Archive for August, 2010

Lentil Stew

I love meat.  I do!  With every carnivorous fiber of my being.  As such, I’m finding it interesting that the last three blog entries and this one are completely meat-free!  I suppose that’s good, unless you want to end up like John Wayne.  Yeah, I won’t go into that little tidbit of information that Bikenut is always so eager to share whenever a big ol’ steak passes by.

At any rate, I was watching the Cooking channel the other day and Julia Child was preparing lentils.  Since then, I’d been eager to try and cook some up myself.  I can’t for the life of me recall what Julia made, but it wasn’t the recipes so much as the ingredient that piqued my interest.  So, when I passed through the bulk aisle at Whole Foods and saw the bins of lentils, I decided to bring some home and give it a shot.

I saw quite a few recipes online for a basic lentil stew, but ultimately wound up adding things that weren’t included in the recipes — like potatoes, and brown mushrooms, and fresh basil.  I wanted these lentils to be so good that I wouldn’t even notice there wasn’t any meat on the plate, and I think I hit the mark!

Sauteed veggies and lentils, ready for the broth and a long simmer.

If I had it to do again, I think that I would soak the lentils for awhile.  Julia swore that we don’t have to do that anymore, but my experience didn’t seem to back that claim.  What was slated for one hour of cook time actually took a bit over three, and while the lentils were tender enough, they might have benefited from another hour longer on the simmer.  But, if you have all day to simmer a pot of lentils, by all means, go for it!  You won’t be disappointed in either case.

Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large russet potato, diced
  • 8 oz brown mushrooms, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups of lentils
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, add first 11 ingredients.  Stir to coat.  Saute over medium-high heat until onions are soft.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Serve with basmati rice and warm garlic naan.
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Roasted Veggie Lasagna

This is not the lasagna I wanted to make. I envisioned an ALL veggie lasagna, with long strips of zucchini in place of pasta noodles, but it was not to be. As we walked through the produce section of the new Sprouts market in the area, I mentioned to Bikenut that I was going to make a little lasagna for myself for lunch the next day.

“I like lasagna,” he said.
“I was going to make the noodles out of zucchini…”
“But, I don’t like zucchini,” he said.
“Yes, I know, which is why I was only going to make it for me!”

Obviously, I couldn’t bear the idea of Bikenut being disappointed that he didn’t get any lasagna, and the mere fact that he stated he actually LIKED something (which meant he was more likely to actually EAT it) was enough to send me back to the store for the noodles.

Zucchini was still going into the lasagna, but I was made to promise that it would only be in half. I also picked up an assortment of other veggies to roast and layer in there as well: carrot, yellow squash, onions (half a red, half a white, and a whole small yellow), portobello mushrooms, white button mushrooms, and spinach. The other ingredients were ricotta cheese, a mozzarella and smoked provolone cheese blend, and a quick pasta sauce made the night before from two cans of tomato sauce, 4 cloves of garlic (minced), half of a white onion (diced), and a handful of spices.

Unfortunately, not everything made it into the lasagna. Having bought an actual bunch of spinach, rather than the pre-washed, pre-packaged bag o’ spinach, I had to make sure that it was thoroughly rinsed. This meant giving it a good rinse through the colander a couple of times, then soaking it in a bowl of water to get anything else off it, and then giving it a final rinse before patting it dry and putting it to use. It got as far as the soak, sitting in a bowl on the counter next to the sink, when I turned my attention to other tasks that needed to be completed. I figured that was a better use of my time than watching spinach soak. Unfortunately, that move and the fact that it wasn’t to be included in the roasting caused the spinach to be forgotten. Oh well.

I was a little apprehensive about using these “no cook” pasta sheets, and I was a bit happy that I had left my sauce a little thin so that the noodles could soak it all up and definitely come out cooked. So a base of sauce went down into a 9″x13″ baking dish, then layer after layer followed; pasta, cheese, veggies, ricotta, sauce, pasta, cheese, veggies, ricotta, sauce, etc. The veggies were chunky, so I only got to three layers of pasta before having to top it off with cheese, covering it with foil and popping it into the oven.

After about an hour in the oven, it came out looking and smelling amazing! Bikenut insisted that I let it rest for a good 30 minutes or more, but after 15, I had to sample it. I should have waited, because I didn’t get so much a piece of lasagna as I did a sloppy pile of noodles, sauce and veggies. It was a tasty mess though! When Bikenut decided to have his non-zucchini piece, he told me it was one of the best veggie lasagnas he’s ever eaten. To further the compliment, we were trying to decide a few nights later where we wanted to go out to eat, and Bikenut said, “You know, I really just want to have another piece of that lasagna with a cold glass of milk.” He really must have liked it to pass up a steak, honey-walnut prawns, or fish and chips at his favorite pub!

So here you go… hopefully everyone you make this for loves it just as much!

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

    • 2 – 12oz cans tomato sauce
    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 large yellow onion
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
    • Herbs/Spices: Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, fennel or caraway seed, fresh basil, salt & pepper

For the roasted veggies:

    • 2 medium zucchini
    • 1 large yellow squash
    • 1 large carrot
    • 1/2 large yellow onion
    • 1/2 large white onion
    • 1/2 large red onion
    • 2 portobello mushrooms
    • 1/2 lb white button mushrooms
    • Spices: Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt & pepper
    • Olive oil to coat

For the ricotta filling:

    • 12-16oz ricotta cheese
    • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, removed from stem, roughly chopped
    • 6 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
    • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
    • 3 Tablespoons shredded mozzarella & smoked provolone cheese blend
    • 1 beaten egg

For the lasagna:

    • 4 cups of shredded mozzarella & smoked provolone cheese blend
    • 1 box “no cook” lasagna noodles

Instructions:

For the sauce:

    • Over medium heat, add olive oil to pot.  Add garlic, onion, and dry spices, about 1 Tablespoon of each: dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, fennel or caraway seeds, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy, or omit altogether if you don’t like it spicy at all.)  Cook until onions are translucent.
    • Add tomato sauce and simmer for at least 15 minutes, but the longer the better.   After 15 minutes, taste.  If too tangy, add sugar a teaspoon at a time, tasting between each addition to make sure it doesn’t get TOO sweet.
    • Remove from heat and stir in about 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil.  Set aside.   If making the sauce in advance, cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the veggies:

    • Preheat oven to 400°F.
    • Slice zucchini, squash, carrot, and button mushrooms into 1/4″ thick slices.
    • With a spoon, remove the stems and “gills” of the portobello mushrooms and cut caps into roughly 1″ pieces.
    • Quarter the onions, and arrange all prepared veggies on a large baking sheet.
    • Drizzle olive oil over the veggies, sprinkle with spices (about 1 Tablespoon of each), then toss to coat.
    • Place in oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until veggies begin to let go of some of their liquid and soften, but are still firm.
    • Remove from oven and set aside.  If making the veggies in advance, cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the ricotta mixture:

    • In a small bowl, add ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella & provolone cheese, and egg.
    • Add oregano and basil.
    • Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.

For the lasagna:

    • Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a 9″x13″ baking dish.
    • Spoon sauce into dish, covering the bottom in a thin layer of sauce.
    • Place a single layer of pasta sheets in dish.  Add a layer of mozzarella & provolone cheese (approx. 1/4 to 1/3 of the cheese.)  Add layer of roasted veggies.  Add layer of ricotta mixture.  Add layer of sauce. Repeat layering one more time.
    • Add a layer of pasta sheets, and very gently press down on the sheets to compact the lasagna.  Top with a layer of sauce, a layer of mozzarella & provolone cheese, then sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.
    • Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.
    • After 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown.
    • Let cool for approximately 30 minutes, then slice and serve.

Chile Rellenos, Part Dos

Watching Master Chef the other night, I decided that chile rellenos were in my cooking future. I didn’t take photos along the way the first time, so I thought I’d add these to the blog. Take a look at the photos, and if you want to try them yourself, you can check out the original post for the recipe.

Peep’s Panzanella

I haven’t had a panzanella before.  I’ve seen a few, but never had one myself, let alone made one.  This could be attributed to the fact that I never really liked tomatoes, and bell peppers have always been a love/hate type of flavor for me.   But a friend sent me a link to a panzanella salad, and it looked so good I had to try it myself.  Of course, I had to tweak it a bit.  It’s just in my nature.

I had a little loaf of french bread on the counter that Bikenut bought for some purpose but never got around to eating.  I cut that up into little cubes, tossed them with some olive oil, garlic powder, paprika and dried parsley, and baked them for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F.

When I went to the store to buy all my ingredients, none of the Roma tomatoes I saw looked particularly ripe, so I opted for the tiny little grape tomatoes instead.  I decided to roast them in the oven alongside the bread cubes, rolling them around in the leftover oil on the sheet pan and sprinkling them with a little sea salt.   I know, it goes against the freshness of the salad, so feel free to just toss them in raw if you prefer.  The roasting sweetened the tomatoes, and I wanted a softer texture from them than I’d get if they were whole in the salad.  I could have cut them in half, sure, but I didn’t want tomato goop all over the rest of everything, and it would be a pain to halve and de-goop that many tiny tomatoes!

While the croutons and the tomatoes were roasting away, I got to work on the rest of the ingredients.  I had really hoped to keep the green color of the cucumber intact, but I wasn’t able to find any hothouse (or English) cucumbers at the market, nor could I find a decent yellow bell pepper.  (What the heck, Whole Foods??)  So, I ended up with the regular old waxy cucumber, which I peeled and seeded, and a red and an orange bell pepper.  I tried to cut everything in even, bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind that everything does actually need to fit in your mouth.  With the knife work and the croutons done, I put all of the veggies and croutons into a large bowl.  I added all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a mason jar, shook it up, poured it over the salad and gave it a good toss.

I had to have a little taste right then, and it was delicious!  It was almost better having let it sit for about an hour so that all the flavors mingled, and the croutons had soaked up some of that vinaigrette and softened (but were still crunchy in the middle.)  I hope you enjoy it!

Peep’s Panzanella

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1 small french bread loaf, cut into 1″ cubes (day old/stale bread works great!)
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • Garlic powder, paprika, dried parsley, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces (mix up the colors!)
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade or tear by hand

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:

  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons citrus champagne vinegar (or champagne vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  On a large baking sheet, drizzle bread cubes with olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and dried parsley.  Toss to coat.  Move bread cubes to one half of the baking sheet, arranged into a single layer.  On other half of the baking sheet, place tomatoes (whole) and roll in the olive oil remaining on the sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bread cubes are golden brown.
  2. In a small jar, add all vinaigrette ingredients.  Cap the jar and shake until well blended.   (You can also whisk it together in a bowl.)
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, bell peppers, onion and basil.  Add the roasted tomatoes and bread cubes, then pour the vinaigrette over and toss.   Enjoy!