Monthly Archives: April 2016

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Being a Yankee and all, I’ve got a particular fondness for the magazines Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and America’s Test Kitchen podcast, along with their founder, Christopher Kimball. Christopher Kimball is as quintessential New England as clam chowder (a.k.a. chowdah). Right down to his bow tie and cranky no-nonsense approach to cooking. And life in general. Just my kind of guy.

Cook’s Illustrated recently published a red lentil soup recipe with North African spices. I just had to make it. It’s healthy and tasty as all get out. I did find, however, that the lentils didn’t break down as easily as the recipe claimed. I had to work really at breaking them down. As a matter of fact, I decided to pull out my potato masher and have at it. Not that it’s a big deal, but thought you should know.

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This recipe serves 4-6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped fine

Salt and pepper

¾ tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. ground cumin

¼ ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pinch cayenne

1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 garlic clove, minced

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

10 ounces (1 ½ cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed.

2 tbsp. lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning

1 tsp. dried mint, ½ crumbled

1 tsp. paprika

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (I had basil on hand so that’s what I used)

Diced avocado as a garnish is also optional

Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and ¼ tsp. pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to a simmer.

Simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half broken down, about 15 minutes.

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Whisk soup vigorously until it’s coarsely pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Cover and keep warm (soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Thin soup with water, if desired, when reheating).

Melt remaining 2 tbsp. of butter in small skillet. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle each portion with 1 tsp. spiced butter, sprinkle with cilantro (I had basil on hand) and serve.

For an extra nutritional boost, I floated some diced avocado on top. Delish!

Eat well!

April

“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.” – Norman Rockwell

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about mortality since Roger’s glioblastoma diagnosis. And, I might add, an equal amount of time trying NOT to think about mortality. In an effort to clobber Roger’s cancer into remission through “good” living, I’ve read oodles of articles on nutrition, anti-cancer diets, exercise, acupuncture, meditation, and the list goes on and on and on. Our friends have shared books, articles, advice, and other helpful information to assist us in our all-out war effort. Do you know what’s missing from this “combat cancer” literature? Peanut butter and jelly sandwich cookies. I know what you’re thinking: what the h*** is she talking about? She’s finally lost it. Please let me explain. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe any of us should live our days in an “all or nothing” existence. Without question, we should all be eating less/no processed foods, exercise more and think about our sugar intake, but give up homemade cookies forever because they contain sugar and fat? That’s just crazy talk. Life’s too short. Everything in moderation.

If you doubt my sanity on this topic, just close your eyes and take a moment to imagine yourself walking through the door of a bakery, or your home, and you’re surrounded by the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Are you smiling? Are you joyful? That smell is one-of-a-kind and joy is a powerful weapon against cancer, so break out those cookie sheets every so often and get baking. 

This recipe’s from Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop in Washington, DC, and was recently published in Food and Wine. They are AMAZING!

Cookie Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1-stick unsalted butter, at room temp. 

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter

1/4 cup chopped honey-roasted peanuts

Filling

1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup seedless jam, such as Concord grape, raspberry, or strawberry

Make the dough:

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Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy. About 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, mixing well between additions. Fold in the peanut butter until fully incorporated. 

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Scoop 24 one-inch balls of dough onto the baking sheets at least 2-inches apart. Press the balls down slightly; they should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the tops with the chopped peanuts. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown and the tops are slightly cracked. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to let cool completely. 

In a bowl, using a hand mixer whip the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt at medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes until chilled. 

Spoon 1 1/2 tbsp. of the filling on the underside of 12 cookies. Spread 1 tbsp. of jam on the underside of the remaining cookies. Sandwich the halves together and eat. 🙂 Enjoy!

Eat well!

April

F*** glioblastoma!

“Good health and good sense are two of life’s greatest blessings.” – Publilius Syrus

Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad

 

Asparagus spears are officially in season here in CA, but for a limited time only so get ‘em while they’re hot. Be sure and hit your local farmer’s market this weekend for the best selection and to support your favorite grower.

This recipe will serve 2-3 as a side.  

1 small fennel bulb, shaved thinly (I used a hand-held mandoline)

10 asparagus spears, cleaned and shaved (lay flat on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler)

2 small oranges

¼ cup roasted walnut pieces

¼ cup quality EVOO

1/3 cup shaved quality, and aged, Parmesan cheese (use a vegetable peeler)

6 large basil leaves basil, julienned

Pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

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Add the shaved asparagus and fennel to a serving bowl. Add the EVOO and salt and toss. Let this sit while you take care of the orange.

Zest one of the oranges and add the zest to the bowl with the fennel and asparagus.

Cut off the ends of the oranges (the stem area and the nub at the bottom) and place them on a cutting board (makes them more stable). Use a paring knife and follow the shape of the oranges so you don’t lose the precious meat.

 Hold the oranges over the bowl and remove each segment with your knife. The juice from the oranges will drip down into the bowl. Toss the segments and juice with the shaved veggies. Let this sit for about 20-30 minutes until the asparagus wilts a bit.

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Add the walnuts, Parmesan, and basil and toss again. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste and serve. Enjoy!

Eat well!

April

“Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?” – Curly Howard