Tomato Lentil Soup with Kale & Cashews

Delivering a bowl of red and green just in time for Christmas. Tis the season for lentils (they're traditionally eaten around the world this time of year to bring good luck for the New Year) and this soup --adapted from Heidi Swanson's Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup-- is a framework for good fortune. A thick base of crushed tomatoes and handfuls of hearty kale supercharge the satisfaction factor of the lentil-studded soup. The recipe lends itself to endless adaptations -- I found it delicious capped with crushed cashews and a swirl of tangy yogurt to brighten the soup's earthy elements. Other ideas:

Swap chard or another green for the kale
Use any combination of lentils -- black beluga, large green, petite crimson...
Add a dash of spice such as paprika or cumin 
Try it with fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
Top it with a fried egg for added protein

[Adapted from 101 Cookbooks]

1 lb lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
4 cups kale, rinsed and chopped 
crushed cashews, for garnish 

1. In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the lentils, cooking for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the onion, salt and pepper and saute for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, lentils, and water and continue cooking for a few more minutes, bringing the soup to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and cook until wilted, about a minute or two. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.

3. Ladle into bowls, and serve with crushed cashews and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6 to 8


Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds

Impatient bakers love a good quick bread – the no-yeast, no-hassle loaf that teeters between bread and dessert. Typically a touch sweet, with a crumb more cakelike than its yeast-risen cousins, quick bread is an easy solution for bakers who don’t feel like waiting.

This version is a variation on the master recipe for Fruit (or Vegetable)-and-Nut Bread from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Of the endless possibilities (think Banana-Walnut, Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, Pumpkin Ginger with Hazelnuts…) the one that struck me was a Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. The shredded carrots ensure moisture, while the slivered almonds lend a consistent crunch. A combination of grains (all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran) yields a denser, heartier loaf, and brown sugar brings the right touch of molasses sweetness, while orange zest brightens the whole thing.

[Adapted from Mark Bittman]
Yield: 1 loaf

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, plus butter for the pan 
2 cups all-purpose flour (I did a combination of 1 ¼ cups all-purpose,
½ cup whole wheat, and ¼ cup course wheat bran) 
1 cup brown sugar (golden or dark) 
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
¾ cup almond milk 
1 tablespoon grated orange zest 
1 egg 
1 cup grated carrots 
½ cup sliced almonds 

1. Heat the oven to 350d F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into bits, then use a fork, 2 knives, or your fingers to cut or rub it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea. (You can use a food processor for this step, which makes it quite easy, but you should not use a food processor for the remaining steps or the bread will be tough.)

3. Beat together the milk, zest and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the fruit and the nuts, then pour and spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing.

A Rustic Spread

Lunch today: salad of arugula, mixed sprouts, herbed rotisserie chicken, goat cheese, and fresh rosemary-olive oil dressing. On the side: lightly toasted homemade Irish brown bread (recipe forthcoming) drizzled with honey. 


One Ingredient, Many Ways: Kale

Exciting press on Saveur.com -- my recipe for Ramekin Frittatas with Kale, Mint & Pecorino was featured in Leah Koenig's column One Ingredient, Many Ways: Kale.


Curried Chickpea Soup with Mushrooms & Almonds

A recipe by Mark Bittman turned me on to the idea of a chickpea soup, which until now, was a brothy creation I had not yet explored. (The ingredient has played both crunchy garnish and supporting actor, many-a-time, yet never had the leading role in my soups.) Yet, the recipe sketch for Chickpea Soup with Saffron and Almonds from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express exposed the simplicity of a garbanzo-centric pot of nutty spice and gave me the guts to try my own version. Trading the saffron for curry powder, I used a combination of slivered and roughly chopped almonds for textural interest, doubled the chickpeas and added sauteed cremini mushrooms to the broth. To finish it off: a few dashes of kickin' cayenne and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley. 


2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup almonds, slivered or finely chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 1/2 tsp curry powder
A (double) dash cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
Fresh parsley, for garnish

1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion, garlic and almonds; cook about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add curry powder, stirring to coat; cook an additional 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat olive oil and saute sliced mushrooms until moisture is released; they should be browned and soft.

3. When the onions, almonds and curry are fragrant, add chickpeas, chicken stock, sauteed mushrooms and a dash of cayenne pepper to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Using a heavy wooden spoon or potato masher, slightly mash the softened chickpeas. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with parsley as garnish.

Note: If you prefer a thicker, creamier broth, puree half of the mixture and combine with the rest. For a fully pureed version, blend the whole thing. Same soup, different consistency: