Veggies on the counter

Lentils with Carrot Purée, Caramelized Onions and Hazelnut Mustard Dressing

Posted in main courses, side dishes by veggies on the counter on September 19, 2014

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I know a lot of people who find lentils boring and bland in flavour, and most of the time is because they’ve eaten them overcooked and without exciting accompaniments. I can eat a lot of lentils – typically 2 or 3 times a week – and the reason I’m a huge fan of them (both flavour and nutrition-wise) is because there are so many possibilities when it comes to incorporate them in a dish.

The other day I made a big batch of carrot purée because I needed some to bake a cake. I ended up eating the leftovers – properly seasoned with garlic and olive oil – for dinner along with (also leftovers) lentils and some quickly sautéed onions. I thought the three components got along pretty well, and decided to further explore the idea in order to come up with a recipe worth sharing here on the blog.

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This dish might seem like it has a lot of elements but they actually come together pretty quickly and require ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. What I like about it is that not only it tastes really good but also makes a nutritionally balance main course, which sometimes, for people new to vegan or vegetarian ventures, is hard to achieve with plant-based ingredients.

Hope you like the lentils, enjoy the last days of summer and warmth and fully embrace the next season. Fall is my favourite of all four seasons, and I love the flavours and produce that comes with it. No wonder it’s the time I’m the most inspired to cook and bake, and hopefully I’ll come up with some new creations that will delight your eyes and palate. See you all soon! (: J

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Lentils with Carrot Purée, Caramelized Onions and Hazelnut Mustard Dressing

(serves4)

1 ½ cups french lentils, such as Puy

½ teaspoon salt

1 big handful parsley (22 g), finely chopped

for the carrot purée:

510 g (8 to 10) medium sized carrots, cubed

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

squeeze of lemon juice

for the caramelized onions:

600 g (4 large) onions, finely sliced into rings

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

for the hazelnut-dijon dressing:

47 g / 1/3 cup hazelnuts

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons brown rice syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

 

arugula leaves, micro herbs etc., to serve

 

Carrot purée: Using a steamer, steam the carrots for 8-10 minutes or until they’re cooked through. When they’re cool enough to handle, add them to a food processor with the remaining ingredients for the purée and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. If the mixture seems too thick and you’re having trouble mixing it all together, add up to 6 tablespoons of the water you used for steaming the carrots.

In the meantime, bring a medium sized pan filled with 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 12-14 minutes, or until they’re cooked through but still have some bite. Add the salt, drain the lentils and rinse under cold water. Transfer the lentils to a bowl and mix in the chopped parsley.

Caramelized onions: Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, onions and salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are really soft. In the last minutes of cooking, turn the heat up to high and cook for additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until they crisp up a little.

Hazelnut mustard dressing: In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast the hazelnuts until they’re golden brown (4 to 5 minutes). When they’re still hot, transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub them against it to remove as much of its skin as possible. Transfer the hazelnuts to a food processor and process until smooth with the remaining dressing ingredients.

To serve, put a few tablespoons of carrot purée on 4 different plates, topping with the lentils, followed by the caramelized onions and a gentle drizzle of the hazelnut dressing. Add a few arugula leaves, if desired, and serve.

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Chocolate Cardamom Tarts

Posted in baked goods, desserts, tarts by veggies on the counter on June 11, 2013

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I had the idea for this recipe on my mind for a few weeks now, but was holding back to try it out because sweet goods “don’t really suit my style”. Chocolate desserts, in particular, are far from being my forte. Don’t get me wrong though, I think this one is a great dessert. For chocolate fans. I mean, not the milk-chocolate-candy-bar ones, but for those who appreciate chocolate’s bitterness and more authentic flavour. Let’s say the hardcore fans.

Cardamom is one my favourite spices (followed by cinnamon) and I recently found out it pairs incredibly well with chocolate. These two, coupled together as a filling for a nutty crust, give the little tarts a lot of depth and intensity in flavour. Having said that, and even though this recipe only makes four small tarts, you’ll probably be fine, as I was, with only half of one.  A couple specifics: the crust used in here is gluten-free, and because gluten-free doughs tend to be temperamental and hard to work with, you won’t need to roll it, but to press it directly into the tart shells. It won’t look as perfect as if it was rolled but, really, there’s no need to complicate things unnecessarily and only for the sake of presentation…

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You might also realise this recipe doesn’t call for any sugar and for me it’s fine as is. However, your taste buds are certainly different than mine and if you find the filling too bitter, one or two tablespoons of coconut sugar or other sweetener of your choice won’t hurt. Lastly, do add the flaky salt or fleur de sel on top of the tarts – it really makes a difference, as salt is known to work as chocolate’s flavour enhancer.

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Chocolate Cardamom Tarts

(makes 4  tarts, using small tart shells of 7,5 cm in diameter)

for the crust:

70 g / ½ cup chestnut flour

50 g / ½ cup hazelnut meal

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon flax seed meal

60 ml / ¼ cup melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons cold water

for the filling:

6 cardamom pods, green shells removed and crushed in a mortar

and pestle into a fine powder

100 g / roughly ¾ cup 70% dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

125 ml / ½ cup coconut milk

extra coconut oil for greasing the tins

cocoa powder

flaky sea salt or fleur de sel

Pre-heat the oven to 175º/350ª degrees.

Sift the chestnut flour, hazelnut and flaxseed meals and salt into a bowl. Add the melted coconut oil and the water, and work the mixture with your hands until you get a firm dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions.

Using a pastry brush, grease your tart tins with extra melted coconut oil. Press one piece of dough into one of the tart shells and, working with your hands, make it evenly cover its bottom and sides. Using a fork, pinch the dough a few times. Repeat this procedure with the remaining dough and shells.

Cover the pastry shells with greaseproof paper, fill it with baking beans or pie weights and bake blind for 15 minutes. After that time, remove the beans and paper and bake the tarts for additional 10 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.

In a small pan, heat the coconut milk with the ground cardamom until it almost starts to boil (don’t let it boil, though). Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir around with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has fully melted. Let the mixture cool a bit, but not to the point of starting to set.

Divide the mixture evenly between the four tart shells. Let it set for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. After that time, you can refrigerate the tarts for 1 additional hour if you prefer them cold (I actually ended up eating a forth of one at room temperature and enjoyed it). Unmold before serving and sprinkle with cocoa powder and flaky sea salt or fleur de sel.

Hazelnut and Banana Bread

Posted in baked goods by veggies on the counter on September 19, 2010

I’ve baked a lot this week: there was a birthday cake for my boyfriend, a spice cake to bring to a picnic, and this hazelnut and banana bread, that I made yesterday. I’ve told you before that I’m not that much of a baker. Actually, baking cakes always scared me a bit, since so far I had way too many unsuccessful experiences to count. But, anyway, it seems I’m mastering the art of vegan baking, as those three cakes that I baked this week turned out quite yummy. The hazelnut and banana bread is the one I decided to share with you, since it’s almost 100% created by myselft.

To be fair, I first started to follow a recipe from an old cookbook that my mom bought a long time ago, but things weren’t working out (the recipe didn’t call for enough wet ingredients, and the batter ended up not coming together at all), so I started things over with a whole new approach. I might have been on a lucky day, as the bread turned out quite good: it’s definitely moist, and as far as the flavor goes, it’s delicate and slightly sweet, which makes it perfect for breakfast. First things first: use very, very, ripe bananas, as it makes all the difference. Baking them will enhance even more their sweet flavor, so make sure not to skip that step. A final note: I used hazelnuts in here, but feel free to substitute them for walnuts or pecans, as they work out very well too.

Hazelnut and Banana Bread

(makes one loaf)

4 very ripe bananas, unpeeled

½ cup (125 ml) olive oil

½ cup (55 grams) muscavado sugar

1 and ½ tablespons ground flax seed, mixed with 8 tablespoons water

1 non dairy, unsweetened, yogurt (100 grams)

½ cup (125 ml) soy milk

1/3 cup (80 ml) agave nectar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup rolling oats

1 cup (135 grams) unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup (135 grams) bleached all purpose flour

¾ cup (120 grams) hazelnuts, toasted and coarsly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºc. Line a (25 by 12 by 7 cm) metal loaf pan with non stick parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Put the bananas, unpeeled, in a large baking dish and bake them for 15 minutes or until their skins are totally black. Remove from the oven and let cool. When they’re cool enough to be handled, take the flesh out of the bananas and put it into a bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix in the rolling oats.

4. Beat together the olive oil, agave nectar and muscavado sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed, until well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add the yogurt, soy milk and flax seed mixture. Finally, mix in the bananas.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour mixture and hazelnuts.

6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, spreading evenly, and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine was done after 50 minutes, but after 35 minutes of the baking time, I covered the top of the pan loosely with aluminium foil, to prevent the top crust of the bread from browning too much.

7. Cool the loaf in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. I think this bread is at its best the day after it’s baked.