Just by looking at the number of pasta dishes posted on this blog so far – this one is the second – you can tell I’m not a huge pasta lover. If I’m only cooking for myself I generally don’t bother about adding rice, pasta or the likes just because I don’t care much for starches – I’ll be more than happy eating cooked legumes, tofu or any other source of vegetable protein over a big pile of either raw or cooked veggies.
Every now and then people tell me they struggle to make a main vegetarian dish because there isn’t a sort of “centre piece” (like a piece of meat or fish) around which the whole dish is built. I never actually thought things had to be like that in the sense that stews, salads or pasta dishes with several vegetables and legumes included can make very satisfying meals. However, having said this, I recognize the fact that this blog is probably lacking some main courses, so here it comes one.
Me and my dad had this dish for lunch yesterday and we both enjoyed it very much. It’s the kind of dish I would serve to my pasta lover brother (and, sadly for me, meat lover as well), as it is very substantial and, apparently, quite appealing to the non-vegans palate. Puy lentils are my favourite kind of lentils to cook with because they hold their shape perfectly after being cooked – regular brown or green lentils do not – and can be used in lots of different ways. The recipe bellow makes a lot of sauce and we ended up eating it today as a filling to savoury chickpea flour crêpes.
A quick note on the beer: I used a very light and sweet five-grain german organic beer in here. You could use pretty much any kind of beer you want when making this sauce but I’d just stay way from strong tasting ones (such as dark stouts) as they could probably lend a bitter taste to the whole dish.
Oh, and last but not the least: say hi to the kitties! We adopted Pudim (the tuxedo) and Calipo last summer. They’re both 8 months old and truly are rambunctious kittens: as I type this they’re running around like there’s no tomorrow fighting over a paper ball. It’s my first time as a cat
owner slave and all I can tell is that I’m in love with these animals and cats in general. They’re quite an addiction. To find them curled up in my bed, sleeping, almost every morning when I’m about to wake up puts the biggest smile on my face.
Lentil-Beer Sauce Penne with Garlicky Kale
(serves 4, as a main)
for the lentil-beer sauce:
1 medium sized onion / 120 g / 1 cup finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
a pinch of red pepper flakes
215 g / 1 cup puy lentils
1 bottle / 330 ml beer
250 ml / 1 cup vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups / 200 g whole wheat penne
for the garlicky kale:
135 g / aprox. 2 1/3 packed cups kale, large centre ribs and stems removed and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1. In a large pan, add the onion, olive oil, rosemary and red pepper flakes an sautée, over medium heat, for a couple of minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. If the mixture seems too dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water.
2. Add the puy lentils, beer, stock and tomato paste and increase the heat so that the added liquid comes to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low-medium, cover the pan and let the lentils cook for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked but still al dente.
3. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. After the pasta is done cooking, drain it but reserve a bit of its cooking liquid (no more than ¼ cup).
4. In the meantime, prepare the garlicky kale. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, garlic and kale. Sautée for 3 to 4 minutes or until the kale is slightly wilted. At the very last minute of cooking, season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. In a large bowl or platter, add the cooked pasta and its remaining water, a couple tablespoons of the sauce (only enough to coat the pasta) and the kale. Mix it all together with a large spoon and serve immediately, garnished with fried capers or a couple teaspoons of brewer’s yeast scattered on top.
I was a little doubtful about posting this one because it’s a recipe that doesn’t aim to convert non-beet fans to beet lovers. It’s actually aimed at those people who, like myself, adore beets and cook them often. Most of the time, it’s suggested that, in order to prepare beets, you should either boil or roast them. Out of those two methods, I prefer roasting as it lends a smoky flavour to the beets; however, it can take up from 40 to 50 minutes if your beets are medium sized. The other day, I found myself trying to master the julienne technique and, without carrots in sight, I practiced with beets. The whole chopping thing took me a while – I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes – but, unless you’re aiming at getting perfect beet matchsticks (which I didn’t get anyway), the chopping process will only take you a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can get the job done in no time using a mandolin. I decided to sautée the beet matchsticks with some coriander seeds and ended up with a dish that I found really flavourful in around 15 minutes. If you’re going to make this one please don’t skip the walnuts – they’re crucial to balance out the beets’ sweetness and add a very pleasant nuttiness to the whole thing.
Sautéed Beets with Coriander Seeds and Walnuts
(serves 4, as a side)
3 large beets / roughly 320 gr cut into matchsticks of about 0,7 cm width
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 big handful toasted walnuts
1 handful chopped coriander leaves
a splash of lemon juice
1. In a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, the beets and the coriander seeds. Sautée for 1 to 2 minutes and, as soon as the pan starts sizzling, cover it with a lid. Let the beets cook for 10-12 minutes, lifting the lid once or twice to give it a good stir, or until al dente. At the very last minute of cooking, add the red wine vinegar, salt and toasted walnuts to the beets. Stir well and transfer to a platter, finishing up with a splash of lemon juice and chopped coriander. The beets are particularly good served over cooked brown rice.
Last year was demanding – both physically as well as emotionally – to say the least. A lot of things have happened – some of them were actually quite good, while others were surprising and unexpected in not so good ways. I’ve cooked almost everyday throughout the whole year and never been away from the kitchen, but I guess I just felt uninspired most of the time. That, plus being busy working on other things that left me intellectually drained – 2012 was the year I wrote and presented my master’s thesis – were the major issues that kept me away from this place from what now seems to be a very long time.
However, I’m back. This year I decided to make this blog a priority because either creating recipes from scratch or adapting them from other sources is what makes me happy and what I think I’m good at. To start off the year and to reinaugurate this little place of mine I’m posting a salad recipe I’ve been making a lot.
Basically, every weekend my grandmother buys me this huge bunch of kale. I’ve made tons of stews with it, sautéed it with garlic and olive oil multiple times, added it to soups, until I ran out of ideas on how to use it. However, if munching on raw leafs of kale is one of my favourite snacks while preparing dinner, why not to come up with a recipe that calls for this lovely vegetable in its natural state? Raw kale is wonderful in salads thanks to its intense, slightly bitter and cholrophyll-y taste. However, to make the most out it you’ll need to massage its leaves in order to make them softer in texture and sweeter to the palate. Massaging kale leaves will also break down their cellulose structure and make them more easily digestible. This salad calls for kale as its base but all the other ingredients can be easily replaced – instead of pomegranate you could use grapes or tangerine segments, and almonds would also work well in place of the walnuts.
Raw Kale and Pomegranate Salad
(serves 4, as a side)
2 cups (packed) / 110 gr raw kale, coarsely chopped
½ cup / 75 gr pomegranate seeds
half of an avocado (aprox. 100 gr) cut into small slices
¼ cup / 30 gr walnuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted
for the dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In a small bowl, combine all the dressing’s ingredients. Set aside.
2. Add the kale to a large bowl and combine it with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice. Massage the kale leaves, rubbing them with your hands for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they reduce to half of their original volume and change their colour from bright to dark green.
3. Add the pomegranate seeds, the avocado slices and walnuts to the now tenderized kale. Add the dressing and toss well. Serve the salad right away.