Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Simple Red Lentil Soup with Kale

The wind was howling around the house. The snow was racing sideways in front of my window. First in one direction, and then, almost immediately, back in the other. A late season hurricane that affected much of the East coast the past days, made me take refuge at home. "Late season" because at this point I am ready for spring and not for more snow, but this preference is purely personal.

So, it was time for a warm, smooth, spicy and filling soup. I whipped up another batch of this red lentil soup that needs little preparation and cooks fast. A few Indian spices add a unique character, and the late-stage added kale rounds it out.

I had to search for my notes again for this soup recipe so I am putting it in the place where I most likely find it again, my own blog. Note, that I write this down with as much detail as I can for myself; feel free to use other ingredients (e.g. regular olive oil or grapeseed oil, etc.)


Red Lentil Soup with Kale

(makes 3 larger servings)
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 4-5 cups of water (or broth)
  • 1 teaspoon blood orange olive oil (or plain olive oil, or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into tiny dices
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 0.5 teaspoon turmeric
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1-2 tiny hot dry (pequin) chilies (depending on taste) (or tiny bit of cayenne)
  • 1-2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder (if using water)
  • 2 handfuls of kale, torn up
Preparation:
  1. In a non-stick pot,  heat the olive oil, add the onion and raw ginger. Once the onion is sauteed and see-through, add the garlic and saute the mix for another minute.
  2. Add the lentils, water, and the spices. Close the lid, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer with closed lid for 30min.
  3. Use an immersion blender, and puree the hot soup (or let cool down, and use a blender, but no hot soup in the blender)
  4. Put the soup back on the stove, add the bouillon and the kale.
  5. Heat soup again, and let the kale wilt down to preferred consistency (still crunchy or buttery soft).
  6. Serve.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Slouching towards Spring

We are slowly inching towards spring. The big snow from the one historic blizzard that made up for all the snow that had not fallen this winter before slowly disappears under the spring rain. The arctic winds still occasionally hold a grip on the landscape and us, but the stores are in full-fledged summer mode: patio furniture, bikinis and flower pots for sale. The spring is dragged out here in Maine, with warm temperatures, the first tulips, and some green in the trees not before May. Until then I am jealous of everyone living South posting pictures from runs in the sunshine, or wearing regular shoes.

The other day I made a Dark Rye  breadmix from King Arthur Flour. I poured the mix into the bowl of a stand mixer with the kneading hook attached, mixed the dry ingredients with the yeast, and added the water and a dash of olive oil, and let the machine do the work. It came together in no time, and I padded down the loaf in a little bread basket to rise. It would only rise when I placed it next to the woodstove oven, where it was cozy warm, not Maine winter kitchen cold. I flipped it on a sheet, and baked for 45min. Rye bread perfection. (The mixes are not expensive and 20% off this week. That made $3.96 for a loaf of rye bread).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Juggling and vegan meatballs

There is a cat snuggled up to me under the covers. It is her favorite place to snooze in the morning, warm, cozy, and big mama is close, protecting her. She stretches, and has not a worry in the world. A wintertime ritual.

January is almost over, and it was mild this year. We were unprepared. Last year we were told it is an El Nino year, with that, a milder winter on the East coast was expected. This year it was supposed to be normal again, but winter seems even milder than last year. But, what’s really normal these days.

Nevertheless, the month has come and gone, and we are on the verge of February. There is another serious chance for deep snow, freezing temperature and plentiful skiing but the 10 day forecast gives nothing away of a potential winter encore. The semester has started and we are settling into a new rhythm of classes and homework, and juggling more balls. Life feels like swinging on a swing on the weekends, and then get back to juggling some tasks during the work week. Time advances and suddenly we’ll feel ourselves propelled into summer again. Just like that.

I am in love with this beautiful picture of the vegan lentil meatballs. It’s a picture I took myself years ago, and it inspired me to make this dish again. A true vegan classic.

vegan_meatballs

Vegan lentil ‘meat balls’ with marinara

Preparation of lentils:

  • 1/2 cup beluga/French lentils  (they are small and green/black)
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves

Wash and rinse the lentils and chickpeas, and place in a pot with the water, the bay leaf and garlic. Bring to a boll, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours  on low (simmer only for 30 min if you soaked the lentils and chickpeas for 12h), or for 25 min in an Instant Pot. There is likely little water left, but if there is then drain it. It should make about 2 1/2 cups of cooked lentils.


Lentil walnut porcini meatballs:

  • 2 cups cooked beluga and red lentils and chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2  medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or dried)
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 TB red pepper spread I used Trader Joes red pepper eggplant spread) – if you don’t have any, use a pinch of paprika and 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, drained and chopped
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushroom, reconstituted in hot water, drained and chopped
  • 2 TB BBQ sauce
  • 4 TB ground flax seed, 1/4 cup of water (mix to make 2 flax eggs)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4  cup bread crumbs
  • 3 TB finely chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a  large baking sheet with some olive oil so that the meatballs won’t stick. Set aside. 
  2. Prepare the flax eggs by combining the ground flax seeds with hot water, and set aside. The mix will gel.
  3. Add the olive oil to a frying pan and sauté the onions, chopped carrots, minced garlic, thyme and reconstituted mushrooms over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 min.
  4. Add the tomato paste and red pepper paste and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are mixed well and the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, and let cool in the food processor for about 5 min.
  6. Add about 75% of the cooked, and slightly cooled lentils/chickpeas to the vegetables in the food processor, and chop coarsely until all the ingredients are well combined. (It will be quite mushy, that makes the lentil balls even more sticky and hold together).
  7. Add the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  8. Add the flax egg, regular bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, chopped walnuts, BBQ sauce and the salt to the pureed mix as well as the non-pureed cooked lentil mix. Mix with a spatula until thoroughly incorporated.
  9. Let sit for about 10 min (for the bread crumbs to soak up the liquid and bind the meatballs).
  10. Use a small ice cream scoop and scoop out ping pong ball sized meatballs. Place the lentil balls in the prepared baking sheet, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.
  11. Bake the meatballs at 400F for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Serve with spaghetti and marinara sauce.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last minute holiday gifts


It's been weeks since I've tried to avert my eyes from my email inbox with deals to make the holiday gift shopping fun, get the best gifts at a reasonable price. I already set 'straight to trash' filters to most of the retailers, because the 'unsubscribe' rarely seems to work. The emails each morning are like screaming kids, vying for attention, "look at me, look at me!".  Just a few retailers are left.... Lululemon, of course, and JCrew, UPS, to seen when the stuff actually arrives, and a few who still seem to make it around my email filters.

Yesterday I did some last minute in-store shopping and found this beautiful, just right-sized red tagine from Henry Emile. The price was as good as the best on the net, and that is with Sur la Table, around $99. So, I am sharing. In case, you are still looking for that last gift.

Friday, November 25, 2016

All the things we do not need

It’s black Friday. My friends can be divided into 2 camps: the Black Friday averse and the Black Friday enthusiasts. I admit I love dipping in the pool of deal snatchers, fighting for parking lots, riding on the high of everything on sale, for a day. Which is not quite true, because often the deals are available the entire week. But if you don’t dip into the mass hypnosis it is just half the fun. It’s like celebrating Christmas  a week late.

aa97c21a-1df7-40b5-8ed1-d95283ab53f0

Yesterday, a friend of the said Black Friday doomers shared a link of what to do instead of giving in to the grave addiction of consumerism. Since the stores were still closed, and I had nothing better to do, I started watching one of the BBC movies on youtube, The Century of the Self. I was remotedly interested because  once in a while I look worriedly at my lululemon habit, when I push that buy button again and eagerly await the new shipment of some cherry black sweatpants (my new favorite!).

lululemon black cherry high times oneness tank

Watching that movie gave me pause. According to the BBC movie, there once was a little man, called Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, who single-handedly (as far as we can  believe the movie, but it is the BBC!) engineered convincing the American man and woman to transition from a working class, practical need-based shopper to the modern day consumer. “Make yourself happy, buy this sexy car, buy one for your wife!” That happened way back in the days of 1920. To keep the economy churning, people had to be convinced to buy on a regular basis and more than they need, even if the stuff they already owned for a task, was still perfectly fine. So, they dipped into the subconscious desires of people and suggested subliminally that they would be fulfilled if they associated with (buy!) this item, smoke this cigarette, drive this car, drink some coca cola. Hey, we all saw “Mad Men”, we know how this works.

coca-cola-hilltop-hed-2016

Now, I wonder which subliminal message Lululemon is sending me that I don’t even know, but they talk  to my subconscious directly and then I cannot stop buying more hoodies. I am defenseless!

Gotta go! It’s Black Friday!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

When kale and Brussels sprouts met

Finally, life is slowing down for me for a little while, at least this week. There is not much time left until the holiday break and teas, carols and boozy parties with lebkuchen will sparkle up this period. It is a cheerful time of the year, socially, and with bubbles and lights everywhere, which makes up for the short and dark days, with no snow to brighten up the landscape yet.

harvest_lunch

Around Thanksgiving, the farmers market winds down. There are squashes, and locally grown Brussels sprouts, radishes, beets, potatoes and kale, hardy kale that is still growing in my garden.

FM_2

Last time at the farmers market I found the two where mating, while I was not looking, the kale and the brussels sprouts, and now there are kalettes.

kalettes

A close up look:

kalettes_2

Cute, no? A bit confusing and surprising, but cute. But, what to make with kalettes?

To fight my increasing tendency to grow attached to the couch and fall into hibernation, I went for a long walk today. Fresh air helps to blow the cowebs out of my head. The streets were empty. Half of the houses had 8 cars in the drive way, and the other houses were dark with empty drive ways.  I made a new cat friend on my walk, a tiny black cat with a colorful ribbon as a collar. She first look alarmed when she saw me,  but then she scanned my secret cat friend badge and ran to me, head butting my hands that stroked her fur. The weather is still mild, with a slight bite of cold in the air.  Then, it was time to head home and eat with my beloveds, the turkey was ready.

Happy Thanksgiving!