Sunday, May 13, 2018

Smoky Lentil Soup With Picada

We love all things lentil and this Spanish-style lentil soup is a favorite! Lentil soup can serve as a main dish, light meal or as a starter. 

The soup begins with preparing a flavorful base called sofrito, common to most soups, an aromatic combination of onion, celery, and carrots (love to add lots of carrots which add color, texture, and sweetness) plus garlic, tomato and smoky roasted peppers. The soup is finished with a nutty picada, a thick pesto-like sauce made of toasted bread, almonds, garlic, parsley, and a bit of olive oil. Typically the bread is fried in oil; but in order to keep the oil to a minimum, I opted to toast it instead. The soup is delicious just as it is, but the picada takes it to the next level. Picada is usually added towards the end of cooking.


Leftovers are fabulous for about a week or maybe frozen for up to 3 months. Or, turn the delicious leftovers into a yummy casserole: stir the soup into cooked grains and bake under a light blanket of your favorite vegan cheese and a sprinkle of seasoned regular/gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs until heated through and the crumbs are golden and crisp. 


Notes: 

The picada and sofrito maybe made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen for longer storage. If you prepare extra sofrito, it can be added to boost the flavor of sauces, soups, stews, etc.


Parsnips maybe subbed for some or all of the carrots with great results. 

Instead of all almonds in the picada, half almonds and half hazel nuts maybe used.


Roasted piquillo peppers (available already roasted in jars/cans in the Latin Foods section of markets), maybe used instead of the roasted red bell peppers; use about 1/2 cup.

Servings

Picada

Ingredients:

2 slices day-old baguette or 1 slice Italian bread (about 1/2-inch thick)

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 Garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp whole or slivered Almonds, skinless
4 Tbsp flat-leaf or Italian Parsley, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Method:

Trim off the crust 
 from the bread slices if you like. Toast the bread using a toaster until just golden; but not too browned. Cool and cut or break up the bread into small cubes or pieces.


Toast the almonds in a dry skillet until light gold and fragrant; or use purchased toasted unsalted almonds. Pour into a plate and let cool.


Alternatively, the bread cut into cubes and almonds maybe toasted together for about 7-8 minutes or until light gold on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F oven. Remove promptly, pour into a cool plate and let cool.


Cook the garlic in one teaspoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over low-medium heat stirring frequently until just beginning to turn golden, about 2 - 3 minutes or so. 


Remove the pan from heat and let cool. 


Transfer the bread and the almonds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until finely chopped.


Tip in the garlic with any oil remaining in the skillet, rest of the oil, and the parsley to the food processor bowl with the almond mixture. 


Pulse until finely chopped and well mixed for a coarse picada, or a few more times for a smooth paste (you may add a bit more olive oil a little at a time if you like to obtain a more sauce-like consistency). Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the picada into a coarse or smooth paste.


Spoon into a bowl or jar with a well-fitting lid.


If made ahead, keep the picada in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to six months.


Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups Lentils, soaked for 30 minutes and rinsed
1-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Onion, finely diced
1-2 Celery ribs, finely diced
large Carrot, finely diced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 large Red Bell Peppers (freshly roasted/purchased), coarsely chopped
1 (28-oz) can whole Tomatoes, divided
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
2 Bay Leaves
3-4 cups Vegetable Broth or water
1 to 3 Tbsp Picada, or to taste 
4 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Soak the lentils in lots of water to cover for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain, rinse, and place in a pot.


Cook the lentils until quite tender in water to cover. Cooking maybe done using a regular pot, a pressure cooker or an instant pot. Set aside until needed.


Drain the tomatoes over a bowl to catch all the juices; crush the tomatoes coarsely with your hand or use a blender and keep them and the juices separate.

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. 

Add  the oil, 
bay leaves, and onion with a pinch of salt, and cook covered until soft but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes over low-medium heat. Sprinkle a little water if the onions dry out.

Tip in the celery and carrot and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened - about 7 minutes or so. 

Stir in the garlic and cook for about another minute until garlic is softened.


Tip the crushed tomato pieces into the onion mixture and cook for a minute or two, stirring well until hot and well mixed.


Add the tomato juices, bell peppers, thyme, turmeric, smoked paprika, cayenne if using, cooked lentils with the cooking broth, salt, and freshly ground pepper.


Stir in some or all of the vegetable broth as needed to get the right consistency.

Add boiling water to thin the soup, if needed. B
ring the soup to a boil. 

When the soup comes a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partially covered for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally. 


Stir in enough of the picada to flavor the soup to your taste and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. 


Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, cover, and let rest for 5-10 minutes. 


Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Taste the soup and add more picada or seasonings if needed.


Serve hot and pass the rest of the picada at the table.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Non-Dairy Sambharam Or Namkin Lassi (Savory Spiced Lime/Lemon Mojito)

Non-Dairy Sambharam or Namkin (savory or salted) Lassi is a savory summertime mojito! It is a very popular cooling yogurt-based beverage all over India; Southern Indians call it Sambharam, Neer Mor, or Karacha Mor whereas in the North it is Namkin Lassi, Chaas, etc. This wonderful thirst-quenching beverage is also enjoyed in other areas of the world; my Armenian friends call it Tahn and Turkish call it Ayran! Some of the ingredients may vary, but the basics are the same - yogurt and water.

In India this beverage is made with cultured buttermilk; first the milk is cultured and set, then it is churned to remove the butter. What is left is low-fat buttermilk and it is consumed as is or in recipes.

Regular Sambharam was prepared especially in the summer to offer to pilgrims; my grandparents offered it to the yearly pilgrims who came by the house as well as the workers toiling in the hot tropical sun on their farm. We also enjoyed sambharam with the noon meal. If one wanted to go very light for an evening meal, one would take a small amount of cooked, mashed rice and make a kanji-like concoction with lots of the sambharam for "karacha mor sadam".

Sambharam was prepared simply with crushed lime leaves or curry leaves and a little salt in our homes. In lassi other ingredients such as roasted and ground cumin, black salt, black pepper or mint leaves maybe used. Although we mostly keep it simple at home, we do enjoy all the variations.

When we wanted to make it non-dairy, first I made it when I was making Cashew Cream/Yogurt; I added water and seasonings to the remnants left in the blender jar and voila! I had a delicious sambharam-like beverage. Shobhaa made the delicious lassai at home with coconut milk. We were at a restaurant in Delhi and the whole group wanted Namkin Lassi; not to leave me out, ingenious Shobhaa quickly went out to purchase a small carton of coconut milk and had the kitchen make the lassi for me! 

Coconut milk, plain coconut, cahew or almond yogurt, etc may be used to make Non-Dairy Sambharam/Namkin Lassi. Other unflavored non-dairy milks maybe used as well. The amount of coconut milk or yogurt and lime/lemon juice maybe adjusted to suit your preferences.

2 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Coconut Milk/Yogurt
2 cups Cool or Cold Water
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 small Hot Green Chile (any kind)
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Lime/Lemon, juiced (start with 1/2 the amount)
1 Tbsp fresh Cilantro/Coriander
Ice cubes

Optional Garnishes:
Finely chopped Cilantro/Coriander
A sprig of Mint
A pinch of Roasted and ground Cumin
A little sprinkle of cayenne
A slice of Lime/Lemon
A thin slice of Green Chile

Method:

I like to chill regular coconut milk to let the cream rise to the top and keep the cream for other uses.Then use the skimmed milk part to make the sambharam/lassi.

Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender; add only half the lime/lemon juice at first. Whirl until liquified. Taste and add more lime/lemon, salt, etc to taste. If you like it super cold, a few ice cubes maybe added to the blender with the ingredients or pour the sambharam/lassi over some. Add some of the garnishes if you like. Enjoy!!