Lentil Tomato Soup

Whew! My life has been off to crazytown lately. Cooking has not been on the priority list. Actually, that’s not true. It’s just that cooking has become very very simple of late. Here’s hoping that changes soon because I’m a lot happier when I’m trying new recipes and playing in the kitchen.

Which brings me to my soon-to-be “new” kitchen. We recently purchased a townhouse near Boulder and the kitchen is oh so sad. An electric range from the late 90’s!! Horrors! A new induction range is coming (not soon enough for me). Until then, I must soldier on with a poor excuse for a stove.

Thing about soup, it’s easy to cook in one pot and an electric range is good enough. This recipe is adapted from the New York Times. The original is vegetarian. Mine is not, though you could leave out the bacon and it would still be darn good. But, I love bacon as a flavoring in bean soup. This is a very hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup.

Lentil Tomato Soup
(serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as an appetizer)

2 slices thick bacon, chopped
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown lentils, washed and drained
5 cups water
leaves from 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish

Heat up a soup pot on medium heat. Add bacon and oil. Cook until bacon renders out fat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook for another minute. Add in tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and lentils. Stir to combine. Add in water, thyme leaves, and bay leaf. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover partially and cook for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf. Stir in red wine vinegar and parsley. Taste; add more salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve garnished with grated cheese.

Even better the next day (as is true with so many soups and stews).

Adapted from Lentil Tomato Soup by Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times.


Black Beans and Rice, InstantPot version

My pantry (and I use this term broadly; it includes my freezer) is full of lots of things that make it easy to throw together a meal in short order. Though I live only 10 minutes from 2 well stocked grocery stores, going out in the dark, when snow is blowing sideways, is not all that attractive. Much easier to figure out dinner with what is on hand. This recipe happened on just such an evening. Look in fridge. Look in pantry. Ah, this will work!

“Beans and rice” are common all over Latin America. Black beans and rice are the rule in Cuban and Cuban-American kitchens. Some recipes include pork of some kind. This recipe does not. In fact, it’s vegan. In this case, I didn’t miss the meat at all.

I cooked the beans in my InstantPot. Though you can cook them from dry without soaking them this way, I prefer to soak them first. The beans hold their shape better, and you can discard the soaking liquid before cooking the beans, which cuts down on the gasiness a little.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice in the InstantPot
(serves 6-8)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 bunch scallions, white part minced and green tops thinly sliced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups water (see note)
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups cooked black beans (you can use canned)
2-3 teaspoons salt

Select the Sauté setting on the InstantPot. Add the olive oil. Add the onion, white part of scallions, red pepper, and garlic. Stir to combine. Sauté for a minute. Turn off the InstantPot and lock the lid in place. The residual heat in the pot will be enough to soften the onions. Also, we don’t want to burn the garlic. Burned garlic is gross!

Remove the lid. Add oregano, water, rice, beans, and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. Lock the lid in place and select Manual. Cook for 10-15 minutes (10 at sea level, 12 at 5000 feet, 15 at 9000 feet). Let sit on Keep Warm for 10 minutes after cooking has completed. Release pressure. Mix in sliced green onion tops. Taste for salt; add more if needed.

I like to garnish this with a few shakes of red hot sauce, like Crystal, Tabasco, or Cholula.

Note: if you cook the black beans yourself, use the cooking liquid to replace all or some of the water. You can also use the liquid from canned beans for this.

Based on a recipe from Bernard Clayton’s Cooking Across America by Bernard Clayton, Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Instant Pot Braised Rice, Bean, and Kale

Two friends asked me about the Instant Pot in the last 2 days.  Written up in the New York Times, both in Business and Food in the last month, it’s the hottest thing in kitchen appliances.

I have owned one for about 3 years now. I turned my sister and my dad into Instant Pot lovers. Why would you want another small appliance on your kitchen counter? Because it is really good at a lot of things and it takes the pressure out of timing the cooking of many of them. Rice, beans, stew, stock, soup, braises, other grains, will turn out beautifully. Then the InstantPot will keep them warm for up to 10 hours. That’s the part I really like; set the timer and it will turn itself down to Keep Warm until you want to eat it. I can start my rice first thing, before starting the rest of dinner. No need to worry about it overcooking or getting cold. Yes, many rice cookers do the same thing but now you can jettison your rice cooker and just have an InstantPot, which does so much more.

This bean dish is stick-to-your-ribs good for those cold winter days. You can serve it as a meatless entree or as a side dish for grilled or roasted meat.

The time range I give for cooking is for altitude adjustment. Most of you live at sea level. I live at nearly 9000 feet most of the year. Use the shorter time at sea level, somewhere in the middle if you live in Denver/Boulder (about 5300 feet) and the longest time if you live way up at ski resort elevations.

Braised Rice, Cannellini, and Kale
(serves 4-6)

1 cup dried cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed
about 3 cups water
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10-16 oz. package frozen kale, thawed*
1 cup Arborio or other short-grain rice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups stock
2 Tablespoons butter
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano cheese and extra-virgin olive oil for garnish

Place the beans, water (should be enough to cover beans), 1 teaspoon salt, and sage in Instant Pot. Lock lid in place. Cook on Manual setting for 35-45 minutes. Let beans sit on Keep Warm for 10 minutes.

While beans are sitting, squeeze out moisture from kale.

After 10 minutes, release pressure. The beans should be tender at this point. This may not be so if your beans are older and have dried out. If they are not done, lock the lid in place, and cook them on Manual for some more time; usually 5 minutes is enough. Drain the beans and set aside. [You can do this step ahead of time. You can even use a can of Great Northern beans. Just mix the sage in with the canned beans and continue below.]

Heat up the Instant Pot on Saute.  Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot (no need to clean it out), then the rice. Cook the rice for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, kale, and stock to the pot. Lock the lid back in place and cook on Manual for 6-8 minutes. Allow the pressure to reduce for 10 minutes on Keep Warm. Release the remaining pressure and remove lid. The risotto should be al dente at this point. Stir in beans, butter, salt to taste (how much will depend on the saltiness of your stock), and black pepper. Once the butter is melted and the beans are hot, it’s done. Garnish with Parmigiano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

*You can use a bunch of fresh kale instead of frozen but you will need to cook it lightly first so you can squeeze out the water. Pull the leafy bits off the stems, then steam or blanch it for 2 minutes. Cool quickly by putting it in a bowl of ice water. Squeeze out the moisture, chop coarsely, and use in place of the frozen kale.

Adapted from a recipe in Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, 2004.

Red Lentil Dal


This is a fabulous version of dal. The original recipe used yellow split peas but I have red lentils, so that’s what I used. And, I used my pressure cooker, because it makes cooking beans so quick and easy.

I don’t usually chop onions using a food processor, but in this recipe, it works perfectly. You don’t need a nice looking dice. The onions cook long enough that they will melt right into the lentils.

You can serve this as a side dish or as a main dish. It’s great over brown rice. Or white rice- but I love the chewiness of brown rice with the mushy lentils.

Red Lentil Dal
(serves 6-8)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Rotel™ brand)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped finely
5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro (fresh or frozen)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cover the lentils in cold water and soak for an hour. Drain the lentils, rinse again, and place in the pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water and the diced tomatoes (no need to drain them). Lock the lid in place, bring to pressure, and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. [If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook them on the stove for 45-60 minutes, until they are quite soft.]

While the lentils are cooking, heat up the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook them until they begin to brown, about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions and garlic. Cook until they are a nice toasty brown. This will take a while, about the amount of time it takes to cook the lentils in a pressure cooker. Add the coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir to combine the spices with the onions. Remove from heat.

When the lentils are done, release the pressure and remove the lid. Add the onions, minced cilantro, butter, and salt. Stir to combine and melt the butter. Serve as a side dish or over rice as a vegetarian main dish.

Adapted from a recipe for “Everyday Yellow Dal” in 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate, Chronicle Books, 2007.

Photo: By Mytinytank (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Corned Beef and Cabbage Shepherd’s Pie

Here’s a recipe I created for a St. Patrick’s Day cooking class. Nope, nothing traditional about this. But, it sure is tasty! Get your corned beef in the deli – you can buy a small amount of it and it’s already cooked. Or, if you cook a whole corned beef for St. Patty’s Day, you can reserve a little bit for this recipe. It’s a good way to stretch a small amount of leftover meat into a hearty meal.

St. Patrick’s Day Shepherd’s Pie
(serves 6)

non-stick cooking spray
1 pound carrots chopped
1 cup chicken broth, preferably unsalted or low-sodium
¼ medium head of cabbage, cored and chopped (about ¾ pound)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
7 oz. corned beef, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray an 11x7x2″ baking dish with cooking spray.

Place the carrots and chicken broth in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until carrots tender, about 15 minutes. Place the cabbage, peas, and pearl onions in a large bowl. Start the potatoes cooking in a large pot of water.

When the carrots are done, pour them and the cooking liquid over the other vegetables.Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Add the oil. Sprinkle in the flour and mix with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the vegetables, all the liquid in the bowl, corned beef, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix to combine and pour into baking dish.

When the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes), drain them, and put back in the pot. Add milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash until fairly smooth. Spread on top of filling. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle on shredded cheese and bake until cheese has melted.

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping

Some stick-to-your-ribs winter food made easy. You can make this without the cornbread topping if you like. Serve it with rice.

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping
(serves 6)

1 recipe of School of Eating Good Cornbread
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
½ medium onion, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes (either fresh or canned)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare Cornbread. Set aside while you prepare the chili.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook ground beef, onions, and garlic, stirring often and scraping from bottom of the pan, until meat is no longer pink. Lower heat to medium. Spoon off all but 1 Tablespoon fat. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, oregano, dry mustard, cayenne, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 2 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the cornbread batter over the chili, smoothing to cover chili evenly. Place in the oven and bake until cornbread is done, 25-30 minutes. The cornbread will be nicely browned and a toothpick stuck in the cornbread will come out clean. Serve hot.