Split Pea and Mushroom Soup

As the icy fingers of winter start creeping up outside the window, there is often nothing so warming and comforting as a hot bowl of split pea soup. Plain and simple, or with the added flair of spices, mushrooms and fresh grated Parmesan cheese, this earthy and sweet soup is always a nice way to curl up for the season.
Split Pea and Mushroom Soup

1 cup dried green split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the split peas and soak for 2-3 hours in cold water. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, toss in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery, and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Toss in the jalapeños and red chili flakes, and sauté for one more minute.

Add the split peas, water, vegetable stock, bay leaf, tarragon and lemon zest to the pot. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the split peas are soft.

Meanwhile, heat another pan at medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, swirl to coat the pan, and stir in the mushrooms. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and brown.

Discard the bay leaf from the soup and add the mushrooms. Remove from heat and season with lemon juice and salt. Ladle into bowls and scatter with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

Other split pea soups you may enjoy:
Indian-Style Split Pea Soup
Green Pea Soup
Creamy Split Pea and Vegetable Soup

On the top of the reading stack: Steps by Jerzy Kosinski

Audio Accompaniment: Mark Hollis

Miso Seaweed Broth with Mushrooms and Carrots

Slowly fermented into a thick and robust paste, soybean miso added to soups is an almost ideal protein for tender tummies. And gently cooked seaweed, carrots and fresh beet green tops combine to make a vitamin and mineral packed broth that's as nourishing and easy to go down as it is fast and simple to prepare.
Miso Seaweed Broth with Mushrooms and Carrots

4 - 5 strips wakame seaweed
4 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
6 oz. fresh white, brown or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons dulse seaweed, crumbled or cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons dark miso
1 teaspoon tamari sauce, or as desired
4 carrots, grated or julienned
1 bunch fresh beet green tops, trimmed and coarsely chopped

In a small bowl, soak the wakame in 1 cup of warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, while reserving the soaking liquid. Chop the seaweed into 1 to 2 inch pieces.

Bring the reserved soaking liquid, vegetable stock and water to a boil in a large saucepan or soup pot with the mushrooms and ginger. Add the dulse, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the miso in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of warm water and mix with a fork until the miso is dissolved.

Stir the miso into the soup and season with tamari sauce as desired. Add the wakame, carrots and beet greens and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the greens are slightly wilted.

Remove from heat and serve hot or warm. Serves 4 to 6.

If you liked this recipe you may also enjoy:
Split Pea and Vegetable Miso Soup with Seaweed and Dried Mushrooms
Mushroom, Miso and Seaweed Soup
Miso Soup with Wild Mushrooms

On the top of the reading stack: The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Audio accompaniment: Copia by Eluvium

Wild Rice Chowder with Fresh Coconut and Mushrooms

Jacqueline put the call out for pantry staples for this month's No Croutons Required. Though I have staples on hand at all times, this did prove to be a challenge, as I often plan meals ahead of time and send my sweetie off to our favorite haunts to pick up requisite ingredients, sometimes at short notice. I appreciate the inspiration, especially when the weather outside is less than inviting.

This cold weather recipe was inspired by a recipe for Wild Rice Chowder found in World Vegetarian Classics: Over 200 Essential International Recipes for the Modern Kitchen by Celia Brooks Brown.
Wild Rice Chowder with Fresh Coconut and Dried Mushrooms

1 cup of wild rice
4 cups of water
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
small bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 - 3 jalapeno peppers, minced
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
28 grams of dried mushrooms (I used a combination of lobster and chanterelle)
1/3 cup of freshly grated coconut
1 teaspoon of celery seed
2 heaping tablespoons of chickpea flour (or unbleached white flour)
3/4 cup of milk
3/4 cup of yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the wild rice in a strainer. Transfer to a medium heavy bottom pot, along with the water, bay leaves and sea salt. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender and begins to fluff up - roughly 50 minutes. Set aside with the cooking liquid.

While the rice is cooking, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for roughly 20 minutes. Drain, roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Whisk the yogurt, milk and chickpea flour together until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the green onions and shallots to the pan. Stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add the turmeric, jalapenos, mushrooms and fresh coconut. Stir and fry for another minute or so. Pour in the wild rice and it's cooking liquid, add the celery seed and stir and simmer until it thickens a bit. Add the yogurt and milk to the pot, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low, simmering, uncovered for another 5 minutes or so. Add water or more milk or yogurt to reach your desired consistency.

Add lots of freshly cracked black pepper, and more sea salt at the end of the cooking time after testing the seasonings. Remove bay leaves and serve hot.

More ideas for wild rice from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Cranberry Wild Rice Soup
Pine Nut and Orange Wild Rice
Wild Rice and Portobello Mushroom Soup
Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad

On the top of the reading stack: Castle to Castle by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Audio accompaniment: Miniatures by Matthew Robert Cooper

Spicy Kidney Beans with Tomato and Yogurt Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
If you are craving relatively easy, yet spicy and unique ways to incorporate legumes into your diet, I highly recommend getting a copy of 600 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. Although his Indian cookbook is not vegetarian, this fat volume contains plenty of creative vegetarian recipes making it a worthwhile investment for carnivores and vegetarians alike. In addition to recipes for legumes, this favored volume also has plenty of tempting ideas for appetizers, paneer, vegetables, rice and even spice blends and pastes. Plenty of helpful tips regarding cooking techniques and ingredients are provided throughout and in addition, each section begins with an informative introduction and every recipe includes a short introduction describing the dish along with serving suggestions. I have shelves full of cookbooks, but Mr. Iyer's collection has a cherished place in my kitchen.

Craving kidney beans, I soaked some dried ones and the next day decided to make this variation of the ever popular rajma. I was originally going to use paneer in this recipe, but forgetting to pull a block from the freezer, figured goat cheese would also work well in this tart and hot dish. The resulting fusion-style rajma was a taste experience that was popular with my dinner companions.

This is my entry to October's My Legume Love Affair, a popular monthly event started by the lovely Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this time by Cook Sister.
Spicy Kidney Beans with Tomato and Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from 660 Curries

1 1/4 cup of dried kidney beans
1 cup of yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt)
2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
3 - 4 fresh chilies, finely chopped
1/3 cup of goat cheese, mashed with a fork
2 tablespoons of oil
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of garam masala
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

Soak the kidney beans overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, transfer to a medium large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the beans are tender - roughly 10 hour. Drain the cooked beans and set aside.

Whisk together the yogurt and chickpea flour until smooth. (The chickpea flour helps to prevent the yogurt from curdling.) Stir in the garlic, salt, turmeric, cayenne, chilies and mashed goat cheese. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium large pot over medium heat. When hot, toss in the ginger and asafoetida and stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add the tomato and garam masala and simmer until the tomato thickens - roughly 5 minutes.

Stir in the cooked kidney beans and yogurt mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. Garish with the parsley and serve over hot rice, along with naan bread.

Yields roughly 4 - 6 servings.

Other kidney beans curries you will want to try:
Kidney Beans in a Slowly Simmered Tomato Sauce with Shredded Paneer
Mint and Potato Rajma
Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer Cheese
Nigerian Baked Beans

On the top of the reading stack: Castle to Castle by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Audio accompaniment: La Bella Vista by Harold Budd

Moosewood's Turkish Lentil & Spinach Soup

Red lentils in broth constitutes possibly the most simple and digestible source of much-needed protein for someone recuperating from a stomach flu or whose digestive system is still sensitive. In the case that the patient retains a zest for flavour, a little cayenne and a helping of vegetables provide welcome taste as well as the additional fortification of vitamins and minerals in this quick and easy soup that places as little strain on the cook as on the convalescent.

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd: Recipes with a Vegetarian Emphasis for 24 or More for a much smaller and cozier audience.
Moosewood's Turkish Lentil & Spinach Soup

1 cup red lentils
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 cup bulgur wheat (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 large tomatoes, chopped
large handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the lentils. Cover the lentils with the vegetable stock in a large saucepan or soup pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 25 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until the onion turns translucent. Add the bulgur wheat if using, along with the cayenne and bay leaf. Stir until the bulgur and onions are lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Toss in the rosemary and stir for a few moments. Now add the tomatoes and parsley, turn down the heat slightly, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to soften the tomatoes.

Pour the vegetable mixture into the lentils, and raise the heat to medium-low. Stir in the spinach and cover the pot. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes to let the spinach wilt. Remove from heat, and season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

Serve hot or warm. Serves 4 to 6.
Other recipes you may enjoy:
Wilted Spinach with Pine Nuts and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing
Red Lentil and Carrot Soup
Red Lentil Soup with Baby Arugula
Red Lentil Soup with Prunes and Apricots

Equatorial Stars by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno

On the top of the reading stack: Petersburg by Andrei Bely

Roasted Beet and Coconut Curry

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Beets are one of my very favorite vegetables and it just so happens they are extremely good for you too. In addition to having detoxifying properties, beets are packed full of vitamins and minerals and are known to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Beets do not get as much attention as they deserve. The only drawback of course is they are rather messy and should be handled with care. You may wish to wear gloves while preparing them, though I find a sink load of dishes usually removes the stains from my hands.

My latest culinary experience with beets is adapted from this recipe for Coconut Beetroot Curry that I found at Red Chilies. I just so happen to have a few fresh coconuts on hand as I have been drinking coconut water lately to keep my body hydrated. Like beets, the clear liquid inside the coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk) also has many health benefits, including an abundance of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, has cleansing properties, can help increase metabolism and reduce fever among other benefits. An added bonus of drinking coconut water is you end up with lots of fresh coconut to add to your favorite dishes. You can also freeze the fresh coconut too for future use.

I added a bit of raw beet to the curry along with the cooked beet for a bit more texture. I used my beet greens in a previous recipe, but if you have them, I highly recommend you include a small bunch near the end of the cooking time. Serve with rice or any Indian flat bread for a most satisfying autumn meal.
Roasted Beet and Coconut Curry

Adapted from Red Chilies

3 small beets, roasted
beet leaves (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
2/3 cup of toor dal (or lentils or chana dal)
small handful of curry leaves
2 tablespoons of oil
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

For the masala paste:

2/3 cup of shredded fresh coconut
3 green chilies, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
sea salt to taste

Begin by roasting the beets. Rinse the beets, cut off the stalks and rough ends, wrap in foil and place in a preheat 375 degree oven until the beets are fork tender (roughly 30 - 40 minutes). Remove from the oven, let cool, peel off the skin and chop into smallish cubes. Set aside.

Rinse the toor daal well. Place in a medium pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the daal is tender - roughly 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

To make the paste, grind together the coconut, chilies, coriander seeds, cumin, cayenne and salt with enough water to make a watery paste. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to pop. Toss in the curry leaves, stir once and then add the onion to the pan. Stir and fry until the onion softens and turns translucent. Add the coconut masala paste to the pot, simmer for a few minutes and then add the beets and toor daal. Add enough water to get your desired consistency. Cover and simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavours blend.

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish.

Other beet recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen to try:
Haloumi, Beetroot and Greens Dressed with Tahini and Lemon
Creamy Beet Borscht
Beet and Feta Salad
Orange and Beet Soup

Audio Accompaniment: Talk Amongst the Trees by Eluvium

On the top of the reading stack: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

Springpad - A Free Online Organizer

Regular readers may have noticed a new button appearing below my recipes inviting people to "save it."

If the questions "save what?" or"save where?" have popped into your head, the answer is that this button is the path to a new free online personal organizer and recipe collector — Springpad — of which I am pleased to be a part of as springpad officially launches.

The idea behind Springpad is to help people get things done by making it easy to collect, use and share content from bloggers, brand websites and trusted friends on subjects from food to entertainment, parenting and ordinary day-to-day life management. By clicking the "save it" button on one of my recipes, you collect the recipe into your own Springpad organizer. From there, you can add the recipe to your own weekly meal planner, automatically generate a shopping list for the ingredients, personalize the recipe with your own notes and photos, and share with other people. And you can follow my recipes on Springpad here.

Especially easy to use for the home cook, hundreds of food bloggers and thousands of members have already collected and shared more than 50,000 recipes and created more than 15,000 weekly meal plans on Springpad.

I do hope you get a chance to try and enjoy this new organizer. If you are like me, constantly bookmarking recipes, I think you will find this is an easy and convenient way to keep your collection all in one place.

French Lentil Salad with Sweet Corn and Tomato

French Lentil Salad with Sweet Corn and Tomato
Sweet corn and tomatoes are two of southwestern Ontario's classic late summer harvests, and both flavors burst through in this fresh-tasting, nourishing and easy-to-make lentil salad. Served with fresh baked bread, this refreshing salad tossed with a zesty dressing is a splendid lunch or light dinner to have outside on a beautiful warm autumn day.

Read this recipe »