curried squash and red lentil soup

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I told you you’d thank me for sharing a soup recipe?  Well if it wasn’t already, it definitely is soup weather now and I just can’t help myself– I haven’t wanted to make anything but soup lately!  This time it involves butternut squash, red lentils, ginger, and curry.

The ginger adds warmth to the soup and the lentils make it hardy so that it can be the main course and not just a starter.  Butternut squash is just starting to show up at farmer’s markets in these parts so when I saw it a few weeks back I had to pick some up and do something with it.  The soup is already vegetarian but could easily be made vegan with the omission of the butter.  I personally think that cooking the onions in olive oil and butter is luxurious but it would certainly still work without it.

Curried-Squash and Red-Lentil Soup (found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Heat oil with butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.

Add lentils and water and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

o is for okra

Normally, I’m a list person.  I don’t go anywhere without a list, especially not to a place that almost requires a list like a grocery store.  That would be like leaving the house without my cellphone.  You know what I mean.  Leaving your house without your cellphone is the new leaving your house without clothes on.  You feel vulnerable and lost without it these days.

So Saturday morning I did something radical: I threw caution to the wind and decided to go to the farmer’s market sans list.  It was wild.  I wound up picking up a few predictable things: raspberries, green beans, kale, but also came home with a few surprises: namely, okra.  I have eaten it in restaurants before but if the farmer’s had not labeled the okra in their stands I would not have recognized it in its whole form.  But what the heck, I could find something great to do with it.

I did a little research on my iPhone and the first recipe I came across was the one I decided to go for: curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes.  This was perfect because a) I love curry, and b) I had both chickpeas and a can of tomatoes that needed to be used up in my pantry.  One thing that I wish I had known beforehand was that it is better to buy small okra.  My greedy eyes thought that bigger would be better so I bought okra that was 5 to 6 inches in length when apparently 2 to 3 inches is better.  I definitely could have fit more okra into my pot if they weren’t so big.  But nevermind, they still tasted great and I’m totally psyched about cooking with okra again in the future.  Sometimes it’s a very good thing to leave your lists at home!

Curried Okra with Chickpeas and Tomatoes (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  •   1 ¼ lb small fresh okra, left untrimmed, or 2 (10-oz) packages frozen whole okra (not thawed)
  •   1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  •   1 medium onion, chopped
  •   2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •   4 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  •   2 teaspoons curry powder
  •   1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, tomatoes chopped, reserving juice
  •   1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
  •   2/3 cup water
  •   ¾ teaspoon salt
  •   ¼ teaspoon black pepper

If using fresh okra, trim, leaving tops intact, being careful not to cut into pods.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic with ginger and curry powder, stirring, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, chickpeas, and water and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in okra, salt, and pepper and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, about 10 minutes.

Serve over rice or quinoa.

spicy lentil dal

Do you know what yesterday was? The one-year anniversary of this here blog. Happy birthday Baxter & Main! I had high hopes of redesigning the layout, getting a new font, real logo, and proper header to mark this occasion… but alas, it did not happen in time. Such is life. Until I get around to all of those things I will still bring you good food, such as this spicy lentil dal.

The recipe calls for red lentils which cook down in a hurry and turn into something of a paste in the process. The author recommends serving it over rice, as I have done here, or but you can also serve it like a dip with crackers. I did not have red lentils on hand but had plenty of brown and green lentils so decided to substitute those instead. Note that if you use brown or green lentils the simmering time is going to be longer (doubled for brown, tripled for green) and also the texture more firm. I can assure it tasted great just the same.

I cooked up some black rice to serve with the dal as it is supposed to be extra healthy since it is full of antioxidants. Plus it looks really pretty and I’m a sucker for aesthetics. (Speaking of, check out my new plate below: I scored several boxes full of these dishes at a barn sale last weekend for the whopping grand total of $4. Jackpot!)

Spicy Lentil Dal (adapted slightly from recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed (you can also use brown or green lentils as I have done here, however consistency will not be as intended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup light coconut
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Bring broth and lentils to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (if using brown or green lentils simmer time will be between 20 to 30 minutes). Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in lime juice. Serve over rice.

not your mom’s meatloaf

Last night I was not feeling super motivated to cook supper.  (PS- it’s only called supper on Sundays.  The rest of the week it’s just referred to as dinner.)  I wound up leafing through the most recent issue of Bon Appetit looking for some inspiration and found recipes for parsnip and Brussels sprouts side dishes and since I happened to have both on hand (and also love both) the meal was starting to take shape.  (Check back later in the week for the side dishes.)  But what to do for a main course?

A few weeks ago when I was home my dad sent me back with a cooler full of beef from his farm.  Grass-fed goodness right there in my freezer.  I’m not even a big meat-eater but this is definitely the way forward if you’re going to partake.

I started researching meatloaf recipes because that is always a great way to stretch out a small amount of meat into a proper dish.  Problem is now that I am off the wheat I was having a hard time finding a recipe that didn’t involve breadcrumbs and then I found not one but two recipes where oatmeal was substituted for breadcrumbs.  Eureka!  Better yet the recipe I landed on had lots going on in it including prunes and bacon.  Sold!

This loaf is moist and a little salty with a touch of sweet and I dare say it’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever had in my life and my dining companion (who doesn’t hand out compliments freely) agreed completely.  The perfect main dish for a Sunday supper.

Meatloaf (adapted loosely from Gourmet magazine recipe from 2008 found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
  • ½ cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef chuck
  • ½ pound ground pork (not lean)
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Soak oats in milk in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to oat mixture.

Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, and eggs and mix together with your hands.

Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Cooks’ note:
Cooked meatloaf keeps, chilled, 3 days.

fancy pizza

This year I have decided to give up wheat for Lent.  Please don’t click away!  I’ve always wanted to give a gluten-free diet a shot and figure with the added guilt of Lent this will be a good six-week period in which to do so.  I am going to try to make wheat-free baking awesome over the next month and a half so don’t you fear– you’ll never know the difference.

However, before I get started on that I have one more non gluten-free recipe to share with you.  Pizza!

I made this pizza last weekend and kind of had a rough idea of the toppings I wanted to try but wound up winging it based on what I had on hand.  Started with butternut squash puree as the sauce and then snipped some rosemary from the plant that I have somehow managed to keep alive since last summer.  Miracle of miracles.

I caramelized up some onions and added those and then I added a local cured meat that is in the salami family by my estimations.  Like a third cousin to it.

Cheese.  You can’t have pizza without cheese.  I had just purchased a nice hunk of Manchego so sliced that with a vegetable peeler and put that on top of the whole thing.

Then I baked it on a pre-heated pizza stone and enjoyed.

The recipe below is for the whole wheat crust but please have fun experimenting with toppings.

100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust with Olive Oil (from “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

Note this recipe makes enough dough for 4 pizzas.  Refrigerate unused dough in lidded container for up to 7 days.

  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon granulated yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.

Add the liquid ingredients and mix without kneading, using a spoon, food processor, or heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle).

Cover (not airtight) and allow dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately two hours.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.

Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 550 degrees F (or 500 degrees F if that’s your maximum) with a pizza stone placed near the bottom third of the oven.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

On a wooden cutting board or pizza peel, flatten the dough with your hands and a rolling pin to produce a 1/8-inch-thick round.  Dust with flour to keep the dough from adhering to the board.  Use a dough scraper to unstick the dough as needed.  When you’re done the dough round should have enough flour under it to move easily when you shake the board or peel.

Transfer the rolled out dough to the pre-heated pizza stone and top as desired.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Allow the pizza to cool slightly on a cooling rack before serving.

mid-week middle eastern meal

I used to work at an ad agency in metro Detroit.  I love that city, I really do.  I could devote a whole post (or two or ten) about my love for it but will start by talking about the food in the cafeteria at the ad agency I used to work at.  It was run by people of Lebanese and Yemeni descent and the food very much reflected that.

I had a few exposures to Middle Eastern food before living in metro D but it was pretty much restricted to pita and hummus.  The cafeteria opened my eyes to the beauty of things like shish tawook, chicken kafta, and a beautiful dish called mujadera.

Mujadera involves lentils, (and you know how much I love lentils) rice, and onions– both cooked and caramelized.

I had plenty of rice on hand but also had farro and thought that might make a nice substitute.  Farro is in the wheat family, similar to barley.  It is hearty and nutty and delicious in savory dishes.

While the lentils, onions, and farro were cooking on the stovetop I turned my attention to caramelizing some onions to top the mujadera with.

Caramelizing onions is easy and the results are delicious.  I’d venture a guess that even people who don’t like onions under normal circumstances like caramelized ones.

If I were making caramelized onions to go on a burger or to top a pizza I might stop at the below….

But for this dish you want them brown like the below image.  I don’t even mind if they’re a little on the black side even though the recipe warns you to be careful of burning them.

I was psyched to find this recipe in a cookbook I had because Wisconsin is relatively void of Middle Eastern food and now I can make this for myself at home.  Score!  Takes me back to my days of eating lunch at the cafeteria in Detroit…

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions (Mujadera) (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
  • About 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water, warmed
  • 1 cup long- or short- grain rice (or farro)

Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan and turn the heat to medium.  A minute later, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook 3 minutes more.  Add the lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups liquid.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes.  Add enough of the remaining stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid.  Stir in the rice.  Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes.  Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes.  When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready.  If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.  If, on the contrary, the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring until it evaporates.

Serve the rice and lentils, garnished with the caramelized onions.