I was looking through my pantry, counting the number of types of beans (yes, you read that right) and came to 16; which isn’t including the 15 bean container. That’s a lot of beans; and some of these beans I have not given their moment in the sun (or pot).

Black-Eyed Peas

Perusing the DinnerCakes archives I realized I hadn’t written anything using black-eyed peas and, in fact, have done very little cooking with them at all. I never had them growing up as a kid so my exposure to them has bit quite limited. One of the few things I have cooked them for is a sort of mock creole. I saw mock because I don’t think I’ve ever had authentic creole cuisine. This dish uses a less than common item from my pantry called liquid smoke. Not natural, for sure, but it adds a nice touch.

Black-Eyed Pea Creole Soup

Black-Eyed Pea Creole Soup

1 onion; chopped
1 garlic; minced
1 green bell pepper; diced
1 cup dried black eyed peas; rinsed, cooked, and drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used Ancho)
1 cup fresh peas (or thawed if frozen)
2-3 cups stock
Several dashes of liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly (but not frequently). Add the bell pepper and sweat for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Enjoy.

A Healthier Dal Makhani

When it comes to soups, I’m usually not a fan of cream-based broths. I don’t want a soup that rich and milky; zest, spice, hearty is what I go for! Of course, there are a few exceptions (borscht, wild rice roup), and today we’ve got another one. Dal Makhani is a delicious Punjabi soup with black lentils and cream that I’m quite fond of at local restaurants. The problem of course, as with many restaurant-made dishes, is that it tends to be rather unhealthy; as they add much more cream and butter than you or I would add in something made from our own kitchen (this is a pet peeve of mine). So what to do? Try to make a healthier version, of course!

Black Lentils

This project was a bit problematic for several reasons. First, black lentils are a bit hard to find. I scoured the shelves of several grocery stores, specialty and general, to no avail. The best I was able to find was pre-cooked black lentils at Trader Joes. Second, Dal Makhani is traditionally cooked for a very long time under low heat. Who has the time for that? I plan to try with a slow cooker one day, but for this I just settled on a short duration. And finally, there’s the whole butter and cream thing. Let’s be honest. We all have restaurant dishes that we love, due in no small part to the bad-for-you stuff they add. Better to compete with subtle flavoring than overwhelming your taste buds. This dish won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s a good simple meal.

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion; chopped
1 tablespoon ginger; minced
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 cup cooked black lentils
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Under medium-high heat, heat the ghee until hot then add the cumin and fennel seeds. Stir until they crackle and become fragrant. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, chili powder and tomato paste and saute for 5 minutes. Add the additional ingredients along with any water to get the thickness you prefer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Enjoy.

I really really (really) love this time of year. Not only do I hate the cold, but there is so much more to do in the warmth. Hiking, climbing, swimming, the list goes on. Edwin was not meant to be contained indoors! The only issue I have with the summer is the shift towards colder meals. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good salad, but otherwise I prefer my dinners hot.

Chopped English Cucumber

Of course, I try to keep an open mind so I thought I’d give a cold soup a shot. English cucumber is a seedless variety of cucumber that has an edible skin and is often considered less bitter than most. It’s also friggin’ long; several feet. It’s the most common ingredient in a cold cucmber soup, today’s dish. The major ingredients are the cucumber (duh), dill and yogurt. I decided to add corn and tomato because, well, I like a soup with substance and a pureed soup makes me feel like I’m eating water.

Dill Fronds

This is definitely not the most appealing-looking soup I’ve made, but appearances can be deceiving. It’s got a light flavor and the cucumber and yogurt combine surprisingly well. On top of that, this is one of the few soups that calls for little to no salt. Oh, and did I mention it’s by far the easiest soup I’ve ever made? Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup
Feel free to substitute the shallot with garlic, onion or scallions.

1 english cucumber; chopped
1 small or medium scallion; minced
1 handful dill fronds
2 cups yogurt (regular works fine, but consider greek if you’d like a thicker consistency)
1 cup corn kernels
1 plum tomato; diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients except the corn and tomato into a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with the corn and tomato on the side as a “garnish.” Enjoy.

It was a bit of a scorcher this past weekend; up to the low 90’s. I have a simple test for determining whether or not summer is here: if at any time my steering wheels burns me, it’s summer. I took full advantage of the great weather with a good deal of climbing and running. Man, I love Spring and Summer.

Saute the Spices

As I mentioned earlier, a change in season means a change in diet. Salads, cold sandwiches, etc. Something too cool you off is a plus, and not heating the home from your kitchen is just gravy. However, sometimes we just want what we want; screw the season.

I’m not that skilled in cooking indian style, but I’m a fan of this soup (the ease in preparing helps). The lentils and chickpeas mix well with the tomato and spices. The cayenne and red pepper flakes give it a bit of a kick, so feel free to temper with lemon juice if so inclined.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Chickpeas

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Chickpeas

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup dried red lentils; rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked chickpeas (half a can); rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

Bring a medium-sized pot to medium heat and add butter, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. Saute for 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Enjoy.

I started a new project at work this week and the change of pace has really been nice. In an attempt to hit the ground running and ramp up quickly I’ve been spending extra hours at the client site; which unfortunately leaves me a bit drained in the evenings. I’ve been without soup for lunch for far too long! Time to change that and introduce a new ingredient: wild rice.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is a great change from your classic white or brown you’re probably more use to cooking with. Not only is it great for you (great source of protein, lysine and dietary fiber. also low in fat), but it’s got a great earthy nutty flavor to it. It’s hard to describe; it tastes “thick.” When cooked the rice “blossoms,” as the inside breaks out of its darker skin. Because of its thickness, it can take longer to cook (45+ minutes) and takes more water (four cups of water to one cup of rice).

Mixture of Vegetables

I wanted something that that said “comfort food;” a label I don’t often give to the healthier soups. At the same time I wanted to preserve the wild rice’s presence instead of it serving as a filler. I decided on it’s major accompaniment to be red bell pepper and fire roasted tomatoes and was very pleased with the result. The moderate use heavy cream keeps it relatively healthy while making it indulgent. I’ve had to use sheer force of will to save it for lunch. The only thing I’d change is possibly adding another pepper. Either way, this earns a spot on my favorite soup list. Let us know what you think!

Creamy Red Bell Pepper Soup with Wild Rice

Creamy Red Bell Pepper Soup with Wild Rice
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup uncooked wild rice; rinsed and drained
1 yellow onion; diced
1 red bell pepper; diced
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 large carrot; diced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
8oz cauliflower; chopped into small florets
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 to 1 cup combination of heavy cream and stock

Cook the rice per the package’s instructions; probably in four cups of lightly salted water for 45 minutes. Rice should be chewy but not crunchy. Remember we’ll be cooking it longer with the rest of the ingredients.

In a large pot, sweat the onion, bell pepper, garlic cloves and carrot in oil for 10 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes along with the rice, cauliflower, stock and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes allowing everything to mingle well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Now here’s where your tastes come in. You have two questions: how creamy and how thick? Start with at least 1/4 cup heavy cream and taste. If you want thick and lightly creamy, you’re done. If you want creamier, add more cream. If you want less thick add more stock. Either way, mix together and enjoy.

I should probably come as no surprise that I talk food a lot with friends. Besides the immense amount of time Heather and I go back and forth on various ideas, there are several other people with food on the brain quite often. One of my recent talks with one of these people has been about cabbage soup.

Behold the Cabbage

The only cabbage I knew of growing up was the german style red cabbage my mother would make, stinking up the entire house. Oh, how I hated it. But I want to like it. I want to start over, bury the hatchet and live in vegetable harmony. Cabbage has a few things going for it. Other than being incredibly cheap (less than a dollar a pound!), it’s a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. My friend was supposed to be working on her own perfect cabbage soup recipe to share (*cough*cough*), but I could wait no longer. Enjoy my cabbage soup.

Cabbage Soup

Cabbage Soup with Beans

2 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
2 leeks; sliced (whites only)
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups stock or water
2 large carrots; diced
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 large white potato; chopped into quarter inch pieces
1/2 head of green cabbage; cut into 1/4 inch slices or shredded
2 cups cooked great northern beans (or one can rinsed and drained)
1 teaspoon salt

Sweat the onion, leeks and garlic cloves in the oil until soft and translucent; approximately 10 minutes. Add the stock, carrots, herbs and bring to a boil. Add the potato and simmer until slightly soft; approximately 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for an additional 15 minute; adding the beans and salt for the last five minutes.

Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

Christine Ilich's Apple Autumn Borscht

One of the great things about volunteering at L’Academie (besides the great recipes and hands-on learning) is meeting the chefs. It’s great to be exposed to the different kinds of styles, to hear their story on how they became who they are today and to just pick their brains. Every chef reached their dream in a different way and a few of them realized their dream wasn’t what they first thought it was.

Whole Lotta Beets

Christine Ilich is a formally trained chef that I’ve mentioned briefly before after volunteering for one of her classes. She runs her own business, Heirloom Kitchen, in Front Royal making homemade soups, breads and sweets. I can tell you that her bread baking classes are immensely popular, but it was her soups that hooked me. We made three; a bisque, minestrone and a chowder. All very different, all amazing and all flexible with the recipe (cooking is an art!). I was a fan. During the class we somehow got on the discussion of other soup and she mentioned today’s recipe: Apple Autumn Borscht.

Preparing Apple Autumn Borscht

I had never worked with beets before, never mind made a borscht, so this was a great experience to broaden my horizons. While the ingredient list for this dish isn’t particularly long, its flavor is deceivingly complex. I dare say most would not be able to identify the ingredients from taste. I strongly recommend you try this recipe and if you have any questions for Christine, send her an e-mail.

Apple Autumn Borscht

Apple Autumn Borscht
Chop the vegetables into large pieces since everything will be pureed in the end.

3 tablespoons butter
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 apples, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 medium sized beets, peeled and chopped
2 large or 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cups heavy cream
Salt & pepper
Sour cream

Place butter, carrots, apples, onion and ginger in heavy bottomed soup pot. Sauté until vegetables are softened, but not browned (a little color is ok). Add beets and cover with water. Bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until beets are starting to soften. Add sweet potatoes (and more water if needed, to just cover the potatoes) and cook until all veggies are very soft. Add spices and lemon juice. Puree the mixture in blender with the cream. Taste and re-season if necessary, with spices, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.

Thai Red Curry Soup with Vegetables

Have you ever set out to prepare something only to find out you’re missing a crucial ingredient? I hate when that happens, and happen it did this Sunday morning. I was all set to make a delicious German oven pancake when I realized I was out of milk. It doesn’t get much more crucial than milk and embarking on a grocery store adventure was not conducive to my lazy Sunday plans. A substitution of coconut milk came to my rescue which unfortunately left me with quite a bit leftover to tend with.

Eggplants with Curry

I hate to waste food. It’s just so…. wasteful (I look forward to my excellence in writing award later this year). Enter today’s recipe. As you probably already know I’m quite fond of soups and on top of that, this recipe uses a few vegetables that don’t fall under my “staple” category. The original recipe was a chicken dish so I vegetarian-ified it, throwing in some lentils for protein. I’m not much of a thai cook, but I was satisfied with the results.

Thai Curry Soup

Thai Curry Soup with Vegetables
adapted from Epicurious

2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 red bell pepper; diced
2 chinese eggplant; chopped
4 oz green beans; chopped into 1 inch pieces
8 ounces cauliflower; cut into small pieces
2 cups red lentils; rinsed
3 cups coconut milk
4 cups stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Steam the cauliflower for 8 minutes and immediately dunk in cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large pot, cook the oil, curry paste and red bell pepper under medium heat for two minutes. Add the eggplant and green beans and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to ensure everything is coated with curry. Add the milk, stock, fish sauce, cauliflower and lentils, bringing everything to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Enjoy.

Corn and Cauliflower Chowder – Quick and Healthy

Good lord, so much food was consumed on Saturday. I still feel a little full. Ethiopian kids are probably hungrier because of us. I am proud to state that while I lost to Heather in the sit-up contest I was victorious in “who can last the longest before turning down food” contest. Huzzah!

Corn

I won’t bore you with the details. Heather covered it pretty well yesterday and really, you’re here for the food, right? The day after I really didn’t feel like eating much; there just wasn’t room. I was also fairly tired after driving back home and taking care of errands. Honestly, at that point food almost seemed like a hassle.

Cauliflower

I needed to eat something and I needed soup for lunch during the week, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and try to get to bed early (note: this did not happen). I was browsing through my long list of “want to try” recipes and came across one for potato and corn chowder from a class I assisted at L’Academie de Cuisine. I wanted to make it easier and healthier so I replaced the roux and potatoes with my new best friend the cauliflower. I was very happy with the result. The cauliflower does a decent job of giving you a similar chowder-like texture and I had to use very little milk. Next time I may throw a chopped potato in there for good measure. You know how much I love my veggies.

Corn and Cauliflower Chowder

Corn and Cauliflower Chowder

2 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 red bell pepper; chopped
1 celery stalk; chopped
1 carrot; chopped
1 clove garlic; minced
3 cups stock or water
1/4 cup milk
1 head cauliflower; cut into half-florets
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
1 can corn; rinsed and drained

Saute the onion, bell pepper, celery and carrot with the oil in a large pot under medium heat until soft and onions are translucent; approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic for another minute. Add the stock/water, milk, cauliflower and spices and simmer until the cauliflower is soft; approximately 20 minutes.

Add corn, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes so the corn heats up. Then blend with an immersion blender to the desired consistency. Enjoy.

Simple Yet Delicious – Adobo Black Bean Soup

On inauguration day, while over 1.8 million people flooded capital hill and surrounding area to witness history in the making, I was working far away in Reston. Yes, I missed all the glory and truth be told, even if I had the day off I would probably have just slept in; maybe baked a pie (fact: baking a pie is never a poor use of one’s free time), but definitely keeping myself as far away from DC as possible. There are a lot of great things about living inside the beltway, but every now and then there are events that strongly compel you to stay out of DC (the cherry blossom festival is another taxing escapade).

Sweating those aromatics

I’ve never been one for politics and while I am hopeful for the possibilities our new President brings, there was no friggin’ way I was putting up with THAT insanity. And it was cold. Good lord, do I hate the cold… It was still a noteworthy day for me though because I came across some delicious black bean soup at Whole Foods. Due to my lack of time management, I had not prepared a large pot of soup for the week and was forced to brave the elements in search of lunchtime nourishment. I was pleased to find this soup and had to recreate it!

Adobo Black Bean Soup

This soup…. is not the soup I had on Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, this is good soup and I’m enjoying it quite a bit; but it is not the soup I had at Whole Foods. This soup is milder and less sweet; and still delicious. It’s got a bit of a spicy tweak to it, but not so much as to overpower the taste. Give it a shot. And if you’ve ever tried to make Whole Food’s version, let me know.

Adobo Black Bean Soup

Adobo Black Bean Soup
Inspired by Whole Foods

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves of garlic; minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 tablespoons adobo sauce
2 cups dried black beans; cooked and drained
1 teaspoon cocoa
2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
4 cups water
Salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil on medium heat and sweat the onion, bell pepper and garlic until onion is soft and slightly translucent; approximately 3 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin, adobo seasoning, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Stir briefly and let cook for approximately one minute. Add everything else and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.