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Loving the Cold Lentil Salad with Cucumbers and Olives

Lentils are one of my favorites when it comes to beans. They are so versatile and add such great taste and texture to a wide variety of dishes. Of course, lentil soup is always a good choice, but I also like to make lentil salads. Lentil salad is a great summertime dish because you can serve them warm, room temperature or cold and they still taste great. I came across this recipe from The Kitchn not that long ago for a simple cold lentil salad with cucumbers and olives to give it a bit of a Mediterranean flair. you can make this one pretty quickly and it goes well with all kinds of dishes.

Cold Lentil Salad with Cucumbers and Olives

2 cups lentils

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 bay leaves

1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium cucumbers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint, roughly chopped

1 cup ricotta or feta cheese (optional)

Combine the lentils, smashed garlic and the bay leaves in a large pot and cover the ingredients with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the water and remove the smashed garlic cloves and the bay leaves and discard them. Refrigerate the lentils until they are cold, at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

While the lentils are chilling, make the vinaigrette for the salad. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole grain mustard, the salt and the sherry vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking the mixture constantly as you add the oil, until the dressing has emulsified.

Combine the chilled lentils, the cucumbers, the Kalamata olives and the mint in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the lentil salad and toss everything to evenly coat all of the ingredients. Dot the top of the salad with ricotta or feta cheese, if using, just before you serve the salad.

That’s all there is to this salad and it tastes great. I love the mix of the cucumbers, olives and lentils and the vinaigrette has great flavor to it thanks to the mustard and the sherry vinegar. I have found that the salad actually gets better in flavor over a couple of days, though if you are going to add the mint to it you should add just enough to what you are serving so it does not go limp when you store it and lose some of its flavor. I did not use the cheese on my salad as I didn’t have either kind on hand, but I think the feta would add a nice touch to the overall flavor of the dish.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Beans, Cooking, Salad, Side Dishes

 

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When it’s This Cold, Part 2 – This Time It’s Soup – Alton Brown’s Lentil Soup

It is still freezing cold here in New York and today it is snowing again. It seemed even colder yesterday and the day before that. It would be nice if we got a little bit of a break in the weather and I cannot wait for winter to be over already. For now, we’ll just have to deal with it and that means more warm and hearty meals. Yesterday it was the bean stew recipe, today it is a recipe for lentil soup. Again, I was going for soup recipes that were quick and easy and didn’t need all day to cook or prepare. I found this one from Alton Brown for a simple lentil soup and I wanted to give it a try.

Alton Brown’s Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped carrot

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed

1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes

2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground grains of paradise

Place the olive oil into a large Dutch oven and set it over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and kosher salt and sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, chopped tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir the mixture until it is well combined. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the  pot and cook the soup at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree the soup to your preferred consistency and serve.

Just a few points about this recipe. First, you are probably wondering what the heck grains of paradise is. I love Alton Brown, but he can make use of some unusual and really hard to find ingredients sometimes. Grains of paradise is a spice from West Africa that is very much like a mix of pepper, cardamom and coriander. For the amount needed for this recipe, I couldn’t see myself going out and buying it since it can be quite expensive and the odds are pretty good I would not be able to find it locally anyway. Instead, I looked around on the Internet and saw that as a substitute many people use freshly ground black pepper or cardamom. I decided to go with the black pepper myself and just used that. Also, this time of year the tomatoes in this area are not very good, so I simply substituted a cup of canned diced tomatoes instead and I think they worked out just fine anyway. You also want to make sure that you pick over your lentils before you use them. Most of the time there is no issue at all, but rinsing and picking over them just to check for pebbles and such is always a good idea when you are using dried beans like this. Nothing spoils a meal faster than getting a rock in your soup. As for the soup itself, I love lentil soup and this one had a nice flavor from the coriander and the cumin. It was very filling and hit the spot and took no time at all to make. I made some cream biscuits to go along with the meal and we were all good to go with leftovers for another day.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. until then, enjoy the rest of your day, keep staying warm, and enjoy your meal!

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A Couple of Meat-Free Meals

Yesterday was our meat-free meal day, and we actually had two ideas for the meal, one I had planned, and then one my sister-in-law had suggested that sounded really good as well. My idea was Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions. it’s a great one pot meal, completely vegetarian if that’s what you are looking for, and very filling and satisfying.

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups lentils, washed and picked over

6 cups water, vegetable, chicken or beef stock (your preference), warmed

1 cup long-grain rice

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and some salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, stir, and add 4 cups of liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. Stir in the rice. Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring, until it evaporates. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve, garnished with the caramelized onions and parsley.

The lentils and rice make for a very hearty meal. The second meal for meat-free night is Browned Cabbage and Noodles. Michelle loved the sound of this one so we thought we would give it a try.

Browned Cabbage and Noodles

3 pounds cabbage

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

3 tablespoons grated onion

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound broad noodles, cooked and drained

Wash the cabbage and grate very fine. Mix in the salt and let stand for 2 hours. Rinse, drain and dry the cabbage (you could skip this step if you wanted and just go straight to cooking).

Melt half the butter in a deep large skillet or Dutch oven. Mix in the cabbage, onions, sugar and pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, stirring frequently. Add the remaining butter after 1 hour. Toss in the cooked noodles until thoroughly mixed with the cabbage. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

This recipe serves 6 to 8, so you can adjust the recipe down a bot if you are cooking for a smaller crowd, like I do. There’s not many ingredients in this one, but it does take some time to make it. It’s also a great one pot dish, and I really like those as it cuts down on the clean up afterwards.

So that was Wednesday’s meal, nice and easy. Check back later today for tonight’s meal of Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Fried Rice and Steamed Vegetables. It promises to be quite tasty. See you later!

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Vegetables, Vegetarian

 

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It’s Guys’ Night In, Next Week’s Meal Plan, and a Chicken

Michelle is away on a business for a couple of days, so that kind of puts the meal plan on hold for a few days until we get settled again. Sean and I are having guys’ night in tonight, which means ordering pizza, playing video games and starting a puzzle we bought. It should be a lot of fun to just hang out for the night and have a good time and not worry about cooking for the evening. It’s nice to do that once in a while. We did go over next week’s meal plan, so here it is:

Sunday – Fish Tacos, Pineapple Salsa, and Vegetable Slaw

Monday – Beef Stew (this will be our slow cooker meal for the week)

Tuesday – Bacon and Chicken Ranch Quesadillas, Rice and Guacamole

Wednesday – Lentils with Rice and Sautéed Onions (this is our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday  – Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Fried Rice

Friday – Fish – seeing as how it is Lent, we thought we would try to do fish on Fridays for the next several weeks. I won’t know what I am making until I go to the fish market to check out what looks good and is on sale.

Saturday – Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli

I try to make a roasted chicken every couple of weeks so we can both use the carcass to make stock and use the leftovers for lunches. It works out really well for as far as both go, although I also keep some chicken drumsticks in the freezer to use to make stock as well if I need to in a pinch. if you’d like the recipe for making the stock I make, I had posted it in an earlier blog, but you can get it right here.

Since I am not cooking anything tonight, I thought I would still post a recipe that might be good for everyone, and since I have been talking about chicken, I got this recipe in my email today from Mark Bittman, the author of “How to Cook Everything.” It’s a nice roasted chicken recipe, and to top off our week of one pot meals, it is a one pot meal, roasting vegetables and lentils with the chicken.

Chicken and Lentils

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts

1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped or grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup chopped tomato (canned is fine; include the juices)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs, tied together with kitchen string

Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks

1 cup dried brown or green lentils, washed and picked over

Put the oil in a deep skillet with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take 10 to 15 minutes. (You can skip this step if you like; heat a tablespoon of oil and go directly to cooking the onions.)

When the chicken is nicely browned, remove it from the skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Pour or spoon off all but a tablespoon of the oil. Stir in the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato, coriander, and some salt and pepper. Add 4 cups water, along with the cilantro or parsley bundle, cinnamon sticks, and lentils. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender.

Discard the herb bundle and cinnamon sticks and return the return the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Cover and continue to let the mixture bubble gently until the chicken is cooked through, another 10 to 20 minutes; the chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155-165°F. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve. (At this point, you may let the dish sit for a few hours or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before re-heating and serving; you may have to add a little water to thin the sauce a bit.)

This dish goes nicely if you serve this with rice, warmed pitas, or any crusty loaf of bread. If you want to follow Mark Bittman on Facebook, you can check him out here, or try his website here to sign up to get recipes every week.

As a final note, the latest issue of Bon Appetit has some great recipes in it and some St. Patrick’s Day ideas as well (it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. You can check them out at the link to their page that I have listed on the right, or you can just click here to go and see what’s new or even subscribe to the magazine (it’s one of my favorites). That’s all I have for today. Time to get on with Guys Night. Sean has already starting playing one game, and the pizza guy is here, so I will be back tomorrow. I’m not cooking tomorrow either, but I will be back with some “guy” recipes that Sean and I like. Have a great night!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Meal Plan Menu, Poultry

 

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Jennifer Probst

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Laissez Faire

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