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. 

chilled mint yogurt soup


It was pretty exciting when one of the editors at the Huffington Post asked to feature my chocolate mint cake on their website, this was a great start to the holidays! With summer in full swing, we slipped away to Fire Island in New York for a week with a couple of friends. We were super lucky to have missed most of the heat wave and the electric shortage that hit D.C. during that entire week. Fire Island is a long and narrow barrier island that is surrounded by the bay with some beautiful beaches and wildlife. Its also a fun summer party spot. Beaches on the North East have waters that are a bit too cool for my liking, so I tend to spend more time on the sand. Fire Island is very interesting, there are boardwalks that connect the entire island, except for golf carts and water taxis you won't find any gas propelled vehicles. The island is also National Park which is where some of these rules stem from. 


I am sharing some of my favorite random moments on this holiday. A life-size Superman adorned the entrance to a house on the boardwalk. You always run into deer on the island that are neutralized to humans (which does not mean you should feed or touch them), they will walk right next to you and go about their business. Its fascinating bit a bit unnerving. Since there are no lights at night, it does get pretty dark, we almost walked into a doe on the boardwalk but thankfully it was smarter and crossed over to the side and let us pass. I was secretly hoping to see some foxes but unfortunately either I missed them or they missed me. 


The house we rented was wonderful. You could see the bay and watch the sun traverse its way across the horizon. There aren't too many restaurants to eat at Fire Island, so you tend to cook a lot. The kitchen had all the basic amenities and we grilled and barbecued almost every day. I got a chance to cook some fresh scallops and shrimp and there is nothing better than fresh seafood with a glass of wine. The week passed us by so quickly and by the time we were back in D.C. we were greeted by temperatures over 106F and high humidity levels! I was still glad to be back since I began to miss Snoopy and his licks. We spent the rest of our weekend readjusting (recovery and rest) before we got back into the grind. Snoopy was exhausted from playing at his daycare and slept all weekend. It looks like everyone had a good time!


This is the perfect recipe for a hot day when you don't feel like spending too much time in the kitchen and need something soothing and light to cool you down. Though you do need to chill the soup for at least two hours. If you are running short on time, you can rest the soup bowl into a larger bowl containing crushed ice to chill it down faster. Inspired by middle eastern cuisine, this recipe uses refreshing mint in both dried and fresh forms to brighten up the flavors of the soup. Garlic adds a little bit of a kick to the soup. Sometimes, if I feel that the garlic might be too strong (especially if we plan to go out later - the dreaded garlic breath), I will tone the intensity of the garlic down by sautéing it gently with some olive oil. However, if you prefer you can use the garlic directly in the soup without cooking it.


chilled yogurt soup

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 large persian cucumber (about 1 1/2- 2 cups)
3 cups plain non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried mint 

1. Coarsely grate the cucumber, squeeze the liquid and keep aside. 
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt gently for a minute. Finely mince the garlic and sauté it gently for 20 seconds with half of the olive oil on medium-high flame in a small saucepan. Add the garlic, cucumber, fresh mint, ancho chili, and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. Chill the soup for at least two hours before serving. Garnish with the dried mint and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with warm pita bread.


zaatar chickpea salad


Fall is here, after a wonderful weekend at the Outer Banks, we missed the sudden drop in temperatures. D.C. is much cooler and it seems to have happened a bit too fast for me. Summer clothes must be packed away and the sweaters need to come out. None of this has happened yet, at least at my end.


We will be up in N.Y.C. this weekend to visit our friends Tim and Meghana who have planned a fun trip to what I think is called "Little Egypt". I've been to N.Y.C so many times especially more so after Meghana moved there. Meghana was my partner-in-crime during our school days and we share a common fondness  for good food and wine among other things. I constantly rely on her recently developed "home grown" experiences of the city as she experiments her way through the diverse and rich cultures of the melting pot that is N.Y.C. I have been cultivating my ulterior plan for this trip, MUST PURCHASE A Tagine !


This quick and easy salad was based on the idea that I could prepare a protein rich vegetarian salad packed with flavor and color. I also wanted to avoid a salad with any sort of liquid dressing but still get a good lemony flavor. I realized that I might be able to avoid adding fresh lemon juice or vinegar but get the acidic taste in the salad and keep it dry at the same time by using Za'atar. Za'atar is like magic. Za'atar is one of my favorite Middle Eastern spice blends that commonly contains sesame seeds, salt, sumac and dried herbs like oregano, thyme and marjoram. By sauteing the chickpeas and the mushrooms and then adding freshly cut scallions and gorgeous sweet red peppers, the salad was able to have delicious crispy crunch in every bite. This salad could be accompanied with pita bread or you could even toss in some crushed toasted pita chips.

za'atar chickpea salad

yield: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virigin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 cups of chickpeas, soaked overnight or 2 cans of chickpeas
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 tablespoon Za'atar
1 cup chopped fresh scallions - both green and white parts
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup freshly chopped mint leaves
salt and pepper to season

1. In a skillet, heat up the olive oil on a high flame and saute the garlic for 30 seconds to release the flavors. 
2. Rinse and drain and the chickpeas and add them along with the mushrooms and saute for about 6-7 minutes. 
3.Toss in the Za'atar and take the skillet off the flame and keep aside to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, add the rest of the vegetables, followed by the cooled chickpeas and mushrooms. Garnish with the fresh mint and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Serve the salad at room temperature or chilled.