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Beef, Bacon and Lentil Make for a Comforting Soup


Delicious lentils meet beef and bacon — what could be better on a cold winter’s night? That’s why this recipe, which I picked up during a recent visit to the Penzeys Spices store in Austin, sounded so perfectly right.

The key to its richness is a roux that you stir for only a few minutes before adding it to the mixture of meats and vegetables. It all goes together quickly and you can let it cook, adding warmth to your house in he process.

Beef, Bacon and Lentil Soup

Beef, Bacon and Lentil Soup

Beef, Bacon and Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cups dried lentils
5 cups cold water
8 ounces bacon, diced
1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm water mixed with 1 teaspoon beef base, such as Penzeys Beef Soup Base
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Penzy’s Forward! (optional)
2 tablespoons vinegar

Combine the lentils and water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. While the lentils simmer, brown the bacon in a skillet and remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain the bacon drippings. Add the ground chuck to the skillet and cook until nicely browned. Drain well. Add the beef, bacon and vegetables to the lentils.

Melt the butter in the skillet. Blend in the flour and then add the salt, pepper, Forward!, if using, and vinegar. Cook, stirring constantly, untl thickened and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Pour in the waer mixed with beef soup base, stir well to blend, and then add to the soup pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the flavors are well-blended.

Makes 10 servings.

Approximate nutritional value per 1 cup serving: 300 calories, 12 g fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 930 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugars, 26 g protein.

From Penzys Spices/Kathleen and Rick Bergeron

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Bacon and Lentils with Egg


Red lentils

“Have you ever eaten lentils for breakfast?” Faith Durand asks in “Not Your Mother’s Casseroles” (The Harvard Press, $16.95). “This is one of those breakfast dishes that is really just as good for lunch or dinner. It’s flexible; after you make up a batch of soft, mashed lentils with spices, you can serve them for any meal of the day. Serve this with Indian lime pickle or a spicy chutney.”

Bacon and Lentils with Eggs

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 shallots or 1/2 red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 cups red or yellow lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
4 cups water
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 eggs

Place the bacon in a 2-quart (or larger) saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook the bacon slowly, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until it is crisp.

Turn the heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, then add the garam masala and lentils. Stir so the lentils are coated with the shallots and garlic, then add the cilantro and cook until it is wilted.

Add the water and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes. if the lentils are too watery at the end, leave the lid off for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced and the lentils are nearly dry. Turn off the heat and taste. Season the lentils with salt and pepper, then lightly mashed them with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease six 6-ounce ramekins with baking spray or olive oil. Mount a few spoonfuls of the lentils in each (you may have some lentils left over), then make a hollow in the center of the lentils with the back of a spoon and crack in an egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the whites are just set. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Not Your Mother’s Casseroles” by Faith Durand

 

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Red Wine Adds Flavor to Lentil Soup


Lentils are the basis of this Greek soup.

“Like all starch-based soups, this one will thicken as it cools,” writes Michael Psilakis in “How to Roast a Lamb: New Classic Greek Cooking” (Little, Brown and Co., $35). “If you make it the day before, hold on to any reserved cooking liquid so you can thin the soup when you reheat, if it’s too thick. You can always use the liquid in another soup or a braise, as it’s really a lentil stock, full of flavor from all the vegetables and aromatics.”

Lentil Soup (Fakes)

2 smoked ham hocks
Water, as needed
2 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)
2 Spanish or sweet onions, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 Idaho potato, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaves or 3 dried bay leaves
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound brown lentils
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated kefalotiri cheese (or Parmesan, if you must) (see note)
2 scallions, green part only, sliced on the diagonal
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot, cover the ham hocks with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside, discarding the water.

In a large pot, warm the blended oil over medium-high heat. Add all the vegetables, including the garlic, as well as the bay leaves and thyme, and cook 3 to 5 minutes to soften without browning. Add the lentils and stir for 1 minute, then deglaze the pot with the red wine and sherry vinegar. Simmer until the wine is completely evaporated; then add the ham hocks and enough water to cover everything by a good inch. Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and vegetables, reserving all the liquid in a large measuring jug. Return the solids to the empty cooking pot.

In a food processor, combine about a third of the lentil mixture with 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Purée until completely smooth. Return this puréed mixture to the pot with the remaining lentils and mix. Add enough of the cooking liquid to get the desired consistency – again, I am partial to a hearty style, but you may prefer it with a little more liquid. Taste for seasoning.

Ladle into bowls and top with a big pinch of kefalotiri, some sliced scallion greens and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Optional variations:

  • If you want the meat from the ham hock in the soup, you’ll have to simmer it far longer than it takes the lentils to cook: Sauté a mirepoix of 1 carrot, 3 ribs celery, 1 large onion, 2 fresh bay leaves, and 6 smashed cloves of garlic until tender. Add the ham hocks, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. Pull out the ham hocks. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the vegetables and bay leaves. Reserve the liquid and use for cooking the lentils, instead of the water. Pick off the meat from the ham hocks, discarding bones and tough cartilage. Add the meat with the puréed lentils.
  • Cook 1/2 cup of orzo according to the package instructions and stir in just before serving.
  • Serve with slices of day-old baguette, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.
  • Use any lentils of your choice; French green lentils and black beluga lentils will take a bit longer to cook.
  • Reduce the soup until it is very thick; then use it as a bed under a nice piece of fried fish. If you prefer it smooth rather than chunky, purée all the lentils. It will be almost like refried beans. Top this with a little strained Greek yogurt for coolness and tang; then throw on some torn fresh green herbs.
  • For extra pork flavor without cooking the ham hock ahead of time, as above, sauté a few ounces of finely diced smoked slab bacon with the mirepoix.

Note: Kefalotiri is a Greek cheese traditionally made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. It is hard and dry, and is occasionally referred to as the Greek Parmesan. It can be found at some ethnic markets and supermarkets with extensive cheese sections.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Adapted from “How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking” by Michael Psilakis

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Ratatouille Lentil Stew


Lentils turn ratatouille into a main course.

“When summer’s vegetables are at their best, ratatouille is a lovely addition to the table: thick, mellow, soft and bursting with flavor without bragging,” writes Joy Bauer in “Slim & Scrumptious.” “My version features all of the usual suspects – tomato, eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers – but also introduces nutrient-rich lentils, which turn this traditional side dish into a satisfying main meal.”

Ratatouille Lentil Stew

1 small eggplant, cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 zucchini, cubed
1 yellow summer squash, cubed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup no-salt-added tomato paste
1 cup lentils, rinsed
4 cups unsalted or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash between two large baking sheets, and spread the vegetables out into a single, even layer on each sheet. Coat the vegetables liberally with oil spray, and then sprinkle the oregano and rosemary evenly over them.

Roast the vegetables for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender, stirring them about halfway through.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the soup base: Liberally coat a large pot with oil spray, and preheat it over medium-high heat.

Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened, adding a tablespoon of water at a time as necessary to prevent scorching.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

Add the lentils, vegetable broth, 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pot and stir thoroughly to combine. Simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls.

Nutrition information: 383 calories, 21 g protein, 69 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 18 g fiber, 740 mg sodium

Makes 4 servings.

From “Slim & Scrumptious” by Joy Bauer

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Shrimp Mixes Well With Lentils


Garnish the lentil dish with chopped cilantro.

This Indian dish features the winning combination of shrimp and lentils in a stew seasoned with aromatic spices such as cinnamon,  cardamom, coriander and cumin. Do yourself a favor and gather all of the ingredients together beforehand.

Shrimp With Lentils (Jinghewale Dhal)

3/4 cup channa dhal or yellow lentils, washed and soaked for 1-2 hours (see note)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 medium tomato
3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
1-3 green chiles, deseeded and finely chopped
1 (1-inch) cube ginger root, finely grated
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked and peeled shrimp
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, leaves and stalks, finely chopped, divided use
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Note: Channa dhal, also spelled chana dhal, can be found at Indian markets.

Drain the lentils and place in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and add the turmeric and red pepper. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan and cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Using the back of a spoon, mash some of the lentils by pressing against the side of the pan.

Get your ingredients together before starting.

Boil the lentils with turmeric and crushed chiles.

About halfway through the time it takes to cook the lentils, peel the tomato, then cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and chop the flesh roughly.

In a frying pan, heat the oil over low heat and add the cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and bay leaves. Let them sizzle for 20 to 25 seconds. Add the green chiles and ginger, and fry gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the coriander and cumin, and cook for 1 minute before adding the shrimp, tomato and salt. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and spices to oil.

Add shrimp and tomato to spice mixture.

Pour the shrimp mixture into the lentils. Add 3 tablespoons cilantro and lemon juice, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves, if you can find them. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with cooked basmati rice.

Stir shrimp mixture into lentils.

Add lemon juice and cilantro.

To make a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp and use more diced tomato as well as diced bell pepper, zucchini, celery or onion, to taste.

[amazon-product]1862056196[/amazon-product]Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Secrets From an Indian Kitchen” by Mridula Baljekar

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Enliven Your Labor’s Day With These Easy Picnic Dishes


The temperatures have started to drop, even if only slightly, which means it’s a fine time to venture outdoors again for a family picnic. In honor of Labor Day, we offer you a series of fast-and-easy picnic recipes that you won’t have to labor over to make.

Kentucky Beer Cheese

Kentucky Beer Cheese

Kentucky Beer Cheese

In Kentucky, beer cheese is considered by many to be one of the basic food groups, along with the cucumber spread Benedictine. You can often find an entire refrigerated case at the supermarket devoted to this spread, which is served with bread, crackers or crudités. You can also spread it on a burger or eat it by the spoonful right out of the bowl. Think of it as cold version of Welsh rabbit.

1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
2-4 pounds sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (see note)
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Sour cream, as needed for proper consistency

Boil beer. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, garlic and mustard powder until all is combined. Let cool. If needed, add sour cream to make it smoother.

Note: Use more or less cheese, depending on desired consistency. Already shredded cheese is often treated with potato starch or corn starch, which means that it will be thicker than cheese you shred yourself.

Makes 16-20 servings.

Adapted from Linda Servais

Mexican Slaw

“Thinly sliced cabbage accompanies countless Mexican dishes, from flautas to tacos,” writes Steve Raichlen in “High-Flavor, Low Fat Mexican Cooking.” “Its refreshing crispness and audible crunch make a pleasing counterpoint to stews and soft, moist tortilla dishes. From shredded cabbage, it’s a short jump to slaw.”

For the dressing:
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds (optional)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

For the Slaw:
3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded (about 5 ounces)
1 carrot, shredded
4 to 5 ounces jícama, shredded
1 tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 or 2 jalapeños, minced (for a milder slaw, seed the chiles)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

For the dressing: In the bottom of a serving bowl, combine the garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and cumin, if using, and mash to a paste with a wooden spoon. Stir in the lime juice.

For the Slaw: Add the cabbage, carrot, jícama, tomato, jalapeños and cilantro, and toss to mix. Correct the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt or lime juice to taste.

Note: The sugar makes a U.S.-style slaw. To be more Mexican, you could omit it.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “High-Flavor, Low-Fat Mexican Cooking” by Steven Raichlen

Lemony Lentil Salad

This recipe from Martha Stewart’s WholeLiving.com is not only easy to make, it’s high in fiber and a colorful addition to any table.

1 1/2 cups lentils
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 orange, red, or yellow (or a mix) bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dices
4 scallions, thinly sliced, or 1 large shallot, diced
Coarse salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook lentils until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water to stop further cooking, and drain again.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, mustard, and tarragon. Add drained lentils, bell peppers, and scallions; season well with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

From WholeLiving.com

Roast Beef Sandwiches with Sweet-and-Sour Red Onions and Blue Cheese

Complex flavors arise from this simple sandwich recipe.

Red onions:
2 cups thinly sliced red onions
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Sandwiches:
4 large soft whole grain rolls, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
12 tomato slices
8 ounces thinly sliced roast beef
2 cups (packed) small watercress sprigs

Combine onions, vinegar, and sugar in medium bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand until onions are soft, tossing occasionally, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Place bottom halves of rolls on work surface. Sprinkle with cheese. Top each with 3 tomato slices, then 1/4 of roast beef. Top each with 1/2 cup watercress, then 1/4 of pickled onions. Cover with tops of rolls. Cut each sandwich in half.

Makes 4 servings.

From Epicurious.com

Summer Fruit With Wine and Mint

This recipe from Giada De Laurentiis is a quick way to come up with a classy dessert that’s quite nutritious. Cut back on the sugar and still enjoy a summery mix of fruit and mint.

1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup sugar, or less, to taste
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, halved, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 basket (8-ounce) fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Bring the wine and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Chop and combine the cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, and mint in a large bowl. Pour the warm wine mixture over; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until cold, stirring occasionally, at least 2 hours.

Transfer to the fruit mixture to a wide jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep chilled.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network

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