Veggies on the counter

Lentil and Mushroom Salad with Sumac Lemon Dressing

Posted in appetizers, main courses, salads by veggies on the counter on November 21, 2014

00_finalwebWhen the weather starts getting colder, I eat soups and stews for the most part of my meals. However though, salads are still welcomed, as long as they’re heartier and incorporate some cooked elements.This salad makes for a perfect, quick lunch anytime of the week. I’ve made it countless times and sometimes substitute the lentils for whole grains such as barley and bulgur and it tastes delicious as well.

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One thing you should pay attention to when making this dish is not to overcook the lentils. There’s nothing worse than mushy, soft lentils. To avoid this, cook them for no longer than 15 minutes and they’ll be perfect. As far as the dressing goes, sumac is it’s key component, so please don’t skimp on that. I’ve first found out about sumac one or two years ago when I decided to make my own za’atar. It’s a hard to find and reasonably pricy spice here in Portugal (although some speciality stores sell it these days), but you don’t need to use much to feel its tangy and lemon-y flavour. I hope you enjoy the salad and the start of the new season! Have a good weekend :)

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Lentil and Mushroom Salad with Sumac Lemon Dressing

(serves 4, as a starter)

105 g / ½ cup brown lentils, washed, drained and picked through

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

300 g pleurothus mushrooms

50 g / 8 halves oil packed sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

50 gr walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

2 big handfuls / 40 g salad leaves such as rocket, baby spinach, etc.

105 g/ ½ cup (packed) pomegranate seeds

 

for the sumac lemon dressing:

1 ½ tsp. sumac

3 Tbs. lemon juice

60 ml / ¼ cup olive oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a small pan over medium-high heat, add the lentils and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and, once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for 14-16 minutes or until tender but still al dente. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to the lentils, stir everything, and drain. Add the lentils to a large bowl and reserve.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the mushrooms and garlic cloves and cook for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper as soon as they’re cooked, remove the garlic, and add them to the bowl with the lentils.

Add the sundried tomatoes, walnuts, salad leaves and pomegranate seeds to the bowl with the lentils and mushrooms and toss everything together gently.

For the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a small glass jar. Cover the jar with the lid and agitate vigorously until everything’s combined. Pour the dressing over the salad (not all of it – 3 to 4 tablespoons should be enough) and serve immediately.

 

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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.

Beet and Lentil Stew with Sweet Onions

Posted in main courses by veggies on the counter on February 12, 2014

01 beet stewWhen I was younger, my mom would cook for me a few times, particularly if I was busy studying. She didn’t like to cook, but there were a couple of dishes she made that I absolutely loved. One of them consisted, basically, of beets and onions. She’d use those pre-cooked beets they sell on the supermarkets and sautée them in olive oil along with roughly chopped onions. At the very last minute of cooking, soy sauce and a good splash of red wine vinegar were stirred in. The final dish looked terribly unappetising but tasted incredibly good. The sweet and caramelised onions were a nice contrast to the chunks of beetroot, and the light sourness the red wine vinegar coated the vegetables with really sold the deal for me.

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I haven’t eaten the onion and beetroot stir-fry for a couple of years now. Not that I couldn’t make it myself, but simply because I know that, if I made it, it wouldn’t taste like hers. It’s funny how we attach feelings to food and food to memories, and how those connections can indeed have an impact on our palates. As much as we might want to rationalise the experience of eating, there’s no way we can judge and evaluate food without our personal beliefs and stories sneaking in unconsciously.

The other day, I was reminded of the beetroot-onion dish while watching Nigel Slater cooking. He was making a really good-looking lentil stew with caramelised onions on top. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to make my version of it.  And, as it turns out, my version is a mix of mom’s signature dish and Nigel’s recipe. Personally, I think it tastes divine. The key is to choose the right lentils – use a variety that doesn’t collapse while cooking, such as Puy, for some texture. Equally important is not to skip the cinnamon, as it gives the stew that comforting and warming character all winter meals should have.

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Beet and Lentil Stew with Sweet Onions

(serves 4, as a main) 

For the stew:

635 gr / 6 medium sized beets, peeled and quartered

315 g green or puy lentils / 1 ½ cups

1 large onion / 180 g cut into thin half moons

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

625 ml / 2 ½ cups reduced sodium vegetable stock

625 ml / 2 ½ cups water

1 bunch / 12 g parsley, finely chopped

For the sweet onion topping:

470 g / 7 small onions, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

salt to taste

freshly grated nutmeg to taste

In a large pot over  over low-medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg and fry for one additional minute.

Add the beets, the stock and the water to the pan and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low-medium and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

After half an hour, add the lentils and the parsley. Simmer for additional 30 minutes. When the lentils are cooked, stir in the salt and serve with the onion topping (recipe follows) and cooked brown rice.

For the sweet onion topping: add, to a non-stick frying pan over low-medium heat, the olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt. Put a lid over the pan and let the onions cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re caramelised. At the very last minute of cooking, add the nutmeg and the red wine vinegar. Give everything a good stir and serve over the stew.

Recipe inspired by Nigel Slater

My Take on Harira

Posted in soups by veggies on the counter on February 16, 2013

harira

When I was a kid (probably 6 or 7 years old) my parents took me on a road trip to the south of Spain. Eventually, after hours and hours of driving under a massive sunlight, we arrived at Gibraltar (which technically is a British territory). Since we were so close to the north of Africa, I proposed we could go to Morocco, something that unfortunately didn’t happen as the plan was to stay for about a week in Málaga.

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Flash-forward to date and I have yet to go to Morocco. Until then, I will try to continue to bring Morocco to me by exploring its cuisine and making my own versions of dishes such as tagine and harira. The latter – a chickpea and lentil soup – is traditionally made with meat (which I obviously don’t consume) and, sometimes, rice and vermiccilli noodles. The soup is cooked for a long period of time – sometimes over an hour – and thickened up with a couple tablespoons of flour, almost verging on a hearty stew. It is a one pot meal, and what a delicious and filling one… I’ve been having Harira for dinner for the last couple of days and I can tell for sure it is the best lentil-based soup I have ever made. Its heart-warming nature makes it just the perfect meal for the few cold winter nights we still have ahead.

chickpeas

Harira

(serves 6 to 8)

½ cup / 95 g dried chickpeas, sorted, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

1 cup / 215 g puy lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion / 1 cup / 130 g finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

2 medium carrots / 1 cup / 130 g cut into small cubes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, coarsely pounded in a mortar

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 can / 2 cups / 450 ml canned tomatoes, liquidized in a food processor

5 ½ cups water

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 lemons, quartered

1. In a large pot over medium heat add the oil, onion, garlic, carrots, cinnamon, ginger, crushed cumin seeds, pepper and pepper flakes. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. If the mixture seems dry and the spices start to stick to the pot, add up to ¼ cup of water to loosen things up a bit.

2. Add the liquidized canned tomatoes, chickpeas and 5 cups of water to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the liquid come to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.

3. After that time, add the puy lentils and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes.

4. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with ¼ cup of water. Stir well so that the cornstarch dissolves completely.

5. At the very last minute of cooking, add the salt as well as the cornstarch mixture to the soup. Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon (it will thicken up a bit thanks to the cornstarch), have a taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in large bowls, adding a splash of lemon juice to each individual serving.

Lentil-Beer Sauce Penne with Garlicky Kale

Posted in main courses by veggies on the counter on January 31, 2013

penne and lentils

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.

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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.

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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.

the kitties

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

suggested garnishes:

fried capers

brewer’s yeast

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.

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