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Spicy Lentil and Kale Soup

November 6, 2012 4 comments

Lentil and Kale Soup

It is certainly closer to soup season in North Alabama. We’ve had some freezing temperatures, just enough to make us bring in the giant Ficus and harvest our sweet potatoes. But then this weekend, it was in the upper 70s. Interesting weather so far!  Regardless of the weather, this is a great soup. It doesn’t need a long time to cook, but the flavor improves as it cooks. It is similar to my Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup but this has kale. Actually you could use most any variety of greens – you just might need to make a few adjustments. If you using a quick-cooking cooking green like cabbage or bok choy, just put it in later. You could also use collards, broccoli rabe, or even mustard greens. I haven’t tried this, but a sweet potato (freshly harvested from the Smith-Jordan garden) would probably be good in place of the regular potato. Play around with the spices, add some cinnamon or allspice if you want to mix it up even more. Use water or veggie broth. Have fun with this recipe and enjoy…

Spicy Lentil and Kale Soup  (Print recipe)

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large potato, diced in small cubes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoons freshly ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups red lentils

4 cups veggie broth*

2 cups water (might need more)

1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped

Optional Garnish: Kale Chips

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrots, and potato. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, Aleppo pepper, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add lentils. Stir in the veggie stock and water. Add the kale. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked, about 45 minutes. Garnish with crispy kale chips and serve.

*You can use 4 cups of veggie broth and 2 cups of water or you can use 6 cups of water. The veggie broth adds more flavor, but it is also delicious with only water. If you want a thicker soup, you can use less liquid. Depending on your lentils, you might need to increase the liquid if it is too thick.

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Post 12/13 – Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the many beautiful sunsets we saw in Levanto, Italy

Once again, I took liberties with my naming.  Italian might be a misnomer, but I made up this soup using a few ingredients we bought in Italy, so I called it “Italian.”  The rest of the ingredients came from our pantry or Garden Cove.  It was a pantry soup, tried to use what I had on-hand.

We bought the pesto in Levanto and the orzo pasta in Milan.  The recipe is also inspired by a soup we had in Levanto.  We had dinner at Ristorante da Rino, at the recommendation of our friend and host, Claudio.  It was one of the best meals we had on our trip. My favorite part of dinner was the minestrone soup. Their soup rivaled some of the food at the slow food restaurant, La Pallotta, in Assisi (one of the best meals of my life).   It was a thick, creamy bean soup with a pesto swirl, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Nothing like the thin, tomato-based soup served in the States.   

Pesto:  We visited and fell in love with Liguria, a region in northwest Italy. It is famous for its cuisine, particularly pesto. For good reason – the local pesto is incredible! We brought home a few jars.  The pesto we bought includes cheese, so this dish isn’t vegan but it is vegetarian friendly.  You could easily make it vegan by using a pesto with just basil, walnuts (or pine nuts), olive oil, and garlic and leaving off the optional Parmesan sprinkle garnish.  It would probably be even better if you made fresh pesto.  But there was something special about using a jar of pesto from a cute little shop in Levanto.

 Orzo pasta:  We also bought back orzo pasta.  Orzo pasta is pasta in the shape of large grains of rice.  It is also called risoni.  Luckily, you can find it in many grocery stores here.  It was just kinda cool using a bag from a fancy-dancy department store in Milan. Orzo is often used in soups.  I love it in lentil soup, split pea soup, and chicken soup. Since this soup is a combination of split pea and lentil soup, I thought it would be a good addition.  This soup is thick, more like a stew, so I pre-cooked the orzo in salted boiling water and then drained it before adding to the soup.


I made this soup a few weeks ago.  I wrote down the ingredients on the back of an envelope.  I have so many scraps of paper with a list of ingredients, it’s kinda ridiculous!  Slight problem, I didn’t include the directions. So, I’m trying to recreate it in my mind.  Hope it isn’t too scattered.

 

Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

10 oz. (approx. 2 cups) of fresh sugar snap peas (frozen sweet peas would work too)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup lentils (I used Turkish red lentils)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ -½ teaspoon black or cayenne pepper (or Penzeys’ Black & Red Blend)

½ teaspoon dried parsley

1 bay leaf

½-1 cup of cooked orzo pasta (depends on how much you like pasta!)

pesto, for garnish

olive oil, for garnish

freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish


If you use fresh pods, use everything – pods and peas (might want to remove the string if they are stringy).  You can also use frozen peas or frozen peas in the pod. Cook the peas until just tender in a small saucepan on the stove or zapped in the microwave. Mash them with a fork or purée with a hand blender.  Set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot sauté the celery, onions, and garlic in the olive oil, until soft.  Stir in the lentils, water, mashed peas, salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaf.   Cover and simmer on low for about hour or until the lentils are tender.  Check every 20 minutes or so to see if it needs more water.  Add water as needed. Remove the bay leaf.  Purée some of the soup or mash it (depends on how much texture you want).  Add the cooked orzo pasta.  Serve with a swirl of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan. 

Excuses, Excuses…

August 26, 2011 12 comments

Ok, it has been a while since my last post (actually, my first and only post).  There are tons of reasons:  1) health issues, 2) honeymoon trip planning (much more fun than #1), 3) writer’s block, and 4) a lack of confidence.  This last one is the biggie.

Health issues are improving and I am feeling better!  All of the flights and rooms are booked so the trip planning is going well.  Just have the little details of what to see, what to do, how to get there, left to plan.  Writer’s block has plagued me for years; I should be used to it by now.  I just gotta write something, anything, to get me started.  This post is my attempt to get over this latest block.

This leads me to “lack of confidence.”  I have many recipes to share, but I am worried that the recipes might not be foolproof enough to post.  Case in point – recently, I made cornbread when my in-laws were visiting.  I got a little too confident and didn’t measure everything.  Big mistake!  Thought I was running out of the corn meal mix, so I just poured all of it into the mixing bowl.  Figured I would get the ratio correct when I added the buttermilk.  Not so much.  Fail!  It tasted fine, but the texture was crumbly.  Having a fail from my own recipe, didn’t exactly boost my confidence.

I’ve also been concerned that my photography is not good enough.  So, I’ve used this as another rationalization not to post.  Well, we just got a new camera for our trip to Italy and I am optimistic that this excuse will not be an issue for very long.  Now, if I can just learn how to use the camera, I’ll be set! In the meantime, I will post what I can (with or without photographs).  I can always update posts after the fact.

Following are three recipes to make up for my lack of recent posts.  The first is my homage to summer – a “Magic” Blueberry Cobbler.  This recipe, originally from Good Morning America,  is also delicious with peaches (or blackberries, or even a combo of the three).  Berry season is over but if last night’s farmers market is any indication, peaches are still going strong here in Alabama.  The other two are my welcome to fall recipes (one can dream that fall will be here eventually) – Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup and an Egyptian Style Salad Dressing.  Last week’s cooler weather made me think about soup.  This is an excellent and versatile soup; it can be vegetarian, vegan, or made with stock.  In addition, it is relatively quick to make since it does not need to simmer all day. It is great for not heating up the kitchen while we are waiting patiently for fall!  The salad dressing makes a nice accompaniment, perfect on a simple green salad.

Magic Blueberry Cobbler:
5 cups fresh blueberries (works with frozen berries too, you can also substitute peaches or blackberries for half of the blueberries)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I probably used a little more)
¼ teaspoon ground mace (optional, I used cinnamon)
3 cups sugar (I used less sugar)
1 cup whole milk (I have used ½ & ½ with a little water)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (or a little more)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread the blueberries in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.  Drizzle the lemon juice over the berries and set this aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon of the salt, the nutmeg, mace (or cinnamon), 1½ cups of the sugar, the milk, butter, and vanilla.  Spoon over the berries and spread in an even layer.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1½ cups sugar, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the cornstarch.  Sprinkle this mixture over the batter.  Pour the boiling water evenly over the top of the cobbler.  Poke a few holes down in the batter with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Bake for 1 hour or until bubbly, golden brown and shiny.  Serve warm or at room temperature (I like it cold for breakfast!).

Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup:
2 cups chopped onions
10 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
1-1½ cups chopped potatoes (about 1 large potato)
5 cups water (or vegetable broth or chicken stock)
1 cup dried red lentils
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of hot chili flakes, cayenne, or Aleppo pepper (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onions, celery, and garlic in oil.  Add the carrots, potatoes, lentils, and water. Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Take pot off the heat or turn it to very low.

In a separate, small saucepan, add the canola oil and warm over low heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, salt, and chili flakes; cook and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes or until the spices have released their fragrance (be careful not to burn the spices).  Set spice mixture aside for a few minutes to cool.

Stir spice mixture into the lentil mixture and then add the cilantro.  You can purée the soup, in batches, in a blender or you can use an immersion blender and blend to a desired texture (I like to leave it a little chunky).  Add the fresh lemon juice and stir to combine.  Re-warm soup and season with more salt/pepper, if you want.  Serve with lemon wedges and Greek low-fat yogurt.

Egyptian Style Salad Dressing:
¼ cup oil (canola, sunflower, olive oil, or your choice of oils)
¼ cup lemon juice (can also substitute lime if that’s what you have)
1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider or a combination)
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of hot chili flakes, cayenne, or Aleppo pepper (optional)

Mix ingredients.  Serve over a green salad or tomato/cucumber/onion/parsley chopped salad.