Two-Tomato Basil Lentil Salad

After gorging ourselves on french onion soup mac & cheese for a week, it’s time to atone for our sins.  Or at least get some new vegetables circulating in the system.

I’m practicing my future mom skills with this “recipe:” what’s in the fridge tonight, will it be done in less than 20 minutes, how can I make it look like pasta, and will it be at least as good the second and third and fourth times?

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Tw0-Tomato Basil Lentil Salad

  • 1 cup red split lentils (these turn almost risotto-y when you cook them, which is a bonus for me)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • big handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (green parts only)
  • big handful basil, chopped
  • big handful feta
  • dash olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt, fresh ground pepper
  • optional: salad greens (spinach, mixed greens, arugula, etc.)
  1. Combine lentils, water, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and a dash salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.
  2. While the lentils cook, chop the rest of your veggies.
  3. When the lentils are done, remove the bay leaves – and if you have a garlic press, which I really, really hope you do – pass the cooked/softened garlic through the press and mix it all around.  Combine lentils with tomatoes, scallions, basil, feta olive oil, lemon and give a good toss.
  4. Serve on top of salad greens for a little more oomph, top with freshly cracked pepper.

The Verdict:

The big bonus from this lentil salad is: it actually looks and tastes like risotto.  So basically, we’re eating straight pasta for the second week in a row! Hollerrrrr.

Lobster Paella

Wedding season is glorious.

I love getting dressed up.  I love drinking champagne.  I love rocking out way too hard on the dance floor with the Husband.  I love the many, multiple reasons to come home to Boston and see my friends.

And I love going to bridal showers hosted by my mom.

A little over a year ago, my mom called me in a panic.  She’d offered to do the bridal shower for her BFF’s daughter, but now she didn’t know what that actually entailed.  Food? Decor? Drinks? She was supposed to figure out GAMES!?!  She asked me if it’d be appropriate to call in sick, citing European-ness.  (According to my mom the German, Europeans just don’t DO showers.)  She made her delicious Beef Bourgouignon, and needless to say, the shower was amazing.

Last night, my mom hosted a shower for another friend’s daughter.  As we cleaned up the kitchen, she turned to me and said, “this is just the most wonderful tradition.”

Agreed, Mom.  Made all the more wonderful by this lobster paella.  That’s right.  Lobster paella.

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Lobster Paella (Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 chopped yellow onions
  • 2-3 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper (about a teaspoon each)
  • 1/3 cup Pernod or Ouzo
  • 1.5-2 pounds cooked lobster meat
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 pound kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • for serving: parsley, lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in large, ovenproof Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add bell peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Lower heat, add minced garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover pot and place it in the oven.
  3. Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, remove, stir rice gently, and return to the oven to bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes (or until rice is fully cooked).
  4. Remove from oven and transfer back to the stove top.  Add Ouzo or Pernod and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat; add lobster, shrimp, kielbasa, and peas.  Cover and allow to steam through, about 10 minutes, so all of the protein heats through.  Sprinkle with lemon and/or parsley and serve hot.

IMG_3379[1]The Verdict:

That was one happy bride-to-be.  And for an extra bonus round, we sent guests home with peppermint patties from Chequessett Chocolate and felt mighty pleased with ourselves.  (We kept the leftovers for us!)

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Is this a recipe?  Probably not.  What this is is taking stock of your pantry and fridge, and figuring what you have on hand to make a meal.  Which is basically what happens chez nous, on the reg.

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Mediterranean Farro Salad

  • 1 cup quick-cooking farro
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • big handful spinach or arugula (about 1/2 bag)
  • half dozen small mozzarella balls, sliced &/or quartered
  • small carton grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • fresh herbs: basil, parsley, etc.
  • avocado, diced
  • olives, if you’re into that kind of thing
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: dressing –
    • Whisk together 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, cumin, a splash of lemon juice, mixed together
  1. Bring apple cider, vinegar, bay leaves and a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add farro, reduce heat, and cook according to directions, about 10-12 minutes (you may need to pour off a bit of excess liquid).
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your mozzarella and tomatoes, herbs and avocado.  Add to a large bowl and give it a toss with the arugula.
  3. Pour the hot farro over the salad mixture and give it a thorough mix – you want the farro to wilt the arugula a little bit.  Season with salt & pepper and serve with dressing, if you please.

The Verdict:

This is worth sharing for one small reason: cooking the farro in the apple cider vinegar and the bay leaves gives it a tart, wonderful flavor that only gets better the longer the salad sits.  If you make enough to last you into lunch the next day, you don’t need any dressing.  How’s that for healthy!?.

Homemade Chicken Soup.

Today was a day of reckoning.

I’ve never made honest-to-goodness chicken soup.  Crockpot soup, immersion blender soup, roasted vegetable soup, sure.  But the kind of soup my mom made when I was sick as a kid?  That kind of soup is sacred territory, the kind only a mom knows how to traverse.

Then, the Husband woke up with the cold I had all last week.  And despite ribbing him occasionally on the interwebs, I think I’m a pretty good wife/dance partner/roommate.  After all, he deserves that – he’s a pretty good husband/dance partner/roommate, too.  So I busted out the recipe book I received for my bridal shower – full of handwritten recipe cards from the best moms I know: mine, my husband’s, my surrogate aunts (aka my mom’s besties), and my husband’s aunts.

This chicken soup was inspired by my mom’s BFF, J – in fact, inspired (but not duplicated) by her mom’s recipe.  I’m not even going to wait to give the verdict on this one: it.was.awesome.

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Homemade Chicken Soup

  • olive oil
  • s&p
  • 2 large bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 10 or so sprigs fresh thyme
  • large handful whole black peppercorns
  • about 5 stalks fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • 3-5 slices fresh jalapeno (depending on your level of tolerance for heat)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 package long noodles
  • optional: Parmesan cheese, fresh spinach, escarole
  1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sear on both sides, about 3 minutes each side.  Add enough stock/water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil.  Strain the grayish top layer that appears (will make your broth less cloudy).
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery, jalapeno and all herbs.  If you’re feeling fancy, tie them together to make a little bouquet garni – this will make it easier to remove it at the end.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook until chicken is done, about an hour.  Every so often, strain the top layer again.
  3. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.  Remove the herbs and discard.  (Make sure to taste your broth and season accordingly!)  Shred the chicken from the bone and add the meat back to the pot.  Add a spritz of lemon and stir.
  4. Boil water for pasta and cook according to directions; place a small amount at the bottom of large individual bowls.  Ladle the soup over the pasta and serve with additional fresh parsley.  Feel your sinuses open up for a brief, glorious moment.

IMG_3242The Verdict:

See above.  J, I hope I did you proud.

(My Mom’s) Beef Bourgouignon

 

 

The lack of a Sunday/Monday planning post this week is no accident: this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-our pants kind of week.  Chez nous, there is no real nightly dinner plan, as I had no real grocery list when my mom (YAY for moms who visit!) and I hit Trader Joe’s this weekend.  We had one thing, and one thing only, on our minds:  making this mind-blowingly delicious beef bourguignon.  (My mom nixed my idea for (another) veggie tart, declaring that the Husband “needs” more protein.  Didn’t you see our quinoa dinner, Mom!?)

Of course, this stew comes straight from my mom’s head; no need for recipes there.  I’ve laid out a rough guide below – but feel free to tweak for your eating pleasure.

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My Mom’s Beef Bourgouignon

  • olive oil
  • a couple of tablespoons of butter
  • 3 pounds beef (cut into stew-sized chunks)
  • S&P
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cartons mushrooms
  • pearl onions
  • flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups (or even a whole bottle) red wine
  • a bit of water, as needed
  • parsley, for serving
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over high heat.  Saute the beef until browned.  On a separate plate, sprinkle flour, salt and pepper; transfer beef on to the plate and add flour, S&P in layers.
  2. In the Dutch oven, saute the celery, carrots and onion over medium heat, until translucent.  Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, and then add mushrooms and tomato paste and cook through, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beef back to the pot and pour in white wine.  Reduce the wine by half and then add pearl onions, red wine, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to a boil before reducing the heat; cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  4. Adjust the seasonings as you see fit, top with fresh parsley, and serve with fresh crusty bread (and CHEESE, of course).

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The Verdict:

It was a sad day when my mom (and sister) left – but they did leave behind a trail of delicious food in our refrigerator! Word to the wise: this is even better after a few days, when the flavors have had a chance to come together (and the meat has had a chance to break down and become more tender.)