Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Harissa Spiced Tomatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Yeah – it’s 95 degrees outside here today – and so, of course, I decide to make comfort food.  Still, this comes together very easily & is very flavorful – and makes a big pot that you can serve – or freeze for another day.  Like – an actually cold day when eating a nice thick bowl of hot lentil soup would sound appealing, perhaps.

My first note on this recipe is that you should not be thrown by the fresh fenugreek or the harissa.  You can use chili powder instead of harissa & I will get into the fenugreek thing below.  Basically – fenugreek in all forms – is optional in this recipe.    I just liked the exotic title those two ingredients presented.

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I made this because I had a bunch of fresh fenugreek from my Indian market & wanted to use it before it got more wilted than it had already become.  Fenugreek looks like this

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And here is what I found online about it:

Fenugreek leaves  = holba = methi leaves   Pronunciation:  FEHN-yoo-greek   Notes:   This mildly bitter herb is believed to have medicinal properties.   Dried leaves, either whole or ground, are called kasuri methi, and they’re a good substitute for fresh.  Look for fresh or dried leaves in Indian markets.  Substitutes:  celery leaves.

I also saw someone suggest watercress as a substitute.  Watercress sounded closer to me.  Anyway – don’t be thrown by its inclusion here.  If you cannot find it – blow it off.  There is plenty of other flavor going on here.  Also – I used lots more carrots than your typical lentil soup recipe – basically to make it more filling for fewer calories.  And – I used ghee (clarified butter) but you can use olive oil, vegetable oil or a mix of these with butter.  Also – I used MASOOR DAL here –

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masoor dal = masar dal  = mussoor dal = masur dal = pink lentil   Notes:   These are skinned and split masoor lentils.  They’re salmon-colored, cook quickly, and turn golden and mushy when cooked.   Substitutes:  red lentils OR yellow lentils OR green lentils (hold their shape better when cooked)  

but any lentil will do.  Also – I use a lot of spice – more than most other recipes you will find.  Feel free to start with less & add more to your own taste.

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Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups lentils

1 medium onion – diced

8 carrots – sliced

3 celery stalks – sliced

3 inch piece of fresh ginger – peeled & diced fine – or several TBS of jarred minced ginger

2 tomatoes diced

2 large jalapenos – seeded & diced (less or none if you don’t like spicy food)

1 bunch fresh fenugreek (optional) – leaves removed & chopped (alternative – use celery leaves or watercress – or none of them)

6 garlic cloves (or less) – diced fine

2 tsp salt

1 TBS ground pepper

2 TBS curry powder (I used red curry powder but any variation is fine)

1 TBS turmeric

1 TBS Harissa (spicy!) or 1 TBS ground red chili powder (or less if you hate spice)

3 TBS Ghee or oil or butter or combination

1 tsp asafetida (optional) or 1 tsp either garlic or onion powder or a combo

1 TBS cumin SEEDS

1 TBS fenugreek SEEDS (optional)

1 tsp harissa OR 1 tsp red chili powder (yes, in addition)

fresh cilantro

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DIRECTIONS

Rinse the lentils pick out any bits or twigs or foreign matter you may see.   I used 7 cups of water to my 2.5 cups lentils – but you might be using a lentil that needs more – or less.  Just add water as needed to keep them covered in moisture.  Bring to a boil then lower the flame, add the chopped FRESH fenugreek leaves (or watercress or celery leaves) – if using – cover & simmer for as long as your lentil packaging suggests for doneness.  Stir occasionally & be sure your water doesn’t boil away.

While the lentils simmer – chop & dice & prepare all the ingredients that require that.

Heat 3 TBS of ghee or oil or butter & add onion, garlic, ginger, celery, jalapenos, curry powder, turmeric & 1 TBS harissa or red chili powder.  Stir for a minute then add carrots.  Stir another minute.  Add all this to your simmering lentils and return the empty pan to the heat.  Add 2 more TBS of ghee (or oil or butter) and when hot add the cumin seeds & the asafetida & fenugreek SEEDS (if using) and 1 tsp of additional harissa/red chili powder (if using).  Once the cumin starts popping (this happens pretty fast – less than a minute) – add the chopped tomatoes.  Be careful – as the oil will spit at you when you add the wet tomatoes.  Saute these for 2-3 minutes – until the tomatoes soften.  Add all this to the simmering lentils.

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Add the S&P (more or less to taste).

Simmer just until the carrots & lentils are tender.  Add more water if needed throughout this recipe or cook off broth you feel may be in excess.  Serve with fresh chopped cilantro.

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Traditional Deviled Eggs or with Shrimp or Truffle Oil or Pesto or Jalapenos or Sriracha or Harissa

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I love deviled eggs and I am always surprised at how popular they are – because the concept is kinda gross.  And they smell so farty.  Yet – these bad boys evaporate at parties.

I recently attended a little shindig & decided to bring a sampler assortment of deviled eggs.  I found a few cool tricks to make them better, too.  One – how to get the yolks centered in the egg so you can better stuff them with the deviled mixture:

To accomplish this in each egg you boil you need to do a little advance planning. The night before boiling, take the eggs out of the egg carton and place them in the carton so the eggs are horizontal, or on their sides. They won’t fit right in the egg carton, nor will you be able to close the carton lid. This will, however, set the yoke in the center for boiling.

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Secondly – the art of peeling:

ADD A TEASPOON OF BAKING SODA TO THE WATER YOU BOIL YOUR EGGS IN!!!  After hard boiling your eggs for 15 minutes, put them in cold water to bring the temperature down rapidly. You can even use ice cubes in your water, and you can change it several times—if you have the time—as the eggs will quickly warm the water up again.

Make sure they are cold as can be before you move on to the next step. This means the papery membrane is more likely to stick to the shell rather than your egg, so peeling is made super easy.

Tap the big end (bottom) of an egg onto the countertop so it cracks, then flip it and do the same for its more slender opposite end. This releases the pressure for the majority of the shell around the middle of the egg, and peeling the whole lot off should now be a breeze.

If the shell is still a little resistant to your charms, you can try peeling it underneath running cold water. It helps to persuade the shell away from the egg, as well as making for a perfect and clean finish to the outside to your egg.

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These tricks helped a lot.  There were a few eggs that got butchered in the peeling but far fewer than usual.  And look what I found inside one of them!

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This reminded me of my new fixation – Abby & Brittany – the two-headed girl.

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If you haven’t seen these gals on their new reality show – you need to.  They are amazing!

Anyway – I started with twenty eggs.  That’s a lot.  Reduce this recipe if you are not making these for a large group.

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Traditional Deviled Eggs

INGREDIENTS

20 hard boiled eggs – preferably chilled overnight (though this isn’t necessary)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp hot sauce

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS: Harissa paste, pesto, jalapenos, shrimp, sriracha, truffle oil, chives, scallions, horseradish, parsley

DIRECTIONS

Carefully halve all your eggs & delicately remove the hard yolks.  Mix the yolks with the other ingredients.  Use a sandwich baggy with one corner cut out & use it as a pastry bag to fill your eggs without making a huge mess – like you see HERE.

And there you have it!

As to the variations – I took a portion of the traditional recipe & added things like cooked shrimp with chopped parsley:

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Jalapenos (four 4 deviled eggs I added 1/2 tsp horseradish sauce & 1 diced jalapeno)

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Harissa Eggs (for four – I added 2 tsp harissa paste & drizzled more on top) with paprika:

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White Truffle Eggs – for four eggs, I added 1-2 tsp white truffle oil & cracked pepper:

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Pesto Eggs – I added a dollop of pesto on top of the traditional eggs & some sliced scallions:

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Sriracha Eggs – I just drizzled sriracha on them:

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The potential for these guys is limitless.  Get creative!

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Spinach Hummus – Harissa-Spiced Hummus – Roasted Broccoli Mousse – Brussels Sprouts & Asparagus Mousse

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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OK – ever get a little carried away at the farmer’s market or even just a random produce aisle – because everything looked so vibrant & delicious or maybe because you were planning on living a healthier & more plant-based-diet lifestyle? Ever find yourself throwing away one item after another as they go bad at their own rates because either 1) you were fucking kidding yourself & you ate Lean Cuisines & frozen pizza all week or 2) you ended up going out to eat more than you anticipated or 3) you just bought so Goddamn much – even a family of yaks couldn’t have gotten through it all?

Me, too. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m not jump-starting my stove pilots with burning hundred dollar bills. Throwing away a $3 avocado or one of those $40 (not really) vine-ripe bullshit tomatoes from one of our “finer” grocers – like Whole “Paycheck” Foods or Gelson’s or your own local way-too-expensive market – really blows! Watching the broccoli lose its color or the spinach get greener (meaning – getting all dark & soggy & funky gross) and your romaine turn to soup – really sucks. I’ve eaten things, folks, and this is fucking TRUE, that I convinced myself were OK to eat because I’d read (in The Diary of Anne Frank) about the molded & otherwise sub par produce etc that Anne Frank had been forced to eat and it wasn’t the food in that Annex that killed her, was it? No, it wasn’t. In case you want to challenge me. And, by the way, that diary of hers will humble you. What an incredible kid. You should read it if you haven’t – and read it again, if you have.

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Look at the energy in that kid’s face. Ugh. 😦

Anyway – the fact is – most of us are pretty spoiled & far too fussy about what we consider edible…..yet we eat the infected death McDonald’s serves without batting an eyelash. Ever found a two year old McD’s French Fry in the back seat of your car? It is still a totally pristine French Fry. Hard? Sure. But not a hint of the hideous mold my week-old, raw green beans – in the fridge – displayed this morning.

Anyway – eventually – even WWII fetishists have to admit some stuff is beyond edible. I found myself just today – faced making some very hard decisions. Sadly sage-green-colored broccoli, wilting asparagus, spinach threatening to join the liquid romaine & the aforementioned green beans that I was forced to toss. Brussels sprouts were staring out at me, guilting me, every time I opened the fridge and pretended I wasn’t seeing a bunch of vegetables on the cusp of dying for nothing. Lives squandered because I felt the need to make my last two meals out of a can of petroleum-based nacho cheese sauce, canned jalapenos & homemade corn chips (or home fried – so there was THAT concession to avoiding toxic waste). Do not try that at home, kids. A day spent eating nothing but that gelatinous, movie theater nacho cheese sauce from a can – and a can & a half of pickled jalapenos does things to one’s innards that it takes TRAINING to survive.

I was determined to save these poor vegetative beings from a fate of total waste. “Hmmmmm….hmmmmm,” I thought, scratching my beard.  “I’ll make BLENDED food out of them,” I decided. No pressure now to look pretty on a plate, to maintain an “al dente” texture, to look crisp & healthy & expensive. No! I will make HUMMUS! And hummus I made. Four ways. Actually – two ways. The third & fourth are more of a mousse or pate  – suited to pita – but BETTER SUITED to a bruschetta (crostini), a pizza base or a pasta!

Know that my veggies were not spoiled – but they were headed that way. Look at the pathetic, under-saturated color of this broccoli and then those poor spouts & some asparagus – losing their religion:

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But a little roasting – a little steaming – and/or a little sauteing – watch that shit come back to life!

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Yes – olive oil, garlic & a little heat puts the pink back in their cheeks, lemme tell you.

So – without further ado – let me spell out what I made & how I made it. A food processor or other motorized blending tool is critical here.

HUMMUS – four ways.  Kinda.

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Spinach Hummus

(3 cups or so)

INGREDIENTS

15 oz can chick peas

4 garlic cloves (less if you don’t LOVE garlic)

4 cups fresh spinach – packed

1/4 cup tahini sauce

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water (less or more – depending how thick you like your hummus)

1-3 TBS olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Blend. Yup. Blend. Add the water in increments until you get our desired consistency. That’s it. You gotta love hummus!  Serve with HOMEMADE PITA.

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Harissa-Spiced Hummus

INGREDIENTS

15 oz can chick peas

4 garlic cloves (less – or more – to taste)

juice of 1/2 lemon

4 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup tahini sauce

2 TBS (or more) Harissa paste

1 TBS tomato paste (or puree)

Cayenne pepper – a pinch

S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

Blend the chick peas with 2 TBS of the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and S&P to taste.

In a separate bowl – whisk the harissa, tomato puree & the last TBS olive oil.

Transfer your hummus to a serving bowl & drizzle with the harissa sauce. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Serve!

Serve with HOMEMADE PITA.

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This Broccoli Pesto – and the Brussels Sprouts one – are better served as a bruschetta or crostini than with pita.  They would also toss very well with cooked pasta or serve as a nice base for a pizza.  Go EASY on the salt with these two.

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Roasted Broccoli Mousse

INGREDIENTS

15 oz can WHITE BEANS (or chick peas – I suppose. But this is a cannellini or other white bean recipe)

1/2 lb roasted broccoli (recipe – ingredients & directions – below)

6 garlic cloves (roasted with the broccoli)

1 tsp lemon juice

zest of half a lemon

1/4 cup tahini sauce

S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

Blend it all (including the ROASTED broccoli from below) in a food processor. Voila!

Roasted Broccoli

1/2 pound broccoli (the same as above – not additionally)

1 TBS crushed red pepper

6 (or less) garlic cloves (the same as above – not additionally)

2 TBS olive oil

scant pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl – toss the broccoli florets, red pepper, olive oil, whole garlic & salt.  Stir to coat the florets.  Arrange the broccoli on a parchment paper-lined cooking sheet being sure to keep each floret from touching the others….otherwise you will get more of a steamed broccoli than the roasted variety you want here.  Roast for 20 minutes or so (they should look a bit charred) & remove from the oven to blend with the remaining ingredients above.

This is best served on toasted bread (crostini) or mixed sparingly with pasta & served with extra Parmesan.  It also works instead of tomato sauce as a pizza layer.

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Brussels Sprouts & Asparagus Mousse

INGREDIENTS

2-3 inch cube of feta cheese

1/2 cup TOASTED nuts – pine or pecan or walnut or almond – your call.  I used pecans.  I’m terrified of PINE MOUTH and avoid pine nuts at all costs.

1/2 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves

10-15 Brussels Sprouts – depending on their size

6 Asparagus spears – tough ends broken away (video tutorial HERE)

1 bunch Italian parsley

1/2 cup white wine (or water)

zest of 1/2 large lemon

olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Halve the Brussels Sprouts & boil them for three minutes.  Add the asparagus & boil another minute.  Drain.  Heat some oil in a frying pan & saute the sprouts & asparagus until the sprouts begin to brown.  Remove from heat.

In your food processor – blend all the ingredients – including your warmed veggies.

Again – this is best served on toasted bread (crostini) or mixed sparingly with pasta & served with extra Parmesan.  It also works instead of tomato sauce as a pizza layer.

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THE LAUREL – Two Poached Eggs Over Greens Braised in Moroccan Spices & Harrisa at The Beachwood Cafe – Hollywood, California

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Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

THE LAUREL – Two Poached Eggs Over Greens Braised in Moroccan Spices & Harrisa

This is a $9 dish with under 300 calories.  Light & delicious!