Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Lentil Soup

Another soup recipe! I'm logging it here so I don't forget because it was a big hit. I really liked this soup and it was pretty easy. I know it looks like it has a lot of ingredients, but it really comes together rather quickly. Mr. Heart even liked it and he was a bit wary when I initially proposed the meal. Be generous with the salt and liberally squeeze fresh lemon juice in right before eating. It really adds something that takes this soup to the next level. I used chicken stock, but this could easily be vegetarian.

Red Lentil Soup
inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Orangette
Serves 4 as a main course

1 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3 small shallots
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground coriander (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin (ditto on taste)

1 1/3 cup of red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice, sorted and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water (I used half chicken stock, half water)
sea salt to taste (I probably used one or two teaspoons)

1 heaping tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 TBS water

1 lemon, cut into wedges

1) In a heavy bottom soup pot, heat initial TBS of oil until shimmering. Add onion, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften and brown, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 tsps of coriander and cumin and mix until the onions are coated. Cook another minute or so until fragrant.
2) Mix together garlic, tomato paste, and remaining tsps of coriander and cumin in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix together cornstarch and water in another small bowl until incorporated. Set aside.
2) Add stock/water, lentils, and rice to pot. Season lightly with salt. Heat until the soup is just about to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Lentils will break down and turn into a delicious mess.
3) Heat remaining tsp of oil in a small pan. Once warm, add garlic mixture to pan, being careful to keep the heat low so as not to burn the garlic. Let the garlic and spices sizzle for 30 seconds - 1 minute until they take on a little color and become fragrant.
4) Add warm garlic mixture and cornstarch slurry to soup and stir to blend. Cook the soup uncovered for another 10 minutes. Season liberally with salt to taste.
5) Serve with lemon wedges. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over soup as you eat it. Goes great with pita :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

Hello, I am alive despite the fact that I haven't posted in over a year. I am sorry to say that other things in my life have taken precedence. Like travel, job changes, books, classes, all sorts of things. That isn't to say that I haven't been cooking and even sometimes taking photos of the things I cook. It just means that when it comes to sitting down and trying to remember everything... I'm sorry dear readers, I know I have neglected you.

So here we go: sweet potato soup! And good timing for it too as we dive right into fall here in New England. The red maple across the street is a brilliant, fiery red and the streets are a mosaic of wet, fallen leaves in orange and gold. This is my favorite time of year because everything flames out in beautiful color and there is a certain smell to air, kind of like leaves and cinnamon and wood fires and pears.

Sweet potato soup. In making this I was trying to channel the incredible sweet potato soup I had a couple of years ago at Cafe Atlantico in Washington D.C. It had real depth to it, with all sorts of spices coming through, a bit of heat, a bit of sweetness, and it was topped by this incredible maple foam that tasted like... well, marshmellow. Let's just say I had very high expectations.

And while this soup is good, delicious even, it's no Cafe Atlantico Sweet Potato Soup. But that's ok. I think maybe using stock next time would add a richness, and I think one should definitely be more generous with the spices than I was. Still, it was filling and tasty and perfect for a cool October meal with Sister Heart.

Picture to come!

Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 4

1 very large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/2 white onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 small head of garlic, roasted and removed from skins
1 quart (4 cups) water or stock
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon (I would add more next time)
1/4 tsp chili pepper (I would add more next time)
dash of allspice (may more of this? also cloves?)
dash of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
sour cream (to garnish)

1) Heat butter in 4 qt sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once frothy, add onions, carrots, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and chili pepper. Saute until browning and softened, about 10 minutes.
2) Add sweet potato and toss until the potato is coated. Add more butter if pan is looking dry. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 5 - 8 minutes, stirring often until potato has begun to soften.
3) Add water, sugar, and maple syrup to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover and lower to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 - 25 minutes until potatoes are very soft, stirring occaisonally.
4) Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Continue to cook the soup on low, uncovered until desired consistency is reached (I like mine thicker so I let it cook for another 15 -20 minutes). Add salt to taste.
5) Remove soup from heat. Stir in cream. Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Heart Sisters' Garden Black Bean Soup

Okay, please ignore the fact that I have been incognito for, er, a long time.

Some interesting developments: Mr. Heart and I have been tending our very own little garden this summer which has involved harvesting a large number of scallions and salad greens which have been wonderful! I also have five or six pots of herbs which has been a thrill too--I can just lean out the back door and snip off a bit of greek oregano (which is growing like crazy) or fresh basil or thyme. Hopefully August will turn some of the small green tomatoes we see peeking out into fresh, lucious fruit. Alas, our pepper plants seem to be very unhappy with all this rain and the cool temperature. I should have known. Sister Heart warned me.

She should know because she's been working on a farm this summer! Ah, the way sisters' lives orbit one another and weave together. So she has been a bounty of first hand knowledge (and produce!) Because of her Mr. Heart and I have resolved to plant english peas next summer. The ones she shared with us were like candy. There's nothing like having so many delicious fresh veggies at hand. I've been doing my best to hit up the small farmer's market near my office every Thursday, and the bigger one downtown when I have time.

I want to get the recipe down on paper because I got it from Sister Heart (!) and she inspired me to make it the very same day. These are more like a set of guidelines really, because you can put whatever you have on hand straight in. I've included my contributions and Sister Heart's so that you can get a sense of the variety (and health benefits!). This makes 4-5 "cup" size servings and maybe 2 -3 "bowl" size servings. Pictures will come later!

Heart Sisters' Garden Black Bean Soup

1/2 lb dry black beans, rinsed and sorted
2 cans of vegetable broth + 2 cups water (I used canned broth, Sissie used the water from blanching 864168161 lbs of peas)
1 white onion, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
2 scallions, chopped
1 clove of garlic or garlic scape minced
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (this is an estimate... put in as much as you like!)
1/2 tsp cumin (ditto)
1/2 tsp black pepper (ditto)
1/2 TBS fresh chives
1/2 TBS fresh thyme
1/2 TBS fresh oregano
1 TBS olive oil

Sister Heart's version also included:
fresh parsley
kohlrabi greens
radish greens
purslane (has 5 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as spinach)
wood sorrel (has lots of medicinal properties)

The latter two are edible weeds!

Optional Toppings
1 lime, juiced
greek yogurt or sour cream
grated cheddar cheese

1) Bring the vegetable broth and water to a boil in a dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot. Add the beans and half the onion and half the salt. Bring back to almost a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and mostly cover. Simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender but not split!
2) Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add remaining onion, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, any greens, salt, cumin, and black pepper. Sauté until the tomatoes have fallen apart and the rest of the vegetables are tender. Add scallions and fresh herbs. Toss to combine and remove from heat until the beans are done.
3) Once the beans are tender, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans. Turn heat up to medium and heat to incorporate flavors and cook off some of the liquid. Season to taste.
**At this point I also went at it with my handy-dandy immersion blender to make it a little smoother. Cook's Illustrated recommends using a potato masher to achieve the same effect. I'm pretty sure Sister Heart left her's au naturel.
4) If serving immediately, stir in lime juice. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and a TBS of grated cheese. Goes great with quesadillas!

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Otherwise, freeze in handy single serving portions for those nights you don't feel like cooking or need a heartening pick-me up meal.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


As mentioned in the previous pumpkin post, I made a big batch of chili and an even bigger batch of minestrone to feed the hungry pumpkin carvers and satisfy both the carnivores and herbivores at my table.

I've only made this minestrone soup once before for a college potluck and I don't know why I didn't revisit it sooner, as it is super tasty and perfect in these chill November evenings. Canned tomatoes, dried herbs, vegetable broth, a couple of potatoes, orzo, all affordable and easy to work with ingredients that result in a wonderfully full-bodied vegetarian soup.

adapted from a recipe found on the internet many many moons ago. thank you internet!
Serves 4 -5

1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, diced (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon olive oil
14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 teaspoons dried basil
pinch dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
6oz diced mixed root veggies (I used potatoes and carrots)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 1⁄2 oz tiny pasta shapes (I used orzo in this batch, but used ditalini in the past)
2oz cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)

1) Put the onion, garlic and celery in a pan with the olive oil and sauté for about 5 minutes.
2) Add a little cornstarch, stir and cook for a minute or two.
3) Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, root vegetables, water and stock.
4) Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.
5) Season to taste, add the pasta and chick peas and simmer until pasta is tender, about 8 - 10 minutes more.
6) Add a little water if the soup is too thick. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin (Pie) Party!

So let's travel back in time a bit to a week before Halloween, when Sister Heart and her roomies came over for a pumpkin carving party! When Sister Heart and I initially discussed this, she said "We can carve pumpkins and bake pumpkin things!"
"Like what?" says I, "I have never baked with pumpkin."
"Erm, I don't know," she says, "Pumpkin... pumpkin?"

I don't think you can get more pumpkin pumpkin than pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin puree. Having never even tasted pumpkin pie before, not to mention never having baked with pumpkin, and my constant reminder to you all that I am kind of scared of baking, I was somewhat apprehensive, but this turned out AMAZING. Even after being stuffed from eating chili and minestrone, we managed to fit large slices of this pie (and heaping spoonfuls of fresh whipped cream) into that second belly that we all have that is reserved for dessert.

Note: The pumpkin purée does take about an hour and a half to prepare, so I just did this earlier in the day and then refrigerated the purée until we baked the pie after dinner. It made a bit more than I needed, so my pie was almost over flowing, but it was delicious anyway. I also used store bought pie dough (I feel no shame) but I would encourage you to use your own homemade variety, if you are so inclined. I bet you could easily get away with subsituting canned pumpkin in this pie as well.

Pumpkin Pie
from The Joy of Cooking with slight mods.
1 9" pie

1 unbaked pie dough (I used Pillsbury)
2 large eggs
2 cups cooked pumpkin purée (see recipe below)
1 1/2 heavy cream or evaporated milk (I used a can of evaporated milk and the rest in cream)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt

1) Position rack in center of the oven. Preheat to 425ºF.
2) Building up a fluted rim, line a 9-inch pie pan with the pie dough.
3) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
4) Warm the pie dough in the oven until hot to the touch, leaving the filling at room temperature. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and bake 35 -45 minutes, until firm. Cool complete on a rac. Pie can be refridgerated up to 1 day. Serve cold or at room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

Pumpkin Purée
from The Joy of Cooking
a little over 2 cups

1 small sugar pumpkin, ~ 3lbs

1) Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2) Wash and split the pumpkin into quarters with a cleaver or heavy knife. Cut out steam and scrape out stringy pulp and seeds. Cut each quarter down into 4-inch pieces.
3) Place pumpkin rind side down on an oiled cookie sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until very soft.
4) Remove from oven and allow to cool until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh free of the rind and purée in a food processor.
**Note: If the purée seems too loose and wet, you can allow it to strain through a cheesecloth for 30 -60 minutes. I didn't need to do this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Corn Muffins

Last fall, at the my place of employment (which shall herein be known as The Workplace), I initiated something I like to call Taste of The Workplace. It's an opportunity for anyone who wants to to bring in a tasty dish or baked good to share with others, potluck style. It is also combined with a food drive and recipe swap. What a great way to get all the coworkers sitting down to eat and chat together and spread good will at the same time!

In the past I have done spinach and artichoke dip and apple bread (two recipes which I am shocked to discover I have yet to share with you all... I will remedy that eventually). I tend to shy away from desserts because I get the sense that people often bring desserts to these things, since tasty baked sweets lend themselves to this style of potluck better. So I decided on corn muffins which can be sweet (I served them up with butter and Trappist strawberry jam) or savory (there was supposed to be chili at the event, which would have been the perfect duo, but alas, that fell through). They seemed to be a big hit.

I'll admit that despite starting this tradition, I don't feel like appetizers/baked goods/side dishes/snacks are really my forte, so I am never completely satisfied with my contributions to these events. I'll have to leave my thinking cap on.

The honey addition to these was inspired by this fabulous corn bread we would get at a restaurant called Red Star in Pittsburgh. They'd bring the cornbread out to you in a hot cast-iron skillet. It would be topped with a crisp sugar-honey crust and was generally moist and delicious. That is what I think corn bread/muffins should be like. Did these live up to the memory? Not quite, but they were still very tasty. Alas, I think Red Star has since updated their menu and the corn bread has disappeared. Let us have a moment of silence and a corn muffin in it's memory.

Corn Muffins

from The New Best Recipe
Makes 12 muffins

2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fine stone-ground, yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
honey (my addition!)

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl to combine; set aside.
3) Whisk eggs in a second medium bowl until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition.
4) Add half the sour cream and half the milk and whisk to combine; whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined.
5) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix gently with a rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over mix! Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping it to form mounds (do not level or flatten surface of mounds).
5) Bake until muffins are light golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Remove muffins from oven. While still warm, drizzle about a teaspoon of honey over each muffin. Cool muffins in tin 5 minutes; cool 5 minutes longer on a cookie rack, then serve warm.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homemade Fettucini with Pesto, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Balsamic Chicken

I had a day off from work last week and felt compelled to use my time towards culinary purposes. I had hoped to mimic a wonderful recipe from my friend Bobicus, which is deliciously entitled "Angel Hair with Grilled Chicken and Macadamia-Arugula Pesto" and which fails to mention that it also contains mango. But this is me we're talking about. There was no arugula in the grocery store, and when it came down to a tiny bottle of Macadamia nuts versus a large bag of walnuts for half the price, you know which I went for. I did try getting a mango. But apparently I don't know how to tell if a mango is ripe. Because when I sliced it open it was a hard, unappetizing white and I mourned the loss of such a wonderful fruit. Le sigh.

So I dug up this recipe for homemade pasta and this recipe for homemade pesto sans lemon juice and went to work. I tossed some chicken in a pan with a bit of salt, pepper, and brown sugar, then let it simmer in white balsamic vinegar. On a whim, I added sundried tomatoes at the end. And it was kind of all of alot of delicious.

Homemade Fettucini with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, and Balsamic Chicken
Serves 2

1/2 batch of fresh fettucini
1/2 batch of fresh pesto (or your favorite jarred pesto), about 1/4 of a cup
1 TBS olive oil
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 TBS white balsamic vinegar (red would work too)
1 1/2 TBS sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and minced.

1) Fill a large pot half way with water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2) While water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and sprinkle brown sugar over top. Sauté chicken until starting to brown, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add vinegar and turn heat down to low. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until liquid in pan has thickened and reduced.
3) Once water is boiling, add fettucini. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Transfer fettucini back to warm pot.
4) Put pesto in a small bowl. Add 2 TBS of reserved cooking liquid and stir until creamy. Add more liquid if necessary. Add pesto to the pasta and stir until thoroughly coated. (I didn't add quite all the pesto, I had a couple TBS left over).
5) Add chicken and sun-dried tomatoes to the pasta and toss. Serve with crusty italian bread!