Red Lentil Tomato Soup

Red Lentil & Tomato Soup

Sometimes I get a bit indecisive when it comes to making certain meals. I try to make a rough meal plan every week mainly to make both shopping and blogging a bit easier on myself, but sometimes I just don’t stick to it. Despite my best efforts to plan ahead, sometimes I just don’t feel like what I had previously planned out. On this week’s plan I had both lentil soup and tomato soup. It’s been super cold here lately, so soup is in high demand. When it came time to make lentil soup for lunch one day, it just seemed kind of blah… I really wanted tomato soup, but it didn’t really seem filling enough. Then I got wonderful idea of putting the two together. I’m quite happy it did. The end result had everything I wanted. It was tomato-y and comforting and filling and hardy all at the same time.

If I had time (aka if I wasn’t starving for lunch at the time) I would have chopped up some more veggies to add to the soup. Carrots would be perfect in this soup. I did throw a couple large handfuls of spinach at the end to add some sort of vegetable and color (hard to see in the picture, but it’s in there). The green onions were a last-minute, impulsive addition and were amazing on top. The soup itself is completely vegan. I decided to add a couple spoonfuls of greek yogurt to stir in for a little extra creaminess, but it’s definitely not necessary.

Red Lentil Tomato Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-28 ounce cans whole (or diced) tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 5 green onions, sliced
  • greek yogurt/sour cream, optional
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion to the pot and cook until soft, 6-7 minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika and cumin. Cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  2. Add in tomatoes, juices and all. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. If using whole tomatoes: With a handheld/stick blender, blend the tomatoes and onions until mixed, but still slightly chunky.
  3. Bring heat back to medium-high and add in the broth and lentils. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Allow soup to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until lentils are soft and have absorbed some of the liquid.
  4. When lentils are soft, add in baby spinach and stir until slightly wilted.
  5. Put soup in serving bowls, top with green onions and greek yogurt, if desired, and serve.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Capers

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Capers

Brussels sprouts and capers! I can’t think of anything finer. I love both brussels sprouts and capers. This dish is the stuff my dreams are made of. Roasting the sprouts is essential. Roasting gives them a nuttiness and subtle caramelized flavor that is amazing when combined with the salty, crispy capers. The red pepper flakes are a nice background note. You can adjust your red pepper usage to your own taste. I like spice, so I went a little heavy with it. With so many other wonderful flavors it remained a nice accompaniment to the dish, not overpowering and hot.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Capers
Adapted from this recipe.

  • 2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup drained brined capers
  • 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced (more is better)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (adjust to your own heat preference)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 425F/220C. Toss brussels sprouts with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Place sprouts on rimmed baking sheet. Roast 15-20 minutes until crispy and golden.
  2. While the sprouts are roasting, blot capers on a paper towel. Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add capers and cook, stirring carefully (mixture will splatter), until capers start to open and are brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chile flakes to pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer capers and garlic to a paper towel to drain.
  3. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with capers and a squeeze of lemon.

Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli & Leek Soup

Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Leek Soup

I got the idea for this soup from Frugal Feeding. Cauliflower, broccoli and leeks are all among my favorite vegetables. I used to be fairly neutral towards cauliflower until I started roasting it. I am fairly certain roasting makes just about anything better. If the soup is looking a little more white than green, that might be due to the fact that some a lot of the broccoli disappeared somewhere after roasting and before entering the soup pot.  Roasted broccoli is probably in my top 3 favorite vegetables. It would have been rude not to sample some, and like I said, roasting makes everything better.

I was tempted to try to make this with a melted cheese crouton on top, but since gluten-free bread is so incredibly temperamental, a piece of toast with some Boursin seemed like a much safer bet. Apart from the cheese on the bread, the soup is entirely vegan.  I ended up having a lot of soup left over, so I ended up freezing the rest. I’ll report back on how it serves up after defrosting when I get around to eating it.

 

Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli & Leek Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5+ garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 large (about 1 pound) bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and light green/white part cut in half vertically
  • 1 1/2 liters (6 cups) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. In a large heavy pot heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion when oil is hot. Cook onion until soft and starting to brown. Reduce heat and add in garlic. Allow onion and garlic to continue to brown and caramelize over low heat, stirring occasionally (about every 10 minutes) while you prepare the rest of the soup.
  2. In a large bowl or plastic bag toss cauliflower, broccoli and leeks with remaining olive oil. Place on large rimmed baking sheets (I had to use two) and place in oven for 25 minutes. Turn the vegetables after 15 minutes.
  3. When vegetables are done roasting, transfer to the large pot with the onion. Increase heat to medium-high and add in 1 liter/4 cups of vegetable broth with salt and pepper to taste. Allow soup to come to a low boil and remove from heat. With either a blender or a hand blender, blend the soup until you reach the desired consistency. If the soup is too thick, add in more broth 1 cup at a time.

Black & Green Olive Tapenade

Olive Tapenade

You could whip this up in less than five minutes. Tapenade is a great appetizer. It is wonderful for dipping veggies and is also great on crackers or bread. I actually made this tapenade not as an appetizer (even thought that’s what we used the leftovers for), but to put on chicken that I baked in the oven. It was also delicious. It is a pretty versatile spread. don’t like a lot of olive oil or overly oily dipping sauces, so I went a little light on the oil. You can add as much or as little you feel necessary.

Black & Green Olive Tapenade

  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 cup pitted green olives (I used Spanish olives with pimentos)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • olive oil, to preference
  1. Put all the ingredients except the lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor. Pulse for about 5 short bursts. Add in lemon juice and a small amount of olive oil. Pulse several more times. Add more oil if you need to. Continue pulsing and adding oil or lemon juice until desired consistency is reached.

Roasted Potato Stacks

Roasted Potato Stack

Um. This might be one of the best ways to serve potatoes I have stumbled across. I’m Irish, I am basically an expert on all things potato. So, if I say these are great potatoes, you can rest assured that these really great potatoes. And they are SO easy. So easy. They are also a great way to make multiple individual servings. These might even work for more of an appetizer orientated party.

For some reason we only have mini muffin pans or jumbo muffin pans… (Memo to self, get regular sized muffin pans.) I used the jumbo muffin tin, which worked out fine. The potatoes got super crispy where they were touching the edge of the pan. If I had a regular sized tin, they would have turned out super crispy and even more wonderful. The middle of the stack got super creamy and wonderful almost like a gratin, but without the effort.

Roasted Potato Stacks

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Brush 8 muffin tins with the garlic oil using a pastry brush or paper towel.
  2. Peel the potatoes and thinly slice them with a mandolin or by hand.
  3. Layer a potato slice in the bottom of a muffin tin and brush it with a thin layer of oil.
  4. Layer another slice of potato and brush it with the oil.
  5. Repeat until it stacks up to the top of the muffin tin.
  6. An alternate method would be to put the slices in a large bowl and toss with the oil mixture until coated.
  7. Repeat until you have a total of 8 potato stacks.
  8. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the potato stacks with the minced garlic.
  9. Bake the potato stacks in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown and cook through.
  10. Serve immediately with any main entrees.

Basic Cranberry Sauce

Basic Cranberry Sauce

This is the world’s most basic cranberry sauce. It is really more of a cranberry sauce base. You can do just about anything with it since it is just a ratio (1 cup water:1 cup sugar:4 cups cranberries). I generally add in substitute some orange juice instead of all water, but that’s just me. Throw in some nutmeg, maybe some orange zest and call it a day. I’ve heard of some folks adding chopped pecans or other fruit as well. Go wild.

Basic Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • Optional: Pecans, orange zest, dried cherries, dried apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.
  1. Wash and pick over cranberries. In a saucepan bring the water and orange juice to a boil water and stir in the sugar until it is dissolves. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Stir in any and all optional ingredients you desire.
  2. Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Mushroom & Lentil Soup

Mushroom, Vegetable & Lentil Soup

I desperately want it to be fall. It officially is according to the calendar, but the weather around here is making the reality quite different. I dream of cardigans and tights and flannels and coats and all the things that are completely useless in Southern California but any temperature under 65 degrees automatically warrants wearing. I keep thinking that if I act like it’s fall, it will be fall. That’s where soup comes in. It might be uncomfortably hot still, but I still keep thinking that if I make seasonally appropriate recipes or wear seasonally appropriate clothes, the season will also become appropriate. Unfortunately, this line of thought has resulted in nothing but annoyance and overheating.

Luckily this soup was delicious enough to over look the heat for the 10 minutes it took to eat. I got a hankering for soup over the weekend and saw some lentils in the cupboard crying out to be used up. I opened the fridge and the mushrooms literally threw themselves at me, so I thought it would be rude not to include them as well. I googled around for a bit trying to find a mushroom and lentil soup recipe, but nothing was really leaping out at me. So in typical fashion I chopped up some vegetables, threw them in a pot, minced some garlic, added some spices and broth, added a bit more garlic for good measure, put a lid on it and hoped for the best. I was a bit concerned about the mushrooms getting rubbery (blah), but fortunately they managed to maintain their natural mushroomy consistency and even survived reheating. This soup is basically endlessly adaptable. You could throw in diced tomatoes and their juice for a cup of broth, add some spinach or kale, and just about any other vegetable you could imagine.

Mushroom & Lentil Soup

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1-8 ounce package mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils, green or brown (the bigger ones), well rinsed
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  1. Prepare and cut up all the vegetables.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When heated, add in onion, carrots and garlic and cook until slightly softened and fragrant.
  3. Add in spices and mushrooms and stir to coat. Allow water from mushrooms to cook off slightly and add in lentils and broth.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are all cooked and soft.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Apparently I missed the memo where the second it turns September automatically makes it Fall. It’s still in the 80s here and hot and humid, definitely not a hint of autumn in the air. Well, if you can’t beat the heat, you might as well attempt to enjoy it. Luckily, some prime summer produce has decide to hang around as well.  I picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ market over the weekend and decided to put them too good use as soon as I got home.

This turned out to be a perfect summertime salad. The dressing was delicious. I definitely plan on using it again. This could easily be turned into a main course by adding some goat cheese or grilled chicken or shrimp.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • 1 package salad greens (I used butter lettuce)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  1. Place salad greens in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and oregano. Pour 3/4 of the dressing over salad greens; toss to coat. Transfer to a large platter. Arrange tomato slices over greens. Top with basil and onion. Drizzle remaining dressing over the tomatoes.

Dijon-Dill Potato Salad

Dijon-Dill Potato Salad

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States, which means it’s unofficially summer! That means it’s now time for barbecues and flip-flops and margaritas and baseball. Barbecues require more than just a grill and some meat, side dishes are also necessary. I have to admit, I am very, very wary of other people’s foods at barbecues. Several summers ago I suffered the wrath of a mayonnaise-laden potato salad that had been sitting out too long. Needless to say, it was not an enjoyable experience. Ever since, I’ve be a fan of mayo-less options and refrigeration.

This potato salad has tons of flavor and no mayo, so it’s the perfect summer side in my dish. This is also a vegan dish. As a recovered former vegetarian, I always appreciated when there were tasty non-meant options at barbecues. I swear some people randomly add bacon to side dishes just to spite non-meat eaters. This potato salad should keep everybody happy. I searched and searched for a recipe that had the flavors I was in the mood for and came up flat, so I just threw together what sounded good in my head and hoped for the best. I like really strong and tangy flavors, so the combination of capers, vinegar and lemon juice was perfect to me. I also only used 3 tablespoons of oil, since olive oil isn’t my favorite flavor/texture. If you think the capers and vinegar might be overwhelming, slightly upping the amount of oil should help balance it out.

Dijon-Dill Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, finely chopeed
  • 3-5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons grainy dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Kosher (or coarse) salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Put the potatoes in a big pot with enough water to cover by 1-inch. Season with salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook just until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot, uncovered, with off the heat. Let them sit until almost room temperature. (Cooling them in the warm pot will get rid of any excess water in the potatoes, which is good for potato salad purposes.)
  3. While the potatoes are cooling, combine all the other ingredients together in a large bowl. Adjust flavors to taste.
  4. When the potatoes are cool, add into the large bowl and toss lightly to coat with the dressing.

Aguas Frescas

aguas frescas

Perhaps your Cinco had a bit to much drinko involved with it. These should help alleviate some of the problems you are facing today. These drinks are actually good any day, especially when it’s hot out. And the are super easy to make. Aguas frescas are really popular Latin American drinks, but there are some variations from country to country. Living in Southern California, I am most familiar with the Mexican variety. You can find them served at pretty much an taqueria you go to and even most of the ‘fancier’ Mexican restaurants will have some version of their own. There are even bottled aguas frescas, but trust me, you are better off sticking to the fresh stuff. Aguas frescas are traditionally just fruit purée, water and a bit of sugar. I find that most of the restaurants add way too much sugar. If you get fresh, in season fruit, I think that’s usually sweet enough on it’s own. I also like to make mine with sparkling water to give them a little more of a refreshing feel.

Strawberry Aguas Frescas

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  • juice of two limes
  • water, sparkling or flat, of choice (I used La Croix Coconut)
  1. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Push purée through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.
  2. Pour purée into a large pitcher and add lime juice. Stir together. Top with water and stir (lightly if using sparkling water) to mix.
  3. Serve and enjoy!
Pineapple-Mango Aguas Frescas
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
  • 2 fresh mangoes, chopped
  • juice of two limes
  • water, sparkling or flat, of choice (I used La Croix Lime)
  • generous dash of cayenne pepper (optional for when you are feeling a bit crazy).
  1. Blend the pineapple, mangoes and lime juice (and cayenne pepper if using) together.
  2. Pour into a large pitcher. Top with water and stir (lightly if using sparkling water) to mix.
  3. Serve and enjoy!