Three times and counting…..

red lentils for spiced red lentil soup with kaleI’ve made Spiced Red Lentil and Kale soup at least three times this winter! It undoubtedly deserves proper recognition. For anyone who might be squeamish about lentils, the cute little red ones were grown for you. They are mild, perhaps slightly sweet and act like delicate sponges absorbing the flavors around them. They are often used to thicken and lend body to broth, and honestly, in this soup the spices are so prominent that you might find yourself wondering if there are even lentils in there…..

I found the recipe in a cookbook by Angela Liddon called the Oh She Glows Cookbook. Angela is also the author of a blog by the same name. She practices plant-based eating and offers recipes that celebrate the depth and diversity of plants. Two other recipes from her blog that have become staples in my kitchen are her Vegan Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and homemade crackers….the latter being an excellent compliment alongside this soup…and they are easier to make than a batch of cookies… I promise.

kale for spiced red lentil soup with kaleBecause this soup hinges on powerful spices, the ingredient list is short and it comes together quickly- easy enough to make after work. Make sure to use homemade vegetable broth as your base. Of course, chicken stock can be substituted, but the vegetable broth makes for a much cleaner taste.

By the way, I’ve also been holding out on two other of Angela’s lovely soups….both a little creamy and a lot healthy! Hmmm….what could they be?!

Spiced Red Lentil and Kale Soup

Spiced Red Lentil and Kale Soup

Adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook.

This calls for kale, but I’ve used spinach, baby kale and Swiss chard. Simply use your favorite…or better yet, the one you need to eat more of.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 3 stalks celery, small chop
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp mild chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, reserve juice
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 healthy handfuls of kale
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In large pot (I used a 6.75 quart Dutch oven) heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent- about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  4. Add the celery and ½ tsp salt and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spices and the bay leaf and cook for 1 minute until.
  6. Pour in the vegetable broth, the tomatoes and their juices and the lentils.
  7. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 25 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle in the remaining ½ tsp salt and pepper then stir in the kale. Be sure to remove the bay leaf.
  9. Once the kale has wilted taste for seasoning and serve.
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Chicken Soup to the Rescue

I wrote this post a few weeks ago while in the throes of unraveling a household and finding our way further south just to put it all back together again. On this day I had no internet, no hot water, no coffee and quickly no patience.  I was lamenting the irksome nature of the day as well as the impending loss of a sweetly familiar life when I found myself midst a brief pity party that included tear brimmed eyes right smack in front of the service team sent to rescue me. Following the sprinkle I spotted two lonely quarts of broth in the freezer and instantly felt comforted by the idea of chicken soup. With my husband en route in less than 24 hours, I was expecting a weary traveler most likely looking for some comfort himself.

It felt right that our last homemade meal in Carolina be a homey pot of chicken soup. Beyond the “comfort food” status it shares with its cousins mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken and for some (not me!) meatloaf, soup is a bridge….stay with me….really, it’s a bridge that links two unique states of existence. Certainly liquid cannot be mistaken for its more firm counterpart, yet both are enticing and satisfying in ways the other cannot possibly be.

Our Raleigh home has sold and in a few short days my family and I will be rolling west down route 20. Deep in my gut a little boxing match has erupted between Ms. Excited and Ms. Melancholy, with Ms. Anxiety masquerading as ringmaster. Of course, none of them will prevail as life’s opportunities, surprises and disappointments usually put us on the proverbial emotional rollercoaster. The key is to embrace our emotional contradictions and allow them to energize us and propel us forward.  To cross the bridge……which for us meant somewhere between our first spoonful and the bottom of the bowl we said goodbye to NC and hello to TX.

Ginger Chicken Soup with Baby Bok Choy

Ginger Chicken Soup with Baby Bok Choy

If your spices aren’t fresh your soup will be flat. Same goes for the lemongrass. It should be fragrant with an attractive yellow-green hue versus brown and brittle. Our cupboards were bare so a fresh baguette was the only addition to our menu….turns out it was enough.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced (including seeds)
  • 1 lb baby bok choy, roughly chop greens, core, quarter and chop white ends; keep separated
  • 4 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 2 TBSP ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 quarts homemade chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Scallions for serving
  • Cilantro for serving

Instructions

  1. To prepare the lemongrass remove the bulb and tough outer leaves. Cut the fragrant yellow stalks into 2” pieces then bend each one back and forth in order to gently bruise and release flavor.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a Dutch oven (I used a 6.75 quart) over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the yellow pepper, jalapeño, bok choy stems and lemongrass and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Once it begins to simmer reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a gentle bubble and add the shredded chicken and salt. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is warmed through.
  6. Stir in chopped bok choy greens, lime juice and cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted.
  7. Remove the lemongrass and serve with chopped scallions and cilantro.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/07/11/chicken-soup-to-the-rescue/

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New Friends

Doesn’t it just figure that I meet new, fabulous friends right when I’m getting out of Dodge? If you’ve been reading this blog you know I’m quite partial to Savory in Raleigh. Their spices are the finest I’ve encountered and sustained by an immensely knowledgeable staff that is always eager to oblige. Many receipts later, the girth on my circle of friends (thankfully not my waist!!!) has blissfully expanded, so you can imagine my delight upon discovering that one of these new mates lives directly across the green from me! Perhaps if we were 10 we might tether a string adorned with matching soup cans and whisper secret messages from the prying ears of nearby adults. Certainly, a few decades separate us from such youth, but the camaraderie persists. Like me, Lindsay is an avid home cook and with my dear husband away more than not, a few weeks ago she thoughtfully extended an invitation to join her and her family for dinner. When I learned that black garlic was to be the star ingredient, in my exuberance I nearly tackled her (quite uncivilized…and probably would not have won me second invitation). You see, it’s been on my long list of “must trys” that sits right next to my bulging folder of soup ideas….. Neither the fermented allium, nor the dinner left room for improvement. It was a fantastic evening on all accounts. Lindsay even sent me home with some garlic to “play around with”. Now that’s a friend!

Alone again and hoping to return the treat, I invited myself over…. with dinner in tow. I’m sure it was a sight……me crossing the green as if it were a live minefield. Fiercely concentrating, I gingerly walked this way and that way as I lugged a brimming pot of hot soup…….so sorry, no pictures. Years ago I attended a cooking class at A Southern Season and left absconded with the most glorious recipe for a Garlic Parmesan Broth which has since served as the base for many delicious meals in our home…..can you imagine this in risotto!!!! This time I added baby kale, tender cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo and finished it with a generous helping of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. That’s it! Lindsay’s mother Bonnie, AKA my massage therapist extraordinaire, kindly raved about the soup, but I’m willing to bet she adored dessert…Rich Homemade Ricotta. We set up a make-shift tasting bar with buttered crostinis, raw acacia honey, ridiculously aged balsamic, lavender vanilla sugar, strawberry preserves and soooo much more. Lindsay’s little boy surprised us all by diving right into the ricotta after bravely eating his greens and beans. Had onlookers witnessed this scene, instead of laughing as they might have at my awkward jaunt, they would have yearned to be part of our merry kitchen gathering. With each crostini sampled (and there were a lot) we continued to feed our friendship. Come to think of it, dessert lasted much longer than dinner.

Baby Kale and Cranberry Beans in Garlic Parmesan Broth

Baby Kale and Cranberry Beans in Garlic Parmesan Broth

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried cranberry beans
  • 1 cup yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and small dice
  • 1 cup celery, small dice
  • 12 cups Garlic Parmesan Broth
  • 5 oz baby kale
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Instructions

  1. Pick through the dried beans and remove any little rocks or debris that may have gotten mixed in, then give them a vigorous rinse in a colander to remove dust and dirt. Place beans in a small stock pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak overnight (minimum 12 hours). I used Rancho Gordo beans and soaked them for 18 hours. Beans will have plumped up so add more water if necessary to maintain the 2” water bath.
  2. Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until tender (about 10 minutes). Stir into the beans.
  3. Place the pot of beans on the stove and bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until the beans are tender and soft all the way through. Half way through the cooking you should start to smell a distinct bean aroma; this is when you add 1 TBSP of salt.
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat warm the broth in a large pot (I used a 6.75 quart Dutch oven).
  6. Add the cooked beans, baby kale, pepper and stir until the greens are wilted (about 3 minutes).
  7. Taste for seasonings.
  8. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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Garlic Parmesan Broth

Garlic Parmesan Broth

Adapted from A Southern Season cooking class.

When used in soup the pronounced flavor of the broth allows for simplicity in the other ingredients. In fact, it demands it.

Ingredients

  • 14 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 8 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds (about 5)
  • 16 stems Italian parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • 16 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Separate the garlic cloves from the head and crush them with the flat side of a chef’s knife to remove the skins. This is a sticky job!
  2. In stock pot (I used a 6 quart) combine all the ingredients EXCEPT for the olive oil.
  3. Cover and over medium heat bring to a simmer.
  4. Once a simmer has been reached, only partially cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
  5. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
  6. Stir in the oil.
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Rich Homemade Ricotta

Rich Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta can be dessert or a savory snack. Try the sweet toppings above or enjoy it with fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, roasted red peppers, a special finishing salt.......

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Line a fine mesh sieve with two layers of dampened cheesecloth (to remove lint and help it stick to the sieve) and position it over a large bowl.
  2. In a 4 quart saucepan (a stock pot will also work) combine the milk and cream.
  3. Stir in the salt.
  4. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Stir a few times during the heating and boiling.
  5. Once it reaches a full boil (about 15 minutes), reduce the heat to very, very low and stir in the lemon juice.
  6. Cook for 3 minutes. You will start to see some separation of curd-like particles and whey (liquid).
  7. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to stand for 30 minutes.
  8. Gently ladle the mixture into the lined sieve and drain for 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes of draining you will probably need to discard the collected liquid so that it can continue to drain. For a thicker consistency let it drain for 45 minutes.
  9. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and enjoy any number of ways!
  10. Serve immediately (my favorite) or at room temperature.
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Notes:

  1. I’ve been told to use the least pasteurized dairy you can find because the more pasteurization the less curdling success you will have. Here in NC, I use Maple View Dairy which can be found at Whole Foods.
  2. Try not to over stir. This disrupts the curds.
  3. ENJOYING THIS WARM RIGHT AFTER IT’S MADE IS AN ALMOST INDESCRIBEABLE PLEASURE. THERE IS NOTHING SO DECANDANT, CREAMY AND PURE.  Room temperature also works, but don’t miss an opportunity to taste it in its most fresh form.
  4. If you don’t have fresh lemon juice, 3 TBSP of white wine vinegar can be substituted.  The texture, however, will not be as creamy and the flavor will be less delicate.
  5. Provided you don’t devour it within the first 24-hours it will last about 5 days.
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My Logo

Like a bowl of soup, a truly authentic friendship can warm your spirit and wash away the troubles and fears of life. Even if the respite is a short one, the effect proffers magnificent healing. This is what a conversation with my longtime friend Cheryl does for me. We are miles apart and her unrelenting pace (full-time mom of 3 and full-time designer…the woman is always in motion) doesn’t lend us much time, but amazing to me this has yet to affect our closeness. Cheryl’s dear Gramma is pretty ancient(sorry Gramma), which means she is not only banned from making Cheryl’s favorite Italian Wedding Soup, but I’m guessing she couldn’t remember how should an attempt be made. Gramma is one of Cheryl’s precious loves and in honor of their authentic bond, and ours, I made a special pot of Italian Wedding Soup last night. If you’re like me and never been a big fan, savoring layer after layer of fresh, earthy spoonfuls, which is the hallmark of this version, will have you revising your opinion. In fact, I was up early to make sure I got first dibs on what’s left for lunch. Early bird gets the soup!

When I saw that the recipe called for baking the meatballs instead of frying them, I practically cried with joy. I really, really really hate the aftermath of frying anything. The clean-up (although usually delegated to my husband) is monotonous and when you live with Mr. Clean it has to be meticulous. Hence my elation upon reading “bake the meatballs”. Even better, you could hear them sizzling in the oven while their garlicky aroma slinked through the house mercilessly toying with us and literally drawing  my husband out of his office. Upon waving the white flag we popped them in our mouths direct from the baking sheet. Even with billows of steam exiting from our burnt mouths it was worth it.

As you might have guessed, Cheryl is the design maven behind my logo. She is always leading my cheer section and so beautifully captured in my logo all that I wanted this new adventure to be. Like soup,and like Cheryl, it warms me.

 

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Adapted From Ina Garten Back to Basics

The soup’s star power relies on the earthy ingredients and the roasting of the meatballs. Together they lend the rich depth of flavor that you crave from Italian Wedding Soup, but without the greasiness of fried meatballs or those bland boiled versions. The meatballs hold their structure even after sopping up all that golden dill-spiked broth.

Ingredients

  • Meatballs
  • ¾ pound of ground turkey
  • ½ pound turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 3 TBSP chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • ¼ freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 3 TBSP half and half
  • 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Broth
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup small diced carrots
  • 1 cup small diced celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine, plus more for drinking
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • ¼ cup minced fresh dill
  • 10-12 ounces baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and gently blend with a fork. If you have a food processor, you can save a bundle of time by prepping your bread crumbs, parsley, garlic and cheese (all separately) in the bowl with the steel blade.
  3. Form tablespoon size meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Mine always end up being bigger.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned. You want them to be completely cooked.
  5. While the meatballs are roasting, in a large pot heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and translucent but not browned. Stir occasionally.
  6. Add the chicken broth and wine and bring to a boil.
  7. Add orzo and simmer for 6 minutes.
  8. Stir in the fresh dill followed by the spinach and simmer until the spinach is wilted (about a minute).
  9. Taste for seasoning.
  10. Add the meatballs (if there are any left).
  11. Serve with a healthy sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.
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