Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

This nutrient dense soup is packed with umami and has a gorgeous color for a delicious, satisfying vegan meal. I could just as easily have called it a stew – it is that thick and hearty! While I might be a bit sad to see the days getting shorter, I always look forward to wearing my fall clothes and eating the wonderful variety of winter squashes and root vegetables. And unlike summer squashes, having winter squashes is like having money in the bank. Kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for weeks or even months. They really were a saving grace during the worst of the pandemic when we tried to only shop once every few weeks.

It’s true that it can often be dreary outside at this time of year, but our food can still be filled with color and flavor. This Winter Squash Lentil Soup has everything going for it in a one-pot meal. Add some bread and maybe a nice glass of wine or some herbal tea and happily call it dinner. Though I would never eschew a nice green salad, it isn’t actually necessary. The kale, chard or spinach that is added at the end will give you more than enough greens and is a beautiful contrast to the bright orange of the squash, carrots and turmeric.

I came across a recipe that looked appealing when I was surfing for ways to use up some lovely squashes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.

Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Nowadays, of course, many large supermarkets also have a good variety of winter squashes available. And I make a delicious curried butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. But I had never thought about adding lentils before. As I have mentioned in several posts, my husband and I are eating a largely vegetarian diet these days, although we have no plans to give up meat altogether. It does mean, though, that I try to be very conscious of adding in plant protein whenever I can.

The original recipe looked good to me but I wanted to make some changes – as is my wont. So below is the recipe as I made it and it’s wonderful. However, while I used Red Kuri Squash, just about any other orange-fleshed squash would work here. Butternut, carnival or pumpkin squashes all would be delicious. I also chose to go with a chana dal or yellow split pea rather than the green or brown lentils called for in the original. Part of the reason was to maintain that gorgeous color, but I also love that the chana dal maintains its bite even with a long cooking. I always use it 50/50 in my green split pea soup for that reason. If you don’t have them, pretty much any lentil will do.

Not only can you control or adapt the soup to what you have on hand, but you can also decide if you are going for a mellow curried flavor or one that is more spicy. And if you don’t like peanut butter, you can substitute cashew butter or even almond butter. Fall and winter not only bring out the beautiful squashes but also the heartier greens. Dino or lacinato kale, Swiss chard in all of its varieties, collards, mustard or turnip greens. I happen to love beet greens, but it is difficult to come across really nice ones where I live and many grocery stores actually throw them out before they are ever seen by customers.

This hearty soup comes together pretty quickly, making it a nice anytime soup. And while it is rare for me to buy pre-chopped squash, if you are really in a pinch for time, many grocery stores do offer that option. Winter Squash and Lentil Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just gently warm it and add the greens before serving, allowing them to just wilt.

This is a soup to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It will banish the drears away.

Recipe

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Winter Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon oil (Canola, coconut or EVOO)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped – about 2 cups

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced

1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)

1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (hot or not or a mix)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 15 ounce can of coconut milk – full fat, preferably

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas (green or brown lentils will work but the color won’t be as lovely), rinsed well and sorted. If your lentils are older, give them an overnight soak. Drain them before using.

3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter without any sugar – smooth or chunky

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 good handfuls of baby spinach or kale

Optional Garnishes

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Chopped roasted peanuts or cashews

Sing Bhujia Masala Peanuts

Chakri

Fresh lime

Directions

Add the oil of choice to a largish pot or Dutch oven. Heat to medium high and add the chopped onions and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric powder and curry powder and stir through for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.

Now add the squash, carrot, lentils, garlic and ginger and stir everything well, coating all of the veg with the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter and vegetable broth. Mix well and add in the cracked black pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are making this ahead, allow the soup to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, partially blend the soup. You want to still see some of the chunks of squash. This can also be done in a standing blender. In that case, only blend about 3 cups. Be VERY careful if the soup is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and do not overfill the blender. Start on a low speed to prevent the hot liquid exploding out the top.

Just before you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is hot and add in your greens of choice. Depending on the kind of greens you are using, they may take as little as 3 minutes to wilt (spinach) to more like 20 minutes (collards). I used a Dino kale (lacinato kale) and gave it about 8 minutes. Garnish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated and will last about a week.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup is the cure for the autumn drears that I need NOW! Easy comfort food in a single pot. Fall can be the most beautiful season. The trees are sporting their colorful adornment before the leaves dance off until the spring. The days can be beautifully crisp and clear, making walks in forest preserves a delight. OR, it can be grey, dreary and damp like it has been this whole week, making getting out of bed a major achievement.

These are the days that make me hunker down, burying my head in a good book with a pot of delicious soup bubbling on the stove. This easy Lasagna Soup gives me everything I need to conquer the drears. And it can be vegan or beefy and cheesy or something in between, made with ground turkey. With just a few swaps (included below) this comforting soup can make anyone happy. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lasagna – in a fraction of the time?!

I love a good lasagna and my mother made one of the best. But even with the no-boil lasagna pasta now available, it’s still a bit of a production. This soup won’t replace lasagna when I have the time and inclination to make it, but it definitely gives me a lot of that satisfaction in a much easier, quicker format.

When deciding to make this soup, I checked out a bunch of different recipes. It’s one of those things that wasn’t there a week ago and now is EVERYWHERE. Since most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it’s the kind of thing that can be made without a run to the grocery store. And thanks to the pandemic, don’t most of us have great pantries and a few things like ground beef, turkey or vegan crumbles in our freezers?

So if you are ready to rise above the autumn drears or simply just want a bowl of warming comfort, give this a try.

Recipe

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Lasagna Soup

1 Tablespoon of EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium diced

2 to 4 garlic cloves (I use 4), peeled and minced

4 cups of broth (Vegan, chicken or beef)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

24-ish ounces of marinara sauce OR 24 to 28 ounces of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1.5 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil, onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

13 ounces (390 g) soy veggie crumbles or vegan ground “meat” or 1 pound of ground beef or turkey

About 3 cups of roughly diced fresh mushrooms (button, baby bellas or cremini (They lend umami and great mouthfeel, especially if you are going with the vegan version.)

8 to 10 ounces of dried lasagna or Gigli pasta

About 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (Optional but recommended) or thawed frozen spinach with extra liquid squeezed out

Lasagna Soup

Optional Garnishes

If you are not making this vegan, you can add a dollop of ricotta cheese or parmigiana before serving.

Ribbons or torn fresh basil leaves or chopped flat-leaf parsley

A few chili flakes if you want this spicier

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just becoming golden, about 7 minutes. If the onion seems to be sticking you can add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze.

Once the onion is golden, add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (If using, you could also add the chili flakes here instead of as a garnish.)

Next add the ground meat or meat substitute along with the mushrooms, if using and cook for about 5 minutes or until much of the mushroom moisture evaporates. The mushrooms add a “meatiness” of their own. My mushrooms were very fresh and actually had almost no additional moisture, so I cooked them down enough to just begin to soften.

Lasagna Soup

Add the marinara sauce or canned tomatoes, vinegar and the broth. Bring everything to a boil and then add the noodles. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Stir in the spinach until wilted, if using. Remove from the heat, garnish and enjoy! A great crusty garlic bread or focaccia and some nice red wine wouldn’t go amiss.

NOTES:

This recipe will produce a wonderful cross between a thick soup and a saucy pasta. If you have left-overs, you likely will need to add some liquid when you go to reheat it. We are not vegan so I did serve the soup with some real cheese. However, I have been googling and there are a number of pretty simple recipes for all kinds of vegan cheeses should you wish to go that route and they are not readily available in your local stores. Some are made with cashews and others with soy milk. Some day, simply out of curiosity, I may try one or two.

SD* Chickpea Burger

SD* Chickpea Burger

SD* Chickpea Burger works. The SD* stands for “simply delicious.” I love a good vegan burger. It’s not as a substitute for a meat burger. But as a delicious canvas for toppings, enjoyed in its own right. This SD* Chickpea Burger delivers. Unlike many bean burgers, this one gets beautifully crispy on the outside and does not fall apart with a mushy center when you bite into it. There are just four ingredients to the burger and they are pantry staples. What you do about the toppings is between you – and you!

The method used here is the same one used to make great falafel. Chickpeas are given a long soak, generally overnight (12 to 24 hours) and then they are ground up in a food processor. Now while this burger only uses a couple of flavorful ingredients, you could up the spice level easily enough if you choose.

I came across this burger recipe on YouTube and decided to give it a try. The only changes I made were to use both black and ivory chickpeas and to slightly simplify the method. My version uses one less bowl that I didn’t need to wash. Black chickpeas were a novelty for me and since I had them I decided to try it here. They are smaller than the more familiar ivory chickpeas, and perhaps have a slightly different flavor. Frankly, just using regular (ivory) dried chickpeas is fine.

The marinated artichokes are already seasoned and the oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes add umami and great texture.

While you might be able to make this without a food processor, it would be pretty difficult to get the correct texture. Now this recipe makes 6 burgers. My 6’3″ husband ate two with corn on the cob as a side. I only needed one to be satisfied. We served the burgers on a toasted onion kaiser roll with beefsteak tomatoes from the farmers’ market, caramelized onions, radish sprouts, avocado and pickle. On the second burger my husband put some Sriracha Aioli on the bun. It was all delicious and I know that the next time I eat it, I’ll likely use other toppings like fast pickled onions and arugula.

SD* Chickpea Burger

Like falafel, the chickpeas you are using are only soaked – not cooked ahead of time. And no, canned chickpeas will not work here. In order to ensure that the chickpeas are fully cooked, do not make fewer but larger burgers. The SD* Chickpea Burgers will need time to cook through. I have not tried making them in the oven, which should work, but would likely produce a less crispy burger than one cooked in oil in a cast iron skillet. And in order to get that color and crispiness you might end up drying out the burger.

Because it is just the two of us, I plan on using the leftover burgers as my lunch during the week. They will last in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for much longer.

Brass tax: is this SD* Chickpea Burger likely to convert die-hard beef burger lovers? No. But is it a really good vegan burger enjoyed in its own particular glory? Absolutely yes. So if you are looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet, give this a try. Simply Delicious!

Recipe

Servings: 6 burgers

Ingredients

SD* Chickpea Burgers

1 cup dried chickpeas (Use organic!)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 to 14 ounces jar or can of marinated artichokes, drained (You can use the liquid as a base for salad dressing)

1/2 cup, drained sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO

Neutral oil for pan-frying (I used Canola)

SD* Chickpea Burgers

Directions

Soak the chickpeas 3 cups of water for 12 to 24 hours

Drain the soaked chickpeas. Then add them to a food processor with the salt. Pulse, scraping down the sides until the beans are finely minced and easily hold together when squeezed in your hand.

Add the artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes to the chickpeas and process until everything is ground up and evenly distributed.

Using your hands, form 6 burgers. Place them on a plate or in a container that will fit in your fridge, covered. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 1 week. This will help them hold together in the pan when cooking.

When you are ready to cook them, heat a heavy or cast iron skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom well. When the oil is shimmering, carefully add the burgers in one layer without touching each other. Do this in batches if your pan won’t hold them all. Cook for 4 minutes per side. DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND OR SMUSH THEM DOWN! Carefully flip the burgers over and cook for another 4 minutes.

Garnish and enjoy!

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Flaky Flatbread

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

These Flaky Flatbreads are fun to make and so versatile. Make them ahead and they reheat beautifully. While I make mine with a Bulgarian or goat yogurt, any yogurt will work, including non-dairy. And even though I brush mine with fresh garlic butter, you can use either a good EVOO or vegan butter instead. Recently, my husband was out of town and I made up a batch of these. I wrapped the leftovers in foil and reheated them in my toaster as needed. The outside got slightly crispy. And the layers flaked into these lovely fragrant pieces of dough that were perfect for dipping into soups and spreads.

Since I began doing more Indian cooking, I have become familiar with spices and herbs that I had not traditionally used before. Two of my favorites now are carom seed (ajwain) and fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi). Either one, or dried mint, cumin seed (or nothing at all) works wonderfully in this flaky flatbread. And because you control the seasoning, your flatbreads will be unique to you!

Unlike most breads, these flaky flatbreads don’t require any rising time. The dough comes together in just minutes. Then we let it have a nice rest until it becomes supple and easy to roll out. This resting time can be a 20 minute catnap or as much as a couple of hours. Your schedule can dictate the time. The longer resting time makes them a bit easier to work with, but I have made them both ways successfully. We enjoy these flatbreads at least once a week. They are the perfect compliment to Middle Eastern/Mediterranean foods as well as South Asian.

I came across many iterations of this basic recipe online so it is difficult to say exactly which one I ended up using. And the addition of the fenugreek and garlic butter is my own twist. How you use this flaky flatbread is only limited by your imagination. Leave out the garlic and this becomes a great bread for breakfast or snacking. Just add your favorite nut butter, smushed avocado or preserves. Smear on tomato sauce or pesto with the toppings of your choice and you have mini pizzas. Did I mention that this was versatile?

I am not going to claim that these are as healthy as the two ingredient lentil pancake/flatbreads that you can find all over YouTube. But eaten in moderation with an otherwise healthy meal, they are fine. And as much as I love a good lentil dish, these really do taste better than those pancake/flatbreads.

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

Recipe

Yield: 8 flatbreads

Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 cup more for dusting the dough

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1.5 teaspoons fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) Optional, but recommended

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup plain natural yogurt (I like full-fat)

8 ounces melted butter

2 large garlic cloves, crushed Optional, but recommended

Directions

Measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and dried herbs, if used, into a medium bowl. Using a fork or whisk, mix everything together so that the salt, baking powder and herbs are well distributed. If the bowl is wider and shallower, it is a bit easier to work with, but any bowl will do. You can do this ahead and cover it until you are ready to make the dough.

Flaky Flatbread

Add the yogurt and mix through the flour until you get a shaggy dough. I found that it was easiest to use my hands for this. It should take only about 1 to 2 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Then using your hands, gently knead the dough until the moisture from the yogurt is distributed throughout and you end up with a smooth, moist dough. Depending on the shape of your bowl, it might be easiest to transfer the dough to your counter to work with. If you use a thicker yogurt, like a Greek or Icelandic yogurt, you might need to add a Tablespoon of water to the dough. Natural yogurts are more liquidy and preferable for this recipe.

Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover it lightly with plastic wrap or a plate. This entire process from the time you add the yogurt to the time you form your dough ball should take no more than 5 minutes and possibly as little as 3 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Allow the dough to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. It will not double in size. We are not using yeast. But the dough will become more relaxed and supple and will be easier to roll out.

When the dough has rested, remove it from the bowl and divide it into 8 pieces. Unless you are doing this for a living, just eyeball the pieces. It is not necessary to weigh them out to be sure that they are exactly equal in size.

Flaky Flatbread

Cup your hand over the dough piece and roll your hand in a circle against the counter to form a ball. Lay the pieces out on the counter or a baking tray or platter to make it easier to work with.

You want to work with one section or ball at a time. I found it easiest to put 1/4 to 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl or container rather than sprinkling my counter. I then slightly flatten the dough ball with my hand and dip each side into the all-purpose flour. If I need to double dip, I can. Any excess flour can be sealed in a container and used for the same purpose since no raw dough gets mixed in. I know, but trust me on this.

Flaky Flatbread

Years ago, a dear friend, now dead, gave me a wonderful marble rolling pin to use in making mu shu pancakes. I never actually used it for that purpose, but it is perfect for these flatbreads and I think of Marge with great fondness whenever I handle it. But any rolling pin or empty wine or beer bottle will work too.

Place the flattened dough ball on the counter or board and roll it out as thinly as possible. Don’t worry too much about the shape. If it is round or oblong, or even slightly misshapen, this will still work. I am no expert! Brush the dough lightly with some of the melted garlic butter. Then working from the longest end, tightly roll up the dough into a log. Perfection is not necessary! If butter got on the board or counter, just wipe it away with a paper towel. Otherwise the next ball will be difficult to roll out. It doesn’t have to be perfectly clean – just wipe up any excess butter or oil.

Then take one end of the log and curl it in on itself and keep doing this to form a flat snail. [See the speeded up video below] Lay the snail onto the baking sheet lined with a silicone sheet. If you don’t have that, you can use a sheet of parchment barely dusted with flour. Those with more experience may try to pleat the dough instead of folding it. This is something that I saw Chetna Makan do. The more folds that you have, the more layers of flakiness. But honestly, life is complicated enough!

Keep repeating this until you have 8 flat snails. Cover them with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow them to rest for as little as 20 minutes or up to an hour.

Quick tutorial on rolling out flaky flatbreads
Flaky Flatbread

When you are ready to cook the flatbreads, set an untreated non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet on medium high heat. If you have a bigger pan, use it so you can cook several flatbreads at once. If all you have is a small skillet, don’t fret. It will take more time to cook everything, but it will work just as well.

Take one snail at a time, keeping the remaining snails covered while you work. Again, dip both sides of the snail into your reserved flour. Using your rolling pin, roll the dough out into an approximately 5-inch diameter circle. If it isn’t a perfect round, it’s okay. I have yet to achieve a perfect circle! Try to keep the roll from opening up. It seemed to work best for me to just flatten the snail a bit with my hand first before applying the rolling pin.

Once you have the circle rolled out, generously brush the surface with the garlic butter. Immediately pick up the dough and place it in the hot pan, butter side down. Then brush the top side with butter. If your pan will hold more than one flatbread, immediately roll out your next snail, repeating the above process. Each side takes about 5 minutes to cook. The dough may puff up a bit while cooking. That’s okay. Take a flat spatula, and gently press down on the top of the dough. You don’t need to pop the bubbles, but you don’t want them to get away from you or when you turn the flatbread over, it won’t cook evenly. All of the surfaces need to hit the pan.

You know the side is done when you have nice brown spots all over. If your heat is too high, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the dough won’t really get that nice browned look that you are going for. As with pancakes, the first one out of the pan is never quite as good as the subsequent ones. I always go for the darkest bread at the bakery. So check your bread after 4 minutes to achieve the desired doneness.

When each flatbread is finished, you can place it on a baking sheet in a warm oven until you are finished and ready to serve. If you are not eating all of the breads in one go, allow the leftovers to cool and then wrap the rounds in foil. They will keep in the fridge for several days or even on your counter if your house is cool. When you are ready to eat them, warm them in the oven or a toaster. Do not microwave them!

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Enjoy Beet and Tomato Gazpacho – a feast for your eyes and your palate. August is the time to make tomato-based gazpacho. Gardens and farmers markets are resplendent with this juicy, ripe, flavorful fruit. While there is no “ONE” gazpacho, I have simply had too many that tasted more like a Bloody Mary than a true gazpacho. And this delightful cold soup should never be eaten out of season. Isn’t part of the joy in these foods that they are only available for a limited time?

Every summer my mother would make a delicious gazpacho. And I also enjoy some of the less traditional gazpachos without a tomato base, like this green gazpacho. One year our family took a trip to Spain and I recall with fondness the gazpacho that we ate in a former bull-fighting ring. It was garnished with prawns and the texture of the soup was velvety smooth and so refreshing on a very hot day. Every region in Spain has their version. You might wish to try this Andalusian Gazpacho.

The recipe is from the wonderful Martha Rose Shulman. She was inspired by the Spanish Michelin-starred chef, Dani Garcia. The color alone of this gazpacho makes it worth making. The beets that I roasted stained everything this glorious color!

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Where some gazpachos that I have had can be very spicy or sharp, this one is not. But don’t mistake smooth for dull or boring. Far from it! No single ingredient overpowers or catches in the back of your throat. But each element blends and compliments the other perfectly. For maximum flavor, make this Beet and Tomato Gazpacho the day before and allow it to thoroughly chill, adjusting the salt before serving. Chilled dishes tend to require more salt than you might otherwise use. There may be a bit of separation after the gazpacho sits in the fridge. Just give it a good stir and you are good to go.

This is not a difficult soup to make, but it does need a good blender to achieve the correct texture. The good news is that you do not have to peel the tomatoes – something that I hate doing. And while you probably could make this with prepared beets that are available at your grocery store, this is the time to roast your own beets. Roasting is very easy and if the beet greens and stems are in good shape, you can use them to make selka, a delightful and healthy Moroccan salad.

Serve this as a first course for dinner or as a light lunch with a crusty bread and a nice glass of wine.

Recipe

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Two 1/4-inch thick slices red or white onion

1 large roasted beet

1 Persian cucumber or half of a seedless English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes (about 6 medium), cored and cut into chunks

2 stalks of celery or fennel, coarsely chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, halved and the green germ removed from the center (This removes any bitterness)

2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 Tablespoons EVOO

Salt to taste (Start with 1.5 teaspoons)

1/2 to 1 cup of ice water, as needed for texture and consistency

For Garnish

1/2 cup diced cucumber

Slivers or ribbons of fresh mint leaves

Directions

Place the onions in a bowl and cover with cold tap water. Add a few drops of vinegar (Distilled or cider is fine – don’t waste the more expensive sherry vinegar here. By doin this, you are just softening any harshness that the onion may have.) Allow this to sit while you prep everything else. Then drain and rinse and cut into about 4 pieces.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and mix to distribute them throughout. Working in two or three batches, blend all of the ingredients except for the garnishes in a blender until smooth. Add the water as needed to achieve the consistency and texture you want. It should be a silky puree. Then put all of the soup in a container and chill for at least 4 hours. However, it is better if allowed to chill overnight. Garnish and serve.

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia – a chewy, crusty, fragrant bread – that’s perfect with salads, beans and pastas. We make and eat a LOT of bread in our house. I can easily imagine living without meat, but not without bread. Since none of us is over-weight, we must be doing something right. This Fast Fabulous Focaccia comes together literally in minutes. After a proving time of about 1.5 hours it goes into a hot oven and is ready to eat. Fresh bread in about 2 hours!

I’m looking out my window at yet another rainy day with somewhat coolish temperatures for this time of year. While I might feel a bit droopy, my plants are on over-drive. Our terrace garden has never been more vibrant and my herbs are growing like crazy. I have been making pesto and mint chutney, putting rosemary into breads and stir-fry with handfuls of my Thai basil. So last night I decided to make a beautiful salad with ripe tomatoes, arugula, bocconcini mozzarella that I had marinated and fresh basil. I cooked up some pasta that I served with my pesto. But I wanted a bread to help soak up all of those beautiful flavors and olive oil. Since it was already 4:00, I knew that I needed to think quickly if we were going to have fresh bread with dinner. Enter this focaccia.

Having made some wonderful focaccia (see below for links to recipes) I knew 2 things: 1) I didn’t have quite enough time to make my best focaccia and 2) those recipes simply made too much for what I wanted. I turned to Molly Yeh. She is VERY perky – frankly, I find it a bit exhausting. And I wouldn’t make most of the foods that she makes – way to fatty. But she is very clever at decorating foods even if she is a bit too in love with sprinkles.

However, I have made two recipes that were wonderful and that worked exactly as written – her falafel and this focaccia. My version is delicious and easy and beautiful in its simplicity. If you choose to make it with elaborate vegetable designs like Molly Yeh and others I have seen, you can find instructions on the web.

A word about EVOO

The olive oil that you use will make or break this recipe. It is used at different stages of the recipe and truly makes the focaccia magical. As EVOO has become more popular, so has fraud in the industry. So don’t take for granted that the EVOO you are buying is actually what it says it is, especially if you are buying a flavored oil. I love using flavored oils in baking and cooking. If you choose to make your own – great. A Mediterranean blend with oregano, rosemary, basil and garlic was what I used. A good quality plain EVOO or one flavored to your choice would all work.

Focaccia is meant to be eaten fresh and warm with freshly drizzled EVOO on top. But we are only two people and even this more manageable-sized focaccia is too big for us to finish off in one night. Left-overs make wonderful croutons or can be used in a bread salad. The focaccia can be re-heated and we did eat it that way. It is definitely edible but it won’t be as amazing.

For other focaccia recipes:

Focaccia

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Recipe

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1.24 cups room temperature water

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1.5 teaspoons active dried yeast (or instant yeast)

About 9 Tablespoons EVOO, divided

3 to 3.25 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (optional, but recommended)

Maldon or flaked sea salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a measuring cup or bowl. Allow to prove for about 10 minutes. If you are using instant yeast, there is no need to prove the yeast.

Once the yeast has started to get creamy, whisk in 3 Tablespoons of the EVOO. Then add this to 3 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix by hand just to moisten everything.

Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium-high until the dough is smooth and elastic and forms a stretchy ball. If the dough appears to be too wet (humidity and different brands of flour will all affect the moisture level) add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Mine came together perfectly with just the initial 3 cups of flour. It was a lovely, supple dough.

Brush a quarter-sized sheet pan with 2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Place the dough directly onto the oiled pan and coat it in the oil. Using your clean hands, gently press out the dough to almost fill the pan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a draft-free place. I use my microwave. It should double and fill the pan. Depending on the temperature of your room, this will take 1 to 1.5 hours.

About 45 minutes in to the rising time, heat your oven to 400 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone or steel, place it on top of the rack in the oven and allow it to heat.

When the dough has doubled, remove the plastic. If it hasn’t totally reached the end of the pan, you can gently press it out to the edges. Add your rosemary leaves, if using. With your fingertips, dimple the dough, gently pressing the rosemary into the dough. Drizzle with 2 more Tablespoons of EVOO. Honestly, I just eyeball it. All of the dimples that you made will allow the EVOO to pool in the dough, a classic sign of a focaccia. Sprinkle with the flaked salt. If you prefer or if you forgot, you can sprinkle with the salt after it comes out of the oven.

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with more EVOO and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Remove the focaccia to a cutting board and serve!

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

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Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

This past weekend I decided to make my Sticky Asian Ribs, corn on the cob and this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw. Dessert was my Blueberry Galette. While “Asian” wasn’t in quotes for my rib recipe, it probably should have been. Both my ribs and this delightful coleslaw are certainly Asian-inspired, but I sincerely doubt that either would qualify as an authentic Asian recipe. Crunchy “Asian” Slaw is a no-fuss, delicious side that we all will want this summer.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that when I am making food from a particular culture and cuisine, I go to great lengths to buy the right herbs and spices. And I always search for reputable sources for my recipes and try hard to honor and respect these heritages. But there are also times when it is fun to go off book and to create dishes that give you a certain flavor profile without slavishly being authentic.

I’m not a big fan of creamy, mayonnaisy coleslaw. It has its place but it’s often just a bit too much for me. So when I knew that I was making the ribs, I wanted to find a recipe that was a bit lighter and would compliment the star anise and ginger flavors in the ribs. I also wanted it to be easy. With a few minutes spent surfing the web, I came across this recipe and decided to give it a try. Now I hope that you will too.

So if you are looking for a riff on coleslaw to serve at your next barbeque or with some grilled or roasted meat or fish, give this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw a try. It will work with any kind of slaw that you like. I chose a broccoli carrot slaw, but any cabbage or crunchy vegetables will work. The prep is minimal and the slaw will keep for several days in the fridge. And with more time spent outside, isn’t it great to be able to reach in your fridge for a delicious side that’s all ready to eat. This slaw will brighten up any simple meal. Now that summer is here, who wants to spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking? Haven’t we all done plenty of that over the past year?

For another great coleslaw, try my Holiday Coleslaw.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the Coleslaw

1 pound shredded crisp veggies (cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas etc.) or packaged coleslaw mix (any kind)

3 scallions, sliced on an angle

About 1 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

For the Dressing

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar (I decided to use brown rice vinegar, but any kind will work)

3 Tablespoons maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup

1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

1 large garlic clove, crushed or grated

1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or chili paste (Optional)

Toppings

2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Roasted peanuts or cashews

Directions

Toss slaw ingredients in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro and scallions. Pour the dressing over everything and toss to combine. Garnish with the seeds and/or nuts. Now enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji with basmati rice or flatbread makes a satisfying vegan meal – full of umami. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. However, we don’t eat a lot of meat and I cannot remember the last time I sat down and ate a steak. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t want visually interesting meals with a great mouthfeel and full of flavor. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to both Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Their use of fresh herbs, vegetables and spices make any meal a feast for the senses.

What is Sabji?

A sabji is simply a vegetable cooked in some sort of gravy with herbs. Sabji literally means green vegetable. In Persian cooking it is referred to as sabzi and can include meat as in Ghormeh Sabzi or chicken in this version. There is no surprise that there are similarities between Persian and Indian culture, which is especially evident in food and architecture. Persia invaded India twice – first in 535 BCE under Cyrus the Great and second under Emperor Nader Shah, the Shah of Persia (1736–47). In fact, many dishes that are thought of as quintessentially Indian actually were adapted from British, Portuguese, Mughal and Persia. Each conqueror brought new flavors and techniques to India. And while each nation ultimately lost India, there influences remain and enrich.

Fan Girl

Recently I have become a fan of Chetna Makan on YouTube and the author of several cookbooks, including Chai, Chaat & Chutney: a street food journey through India, where this Roasted Cauliflower Sabji appears. She is charming and enthusiastic about her dishes and just a delight to watch. It’s not difficult to follow and because I do enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I have all of the seasonings on hand. This dish doesn’t require any chilis so it wasn’t necessary for me to tone down the heat. My husband was responsible for making the quick, and flavorful flatbread. I made up some urad dal and we enjoyed a healthy and delicious meatless Monday.

As with many Indian dishes, do not get put off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do this kind of cooking, you likely will have most of not all of the spices on hand. And the actual cooking technique is very straightforward.

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji would also make a wonderful side dish or as part of a larger Indian meal. However you decide to use it, I encourage you to make it soon.

There are so many different kinds of dal (legumes, pulses or beans) available. And even more recipes for them. Here are just a few and I will be adding more over time.

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Chana Dal Kichadi

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Red Lentils with Ginger

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings as a main course and more as a side

Ingredients

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

For the cauliflower

1 head cauliflower cut into small florets along with the stems

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO

For the Sabji

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I only had brown mustard seeds, so that is what I used)

2 roughly chopped small onions

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated

A 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Handful of chopped cilantro

Directions

For the Cauliflower

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and have the rack on an upper shelf.
  2. Mix the seasonings together and spread over the cauliflower. Mix it around to coat. Spread on a baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. Turn over the cauliflower pieces and continue roasting for an additional 15 minutes (total 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the Sabji

  1. In a pan large enough to hold all of the cauliflower and the other ingredients, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. Add in the chopped onion and stir through. Cook until lightly golden.
  2. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring through.
  3. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add the chili powder, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Mix well.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower and stir through, mixing well but try not to break up the florets. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and stir through.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup

This Creamy Mushroom Soup is simple, satisfying and sophisticated. Delicious! I came across this recipe just in time. I made it when the temperatures were in the negative numbers (that’s below zero Fahrenheit, guys) we needed soup – hot, soothing, yummy soup.

However, now that we have had a bit of a warm-up and some hopeful signs of Spring, I still want this soup. And this Creamy Mushroom Soup will be delightful in the fall, winter and spring. I tend to move into cold soups in the summer, but this one is light enough that I might just give it a try.

Creamy Mushroom Soup came together quickly and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand. It can be prepared ahead if you like, but is ready in less than an hour. I served it with a wonderful rustic bread that I had made, a lovely, bright salad and some ripe cheese. A glass of a delicious red wine was the perfect complement. After this, we only had room for some wonderful Clementines which seem to be at their best right now. Citrus fruits are winter’s sunshine. Juicy, bright with just the right amount of tang.

Mixed Salad

While not vegan, this recipe is vegetarian unless you choose to use chicken stock for the liquid. If you did want to make it vegan, I could see adding some cooked, pureed cauliflower, full-fat coconut milk or silken tofu to replace the cream. It wouldn’t be exactly the same but should be pretty close to the right mouthfeel, texture and taste. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Onion Nigella Caraway Rustic Bread

Now my husband and I ate this as our main course, but it is simple enough to make and elegant enough to be served as a first course as well.

There are many different kinds of mushrooms – both fresh and dried – available these days. The dried porcini have a meaty texture when rehydrated and a robust flavor. And I used 1 pound of baby bella mushrooms, but cremini or even mixed mushrooms should all work. Each different kind will change the flavor somewhat, but they all should make for an interesting soup. The addition of a good glug of sherry at the end is a suggestion, but one that I strongly encourage. It just elevates the flavors.

I didn’t do this, but….. if you really want to tart things up, you could add a dollop of crème fraiche with a few chopped chives sprinkled on top just before serving. However you decide to serve this delicious soup, do make it soon. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 cups boiling water

2 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

4 Tablespoons of butter (or buttery vegan spread)

1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 cups low sodium or unsalted vegetable or chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup heavy (double) cream

A good glug of dry sherry (Optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

  1. Place 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Soak until mostly softened, at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine. Meanwhile, finely dice the shallots or onion and mince 2 garlic cloves.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 3 quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms. Season with 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are softened and have released their juices, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Line a fine-mesh strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked mushrooms through the strainer into a measuring cup or bowl. Reserve the liquid and coarsely chop the mushrooms (leave behind any grit trapped in the cheesecloth).
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour into the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until lightly browned, stirring regularly, about 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Stir in the reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the chopped porcini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered until the flavor is developed and the soup is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Stir the purée back into the pot. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.