Lentil Soup with Lemon

Although I’ve tried a lot of lentil soups, there’s only one that I’m a big fan of. I come back to this recipe time and time again. It’s healthy and delicious, and incredibly simple to make. It also happens to be vegetarian/vegan. It has simple spices (cumin and mustard seeds) and lots and lots of lemon juice. Don’t skimp on it.

I originally got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks years ago. It was tasty, but took a few more steps than I liked. Here’s my simplified version. It’s originally a red lentil soup, but I always use plain brown lentils I find in the grocery store. (That said, the soup in these pictures used red lentils since they were the same price at the store. I also forgot cilantro.) I usually use bottled lemon juice rather than juicing lemons. Often I use frozen spinach (I usually microwave it first) in the soup rather than fresh greens. Since it’s a pureed soup, we always serve it over brown rice. We usually get 4+ generous bowls of soup from this recipe.

To demonstrate how much I like this soup, and how forgiving it is: Once I didn’t have enough lentils, and used chickpeas instead. It reminded me a little of hummus, and it was still tasty. Sometimes I’m out of turmeric, and it turns out okay (although it is better with it). Sometimes I use kale in the soup instead of spinach, and sometimes I forget about leafy greens entirely; the soup still turns out delicious. Sometimes I forget it takes cilantro. Even when I have to make substitutions, I love this soup.

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Cauliflower Curry

I hated cauliflower as a kid. My mom forced me to eat broccoli and I tolerated it, and even grew to like it once I began cooking it as an adult. But I drew the line at cauliflower. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. As an adult, though, I tried it in curries at Indian buffets and realized that it wasn’t bad if treated properly.

So nowadays, I enjoy cauliflower in Indian food, and that’s still about it. I wish I could like the vegetable more, because I know it’s good for me. I just find it difficult to care.

This curry has a short ingredient list and is easy to make. Honestly, the most unusual ingredient to me is the cauliflower! I particularly like that I don’t have to have my ingredients ready before I start cooking. While I saute onions, I can blend the spices with the remaining onion. While the pureed onion cooks, I can chop up the cauliflower. And I can set my timer and go downstairs to bike for a short time while dinner finishes up.


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Curried Cashews

I had some cashews that I bought a little while ago. My original plans for them fell through. I used half of them in granola, and I decided to spice the rest of them.

I specifically remembered coming across a recipe for Curried Cashews last year in Eating Well magazine. I decided to try those.

Recipe is simple. For each 1 cup cashews, you toss them with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon curry powder, and 2/3 teaspoon salt. Roast at 250F for 45 minutes, stirring twice.

Curried Cashews

These were tasty enough. Alex thought they smelled spicy, but they weren’t hot –  that would depend on the level of heat in your curry powder. They were a little tart from the lemon juice. Although they’re curried, it doesn’t overwhelm the cashew taste of the nuts. These were incredibly simple to make. I’d do this again if I had reason to buy cashews.

Lentil Soup with Lemon

I want to like lentils. They’re inexpensive, healthy, and quicker to cook than any beans around because you don’t have to soak them. I don’t use them often in part because I don’t know what to put them in. I’ve made a few lentil soups in the past, and I’ve generally found them to be boring. I’ve only ever made one that I really enjoyed, and that one had a liberal amount of curry powder in it.

But this week, I found another lentil soup I like! I was hopeful about the recipe for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from the moment I saw it. It sounded healthy and simple to make.

I didn’t realize it when I decided to make the recipe, but it didn’t take broth – just water. I decided to try it with regular brown lentils you find in the grocery store. I simmered them with water, the tablespoon of butter (which I would probably omit next time), tumeric, and about 1.5 teaspoons sea salt. They were done after 20 minutes. Once they were done, I used a hand blender to puree the soup. While the lentils cooked, I sauteed onion with cumin and mustard seeds in olive oil for about 15 minutes. I added the cilantro and stirred the onion mixture into the soup. I added 6 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to the soup, but I even might add a little more next time.

I sauteed some kale in olive oil to serve with the soup. We had brown rice with it. We got 6 servings from this recipe.

Lentil Soup with Lemon

This was a good soup. It was filling, flavorful, and bright from the lemon. Although the soup has Indian flavors, there’s nothing spicy about this soup. It’s vegetarian (and it doesn’t even need broth!), but you don’t miss meat. I really enjoyed this, and so did Molly and Jen, who we had over for dinner. I’d definitely make this soup again.

Green Pea Soup

As I’ve been trying to pack up my house since we move in a couple of weeks, I’ve been trying not to buy any more food. I must use up everything in the fridge and freezer. It’s simply not worth the hassle of trying to move cool or frozen food.

One of the recipes I made was an Indian-spiced Green Pea Soup. Heidi at 101 Cookbooks was similarly motivated to clean out her freezer. This soup was particularly nice to make because it was so simple. It took a little prep – grinding ginger, garlic, and serrano peppers and sauteing them with chopped onion – but honestly that was the most grueling step. After you’ve cooked the onion et al., you add frozen peas and stock, and simmer briefly. Add a little salt, blend with an immersion blender, and you’ve got dinner. I left out mint and any kind of cheese or croutons. We ate this with pita bread.

Honestly, this was a great and easy soup. It was a little on the thin side, so in the future I might add a little less stock or add some small diced potatoes. You could probably also serve it over a little rice. It was a little sweet from the green peas, and a little spicy from the peppers. To me, it tasted exactly like those potato and peas dishes you could get in Indian restaurants, with very little fuss. I encourage you to try it.

334: Curried Potatoes and Squash with 335: Indian Chapati

I managed to find a few vegetarian recipes when I came up with the list of recipes to make this month. I thought the recipe for Curried Potatoes and Squash sounded simple yet different, so I picked up the ingredients I needed and planned to make it on the weekend when I’d have the time to cut up butternut squash.

I used oil in this in place of butter. I didn’t have fresh ginger to use in this so I used some dried ginger from my pantry. I used 3 cups (unpeeled) potatoes and 3 cups butternut squash, diced tomatoes rather than whole, bouillon in place of broth, and petite green peas. Although I used chicken bouillon, you could easily use veggie instead. The recipe came together pretty easily, as per the instructions. The most difficult thing I had to do was peel and cut up the butternut squash.

As I cut vegetables, I realized that I’d planned on making or buying some flatbread to go with the curry, since it had suggested having some to soak up the sauce. I didn’t have time to make anything too complicated, but after a few fruitless web searches, I remembered that chapatis were a quick and easy Indian flatbread. I found the recipe for Indian Chapati, which took both white and whole wheat flours and would be done in time to eat dinner.

I started the chapati recipe before I started the potatoes and squash, and I halved the recipe for the chapati since we wouldn’t need many for just me and Alex. The dough was very simple to make. I mixed the flours, salt, olive oil, and water together with a fork, and kneaded in the rest of the flour by hand. I continued to knead it until smooth (just a few minutes of folding the dough between my hands while I walked around the house – it wasn’t a ton of dough). I divided it into 5 pieces, rolled them into little balls, and let them rest during the 20 or 30 minutes it took to cook the rest of the food.

I rolled out the chapati as thinly as I could – about as thin as a tortilla would be. This actually wasn’t that hard to do with the dough. About 10 minutes before the curried potatoes would be done, I pulled out a skillet to cook the chapati. I did a few over medium heat, but I didn’t get quite the look I was wanting. I had better luck when I put my skillet up to medium high. The chapati started to puff up properly then, and I got some browned areas on them. It just took a minute for each chapati once I had the skillet at the right temperature.

Curried Potatoes and Squash with Indian Chapati

This was pretty good. The curried potatoes were a little spicy, but overall they were pretty satisfying. It was a pretty hearty vegetarian meal, and we definitely got 4 servings out of it. The chapati were pretty good too, particularly when used for the curry. I really liked the taste of the ones that had puffed up. You couldn’t really get an easier flatbread recipe.

Overall, this was a pretty good meal. The Indian Chapati were very simple to make on the spur of the moment, so I highly recommend trying them. The Curried Potatoes and Squash was also a simple, quick dish (aside from peeling the squash) worth giving a try.

245: Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

To go with all the naan I’d been baking, I made Quick Chicken Tikka Masala. I love Indian food, and so I was excited to try this. I have some reservations about making ethnic food from general food magazines; I’ve found that some popular general lifestyle magazines don’t use enough spices in their recipes, since their main audience is (often) middle-aged with pretty Western (and sometimes boring) tastes. I’ve had luck with a lot of the recipes from Eating Well, though, so I thought it was worth giving a shot.

I was out of garam masala, so I made some. [Garam masala is the most prominent spice in this recipe, so you want to be sure yours is a good mix; I made this recipe, but microwaved the spices rather than toasted them on the stove.] The recipe was simple to make. I have a tendency to try to prep as I go, but this isn’t a recipe you can do that with. In any case, chopping onion and mincing garlic was the only real prep work that was necessary before starting. First you season and brown the chicken; next you saute garlic, onion, and ginger separately. Add spices, and then flour; then add tomatoes and simmer. Add cream and chicken, and cook until the chicken is done. Garnish with cilantro.

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

This was really pretty good. It had a good flavor, and was creamy even though I hadn’t added that much cream to it. I didn’t mince my ginger enough, so we had some rather gingery bites. There were lots of tomatoes. I didn’t want more chicken in this dish, but I wish I had cut it into bite-size pieces rather than leaving it as strips. I really enjoyed this recipe, and encourage you to make it. You could alter the seasonings to your taste if you don’t find it flavorful enough (or, if you think it’s got too much spice).

184: Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas

I decided that stuffed zucchini would be a good use of my overgrown zucchini. I looked for recipes, expecting it to be easy to find a standard, Americana version of stuffed zucchini. As I should know by now, though, that’s not the case. I found several variations on stuffed zucchini, some of which involved beef, lamb, and turkey, tomato sauce and cheese, and rice or breadcrumbs, but not really anything that I could make without having to go to the store or that I could use without making substitutions.

I did, however, find a recipe for Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas. This recipe intrigued me. Basically, this sounded like samosa filling piled on top of a split zucchini. I love samosas, but worst part about making them is wrapping them! I thought this recipe sounded excellent since this recipe took the worst part of samosa-making out of the equation. The only unusual thing about this recipe is that it takes a couple tablespoons of chickpea flour. [Yes, believe it or not, I had chickpea flour in my cupboard, but not stuff to make more traditional stuffed zucchini.] I have heard, however, that you could substitute in a little regular or whole wheat flour to act as a binding agent for the potatoes and peas.

This recipe took a little longer than I expected, simply because there were so many things to cut up. I halved my zucchini and cut it into 8 pieces, and scooped out all the seeds. (I think that the zucchini I used weighed 3 pounds, so I only needed the one.) I had to cut up and parboil potatoes, thaw peas, shred ginger, mince a serrano pepper, and chop up onion and cilantro.

Aside from all the menial chopping that had to be done, the recipe was pretty straightforward. After I sauteed the chopped vegetables and spices, I piled them on top of the zucchini pieces. It was a little hard to get all of the filling to stay on top of the zucchinis.

Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas

All of this work was totally worth it. These stuffed zucchini were delicious. It was pretty filling, more than I expected. It was exactly like eating samosa filling on top of zucchini. The potatoes and peas were spicy, but the zucchini was a little sweet to off-set that heat. It was great as leftovers for lunch the next day.

I would definitely make this again. If I didn’t have chickpea flour, I might try using a little whole wheat or regular flour to act as a thickening agent when you cook the peas and potatoes with the spices; I’m not sure if that would change the flavor very much. Give this recipe a try if you like Indian food; I can’t attest to its authenticity, but it was relatively simple, healthy, and delicious.

88: Curried Samosas with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

I love samosas, so I decided to try the Cooking Light samosas recipe. I’ve made samosas before, a long time ago, and that recipe used egg roll wrappers as well. This specific recipe called for lentils (I used plain old brown lentils, since I couldn’t find yellow ones) to use along with the potatoes and peas. I decided to use water instead of an egg to moisten the edges of the wrappers. With this recipe, you halved the wrappers, put a tablespoon of filling toward the edge, and folded it up as you would a flag. This worked really well. I made the chutney as well, but I didn’t actually have enough mint left for it. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy cilantro. I made a double batch of the samosas so I’d have some for lunch, and a single batch of the chutney.

Veggie Samosas with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

These were pretty tasty overall, and satisfying, even though it takes a while to wrap up all the samosas. I didn’t spray my pan after each batch, which is why some of them became a little scorched. I enjoyed the chutney a lot. The samosa filling was okay, but I know that the one I made a few years ago tasted better. This one needed more spice or more flavor overall. I would follow this samosa-making technique again, but I would search for a different seasoning or different filling altogether to put in it.

24: Fragrant Chicken Curry

I love using my crockpot, particularly on Mondays when I get home a little late, and just don’t want to cook because it’s a Monday. It means I have to get up a little earlier to make sure I get food in there, but it really doesn’t take that long, particularly when I consider how long it takes to make something fast once I get home from work.

Today I came home to Fragrant Chicken Curry, an Indian (-inspired) chicken and lentil dish. I can’t attest to how Indian or authentic it is. It was in the Slow Cooker Recipe Book, one of many cookbooks I bought for 4.99 at Borders or Barnes & Noble and which vary in quality. I chose this recipe because I had some spinach that I wanted to use in my crockpot, and I want to wait to find a really good Chicken Saag recipe.

The chicken breasts were frozen when I put it in the slow-cooker, so I doubled the amount of lentils (plain ol’ lentils, nothing special or particular), liquid, and seasoning to make sure that the poultry was submerged. I left it on low all-day, rather than cooking it on high for 5 hours. I added spinach when I got home, but I forgot about the cilantro until I looked up the recipe online just now.

Fragrant Chicken Curry

I definitely needed more chicken in it (my fault there), and it definitely needed the cilantro to perk it up. I really hoped that the flavors would be a little brighter. I think that ultimately I miss the ginger flavor, among others, that I think should be in here. It’s possible that I’ll like it more when I have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, since I added extra cilantro to them. It’s not bad, but I don’t think I’ll be making this again.