Tomato Lentil Soup

The weather has a tendency to drive my menu.  So tonight, as it is November and about 16 degrees F (-9 Celsius), I decided on a hearty soup.  My favorite these days is lentil soup.  I merged 3 recipes to come up with the following:

Lentil Soup

Tomato Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 28-0z can of plum tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth, divided into 4 and 2 cups (see notes below)
1 cup lentils
1 tablespoon dill (see notes below)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
2 dried red chili peppers
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté for approximately 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, puree the tomatoes in a blender.

Add the 4 cups of broth, lentils, and herbs (dill, oregano, thyme), bay leaves, dried chili peppers and pureed tomatoes to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30-45 minutes until the lentils are tender.  During the simmer time, add additional broth if the mixture becomes too thick.  Once the lentils are done and the consistency is to your liking, stir in the balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 6 servings

Notes:

  1. I am not a big fan of dill, in fact in my attempt pictured above, I substituted the 1 tablespoon of dill for 1 teaspoon of tarragon. But since this is a Mediterranean recipe, I kept it on my ingredients list
  2. Lentils require a lot of water to cook, so be prepared to add the extra broth or water.  In my case, I felt the soup flavorful enough with the 4 cups of vegetable broth as my broths are very strong in flavor, so I added water.
  3. One of the recipes I had called for crumbled feta cheese to be added on top of each serving.  Who does that?

Miracle Bread

no_knead_bread

It’s been a few years since the ‘no knead bread’ article in the NYT came out, but I saved it in my files and have just now (well, this past weekend) acted on it.  As the article and recipes are readily available online, I won’t post here, but will show the results above and talk about the experience.

Lessons learned:
1. It does take time. The yeast does 95% of the work. The recommended time is 12-18 hours for the fermentation.
2. It is messy. Although there is minimal handling of the dough, the dough is wet and sticky.
3. Cast iron is best. To get the crust, the article recommended a cast iron dutch oven or covered skillet. This really does work.
4. The longer the time for fermentation, the better the bread.
5. Any all-purpose flour will do.

Al Pastore

al pastore

As I scanned the internet for a simple pasta sauce recipe, I thought back to an entree I had at a local italian restaurant – an ‘al pastore’ – which means something like a shepherd’s sauce or most likely, a country / peasant sauce.  This sauce is so simple, but requires the BEST INGREDIENTS for the flavors to come out.  It’s usually served with a rigatoni or another tube like pasta.  I made mine with cavatappi – which was what I had in my pantry.

Al Pastore
1 lb. Pasta – rigatoni, cavatappi, or penne regate
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (casing removed)
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp. tomato paste
¼ cup Pecorino Romano
½ lb. fresh ricotta cheese
2 tbsp. fresh chives
Salt, Pepper to taste

Directions
Bring water to a boil for pasta and cook the pasta al dente

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: Using a large fry pan or a dutch oven, heat olive oil and add garlic. When  garlic begins to brown add sausage and lower heat to medium. When sausage has  cooked add tomato paste.

Add pasta, Romano and ricotta  cheeses. Mix well and add chives. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Hardware

Dinner Club Hardware… Bring it

Image

Sorry for the no writes

Sorry for the no-writes folks.  I’ve been swamped as usual.  Travel and work have been hectic.  Bear with me…

Lima, Peru 9/1/2011

Our flying time started at 7 a.m. today.  We got to Lima at about 11 p.m.  There is no time difference.  Because we choose to live in a city where one must always connect to get to anywhere, it took us almost 18 hours: Madison-Chicago; Chicago-Houston; Houston-Lima.  Not the easiest flying itinerary, but the quality of life is excellent in Madison.

Lima, while being on the coast is in a desert.  It seems to always be grery color-wise.  We’re staying at the very fancy JW Marriott in a very fancy part of town.  I’m not taking any pictures tonight.  Very tired.  And we leave for Cusco the next morning…

Good Night

Packing and Re-Packing August 31, 2011

I’m a light packer, even for business.  And my work friends are surprised at how light my luggage is.  I pack clothes for work every week, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years.  It’s not an art, but it is some sort of science.  If I can’t lift my rollerboard with one arm, it’s too heavy.  My male colleagues are surprised at how light I can pack, given my reputation as a fashionista (it’s not hard to be one especially if you work in tech – a different color other than beige counts as being a fashionista).

I write this note at 3 a.m. September 1.  I’m not even going to sleep, given that we need to catch our flight at 7 a.m.  I’m packing a duffle bag for check-in and to take with us on the trek;  and bringing my rollerboard and daypack as carryons.  I’ve never packed this much in my life, not even for my sister’s wedding in Hong Kong.

My duffle bag contains trekking clothes, poles, and toiletries.  My rollerboard contains ‘street’ clothes and one set of trekking clothes, along with a pair of flipflops.  The daypack contains my iPad, money, travel docs, etc.  I feel like I’m packing the world in my bags.  Ridiculous.

I thought I packed everything over the weekend.  Upon returning home, I decided I packed too much.  So, I repacked and edited everything – which caused me to stay up all night.  Oh well.  It’s done.  See you in Peru.