Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Simple Lentil Soup for Mom

My mom loved to cook...and she really loved to eat!  And she was so tiny - 5'1" and about 110 pounds most of the time. I remember when my kids were small we'd go to a local Italian family restaurant and she'd eat a huge plate of pasta and then grab 2 or 3 slices of pizza off the table. She also made a lot of soup for us when we were growing up, one of which was Lentil and Bacon.  I never appreciated it back then, but have grown to enjoy it now.  Now this isn't exactly her recipe...but it's close ( she'd put a lot of bacon in hers).  
I lost my mom 25 years ago today...boy do I miss her...

Makes a small pot - about 2 quarts

2 strips bacon, diced
1 Tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbl tomato paste
6 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dried lentils
1 cup chopped parsley

In about a 4 quart soup pot cook the bacon in the olive oil until it starts to crisp up.
Add the celery, onions and carrot and saute until the onion begins to soften.
Add the minced garlic and cook until you can smell the garlic.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook that another minute.
Add the lentil, chicken broth, bay leaf and thyme.
Bring up to a boil and then simmer 30 to 40 minutes until the lentils have cooked through.  Stir in the parsley.
Note:  As with most soups, this one tastes best if made early in the day or even the day before serving.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Brushed Pork Loin

Half pork loins were on sale this past week so I bought one with this recipe in mind.  This will feed about 6 people, so for the two of us there will be sandwiches for leftovers. The clove of garlic studded into the roast imparts great flavor!

3 to 4 pound boneless pork loin
1 clove garlic sliced into about 10 slivers
1 head garlic, top cut off about 1/2 inch, placed on a piece of foil, drizzled with a teaspoon of olive oil, sealed in the foil and then roasted in a 350F oven for 45 minutes and then cooled
2 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

Cut slits with a small paring knife all around the roast and push the slivers of garlic in.
Squeeze the cloves out of the roasted garlic head into a mini processor along with the rosemary, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. Process until relatively smooth.
Brush the roast with half of the puree and then roast for 45 minutes at 350F.
At this point brush with the rest of the puree and return to the oven and continue to roast until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 140F with an instant read thermometer.  This can take between 30 and 45 more minutes depending on your oven.  Remove the roast and let rest about 10 minutes before carving.

If you like, while the roast is resting, place your roasting pan on the burners of your stove, add 2 cups of chicken stock and bring up to the boil all the while scraping up those browned bits in the pan.  Add as much instant flour (Wondra) as you like to thicken to create a great pan sauce or gravy. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Last Night's Splurge

Last night's dinner was  splurge - Bone in rib eyes, Caesar Salad and Asiago cheese bread.  For the steak we just rubbed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and threw them on a hot grill.  I made a little steak sauce by combining ketchup, Worcestershire and lots of Cholula.
For the salad go here: 

And for the bread go here: 

It was like a little bit of summer in the dead of winter!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa, Spinach and Feta

I only occasionally buy tomatoes during the winter, and when I do, I find that Romas on the vine are a safe choice, especially when cooked.  And in my resolve to put more whole grain into our diet I decided to stuff a few of those tomatoes with quinoa, spinach and feta.  (A lot of "superfood" here!!)

4 large Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded and cored
3/4 cup rinsed and drained quinoa simmered for about 15 minutes in 1  1/2 cups water and then cooled
2 Tbl butter
2 green onions thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbl dried dill weed
4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (a great big handful)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese plus a little more for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Place the cut sides of the tomatoes on paper toweling to drain while you prepare the filling.
In a medium saute pan, saute the green onion and garlic in the butter for about one minute.  Stir in the dill weed.
With the heat still on, add the spinach, a little at a time, stirring all the while until it wilts.  Stir in the cooked quinoa and 1/2 cup of the crumbled feta.  Taste and season with a little salt and pepper if needed.
Generously fill the tomato halves with the spinach-quinoa mixture and place in a medium baking dish.  Sprinkle with a little more feta and the drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil.  Bake in a 325F oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Almost Shrimp Cocktail

Friday I received the February Bon Appetit magazine and as I was perusing through I ran across this amazing recipe for Poor Man's "Shrimp" Cocktail.  I immediately called friend Pam who gets the magazine also and we both agreed that it had to be tried.  We both went out yesterday, bought the ingredients and did the test.  This is almost "genius" in that if you close your eyes(Pam's words) you really do think you're eating shrimp cocktail....think about it -low fat, low cholesterol, low carb, high fiber, vegan....and CHEAP!

Here's the link: 

Friday, January 20, 2012

White Bean and Cabbage Soup

I pulled a meaty ham bone out of the freezer yesterday and thought I'd make a soup somewhat different than my traditional one with lots of paprika and mint.  This one is lighter but very warming and went extremely well with Tom's favorite Chuck Muer House Bread.

1 meaty ham bone (or a meaty ham shank)
1/2 pound dried Great Northern beans (or 2 cans, juice and all)
3 Tbl olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 large carrots sliced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
4 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 head small cabbage, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in water and then the next day bring them up to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes until tender.(Skip this step if using canned beans)  Save about 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
Place the ham bone in a large soup pot and cover with about 4 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer the ham bone for 45 minutes to and hour.  Remove the bone, cool a bit and then pick off the meat and reserve.  Save the broth.
Saute the onion, carrot and garlic in the olive oil until softened.
Add the bay leaf and crushed red pepper and give everything a stir and then add the bean broth, ham broth and chicken broth.
Bring up to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the reserved ham and the beans and bring up to a boil again.
Add the chopped cabbage and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Check out the article from Food52's Genius Recipes weekly segment on overcooked broccoli and how delicious it can actually be.  I made this last night with the following changes :  I used one pound of thawed frozen broccoli and skipped the blanching step and halved the rest of the ingredients except for the garlic (I love garlic!)  You can find the article here: 

I plopped some on top of mashed potatoes - it was wonderful!  And I can imagine it mixed with pasta!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Peppery Potatoes O'Brien

Get out a big frying pan and make these peppery potatoes with onion and green bell pepper.....great for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Use as much or little black pepper as you like..

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1  1/2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter plus another Tbl or two for finishing
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in water for about 5 minutes until almost fork tender and then drain.
In a large frying pan saute the onions and bell pepper in 2 Tbl olive oil and 2 Tbl butter until soft.
Add the potatoes, salt and pepper...give everything a stir and turn up the heat a bit.  Let the potatoes cook until they begin to brown on the bottom.  Stir them up again, dot with a little more butter and then cover with a lid.  Cook until the bottom browns up a little again.  Re season with salt and pepper and serve piping hot!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

White Bean and Quinoa Chili

Another use for quinoa and totally vegan or vegetarian if you check whether or not your beer has animal products such as isinglass or gelatin.

1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cup diced green bell pepper
5 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbl ground cumin
3 Tbl ancho chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2  14 to 15 ounce cans tomatoes, chopped
1  12 ounce can V8 or tomato juice
12 ounces beer
1 to 2 tsp brown sugar
3 cups cooked white beans (or two 14 to 15 ounce cans drained and rinsed)
3/4 cup quinoa simmered in 1 1/2 cups water for 10 to 15 minutes

In a soup pot or dutch oven saute the onions and bell pepper in the olive oil until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two.
Stir in the cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and saute another minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, beer and tomato juice, bring up to the boil and gently simmer for about 15 minutes.  Taste at this point and if the mixture seems too acidic, stir in some of the brown sugar.
Stir in the cooked beans and cooked quinoa, bring up to the boil and serve.  Garnish with your favorite toppings if you like - green onion, avocado, grated cheese, sour cream etc.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tuscan Bean Salad

Go to almost any Italian restaurant around here and you're almost always served a small bowl of marinated room temperature white beans to enjoy with your bread and oil while perusing the menu.  here's my take on it using walnuts and sage to dress the beans.

4 cups cooked cannellini beans (or alternatively   2   15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup walnut pieces toasted in a 350F oven for about 8 minutes
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
4 Tbl torn sage leaves
1 clove rough chopped garlic
1 Tbl walnut oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to re season if desired

Cool the walnut pieces after toasting them and the rough chop them and place in a bowl of a mini food processor along with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sage leaves, salt, pepper, walnut oil and water.  Process until smooth.
Combine the beans and the diced red onion and add the dressing.  Stir in the chopped parsley and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend.  Remove from the fridge and bring the salad up to room temperature.  Re season with salt and pepper if desired. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Asian Pear Salad with Honeyed Walnuts and a Sage and Walnut Dressing

We roasted a duck for dinner last night and wanted a salad with some sweetness to complement the richness of the duck.  This fit the bill.

Walnut Sage Dressing
4 Tbl honey
4 Tbl walnut oil
3 Tbl apple cider vinegar
2 Tbl water
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts (toast in a 350F oven for 8 to 10 minutes and then chop)
2 Tbl minced fresh sage leaves
1/4 tsp salt
Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.

For the salad
1/2 cup whole walnuts (about 12)
1 Tbl granulated sugar
1 Tbl honey
5 to 6 cups assorted baby salad greens
1/2 Asian pear sliced into matchstick size pieces
3 fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
The walnut Sage dressing
Coat the whole walnuts with the sugar and honey and then place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.
Divide the salad greens between 2 salad plates.  Place half of the walnuts, half of the Asian pear slices and half of the sliced sage over each plate of greens.
Dress the salad with a few spoonfuls of dressing and serve.