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Curried Split Pea Soup!

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Ok, so here’s another recipe that is super easy, really delicious, nutritious, and also satisfying in a cold day. Yellow Split pea soup with curry. The basic recipe is below but you can also add or subtract to it as you like (it’s equally good without curry, for example, but I happen to like the spice). Tonight, in addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe I also added a diced green pepper, a diced tomato, and a bit of tandoori spice. The is also good if mad with red or green lentils rather than split peas. If the recipe is too large cut it in half; this soup freezes well also.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Curry and Caramelized Onions

Makes about 3 quarts

Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil or clarified butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add a diced onion and cook it—stirring frequently—for about five minutes, or until it start to brown, then stir in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Lower the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons (or more) of your favorite curry powder, and add any of your other favorite spices as well (such as extra cumin, turmeric, coriander, or chilies; all of which should be in the curry powder already). Stir the spices for a minute or so in the hot fat to bring out their flavors, then stir in 3 cups of yellow split peas and about 10 cups of chicken broth (if you want to keep this vegetarian use vegetable broth). Season the soup with a teaspoon of kosher salt (being careful if you are using canned broth which is already salted) and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Allow the soup to boil for a minute then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the soup for about an hour—stirring it frequently—and add more liquid if it becomes too thick. Just before removing it from the heat stir in about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon or lime juice and—if you have it on hand and enjoy it’s flavor—also stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

Crispy Tandoori Tofu!

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I’ve posted a recipe for this tofu–or at least a variation of it–in the past but I made it for staff lunch today and thought I’d re-post it because it is so easy and delicious to make. Sometimes I eat it as a salad component but today I ate it on a sandwich with toum (my chickpea version of Lebanese garlic mayo), vegetables, and whole grain bread. Follow the links in this paragraph for the other components, and the tofu recipe is below.

Crispy Baked Tofu Marinated in Yogurt and Spices
1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Place it between two plates to allow the weight of a plate (or two) to press out additional moisture. Drain the tofu again and slice it into ½ inch slices, then lay it on a baking sheet. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon, garlic curry, turmeric, hot pepper, cumin, and salt. Mix the marinade, then pour it over the tofu, gently turning it to coat all sides. Preheat an oven to 400F and allow the tofu to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a clean baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack (if you have one, otherwise place it directly on the baking sheet but lightly oil it first). Sprinkle the sesame seeds across the tofu and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until firm and slightly crisp (rotate the pan every 5 minutes or so for even cooking). This is delicious on a sandwich, salad, or as a simple snack; it can be eaten hot, room temperature, or chilled. 

The Spice is Right (two super flavorful and delicious recipes)…

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Spices really are amazing aren’t they? Not only are some used for food preservation and medicinal purposes (not to mention preventative medicine) they also make even the blandest foods taste really incredible; these recipes are two examples of this. And both of these recipes, while delicious hot from the oven or skillet, are equally delicious at room temperature or even cold from the fridge. The tofu, for example, when chilled makes a great meat alternative on sandwiches.

Tandoori-Style Tofu

Serves 4 

1 pound extra-firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded
½ small onion, diced

3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Black sesame seeds to garnish (optional) 

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Combing all the remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds in a food processor or blender (yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, onion, curry, and salt), and process until smooth. Pour the marinade into a shallow pan. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick (and crosswise if you would like smaller pieces). Lay the tofu slices in the marinade, turning them to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for ,30-60 minutes. Preheat and oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Sprinkle the tofu with black sesame seeds and bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack or sandwich ingredient.
 

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4 

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices ginger, minced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon whole cumin seed
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped 

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the onion and potato. Cook these for a couple minutes, until they just begin to change color. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in the black mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cumin seed, and crushed hot pepper; cook for a minute to release it’s flavor and aroma, then stir in the cauliflower, coating it with oil and spices. Add the water, then cover the skillet and cook the potatoes and cauliflower for a couple minutes. Stir in the peas and lemon juice; cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Urban Simplicity.

Crispy Baked Tofu Marinated in Yogurt and Spices

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So I have to start off with what has become a sort of mantra for my recipes on this blog…this is really easy to make and super delicious. It is so delicious, in fact, a carnivore or someone who says they do not like tofu would like this (really). It’s probably pretty good for you as well. It is great as a sandwich component or on top a salad, but it can also be eaten as is, as a sort of healthy snack.

Crispy Baked Tofu Marinated in Yogurt and Spices
1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Place it between two plates to allow the weight of a plate (or two) to press out additional moisture. Drain the tofu again and slice it into ½ inch slices, then lay it on a baking sheet. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon, garlic curry, turmeric, hot pepper, cumin, and salt. Mix the marinade, then pour it over the tofu, gently turning it to coat all sides. Preheat an oven to 400F and allow the tofu to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a clean baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack (if you have one, otherwise place it directly on the baking sheet but lightly oil it first). Sprinkle the sesame seeds across the tofu and bake it for about 20-30 minutes, or until firm and slightly crisp (rotate the pan every 5 minutes or so for even cooking). This is delicious on a sandwich, salad, or as a simple snack; it can be eaten hot, room temperature, or chilled.

Urban Simplicity.

A Really Easy Five Minute Recipe To Make Cauliflower Taste Delicious

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Okay, so maybe this will take more than five minutes, but not more than ten. And while I made this with cauliflower this could easily be adapted to other vegetables as well. The key factors are onion, garlic, spices, and caramelizing the vegetable. It is really easy, and this is how I made it.

Slice as much cauliflower as you’ll eat about 1/4″ thick. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat with a few tablespoons oil (I used olive oil). When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the cauliflower in a single layer; it should begin to sizzle a bit when it hits the pan; if it seems too hot reduce the heat. While the cauliflower is cooking, slice a small onion. Turn the cauliflower over (it should be browned on one side) and sprinkle the onion in the pan. As the cauliflower and onion cooks, mince a clove or two of garlic and add it to the pan with a teaspoon or two of curry (or whatever spices you like) along with a pinch of kosher salt. Shake the pan to toss everything in the spices and garlic, allow it to cook for another minute, then shake the pan again. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze its juice over the cauliflower and shake the pan again. Transfer everything to a plate and eat it as a healthy snack, a component to a salad, or as a side dish (I ate it as a side to Lebanese-style lamb and brown rice; click here for recipes). The cauliflower is delicious hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Urban Simplicity.

Spiced Fish and Potato Strata (recipe, photos, and directions)

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Yes, this is as delicious as it looks. And again–even though it may seem complicated to make at first glance–it is really quite simple. I used spices that I enjoy, but if you have an aversion to heat simply tone them down or omit them all together…it will still be delicious. Strata takes it’s name from layers rock formations because of the layers of foods. This is also, of course, the name for various layered egg dishes, but this recipe contains no egg. This is a great recipe to serve a small group where the baking dish is brought from oven-to-table; it makes a great presentation. Anyhow, the easy recipe is below but prior to that I’ve showed the simple steps in photos (with a few words). Enjoy.


Begin the recipe by slicing the potato and browning it in an oven.

Next, cook and slightly brown onions, peppers, and a few cloves of garlic.


Here’s the fun part: layer the casserole. First the cooked potatoes, then the peppers and onions, then raw fish, and lastly tomatoes and lemon.
 


Cook the spices in oil, splash it with fresh lemon juice, and drizzle it over the fish.


Now here’s the easiest part…put it in the oven. Simple as that. But trust me, the best thing of this recipe is eating it (the recipe is below).

Spiced Fish and Potato Strata

Serves Six


3 medium potatoes, sliced thin

9 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 small onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 fish fillets

3 plum tomatoes, sliced

3 lemons, two juiced and 1 sliced

2 teaspoons coriander seed

2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper

1 teaspoon black mustard seed

1 tablespoon curry

1 bunch parsley, minced


Preheat an oven to 450F. Combine the sliced potatoes in a bowl 3 tablespoons of oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the potatoes to coat them with the oil, then lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned; set aside.


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet then add the sliced green pepper, red pepper, and onion. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes until they just begin to brown, then add the garlic and cook another minute; set aside.


Shingle the potatoes in a casserole dish, then layer the cooked onions and peppers on top of the potatoes. Arrange the fish in the pan on top of the potatoes and peppers, then cover the fish with slices of tomatoes and lemon.


In a small skillet, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil along with the coriander seed, hot pepper, and black mustard. Heat the skillet over medium heat and cook the spices for a couple minutes, until they become fragrant and begin to “pop.” Remove the pan from the heat and stir in first the curry powder and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, then (carefully) the lemon juice.


Spoon the oil-spice mixture over the fish, then sprinkle the parsley across. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake the fish for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked throughout..

Spicy Vegetable Ragout (or a really hearty soup)

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So a few things about this recipe. The first is that it is really delicious (really, really delicious). Another is that it–like most recipes that I post on this blog–can be tailored to suit your needs or cravings. I am not by any means a vegetarian–though I have flirted with the idea–but sometimes I simply do not want meat. The reason I mention this is that if you want to try this recipe but do want some sort of meat in it, nearly any would be suited for these strong spices, you could even add a heartier seafood such as shrimp. The vegetables them selves are–of course–interchangeable; I simply used what I had at hand. This ended up being pretty spicy, but it goes without saying that the spices can be toned down. Anyhow, this really hit the spot on a cold, cold day. And did I mention how delicious this is?

Spicy Vegetable Ragout
Makes about 1 gallon
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 head celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 rutabaga, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon (pinch) saffron threads
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole caraway seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
4 small dried chilies (optional)
1 cup (6 ounces) lentils
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
6 plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 lemon, sliced thin
Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, zucchini, bell pepper, and rutabaga. Stir the vegetables, then cover the pot to allow them to “sweat” for a few minutes. Stir the vegetables, then allow them to sweat another minute or so. Remove the lid and stir in the garlic and all of the spices. Cook the vegetables, garlic, and spices for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the lentils—stirring to coat them with oil and spices—then stir in the broth. Bring the ragout to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Add the potato, tomatoes, salt, and sliced lemon. Simmer the ragout for about 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If the stew becomes too thick add more liquid.

Urban Simplicity.

The Flavor of Curry…

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I love the flavor of curry (heck, I love the flavor of most spices in general). I love how spices look, their aroma (how they perfume the house when you cook with them), but mostly I love how they taste and that they can make even the simplest foods into something really flavorful and special. Case-in-point…Curried Split Pea Soup. I enjoy traditional split pea soup (click here for a recipe) but sometimes I don’t want the meat (mainly, ham) but still want a hearty split peas soup. So I made this version. And let me say this about it: Firstly, this is so easy to make even someone who claims not to know how to cook can make it. And secondly, this is so delicious you’ll not be able to stop eating it (I ate it for the past 3 dinners…no joke). In this recipe, which is below, I used a good quality (and spicy) curry blend which I purchased from Penzys, but often–more often than not, actually–I make my own spice blend (click here for an easy homemade curry blend). Whichever you use, this is super easy to make, nutritious, and really delicious.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Curry and Caramelized Onions
Makes about 3 quarts
Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil or clarified butter in a heavy pot (I prefer cast-iron) over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook them—stirring frequently—for about five minutes, or until they start to brown, then stir in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Lower the heat and stir in 2-4 tablespoons (or more) of your favorite curry powder, and add any of your other favorite spices as well (such as extra cumin, turmeric, coriander, or chilies; all of which should be in the curry powder already). Stir the spices for a minute or so in the hot fat to bring out their flavors, then stir in 3 cups of yellow split peas and about 10 cups of chicken broth (if you want to keep this vegetarian use vegetable broth). Season the soup with a teaspoon or two of kosher salt (being careful if you are using canned broth which is already salted) and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Allow the soup to boil for a minute then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the soup for about an hour—stirring it frequently—and add more liquid if it becomes too thick. Just before removing it from the heat stir in about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon or lime juice and—if you have it on hand and enjoy it’s flavor—also stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

How to Make a Deliciously Flavorful and Healthy Rice Dish

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A couple things before I start. Firstly, the title to this post should actually read, How to Make a Deliciously Flavorful and Healthy Rice Dish So Easy and Simple and Hearty and Truly Good Flavored That You Won’t Even Notice it Doesn’t Contain Meat, but it of course is too long of a title. And secondly, this post isn’t about an actual recipe but more so about how to season rice or nearly anything.

I made this today for employee lunch today and started out make a meatless version Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice (click here for pics and recipes), which of course is a sort of homemade Rice-A-Roni (click here for history, recipes, and pics).

Anyhow, the key to any rice dish (to making it flavorful) is to add flavor to it. Rice by itself is not really that flavorful, unless of course it is Basmati, or Jasmine, or other naturally flavored rice. But I’m jumping ahead slightly. In this recipe I used brown rice. I’ve migrated over the years to using brown rice mainly for health but also for flavor…generally speaking a grain that is whole and in tact (as is the case of brown rice) is more flavorful than its stripped cousin, white rice.

The next thing to consider is what liquid to use as a cooking medium. If you want flavor add broth. Plain and simple as that. If you cook rice in water there is no flavor being added. But when you use broth or stock the rice absorbs the flavor as it cooks. I used chicken broth in this recipe but if you’d like to keep it vegetarian use vegetable broth.

Other things to consider are herbs and spices. In this recipe I used turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and smoked paprika. Lots of garlic and onions are a given.

One of the things I think that makes this, and variations of it, really interesting is using toasted pasta. Simply break spaghetti into inch-long pieces and toast it in a skillet with olive oil. When used as an ingredient it adds not only an interesting look and texture, but also a subtle flavor.

Then the other key thing is technique, and adding ingredients in proper succession. After sauteing any vegetables (besides onion, I also used carrot and pepper) and garlic, then the spices to bring out their flavor. Then add the rice, then the pasta, then any cooked beans (I used chic peas and lentils)…and don’t forget a pinch of salt. After adding the ingredients stir it once, bring it to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer it until the liquid is evaporated and the rice is cooked. Do not stir the rice until it is cooked. For brown rice the ratio is generally 1 part rice to about 2-3 parts broth. Cooking time is anywhere from 30-40 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes. When you remove the lid the colors and aroma will be intoxicating…and wait until you taste it….

If you want to add meat to this of course you can. Nearly any type would be delicious, but these seasonings are especially suited for chicken or lamb. Simply brown it and cook it in the rice as it simmers. For printable recipes with “how-to” photos, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Carrot, Lentil, and Brown Rice Burgers (recipe and pics)

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I am far from being a vegetarian but over the years I have drastically reduced my meat consumption, and this is another example of how delicious a meatless meal can be. In the title of this post I referred to these as burgers but I made them into smaller patties for dinner and ate them with a salad. They are really easy to make and so delicious my mouth is watering looking at the photo. Keep in mind that these are on the delicate side, meaning if you make them as full sized burgers they are a bit crumbly…that’s how homemade vegetable burgers often are, it would be difficult to emulate the highly processed store-bought burgers with tons of salt and paragraph-long ingredient list. I added curry to these but any of your favorite seasonings would work (chili, cumin, and cheddar cheese, for example for a southwest flare, or basil, feta, and sun dried tomatoes for Mediterranean flavors). Anyhow, while the recipe may sound a bit complicated after reading through you’ll see it’s not. If you are attempting to go meatless permanently or for just a meal this is a simple and delicious option (did I mention they were delicious).

Carrot, Lentil, andBrown Rice Burgers
Makes about 8 small patties or 4 largeburgers
3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more forcooking the patties
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup brown rice
½ cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 large egg
1 slice whole wheat bread, diced withcrust removed
1 medium carrot, grated
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a smallpot. Add the onion and garlic; cook for a minute or two, then add thecurry; cook for another minute. Add the salt, rice, and lentils; stirto coat with the oil and spices, then add the water. Bring the waterto a boil then lower it to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minute, oruntil the rice and lentils are very soft and most of the water hasbeen absorbed (add more if too much evaporates before the rice iscooked). Drain the lentils and rice, squeezing out excess liquid.Allow to cool for a few minutes; preheat an oven to 350F. Puree haveof the lentil-rice mixture in a food processor then transfer it to abowl with the remaining un-processed mix. Add the egg, diced bread,and shredded carrot. Stir until thoroughly combined and allow to restfor 5 minutes, then shape into burgers or patties. Heat a skilletwith canola oil over medium high heat and brown the patties on bothsides, then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake the patties for about 10minutes, or until cooked throughout.