spicy artichoke quinoa pilaf

spicy artichoke and tri colored quinoa pilaf

We finally made it to California after a very, very long drive but the drive was definitely worth it! The week long road trip across the country was so much fun and at some point I will share those photographs with you in a separate post. Between unpacking and getting the place set up, I've realized I've missed having a kitchen and the ability to cook.  Eating out is fun but not everyday for a few weeks and on the road your options are really limited! By the way, when our stuff finally arrived to our new home, I was in shock, when did I collect so much stuff!!!

tricolored quinoa

I've started to take advantage of the numerous farmer's markets and stalls that are all over this gorgeous state and what better way to kick it off my first post from the new place, than with some fresh baby artichokes, that we picked up on one of our trips to the beach last Memorial day weekend and bundle that up with a giveaway from the wonderful folks at Bob's Red Mill.

Pilaf/Pulavs are Indian rice dishes flavored with spices and loaded with vegetables, meat or both and remain one of my favorite and easy ways to cook a single tasty meal at home. Pilafs are versatile, simple and yet bold with complex flavors that make them stand out. My mother made and still makes delicious pilafs on weekends and we would eat them with a side of plain yogurt or a salad. It's also my little way of "cheating" to save time and impress people when they come over.

artichokes

I've replaced the rice in this pilaf with Bob's Red Mill's tricolored quinoa (which by the way is simply gorgeous with different little colored pearls) which is an excellent rice substitute. I've thrown in a generous handful of fresh, little baby artichokes and seasoned the pilaf with black cardamom, ginger, garlic and a bunch of other aromatics.  

Bob's Red Mill is giving away a bag of their delicious tricolored quinoa and a $20 gift card to their store. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is follow the instructions in the widget and enter. This giveaway is open only to legal residents of the United States. This contest will run from May 30th through May 6th, 2014. Good luck, share the post and have fun!

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions here are solely mine, unless stated otherwise.

spicy artichoke and quinoa pilaf

spicy artichoke quinoa pilaf

yields: 2-4 servings

ingredients

1 cup (6 1/4 ounces) tricolored quinoa (Bob's Red Mill)
6 1/2 cups water 
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
32 ounces baby artichokes
1 tablespoon vinegar/lemon juice
1 cup diced red/white onion
10 black peppercorns, whole
4 cloves
4 thai chili peppers, stalks removed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 large garlic cloves, peeled 
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1. Place the quinoa in sieve and wash thoroughly under running cold tap water for about 2 minutes. I like to massage the quinoa with my fingers to remove any bitter saponins that might be present. Leave the quinoa in the sieve to drain and then transfer to a medium sized saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the saucepan, bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the water is completely evaporated for about 12-15 minutes and the quinoa is completely cooked. (The colorless quinoa should be completely translucent without any white uncooked spots).  Cover with a lid and keep aside until ready to use.
2. Clean the artichokes by peeling of the harder outer green leaves until you reach the inner soft and tender yellow parts. Trim the bottom and the tops of each artichoke and place the artichoke in a bowl containing 4 cups of water and the vinegar to prevent them from browning. Discard the trimmed bottoms and tops.
3. Add the diced onion, peppercorns, cloves, chili, turmeric, garlic, and ginger in a blender/immersion blender or food processor with the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Pulse until the ingredients are completely ground to a smooth pulp. 
4. Heat the olive oil in a large wok or saucepan with a lid on medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the cardamom and bay leaves. Stir the spices for about 15 seconds and then add the thinly sliced red onions to the pan. Sauté the onions until they begin to get golden brown for about 4-5 minutes. Add the ground spice mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the wok and cook for 1 minute. Drain the artichokes and add them to the wok. Fold gently and cover the wok with its lid and cook until the artichokes are completely tender, this will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Once the artichokes are cooked, fold in the quinoa and slice the lemon and squeeze the lemon juice over the pilaf. Stir the contents and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the wok from the stove and garnish with the fresh cilantro leaves before serving. Serve hot with plain yogurt.
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raw ginger strawberry smoothie

raw ginger strawberry smoothie

Moving is clearly insane, the last time I did a huge move was almost eight years ago and it was just me. This time round, it's the two of us and the dog and I can't just toss things out (I'm a big fan of decluttering, I get anxious otherwise) I need to think about everyone involved, what they love and what they don't. But now all of that is done with and I am focussed on our week cross country ride which is going to be the trip of a lifetime! There's new states to visit, places to see, foods to try out, and I'm a little excited that Snoopy gets to share in this big road trip adventure. I know, I sound crazy but I guess it's what dog (pet) parents get excited about.

strawberries

My kitchen is packed and gone but before it left, I made this delicious berry flavored coconut milk smoothie that packs the sweetness of ripe chubby strawberries and the goodness of raw ginger. There's also a reason behind this drink, I started to feel a raw uneasiness in my throat as the temperatures kept fluctuating in the weather and with the impending move and all other crazy things going on right now, I couldn't afford to be sick. Raw ginger is used as a common ailment in Indian herbal medicine so I figured why not use it to create a spring-themed immune boosting drink. There's fresh coconut milk (I used the So Delicious brand because I personally like the flavor a lot but fresh coconut milk would work well here too) and the strawberries, I used were a bit sweet so I ended up not using any sweeteners (I've listed a suggested amount but feel free to add as much or as little as you like). This smoothie turned out to be great for my throat but it's tasty enough to be served as a drink, especially as the heat waves begin to kick in.

floating strawberries on coconut milk

I did this fun interview with the very sweet Amina of The Paper Plates Blog, check it out if you have a moment to spare. I talk about a lot of things beyond food and maybe, my obsession with the Game of Thrones books. 

Also,  here are some of my favorites links that I'm drooling over;
  • Linda of Call Me Cupcake made a sour cream rhubarb cupcakes (there's a ginger cream frosting that has poached rhubarb on it!!!!).
  • Climbing Grier's Mountain's Lauren, made this hummus shrimp loaded naan pizza that is simply amazing!
  • Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal made this gorgeous sauté that's sits on a bed of chickpea and chive mash. This is one, to see and believe, eat!
  • This pickled chard by Love and Lemons is what's spring should be about.

strawberry coconut milk smoothie with raw ginger

raw ginger strawberry smoothie

yields: 2 generous servings

ingredients

1 1/2 cups coconut milk, chilled, unsweetened, low-fat (I used the So Delicious brand)
1/2 cup strawberries, fresh, diced in half
1/2 teaspoon ginger root, peeled and freshly minced (minced as tiny as possible)
2-3 teaspoons palm sugar (optional; I didn't use add any)

1. Add all the ingredients to a blender (you can also use an immersion blender) and mix until all the ingredients are completely combined. The sugar is optional, I didn't add any as the strawberries were very sweet to begin with). 
2. Pour in chilled drinking glasses over ice cubes or crushed ice, serve immediately. (This best drunk fresh as soon as it is prepared).

Disclaimer: I didn't receive any financial compensation or products from So Delicious and all opinions stated are solely mine. 

red mustard green pakoras

red mustard green pakoras

You have no idea how much stuff you can amass over time until you move. I prided myself on not collecting too much but clearly I've been entertaining an imaginary notion. I also felt satisfied with the thought that perhaps, I had done a superb job of tossing stuff out before the movers came by the house to pack and move our stuff. Clearly, I've been wrong on both fronts as it took them several rounds to get everything packed, wrapped and loaded onto their truck. Not everything and could go with them and they had to leave behind some liquids, aerosols and my beloved plants. Yes, my plants were the hardest to part with, I decided to give them away to friends and family and I will miss my fig trees and raspberry bush and will settle with the thought, that I might be able to grow some variety of citrus out in California and perhaps get another fig tree. I also ended up with a bottle of oil that I couldn't ship and really didn't want to drive across the country with. So this recipe that I'm sharing with you today was clearly borne out of necessity and is a tasty way to clean out your pantry.

red mustard greens

Let's see, I got rid of a little leftover unused chickpea flour and some spices and some vegetable oil but I also got an excuse to use up these beautiful red mustard greens that I picked up last week. Red mustard greens actually have very little red in them, just a few dark streaks here and there but they are simple gorgeous and they look like big, fat elephant ears or fans that can hold their texture rather well during heating. 

Pakoras are a favorite Indian snack that I grew up eating for breakfast. To put it simply, a pakora can be made with almost any type of vegetable that's coated in a chickpea batter and then deep fried to get a delicious crispy cover. Since, I rarely make anything that's deep fried this was a welcome change for both of us (and the moving excuse made me feel better), it's always nice to indulge your tastebuds, a little bit sometimes. So go ahead make these guys and enjoy them with my sweet tamarind chaat chutney and a hot cup of tea/chai. 


red mustard green leaf pakoras

red mustard green pakoras

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 bunch fresh red mustard greens
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon grated ginger root, fresh
3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Wash the mustard greens, drain the excess water and pat the leaves dry using a clean kitchen towel.  Remove and discard the midrib of the leaves. Rip the leaves into large pieces and keep aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients from the chickpea flour to the ginger root. Whisk until completely smooth and there are no visible flecks of flour in the batter. 
3. Add the leaves into the chickpea batter and fold until the leaves are completely coated.
4. Heat the oil in a large wok on medium high heat. The oil needs to be hot when frying the leaves, to test this take one leaf that is coated with the batter and drop it into the hot oil. It should immediately rise to the surface and cook until golden brown. Add 5 to 6 leaves at a time to the hot oil, cook until the chickpea batter coating turns golden brown, flip the leaves using a slotted spoon and cook on the other side. The entire cooking process should take less than a minute for each leaf. Using the slotted spoon, lift the pakoras and drain any excess oil, transfer the pakoras to a dish lined with clean paper towels to absorb the excess oil. The mustard green pakoras should be crisp. Repeat and cook the rest of the pakoras in batches. Serve immediately while hot. 
Note: If you cook the pakoras too long the leaves will acquire a bitter taste, so remove them as soon as they start to change color. 

cilantro coconut chutney

cilantro coconut chutney

I have big and exciting news to share with you today;

1. We're moving to the Bay Area.
2. We got engaged! I can't believe, I get to marry my best friend and now we are on our way to start and share an exciting new chapter in our lives! We've known each other for six years, been through the ups and downs that life has to offer, laughed, argued, and cried together, traveled to places, and once narrowly escaped a bear on a hike. Yep, the usual things that all couples do, but above all we're happy and home is where the two of us are together.
3. Finally, I am also super excited to have my first post up at Food52 today where I talk about my love for this bright green chutney aka the Green Goddess, with so many fresh and bright flavors, it will surely brighten up your day. So head over to Food52 to get the recipe.

coconut chutney

fennel and pea soup

fennel and pea soup

The best way to describe snow day this week, would be to call it interesting. Having the stairway to your front entrance completely layered with several inches of snow was probably the craziest way to wake up. Snoopy didn't mind and he ate his way through, we on the other hand had to figure out where the steps were. Still we had so much fun in the snow. It was really nice to get the day off from work and use the time to relax. Those of you that were hit by the storm, I hope you stayed warm and safe with your loved ones. We drove down to the farm this weekend and already had another bout of snow but everything looks beautiful and white out here in Virginia. (I'll be sharing photographs on Instagram and Facebook). As much as I complain about cold weather, I am always amazed by the breathtaking beauty of snow laced mountains and hills in the countryside.

fennel

Fennel is one of the most aromatic and wonderful vegetables that I really enjoying cooking with. It is simply delicious and the shape intriguing (I'm always thinking of those crying baby Mandrakes from Harry Potter when I look at them). This soup is light, clean and healthy with very few ingredients that give it a delicious flavor. There is a luxurious creaminess to this soup without the need for heavy cream to but instead it simply relies on the peas to give that extra level of richness.

oven roasted fennel and peas

I used a two-step process to cook the vegetables by first caramelizing the natural sugars of the vegetables in the oven and then cooking them in water to make a flavorful stock. I also season the olive oil by infusing the hot oil with some fennel seeds and drizzle that over the soup. The garnish is completely optional but it really is worth it!

creamy fennel and pea soup


fennel pea soup

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1 fennel bulb with stems, fresh
3 cups peas, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups water
juice of one fresh lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, for garnish
a few fresh fennel leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400F and place a wire rack at mid height of the oven. Slice the stems off the fennel and quarter bulb. Place the fennel and peas in baking tray and toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the bulb turns lightly brown.
2. Transfer the vegetables to a large stockpot. Add the water and bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame. Cook until the vegetables are completely soft and tender for about 20-25 minutes.
3. Remove the stockpot from the stove. Using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients until creamy and smooth. Alternatively, transfer the vegetables and half of the liquid to a food processor or blender and pulse until completely smooth and creamy. Transfer the contents back to the stockpot.  Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cook on a medium-low heat with occasional stirring. 
4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high flame for 45 seconds, as soon as the oil gets hot add the fennel seeds and cook them for 10 seconds. Remove from the stove and drizzle the fennel and olive oil seasoning over the soup. Alternatively, you can also garnish the soup in individual bowls and drizzling them with the seasoning. Garnish the soups with a fresh fennel leaves. Serve warm with slices of toasted bread.

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. 

edamame-stuffed fried indian bread

Edamame-stuffed fried indian bread

Today being Diwali, the day when people in India celebrate the festival of lights, I thought I'd keep my post traditional but different. Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi is worshipped to bring prosperity and fortune to families. Diwali is by far, one of the most gorgeous festivals in India, entire cities and towns are lit with oil and candle lamps and children celebrate with dazzling fireworks. Food is a huge part of this celebration and every sort of decadent dessert and meal is a part of this glorious occasion. As a kid, I was fortunate to have the best of both worlds when it came to Hindu and Christian holidays due to my parents, I remember the fireworks and the gifts but more than all of that the dinner has left an indelible mark in my memory. Huge elaborate meals were carefully planned and painstakingly prepared that everyone would sit down to enjoy and partake in laughter and fun conversation. 

Diyas

My initial thoughts centered around sharing an Indian dessert but then I said to myself my blog is all about being traditional yet non-traditional in every aspect just like me! I've been wanting to make these deep fried stuffed breads for a while that are also known as Kachoris. Kachoris are usually filled with a spicy lentil stuffing and are an extremely popular appetizer served at any celebration or event or even simply eaten as a snack with chai. The pastry crust of these breads is flaky yet light that makes them a fantastic treat for everyone alike. 

Edamame

Kachoris are so easy to make and you can practically fill them with almost anything you can think of. My version has a spicy edamame-filling that is delicious yet simple to prepare. For the edamame, I just boil the raw edamame in their pods, then peel and shell the beans out. You can serve them with my sweet tamarind chutney or my cilantro mint chutney or serve the kachoris with both. So have a happy and wonderful Diwali and remember to light a candle or lamp tonight. 

Edamame kachori


edamame-stuffed fried indian bread

yields: 10 individual kachoris

ingredients

3/4 cup (3 7/8 ounces) whole-wheat flour 
3/4 cup (3 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola)
1/2 cup chilled water
1 1/2 cup (7 3/4 ounces) edamame beans, cooked
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
about 1/2 cup all purpose flour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying (canola)

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flours, salt and baking soda. Pour the oil and mix evenly with your hands for about 4 minutes until the flour has absorbed all the oil. The flour grains will get a fine crumb like texture. Add the chilled water and start to knead the flour until a smooth silky dough is formed. Cover this dough with cling film or a damp kitchen towel and let it rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a food processor grind the edamame with the chili, cumin and salt to a coarse paste. Taste and season with more salt if desired. Keep aside.
3. Divide the rested dough into 10 equal balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Take one ball and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the ball out into a flat disc that is approximately 3 inches in diameter. Place about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of the edamame filling in the center of the disc. Using your fingers, pull the edges over the filling and pinch to seal the open end. (This is similar to preparing stuffed wontons). Flatten the stuffed pastry between the palms of your hands taking care to prevent any cracks from forming. Repeat with the rest of the balls, dust lightly with flour and keep aside covered with a damp cloth until ready to fry. 
4. Heat enough oil in a deep fryer or wok on a medium-high flame. When the oil begins to smoke, carefully slide one pastry into the oil.  Press it gently with a slotted spoon for 10 seconds to help it puff up. Let the pastry cook on each side for at least 30 seconds or until evenly golden brown on each side. Remove the fried bread with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate or dish lined with a clean paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Repeat and continue with the rest of the breads. Serve hot with sweet tamarind chutney or cilantro mint chutney or both. 

spiced chilled almond milk thandai

Thandai

I'm guessing if it is as hot as it is here in D.C., you will probably be like me thinking of all sorts of ways to cool off. At this point, getting wet while watering the garden is turning out to be a pleasant experience! There are more convenient and better ways to chill in this hot and humid weather, one being this delicious drink from Northern India.

Thandai

, as it is commonly called is a chilled drink mildly laced with delicious fragrant spices served on hot summer days and during

Holi

- the festival of color. 

Almond milk and sunflower seeds
Thandai spice mix

All the spices ground to prepare the

thandai

are aromatic that contribute distinctive tastes but they somehow magically come together. The licorice-like taste of fennel with the green cardamom seeds provide the sweet flavor for the background to the drink while the peppercorn and cloves lend a refreshing taste. It is best to use good quality and fresh spices when preparing the blend to get a delicious tasting batch of

thandai

. I've modified and adapted the recipe from Julie Sahni's

Classic Indian Cooking

cookbook. 

Thandai glassful

Though, I have used almond milk to prepare the

thandai

, traditionally you would use chilled milk or water. However, I find the flavors of the spices to be much more delicate and balanced when almond milk or milk are used. I also prefer my final drink to be less sweet in taste and so I reduced the amount of sugar but feel free to add more sugar if you like it sweeter.

Chilled thandai

spiced chilled almond milk thandai 

yields:

8-10 servings

ingredients

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

a pinch of saffron (optional)

1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds

6 whole cloves

10 peppercorns

1 cup toasted watermelon or sunflower seeds 

4 cups boiling water

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 cups fresh almond milk, chilled 

1. Grind the fennel, saffron, cardamom, cloves, and cardamom in a coffee or spice grinder to a fine powder. 

2. Add the sunflower seeds along with half the water, ground spices, and sugar to a food processor. Blend to get a smooth paste. Add the remaining water and pulse for 5 seconds. 

3. Pass the mixture from the blender through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze and press out as much liquid over a bowl as you can by wringing the cheesecloth as tight as possible. Transfer the liquid concentrate to a clean bottle and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before use. 

4. Before preparing the drink stir the chilled concentrate (some separation might occur on standing which is perfectly normal). In a large bowl, mix the concentrate with the chilled almond milk before serving. Pour the thandai into chilled glasses containing 

crushed ice or ice cubes. The concentrate stays good for up to a week in the refrigerator.

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.

apple and carrot soup with cilantro-peanut chutney

carrot and apple soup

I started my holidays a little earlier than anticipated since we decided to finally take on our pending bathroom remodeling project and I'm relieved that it's finished. No more drilling and hammering noises and pesky dust issues!  Since, I've stayed at home for the bathroom project, I decided to finish up wrapping all the gifts that we need to take down with us on our trip this weekend. Honestly, I am not a big fan of wrapping gifts, sometimes I get them right and on other occasions, I simply don't. It would be much easier if there was a standard rectangular shape box for every gift versus all the other random shaped toy cartons that I have come across. 

carrots and apples

With all the hustle and bustle of the calorie loaded holidays parties, I've been opting for very simple, easy, and refreshing meals at home. This is one of my favorite recipes that I have grown to love and appreciate this year. This apple and carrot soup has all the fresh flavors of the season. The soup by itself is very delicious but it gets a pretty bold kick of heat from the Thai chili peppers in the crunchy peanut and cilantro chutney.

cilantro and apples

To give this pureed soup a silky and smooth texture, it is essential to simmer all the vegetables for at least 30 minutes. It does not matter how long you small you dice the apples and carrots because they will get soft and tender during the simmering stage. If you can't find black sea salt or "Kala Namak" (you can find it at most Indian grocery stores) then I would recommend using regular Kosher sea salt. You can thin the soup as much as you want to with water but don't forget to adjust the salt and pepper. While making the chutney, I like to use fresh lemon juice and I also leave the seeds inside the chilies. If you like the chutney less hot, then remove the seeds and only use the skin of the chilies. A little drop of the chutney goes along way in this soup. Another tip with the peanuts, I eliminated the need for using raw peanuts, since pre-salted and roasted peanuts are so easily available. The little crunch bits of peanuts in the chutney against the smooth silky soup makes for a wonderful and delicious texture. As an added bonus, the chutney can also be used as a dipping sauce.

carrots garlic and pot
onion

apple and carrot soup with cilantro-peanut chutney

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

for the apple and carrot soup

2 medium sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced 
2 lb carrots, peeled and diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
juice of half a lemon
ground black sea salt (or regular sea salt) to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the cilantro-peanut chutney

1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves 
2 tablespoons salted roasted peanuts
2 green thai chili peppers
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

for the apple and carrot soup

1. Heat the olive oil in a thick bottomed stock pot with a lid on a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes with constant stirring. The onions will become translucent and light pink in color. Now add the carrots and apples, stir for a minute and cover with a lid. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and bring it to boil. Once the water boils, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and cook for another 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Switch the flame off and let the contents cool for about 15 minutes.
2. Add the contents of the stockpot to a food processor and pulse until completely smooth. Add the pureed vegetables back to the stockpot. Add the rest of the water to the puree along with the cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Heat the soup on a medium flame and bring to a boil with constant stirring. Then reduce to a gentle simmer and keep warm until ready to serve.
Note: If you prefer the soup to be thinner, then add a little more water to it and accordingly adjust the salt and pepper.

for the cilantro-peanut chutney

1. Grind all the ingredients for the chutney to get a coarse paste. The peanuts should be coarsely ground.
2. Season with salt and pepper as per taste.

serving suggestion:
Top each bowl of soup with 1 teaspoon of the cilantro-peanut chutney.