Spicy Popcorn

Spicy Popcorn

The spicier the better, and that includes popcorn. Rarely do I purchase prepackaged treats, relying instead on my culinary inspired imagination and efforts. Recently, I came up with my best spice mixture to date for old fashioned stovetop popped popcorn. Popcorn goes gourmet in Lisa's Kitchen.

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Chickpea, Chili and Coriander Soup


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Chickpea, Chili and Coriander Soup

This spicy, blended chickpea soup from Delia Smith's gorgeous Vegetarian Collection is hearty enough to serve as a main dish in a meal along with vegetable and grain side dishes, but tastes light enough with the lemon and coriander accents to make a light summer meal as well. As usual, I've kicked the recipe up a gear with extra chili peppers, but even so the added heat won't deter anyone from this refreshing zesty soup.

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White Bean Risotto (Risotto al Fagioli)

White Bean Risotto (Risotto al Fagioli)

White beans add a surprisingly fresh flavor to risotto, and this risotto with beans, herbs and fresh Asiago cheese is so hearty and packed with proteins that it's basically a meal all by itself, and a very refreshing and satisfying one accompanied by a light salad of greens and vinaigrette. I use navy beans in my "risotto al fagioli", but any white bean such as cannellini or great northern will do just as well.

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Mushroom Methi Curry with Basmati Onion Rice


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Mushroom Methi Curry with Basmati Onion Rice

Regular readers know how much I adore mushrooms, especially curried mushrooms. I've made a few different variations in the past, including mushrooms with coriander and cumin. I recently discovered a new favorite, thanks to Nandita of Saffron Trail. I made a few slight variations on her simple mushroom methi curry and served it along with onion rice as she suggested. To fill out the meal, I also served mung beans with cottage cheese. I was told my kitchen smelled like an Indian restaurant, and the meal received rave reviews.

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Snack Corner: Seasoned Radishes

Seasoned Radishes

If you're like me, you have a hard time walking past the radishes at the market without picking up a bunch, especially when they're in season — the local ones are always bigger, redder and shinier, somehow, and have just that more extra crisp and hot bite to them. And if you're like me, the radishes hardly ever make it to a recipe. Washed and trimmed, they're a perfect snack or colorful accompaniment to a summer meal all by themselves, or just with a little sea salt sprinkled on them.

But if you have guests over and want to add something a little different than ordinary radishes to your hors d’œuvres plate, or if you just want a little added taste and colour for your own snack radishes, this little idea from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian is perfect and takes hardly any more trouble than washing and trimming the radishes in the first place.

Once you've washed and trimmed a bunch of radishes, cut them lengthwise into halves or quarters, depending on how big they are, to make finger-sized pieces and put them in a small bowl. Pour 4 teaspoons of tamari sauce and a half teaspoon of red wine vinegar over them and toss to mix. Set aside for half an hour, tossing now and then. Drain and serve, or store in the refrigerator until they're to be eaten.

Red Kidney Bean Salad & Harissa Dressing

Red Kidney Bean Salad & Harissa Dressing

Try this attractive and simple bean salad if you want to make an easy and earthy but spicy dinner. The secret of the dressing is harissa, a staple chili and garlic condiment in Tunisia that I've posted a recipe for here. Black-eyed peas can be used just as easily here instead of kidney beans for a more buttery taste and a more variegated appearance.

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Urad Dal and Tomato Soup (Urad Tamatar Dal)


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Urad Dal and Tomato Soup (Urad Tamatar Dal)

This simple urad dal soup has long been one of my favorites, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks no less, Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine. I've been making this soup for years, so it's a wonder I haven't made it since starting Lisa's Kitchen.

Popular in North India, urad dal is high in protein, and tastes best when seasoned with ginger, red chilies, turmeric, asafetida and fresh parsley or coriander among other herbs and spices. Serve with yellow lemon rice, a vegetable dish and an Indian flatbread for a nutritious and satisfying meal.

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Baked Ricotta Cheese

Baked Ricotta Cheese

I love to treat my father to a big home-cooked meal from my kitchen when he comes down to visit for the weekend, but the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time making an elaborate breakfast too if I want to spend some time with him away from the kitchen as well. At the same time, though, I like to give him something a little different than the usual cereal or eggs.

Fortunately the versatility of ricotta makes this Italian whey cheese the best friend of anyone who wants to make an impression with a unique breakfast that's also incredibly fast and simple. And what could be simpler than mixing a tub of fresh ricotta with your favorite morning flavors and throwing it on to a pan to bake?

For my breakfast with Dad, I lightly stirred in a little of his homemade maple syrup into a one-pound tub of whole fat ricotta cheese and spread the mixture out on to a lightly buttered 9-inch baking pan. The pan was then put into an oven pre-heated to 350° and left to bake for about 40 minutes or until the edges and the top just started turning golden brown. After letting the cheese cool for a few minutes, it was ready to slice and serve with some fresh blueberries and strawberries. Delicious.

Best of all, there are practically no limitations on what you can do with ricotta cheese before baking it except your imagination. You can make an equally delicious breakfast food by stirring in a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, or a couple of tablespoons of jams or preserves, or even some crushed pistachios and raisins, into the ricotta before baking.

But it's not just for breakfast. Try adding a handful of chives and a 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite herbs or spices to the cheese and cutting the baked herbed or spiced ricotta into small slices for appetizers, or even smaller cubes for a decidedly different topping in a green salad. Putting the pan once it's baked under the broiler for a couple of minutes with a little sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the top makes a nice touch too. Or stir in a couple of tablespoons of dark rum and some raisins to make a delicious and unique after-dinner tidbit. In other words, baked ricotta cheese works with almost any flavor combination you can think of for almost any occasion, so give it a try and let me know your favorite baked ricotta cheese idea.

Scalloped Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Soup

Scalloped Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Soup

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cook a meal for my Dad who made a trip to London to visit. After considering what to make for a few days prior to his visit, I finally settled on scalloped potatoes because potatoes are one of my dad's favorite vegetables. This is a variation on the recipe my mom used to make — but instead of using canned mushroom soup with a bit of milk and butter, I prepared a pot of my favorite homemade wild mushroom soup the night before. The potatoes were delicious! Serve with a light dal soup, such as urad dal tomato soup, and a salad for a satisfying vegetarian meal.


Scalloped Potatoes with Wild Mushroom SoupScalloped Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Soup
Recipe by
Published on August 20, 2007

Hot, creamy and delicious scalloped potatoes made with wild mushroom soup

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Ingredients:
  • 3 to 4 large unpeeled potatoes, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • sea salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 cups wild mushroom soup
Instructions:
  • Butter a large casserole dish and preheat an oven to 350°.

  • Scalloped potatoes with wild mushroom soup
    Layer sliced potatoes on the bottom of the casserole dish. Add a layer of sliced onion, season with salt and pepper and a dab of butter and flour, and pour a ladleful or two of mushroom soup over top. Repeat until the casserole dish is nearly full and the potatoes are used up, reserving some of the sliced onions for the top. Add the remaining slice onions on the top and finish by pouring ladlefuls of soup over top until the soup reaches to the middle of the casserole.

  • Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot or warm.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Summer Corn and Ranch Salad

Summer Corn and Ranch Salad

There's nothing like roasting fresh cobs of peaches-and-cream corn when they come into season, but I don't like to miss the opportunity to use fresh local ingredients in some other favorite corn recipes either. This light side salad is cool and refreshing on hot days and also has the unbeatable crunch of summer vegetables right from the local farm. Best of all, it hardly takes any time to make once the corn is cooked, but it's a good idea to prepare an equally fast and simple home-made ranch dressing the night before instead of using the store-bought varieties.

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Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I've never been able to avoid stuffed grape leaves in Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants, but until now I've never actually tried making them. But looking for something with a Mediterranean flare to go along with my watermelon and feta salad with olives, I found the perfect excuse to try my hand at this dolmadakia recipe that I've been hoarding for years.

Instead of stuffing the grape leaves with a rice filling as is usual, this version uses quinoa to give the dolmadakia a nice, nutty flavour and slightly crunchier texture. And, as I never tire of pointing out, quinoa has a much more complete nutritional profile than rice. Mixed with herbs, shallots and pine nuts, these stuffed grape leaves are sure to fly off the plate, so double or triple the recipe for parties.

Notes: If fresh grape leaves are unavailable, which is probably the case for most of us, use jarred leaves instead of canned so that you can see inside to make sure the veins of the leaves are not too thick. And check the ingredients — grape leaves packed in brine shouldn't need preservatives that are found in many brands.

If you've never opened a jar of grape leaves before, they come rolled up in bundles of about 75 leaves each. If you're only making one, two or three batches of this dolmadakia, unroll only one bundle and leave the rest in the brine for future use. If you find leaves that are torn or have holes in them, simply discard them.

Your first effort at rolling a dolmadaki might turn out a little loose, but you will quickly learn the right amount of pressure to apply to roll the leaves without tearing. A very good visual demonstration of the folding and rolling process is found here.

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Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chocolate Icing

Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chocolate Icing

There was some peanut butter chocolate icing left over from a peanut butter chocolate cake I made the other day and, needless to say, I didn't want it to go to waste! Instead of making another cake, I made a batch of cocoa brownies and topped it off with what remained. These cakey brownies are so good, they don't even need any icing, but the icing is so good it raises these brownies to a delicious level of decadence.

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Watermelon & Feta Salad With Olives

Watermelon & Feta Salad With Olives

The juicy sweetness of watermelon may sound like an odd flavor to combine with Feta cheese and olives, but they are all common and beloved flavors in the heat of the North African summer, from where this recipe is inspired. And, as it turns out, when mixed with coolness of some fresh mint leaves and the tartness of limes, watermelon and Feta cheese and olives actually go together to make one of the most lovely, delicious and refreshing summer treats I've ever had, not to mention one of the easiest and fastest to put together. I'd go so far as to say that this salad is essential if you're having a Mediterranean-themed get-together in the summer, either right before or after the main course. Just make sure to keep it cool until it is served and eat within a short time of serving.

Don't be tempted to use lemon juice instead of fresh limes, as the limes make all the difference in the dressing. I prefer colossal Kalamata olives over any other kind, but black olives will work in this salad as well. But if you can, find top-quality imported Greek sheep's milk Feta for its extra zing instead of domestic cow or goat cheese. If you live in or near London, the best Feta and olives I've found are at the Perfect Bakery on Hamilton Road.

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Spicy Tomato Mushroom Rice with Fresh Mint


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My Garden

In the spring, I started a little garden in some large planters in the backyard. In addition to tomatoes and jalapeño peppers, I planted various herbs including fresh mint, parsley, bay leaves, dill, coriander and lemon grass. This simple but delicious tomato and mushroom rice dish includes some of the fresh mint from my little garden.

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A friend of mine recently requested I make a treat for him to take to a social function. I decided to make these chocolate chip cookies after reading a review of various chocolate chip cooking recipes at Confections of a Food Bride. I've since noticed that this recipe has been featured on a number of food blogs, and many bakers are claiming this is the best ever chocolate chip cookie recipe. They are rather like the large chewy cookies you are likely to find at bakeries and farmer markets.

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Onion and Mint Raita with Chickpeas


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Onion and Mint Raita with Chickpeas

Raita is a yogurt based condiment that is served chilled. It goes well with spicy Indian dishes because of the cooling effect that raita has on the palate. Typically, a raita contains little more than yogurt and vegetables, but the following recipe, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, includes chickpeas, which makes this raita a little more substantial than most. It's also a great way to use up leftover cooked chickpeas if you have them on hand, and like any raita it's delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day, whether as a light lunch or picnic food or a wonderful side for dinner.

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Delia Smith's Pesto Rice

Delia Smith's Pesto Rice

Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection is easily the most gorgeous cookbook in my library… it's even a little daunting at times to attempt to make food as beautiful as hers. But although a few of her recipes are more involving and are clearly intended for grander entertaining purposes than I usually require, there are many more simple and eloquent dishes that don't take any more know-how or time than the typical cook has but make you appear to be a trained chef to your family and friends.

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Ethiopian Lentil & Mustard Salad (Azefa)

Ethiopian Lentil & Mustard Salad (Azefa)

As long as the heat wave in southwestern Ontario keeps going, the culinary themes in Lisa's Kitchen will continue to be: simple, simple and simple! For this reason, I decided to make an "azefa", a classic Ethiopian lentil and mustard seed salad that not only fits the bill for being simple but has an astonishing blend of earthy and pungent flavors that will strike anyone's attention, not to mention help them sweat out the heat. Unlike pre-prepared mustards whose flavor is diluted by time and packaging, fresh ground mustard seeds mixed with a little boiling water gives the spicy mustard dressing in azefa a fresh and powerful kick.

I've adapted my azefa from one given in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, which has been for years now an indispensable resource to me for fast, simple, exotic and delicious vegetarian recipes. I substituted fresh jalapeño peppers from my garden for the 1/2 green bell pepper that she suggests and, of course, by ratcheting up the cayenne a little. If you want to tone down the heat, I'd recommend reducing the cayenne to a 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon instead of sacrificing the hot peppers, which I've found to be an essential part of this and other azefa recipes. Similarly, the addition of a pint of grape tomatoes or one large diced tomato will help mellow the palate's reaction to the hot mustard dressing. One small chopped onion may be added as well.

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Lazy Summer Cottage Cheese & Fruit Salad

Lazy Summer Cottage Cheese & Fruit Salad

As anyone who has lived through the middle of a southwestern Ontario summer knows, there are days so hot and humid that cooking a dinner is simply unthinkable and even eating ought to be kept to a minimum of work. Of course, you can always order out for a pre-prepared meal, but if you're like me and you like to know exactly what you're getting in your food, you can try out this very simple and light, cool and refreshing solution that I've been using for years now — a no-cook cottage cheese and fruit salad. It's not only a delicious and colorful way to incorporate much-needed vitamins, proteins and fats into a meal without over-exercising your digestive system, but the middle of summer here in Ontario is such an amazing opportunity to load up on fresh local fruits like berries, plums, peaches, apricots and melons that it would be a shame not to take every conceivable advantage of it.

In this summer weekend's edition I've tossed in some green grapes, kiwi fruit, strawberries and a diced apple to go along with some local blueberries, apricots and black cherries that I found at the market, but needless to say any medley of your favorite fresh fruits can be used satisfy your own desires.

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Shahi Egg Curry


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Shahi Egg

When I found out that A Fridge Full Of Food was hosting a collection of weekend breakfast recipes at the end of the month with the theme Ethnic Dishes with a Twist, I was immediately drawn in. As readers here know by now, I love cooking weekend breakfasts almost as much I love ethnic cuisines, especially Indian. After some thought, this shahi egg curry seemed like the perfect recipe to enter into the event, not only because it is a warming, satisfying and wholesome centerpiece to a weekend breakfast, but also because it's a twist on shahi paneer, the old classic North Indian cheese curry cooked Moghlai-style in a vegetable gravy.

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Olive and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Olive and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Ontario is in the grips of an intense heat wave and my kitchen has adapted accordingly. Salads and quick and easy meals are on the menu for the next little while. But this does not mean that one has to sacrifice taste, as I proved last night. As always, I welcome requests for dishes, and recently a good friend took me up on that offer by requesting a recipe for bruschetta. I don't recall if I have made bruschetta before, but I wasn't satisfied with the recipes I found, so I created my own version. Just one slice makes for a satisfying summer meal.

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