Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper & Red Lentil Soup

I know: tis the season for pumpkin soup, but, with cooking (as with most things), I go with my inspiration. This is one of the best soups I've ever made. I have to tell you, I thought about throwing in some pumpkin. I'm so glad I didn't.

This soup came out exactly the way I wanted it and will be a treasured recipe for me. It's really easy to make, vegan, lowfat, and full of protein. As you can see from the photo, my version is thick, like a dal (I loved it this way!). Use more liquid for a lighter version.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

Roasted Red Pepper & Red Lentil Soup:

1 -1/2 TBS peanut oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and finely diced
1 tsp of ground cumin
generous pinch of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of ground coriander
generous pinch (or two) of salt
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups of water
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
7.5 oz jar roasted red peppers
salt to taste
cilantro garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently (avoid browning) . Add the potato, cover, and cook for 4 minutes (stirring to avoid sticking). Add the cumin, cumin seeds, coriander and salt and mix well. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, red lentils and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the roasted red peppers. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until lentils loose their shape.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree using an immersion blender.

Return to the heat and add salt to your taste.

Serve garnished with cilantro.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Polenta Crostini

So, with our current hot Indian summer weather, I'm switching from soup to lighter fare. These crostini, made with polenta instead of bread, were a wonderfully light way to make the most of our transitional produce.

I made three versions: roasted beets with feta and chives, cherry tomatoes with mozzarella and lemony asparagus with goat cheese.

I loved the beet version. I roasted the beets in foil in the oven and their cool, freshness was delicious with the salty feta. The asparagus was parboiled in lemon water, then lightly topped with EVOO and lemon. I felt the goat cheese was a little light, next time I'd use feta.

Honestly, my favorite was the simplest: mozzarella with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil:

It was the perfect melding of flavors.

I made the polenta from scratch (my first time!), put it in a sheet pan to cool, cut, then sauteed it. I put the asparagus and tomato version under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Comfort Food: Vegetable Soup with Cheddar & "Bacon" Crostini

Suddenly, the wind has that autumnal chill, the world seems topsy-turvy, and I have a strong desire to hibernate. Time for a hearty vegetable soup for the soul, this time with indulgent crostini with Morningstar "Bacon" and rich cheddar cheese.

Is it the blues? Is it a cold?

Either way, bring on the comfort food.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

South Indian Pumpkin & Cashew Curry

I've been wanting to try this recipe ever since I saw the intense photo of the dish in India's Vegetarian Cooking: A Regional Guide. I've never cooked much with pumpkin, but this recipe with cashews, coconut, poppy seeds and milk really called out to me. The cashews, coconut and poppy seeds are ground together to a paste, which gave the dish a lovely texture to compliment the smooth pumpkin. It's a delicious mellow curry with lots of character.

The recipe uses fresh curry leaves, which can be difficult to find. I was thrilled to finally make it to Malabar Indian Store on 4th Street (at F) in San Rafael. A treasure trove of Indian goodies, Malabar had fresh curry leaves, tamarind concentrate, black mustard seeds and an enormous selection of legumes, rice, and spices at reasonable prices. They also carry lots of frozen meals and I picked up a 4 pack of frozen coconut chutney to try.

I added onions to the dish and used a combo of fresh chile and RCP (vs red dried). I increased the amount of cashew and decreased the amount of dried coconut. I also significantly reduced the amount of sugar. Here's my adapted recipe:

South Indian Pumpkin & Cashew Curry:
1/2 small pumpkin, seeded, peeled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup dried coconut
1/3 cup raw cashews
1 TBS poppy seeds
1/4 cup water
1/2 jalapeno, seed and very finely chopped
2 TBS sunflower oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup milk
water as needed
sugar to taste (I used less than a tsp)
salt to taste

Prepare the pumpkin. In a mini-prep, grind together the cashews, coconut, poppy seeds and 1/4 cup water to make a grainy paste.

Heat the sunflower oil in a skillet and saute the onions. Add the black mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chile. Add the curry leaves. Add the turmeric and then the paste and stir well to combine. Add the pumpkin with 1/4 cup water. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, adding the salt and sugar to taste. Add water as needed to prevent the mixture sticking and to keep the pumpkin cooking. The pumpkin should be just tender, but easily holding its shape.

Serve with rice.