Posts Tagged 'soup'

A Day in the Kitchen

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Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart (from thebakingpan.com)

Saturday was a gray, dull wintery day. I needed an escape. I contemplated driving down to the shore to look at waves, but decided it would be too cold and windy to get out of the car. I thought maybe escaping to the bookstore and finding a good, “real” book would be fun. So I headed to the mall. As I drove I thought that maybe I should have picked pampering instead – maybe I should have gone to the Korean spa and luxuriated in saunas and hot tubs. I was already almost to the mall, though, and didn’t feel like turning back. I remembered that there had been a hair salon for years at the mall. I decided that if it was still there I’d treat myself to having them wash and dry my hair. 🙂 They were indeed still there, and HUGELY busy and bustling. I explained I just wanted a little pampering and they took me right away. Maria trimmed my hair and dried it so that all the waves and curls showed up. She even flipped my part to hide the roots that needed coloring. *grin* I felt ‘human’ enough after that to head over to Sephora and pick up the moisturizers I needed. Fortified with pampering and lotions I headed home to continue indulging myself.

There was a time when the idea of spending a day in the kitchen would have been considered obligation, not indulgence. That was pre-new kitchen. We are still both loving the kitchen. I had 2 recipes I’d wanted to try – one for lentil soup and one for a cranberry apple tart. I’d also been craving more French bread after posting about breads. 🙂 I got home, had a bite to eat and set to baking.

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I started with the French bread. I really like this bread. It’s got substance and is chewy. It’s not all air and crust. I think that a “proper” French bread is SUPPOSED to be airy and crust, but mine does not come out that way and I’m glad. I’m not sure if I’m rolling it too thick, or some other deviation but I don’t care. I like how MY loaves come out. My husband likes them too so this recipe is a keeper for us. I forgot to brush the crusts with egg white before I put it in the oven, so these were not quite as shiny as the last loaves. They still tasted delicious. 🙂

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Next I started on the cranberry apple tart. I’d found this recipe when I was looking for desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it could easily be switched to be sugar free, even gluten free if it turned out that was necessary. Someone else was bringing pies, however, so I put the recipe aside. I’d picked up some Granny Smith apples at the farmers’ market specifically for this tart. I ended up using 3 of those and one stayman (winesap) apple. I used the Sukrin Gold brown sugar substitute. I was a little impatient while making the crust. I knew I was using more ice water than I do usually but it did come out fine. I chilled it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I was not going to have a lot of time to let it chill. The dough was a little sticky when I rolled it out for the pan, but it held together and was tasty. One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to use a grater to add butter to my crusts and biscuits. In the past I’ve cut tablespoons of butter into the flour, and then used a pastry blender to chop it further. Grating the butter saves me so much time and effort! I love this little hack. I tried it on margerine but it doesn’t work – margerine is simply too soft. Maybe it would work better if I froze the margerine first, but that probably has other consequences.

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Once I had the tart in the oven I started on the lentil soup. I’ve learned to read the comments on online recipes. I’ve gotten some helpful tips from other cooks. The first comment on this recipe was quite long and detailed, about doubling ingredients, adding a few things, but saying that the soup came out great. I decided to make the soup by following those comments (after all, anyone who adds port to the soup is cooking on my track, to mix several metaphors *grin*). Of course I modified it, because that’s the whole point of cooking, is it not??? Since I’ve actually made lentil soup before, this was not going to be a case of follow first and then tinker. I knew where I wanted to end up. I didn’t have port but I did have sherry and used that. I only used 3 carrots, not four. I used 1.5 cups green lentils and 1/2 cup red lentils. I used my immersion blender to break up the chunks of carrots and tomatoes (from the canned diced tomatoes – I did not have crushed tomatoes). After all of that, it still seemed just a tad too tame for me. I took a look at my red lentil soup recipe and added some cumin and chili powder for a little heat. Once I did that I was satisfied with the flavor.

I think I made a successful meal. *smile* The tart was half-gone by bedtime. The soup is nearly all gone today, only a day and a half later. The bread – well, there is one hunk of bread left from the 2 loaves. I guess I need to get back in that kitchen soon and indulge again. 🙂

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mmm mmm good.

Easy Red Lentil Soup

I first made this recipe back in September for my annual “Ladies’ dinner in the Sukkah”. The last 2 years, as it happens, the dinner has been in my dining room because it has been RAINING when we were supposed to be dining outside in the sukkah. Typically I make a dairy meal for this event for a variety of reasons. First, if I’m inviting folks who observe kashrut it’s easier for me to have something they will eat if I stick with dairy. Second, Sukkot is a harvest festival and vegetables and dairy seem much more appropriate. Third, some of my guests are vegetarians and so that pretty much says no meat.

My standard default meal starts with quiche, soup and fresh bread, and then I go from there. I’ve been making the same soup for the last few years – Ash’e Reshte (Persian Noodle Soup). I use the recipe from the “Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride” cookbook. It’s a very simple, quick recipe and tastes delicious. This year one of my guests followed a gluten-free diet so noodle soup did not seem appropriate. img_0016I wasn’t in the mood for a vegetable soup so I began searching for lentil recipes online. I found one that appeared simple, yet tasty – NY Times Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. I read many of the comments (wow, some people really don’t hold back) and took them to heart as well. The ladies seemed to like the soup – it was all gone by the end of the evening, and I knew I’d found a new addition to my cooking repertoire.

This past week the forecast had been for a major weather event of some kind – snow, rain, sleet, ice or all of that at one point or another. I thought that soup and biscuits would be a great Friday night dinner. Alas, my plans were derailed by work. No way I had time to make dinner. Fortunately my husband came home with a grocery store-roasted chicken. 🙂 We agreed that Saturday would be Red Lentil soup with fresh salad and fresh bread. I was out running errands so rather than baking my own bread or biscuits, I stopped into Panera’s and picked up an Asiago Cheese focaccia. img_0017I made the salad in the early afternoon and started on the soup around 5:30 or so, AFTER feeding the cats. There are priorities in this household after all. 🙂

The soup is amazingly simple, wonderfully tasty and was the perfect meal for a cold rainy night. I’ve given you the link to the recipe – I do suggest you read some of the comments. People have very different expectations for a recipe and you will want to find the comments that echo what you like to eat. I made these changes (and I wrote them down so I’d remember from time to time):

1.5 generous cups of lentils
4 curry leaves
3 generous tablespoons of tomato paste
6 cloves of freshly minced garlic

The first time I made it I grated half the carrot and diced the rest. Last night I grated all of the carrot. Neither time did I bother with the immersion blender. The first time I forgot the lemon at the end and this time I remembered – delicious both ways. Neither time did I add cilantro – I’m not really fond of cilantro. This recipe is fast, one pot and delicious!

The Big Red Pot

le creuset oval dutch ovenThat’s what we call it – my husband’s favorite pot. Other people would call it a dutch oven or, more specifically, Le Creuset Oval dutch oven. It weighs a ton, cooks like a dream, and is easy to clean. I’d never used it until I tried another of the great vegan recipes I’d found.

Last year (or perhaps it was even the year before) I’d seen a recipe in the local newspaper for a whole roasted cauliflower. fresh from the gardenThe recipe called for removing the leaves, a little bit of the core, but otherwise keeping the head intact. Steam the cauliflower until a fork will pierce it easily, then coat it with a mix of mayonnaise, chili sauce and grated cheese, and roast it in the oven. (I’d give you the link, because it’s sooooo easy and yummy, but although I searched online, I can’t find that specific recipe. But there are many others that show up.) Normally I’m opposed to recipes that require “phases” – cook it once in one pot and be done with it was my motto. But that was BEFORE the new kitchen. My life apparently has a new demarcation line. I made many dishes for T-day that required preparatory stages.

There were 2 recipes that I thought might be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner – the cauliflower pot roast and the vegan turducken (also called vegducken). cauliflower pre roastingThe cauliflower pot roast won out for testing first because I had most of those ingredients. Of course I ended up doing things just a wee bit differently than the recipe directed, because I was (oh surprise) multi-tasking and wasn’t paying sufficient attention. But the end result was so tasty, and so satisfying, that there was no question – THIS would be the Thanksgiving dish we’d bring to dinner. My husband’s verdict on the dish: spectacular.

Here were my changes for the test run: I didn’t have fennel so I used anise. I didn’t have vegetable broth so I used chicken broth. I left out the nutritional yeast. I don’t remember if I used red or brown lentils, but I’m going to guess I used red lentils. As for following the cooking directions, I missed some steps there as well. I cut the core of the cauliflower too deeply and it was no longer one complete unit. I had one big piece and I propped that on the ones that had separated. first cauliflower pot roastAfter I cut all the side vegetables I put them into the pot with the cauliflower – I didn’t realize I was supposed to toss them with the oil and seasoning first. I ended up drizzling the oil and sprinkling the seasoning. I didn’t saute the onions – I tossed them straight into the broth (and I blame my husband for this because he was talking to me at the time 🙂 ). We did not at the time have an immersion blender (we do NOW) and so I did not puree the gravy. It smelled fantastic anyway. We also felt that the vegetables needed more cooking than the directions indicated, but that is probably because I used more vegetables than specified. When it was all done, we poured the gravy over the vegetables in the pot, rather than serving separately. It was delicious. We both purred as we ate. There were so many tantalizing flavors and textures.

For the “production” version I did much better at following the ingredients and the directions.thanksgiving cauliflower Again I used anise instead of fennel (my local store seems to only carry anise and I didn’t feel like making a special trip). I left out the potatoes since I knew there would be lots of other potato dishes. I added parsnips in place of the potatoes and I included some extra florets of cauliflower. We now own an immersion blender so I did puree the gravy. I forgot to get a picture of it, however. I believe that everyone at the dinner enjoyed the dish – there was less than a portion left. 🙂 I recommend this dish completely. I think I’d also skip pureeing the gravy – I liked it more as a broth with veggies, but obviously that is a personal preference. It tasted fantastic both times.

I’m so glad there are such creative people out there posting their recipes. I’m okay with modifying a recipe, but I don’t think I’ve ever created something from nothing. And on that note I’ll tell you that soon I’ll post about the red lentil-butternut squash soup I made for dinner last night. Yum.

And now for the obligatory cat photo.
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