No Croutons Required - The Winner for April and the Theme for May

The challenge for April was to create a soup or salad suitable for vegetarians that features the allium family. Congratulations to Lucie of Cooking at Marystow who beat the competition with this lovely Potato Salad with Shallots and Chives. A perfect spring dish!

I will be hosting the May edition of No Croutons Required. This time we are going with Mexican cuisine. Make a vegetarian soup or salad Mexican-style and send us your entry by the 20th of May.

Urad Dal with Fresh Fenugreek


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Sometimes a gentle Indian meal with split dal is just the thing I crave. I adore the creamy texture and mellow, yet unique flavour of urad dal so I made this simple dish for a special lady friend of mine when she was over for an afternoon visit. Fresh fenugreek is a must in this dish and it was a delight to find some at my local Indian grocery store. I served it with hot basmati rice, but it certainly would go well with naan or any other Indian flatbread.
Urad Dal and Chana Dal with Fresh Fenugreek and Tomatoes

Adapted from Pure & Simple by Vidhu Mittal

2/3 cup of skinless, split urad dal, well rinsed
1/3 cup of chana dal, well rinsed
sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup of fresh fenugreek leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of water

For the tempering:

1 tablespoon of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder


Soak the urad dal and chana dal in enough water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain, transfer to a large pot, add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the dal is soft, stirring occasionally to ensure the water does not boil away.

Add the fenugreek leaves to the pot and set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons of ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the tomato and salt to the pan and stir and fry until the tomato begins to soften. Add the tomato to the beans, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for another 5 - 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the tempering. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chili powder. Stir and fry for a minute. Pour over the cooked lentil dish.

Serves 4-6.

More urad dal recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Urad Dal with Tomatoes
Fennel Flavoured Ural Dal Soup
Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Spices and Coconut

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Arc of Passion by Steve Roach

Italian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast


Tender cannellini beans, just-wilted fresh arugula leaves, and good white and red wines add flavor, color and depth to this Italian-style baked onion soup topped with crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Not only delicious and a nice impression on your guests, this "minestra di cipolle e fagioli in crosta" is also very easy to make. It's also my entry for this month's onion-family themed No Croutons Required hosted by my wonderful friend Jacqueline.

If you have a rind left over from grating the Parmesan cheese, add it during the simmering stage of the soup. This or the rind of any other hard aged cheese lends a wonderful depth and base to the stock of any savory bean or vegetable soup, and they can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

This recipe is loosely adapted from Marlena de Blasi's A Taste of Southern Italy — a unique and attractive collection of authentic dishes that are unfortunately almost uniformly non-vegetarian. But there's nothing wrong with a vegetarian using a little imagination to transform a salt-pork soup like de Blasi's original into a meatless delight.

Italian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan ToastItalian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast
(Minestra di Cipolle e Fagioli in Crosta)
Recipe by
Adapted from A Taste of Southern Italy: Delicious Recipes and a Dash of Culture
Cuisine: Italian
Published on April 19, 2010

Attractive and elegant soup of tender cannellini beans, caramelized sweet onions and just-wilted arugula leaves simmered with wine and served with broiled crusty bread and fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Print this recipePrint this recipe

Beans (Fagioli):
  • 1/2 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried whole red chili
Soup (Minestra):
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) Vidalia or sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup fresh arugula leaves, torn or shredded
Toast (Crosta):
  • 4 1/2-inch slices of crusty bread
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  • Rinse the beans and soak for 8 hours or overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added.

  • Drain and rinse the beans, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with the vegetable stock, bay leaf and dried red chili. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Discard the chili. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid and bay leaf, and set aside.

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet or stove-top safe casserole. When hot, add the onions and garlic and toss until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat a little and sprinkle on the sea salt and brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden-brown and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.

  • Pour in the white wine and 2 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Add the bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. If you have a Parmesan rind, add this to the soup as well. Cook for 20 minutes. Now add the beans and red wine, and simmer gently for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf and Parmesan rind if using.

  • Pre-heat the oven broiler. Toss the arugula leaves into the soup. Lay slices of bread over the soup, sprinkle the bread with Parmesan cheese, and drizzle olive oil over the bread and cheese. Generously dust the bread and soup with plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

  • Place the skillet or casserole under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Carry hot to the table and ladle soup and bread into warm bowls.

Makes 2 to 4 servings
Other Italian-style soups you may enjoy:
Tuscan-Style Pinto Bean Soup with Kale
Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata
Tuscan Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary
White Cabbage and Bean Minestrone

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
Sometimes it is difficult to find something suitable for vegetarians when they eat out, and I have often ordered quesadillas, especially when tagging along to pubs. There really is no comparison though between homemade versions like this, however, and the restaurant variety. I would also recommend Quesadillas with Mushrooms.

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
Recipe by
Cuisine: Mexican
Published on April 18, 2010

Warm, earthy, spicy and filling black bean quesadillas

Print this recipePrint this recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup dried black beans (1 cup cooked)
  • 3 tablespoons dried quinoa (1/2 cup cooked)
  • 3 - 4 dried mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vindaloo paste or salsa
  • 1/4 cup black or green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, mashed
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to to taste
  • 8 - 10 7-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • oil for frying
  • sour cream
Instructions:
  • Rinse the black beans and soak overnight in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa and soak overnight in 1/3 cup of water. The next day, drain and rinse the beans, remove to a medium saucepan, and cover with several inches of fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until the beans are soft. Drain and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and soaking water to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce the heat to low, and cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside.

  • While the quinoa is cooking, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain and chop.

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the scallions and green chilies and stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add the tomato, vindaloo paste or salsa, and mushrooms and cook for another five minutes.

  • Combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, olives, black beans, quinoa, parsley and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the tomato mixture. Spread some of the mixture onto a tortilla, top with another tortilla and press firmly. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.

  • Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, fry each stuffed tortilla until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Keep them warm in a 200° oven while you finish cooking all of the quesadillas. Cut into wedges and serve topped with a dollop sour cream.

Makes 8 – 10 quesadillas
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
More Mexican recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Tomato Corn Chowder
Baked Cheese and Tortilla Pie with Jalapeños, Corn and Pinto Beans
Guacamole
Quesadilla with Mushrooms

On the top of the reading stack: Pure and Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine by Vidhu Mittal

Audio Accompaniment: Arc of Passion by Steve Roach

Chickpea Flour Dumplings in a Spicy Yogurt Sauce


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
My dear friend Jacqueline recently sent me a most elegant and beautifully presented Indian vegetarian cookbook entitled "Pure and Simple" by Vidhu Mittal. I've already bookmarked lots of recipes to try, but this recipe for chickpea flour dumplings in a spicy yogurt sauce immediately got my attention and so this was my first experiment with this lovely book. I certainly was not disappointed. Delightful dumplings smothered in a creamy yogurt gravy. How could I resist?

This cookbook comes highly recommended from my kitchen already. Ms. Vidhu presents an extensive collection of traditional and contemporary recipes inspired by her native province of Uttar Pradesh. Each recipe is accompanied by stunning colour photos, step by step images, helpful hints, often along with serving suggestions. This is a great resource for both novice and experienced cooks. You will find lots of tempting and straight forward recipes for drinks, appetizers and snacks, soups and salads, rice, breads and desserts. The meal menus and reference guide to spices and kitchen tools essential to Indian cooking are also a nice addition.
Chickpea Flour Dumplings in a Spicy Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from "Pure and Simple"

To make the chickpea flour dumplings:

1 1/4 cups of chickpea flour (gram / besan)
2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup of water
peanut oil for frying

To make the yogurt curry:

2 cups of yogurt
1/2 cup of chickpea flour (gram / besan)
3 cups of water

Seasoning:

1 tablespoon of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida powder (hing)
1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
3/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
small handful of dried red chilies, broken into bits
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/4 cup of fresh fenugreek leaves
dash of cayenne

For Tempering:

1 tablespoon of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley or cilantro


To make the chickpea flour dumplings, combine the flour and water and stir to combine. Add the green chilies and ginger and beat until light and fluffy. Heat roughly 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, drop small spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and fry until golden brown, flipping occasionally. Transfer to a bowl of salted water (roughly 4 cups of water with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt). Remove and set aside.

To make the yogurt curry, in a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, gram flour and 3 cups of water. Set aside.

For the seasoning, heat the ghee (or butter and oil) in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida, fenugreek seeds and leaves, cumin seeds, red chilies, turmeric, chili powder and cayenne. Stir and fry for a minute or two.

Now add the yogurt curry, sea salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chickpea dumplings to the pan. Simmer, uncovered, for roughly 15 minutes, adding more water if necessary to achieve your desired consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the tempering. Heat the ghee (or mixture of butter and oil) in a small frying pan or saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida, cumin seeds, red chili powder and parsley (or cilantro). Stir and fry for a minute and add to the chickpea dumpling, yogurt mixture.

Serve hot with rice.

Yields roughly 6 servings.

More chickpea flour recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Chickpea Flour Curry
Scrambled Chickpea Flour with a Fiery Red Chili Paste
Chickpea Fritters with a Creamy Ricotta, Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Filling
Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Crushed Peas and Cilantro (Pudla)

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio accompaniment: Biosphere

Corn and Pinto Bean Dip

Warm, creamy, slightly sweet and with a little hot pepper kick … this easy-to-make corn and bean dip is a crowd-pleaser at any time of year, and is filling enough to make for a delightful light warm weather lunch or dinner.

Better results will be obtained if you can find natural whole fat cream cheese and sour cream without added stabilizers or gums. Cooks in Ontario can find these under the Western Creamery label at most major supermarkets.

Corn and Pinto Bean Dip

1 cup cooked pinto beans (1/3 cup dried)
2 cups corn, fresh or defrosted
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
2 green onions, green parts sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
small handful fresh cilantro or parsley, finely chopped


Lightly mash some of the beans with a potato masher. Combine with corn, jalapeños, oregano, chili powder and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for five minutes or until the corn is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in cream cheese and olives, and heat throughout.

Remove from heat and mix in sour cream, olives and green onions. Place in a serving bowl and scatter cilantro or parsley on top. Serve with tortilla chips or fresh cut vegetables. Makes about 4 cups.

Other delicious dips from Lisa's Kitchen:
Pinto Bean and Zucchini Hummus
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Olive Tapenade

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Dropsonde by Biosphere

Spicy Lentil Rasam


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
As I have noted before, when I first started cooking Indian dishes, I would generally make dishes originating from the Northern region and those adapted for North American preferences. As I became a more accomplished and curious cook, I started to explore traditional dishes from Southern India. Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan has proved to be an essential addition to my extensive cookbook collection. Lots of beautiful photographs accompany recipes for sambars, rasams, poriyals, kootus, vegetable dishes, rice, spice powders, snacks and appetizers, chutneys and pickles and even menu suggestions. This book is invaluable to anyone looking to learn more about South Indian cooking.

Traditional South Indian dishes tend to have more steps, as there is often a paste and tempering step and lots of seeds and spices to measure out, but they are certainly worth the bother and some of the most flavourful and satisfying creations from my kitchen. I will also note the delightful aromatic smell that will warm up your kitchen.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a rasam is a thin and often watery dish, traditionally served as the second course of a South Indian meal. Tamarind, tomatoes, and lemon or lime figure prominently. I made mine a bit thicker and served it with Mustard Seed Rice for an especially satisfying and nourishing Indian dinner. I certainly impressed my dinner guests.

This is my entry to My Legume Love Affair, a popular monthly event started by lovely Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this time by Ruchikacooks.
Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)

Slightly adapted from Dakshin

1/2 cup of toor dal (or red lentils)
1/4 cup of mung beans
1/4 cup of split mung beans
3 1/4 cups of water
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of turmeric
dash of cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
juice from 1 lemon
a good sized handful of parsley, chopped, for garnishing

For the Paste:

3 teaspoons of oil
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 - 3 dried red chilies
1 tablespoon of urad dal, washed
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida powder
1/3 cup of dried coconut
a handful of dried curry leaves
1/4 cup or water

For Tempering:

2 teaspoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
2 dried red chilies, broken into pieces
a handful of dried curry leaves


Rinse the toor dal and mung beans well in a strainer. Cover with water, and soak for a few hours. Drain the water, transfer the dal to a large pot, cover with 3 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal is soft - roughly 45 minutes. Do not drain the dal.

While the beans are cooking, make the paste. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, red chilies, urad dal and asafoetida powder. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a blender or food processor, along with the coconut, curry leaves and water. Blend into a smooth paste, adding a bit more water if necessary. Set aside.

For the tempering, heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop. Add the tomato to the pan, along with the turmeric, cayenne and salt and stir and fry until the tomato is thickened - roughly 5 minutes. Add the paste, stir and fry for another minute or so and then add this mixture to the cooked dal. Add another cup or two of water, depending on how thick you want your rasam to be. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 5 - 10 minutes.

Garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve hot with rice.

Serves 4

You might also enjoy:
Beetroot Rasam
Toor Dal and Green Bean and Pea Poriyal
Toor Dal Palak
Tarka Dal

On the top of the reading stack: 366 Delicious Ways To Cook Rice Beans And Grains by Andrea Chesman

Audio Accompaniment: Translucence/Drift Music by Harold Budd and John Foxx

Thai Tempeh Patties with a Red Chili Dipping Sauce

Thai Tempeh Patties with a Red Chili Dipping Sauce

Although I have always enjoyed Thai cuisine, it has only been recently that I started to get passionate about it in my own kitchen. Armed with some wonderful Thai cookbooks, and of course the internet, I have recently made hot and sour mushroom soup, homemade massaman curry paste, and a massaman curry.

These tempeh patties are wonderfully nourishing and filling, and the earthy and nutty taste of the tempeh is delicious seasoned with Thai ingredients and dipped into a fragrant spicy chili sauce.

Read this recipe »

Creamy Mung Dal Curry


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Craving mung beans, I happened across this post for Methi Moong Daal from Red Chilies that inspired me to come up with a creamy mung bean curry that I served with Lemon Brown Rice. My sweetie came home from work and was delighted with the aroma of the ingredients. A perfect meal, especially when served with some roti if you are particularly hungry.
Creamy Mung Dal Curry

1 cup of mung beans (moong daal)
1/2 cup of split mung beans
a few teaspoons of oil or ghee
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
1 small onion, chopped
3 green chilies, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced or grated
a small handful of dried curry leaves
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 can of coconut milk (400 ml)
a small handful of dried fenugreek leaves (methi)
juice from one small lemon
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


Soak the whole mung beans overnight in enough water to cover. Soak the split mung beans for a few hours in enough water to cover. Drain the whole mung and split mung, transfer to a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the beans are tender - roughly 40 - 60 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to pop. Now add the turmeric, cayenne, ground cumin, ground coriander and asafetida. Stir and then add the onion, green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes.

Now add the tomato and cook for another few minutes.

Add the cooked mung beans to the pot, along with the coconut milk, methi leaves, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and roughly 1 cup of water. Bring to a partial boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes.

Serves 6
More Mung bean dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Indian Sour Mung Bean Soup
Mung Beans with Paneer Cheese
Mung and Azuki Beans with Fresh Peas and Spices
Mung Beans with Mixed Vegetables
Spicy Mung Bean Soup with Coconut Milk

On the top of the reading stack: Pure and Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine by Vidhu Mittal

Audio Accompaniment: Pearl by Brian Eno and Harold Budd