cauliflower mixture. Turn up the heat a bit and stir the water through until everything is creamy. I used a cup of water but depending on how much cauliflower you actually have, you might add a bit more or less than that.

Drain your pasta and mix it with the sauce.

Poor Man’s Pasta

While your pasta is cooking you can also brown your breadcrumb mixture. Place a Tablespoon of EVOO into a smallish skillet. When the oil is hot, add the breadcrumbs, 1 crushed clove of garlic and the chopped parsley. Depending on your breadcrumbs, you can add a bit of salt to taste. Brown them, stirring often until they are dark and crunchy but not burned.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Plate the pasta with the sauce and top with the breadcrumbs. Leftovers can be gently reheated or even placed in a baking dish and covered with a fresh mix of the breadcrumb topping drizzled with EVOO but which has not been sautéed. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is heated through and the breadcrumbs are crunchy. Yummmmmmm!

Baked Poor Man’s Pasta

Because the Poor Man’s Pasta easily made enough for 6 servings and my husband and I are only 2 people, I decided to do something different for the leftovers.

I lightly oiled a rectangular baking dish and poured in my leftover pasta. I then added some dried oregano over the top along with a light sprinkling of shredded Mozzarella and Provolone. Yes, this is now vegetarian rather than vegan, although you could do this suing vegan “cheese.” I thickly sliced some Roma tomatoes across the top. Added more breadcrumbs and seasoning, including some salt. A bit more shredded cheese. (I probably used about 2 oz. of cheese total) I drizzled on a good glug of EVOO and baked uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes to warm everything through. I then cranked the heat up to broil and watched the tomatoes bake and everything on top brown. Yummmmmmy!

Poor Man’s Pasta Night #2
Poor Man’s Pasta Night #2