Archive for March, 2011

Country Lentil Stew

This is a homey, hearty stew – perfect for the April showers we’re hoping to get here in Colorado soon! It’s full of chunky vegetables, French lentils, and a touch of tomato and is delicious served over golden turmeric-spiced rice with a side of roasted veggies and maybe some bread and avocado. I like to cut the vegetables into relatively large pieces, which, to me, is what makes it a country-style stew. I start with the usual – onions, garlic, celery, green beans, and carrots, but shallots, celeriac, and lots of chopped kale add more depth, heft, and nutrition. Of course, fresh parsley is a must in any soup broth. You could also add some cabbage at the last minute; just give it a couple minutes to soften up – you don’t want it to get mushy. I currently have a toothache, so turmeric abounds in my cooking because of its anti-inflammatory effects. I’ll take all the anti-cancer benefits too. Red chili flakes add a little kick and will help keep our sinuses healthy as the weather shifts between Winter and Spring. You can pack a lot of health benefits into this one pot, huh? And, it tastes fabulous, so enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 cups French lentils, soaked overnight with a strip of kombu*
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, thickly sliced
  • 3 large carrots, cut in thick rounds
  • 1 large celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into chunks**
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes, plus more later to taste
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups jarred diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked overnight
  • 2 cups water (more if you didn’t soak the rice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

*Kombu is a mineral-rich (including iodine) sea vegetable. When soaked/cooked with beans, it helps to soften the beans and makes them more digestible. It often dissolves with cooking, but I typically remove any big pieces that have not dissolved, as they are unpalatable to certain members of my family…

** Celeriac, aka celery root, looks like a knobby, dirty turnip. Use a pairing knife to peel off the skin and you’ll find white, tender flesh. Now that all of my CSA potatoes are gone, I like to use it anywhere I would otherwise use a potato.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, then add the olive oil and onion and saute until the onion is translucent and just starting to brown. Add the shallot and saute until it starts to brown. Make a space in the middle of the pot, add a little more oil, then add the garlic and saute for about a minute or until it’s very fragrant. Stir in the celery, carrots, and celeriac, and green beans, cover and saute a few minutes more. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the lentils and add them to the soup pot. Add the water and onion and garlic powders, turmeric, and chili flakes. Turn the heat to high, and bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the lentils are very soft. While the soup is cooking, drain and rinse the rice and put it into a medium pot with the water, salt, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Once the lentils are soft, add the kale, tomatoes, salt (start with 1 teaspoon), pepper, and simmer on low for another 10 minutes or so. Season to taste and serve over rice. Enjoy!


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Tomato Curry

Tomatoes are almost back!  Even though it’s early, there is at least one local farm with a greenhouse that typically has tomatoes available at the first market, which is in just three short weeks…Until then, I personally do not buy fresh tomatoes, so this recipe is actually based on jarred tomatoes, both diced and strained.  Since the only brand of canned tomatoes that is BPA-free is Eden and I can’t find those anywhere, I stick with tomatoes in glass jars.  The two organic brands I know of are Lucini (for diced and whole tomatoes), and Bionaturae (for strained tomatoes, more like tomato sauce).  They are both low in sodium and quite tasty for a Winter soup or other tomato-based dish like this one.  If you use a different brand, check the sodium content, then give it a taste before adding salt.

I served this over quinoa as a side dish, but adding browned tofu (you can brown it with the onions), roasted chickpeas, or your protein of choice, could easily turn it into an entree.  It also made a great dipping sauce for veggie pancakes.  I got the original recipe from Moosewood Cookbook, but tweaked it a bit to Winterize…I keep roasted chili peppers in my freezer so I have them available through the Winter.  If you don’t have any, you can use some dried chili flakes or cayenne, but it much smaller amounts!

  • 2 large shallots (or one onion), minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoon minced roasted chili, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes (Lucini – from a glass jar)
  • 1 cup strained tomato (Bionaturae – from a glass jar)
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • salt, to taste (assuming you are using jarred tomatoes with minimal salt, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon should do it)

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the ghee or oil.  Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, then add the roasted chili and cumin and keep it going for a few more minutes.  Make a space in the middle of the pan, add a little more ghee/oil, and then the garlic and ginger.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant, then add the diced and strained tomatoes, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve over cooked grains alongside a protein and a big pile of vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Layered Root Vegetable Gratin

I’ve said it before, it is so satisfying to gather up all of the contents of the fridge and put them together to come up with something new and delicious.  Last week, the cut celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, and butternut squash in my vegetable drawer were just begging to be sliced thin and layered into a savory dish with the cooked adzuki beans waiting above.  I know, chances are you don’t have those things in your fridge right now, but I liked this dish so much that I would actually go to the store to buy these ingredients.  They are not everyday ingredients for me either, by the way, though I am starting to really love celeriac.  Variety is the spice of life…and root veggie season is almost over.

You can use any root veggies or tubers you like (potatoes, sweet potatoes, any type of squash, daikon, burdock root, celeriac (aka celery root), rutabaga, turnips, etc); the key is to slice them pretty thin so they get nice and soft.  A mandolin would be perfect for this.  Unfortunately, I don’t have one, but, fortunately a good chef’s knife will also do the trick.

This recipe is based on what I had in my refrigerator last week.  In addition to different types of vegetables, you could use different beans as the filling, add cheese if you eat it, layer other vegetables in, use fresh or dried herbs and spices…be creative and have fun!

  • olive oil or ghee
  • 1 cup sliced onion, shallot, or leek
  • 1 large celeriac
  • 1 large rutabaga
  • 1 large turnip
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3 cups cooked adzuki beans
  • 1 bunch collard greens, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or coconut milk, or a combo
  • 1 cup or so breadcrumbs, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat an 11×7 dish or some equivalent casserole dish (or dishes) with olive oil and set aside.  Heat a medium pan to medium heat, put in a little olive oil or ghee, and saute your onions, shallots or leeks until just browned, then set aside.  Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables and filling, keeping each component separate until you are ready to assemble the gratin.

The celeriac has a pretty thick and fibrous skin, so I peel that with a pairing knife, then slice it up, cutting it in half if necessary to make it more manageable.  I just wash and slice the rutabaga and turnips, discarding the stem ends.  For the squash, wash it, cut off either end, then slice it down the middle so you can remove the seeds and stringy pulp (you can soak the seeds in salt water, then drain, rinse and roast them later), then slice it up.

For the filling, mash the beans and, if they aren’t already seasoned, add a little salt, onion and garlic powder if you have it, and some broth or water to thin it.

To assemble the gratin, start with whichever vegetable is in the biggest pile.  Layer it to cover the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread a layer of beans over it, then the chopped greens and a layer of sauteed onion/shallot/garlic and do it all again, alternating the type of vegetable each time until they are gone.  The only rules are that you don’t want to end with greens, because they need to be between the other stuff to cook properly, and you should reserve a few onions/shallots/garlic for the top.  If you have extra root veggies, you can chop them up for soup, coat them in olive oil and roast them on their own, or make another gratin.  Pour the broth/coconut mixture (I recommend using both) over the whole thing, drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and put it in the oven to bake.  If you want, you can season some breadcrumbs with olive oil and salt, herbs, whatever, and create one more layer for the top.  Bake until you can easily insert a knife through all of the layers and the vegetables are very soft.  The top layer of vegetables or breadcrumbs will also be crisp and lightly browned.  This will probably take about 40 minutes, but watch it closely as there are a few variables that will affect how quickly it gets done (particularly the thickness of the root veggies).  Let it cool for a few minutes, then cut into squares and enjoy!

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Banana-Cherry-Cardamom Bread Pudding with Chai-Spiced Whipped Nut Cream

I just finished cooking for a three day event; there are so many things I love  about cooking like this – the creativity of menu-planning, melding the likes and dislikes of 25 different people, the fact that I am finally doing something that I really love…But what I’m thinking of now is that last day, when there are leftovers and extra ingredients here and there, leaving me with the challenge of concocting something new, delicious, and unexpected.  In this particular case, it’s also something simple, homey, and versatile.

I have actually never had bread pudding, at least according to my slightly faulty childhood memory.  My Dad is a big fan of bread pudding, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, flan, but for some reason I always stayed away from all things custardy.  My point is that maybe this is like traditional bread pudding, maybe (probably) not, but it’s delicious either way and I hope you enjoy it.

Whatever it is or isn’t, it is a fabulous use for leftover cut bread, which I had in abundance.  I used a sourdough multi-sprouted-grain molasses poppyseed bread in combination with a little fennel seed bread, but you could use any bread that doesn’t have flavors contrary to or that will overpower sweet, coconutty, chai-type spices (read garlic bread, sundried tomato bread, and the like).  This particular recipe is not overly-sweet and if you want, you could even look at it as a decadent breakfast.

I’ve only made this once, but I see many variations in my future.  I actually did make two versions – apple-blueberry with egg and banana-cherry without and, as often is the case, I preferred the eggless version.  I find that eggs, though clearly invaluable in certain dishes, can overpower the simple tastes of other foods, so when something can be made without eggs, I always go that route.  That goes along with my personal belief in the minimal use of animal products – love when things line up like that.

  • 4-5 cups of bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 Tablespoons ghee or unrefined coconut oil
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas (depending on size), divided
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 cups frozen cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 11×7 baking dish, or equivilant.  Have a slightly larger baking pan or tray available so you can create a water bath for your baking dish.  Put the bread cubes in the dish and put it in the preheating oven to dry out the bread.  Put the coconut milk, ghee or coconut oil, salt, 1/2 the total quantity of banana, coconut sugar, and spices in the blender and process until smooth.  Remove the bread cubes from the oven and add the frozen cherries, then pour the coconut milk mixture over the bread and fruit and gently shake the dish a few times to coat all of the bread.  Thinly slice the remaining banana and arrange it on top, then sprinkle the whole thing with cinnamon.  Put the baking dish inside the larger dish and fill the larger one about 3/4 full with water.  Carefully place them in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the bread underneath is soft and moist and the bread on top is crispy.

Chai-Spiced Whipped Nut Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours, then drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut butter (or 2 teaspoons coconut oil), optional
  • 3/4-1 cup water, or as needed for consistency
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth, using additional water as necessary for proper blending and to get the consistency you want.  It can be thick to be spooned on top, or thinned a bit to be used as a drizzle.  This topping is also delicious on baked fruit, cakes, cookies, pancakes, etc.  Enjoy!

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