Vegetable & Soba Noodle Salad

It is officially spring in Washington, DC: my Instragram feed is full of cherry blossoms and the car is dusted with pollen.  Life is good again (as long as the tourists stick to the right side of the Metro escalator.  Seriously, ok? Right. Side.).

Spring means more happy-looking vegetables, even at our local Safeway.  It also means that fresh, quick & easy is the best way to do dinner.

This “recipe” comes courtesy of my sister, and before that, one of her friends.  Really, though, there’s no plan to follow here – just use the vegetables in your refrigerator.  Although as my sister wisely said to me, “I know you wouldn’t do this, but obviously don’t skimp on the avocado.”  OBVIOUSLY NOT.

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Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 package soba or buckwheat noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head purple or green cabbage, shredded
  • handful sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • a big handful cilantro, chopped
  • other optional toppings: feta cheese, shredded/cooked chicken, pan fried tofu, peanuts
  • dressing:
    • 1 part olive oil
    • 1 part rice vinegar
    • 1 part soy sauce
    • 1/2 part toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon or so honey, plus more as needed
    • juice from 1/2 lime
    • healthy dose sriracha
    • freshly grated ginger
    • s&p to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook soba noodles until just before al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Rinse immediately with cold water.
  2. Combine all of your chopped veggies (from bell pepper through cabbage) in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk your dressing together; continually taste and adjust to your liking.
  3. Add noodles to veggies; top with sesame seeds & dressing.  Give the bowl a thorough mix with tongs and add avocado and cilantro.  Serve warm or cold.

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The Verdict:

Husband hasn’t passed the verdict yet, so you can be the judge…d’accord?

Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

That moment when you’ve come back from a trip and it’s freezing and the idea of putting on your coat and going to the grocery store and lugging those groceries home and just, no, no, you just can’t?  That’s the moment for this soup, inspired by my fridge…and the Kitchn.  Every single ingredient was already in my fridge or my pantry- and is likely in yours, too.  And if not? Just substitute in the veggies that are.

so many veggies in one pot!
so many veggies in one pot!

Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • optional: any other leftover vegetables you might have laying about – I threw in some yellow bell pepper, which was lovely
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds (you know, the essentials)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about a cup red lentils, rinsed and picked
  • about 4-6 cups broth and/or water, if you don’t have broth…more or less depending on how “soupy” you like your soup
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • dash cumin
  • large handful kale
  • large handful spinach
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • optional toppings: Greek yogurt, cilantro, parsley, etc.
  1. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, & onions, add a good pinch of salt, a dash of pepper & crushed reds, and cook gently – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, then add the lentils, give them a quick toss with the veggies, and add the broth, bay leaf, and a dash of cumin.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer with the cover on, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add the kale and spinach, stir through, and then cover and simmer another 8-10 minutes.
  5. Removing the soup from the heat, add the lemon juice, ladle into bowls and serve with your desired toppings.
so good & so good for you.
so good & so good for you.

The Verdict:

So healthy, so wallet friendly, so quick and easy.  What’s not to love?

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard & Chickpeas

Tonight, despite the leftovers begging to be released from their (glass, because when my mom found out about BPA, you can guess what was under the Christmas tree) Tupperware containers, I decided to forge ahead with a plan for lentil soup.  It’s freezing and windy and tomorrow it might even snow here (let’s keep our fingers crossed!!).

You may recall lentil soup with Swiss chard is a staple around here…but I recently bought some garam masala and why not?  Enter Bon Appetit’s plan to integrate curry and garbanzo beans + a few small tweaks, because I just can’t help myself, especially around garlic.

back to our cilantro ways!
back to our cilantro ways!

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Chickpeas

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 teaspoons curry powder
  • small handful cayenne
  • dash of crushed red pepper
  • pinch garam marsala (optional)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups veggie broth, plus or minus (depending on if you like lentil soup vs. stand-alone lentils)
  • 1 cup red lentils (what is Bon Appetit thinking, calling for a pound!?)
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • salt and sugar – in case the curry comes out a little bitter, more on this later
  • optional/for topping: plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, cooked brown rice, avocado
  1. If serving with rice (in the Husband’s view, you can’t over-carb), get your water boiling – the rice will take about the same time as the soup, if you get it going first (especially if using jasmine rice).  Cook rice according to directions and keep warm.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Cook the onions down, until translucent, over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook for a minute; add the curry powder, cayenne pepper, crushed reds, and garam masala.  Mix well and then add broth and Swiss chard; bring to a boil.
  3. Add the lentils and reduce the heat.  Split lentils will take significantly less time to cook than non-split ones; if working with split lentils, add the chickpeas now.  If not, let the lentils cook down a bit before adding the chickpeas.  Cover the pot and simmer until the lentils are tender – about 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Taste your soup & adjust accordingly.  Mine was quite bitter and a bit heavy on the seasonings.  To counteract this, I added (very small & equal) amounts of salt and sugar and stirred until dissolved, until I was able to bring the bite down a bit.
  5. Before serving, add the lime juice and stir.  Serve with brown rice, topped with a bit of plain Greek yogurt and cilantro.  TIP: Mixing the yogurt all the way through will also serve to counteract any lingering bitterness and really bring all of the flavors together, though obviously, this won’t work for the lactose-intolerant.

The Verdict:

Around step 4, I got really worried.  In the Husband’s words, it tasted “not bad…like water, with seasonings.”  However, I’m starting to trust myself a bit more, and rather than resign myself to bad soup (which I have definitely foisted upon the Husband before – cue the burned-pumpkin-soup story from our days of pre-dating, which he ate up with a big, if forced, smile.), I actually fixed it, with salt, sugar, and a bit more time stewing.  This turned out deliciously – warm, tasty, and filling (another) happy Tupperware container to bring for lunch.  Topped with avocado, next time!

more avocado, please.
more avocado, please.

Hello, 2015: Vegetable Paella

We had a very appropriately 30-something New Year’s Eve, replete with dinner guests, champagne, a charcuterie board, and of course, a game of vodka roulette (the Husband either won or lost, depending on your point of view.  The next morning, he felt he had definitely lost).  Totally approp.

Our dinner party plans were a little impromptu, and with a couple of guests with dietary restrictions, it was the prefect opportunity to deploy a recipe from Plenty, one of my THREE Christmas present cookbooks.  (Apparently, cookbooks are what you get for Christmas the year you start a blog.  This is mostly inspiring, though a bit terrifying, as they are beyond gorgeous.  And I’m not talking just the food or the photos, either.  How does someone raise seven children and a gaggle of dogs and look like this?)

#thisis30
#thisis30

Vegetable Paella For Six (Yotam Ottolenghi, with a few tweaks)

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 orange bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 carton baby Bella mushrooms
  • 6 bay leaves
  • teaspoon smoked paprika
  • teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups rice (the recipe calls for Calasparra; I found this impossible to find and went with the medium grain Calrose instead)
  • 12 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 teaspoons saffron
  • salt
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock, brought to a boil
  • 8 plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, well drained and cut into quarters
  • plenty of fresh parsley
  • lemon wedges
  1. If you’re serving this as a dinner party dish and want to get the timing done right, best to get your veggies prepped first.  Cut up your onion, peppers, fennel, etc. and set aside.  The rest of the dish takes about 45 minutes start to finish.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute about 6 minutes; add peppers and fennel and saute until they start to soften.  Add garlic and mushrooms, cook an additional minute.
  3. Boil your vegetable stock (your electric water boiler is perfect for this!)
  4. Add bay leaf, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper and give the mixture a stir.  Add the rice and stir it about for two minutes before adding the sherry and saffron.  Let that cook off about a minute or so and then add your vegetable stock and a dash of salt (especially if you’re using low sodium broth!).  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Don’t stir it.
  5. When the rice has cooked through, taste it without disturbing it too much and adjust the seasonings.  Add the tomatoes and artichokes to the top and then cover for about 10 minutes, to give a chance for the heat to gently cook them.
  6. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
just missing the mariscos
just missing the mariscos

The Verdict:

Fact: paella tastes better with seafood.   That being said, this was very tasty rice with vegetables, and it had a pretty color, given the turmeric.  No hay de que, por lo menos, ¡teníamos bastante cava!

Welcome Home Cassoulet

The Husband and I came home to my parents’ last night, where the food feast has already begun.  My parents now live about 2 1/2 hours from the airport, so by the time we got in, we were very, very hungry.  My mom had this cassoulet – really just a rich, white bean-based stew – waiting for us in the fridge.  Add a salad, some crusty bread, a wedge of blue cheese, and a (few) glasses of wine, and this was more than a meal – it was a celebration.

Welcome Home Cassoulet

  • about 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 4 celery sticks, grated
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • optional: about a pound of chicken or pork sausage, crumbled (my dad pretty much insists it’s not a meal without meat)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 15 oz cans of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • about a cup of dry white wine
  • vegetable bouillon and 4 cups water OR 4 cups veggie broth
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • a large handful parsley, chopped
  • large handful basil, chopped
  • a good dash black pepper
  • a good dash red pepper flakes (even though my mom says this is “so not French”)
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute onions, carrots and celery, until softened.
  2. If using meat, this is a good time to add it, making sure it crumbles all the way through.
  3. Add garlic, saute a minute or two, and then add beans, wine, spices and the veggie broth/bouillon + water.
  4. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn down the heat; cover and simmer for an hour minimum.  NOTE: This is even better reheated, when the different elements have had a chance to come together.
welcome home, love mom.
welcome home, love mom.

The Verdict:

Whether it was the flavors melding together in the fridge, our hunger, or just the fact that it was so nice to taste my mom’s cooking again, the cassoulet was amazing.  Credit for the original recipe goes to one of my dad’s business partners.  YUM.