Spiced Lentil and Bean Stew

Inspired by the classic Ethiopian dish, and with my inclination towards indian spices came about this hearty and ‘warm your belly’ lentil stew. If you love earthy, warm spices, this will hit the right spot. Just the perfect bowl of dinner for the winter.

You will need:

3 cups lentils (regular brown or puy)
2 cans dark red kidney beans (pre-cooked)
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow or white)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped ( for plum tomatoes, use 4)
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (you can substitute with water)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 sprig, fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the Spice mixture:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 tsp cardamom (i use whole ones)
4 cloves
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

In a dry skillet, add all the above spice mixture  ingredients. Toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep tossing making sure the spices don’t burn. Powder these ingredients in a blender along with the chopped ginger with no liquid. It has to be a dry powder. Frying whole spices and freshly grinding them adds immense flavor to the stew. If you don’t have access to fresh whole spices, as a substitute, you could use the pre-powdered version of all the above spices and just mix them together in a bowl.




In a large pot, add 6 cups of water along with the lentils and bay leaf. Boil the lentils for about 45 minutes. Around the 30 minute mark, check to see the doneness and adjust amount of water and cooking time accordingly. The lentils after 45 minutes, should be cooked but not mushy. It should be firm and al dente since it is going to cook a bit more while putting together the stew.

Drain the lentils, also drain the can of kidney beans and set aside.

In a large pot, add the butter and vegetable oil. Once the butter is golden brown, add the onions and garlic. Sauteé for 10 minutes until the onions soften.

Add the ground spice mixture and cook for 7-8 more minutes making sure the spice powder is mixed evenly.

Add the chopped tomatoes and salt , cook 5 more minutes.

Add tomato paste, mix well and then add the vegetable stock.

Simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes.




Now add the cooked lentils and beans, simmer 20 more minutes.

Check for salt, top with the chopped cilantro, mint, lemon juice and turn off the heat.

I prefer this stew just on it’s own with a little extra squeeze of lemon, but you could also serve it with your favorite bread.

Ziti with Broccolini and Spinach in Roasted Garlic Marinara

Quick and easy to put together, combining some store bought ingredients with fresh veggies, this makes an ideal weeknight meal. This was my dinner tonight. With broccolini and spinach in my pantry, I added tangy olives and garlicky marinara sauce to make a warm and comforting dinner.

1 pound ziti
2 bunches, broccolini (around 4 cups) ends trimmed
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large potato, peeled and sliced thin lengthwise
1 pound baby spinach, washed
1/4 cup marinated green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
6 cups roasted garlic marinara
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp crushed red peppers (optional)
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta in and cook 7-8 minutes until al dente (refer to your package instructions for exact cooking time). Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and just when it starts roasting, add the chopped onions. Cook over medium-high heat until onions are slightly browned. Add olives, spinach and 1 tsp salt. Cook until the spinach wilts. Add potatoes and saute for 5 minutes until the potatoes just start cooking.

Add the broccolini and another tsp of salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce, crushed red pepper and basil. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta into the sauce, toss together to make sure the pasta is coated well with the sauce. Serve warm with your favorite bread.

Simple Coconut Green Beans

Here is an authentic south-indian style green bean recipe. It’s delectable!

1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, washed and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces.
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp whole black gram dal ( also known as urad lentil it is similar to the commonly available moong lentils)
3-4 dried red chillies, roughly crushed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut ( fresh or frozen coconut available in most indian stores. This is not the dry sweetened coconut available in regular grocery stores usually used in desserts)

In a saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as it starts spluttering, add the asafoetida and whole black gram dal. Fry for a minute until the urad turns golden brown. Add the slightly crushed red chillies and fry for 10 seconds and immediately add the chopped beans.

Add salt and cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat.

Uncover, check if beans are cooked through. If it is not cooked, cover and let cook some more. Once the beans are done, sprinkle the grated coconut and increase the heat to medium-high heat.

Saute for another 10 minutes and serve hot with steamed basmati rice.

Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

What could be possibly be better than a big bowl of soup with crusty bread on a snowed in winter night! Here is a light yet creamy soup with roasted garlic and onions. Infused with thyme and chives, it makes a perfect winter soup.

2 large sized garlic heads (use 4 if they are medium sized)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 large onions, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces (1/2″ cubes)
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, strip the leaves from the stem and rough chop the leaves
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut off the tail end of the garlic to expose the bottom of all the garlic cloves. Place them in a baking tray, drizzle 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil over them and bake in oven for 45 minutes- one hour. Remove from oven and let it cool. Once cool enough to handle, gently squeeze the garlic into a bowl and it should separate from the skin very easily. Mash together and set aside.

Heat a soup pot and add the remaining 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with the 3 tbsp butter. Add the chopped onions and saute over medium heat for ten minutes until onions are golden brown. Add the potatoes and crushed red peppers and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the roasted garlic, the vegetable stock, lemon juice and salt. Mix well, bring to a boil and cover the soup pot. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Add the half and half, cream, chopped chives and fresh thyme leaves. Heat through for 10 minutes and serve warm with your favorite bread.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

This is a dish than can never go wrong. It is super easy to make, delicious yet light and healthy. It is perfect as an appetizer for a party because it doesn’t fill you up and that can mean only one thing, more room for food!

5 medium sized ripe red tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ( a good quality oil is important because you are consuming it raw)
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 tbsp crushed pepper ( you can leave this out if spice is not your thing)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
Fresh baked French baguette, sliced 1″ thin

In a mixing bowl add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, dried and fresh basil, salt and crushed red pepper. Mix well, set aside and let sit for 20-30 minutes. We want all the flavors to meld and the oil to absorb the garlic and the basil. The longer this mixture sits the better. If you don’t have 30 minutes, let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Dice all the tomatoes. If they are over ripe and extra juicy, remove the seeds along with the soft center and gently squeeze extra water from the tomatoes. Over ripe tomatoes will make the bruschetta watery and messy.

Add the tomatoes to the olive oil-garlic marinade and mix well. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Toast the sliced baguette, top with 1 tbsp of the tomato mixture and crumble goat cheese over it.  Serve while bread is warm. You could also serve without cheese, tastes great either way.

Note: Do not refrigerate the tomato mixture if you are going to serve within 4 hours. Keeping it room temperature lets the tomatoes absorb all the flavors better and it keeps the dish juicy. If you plan to serve it the next day, then refrigerate overnight, remove and leave it outside at least 4- 5 hours before you plan to serve.

Campanelle with Asparagus and Creamed Sun dried Tomato Pesto

Campanelle is a flower shaped pasta that is perfect for hearty and chunky sauces which makes it the ideal for this rustic sauce. The pesto is definitely key to taste of this dish. So make it fresh and store enough for future use. If you have the sun dried tomato pesto pre-made, this pasta takes under 15 minutes to make!

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Sun dried tomato pesto

This is my variation of pesto which turned out to be a keeper!

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1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, roughly chopped (drain most of the oil- keep 1 tbsp to add in the pesto)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1/2 cup pecarino cheese, grated or shredded
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1 tbsp large capers
1 tbsp pine nuts
6-8 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender. Pulse a few seconds until all the ingredients combine together coarsely. Drizzle in the olive oil and continue pulsing until you get a thick coarse paste. Add the remaining 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes and mix it in to keep it chunky and to give a bite to the otherwise smooth dish.

For the Pasta

1 pound campanelle pasta (substitute: fusili, gemelli or shells)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, the thick bottom part snapped off
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp crushed red peppers
1/2 cup sun dried tomato pesto
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add sliced onions and crushed red peppers. Saute until the onions are cooked(they turn translucent). Add the asparagus, salt and cook for 5 minutes.

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Add the sun dried tomato pesto, mix and just after a minute stir in the cream, remaining basil and shut the heat off.

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Add the cooked pasta mix well and serve. I served it with shaved pecarino cheese on top and side of my favorite roasted garlic sourdough bread.

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Gnocchi in Roasted Red Pepper, Caper and Roasted Garlic Sauce

What’s better than pillowy soft gnocchi in warm herbed sauce on a rainy cold day? Nothing! So here’s what’s for dinner tonight.

I used gnocchi bought from my local italian store. If you have extra time on your hands, you could always make your own. Here’s how.

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1 pound gnocchi
Whole tomatoes, peeled and canned
1 whole bulb garlic, roasted
1 red pepper , roasted
2-3 tbsp large capers
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp +1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp crushed red peppers (adjust to your level of heat)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Brush the entire bulb of garlic (skin on) with canola oil. Place it in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes until golden. Remove and let cool. When completely cooled, gently squeeze the soft roasted garlic from the skin and set aside.

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Bring salted water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in. The gnocchi will float and come up to the surface when it is cooked. Drain the water and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the whole canned tomatoes, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp salt , onion and garlic powders and roasted cloves of garlic and crush into a pulp using your hands. I prefer using whole tomatoes and hand crushing them instead of using tomato puree or pre crushed tomatoes.

In a skillet  heat olive oil over medium heat, add the blended tomato-garlic mixture, crushed red peppers, salt, capers, dried oregano and remaining 1 tbsp dried basil. Mix well together and warm through for 6-7 minutes and drop the cooked gnocchi in.

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Just before serving add the chopped roasted red peppers, mix well and serve.

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