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I had the best red lentil soup at this great Turkish restaurant in London.  I will only visit a chain restaurant in the US in a pinch, but London seems to be the exception to that rule.  With the weather turning much cooler, and having scored some red lentils a couple of weeks ago, I finally went for it. 

After doing a bit of googling and trying to remember taste and texture from my own red lentil soup experience, I came up with this!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TB kosher salt
2 1/2 cups water
1 lb red lentils, rinsed
1 quart chicken broth, divided
2 TB ground cumin
2 TB smoked paprika
2 cups chopped tomatoes

Method:
1. Heat up a dutch oven and add the olive oil.
2. Add the onions, garlic and salt and cook till onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the lentils and water, cook covered for 20 minutes over medium heat.
4. To the partially cooked lentil mix, add 3 cups of broth, cumin, paprika and tomatoes. Cook for an additional 20 minutes.
5. Remove the soup from the heat and puree using an immersion blender.
6. Stir in the remaining cup of broth and serve.

*** This makes a thick soup, should you prefer it to be more “soupy”, simply add more broth.

Life got busy, but also had some fun along the way 🙂

This may be one of my more time consuming recipes. Noticed that I said, time consuming, not difficult. To that end, when you take the time to make this, prepare two lasagnas. Enjoy one on the day you make it, and freeze the other one. They freeze beautifully and taste freshly made up to a month later.

Writing this up was also time consuming, but I took care of that for you!

The pieces of this puzzle are: no-boil lasagna noodles, bolognese sauce, ricotta mixture, spinach bechamel.

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ingredients – Bolognese Sauce
2 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground sirloin
14 oz top quality canned crushed tomatoes, like San Marzano*
salt and pepper
2 TB tomato paste
3 TB chopped green olives
3 TB chopped roasted red peppers
2 TB capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons dried french thyme
6 fresh basil leaves, thorn by hand

Method
1. To a saute pan add the olive oil and heat up. Add the onion and cook till translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and the ground beef. Cook till the meat begins to brown.
2. Turn up the heat and add the remaining ingredients, except the thyme and basil, waiting 1 – 2 minutes before each addition.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the thyme and basil, stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the burner.

Ingredients – Spinach Bechamel
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB all purpose flour
1 cup milk
6 oz Boursin cheese**
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Method
1. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter. Add the flour and combine well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
2. To the flour mixture add the milk and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the boursin cheese and cook for 5 minutes until the cheese melts and is well incorporated.
3. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

Ingredients – Ricotta Mixture
2 cups part skim ricotta
1 cup grated parmessan
2 TB dried oregano
1 teas red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Stir all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Assembly & Bake

This is the easiest part! Start by spraying a pan, that is at least two inches tall, with non-stick spray. Put a thin layer of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of the pan and then add your first lasagna sheet. From there the layers go in this order:
– bolognese
– ricotta
– bechamel
– noodles
– bolognese
– ricotta
– noodles
– bechamel

Once assembled, bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, covered. Even if you plan on freezing the lasagna, I have found that it is better to bake immediately and then freeze.

*Alternatively, if you have a kcik-ass, home made marinara sauce, substitute here. When I have time, I use my oven roasted garlic & tomato sauce.
** If Boursin is not readily available, plain whipped cream cheese may be used.

Who said you have to cook your Farmer’s Market purchases? Try this the next time you have watermelon and strawberries laying around!

Berry Melon Rita

Berry Melon Rita

Strawberry-Melon-Ritas

In a blender, combine the following:
2 cups watermelon
3 cups strawberries
juice of two limes
6 oz white tequila
4 oz Grand Marnier
2 oz simple syrup
4 cups crushed ice

Blend well and pour into martini glasses rimmed with sugar. Serves 6.

And yes, the Market was great, as usual!!! It was great to see some of my favorite vendors and get some super fresh produce and eggs.

Yogurt Cup Cakes

Yogurt Cup Cakes

Just in time to greet the Easter bunny (and the forecasted snow flurries that I am ignoring) I made these today.  I had a recipe for a French Yogurt Cake that I have been wanting to try, but I was really in the mood for cupcakes, so with a few tweaks, I ended up with super moist yummy cupcakes.  A simple butter cream icing put them over the top.

Ingredients:
1 cup of cake flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 teas baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of yogurt
1/2 teas vanilla

Method:
1. Set the oven at 350.
2. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients listed through the salt. Set aside.
3. In a larger bowl, using a whisk, mix together the eggs, butter, yogurt, vanilla and sugar until combined. Do not over mix.
4. Mix in the dry ingredients until combined, again, do not over work the batter.
5. Pour in a muffin pan that has been lined with aluminum muffin cups.
6. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Buttercream icing:
For the butter cream icing, combine 5 TB of whipping cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 3 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 1 stick of butter, melted. Combine well using a whisk.

We are in a seafood kick around here; I just haven’t blogged about it as I am still on catch up mode after taking time off to enjoy the beach and pay a visit to Mickey Mouse.

Saucy Shrimp Stack

Saucy Shrimp Stack

You can most definitely serve this shrimp over a bed of soft creamy polenta; but at least in my mind, that is a cold weather dish. The mercury hit 59 today in Indianapolis; and my polenta recipe morphed into tasty poleta squares. I also like the convenience of making the squares ahead of time, and keeping them in the fridge for a couple of quick meals later on this week.

Ingredients – Polenta:
2 cups of water
12 ounces fat free half and half
1 teas salt
1 1/3 cup polenta style cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Ingredients – Shrimp Sauce:
1 TB olive oil
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 TB chopped olives
2 TB tomato paste
pinch of red pepper flakes
splash of white wine
pinch of saffron
splash of chicken broth
16 pieces large shrimp (20 – 25 ct)

Method:
1. In a 2 qt saucepot bring the water and milk to a rapid boil.
2. Add polents in a steady stream as you continue to whisk the mixture.
3. Add the parmesan cheese and continue whisking.
4. Cook for an additional three minutes.
5. Pour mixture in a loaf pan that has been coated with olive oil. Let polenta cool and then put in the fridge for at least one hour.
6. While polenta cools, add olive oil to a medium sized skillet and bring to heat.
7. Add onions and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add bacon, roasted red peppers, olives, tomato paste, red pepper flakes and wine. Cook for an additional three minutes in medium heat.
8. Add saffron, chicken broth and shrimp. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes, till shrimp turns to pink.
9. While shrimp cooks, unmold the polenta and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Grilled in a lightly oiled grill pan.
10. Stack the polenta squares and shrimp. Start with a polenta square, then the shrimp sauce, and repeat.

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