Tag Archives: vegetarian

Jeanne’s Mushroom Soup w/ Madeira

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During a recent dark and dreary day, I was inspired to transform the ever expanding bone garden in my freezer to delicious, rich and flavorful chicken stock.  The freezer harbored five packages of various chicken parts, carcasses, discarded herbs and vegetables awaiting their purpose.  It was time for the large stock pot to resurface after its summer vacation and go to work.  After a long simmer and the addition of a few other ingredients, 6 1/2 quarts of liquid gold was produced.  Just thinking of the possibilities for their future made the wheels of my creative spirit go into overdrive.

The chill in the air reminded me that soup season had arrived so I was further inspired to develop today’s featured recipe, Mushroom Soup w/ Madeira.  I checked my produce drawers and found fresh crimini begging for a purpose and a lovely package of dried wild mushrooms took up residence in my pantry.  The liquor cabinet held a bottle of Madeira wine and the herb garden had ample thyme, so off I went.  If you are unfamiliar with Madeira (muh-DEER-uh), it is a distinctive fortified wine, named after the Portuguese-owned island where it is made.  It can range in color from pale blond to deep tawny and runs the gamut from quite dry to very sweet.  The American-made Madeiras cannot compare with the Portuguese originals but they are a fraction of the price and make a perfectly fine cooking wine.  If you are not so inclined to purchase this wine, you could substitute sherry.

There are thousands of varieties of the fleshy fungus, but we are most familiar with the cultivated ones readily available in our markets.  I used crimini for the fresh, also called baby portabellos or brown button.  I think they are more flavorful than their cousins, the white button, but you could use any type you like.  It is the more exotic wild varieties that most excite my palate such as, chanterelle, enoki, morel, wood ear and shiitake.  This is why I chose the a variety pack of the dried to develop the earthy, rich flavor of the base and saving the fresh more for texture.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

JEANNE’S MUSHROOM SOUP w/ MADEIRA WINE    4-6 Servings

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1.5-2.0 oz. dried wild mushrooms

10 oz fresh crimini mushrooms

2T unsalted butter

2T extra virgin olive oil +1T for later

2 large shallots, halved and sliced thin (or 1 small onion)

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 oz. Madeira wine

4c unsalted chicken stock or vegetable stock for vegetarian

1 fresh thyme bundle

1/2c heavy cream

Juice of one half fresh lemon or to taste

  1. Rinse the dried mushrooms and place in a heat proof bowl.  Add 4c of boiling water and allow to reconstitute for about 30 minutes or until softened. Carefully remove the mushrooms, coarsely chop and set aside.  Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined in cheese cloth to remove any sand.  Reserve the liquid.
  2. Trim the fresh mushrooms removing the stems and discarding the very ends. Trim and chop the the remainder of the stems and reserve.  Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick.  Set aside.
  3. Melt 2T in a large heavy bottom soup pot, add 2T of the olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook until they are softened and begin to release their liquid.  Remove the caps from the pan and set aside.
  4. Heat the additional 1T of olive oil and add the shallots.  cook until softened and add the minced garlic.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Add the chopped mushroom stems and chopped reconstituted dried mushrooms.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the Madiera wine and cook until reduced to half.
  6. Add 3c of the reserved mushroom soaking water and the chicken stock.
  7. Tie a bundle of thyme and add to the pot.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.  Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the thyme bundle and puree the soup until very smooth.
  9. Before serving, add the heavy cream and allow to cook gently until thickened a bit.  Add the reserved mushroom caps and cook until heated through.  Add a bit of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon, if needed.

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If you share my enthusiasm for mushrooms, I feel confident you will enjoy the earthiness of this soup, provided by the fungi, paired with a hint of sweetness contributed by the Madeira, and the herbaceous notes given freely by the fresh thyme.  The lemon juice at the end gives it a bright boost of acidity to balance it all out.

Making soup is the perfect time to experiment and let your pantry do the talking.  I would love to hear about your favorite creations.  Whatever they may be, soup provides comfort and is a delicious way to spread the love, one dish at a time.

Tomorrow is Halloween and I am spreading the love with a dinner of Chunky Chocolate Chili and Classic Caesar Salad.

Wishing you all a happy celebration and urge you to please, have fun, be safe and remember to:

“Eat, Drink and be Scary”

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Hot and Sour Soup

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To my faithful readers, I know it has been a while since I have posted but the extreme heat and flurry of the summer’s activities, both good and bad, has left me feeling uninspired and void of creative spirit.  I decided rather than force the issue I would use the time for reflection, rest and healing much like a fallow field left unplowed and unseeded while it rejuvenates.

That said, we recently had a brief period where the weather felt like Autumn and my upcoming soup classes in the near future served as inspiration to develop a new recipe.  I am sure I have mentioned how much I love, love, love making soups.  There are always the stories that accompany each creation telling of its origin, the inspiration and creative process which delight me.  Here’s my story.  I have been thinking for sometime now that I should develop a recipe for my husband’s favorite Chinese soup, that is how it started.  Next I was talking to my BFF and she was describing what was on the menu as she prepared for having a dinner guest.  Turns out her first course was Hot & Sour Soup so I requested the recipe.  Having it in hand, I printed out several other recipes to compare and see how I could make it a bit simpler so it would appeal to my culinary students.  Since this soup is what my husband uses to evaluate every Chinese restaurant he visits, I was very pleased to receive high praise and accolades.  It was a huge hit!

 

Here is how it went down.

HOT & SOUR SOUP                    Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

4 dried Chinese mushrooms such as, wood ear

6 oz cremini mushrooms or white button

2T neutral cooking oil such as, grape seed

1- piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1T sambal oelek (red chili paste),reduce if you want less heat

1/4 c naturally brewed soy sauce

3T rice vinegar

1T sweetened black vinegar (or 4T of just the rice vinegar)

1t sea salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock infused with Asian flavors (see recipe below)

8oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/4-inch)

2T corn starch mixed with 1/4c water (if you prefer a thicker soup, use 3T of the corn starch)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 scallions (mostly green parts with some white), sliced thin

1/2c cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

  1. Reconstitute wood ears by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes.  Drain and cut into thin slices, discarding any hard spots.
  2. Trim the bottoms of the fresh mushroom stems and slice thick, about 1/4 inch.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the ginger, sambal oelelek and both mushrooms.  Stir to incorporate the flavors and cook for about one minute.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar(s), salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl.  Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  4. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pot and toss with the mushrooms.  Cook for a minute or two and add the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tofu and continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Add the corn starch slurry and continue to simmer until soup is thickened to your liking.
  6. Remove the soup from the heat and using a whisk swirl the soup in one direction until you create a whirlpool.  Slowly add the beaten egg in a steady stream to the center.  The egg will cook almost instantly. Serve hot garnished with the scallions and cilantro, of using.

ASIAN INFUSED STOCK  Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts + 1c of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or commercial will do)

1 medium onion, quartered

4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed

3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

1t whole black pepper corns

Bring the stock and remaining ingredients to a boil in a large pot.  Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.  If time permits, remove from heat and allow to steep for another hour.  Strain through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Chill if not using immediately.

Can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

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Although I used homemade chicken stock, it is not necessary and if you want it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and if vegan, skip the egg.  Making the stock ahead is great as it is there when you need it.  The remainder of the process comes together quickly.  I chose to make mine without meat but pork is often seen in this preparation as is chicken.  Make it your own.

I must say I have missed you and it feels very good to be back.  I hope your summer has been filled with the things that make you most happy and that you made some memories by spreading the love, one dish at a time. For those returning to school, I wish you a most successful year as you move on with your journey.  Until next time, sending love from my kitchen to yours.  JeanneIMG_1003

Snap Peas w/ Garlic Confit & Dill Vinaigrette

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We all know the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but what to do when life gives you an abundance of fresh herbs?  Look for as many ways to utilize and preserve these pops of freshness, flavor and color as you can.  Right?  I have a lengthy history of growing and cooking with herbs but always welcome new recipes and ways to take advantage of their presence during our short but fertile growing season.  Professional chefs use herbs in abundance, but for many, their use may seem a bit intimidating.  There are many valuable tips on the subject available online so I won’t duplicate, but I will share a recent recipe I discovered and also another use that has delighted me as of late, herb bouquets.  That’s right, a bouquet that looks beautiful, has a sweet and pleasant aroma, gorgeous textures and is completely edible. It is a great way to give your plants a frequent trim so they remain full throughout the season.  Keep one near your workstation as a reminder that a bit of freshness is exactly what is needed for those seasonal dishes currently on your menu. I like to add a few flowers (edible of course) to mine for a colorful visual, my favorite being nasturtiums.  They are bright and both the leaves and flowers, bearing a bit of a peppery flavor, can be consumed.  They have had a presence in my garden for many years and I consider them an annual “must have.”

I discovered the featured recipe while perusing my cooking magazines.  It appealed to me because of its use of fresh dill, mint and green garlic.  If you cannot find green garlic, which is the young plant harvested early before the bulb is formed, regular garlic (be sure to use less as it is spicier and more intense) or garlic scapes can be used.  Scapes are the curly shoots from the plant that form later in the season as it matures.  This is what I used as green garlic is harvested earlier and no longer available here.

Here is how it goes down.

SNAP PEAS with GREEN GARLIC CONFIT & DILL VINAIGRETTE

Serves 6-8

Recipe by Jeremiah Stone & Fabian Von Hauske (featured on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine, July 2016)

2 stalks of green garlic, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (I used garlic scapes but I believe regular garlic would also work)

1c extra-virgin olive oil

1/4c fresh lemon juice

1/4c chopped dill

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. sugar snap peas, trimmed, some chopped and some left whole

6 white button mushrooms, halved and sliced thin lengthwise

1/4c torn mint or small mint leaves

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and olive oil and bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat until the garlic is very tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.  Strain the oil into a small bowl.
  3. Transfer the green garlic to a medium bowl.  Add the lemon juice, dill and slowly whisk in the oil until well blended.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a bowl, toss the snap peas with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
  5. Transfer to a platter and scatter the mushrooms on top.  Garnish with the mint and serve with the remaining vinaigrette.

Make ahead:  The vinaigrette can be made and refrigerated for 2 days.

I really enjoyed eating this and found it simple to make.  The spiciness of the garlic infused oil, paired with the grassiness of the dill and bright acidity of the lemon made a very flavorful dressing that I plan to use on future creations.  Then you have the winning combination of the sweet and crunchy snap peas, earthy mushrooms and just a pop of fresh mint.  Delicious and the epitome of seasonal freshness, this gorgeous dish has definitely found a permanent place in my recipe file.

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As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on our forefathers and their vision for the United States and its people.  Much has changed over the years, but one thing that must remain is the principle of equal opportunity for all.  This holiday, centered around family, food and fireworks, is the perfect time to give thanks for all we have and to spread the love, one dish at a time.  I will be taking a couple of weeks off from writing the blog to spend time with my daughter and her children.  Our visits usually serve as fodder for good stories and time in the kitchen.  Until next time, be safe.  Sending love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

 

 

Jeanne’s Bourbon Balsamic BBQ Sauce

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Today is set aside to honor all the good fathers that are in our lives.  Mine is passed, as is the father of my children, yet we take a few minutes during this day to remember the times when our lives intersected and offered up both the trying times and those cherished moments we hold most dear.  One trait both these men shared was a deep sense of compassion for those less fortunate, those in need.  I have written about how my father always made sure that anyone who came to our door hungry went away with a full stomach.  He held a strong belief that his family would always be fed if he paid it forward.  My children’s father devoted his career advocating for people with disabilities to ensure their voices were heard.  They both left their legacy and we, who were touched by their presence, are richer for it.

With all dads and families in mind, I chose today to feature my newest creation to enhance the backyard BBQ which has grown, not just as a favorite summer activity, but a huge year-round industry.  Grills have not only increased in popularity but also in capability.  What was once an item pulled out of the garage once or twice a summer for burgers and dogs, the grills on the market today can smoke an entire pig, rotisserie whole turkeys and chickens, roast a leg of lamb or pork shoulder and much more.  As a child I never remember grilled vegetables as the common occurence they are today.  Nothing is spared the heat as we experiment with everything from grilled salads, pizza and fruits.  That said, the flavor enhancers, such a BBQ sauces and condiments have stepped into the spotlight as well.  With this in mind, I was inspired to play with the sauce recipe I developed a few years back and elevate it to new heights.

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Here is how it went down in my back yard kitchen this weekend.

JEANNE’S BOURBON BALSAMIC BBQ SAUCE         Makes about 2c

1 shallot, diced fine (or small onion)

¼ c neutral oil, such as, grape seed oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/3 c aged balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 t molasses, unsulphered

½ t dry mustard

1/2 t Sriracha sauce or more to increase spiciness (or other hot sauce of choice)

½ c chili sauce

2 oz bourbon

1 t sea salt

¼ c water

  1. Sauté onions in the oil until soft.  Add garlic and cook until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard, Sriracha, chili sauce, 1 1/2 oz. of the bourbon, salt and water.
  3. Stir well and simmer lightly for 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/2 oz. bourbon, stir and taste.  Adjust salt and Sriracha, if needed.

Use on chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables.

**Can be made up to a week in advance.  Keep refrigerated.

This combination of ingredients, in my opinion, has it all.  The balsamic is both sweet and tangy, a touch of heat is offered by the Sriracha, Worcestershire contributes to the saltiness and depth while the addition of the bourbon, during the cooking and then right at the end, gives the gift of smoke and wood from its time aging in charred oak barrels. The beauty of this sauce is it can be used on almost anything and can be adjusted to suit the individual.  For instance, if you want it sweeter, add more molasses.  If more heat is your thing, add more hot sauce.  Get the picture?

Before going, I have a confession to make.  Outdoor grilling, and all that it entails, was my father’s least favorite thing.  He did not enjoy picnics, stating often how he ate with ants during his stint in the US Army during WWII and saw no reason to do it any longer.  He did, however, enjoy good food.  So in spite of his aversion to this popular American activity, I think he would have enjoyed the complexity of this sauce as he ate inside at the dining table, sans the insects.

I would be remiss if I did not mention another wonderful father who has deeply touched my life, my dear husband, Michael.  He dedicated his career to teaching children and enhancing their lives by nurturing their love and understanding of music.  He continues this work with both children and adults now and cheerfully serves as my culinary guinea pig.  I have been blessed to have crossed paths with many devoted fathers and for that I am grateful.  May the love you have given be returned many fold.

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My sauce graced chicken legs and thighs last night and tonight it will serve as a dressing for the beef (requested by the “dad” of the house).  I aim to please. Whether you are honoring your dad or other fathers today, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I send my gratitude to all the dads that have touched my life.  Love to you from my outdoor kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

Southeast Asian Inspired Pork Stir-Fry with Greens

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In open markets across Southeast Asia, you will find all sorts of leafy greens, a testament to the role that deep green vegetables play in local  cuisines.  This trend has also taken off in the United States.  In part this is due to the growing  awareness of their health benefits but I believe it is also influenced by the increased presence of Hmong farmers at our local summer markets.  The Hmong in the U.S. came mainly from Laos as refugees after the Viet Nam War.  Their peaceful agrarian lives in the hills interrupted, the 2010 census counts roughly as many as 260,000 living within our borders.  Much has been written about their struggles but the beauty of their culture has added one more layer of richness to the U.S. melting pot.  Many have continued their farming practices bringing a wide variety of vegetables to American tables.  I thank them for their contributions.

According to Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, culinary educator in Northern California and author of The Veggie Queen, greens are the number one food you can eat regularly to improve your health.  This statement is strongly supported among the medical community as well.  WebMD asked the Veggie Queen to rank the country’s most widely-eaten greens from most to least nutritious.  Here are her top ten:

  1.  Kale
  2. Collards
  3. Turnip Greens
  4. Swiss chard
  5. Spinach
  6. Mustard greens
  7. Broccoli
  8. Red, Green leaf and Romaine lettuce
  9. Cabbage
  10. Iceberg Lettuce

The recipe I feature today, pairs my love of Southeast Asian flavors with my continued interest in eating healthy and incorporating as many greens as I can into my diet.  I used pork as my protein but this could easily be made with poultry, seafood, beef or tofu.

Here is how it went down:

Southeast Asian Inspired Pork Stir-Fry with Greens

Serves 4

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

5 oz. baby kale (or bigger varieties, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces)

2 t oil, neutral cooking oil such as, grapeseed

1lb. ground pork

4 cloves garlic, chopped

11/2 T chopped fresh ginger

1 Thai chile, sliced thin

4 T fresh lime juice

1 t palm sugar or light brown sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce (soy sauce could be used but I recommend using fish sauce)

4 scallions, sliced thin (separate whites and greens)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

3 c cooked rice (I used brown basmati) or rice noodles

  1. Blanch broccolini in boiling salted water for one minute.  Transfer to an

ice bath to cool.  Drain and set aside with baby kale.

2.  Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet.  Break the pork up into the oil and

cook for a minute or two.  Add the garlic, ginger and chile and cook until

meat is cooked through.

3.  Add the lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce.  Stir over medium heat and

cook with meat for about 2 minutes or until slightly reduced.

4.  Add the kale and stir until greens begin to soften.  Add the broccolini and

stir until heated through.

5.  Stir in the white parts of the scallion.  Serve over rice, garnished with

scallion greens and sesame seeds.

All of the vibrant fresh flavors marry, creating a complete meal perfect for summer and its plethora of green vegetables.  If you prefer other green combinations they can easily be substituted and adjusted to your palate.  I decided on broccolini mainly because we love it and enjoy the crunchiness it provides, balancing the softness of the greens, but regular broccoli or other vegetables could be used.  The chili, fresh lime juice, fish sauce and sugar provide the flavor profile of hot, sour, salty, sweet that the cuisines of SE Asia are known for.  It is the delicate contribution and balance of these flavors that take this simple stir fry to new heights.

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This season doesn’t have to be just about what’s grilling.  This one pot meal may soon become a summer, fall, winter, or spring family favorite.  Just keep it seasonal and it will easily become a regular at your dining table.  Stir-fry Saturday?   Whatever you are serving up today, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Summer love to all of you from my kitchen to yours.  Keep it simple, keep it real.  Until next time, Jeanne.

 

 

 

Spinach Stuffed Portobello with Almonds

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The arrival of spring always gets me fired up waiting for the early vegetables. Around here that translates to ramps, morels, asparagus, arugula and one of my all time favorites, spinach.  This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch but just a few of the early gifts of the season that we look forward to every year.  There are always the standard preparations but the challenge for me is to find tasty new ways to enjoy these jewels while highlighting their natural flavor.  Normally I like to keep it simple with a minimal amount of additions, allowing them to be the star.  Today, however, I am sharing a recipe I recently developed for an appetizer pairing the meaty portobello mushroom with spinach.  Since both the mushroom and the spinach have an earthy flavor, I needed something to balance it out.  I chose cheese for its creaminess and tang and almonds for a bit of crunch.  The result was both beautiful and a treat to the tastebuds.

Let’s take a minute to talk about this very versatile leafy green vegetable.  It is thought that the early Spanish explorers were the ones responsible for bringing it to the United States.  “Popeye” was never without its power-packed goodness to supply him with extraordinary strength and endurance which may have contributed to its early popularity.  Regardless of its history, it is available year round in its raw form as well as frozen and canned.  Experienced cooks know about its shrinkage but if you are a novice in the kitchen, allow this to serve as a warning, a huge amount of raw product will lose considerable volume when cooked.  In part, this is because of the ample amount of water it contains.  There seems to be conflicting information regarding quantity of frozen vs fresh, but suffice it to say, if you are substituting fresh for frozen in a recipe, it will take about one pound of fresh to yield 1- 1 1/2 c after cooking.  That being said, it is often more economical and easier to use frozen when it is incorporated into a dish that is cooked.  I assume I don’t have to expound on the fact that fresh is imperative when it is served raw.  I might just add, it is this writers opinion that canned is never a good option.

For the featured recipe I chose to use frozen for the above reasons of cost and quantity but if you have it in your garden or it is readily available, fresh is a good choice as well.  Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

SPINACH STUFFED PORTOBELLO with ALMONDS

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis           Serves 6 

6 portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed

2T extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 large cloves fresh garlic, minced

1t bouquet garni spice, dried (other herbs could be substituted)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 (10 oz.) packages frozen spinach, thawed

1/4 c whole milk or cream

3T sliced almonds, toasted

6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 c)

3T Pecorino Romano, grated

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brush mushroom caps with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place top side down on a baking sheet.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onion until soft.  Add the garlic and cook another minute being careful not to burn.
  4. Squeeze any excess water out of the thawed spinach and add to the onion mixture.
  5. Season with the bouquet garni, salt and pepper.  Stir well and saute for another few minutes.  Add the milk or cream and stir well.
  6. Take off the heat and add half of the almonds, half the Gruyere and the Pecorino Romano; mix well.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if needed.
  7. Distribute the filling evenly among the mushrooms and top with the remaining Gruyere and toasted almonds.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Can be served, cut into bite-sized pieces, as an appetizer or served whole as a main course with a fresh salad and/or pasta lightly dressed with butter or pesto.

I served this as an appetizer but the portobello is hefty enough to satisfy even big eaters as an entree when paired with complimentary sides.  If you are vegetarian or just an advocate for “meatless Mondays” this recipe is a must have.

Creamy, earthy, crunchy, spiked with a bit of garlic and herbs, I can’t think of a better nod to the season or better way to spread the love, one dish at a time.  I hope you and your family and friends will find this as satisfying as I did whether it is a meal or a snack.  Until next time, may you find hope in the season and embrace its bounty.  Sending love to your kitchen from mine.  Jeanne

 

Marinated Lentils with Crunchy Spring Vegetables

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There is a lot of talk these days about “green living” but spring has had the green thing going on for a long time.  This week I taught a class themed, “Spring Soups and Salads” featuring many of the vegetables we associate with this season.  Among them were asparagus, sugar snap peas, spring peas, scallions, arugula, radish and fresh herbs, mint and parsley.  The end of class evaluations and smiling faces verified I made good choices for the featured recipes.  Among the ones I chose is the salad I selected for today’s post, highlighting  the lovely and often underrated lentil.  Lentils are popular in parts of Europe and a staple throughout much of the Middle East and India.  This lens shaped PULSE has long been used as an inexpensive meat substitute and serves as a good source of calcium,vitamins A and B, iron and phosphorus.  In addition to the common brown variety, there are also red lentils, French green and black beluga, all becoming more widely used and more readily available.  These are the varieties I am familiar with, but there may be more.  I welcome learning about them, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.

For this preparation, it is recommended that you use either the French green (that is what is pictured here) or the black beluga.  Both of these varieties are smaller in size and hold their shape and maintain some ‘tooth’ when cooked, not breaking down easily like the red and brown, which would be more suitable for soups or stews.  There are endless possibilities for using these tiny delights. They can be served hot or cold as a side or entree depending what you choose to pair with them.  They are extremely versatile so I urge you to think of them as a blank canvas.  They are perfect for all seasons and will partner well with many spices and seasonal offerings.

Since the first of May makes its grand entrance this weekend,  I have prepared this salad with crunchy radish, celery, and scallion and gave it a garnish of fresh herbs.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

MARINATED LENTILS with CRUNCHY VEGETABLES

Serves 4

Recipe from Bon Appetit,  April 2016

1 large onion, quartered through the root

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 c black beluga or French green lentils, rinsed, picked

Kosher salt

1/4 c olive oil

1t coriander seeds

1/2 t cumin seeds

3T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (love the sherry)

Freshly ground black pepper

6 radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced (I shaved them on a mandolin)

4 scallions. thinly sliced

1c fresh parsley and/or mint

1c thinly sliced celery hearts and leaves

  1. Cook onion, bay leaves and lentils in a large saucepan of simmering salted water until lentils are tender but still firm, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain; discard onion and bay leaves and transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook coriander seeds and cumin seeds, swirling the skillet until fragrant, about 1 minutes.  Add the spice mixture and vinegar to the lentils, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Just before serving, top the lentils with radishes, scallions, herbs and celery;  season with salt and pepper.

NOTE:  Lentils (without the vegetables and herbs) can be marinated 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Other seasonal vegetables can be added as you wish.

Lately I have really discovered many uses for sherry vinegar, which is what I used for this.  It might be my new BFF.  Just a small splash can really elevate many dishes.  The marinade infused with the toasted coriander and cumin seeds, is enhanced by the sherry vinegar giving it the perfect amount of warmth along with tang and vigor. The end garnish of fresh parsley and mint give it such a bright finish.  It is well balanced and satisfying and if spring has not yet sprung for you, this is the ticket to take you there.  As with all salad dressings, I always recommend using the best quality extra-virgin olive oil you have.  It makes a difference.

I am happy to report our first garden asparagus made an appearance this week and the local farmers markets have begun their rebirth.  This is such an exciting time of year!  The new calves, lambs and goats are all romping sweetly with their moms in the fields and the pastures resemble the Irish hillsides.  I look forward to tasting vegetables and fruits the way nature meant for them to taste as the seasons evolve.  Whatever you are up to, I hope you are enjoying life and spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time, may good food grace your table and sunshine light your heart.  Sending love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

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“Mayo-Less” Egg Salad

 

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When I was  young child, Easter meant a new dress, fancy hat,  and church shoes (often patent leather Mary Jane’s).  In addition, there was the gathering of family centered around food, egg hunts and those coveted chocolate bunnies.  I always looked forward to the holiday.  As I moved into my teens, my father insisted we give up any activity, that was fun and enjoyable, for Lent.  This meant no movies, dances or dates.  Being a social being, this was my private “hell” and I longed for Easter not for the new clothes or treats, but the lifted restrictions on my social life.  As a mother of two, my children and I celebrated with the traditional basket fanfare with EB cleverly hiding the goods prompting the big hunt, followed by a special meal.  Depending on the plans, this meal was either brunch or dinner.  As I get older, what I look forward to the most is less fanfare, sunshine and a relaxing day.  This year it was overcast and rainy and we found ourselves with no plans.  You might think this depressing or sad but I embraced it, gave myself the day off, using my time to create a “Zen garden” terrarium, a project I was very excited to tackle.  It now anchors my dining table as a beautiful centerpiece and reminder to breathe, stay in the moment and carpe diem.  Life is good.

This past week I received a phone call from my neighbor asking if I could do her a huge favor.  She was desperate to unload some eggs from her backyard chickens.  Apparently the ladies are feeling the effects of spring fever producing a dozen eggs a day.  Of course I accepted the offer and fittingly found myself pondering what to do with them.  My mind went to egg salad, my mother’s “go to” for the day after Easter and one of my  all time favorites.  The only thing standing in my way was the nearly 100 calorie/tablespoon mayonnaise required in its preparation. My love affair with this versatile condiment goes way back but, being on a health kick, has caused me to limit its use.  Not wanting to feel deprived, I set out to find a substitute.  The result was this zesty, creamy dressing for a “mayo-less” version.

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Here is how it went down.

“MAYO-LESS” EGG SALAD                                                     4 Servings

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

6 hard-cooked eggs

½ avocado

2-3T Greek yogurt, plain

2T Dijon mustard

2T fresh lemon juice

1t garlic powder

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Sea salt and

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2T capers

2T chives, snipped

  1. Peel and chop eggs, set aside.
  2. Combine yogurt, avocado, Dijon, lemon juice, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Using a mini food processor or blender, mix to a smooth and creamy consistency.
  3. Taste “mayo” and adjust the seasonings as needed..
  4. Add the capers and chives to the chopped eggs and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add 2T of the avocado mixture and stir to incorporate.  Add additional avocado mixture as needed until it is moist enough.  Taste and adjust as needed.

Note: Additional ingredients such as, celery, dill relish, scallions, parsley or other herbs can be added, if desired.

I think this condiment would serve well in any application where the recipe calls for mayonnaise.  With picnic season approaching, potato salad, slaw, deviled eggs and pasta salads are just a few ideas.  I could also see serving this as a creamy dip in place of traditional guacamole.  Bring on the tortilla chips!

In my last post, I addressed the topic of Easter dinner, my thoughts leaning to some preparation of lamb.  Nice thought, but truthfully, it never happened.  The plans evolved to Hot and Sour Soup and Chicken Lo Mein from the local Chinese take-out.  Not thinking about food preparation left me free to pursue other creative interests as I mentioned above.  In a weird way, it felt somewhat liberating yet not quite in the category of celebratory.  Celebratory in my mind would be my friend’s Easter story, shared on FB, complete with pictures of her homemade pasta and 14 grandchildren.  Now that is a celebration!  I hope she had some good kitchen helpers.

Deep seeded traditions usually prevail for most significant holidays, but it can feel good to bust away from that on occasion and center simply on things that make us happy.  There are many ways to spread the love whether it is just being there for a friend or making those special dishes for those we hold dear.  It is important to keep putting it out there.  I have found it to be contagious.  However it went down in your world this weekend I hope a good time was had by all.  Until next time, I send my love out to you.  Carpe diem.  Jeanne

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Note the meditating frog on the right.  That might be my favorite part.

Carb-Free Cloud Bread

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It seems spring has sprung in Southern Wisconsin, at least for now.  With the next storm predicted for Tuesday, the ups and downs of March begin.  For now, however, we are seeing temps around 60 and the natives are restless.  Yesterday, especially  with the university crowd, the warmer weather caused a chain reaction of shorts, capri pants and sandals. Everyone seemed to be outside basking in the sun and enjoying all nature has to offer.  We observed boats heading out to the lakes, cyclists on the bike paths, dogs walking with an extra zip in their step and a prevailing feeling of well-being.  We know this is not really spring, but simply that early season teaser that tries to trick us into believing winter has passed.  Regardless, we are hopeful that the cold is waning and plans are in the works for bathing suit season.

That said, it serves as incentive for many of us to lighten our winter eating habits so when it is clearly time to trade the long johns and show some skin, we will be prepared.  Last weeks recipe, although amazing, was a bit fussy, so I thought an easier preparation might be in order for today.  I was intrigued by a recipe I saw hailing “carb-free” bread.  As a bread lover, it was a must try.  I admit I was skeptical of the possibility of such a creation but it was easy and I just had to see for myself.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

CARB-FREE CLOUD BREAD         makes 8-12 depending on size

Recipe from Pure Wow

3 eggs

3T plain cream cheese (room temperature)

1T honey

¼ t baking powder

Freshly chopped rosemary & flaked sea salt for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and grease a large baking sheet.

  1. Using two bowls, separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
  2. Mix the cream cheese and honey with the egg yolks until smooth.
  3. Add the baking powder to the egg whites and beat on high until the whites are fluffy and resemble whipped cream.
  4. Gently fold (up from the bottom) and mix carefully until fully combined (no yellow streaks).  Be careful not to mix too vigorously as you don’t want to deflate the egg whites as they are responsible for the lightness.
  5. Spoon 8-12 mounds (depending on the size) on the greased baking sheet.
  6. If desired, top each with the chopped rosemary and a pinch of the flaked sea salt.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden (mine took 20 minutes or so)

Note: Cloud bread has a super-mild egg flavor. Garnishing it with herbs (like rosemary) before you bake it is a nice add-on and a delicious way to balance it out.

After they’ve cooled, use the light and airy bread thins to make healthier sandwiches, mini pizzas or breakfast toast.

This is how the original read with the exception of the addition of the flaked sea salt which I added to boost its savory side.  Good call, I must say.  Although the original photos on Pure Wow showed a product closely resembling pita bread, mine reminded me more of a light and fluffy pancake with a hint of sweetness from the honey.  It was hard to imagine them as a base for a sandwich or pizza as stated above, but they were extremely tasty, nevertheless.  For me, they seemed more appropriate for breakfast or brunch topped with jam, maple syrup or chocolate hazelnut spread, if that pleases you.  I will give these another try but might substitute maple syrup for the honey or skip the sweetener altogether substituting unsweetened apple sauce, sweet potato puree or avocado mash.  A tiny amount of flour may also help the texture be more “bread-like” but they could no longer be labeled free of carbs.  I feel a cloud bread play date in the near future. I promise to keep you updated.  I would love to hear what ideas you have for variations on this theme.

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In addition to warmer weather and cloud bread, a couple of other sweet things happened this week.  First of all, it was our grandson, Henry’s eleventh birthday.  He is a sweet boy who loves to express his creativity in the kitchen, much to his Nonna’s delight.  Recently, his older brother, Charlie (soon to be 14), whose passion is music, requested a lesson from grandpa  (musician and retired music teacher), much to his delight. This seemed like a perfect time for a cooking lesson as well.  While the horns were practicing a piece for an upcoming musical festival,  Henry and I headed to the kitchen where we jointly made dinner for everyone.  During our time in the kitchen we had a discussion about how most chefs have their own knives that only they use and care for.  They tend to be protective as a sharp knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. From that was born the idea to get him a chef’s knife for his upcoming birthday.  After some research we decided on a set of knives and a case to keep them.  SCORE!  I am not sure what was the bigger hit, the knives or the case.  Regardless, he went home and insisted he cook dinner for everyone giving strict instruction that his family was welcome to look at the knives but they were not to be used by anyone but him.  The instruction was also to never ever ever put them in the dishwasher.  Just yesterday, Charlie received a first place on all the trumpet pieces he performed.  All said, I think it fair to say, Nonna and Grandpa came through in a big way and our hearts are full.

Whether it is “carb-free” bread or a giant loaf of sourdough, what matters is putting your love into the food you make and then spreading that love to others.  You know what I always say, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time, I wish you all the best, from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Spiced Dal

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Unless you live in a rabbit hole, it is hard to escape the continuous chatter of the upcoming presidential election.  Promises spew from the mouths of the candidates and as good citizens we listen, wanting to choose someone whose values and goals for our country are most closely aligned with ours.  When I speak with people or read their comments on social media one thing strikes me as a universal need,  HOPE.  The opposite of hope is despair so we cling to the vision of a future that will have a positive impact on us all.  It was this line of thinking that brought forth the memory of my first winter as a Wisconsinite.  Relocating after 30 years in Northern California, the brutal cold and abundance of snow were a shock to my system, leaving me wondering what have I done.  It is a different kind of existence and although it can cause “seasonal affective disorder,” I observed that more often than not, it seemed to spark hope.  In conversation people would joyfully talk about the recently delivered seed catalogues and their garden plans.  The dread of early darkness in the days leading to the solstice  was quickly replaced with comments rejoicing in the incremental increase of daylight.  Those who love the snow and cold (they do exist, I promise) were full of tales of fresh powder and ice fishing adventures.  I didn’t understand how so many people could stay positive in the face of the longest and seemingly endless season of the year.  What I came to discover was what those positive thinkers had in common was HOPE.  They all held onto hope, knowing spring’s rebirth would soon arrive to delight us all.  Although I have never fallen in love with the wind, cold or snow, I now embrace the season knowing it has become my favorite time to hang in the kitchen and play with food. Unlike the warmer months, having the stove or oven on is actually welcomed.

Recently, my kitchen amusement has evolved into an effort to duplicate the soup or dal served at my favorite Indian bistro.  If not familiar, dal (aka: dhal, daal or dhall) is a Hindi word for any of the almost 60 varieties of dried pulses including peas, beans and lentils.  A dish made with any of these is also referred to as dal which can be spicy or mild depending on how you choose to spice it.  The most common dals found on menus are channa dal (made with yellow split peas) and massor dal (orange lentils) so for my recipe I decided to use these two and paired them with their green cousin, split mung dal.  This is simply whimsy on my part as they all turn yellow after they are cooked but after some failed experiments, I wanted to know if the trio added anything to the taste.  It may have but not in any significant way so orange lentils would most likely be my choice for the future as they cook quickly.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

INDIAN SPICED DAL                                Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1/3 C each yellow (Chana dal), red (Masoor dal) & green (split Mung dal) lentils (or 1c of one of the above)

5 c chicken or vegetable stock (water could be used)

½ medium yellow onion, finely diced

½ t sea salt

1/8 t ground turmeric or 1t fresh, grated

¼ t chili powder (preferably Indian) or cayenne

½ t ground cumin

½ t ground coriander seeds

½ t ginger root, finely chopped or grated

1 can cannellini beans (14oz), drained and rinsed

1 T ghee or mustard oil (or any neutral cooking oil)

1 t black mustard seeds

½ dried hot red pepper(cut this open and discard the seeds, break or chop to small pieces)

2 oz. fresh lemon juice (more or less, to taste)

2 T fresh cilantro, chopped

Plain yogurt for garnish, if desired.

  1. Sort and wash lentils until water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Place lentils, stock, onion, salt, turmeric, cayenne (or chili powder), cumin, coriander and ginger in a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low or until lentils are very soft. If mixture is too thick, thin it with water or more stock.
  3. Add the drained and rinses beans for the last 15 minutes or so of cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, a small skillet or saucepan with a lid, place the ghee or mustard oil, mustard seeds, and chopped dried red pepper. Cover and put on medium low heat. As pan heats up the seeds will pop and spatter. Shake the pan intermittently to avoid burning. When the spattering stops, take off the heat and wait several minutes before removing the lid. Be careful not to inhale the hot fumes from this pan as they may sting and burn your eyes.
  5. Add this mixture to your dal and stir in.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Ladle into individual soup bowls. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Note: The amount of heat is controlled by adjusting the amount of chili powder or cayenne whichever you choose to use.  Adding finely chopped jalapeno will bump up the heat as well.

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I chose to use a slow cooker but this could easily be made on the stove top.  Simply put the first 9 ingredients in a heavy bottom soup pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce to slow simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft.  Add the beans, cook another 10 minutes.  finish as above.

The thickness of the soup is determined by the ratio of dried lentils or beans to the liquid.  I was striving for a more brothy texture so I used a 1:5 ratio.  This is a matter of personal preference.  If available, fresh turmeric and ginger (pictured above) add a vibrant flavor but dried is ok as well.  The splash of lemon gives just a bit of acidity and really wakes up the other ingredients.  Meyer lemons are now in season so if you can find them they are sweeter than the standard and are a nice touch.  The real key to success making this flavorful and economical dish is to not skimp on the seasonings and spices.  Indian spices or Masala are vibrant and said to be the “heartbeat” of Indian kitchen.  Just like any ethnic cuisine you may choose to learn, it is all about the spice palate.  Once that is learned it opens the door to many recipes.

Whether you are basking in the sun or putting on the mittens, comfort foods are always a welcome meal.  This recipe comforted me and gave me hope that I would again survive the frigid temps and live to see the lilacs bloom.  Regardless of what is brewing or stewing in your kitchen, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time and never give up hope for a better tomorrow.  I think my next kitchen adventure may just take me to Japan.  Until next time, may you be safe, warm and comforted.  Jeanne