Meatless Monday Recipe: Lentil Soup

My father-in-law makes the best lentil soup and it is the most basic and simplest of recipe. I couldn’t believe how simple and easy it was because the soup itself tasted much more complex. I had him demonstrate it for me one day since I refused to believe it could be so simple.

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He calls this “soffritto”, but it’s just garlic, onions and tomatoes and does not contain the more traditional ingredients such as celery, carrots and parsley.

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He fries them up until they are quite golden brown. Then, he adds them to the already boiling and just about tender lentils. He adds some chopped celery and frozen broccoli and boil until everything is tender, may be another 15 minutes. A little salt and pepper and it’s delicious.

Of course, I can’t leave his recipe alone and have to mess with it.

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I start with garlic and onion, too.

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Add some chopped tomatoes.

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Fry them up until they are tender.

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And the tomatoes have really broken down.

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Then, this is where I deviate. I add chopped celery and carrots.  Then, I add vegetable stock instead of water, the lentils and boil until just about tender if I’m adding chopped broccoli.  Add broccoli until fully done.  Or add the spinach when the soup is pretty much done.

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I think I missed taking photo of one or two of the steps. This one shows with the lentils and vegetable stock already added.

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And here is the finished product, this version contains spinach instead of the chopped broccoli. I make it both ways just for change of pace and they are both really good.

ETA: Somehow I published this without the recipe so here it is!

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Lentil Soup

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time 45 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 8

Ingredients

olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into half moons or chopped
1 pound dry lentils (green or brown), picked and rinsed
2 quarts water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) or baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot, fry garlic and onions in olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes start to break down and release the juice. Add celery and carrots with a little more olive oil and saute for another minute. Add the lentils, water or vegetable stock and the bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until lentils are just about tender, about 35 minutes.  If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water to thin out. Remove the bay leaves.

If using broccoli, add at this time and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until broccoli is tender.

If using spinach, add when lentils are fully tender. Stir in the spinach and cook for another minute or two until all the spinach has softened.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Note:  I think another lovely substitute vegetable would be swiss chard instead broccoli or spinach, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Also, this may sound strange, but we love to eat lentil soup over plain white steamed rice, a lá Korean style or Indian style with dal.  I tend to make the soup a little thicker for that purpose.  A sprinkle of fresh grated pecorino romano cheese is a nice touch.  And finally, this soup freezes very well.  I always make the full pound of lentils so I can freeze 1/2 and use for quick dinners or lunches.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

If you follow food trend at all, you would know that kale and quinoa have become really popular in the recent years. This salad combines the two super food in an easy and tasty way.  It makes for a nice hearty side or a light meal.  I imagine the left-over will make a fabulous lunch and I’ll find out tomorrow! (ETA: It did make for a wonderful left-over lunch!)

The recipe is from a member on Tasty Kitchen.  I’m re-writing it here because I’ve modified the recipe slightly to suit my family’s palate and appetite.  The original recipe’s serving size is for 8.  My family must have a bunch of pigs, but there’s no way that would feed my family with left-overs.

We ate the salad with some flounder topped with lemon capers sauce.  Perhaps because I didn’t have a starch, but the three of us almost finished the entire salad.

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Go over to Tasty Kitchen or to the original recipe site, Forty Cakes for some much nicer step-by-step photos.

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Massaged Kale and Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 30 mins  Inactive Cook time: 30 mins

Serves: 4 for hearty portions, 8 for smaller sides

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 small clove garlic minced fine
2 – 3 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey for non-vegan) to taste – I used 2
*can also substitute with brown sugar, 1 – 2 tcp

For the salad
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 large bunch kale, washed well, stemmed and chopped or ripped to small pieces (about 8 packed cups)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (I like Ocean Spray Craisins)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 – 2 sweet, crisp apples (Fuji or Gala good options), chopped
salt and pepper to taste

*optional non-vegan ingredient – crumbled feta cheese

Directions

For the vinaigrette
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and the agave/honey/brown sugar and set aside.

For the salad
In a large bowl, combine the kale and the vinaigrette. Massage the vinaigrette thoroughly into the kale for about 5 minutes. The volume of the kale will decrease as the kale become tender. Set aside for another 10 to 15 minutes for the kale to become more tender.

Add in the quinoa and toss together with the kale. Add the walnuts, cranberries and chopped apples. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and thoroughly toss some more.

Pancit Bihon (Filipino Noodles with Rice Sticks) with Shrimp

I love pancit. Love, love, love it.  Currently, *gasp* dare I say it, I love it more than jap chae.

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The noodles are thinner and lighter and the flavor is more delicate. Actually a dangerous combination because I eat way too much of it before I realize I ate way too much of it.

I’ve been wanting to make pancit for years. Years! Now that I finally made it, I’m slightly embarrassed about how long it took me to make them.  They are so easy to make.  Less time-consuming then jap chae.

I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to try. Pancit, like most dishes have 1000 recipe variations on the internet. Which one to pick?

Well, if you can believe it, I finally found the recipe (modified slightly) I like on the back of the Excellent brand rice stick noodle package. There are many different brands, but Excellent brand is highly recommended by Filipinos acquaintances.

I bought the 16 ounce package and it was a fortuitous mistake. I had enough for 3 meals, two for us, one for a friend’s sister who’s recovering from surgery. I would say 16 ounce package makes enough to serve 6 – 8 people.

Traditional pancit contains chicken and pork, but I think pancit marries well with shrimp. Plus, I’m not a fan of pork and I’m starting to get tired of chicken. I also tried to make this recipe vegan adaptable, so instead of using chicken broth, I used water as the liquid. I did use oyster sauce in combination with soy sauce, but the oyster sauce could be left out in addition to the shrimp to make this a completely vegan/vegetarian dish.

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Pancit Bihon with Shrimp

Serves: 6 – 8

Prep time: 15 mins Cook time 30 mins

*If you’re not a fan of oyster sauce, use fish sauce. If you’re not a fan of both, try the vegan option and use just soy sauce. For vegan option, leave out fish/oyster sauce and shrimp. Chicken can be added as well. Boil chicken thighs or breast and shred them before adding them to the noodles.

Ingredients

2 tablespoon canola oil, divided
1 small sweet onion, julienned
3 carrots, julienned
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally
3 cloves garlic, minced 1 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and de-veined, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
5 cups water (alternately vegetable broth or chicken broth)
8 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or fish sauce)
1 16-ounce package Filipino brand rice sticks (Excellent brand recommended)
salt and pepper to taste

Direction

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or a large saute pan on high heat and swirl to coat. When pan is hot, stir-fry onion, carrots and celery until just softened, about 1 minute. Add garlic and cabbage and fry until the cabbage is cooked down and tender. This could take up to 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, swirl to coat and fry the shrimp until pink and remove from heat immediately and set aside.

Add 5 cups of water to the wok with the soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer and add the rice sticks directly into the wok. Stir gently until noodles start to soften and absorb the liquid. The recipe of the package says to remove the noodles when soft from the liquid, but I found that by the time the noodles were cook, they had absorbed all the liquid.

Add the vegetables and shrimp back to the wok. Gently mix so as not not break up the noodles.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or at room temperature. If refrigerated, the noodles need to be reheated.