Greek Lentil Soup

1 pound lentils, rinsed and picked over
10 cups vegetable broth or water
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 medium potatoes (1 1/4 pounds), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
10 ounces baby spinach, chopped
1 small butternut squash (1 pound), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, with leaves, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 lemons

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, combine the lentils, stock or water, jalapeño, coriander, cumin, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Add the potatoes, spinach and butternut squash, re-cover and cook another 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes and squash are tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until it starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they soften, 3 minutes. Add the mixture to the soup, deglazing the skillet with a little soup liquid and adding the deglaze contents back to the soup pot. Add the salt and pepper, taste, and add more if needed. Pick out and discard the bay leaves.

Thinly slice one of the lemons and cut the other into wedges. Just before serving, stir the lemon juice into the soup. Serve the soup hot, with a lemon slice floating atop each bowl. Pass lemon wedges at the table.

Chinese Lentil Soup

1 cup uncooked green lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons Doubanjiang (*Footnote 1)
1 teaspoon cumin
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste (Optional)

tomato, Chopped
avocado, Chopped
purple onion, Minced

Rinse the lentils with cold water and drain them. While rinsing, watch out and pick through your lentils to make sure there are no rocks or other debris (don’t be alarmed if there are, sometimes small rocks are overlooked during processing and packing).

Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function. Once the screen shows “Hot”, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic. Saute until fragrant and starting to brown, around 2 minutes.

Add the doubanjiang and cumin. Saute for another minute. If it looks dry, pour in a bit more oil or stock to prevent the ingredients from sticking or burning.
Turn the saute function off. Pour in the crushed tomato, and scrape the bottom again to make sure all the brown bits are lifted (This is important, to prevent the bottom of the pot from burning after adding pressure). Add the vegetable stock and rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients.

Seal the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is pointed to lock. Set to manual, high pressure, and the timer for 10 minutes for al dente lentils with soup, or for 12 minutes for a stew-like texture.

After the cooking is done, use quick release on the lid or unseal the valve by switching the lock using a spatula (watch out for the steam coming out). Stir and taste the soup. Add the white pepper and salt (if needed), according to your own taste.

You can top the soup with tomato, avocado, or onion if you wish. Serve hot as a side or main dish.

Store the leftover soup in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Notes:

I used 3 tablespoons to create an intense savory and spicy taste. Use 2 tablespoons for a milder taste.

To make this dish without an Instant Pot, use a 4-6 quart pot and follow the recipe and add 2 extra cups of water along with the vegetable broth in step 4. Then simmer the soup on the stove over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils turn soft but are not falling apart.

Chinese Chili

16 Chinese Facing Heaven chili peppers
16 Chinese Red Lantern chili peppers
1 and 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 lbs (1 kg) ground beef
4 tablespoons Doubanjiang Chinese fermented spicy chili paste
1 can (28 oz) canned diced tomatos
1 cup canned tomato sauce about 1/2 can (7 oz. tomato sauce, or 2 tablespoons tomato paste)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup beef broth
2 can (14 oz) kidney beans, drained

Finely chopped cilantro
Cubed avocado or sour cream
Steamed rice

Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium heat until you can smell the fragrance and the Sichuan peppercorns turn a little darker. Transfer the peppercorns to a small bowl and set aside.
Soak the chili peppers in 2 cups of hot water until softened, 15 minutes or so. Use your fingers to press the air out from the chili peppers so they soak evenly. Once soaked, remove the tough stems of the chili peppers and discard them.

Combine the soaked chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, cumin powder, dried oregano, and salt in a blender or in a tall glass and use an immersion blender. Add 1/2 cup of the pepper soaking water without adding the residue at the bottom. Blend until it forms a fine paste.

Heat oil in a 5.5 quart dutch oven over medium heat and add the yellow onion. Cook and stir until the onion just starts to soften, 5 minutes or so.
Use your spatula to move the onion to the edge of the pan and add the ground beef in the center. Add the Doubanjiang. Let cook for a minute without moving. Then stir with a spatula to break the meat into smaller pieces and coat with the Doubanjiang. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked and turns into small pieces.

Add the chili paste. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the diced tomato, tomato sauce, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the beef broth. Cook until bringing to a simmer. Turn to medium-low heat. Simmer, covered, until the beef turns soft, 30 minutes.

Add the kidney beans and stir to mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the chili carefully and add more salt if needed.

Serve the chili over steamed rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and avocado, if using. Serve as a main course.

Store:
Store the leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. The beans will continue to absorb liquid during storage. You can add a splash of broth before reheating to bring back the original texture.
Notes:

If you want a faster and easier recipe, or if you do not have whole Chinese chili peppers, use 1/3 cup of Chinese chili flakes (or 1/4 cup of chili powder) to replace the whole chili peppers. Grind the Sichuan peppercorns into powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Mix all the ingredients for the chili blend and toss them in a hot pan to release the fragrance. Then use the dry chili blend instead of the paste in the recipe.

Winter Vegetable Stew

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bulb fennel, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 leeks, chopped
1 large carrot, diced small
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small napa cabbage, sliced thin
2 to 3 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beans with some broth

In a large pot, heat the olive over medium heat until shimmering, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, fennel, kale, leeks, and carrot. Salt lightly and stir. Allow them to cook for about 10 minutes until they’re soft but not quite done. Add the cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add water to barely cover the mixture, about 5 or 6 cups, depending on the pot you’re using and the state of the vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a gentle simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until vegetables are cooked through.

Add the beans and adjust the salt. Add a generous amount of pepper and bring back to a simmer.

Ladle into large bowls and drizzle each serving with extra-virgin olive oil.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
2 cups (10 ounces) diced onion, 1 large
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 cups (16 ounces) cauliflower florets, 1 medium
2 cups (16 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 cup dark beer, such as Guinness
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

In a 5-quart stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, stir and cook until the onion turns slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower, stir everything together to coat with the oil, cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is just simmering. Cover the pot and cook until the cauliflower is fork-tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

While the cauliflower cooks, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter until foaming. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk until smooth, forming a roux. Reduce the heat and continue to whisk until the roux turns golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the warmed milk in a stream, whisking until thick and smooth. Add the beer, whisking until smooth, and bring to a simmer, warming just until the bubbles have dispersed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the beer sauce into the soup and stir until smooth. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the thyme, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper and cheese. Stir and heat until a silky cheese soup surrounds the cauliflower, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot.

Creamy White Beans With ‘Nduja, Kale, and Gremolata Breadcrumbs

For the Beans:
2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots (4 1/2 ounces; 125g), thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves (10g), thinly sliced
Kosher salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup; 113g) ‘nduja (see note)
3 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium white beans (cannellini or Great Northern), drained and rinsed
1 quart (950ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 bunch (8 ounces; 225g) lacinato kale, tough stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lemon juice (from one lemon; zest finely grated and set aside before juicing fruit)
For the Gremolata Breadcrumbs: (optional)
2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (1 1/4 ounces; 35g) panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (15g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Finely grated zest from one lemon

For the Beans: In large, straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallots and garlic, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add ‘nduja and, using a wooden spoon, break it into pieces and stir vigorously to combine with shallots and garlic. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until fat from ‘nduja separates, and shallots and garlic are stained red and fully coated with ‘nduja, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Add beans. Use wooden spoon to crush roughly 1/4 of the beans against sides and bottom of the pan. Stir until beans are fully incorporated and coated in ‘nduja-shallot mixture.

Add chicken stock, season lightly with salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a creamy, stew-like consistency, with some beans just poking out on the surface, about 15 minutes.

Add kale, and stir to incorporate and very lightly wilt the greens, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season to taste with salt.

For the Gremolata Breadcrumbs: While the beans simmer, combine oil and breadcrumbs in medium skillet, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add parsley and lemon zest, season lightly with salt, stir to combine, and continue to cook until parsley begins to sizzle and mixture is very fragrant of citrus, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer breadcrumb mixture to small bowl and set aside until you are ready to serve.

For Serving: Divide beans between individual serving bowls and sprinkle with gremolata breadcrumbs. Serve immediately, passing more breadcrumbs at the table.

Sopa de Ajo (Basque Garlic Soup)

4 ounces high-quality baguette
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 garlic head (about 12 cloves), peeled and finely chopped
1 heaping tablespoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
8 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place baguette on a baking sheet, and toast in preheated oven until very browned and almost burnt, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Break or slice bread into 2-inch pieces.

Heat 7 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add bread pieces, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning often to allow bread to toast and soak up oil, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove bread, and set aside. Wipe pot clean.

Add garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot. Cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in paprika. Add broth and salt; bring to a boil.

Add bread to pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, and maintain a simmer. Add vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up bread, until flavors meld, about 25 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

When ready to serve, bring soup to a simmer over medium-high. Stirring constantly, slowly pour beaten eggs into hot soup. If any large pieces of bread remain, cut with kitchen scissors, or break apart with a spoon. Serve hot.

Notes: Soup can be prepared through step 4 up to 2 days in advance. Bring to a simmer, and add beaten eggs just before serving.

Spicy Corn and Coconut Soup

5 ears yellow or bicolor corn (or 5 cups frozen corn kernels)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 serrano chile (or other chile), minced
2 small red potatoes (6 to 8 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 1/2 cups of hot water whisked with 1 1/2 teaspoons jarred bouillon)
1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
Kosher salt, to season
Torn cilantro leaves, toasted coconut flakes, chopped roasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, lime wedges and more sliced Serrano chiles, to serve (optional)

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and transfer to a bowl. Using the back of a butter knife, scrape the cobs so that all of the milky juices collect in the bowl and the cobs look completely dry, like wrung-out sponges. Set aside. (If using frozen kernels, skip this step.)

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add shallots, garlic, ginger and chile, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and juices to the pot, and sauté until the corn is softer and brighter, about 3 minutes more.

Add potato pieces, and stir to coat, 1 to 2 minutes.

Now, pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender all the way through.

Use an immersion blender to roughly purée the soup, so that it’s creamy with some kernels of corn, chunks of potato, and chile flecks remaining. (Alternatively, ladle about half of the soup into a blender, blend until smooth, and return to the pot.) Season with lime juice and salt, and mix to combine. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with toppings of your choice.

Pot Pie Soup

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock/broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves or 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 medium russet baking potatoes diced (about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots sliced or diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked chicken or turkey diced (about 1 large boneless breast)

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir continuously, cooking for about 1 minute. Start adding the milk a bit at a time, stirring well until smooth before adding more. Once all the milk is added, pour in the chicken stock. Add the diced potatoes, carrots and thyme. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your dice.

Add frozen peas and cooked chicken or turkey. Cook over low heat an additional 10 minutes or so, to cook peas and warm chicken. Taste soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may also wish to add a bit more thyme, to taste.

Serve hot, topped with crumbled soda crackers or pie-pastry croutons (pie pastry, cut into small squares or other shapes, then baked off and scattered on top of soup).

Indian Spiced Stew with Chicken and Potatoes

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 large skin-on/bone-in chicken breasts (or can use boneless)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 – 3/4 tsp cayennne pepper (depending on how spicy like it or you can omit)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (plus a bit more thinning, if necessary)
3/4 cup tomato purée
1/2 cup heavy cream (can use a lighter cream)
1/2 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes,sliced 1/4″ thick (or small fingerlings, sliced in half lengthwise)

Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place skin side down in to the pan. Cook until golden brown without turning, about 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

To the same pot, add onion, garlic, and ginger to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, about 8–10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste is beginning to darken, about 4 minutes.

Add chicken pieces, chicken broth, tomato purée, and cream to pot. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is almost falling off the bone and liquid is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. If using bone-in chicken, remove chicken to a plate and carefully remove chicken from the bone and discard skin and bones. Cut or pull chicken into bite-sized pieces. Return chicken pieces to the pot.

Add potatoes to the pot and cook, partially covered, until potatoes are fork-tender and sauce is thickened, 30-45 minutes. *Check and stir every so often to ensure the sauce hasn’t thickened to much and potatoes aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. If sauce is too thick, thin with a bit more chicken stock.

To serve, spoon stew into a shallow bowl and place a large dollop of yogurt on one side. Sprinkle with some fresh chopped mint, cilantro or parsley and serve with naan bread on the side. Alternately, spoon stew over some warm basmati rice.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised
3 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Kosher salt
One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Thinly sliced Fresno chile, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and broth, stirring to incorporate, then season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice and let cool for 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) and puree until smooth. If needed, add additional water or broth to reach the desired consistency. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Serve warm and garnish with fresh cilantro and thinly sliced Fresno chiles.

Like most soups, this one is even better made the day before. Reheat before serving.

Chicken, Corn, and Poblano Soup

For the soup:
2 poblano chiles or substitute cubanelle or sweet green peppers
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion diced
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups corn cut from fresh corn or frozen
2 – 2 1/2 cups cooked chicken shredded from rotisserie chicken or see Notes below
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chipotle sour cream:
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce finely chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice freshly squeezed
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For Garnish:
1 avocado pitted, peeled and cubed
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven broiler with a rack about 5 inches from the element.

Cut the poblano chiles in half lengthwise and remove the stem and seeds. Place cut side down, on a baking sheet and broil until the skin blackens and blisters, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cover baking try loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Using the edge of a knife, peel away and discard the skin from the peppers, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large pot on the stovetop, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for an additional 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the corn and cook for 5 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the soup, leaving some of the corn kernels whole. *If you don’t have an immersion blender, remove soup to a blender or food processor and blend in small batches. Return to the pot and stir to combine.

Stir in the cooked, shredded chicken and diced poblano chillies. Taste, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat while you prepare the chipotle sour cream.

To make the chipotle sour cream, stir together the sour cream, chipotle chile and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more chipotle, if you like, to taste.
To serve the soup, divide the soup among 4 to 6 bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of the chipotle sour cream and diced avocado. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

Tomato Egg Drop Soup

2 tablespoons oil
10 ounces tomatoes (1 large or 2 small, about 280g; cut into small chunks)
1 cup chicken stock (235 ml)
2 cups water (or more chicken stock; 470 ml)
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
salt (to taste)
1 egg (beaten)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1 scallion (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped, optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot or wok over medium low heat. Add the tomato chunks and stir-fry for 5 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and start to fall apart.

Add in 1 cup chicken stock, 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat so that the soup is simmering with the lid on.

Now quickly beat the egg in a small bowl and prepare the cornstarch slurry in a separate bowl.

Use a ladle to slowly swirl the soup in a whirlpool motion. Keep swirling as you pour in the cornstarch slurry until well incorporated. Now pour a thin stream of egg into the middle of the whirlpool as you slowly swirl the soup. This is how you get that pretty egg drop effect.

Serve hot or at room temperature. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro, if using.

Torn Croutons

1-pound loaf day-old country or sourdough bread
1?3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, as needed

Heat oven to 400 degrees. For more teeth-friendly croutons, remove the crusts from the bread, then cut the loaf into inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into inch-wide strips. Working over a large bowl, tear each strip into inch-size pieces. Alternatively, you can tear croutons directly off the loaf, as long as you get somewhat evenly sized pieces.

Toss croutons with olive oil to coat them evenly, then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Use a second sheet as needed to prevent crowding, which will entrap steam and keep the croutons from browning.

Toast croutons for about 18 to 22 minutes, checking them after 8 minutes. Rotate the pans, switch their oven positions, and use a metal spatula to turn and rotate the croutons so that they brown evenly. Once they begin to brown, check them every few minutes, continuing to turn and rotate. Some croutons might be done when others still need a few more minutes of baking, so remove them from the tray and let the rest finish cooking. Bake the croutons until they’re golden brown and crunchy on the outside, with just a tiny bit of chew on the inside.

Taste a crouton and adjust the seasoning with a light sprinkling of salt if needed. Let croutons cool in a single layer on the baking sheet. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days. To refresh stale croutons, bake for 3 to 4 minutes at 400 degrees.

Tip
To make classic torn croutons, stir 2 cloves finely grated or pounded garlic into the olive oil before dressing the croutons. Toss with 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes before toasting. To make cheesy torn croutons, toss the torn bread with the olive oil, then add 3 ounces (about 1 cup) very finely grated Parmesan and lots of coarsely ground black pepper to the bowl, and toss until combined. Toast as directed above.

Parippu Curry (Sri Lankan Dal)

8 oz. red lentils (masoor dal)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 leaves curry, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon saffron powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 whole cloves
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 lime
1 green hot pepper
Salt

Wash the lentils well by changing the water at least three times.

Boil them in the water with the saffron, chili powder, turmeric, curry and cloves.
After about 15 minutes, when the color of the lentils changes from red to yellow, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard, fenugreek, and cumin seeds and fry for 20 seconds.
Add the onion and garlic and mix well for 20 seconds.

Add the boiled lentils and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and salt to taste. Cook until the curry begins to boil.
Remove from heat and add the lime juice.
Add the raw or fried green hot pepper on top (optional).

Serve hot with rice or bread.

Carne en Su Jugo

1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
8 tomatillos, peeled (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 large yellow onion, cut into 4 wedges
1 quart beef broth or water, divided
2 bay leaves
3 cups cooked pinto beans
Finely diced white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, Key lime wedges, cooked bacon, and toasted tortillas, for serving

Wrap meat tightly in plastic wrap, and place in freezer 15 minutes. Remove from freezer, unwrap meat, and slice thinly against the grain. Stack slices; finely chop.

Place the meat in a bowl, and season with Worcestershire, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, soy sauce, and black pepper. Stir until well coated, and set aside.

Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium. Once the oil is shimmering, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add seasoned meat, and cook until it releases some of its juices, about 10 minutes. (It’s OK to crowd the pan—you want to encourage the meat to stew and release its juices.) Reduce heat to low to keep the liquid from reducing too much. Using a slotted spoon, remove and reserve 2 tablespoons cooked meat.

While the meat cooks, place tomatillos in a saucepan with just enough water to cover, about 3 1/2 cups. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Cook until tomatillos are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; drain.

Place quartered onion half, cooked tomatillos, and reserved 2 tablespoons meat in a blender with 1 cup broth; blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Add mixture to meat in pot; add remaining 3 cups broth and bay leaves. Season with remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer about 20 minutes. Add cooked beans, and cook until the meat is tender, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, place about 1 cup or more of the meat-and-bean mixture into each bowl. Add broth as desired, and garnish with chopped onion, cilantro, Key lime wedges, and bacon. Serve with toasted tortillas.

Vegetable Stew with Coconut Milk

Oil – 2 tbsp
Whole spices – Cinnamon – a long piece, green cardamom pods – 3, cloves – 3, bay leaves – 2
Curry leaves – a few
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Ginger – 2 tsp, chopped
Garlic – 2 small cloves, minced
Black pepper – 1/2 tsp, freshly cracked
Potatoes – 1 large, diced
Carrot – 1, diced
Green beans – 3-4, cut into 1 inch pieces
Green peas – 1/2 cup
Thin coconut milk – 1 1/2 cups
Salt – to taste
Thick coconut milk – 1/2 cup

You will need:
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the whole spices and curry leaves, and let them sputter. (You can crush the whole spices for more flavor, but my hubby hates finding cardamom seeds in his curry, so I leave it whole.)

Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Saute well till the onions turn soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add cracked black pepper and mix well.

Add the vegetables, thin coconut milk and salt to taste. Cover and cook till the vegetables are soft, around 10 minutes.
Open the lid, check seasoning and add the thick coconut milk. Let it simmer for a couple more minutes or till heated through, but do not boil the stew after adding thick coconut milk.
A simple trick I learned from my mom, is to mash a couple of the potatoes cubes to add some thickness to the gravy.
Serve hot with bread or Indian breakfast breads like puttu, appam or idiyappam.

NOTES:
1. If using dried peas, soak them in water and pressure cook them first. If using fresh or frozen green peas, you can simply cook them along with the other vegetables.

2. If using canned coconut milk, open the can without shaking and skim off ½ cup of thick milk collected at the top to use as thick coconut milk. If using coconut powder, prepare thin and thick milks as per package instructions. But of course, nothing beats the real deal. Freshly squeezed coconut milk is always the best!

3. An easy variation of this recipe is to cook the vegetables in a little water and finish off with some heavy cream. While it looks the same, the flavor is different from that of the original recipe with coconut milk and of course, it will no longer be vegan. But this can be an easy substitution if you run out of coconut milk.

Tiffin Sambar

For the sambar masala,

Whole dried red chilis – 2-4 (as per heat level desired)
Chana dal – 1 tbsp, heaped
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp

For the sambar,

Toovar/Toor dal – 1/2 cup, heaped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 8-10
Asafoetida (hing) – 1/8 tsp
Small Indian shallots – 8-10, peeled and roots cut off (or 1/4 cup chopped red onion)
Tomato – 1 large, chopped
Green chilis – 1-2, chopped
Fresh tamarind – a small lime-sized ball (or use 2 tsp of concentrated tamarind paste)
Cilantro leaves – a few, roughly torn
Water – 3 cups (or more, as needed)
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp

How to:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and dry roast the sambar masala ingredients. Cool down and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder or mortar-pestle. Keep aside.

Wash the dal in cold water a couple of times. Pressure cook it in a pressure cooker adding enough water and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder for 2-3 whistles or till soft. If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook dal in a large covered pot. Once done, mash the lentils and keep aside.

Soak the fresh tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water. Once they soften, squeeze all the pulp by kneading the tamarind ball well with your fingers. Strain this and keep aside. If you are using tamarind paste, simply dissolve in 1/2 cup of warm water.
Heat oil in a large, deep pan and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they begin to crackle, add the asafoetida and whole shallots (or chopped onions) and saute till translucent and aromatic. Next add tomatoes and green chilis and saute till tomatoes are soft.

Add the prepared tamarind pulp and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the sambar masala and mix thoroughly to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes till nicely fragrant and it begins to thicken slightly. Then add 2-2 1/2 cups of water and cilantro leaves and boil for a few minutes.

Now add the mashed dal and season with salt. Add more water if it seems too thick. Bring the sambar to a rolling boil and finish by adding sugar and ghee.

Keep covered for at least half an hour before serving. Enjoy hot sambar with dosas, idlis or steamed rice.

Notes:

In a pinch, you can replace the coriander seeds and cumin seeds needed for the masala with the respective powders. Take care not to burn them while roasting. But do not skimp or omit the chana dal and fenugreek seeds, they are what sets this masala apart from other Indian spice blends.

Indian shallots are smaller with a deep purple-red color and a unique taste. You can replace it with regular shallots or even chopped red onions.

Usually breakfast sambar may not be served with vegetables added, but you can use this basic recipe and add boiled vegetables to it. Add the cooked vegetables along with the dal and adjust water to required consistency. Traditionally, vegetables like potatoes, yam, green plantain, okra, brinjal/eggplant, etc are used.

Smear some ghee over the idlis for the little ones and feed them these fluffy pillows for a very filling and healthy meal. I added a generous amount of shredded carrots and the little bunny here gobbled them all up with no fuss. Win-win, right?!

Sambar

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
1 medium red potato
1 carrot
1 cup masoor dal (red lentil)
6 cups water
2 tablespoons sambar powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons frozen fresh coconut (optional)
cilantro leaves for garnishing
salt to taste
For frying:
3 teaspoons oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 fresh curry leaves (fresh or dried)
1 dried red chili (broken into pieces by hand)
1/2 red onion

Note: can use a combo of the following vegetables for this recipe – string beans, japanese eggplant, cabbage, spinach (good with potato), radish (indian variety called mullangi is the best) or watery squash like chayote, etc.

Wash masoor dal until water is clear, drain and set aside.

Heat ghee or oil in a pot at medium heat and put in carrot and potato. Coat with oil and stir a bit. Add in drained lentil and sautee for a few minutes. Add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil under medium/high heat. Ladle out any foam that comes to the surface. Once foam stops, add turmeric and mix up. The dal and vegetables take about 30 minutes to cook.

Add sambar powder and mix well. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt to your taste, tamarind and coconut and mix well. Turn off heat.

In a separate small pan, heat 2 teaspoons of ghee or oil and put in mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop a bit. To help this happen, you can put a lid over the pan. Once its popped for a few seconds, turn the heat down a little and put the curry leaves and broken up chilis. Coat the leaves and chili with the oil and fry for a few seconds. Pour this oil mixture over the lentils and vegetables and mix well.

In the same small pan put a teaspoon or 2 of ghee or oil and fry onion until they are fragrant. Add these onions to the sambar and mix well.

Garnish with cilantro leaves.

You can serve with rice and some yogurt on the side.

Tomato Rasam

1 cup toor dal, also called split pigeon pea
6 cups water
1 tablespoon oil (peanut, sunflower or corn is best)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
5 fresh curry leaves
bunch of cilantro stems, chopped
4 tomatoes (4 cups), chopped (you can also use canned)
2 teaspoons rasam powder
1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste or fresh tamarind pulp
1 teaspoon brown sugar or jaggery
salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

Wash toor dal thoroughly in luke warm water until water is clear.

Put 6 cups of water and the dal in a pot over medium high heat. This dal has a tendency to foam very much. Keep removing the foam and throw it away in the sink. (You can add a bit of ginger which decreases this foaming.)

When the water is boiling and you have gotten rid of the foaminess, add the oil, turmeric, curry leaves and cilantro stems. Next add the tomatoes and mix it all up.

Place the pot over a medium flame with a lid partially covering it. Check on it often so that it does not boil over. This will take about an hour for dal to get tender. (Note – you may need to add more water as needed).

If you are using tamarind pulp as opposed to tamarind paste, break off lime size ball of tamarind and submerge it in warm water for about 15 minutes. Then press the softened pulp and liquid through a strainer over a bowl to separate the usable diluted pulp from the seeds and fibers. Set aside.

When the dal is finished cooking add the rasam powder. Make sure that the powder is homogeneously mixed and that there are no lumps. Let it boil to a golden brown color ~ 15 minutes.

Add tamarind paste or pulp.

Add brown sugar orjaggery and some salt to taste.

Let it all boil. After it has come to a boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat.

In a small pan take 1 tablespoon of butter and heat it under a medium flame. Add asafoetida and cumin seed. When the cumin seed is golden brown and fragrant, pour over. Add cilantro for garnish.