lentil and tahini soup

lentil and tahini soup

I'm finally back from Charleston and as always the Holy City always pleases with its charming Southern culture and delicious food. My friends had a beautiful wedding and I had a wonderful time celebrating their special moment with them. I'm always excited for vacations and short getaway trips but I have to be honest, I am always excited to come back and relax in the comfort of my own home. What I love to do the most when I come back home from any trip is to kick back in my pajamas and read a book. 

lentil

While we are on the subject of comfort, I should tell you that soups are one of my favorite comfort foods. This particular soup has quickly become a quick and tasty way for us to enjoy the cold weather  while we stay warm indoors. It's packed with nutritious lentils and flavored with fresh dill. The richness of the soup comes from the lentils and the natural creaminess of the tahini. I keep a jar of tahini on hand in my kitchen at all times. It's my magic ingredient for many dishes because it can take a simple dish and infuse a whole new level of complexity to your meal. Tahini is flavor and awesomeness on wheels and a little bit goes a very long way!

dill

You could probably use any type of lentil in this soup, I've used split mung (moong) lentils that have their outer green skin removed, consequently these lentils appear yellow in color. This soup is best eaten the day it is prepared because the flavors are fresh and bold. You can always up the amount of chili flakes to increase the heat in the soup. As the lentils tend to thicken the soup as time proceeds (even on storage), you can always add additional water to thin it out, just taste and season if necessary. 

lentil tahini soup

lentil and tahini soup

yields:

4 - 6 serving

ingredients

1 1/2 cups (11 5/8 ounces) yellow mung/

moong (split with skin removed) 

lentils 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

6 cups water**

2 tablespoons tahini

2 limes

1/2 cup fresh dill + 2 tablespoons for garnish, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1. Clean the lentils and remove any visible stones and dirt. Rinse the lentils in cold water, drain and keep aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on a medium high flame. Add and stir the garlic and chili flakes in the hot oil for 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of water and the washed lentils to the stockpot. Bring the contents of the stockpot to a boil and then immediately reduce the flame to a medium low. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the lentils to cook until tender. This will take about 40-45 minutes. **If the soup gets too thick, you can adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more water. 

3. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and mix in the tahini. Make sure the tahini is completely mixed into the soup. Squeeze the limes and stir in the lime juice, 1/2 cup of chopped dill and salt. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

4. Remove the pot from the stove and serve the soup warm garnished with a little of the extra chopped fresh dill. 

braised cabbage with lentils


braised cabbage with red lentils

It's the start of the new year with new memories to make and fresh recipes to share with you. And what better way to begin than to share one of my favorite ways to eat cabbage. Cabbage has always been one of my favorite vegetables as a child and it still holds a special place in my pyramid of food choices.  I enjoyed eating cabbage a lot, so much so that it really annoyed my mother when she would ask me what I would like to eat. She also got the same answer when it came to colors, I loved grey (I owned and still own my clothing items that are in different shades of grey) and she'd insist that grey was not really a color. Needless to say, I still love cabbages and the color grey! 

napa cabbage

There are many different ways to cook cabbage in Indian households, this perhaps holds a special place in my heart because it is the way I remember my grandmother preparing it. She served this on the side with a piping hot stew of beef, chicken or lamb and fresh loaves of bread. It was definitely a much more simple dish but an absolutely delicious meal and one of my favorites from her Goan kitchen.

red lentils

There are very few ingredients in this dish and the flavors are still wonderfully complex. The presoaked red lentils are cooked in the hot oil that is flavored with chili and they capture the heat of the peppers which provides a delicious punch when you taste the cabbage and the lentils. Although, it is not always necessary to presoak lentils before they are cooked, I find that the soaking process quickens the speed at which the lentils are cooked and they fluff up and become much more tender when cooked in the hot oil and the cabbage. Cabbage leaves also contain a large amount of water and when cooked the water is released which aids in braising the vegetables and lentils. I also prefer to use Napa cabbage in this recipe because it retains it structure against the high heat during cooking without getting mushy and too soft.

braised cabbage with lentils

braised cabbage with lentils

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

2/3 cup red lentils
2 lbs napa cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 thai green chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) leaves, finely chopped to garnish

1. Clean and remove any stones and dirt from the lentils. Rinse the lentils under cold tap water and soak the lentils in water for 1 hour. 
2. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Quarter the cabbage across its length and then cut each quarter into thin shreds. Place the cabbage in a colander and rinse the cut leaves under cold running tap water. Transfer the cabbage shreds onto a clean kitchen towel and press to absorb any excess water.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large wok with a lid and medium high flame. As soon as the oil begins to get hot, add the chili flakes and chili pepper and stir for 15 seconds. 
4. Drain the water from the soaked lentils and transfer them to the hot oil. Stir fry the lentils for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt and black pepper to the wok, stir to mix and cover with the lid. Cook until the cabbage is tender with occasional stirring. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove the wok from the flame and transfer the hot cabbage to a serving dish. Garnish with the chopped cilantro (or parsley) and serve with bread or plain rice.

lentil and pumpkin shami kebab

shami kebab

Yup, another pumpkin related post this week! This one is all about vegetarian kebabs without the need for outdoor grilling which makes it fantastic if it is getting chilly outdoors. Lighter, warmer, and fun and of course orange, these are literally the components of the theme of this recipe. 

lentilles du puy

There are probably a zillion different types of kebabs that you can find in almost every city of India. Skewers are adorned with delicious cuts and flavors of all sorts of meat and others like these shami kebabs than are seasoned  and then pan fried to crispy perfection. Traditionally, you would make these kebabs with ground meat (lamb, beef, or even poultry) but off late, I've been hankering a craving for something a little more festive surrounding fall flavors with a lighter flair. So out went the meat while in walked the lentilles du puy and raw freshly grated pumpkin and a crispy spicy kebab was born on a hot cast iron pan in my kitchen.

(Just in case the heightened level of my excitement doesn't come through, I am REALLY HAPPY with the way the kebab held its texture and shape during and after cooking and best of all they even after refrigeration. Just the right texture and just the right amount of moisture). 

vegetarian shami kebab

This pickled red onion relish is delicious but more importantly it is quick and easy to make. A 15 minute onion pickle that is loaded with sour and very mild notes of  sweetness goes great with these vegetarian kebabs. Slice, shake, sit and eat, that pretty much sums up all the effort you need here. 

kebab making

I'll give you a fair warning here, these kebabs are hot, if you like them hotter add more chili, if you don't cut back. The number of spices on the ingredient list make it look lengthy and daunting but believe it really is worth using fresh whole spices and then grinding them down to give the vegetable kebabs a richer flavor.

Tip: I normally adjust the amount of salt and pepper based on taste test after I fry one kebab. If I feel the salt is too little, I will add a little more. If it is too much, then add a little bit of bread crumbs. It is better to start with a lower amount of salt and then adjust the seasoning.

shami kebab2

lentil and pumpkin shami kebabs

yields: 12-14 kebabs

ingredients 

1 cup lentilles du puy
3 cups grated pumpkin, raw (sugar pie pumpkin)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon chick pea flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea-salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 teaspoon red chili flakes, freshly ground  
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon mace, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin,
2 cloves
zest of one lime, fresh
1 green cardamom pod, seeds removed (discard the green shell)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, freshly chopped
1 green thai chili pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs will work too)
olive oil for frying

1. Clean the lentils for any stones, wash and soak them in cold water overnight. The next day, drain the water, add 2 cups of water and bring the contents to a boil on a medium high flame in a thick bottom stock pot. Then reduce the flame to low and cook the lentils for 45 minutes until tender. Using a sieve, drain the liquid from the lentils and place the lentils on a clean towel to absorb any excess liquid.
2. In a coffee grinder or spice grinder, grind all the spices from the coriander to the cardamom seeds and keep aside.
3. In a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Add the lentils to this mix and pulse for 5 seconds 5 times to get a coarse mixture. The texture crumbly and not smooth. Transfer the contents to a bowl and using your hands mix the ingredients (this ensures that everything is blended and seasoned uniformly). With the palms of your hands, mold the kebabs into little flattened discs that are about 1 inch in diameter. You should get approximately 12-14 kebabs. 
3. Heat a little oil in a cast iron skillet on a medium-high flame (I normally use about 2 tablespoon for every 6 kebabs). Fry 6 kebabs at a time for about 4 minutes on each side, until each kebab is golden brown (the internal temperature should reach 130F). Place the kebabs on a clean paper towel to drain any excess oil and serve hot with rice or flat bread (like naan or roti) and plain yogurt. 

quick pickled red onion relish

servings: 2-4 people

ingredients

1 large red onion
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 green thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar

1. Peel the onion, cut into half and then thinly slice each section. 
2. In a clean jar, mix all the ingredients together.  Cover the jar tightly with a lid and shake it a few times. Leave for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. You can adjust the amount of salt and sugar as needed but I prefer to have this more sour and less salty and sweet. 

rhubarb lentil salad

Rhubarb lentil salad

Last weekend, we visited Grayson County in Virginia which is also home to the picturesque Mount Rogers. Now for some reason, I have always had a little bit of a love affair with the sign that marks the camping site, it's absolutely gorgeous and I finally realized why. The sign always reminds of the camping signs in the old Yogi Bear cartoons! Our trip was fun, judging by the way I ate several homemade farm-fresh bread rolls every morning that I loaded with cream cheese. I'm the kind of guy that loves dunking things like buttered bread and cookies into my coffee or tea and it seemed completely justified at the time, since we were at the Sells' farm for the entire weekend. 

Mount Rogers and Rhubarb

This is rhubarb season and instead of focussing on the many traditional rhubarb desserts (which I do love), I opted for a light and refreshing rhubarb lentil salad. By the way, strawberry rhubarb cobblers are still one of my favorite rhubarb-based desserts. I was lucky to convince Shelly to give me some of her fresh rhubarb stalks that she grows besides several other wonderful things, down at her farm.


Rhubarb

Perhaps, since summer is at hand, salads are on my mind a little more than usual. I've been eating almost everything I can, as a salad. So here's my rhubarb-based lentil salad seasoned and spiced with coriander and fresh mint. The rhubarb gives a delicious acidic and tart flavor to the lentils. To keep with the theme of using farm-grown produce, I tossed in some fresh sorrel leaves that I planted a few months back.

Coriander Seeds
Sorrel and Rhubarb lentil salad

rhubarb lentil salad

yields: 2-4 servings

ingredients

1 cup black lentils, cleaned and rinsed
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seeds, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cup rhubarb stalks, diced
kosher sea-salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
a few fresh sorrel leaves to garnish

1. Bring the lentils and water to a boil in a large saucepan on a high flame. Reduce the flame to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain the excess liquid from the lentils and keep the lentils aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in the same saucepan on a medium flame for about 40 seconds. Add the coriander, chili, and oregano to the hot oil and stir for about 20 seconds. Stir in the onions and garlic and sauté till translucent for about 10 minutes. Add the drained lentils to the saucepan along with the rhubarb. Cover with a lid and reduce the flame to a low-medium. Cook for another 10 minutes until the rhubarb pieces are tender. Remove from the stove and season with salt and pepper.
3. Allow the lentils to cool to room temperature and then fold in the fresh mint leaves. Before serving the salad, garnish with the sorrel leaves.

braised lamb riblets and lentil stew


Its been a cold and windy week here but at least we had some sun which made it easier being outside. Of late, I've been preoccupied with catching up with some of my favorite T.V. shows that are finally back. I want to bring some of the vintage styles of the kitchen at Downton Abbey at home. I love period pieces, they get me nostalgic for bygone eras and make me wonder about how they accomplished the simplest of tasks back then.



With the "gift" of the long weekend, I ended up massively organizing and getting rid of any visible clutter. I get goosebumps when I see clutter, it drives me nuts! The hardest part is convincing others at home to get rid of stuff. My golden rule is "If you haven't worn or used it in six months then you should get rid of it". 





This recipe brings is especially nostalgic for me. When I was growing up this particular recipe known as "dal ghosht" or lentils with lamb, was one of my favorite dishes at home and we always had it with either goat or lamb meat. I remember, savoring the creamy lentils and soft meat over a bed of warm rice and sometimes with a side of chilled plain yogurt. Goat and lamb are by far one of my favorite meats to eat but since they are hard to find, I generally cook these meats less frequently than I'd actually like to. Comfort foods should be easy and simple and this stew certainly fulfills these criteria. This stew, I promise will satisfy your hunger cravings. While it simmers on the stove, the meat gets tender and begins to fall off the bones, while the lentils continue to thicken the sauce making this a hearty meal. Give it a shot, this is definitely worth your time and you will have a new favorite in the kitchen.


braised goat riblets with lentils


ingredients


2lbs lamb riblets
1 cup red lentils, cleaned and washed
1 red onion, quartered
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste


In a food processor, pulverize the onion, garlic, ginger and tomato paste with 1/2 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot on a medium flame. Add the riblets and brown them on each side. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the riblets and keep them aside  Add the bay leaves, garam masala and the paste from the food processor to the same stockpot and cook with constant stirring for 6 minutes. Stir in the lentils and water, followed by the browned riblets. Add the turmeric and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and reduce the flame to a gentle simmer. Cook for 45 minutes till the meat begins to fall of the bone. Serve hot with warm rice.


persian rice with green lentils, raisins and dates


I don't drive to work but these days the traffic in the city is a "daymare"/nightmare. It takes more than an hour to get to work and back home. The only advantage to this is taking naps or reading a book on the D.C. Circulator bus, provided I get a seat. I wish I could do something more fruitful with these wasted hours traveling, though naps are most welcome.


During these long bus trips, I've been hankering a craving for Persian food. It is a nice change from all the Holiday themed meals around me. Part of my craving, lies in a new cookbook that I am reading while killing time on the bus and the other half of it lies in the basmati rice dishes that are served at the Persian restaurants I've eaten at. Basmati rice is one of the most fragrant and long-grained rice of the rice family. A staple of Indian cooking for centuries, this Indian grain is widely used in several Middle Eastern and sometimes Mediterranean dishes. There aren't too many Persian restaurants in D.C. that I am aware of but I have tried some delicious offerings at Shamshiry in Tyson's Corner in Virginia. Another interesting fact about basmati rice relative to other rice grains is its low glycemic index that ranges from 43 to 60 whereas other varieties of rice are generally between 72 to 98, make this a healthy option for diabetics. I would recommend buying Basmati rice at an Indian grocery store or a brand that has a made in India label on it, simply because the difference in taste and quality is striking.



To soothe my cravings, I figured that a foray into Persian cooking might just be what the doctor ordered. This particular rice dish, Adas polo, I think is deliciously fruity yet wholesome. Sweet and tangy flavors complement the basmati rice making this a wholesome vegetarian meal by itself. This dish reminded me of the Indian pilafs that are so equally hearty and flavorful.Quite a few ingredients could be potentially substituted in this dish, craisins for the raisins or even beluga lentils for the green lentils. This recipe was adapted from New Persian Cooking by Jila Dana -Haeri with Shahrzad Ghorashian. A side note with this dish, a crust might form at the bottom of the dish when the rice is being fluffed at the final stage of cooking. This crispy layer is a highly prized crust or tahdig that many Persians love. This dish can be accompanied by a light salad and or cold Greek yogurt.



persian rice with green lentils, raisins and dates

ingredients

1 cup green lentils/lentils du puy
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 cup packed raisins or sultanas
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped
3 cups basmati rice (soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours)
3 tablespoons salt
1 liter water
1 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the lentils cook till al dente. Drain the lentils and keep aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions till golden brown. Reduce the flame, and saute the raisins and the dates. Add the lentils to the skillet along with 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Add salt to taste and keep aside. 
Bring the water to boil, add salt and oil. Drain the rice and add the rice to the boiling water. Leave to simmer, uncovered on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Drain any excess water from the rice. In a separate shallow dish (flame proof dish, as this will be put back on the stove), add all the rice and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooked rice. Gently fold the lentil mixture into the rice, taking care that none of the rice grains break during this process. The rice will pick up the turmeric color and turn yellow. Layer the reserved white rice grains on top of the lentil rice mixture in the dish. Cover the dish with a tight lid and let the rice steam on a medium flame for about 50 minutes till the rice fluffs up. The tahdig or crust will form at the bottom of the dish. To release it easily immerse the bottom of your dish in cold water. Remove the top rice and lentil mixture into a serving bowl, fluffing it while you remove the rice. Detach and break the plain rice tahdig from the bottom of the pan and serve it with the rice. Serve the rice warm or hot and fluff the rice before serving.

pork and beluga lentils with harissa


I must be honest, I am not looking forward to tomorrow evening. Day one of the first class of my final year. I am four classes away from self-inflicted torture. Exams, tests, projects, theses etc... I dread my upcoming thesis nightmare as much as fire loves water. I've been conjuring up vacations in my head and already planning my summer trips for next year. 


I will miss my "free" evenings for one more year now. Perhaps, it would be more apt to say "education-free" evenings, either way another school year begins but at least its the final one. I must be more patient like Garfield.


I've been looking forward to slow cooking pork chops with the Harissa, I made recently. One mainly because I want to eat this Harissa soon and two because we got some nice cuts of pork. Chicken or beef would make excellent substitutes for pork. There is something marvelous about slow cooking in a crock-pot, the aromas in the room and the way the meat melts off the bone is simply amazing. If I could try to add anything to every meal, it would be beluga or black lentils. I love their creamy and meaty texture especially in Indian lentil broths like dals. This turned out to be a fairly easy dish that could be served with warmed pita or toasted bread slices. I like my pork shoulders to contain at least a small amount of fat when I begin with them, since pork chops that are too lean produce weak flavor and get dry during cooking. The advantage of cooking meat with their fats in a slow cooker allows for the rendering of the fat to produce nice complex flavors but also with the added advantage of skimming of all the excess fat from the top of the stew in the crock-pot. This way the fat serves its purpose and is then kicked out. This recipe does call for a whole bottle of wine, don't skimp, use a good quality white wine that you would serve to drink with your guests. I sometimes like to use wine instead of broths to cook meat with. 

pork and beluga lentils with harissa

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

2 cups beluga/black lentils
6 - 1" thick pork chops
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Harissa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750ml Pinot Grigio
salt to season

1. Pre-soak the lentils overnight at room temperature. The next day, rinse the water off the lentils and keep aside. In the slow cooker or crock pot, adjust the temperature to the high setting and add the olive oil. When the oil heats up, add the harissa and tomato paste and saute it for about 3 minutes. 
2.Pour in the wine and mix the stew to a smooth liquid. Carefully, add in the pork chops and half a teaspoon of salt. Now, turn the setting on the cooker to the low setting and allow it to cook for 5 hours. 
3. After the pork chops are cooked, remove them from the resulting stew and let them rest covered with a lid. 
4. Add the beluga lentils to the broth in the pot and allow them to cook for a further one hour at the high setting. Skim and discard any excess fat from the surface of the broth and add the pork chops back to the stew. Serve hot with pita or toasted bread slices.