Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup and Tomato Galette

It's summertime and it's rather hot outside, but with the air conditioner running, it could be any time of the year, at all, indoors. Time for some soup!

Victor found a recipe for a Turkish red lentil Soup that sounded like the perfect dinner. A spicy red lentil soup drizzled with a spicy oil. How perfext!

 

Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

INGREDIENTS

For the Soup:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme or oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt, to taste

For the Paprika Oil:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

INSTRUCTIONS

Pick through your lentils for any foreign debris, rinse them 2 or 3 times, drain, and set aside.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the olive oil and the onion with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir it around for around 1 minute. Now add the cumin, paprika, mint, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper and sauté for 10 seconds to bloom the spices. Immediately add the lentils, water, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.

After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot halfway, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.

In the meanwhile make the paprika oil by swirling together the olive oil, paprika, and red pepper in a small sauce pan over medium heat. The moment you see the paprika starting to bubble, remove the pan from the heat. It's done.

After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup either in a blender or simply use a hand blender to reach the consistency you desire. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of paprika oil, wedges of lemon, and extra mint and red pepper for everyone to customize to their taste.

While Victor made soup, I set my sights on a tomato galette

It's a stellar year for tomatoes - they are just sooo flavorful - I doubt I will ever get my fill of them.

This was about the easiest thing to make in the history of easy things to make. I pulled the pie dough out of the freezer, but it's really easy to make.

Tomato Galette

  • 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz mixed cheeses, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Gently toss tomatoes, garlic, and 1 tsp salt. Let sit 5 minutes (tomatoes will start releasing some liquid). Drain tomato mixture and transfer to paper towels.

Tomato Tart

Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper to a 14" round about 1/8" thick.

Tomato Tart

Transfer on parchment to a baking sheet.

Tomato Tart

Scatter cheese over dough, leaving a 1½" border.

Tomato Tart

Arrange tomatoes and garlic over cheese.

Tomato Tart

Bring edges of dough up and over filling, overlapping as needed to create about a 1 1/2" border.

Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and pepper. Chill in freezer 10 minutes.

Bake galette, rotating once, until crust is golden brown and cooked through, 55–65 minutes.

Let cool slightly on baking sheet.

Top with sun-dried tomatoes, if desired.

It was the perfect combination - soup and galette - and it really brought home the flavors of summer.

 

 

 

 


Easter Salads

The Leftovers

We had a lot of food around here, yesterday, but a lot of it was planned - especially the salads. These are our go-to lunches, now that the weather is turning warmer.

Lunch, today, was ham sandwiches on the last of the hot cross buns, so dinner became salads. Gotta keep our trim boyish figures, ya know...

 


Easter 2019

Easter 2019

Another day of fun times and fun food! We started off with drinks and appetizers. Naturally.

Appetizers:

Uncle Rudy's Easter Pie

Easter 2019

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp

Easter 2019

Date and Pecan Pesto with Homemade Ricotta

Easter 2019

Along with Brie, Hummus, chips an pitas...

And then we moved on to the Main Event:

Ham with Apricot Mustard Glaze

Easter 2019

Baked Cod with Salsa Verde

Easter 2019

Roasted Potatoes

Easter 2019

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

Easter 2019

Roasted Beets

Easter 2019

Lentil Salad

Easter 2019

Bean Salad

Easter 2019

5-Grain Salad

Easter 2019

Hot Cross Buns

Easter 2019

And the Desserts:

Limoncello Tiramisù

Easter 2019

Chocolate Nests

Easter 2019

Pastina Pie

Easter 2019

Anise Biscotti and Pistachio Biscotti

Easter 2019

Lots of food, fun, and laughter.

The highlights - other than the company - were the desserts... They're the things we don't eat very often, anymore. The Pastina Pie and the Limoncello Tiramisù were excellent - and the biscotti were perfection.

The Hot Cross Buns were another surprise. I had never made them before and they were surprisingly good - they're going to make good ham sandwiches for lunch.

All in all, a very successful day!


Pastina Pie

Pastina Pie

I first heard of Pastina Pie from our friend, Michael Gottuso. A Pastina Pie is a sweet ricotta custard pie with little pastina pasta. He had made one, posted a picture online, and I immediately knew it would be on our Easter Dessert Table. It was instantaneous love at first sight.

I have seriously fallen in love with different Italian foods and even working in Italian restaurants in my youth never really prepared me for the infinite number of rustic, regional - and even family - recipes out there. Victor's family has their share of family tradition recipes - he made Uncle Rudy's Easter Pie the other day and we've tried our hand at a sweet bread Easter basket called a Gadudi - although no one knows where that name came from - or even how to spell it! Different holidays, different foods... And every holiday has its required dishes.

I didn't grow up with any sort of ethnic holiday traditions. My Colorado-born grandmother and my California-born mother were already several generations removed from the old sod - where their forebearers were more than likely subsistence-farmers living on potatoes under the inhumane rule of England. They brought their love of family with them - and made due with the new foods they found here.

Not having those constraints let my mom be creative and make what she wanted. While certain things were consistent - canned ham on Easter or turkey on Christmas, the appetizers and desserts varied with her mood and the times. Her cookbooks are a testament to how varied her tastes were and how creative she was in the kitchen. And I know she would have loved this!

Michael said his Pastina Pie can be made with or without a crust - and when it was made with a crust, it was usually a Pasta Frolla - a shortcrust pastry. I went with the pastry.

Pastina Pie

Michael Guttoso

Pasta Frolla

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Directions

1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor just until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 6 to 8 times.

2. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest. With processor running, add egg mixture; process just until dough begins to come together. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface; lightly knead to form a ball.

3. Divide dough into 2 pieces, and gently press into flat disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Line a large tart or quiche pan with rolled-out pasta frolla.

Pastina Filling

  • 1/2 cup pastina
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp anisette
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 lb ricotta
  • Cinnamon for dusting

Cook 1/2 cup pastina in boiling water until soft. Drain and set aside.

Beat 7 eggs with 1 cup sugar until well blended. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional).

Blend in one 15 oz container ricotta cheese. Then blend in the pastina.

Pour into the crust Bake at 375°F until golden. 45 minutes - an hour, check every now and then. Let cool completely .

Store in fridge.

Pastina Pie

 


Risotto

South of the Wall Shrimp Risotto

We had planned to be coloring Easter Eggs tonight with our great-niece and great-nephew - dinner out. Alas, little niece was up all night sick. Dinner in.

I have faith in the resilience of little kids, so I'm expecting to see her smiling face tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I had set the table for tomorrow and hadn't planned anything for dinner. It's not like we're lacking in food, right now, but I didn't want to dig into tomorrow's fixin's.

One of our appetizers, tomorrow, is a marinated shrimp, and, since I hadn't started making it, I took a few pieces of the shrimp and put the creative juices to work.

I thought a shrimp risotto would work - quick and easy. No thought required. And as I opened the vegetable bin to see what was there, I espied a leek and a poblano pepper. Southwestern risotto. Why not?!?

I started it off as a traditional risotto and sauteed the leek and poblano in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Then went the rice.

I cooked it for a few minutes - until it started getting translucent - and then, instead of adding my customary wine, I added a hefty shot of tequila.

It continued on in a traditional way, except I then added just a bit of cumin and a bit of cayenne. Then the broth, half-cup by half-cup.

When it was all but done, i added the shrimp. When it was 90% cooked, I stirred in some pecorino romano, and dinner was served!

It was a good one!

Rich, creamy, and familiar, with just a hint of foreign flavors.

Not bad for a throw-together meal!

 

 


Easter 2019

Limoncello Tiramisù

The perfect addition to an Easter Dessert Table...

We made the Limoncello and the Savioardi, but both can be easily purchased... This is based on a Lidia recipe...

Limoncello Tiramisù

  • 5 large eggs
  • 5 or 6 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups limoncello liqueur
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound (2 cups) Mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 40 - more or less - ladyfingers

Pour just enough water in the double-boiler pan so the water level is right below the bottom of the mixing bowl when it is sitting in the pan. Separate the eggs, putting yolks into the large bowl of the double boiler and the whites into another stainless-steel bowl for whipping by hand or with an electric mixer.

Remove the zest of two or more of the lemons, using a fine grater, to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Squeeze out and strain the juice of these and the other lemons to get 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.

To make the base for the tiramisù, heat the water in the double boiler to a steady simmer. Off the heat, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the limoncello until well blended. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly, frequently scraping the whisk around the sides and bottom of the bowl, as the egg mixture expands and heats into a frothy sponge, 5 minutes or longer. When the sponge has thickened enough to form a ribbon when it drops on the surface, take the bowl off the double-boiler pan and let it cool.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of limoncello, all of the lemon juice, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 5 minutes, evaporating the alcohol. Let the syrup cool completely.

In another large bowl, stir the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften it, then drop in the grated lemon zest and beat until light and creamy.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, by hand or by machine, until it holds moderately firm peaks.

 

Limoncello Tiramisu

When the cooked limoncello sponge (or zabaglione) is cooled, scrape about a third of it over the mascarpone, and fold it in with a large rubber spatula. Fold in the rest of the zabaglione in two or three additions.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Now fold in the whipped egg whites in several additions, until the limoncello-mascarpone cream is light and evenly blended.

Pour some of the cooled syrup, no deeper than 1/4 inch, into the shallow-rimmed pan to moisten the ladyfingers (savoiardi).

Limoncello Tiramisu

One at a time, roll a ladyfinger in the syrup and place it in the casserole or baking dish. Wet each cookie briefly—if it soaks up too much syrup, it will fall apart. Arrange the moistened ladyfingers in neat, tight rows, filling the bottom of the pan completely. You should be able to fit about twenty ladyfingers in a single layer.

Scoop half of the limoncello-mascarpone cream onto the ladyfingers, and smooth it to fill the pan and cover them. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers in the pan, and cover it completely with the remainder of the cream.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Smooth the cream with the spatula, and seal the tiramisù airtight in plastic wrap.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Before serving, refrigerate for 6 hours (or up to 2 days), or put it in the freezer for 2 hours. To serve, cut portions of tiramisù in any size you like, and life each out of the pan and onto dessert plates.

 


Pasta

The End of Week Forty

Forty weeks... That's 280 days. 120 sessions with our trainer. We're both now down more than 50 pounds.

Something seems to be working.

What didn't work, today, was my bribe. We've talked about food, baking, and general fun stuff since we started. He has mentioned a few times he really likes the lemon poppy seed pound cake from a local bakery.

For Easter, I made him a lemon poppy seed pound cake. He was really pleased - and still worked our asses off, today.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

makes two

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (460 grams) butter, softened
  • 2¾ cups (573 grams) granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3¾ cups (525 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp poppy seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.5 gram) ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon (0.75 gram) kosher salt
  • ½ cup (123 grams) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

Let ingredients come to room temperature for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour 2 standard loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat butter with a mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, and beat until fluffy, about 6-8 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, poppy seeds, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in zest, lemon extract, and vanilla. Spoon batter into prepared pans.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Spread Lemon Glaze over cake.

Of course, that's what we're paying him for, but still... ouch. He said he may not share it, at all. I told him to make sure his insulin shots were current.

The recipe makes two cakes. I did cut into one to make sure it was worthy to give away. It was. The rest will adorn the Easter Dessert Table.

Our dinner was pasta and sausage.

One hears about pasta being so evil. As you can tell by the blog posts from the past 40 weeks, we have not stopped eating pasta - or bread. Somehow, we've also managed to lose over 50 pounds, each. If you want to lose weight and you're not, I'd stop blaming pasta and look at everything else you are - or are not - doing.

It really is a lifestyle change. There are no quick fixes. Diets do not work. Changing your eating habits, does.

So...

We have a ton of food we're getting ready for Sunday. Most of it is reasonably healthy and the dessert table is pretty much out of control. I made a Limoncello Tiramisu, today. Once upon a time, I would have skipped dinner and dived right into it. On Sunday, I'll have a bit.

Changing eating habits...

And on to Week Forty-One!

 

 

 


Garlic Chicken

Chicken with Honey and Garlic

When Victor got back from the gym, this morning, he casually said, oh, by the way... I'm cooking dinner, tonight.

That is always music to my ears. I am a firm believer in if you're cooking, I'm eating - and it really is nice when the person cooking knows what in the heck they're doing!

Both of us are intuitive cooks - we just kinda know what works and what doesn't. It usually means reading a recipe and being able to alter ingredients as you're going down the list. My mom used to talk about reading a recipe and mentally tasting it as she read it. That really makes a lot of sense to me.

Victor wanted to do something non-Italian, tonight. We both tend to go Italian as a go-to, although back in the day, my go-to was always Mexican. I conceded defeat when we first moved east and I couldn't find basic Mexican ingredients in the grocery store. (For the first 8 years we lived here, we would bring cans of chipotles in adobo back with us every time we traveled west.) Ingredient-wise, things have gotten much better, but the go-to Italian is still the go-to because I've gotten lazy.

He had an idea for something spicy with garlic and honey - and asked if we had any chicken breasts in the freezer. I grabbed one for him and walked away - seeing the wheels turning.

What he ended up with was something worthy of any decent Chinese restaurant - simple with clean flavors.

Chicken with Honey and Garlic

  • 1 chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup broccoli, cooked
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek
  • black sesame seeds
  • natural sesame seeds
  • flour
  • salt and pepper

Dice chicken. Dredge in flour mixed with a pinch of salt & pepper.

Make a sauce of the honey, rice wine, soy sauce, and sambal oelek.

Saute chicken in a bit of oil. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant - 2 or 3 minutes.,

Add sauce and simmer until thickened. Add broccoli and mix well.

Serve with rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

For an Italian, it was a pretty good rendition of Asian-American cooking. My stomach is smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Savoiardi

Savoiardi

One of the desserts we're making for Easter is a Limoncello Tiramisu. Lemon is the perfect Springtime flavor, and something a bit ooey and gooey is a nice reward for being so good the past nine months.

This is the type of dessert that really reminds me of my mother. I don't think she ever made an actual tiramisu, but she was great with puddings and contrasting textures and flavors - she just knew how to do it. And while I may not be as gifted as she was in the making of them, I definitely inherited her love of them.

A typical tiramisu is layered savioardi - lady fingers - and a mascarpone custard, with the lady fingers dipped in coffee and brandy. One can buy lady fingers at the store, but, I thought that since it's an actual holiday meal, I'd make them. I also thought that if I made them today and totally screwed them up, I'd still have time to pick them up at the grocery store. I also made pie crusts for Uncle Rudy's Easter Pie and a Pasta Frolla - a sweet Italian pastry crust - for a Pastina Pie. That recipe comes from a friend of ours, Michael Gottuso. I'll make the actual pie Thursday or Friday...

There is a method to my madness - and, fortunately, it seems that I did not screw them up!

Making them was a bit of as challenge because I didn't have a plain 1/2" icing tip, so I had to fudge things a bit. And... the batter is really loose. But... they came out!

I was even a good boy and drew my 4" lines on the parchment paper to make them reasonably even.

Savoiard

Savoiardi (Ladyfingers)

adapted from Easy As Apple Pie

  • 3 eggs separated
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar divided
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice divided
  • the zest of 1 lemon grated
  • 65 grams (1/2 cup) cake flour sifted
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) potato starch
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a round 1/2 inch tip.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites, 50 grams (1/4 cup) of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice until stiff peaks form.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and salt until thick and light yellow.

Sift the flour and potato starch over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula until smooth and well combined.

Gently fold in the egg whites.

Transfer half of the batter to the prepared piping bag. Pipe the batter into lines about 10 cm (4 inches) long, keeping distance between them.

Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Sprinkle the cookies lightly with icing sugar. Let them rest for about 5 minutes and sprinkle again with icing sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden.

Let the ladyfingers cool for a few minutes then release them from the parchment paper, with a flat spatula, while they are still warm.

Serve the savoiardi immediately or store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

We already know they won't be around for two weeks...

Oh... and I'm making Lidia's Limoncello Tiramisu...


Sausage and Lentils

Sausage and Lentils

This has definitely become one of my most favorite go-to dinners.

Lentils have always been a favorite food, and paired with really good sausages... well... it doesn't get much better. The sausages, of course, come from Martin's at Reading Terminal Market. They really are the best.

I've written this one out a dozen times, but here it is, again...

Lentils and Fennel

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, cut into small dice
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar - or vinegar of your choice
  • S&P

Cook lentils until lentils are just tender.

While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and add leek, carrot, fennel, garlic, and celery. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

When vegetables and lentils are cooked, stir lentils into vegetables and cook until heated through. Stir in vinegar. Add S&P, as desired.

It's quick and easy.

What's not being quick and easy is redoing this entire website.

The theme I was using was causing problems - you've obviously noted how slow it had become - so I'm working on redoing the entire thing.

The 2300+ blog posts will pretty much handle the changeover without a lot of individual attention - the older posts will not render as nicely as the last few years, but... as I get to them I can make them better. The 1500+ cookbook pages, on the other hand, are going to require a lot of individual handling.

Such is life.

It's been a lot of fun looking at the site and seeing how it has changed since I stared the official food blog in 2005.

Fourteen years of blog posts... and many more to come!

 


Pork and beet Greens

The End of Week Thirty-Nine

Another week, another pound. Life is good.

My repeating message seems to be that it's getting easier as it gets more difficult - and if I had better flexibility, perhaps some things wouldn't be as painful.

I still can't touch my toes and although I spend a good 10 minutes in the sauna doing stretches before each workout, there are certain positions I just cannot bend myself into. On the other hand, I'm definitely more limber than I have been in 30 years, so I suppose I'm progressing... Patience is not always one of my virtues.

We picked up some fresh beets at the produce store the other day and they had some pretty spectacular greens attached. I must admit that most of the time when I buy beets at the local grocery store, the greens look pretty sad and I just cut them off and toss them when I get home.

These, I saved.

Tonight, I chopped them and then blanched them in boiling salted water and then plunged them into ice water. From there, I sauteed leeks and garlic in a bit of olive oil, and added the greens along with some blackberry balsamic vinegar. A bit of salt and pepper, and onto the plate they went.

They were topped with a grilled pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes on the side.

Lots of flavors and textures.

It's now on to week forty. Three more months to go.

Will I be touching my toes by then?!?

Stay tuned to find out...