Lentil Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

As much as I enjoy summer, the heat waves at times can be unbearable. Weather that has you melting into a puddle calls for simple salads that required little fuss in the kitchen. An added bonus is that this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, so you won't have to worry about cooking everyday.

lentil walnut salad with goat cheese

A delicious salad to enjoy anytime of year, I especially liked it because I was able to use some fresh herbs from my potted garden. The addition of goat cheese adds a bit of substance along with the lentils - this will fill you up but not tax your digestive system. We usually want something fairly light on those sweltering days. The dressing is so refreshing and light combining a number of my favorite oils and vinegar. Add some champagne vinegar if you have some on hand or add a dash or two of rice vinegar if desired. Serve with a whole grain for a complete and balanced meal that is especially enjoyable on a patio or deck.

Lentil Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried TomatoesLentil Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Recipe by
Published on June 28, 2012

A light and healthy but robust-tasting summer lentil and arugula salad with walnuts, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes

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Salad:
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 1/4 cups French lentils
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 oz (120 g) firm ripened goat cheese, crumbled
  • several handfuls of arugula, torn into pieces if the leaves are large
Dressing:
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • splash of fresh lemon juice
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
Instructions:
  • Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and chop. Meanwhile, toast the walnut pieces in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  • Return the saucepan to the stove and heat the oil. When hot, add the onion and stir for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Now add the lentils, water, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the water has evaporated. Add the sun-dried tomatoes part-way through the cooking time

  • While the lentils are cooking, whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside to cool for a bit.

  • When the lentils are finished, transfer to a large bowl and add half the walnut pieces and most of the goat cheese and arugula. Pour in the dressing and toss well.

  • Serve warm or cold garnished with the remaining walnut pieces, goat cheese and arugula.

Makes 6 servings
lentil walnut salad with goat cheese

More summer salads you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Mixed Greens with Warm Goat Cheese and Pesto
Summer Chickpea Salad
Lazy Summer Cottage Cheese & Fruit Salad
Fried Halloumi Saganaki and Asparagus

On the top of the reading stack: "Revenge of the Vegetarian" by Jim Tilberry

Audio Accompaniment: the ceiling fan

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche

This dish I whipped up to go along with Spicy Chickpea Patties and Vegetable Gravy for my weekend feast. It is a tradition of mine to treat my husband and my friend Basil to a special meal, unless the temperatures are too high to consider even a small amount of time in the kitchen. I suspect this weekend might be one of those times when minimal food prep is in order.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche

The balance of flavors are simply sublime and this makes an excellent breakfast too, just on its own. The goat cheese is really essential in the quiche, and the other cheeses certainly compliment the rest of the ingredients, including the fresh basil from my garden and nutty quinoa. I was told this was worthy of any restaurant menu meal.

Summer is a great time to grow your own fresh herbs, peppers and tomatoes, and I have a lovely potted garden growing in the backyard. Economical, fresh and you can fetch just want you want without wasting anything.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche with QuinoaTomato and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche with Quinoa
Recipe by
Published on June 26, 2012

A simple, delicious and fresh tomato and goat cheese quiche with quinoa

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Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour or unbleached white flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 - 3 fresh green or red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/3 cup milk or yogurt
  • 5 oz (140 gram) soft goat cheese, crumbled or mashed
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions:
  • Rinse the quinoa and soak overnight in the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Set aside and let cool. Fluff with a fork before adding to the rest of the ingredients.

  • Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and chop.

  • Grease a 9-inch pie plate or baking dish with butter or oil.

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and stir for 5 minutes or until the onion begins to brown. Remove from heat.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and eggs. Now add the cooked quinoa, onion, basil, tomatoes and sun-dried tomaotes, milk or yogurt, goat cheese, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish and smooth the mixture out evenly with a spatula.

  • Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 50 minutes or until set. Let the quiche cool for 10 minutes and run a knife around the edges of the dish. Cut into wedges and serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Tomato and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche

More egg dishes you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Baked Strawberry Ricotta French Toast
Asparagus and Feta Cheese Frittata
Cheddar and Mushroom Shirred Eggs
Devilled Curried Eggs

On the top of the reading stack: Revenge of the Vegetarian by Jim Tilberry

Audio Accompaniment: Daniel Waples

Tamarind Sambar


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
tamarind sambar

Sambars are thick, spicy and fiery vegetable curries and are usually served as the first course of a traditional south Indian meal, but they also make a lovely light lunch or dinner on their own served with rice and pappadoms. This version, which I have adapted from my treasured copy of Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, is easy to prepare and combines the goodness of some split dals and a generous amount of spice, complete with tart and tangy tamarind pulp to give the sambar a unique and delicious hot and sour flavor. If you like Indian hot, this is just the dish for you, followed by a rasam, and served also with a side salad and poriyal. Do serve with some plain yogurt on the side to temper the heat if desired.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup with Ricotta Pancakes

Without any care or tending at all, rhubarb grows into enormous stalks and leaves in the corner of my backyard every year from spring right through into late summer. It must be one of the most carefree food plants that grows in this climate. Although rhubarb stems are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium, their sour taste means that they're ordinarily stewed with sugar and used for desserts like pies and cobblers — that is why rhubarb was once known as the "pie plant" in the United States. Their sour taste also lends a wonderful tartness to strawberries with which they're commonly combined — strawberry-rhubarb pies can be found all over around here in Ontario in the spring and summer.

Once it is cooler, I am going to make a pie from the harvest in the backyard. Hubby and best friend Basil are chopping at the bit in anticipation. In the meantime, try this for a weekend breakfast.

rhubarb pancakes

This beautiful sweet and tart rhubarb and strawberry combination also makes a great syrup for using on pancakes or ice cream or in teas, milkshakes or other drinks, and the best part of making this easy syrup is that straining the stewed fruits before reducing the syrup yields a delicious compote that you may want to consider using in a pie or cobbler too. I served up this syrup and compote on my famous light and creamy ricotta pancakes with plenty of syrup left over for ice cream when the weather turns hot again this week. The compote is also excellent served with ice cream.

rhubarb sauce

Tips: choose firm and smooth rhubarb stems but avoid stems that are hard and rigid or blotched. You can also use frozen rhubarb and/or strawberries to make a syrup, but you may want to reduce the water slightly.

Strawberry-Rhubarb SyrupStrawberry-Rhubarb Syrup
Recipe by
Published on June 22, 2012

Tart and sweet homemade strawberry-rhubarb syrup

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Ingredients:
  • 1 pound fresh rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 pound strawberries, halved or quartered
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
Instructions:
  • Bring all the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

  • Strain the liquid, reserving the pulped fruits for use as a compote, and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a simmer again and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1/2 hour to 1 hour or until the syrup has thickened to a desired consistency.

  • Remove from heat, pour into jars, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 cup of syrup and 1 cup of compote

Light and Creamy Ricotta Pancakes Light and Creamy Ricotta Pancakes
Recipe by
First published on March 23, 2010

These light, fluffy and creamy ricotta cheese pancakes are simple to whip up

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Ingredients:
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
Instructions:
  • Combine egg yolks, milk, honey and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Cover with a clean dish cloth and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

  • Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter, leaving a few white streaks. Gently mix in the ricotta, leaving small chunks of cheese in the batter.

  • Heat a non-stick griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with butter. When the pan is hot enough to makes drops of water dance and sputter before vanishing, pour in 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until small bubbles appear on the edges, then flip and cook for 2 more minutes or until the batter is set and the sides are golden brown.

  • Remove from heat and serve right away drizzled with strawberry-rhubarb syrup and with a spoonful of the compote.

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes
rhubarb pancakes with sauce

Other pancake and syrup posts you may enjoy:
Homemade Maple Syrup from Muskoka
Vanilla Oat Pancakes
Mollie Katzen's Blueberry & Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes
Cottage Cheese Blintzes and Peach-Plum Compote

On the top of the reading stack: The Mr. Men Cookbook

Audio Accompaniment: Daniel Waples - Banyan Tree

Asparagus Mimosa

Seasonal local asparagus is a real treat here in southern Ontario. Because of the robust and unique flavor of this treasured vegetable, it is best to keep things simple and pair it with just a handful of simple but classic flavors such as butter, lemon or salt to let the asparagus shine. The Italians know this quite well, and love to serve asparagus with eggs — hard-boiled, soft-boiled, in egg sauces or in frittatas.

Asparagus Mimosa

This is a variation of an asparagus mimosa, a classic Italian asparagus dish served with grated cooked egg and olive oil and often very little else except salt and perhaps a little lemon juice. Although ordinarily a hard-boiled egg is grated for this salad, I made some soft-boiled eggs instead to let a little of the yolk ooze out onto the lightly steamed asparagus — instead of grating the egg you may find it easier to finely chop the eggs instead. I used a little of the extra-virgin O meyer lemon olive oil and the wonderful dry O champagne vinegar that I received recently, both of which enhanced the asparagus beautifully. If desired, add just a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice to a salad olive oil, and be sure to use a very light and dry vinegar such as rice vinegar or a dry white wine vinegar.

With a little chopped fresh parsley and just a hint of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper seasoning, this is an elegant salad to enjoy on a warm summer day, such as the days we've been having here with temperatures soaring to over 30°. I don't mind the heat really, but I don't care to be standing over a hot stove in this weather either. Unfortunately the landlady has resisted turning on the air conditioning so far — just as when she resists turning on the furnace in the winter until the temperatures are numbing! Oh well, this is a lovely apartment, indoor temperatures aside, and I don't mind making these simple salads. But one of these days, I would like to have a house of my own.

Enjoy this elegant dish on your patio or deck along with a whole grain. I am sending this off to my dear friend Jac and partner in arms for this month's No Croutons Required. The theme is to come up with a leafless vegetarian salad.

Asparagus MimosaAsparagus Mimosa
Recipe by
Cuisine: Italian
Published on June 19. 2012

Simple, classic and elegant Italian dish of asparagus served with a simple olive oil and champagne dressing and topped with grated egg

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Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne, white wine or rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • small handful fresh parsley, chopped
Instructions:
  • Place the eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan and set aside to cool. When cool, peel the eggs and grate with a coarse grater or chop finely.

  • Meanwhile, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus. Steam the spears for 5 minutes, or alternately place in a large pan of boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. (You may cook the asparagus longer for more tender spears, but this dish works better with firm and just-cooked asparagus.)

  • Divide the asparagus between 4 or more serving plates. Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar, and drizzle over the spears. Sprinkle the plates with salt and pepper and scatter the chopped parsley over top. Garnish with the grated egg and serve.

Makes 4 or more servings
seasonal asparagus with eggs

More asparagus dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Warm Baby Potato and Asparagus Salad
Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad
Asparagus and Oriental Tamari Dressing with Pine Nuts
Asparagus Pesto Rice
Asparagus and Feta Cheese Frittata

On the top of the reading stack: The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller

Audio Accompaniment: silence

Chickpea Patties Smothered in Vegetable Gravy

chickpea patties

This recipe was part of a mini feast I cooked up for my husband and best friend Basil. Chickpeas are likely my favorite legume and, served with a thick spicy vegetable gravy, the meal was pronounced a "classic" according to Basil. I served this dish with a crustless quinoa quiche that I will be sharing with my readers soon.

I never can resist experimenting in the kitchen, even when the temperatures soar here in London. Factor in the humidity, and you figure there is a likelihood that you will spontaneously combust. I tend to stick with salads more often than not when it is 30°C or higher, but sometimes I get a craving and cook up something a little fancier. Really, these spicy and nourishing patties don't take long to mix up and fry, and the wonderfully fragrant fresh vegetable gravy is straightforward too, especially if you have a sous chef to help out with the prep. Thanks to hubby for helping out.

The vegetable gravy can be made ahead of time and warmed in a pan with a little added water. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days in a sealed container, and makes a wonderful addition to cooked rice or all kinds of other dishes.

Read this recipe »

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Toasted Nuts and Polenta Croutons

As I noted in a previous post, I was one of a handful of lucky bloggers selected to participate in a contest hosted by Dave of eRecipeCards and sponsored by O Olive Oil. After much thought and a taste test, I decided to make a variation of my classic Caesar salad. The pressed extra-virgin olive oil made with California Mission Olives with Meyer Lemons crushed together along with a bottle of their elegant Champagne Vinegar seemed perfect for a Caesar salad. I often add fresh lemon juice when making my Caesar salad, but the lemon olive oil was even better. I cut down on the mayonnaise, omitted the red wine vinegar, and was sparing with the garlic because I wanted the oil and vinegar to shine in this dish. And it did.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad

To make the salad extra special, I roasted some mixed nuts and baked a batch of polenta croutons. The result was a rather bold salad, but subtle at the same time in the sense that the aftertaste pleasantly lingered in your mouth. Certainly, I will be wanting more oils and vinegars from O Olive Oil in the future. I have already make an asparagus dish with eggs and the oil and vinegar, in addition to testing the products with fresh bread and goat cheese.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have tested these fine products and for the chance to participate in the contest. The inspiration was a welcome challenge. I know my husband was savoring my culinary exploration.

vegetarian Caesar salad with roasted nuts

Thanks again to Dave and O Olive Oil. Do be sure to visit their respective sites. I know my discerning readers will be most impressed.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Toasted Nuts and Polenta CroutonsVegetarian Caesar Salad with Toasted Nuts and Polenta Croutons
Recipe by
Published on June 15, 2012

A tangy and zesty vegetarian Caesar salad with a lemon olive oil and champagne vinegar dressing and tossed with toasted nuts and polenta Parmesan croutons

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Salad:
  • a handful or two of polenta Parmesan croutons (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 large bunch Romaine lettuce
Dressing:
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons O meyer lemon olive oil*
  • 3 tablespoons O champagne vinegar*
  • 2 small cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions:
  • Toast the nuts in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned. Meanwhile, wash the lettuce and break into pieces.

  • To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese and whisk for another minute. This may be made ahead of time and refrigerated in an air-tight container or jar until ready to use.

  • Toss the Romaine leaves with the toasted nuts, dressing, and a handful of baked polenta Parmesan croutons (recipe below).

  • Serve with some crusty bread for a delightful hot summer day lunch.

Makes 4 to 8 servings

*Substitute a salad olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice for the meyer lemon olive oil if necessary
*Substitute a dry vinegar such as a white wine vinegar for the champagne vinegar if necessary

Polenta Parmesan CroutonsPolenta Parmesan Croutons
Recipe by
First published on May 11, 2008

Dense and delicious polenta croutons baked with Parmesan cheese

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Ingredients:
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions:
  • Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and pour in the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the cayenne, salt, olive oil and black pepper.

  • Grease an 8 × 8 baking pan. Transfer the polenta into the pan and spread evenly with a spatula or knife. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Leave to cool.

  • Preheat an oven to 450° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the polenta into small cubes and gently transfer the cubes to the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the croutons are crisp and golden, flipping occasionally with a pair of tongs so that each side of the cubes browns evenly.

Makes about 3 dozen croutons
vegetarian Caesar salad with toasted nuts and fine quality olive oil and vinegar

Curried Black Beans with Tomatoes and Spices


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Smoky and hearty, this robust concoction goes especially well with a side grain dish and salad. Though black beans are not native to Indian cooking, they sure do go well with Indian spicing. You may also want to consider serving this dish with your favorite Indian flatbread. Easy to prepare if you have all of the staples on hand that are necessary for Indian legume dishes. My craving for black beans certainly was met with a reward with this dish. Spicy, nourishing and just tasty and good for you.

black bean curry

I am submitting this to Valerie of A Canadian Foodie who is hosting this month's most popular My Legume Love Affair. This event was started by lovely Susan who runs The Well Seasoned Cook.

Curried Black Beans with Tomatoes and SpicesCurried Black Beans with Tomatoes and Spices
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 13, 2012

A hot, robust, smoky and earthy Indian-spiced black bean curry

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Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups dried black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 4 cups of water

  • 3 tablespoons ghee or a mixture of butter and oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (methi)
  • 1 tablespoon dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • pinch of asafetida
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • garam masala for garnish
Instructions:
  • Rinse the black beans and soak for 8 hours or overnight covered in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and add the turmeric and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.

  • Heat the ghee or butter and oil over medium heat in a frying pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and stir and fry for a minute or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to pop. Add the onion to the pan and stir and fry until it begins to brown. Now toss in the garlic, ginger and fresh chilies. Stir and fry for another minute or two.

  • Now add the dried leaves, spices and salt, and stir and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced and the sauce has thickened. Pour the tomato spice mixture into the pan of beans and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the beans have thickened. Stir in most of the parsley or cilantro, reserving a little for garnish, and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the remaining parsley or cilantro and a sprinkle of garam masala.

Makes 6 servings
black bean curry Indian-style

More Black Bean dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Spicy Tamarind Black Beans
Mexican-Style Kamut Berry, Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad
Cornmeal Crusted Chili
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

On the top of the reading stack: browsing the cookbook shelves for ideas

Audio Accompaniment: Sphingida

Olive Oil

There are many rewards blogging about food. The first I suppose is that my husband and I get a variety of good nourishing food pretty much everyday. Then, I value so much that my readers find inspiration from my creations and cook them up in their own kitchens. Next is the support and appreciation I have received from reputable companies and published authors. What an honor that is.

And that brings me to announce that I was recently selected to participate in a contest hosted by eRecipesCards and sponsored by O olive oil. In the mail was a true treat waiting for me. I am so flattered to be selected to participate in the challenge. A bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil made with California Mission Olives with Meyer Lemons crushed together and a bottle of champagne vinegar. A sleek and elegant presentation and worth their weight in gold.



First a little bit about eRecipesCards. A lovely site and surely an excellent resource for us cooks and bakers wanting to find creative ideas for dinner. Lots of lovely images and great recipes. The site is easy to navigate and the search function is wonderful. You can search for a favored blogger, recipes with desired ingredients or whatever you might fancy. I encourage my readers to head over to the website and start searching. A big thanks to Dave for all of his hard work.

Now for the taste test of the products that I am fortunate to have received. O olive oil has been turning out quality olive oil since 1995 and barrel-aged wine vinegars since 1997.

I purchased some extremely fresh ciabatta bread to sample the olive oil. This oil is a pressed oil, not infused, meaning it is best not to cook with because the oil has a low burning temperature. Instead you want to focus on vinaigrettes and finishing sauces. The tart lemon flavor really stands out here and I ate more bread than I usually would because it is that delicious. I also sampled the oil with some fresh cut raw cauliflower, and it was a delight. Certainly unique and subtle, and free of any additives, surely this oil would compliment a salad containing goat cheese, leafy greens and all sorts of flatbreads and mixed vegetables.

The champagne vinegar was a special treat. I tasted it with some goat cheese and bread. Sweet, elegant, crisp and very mellow at the same time, I can't wait to try more of this.

The next step is to come up with a recipe pairing the olive oil and vinegar. That will be coming soon.

I will be wanting some Pomegranate Vinegar and Jalapeno Lime Olive oil and some of their Balsamic vinegars in the near future. Affordable and well worth the price. I think the products are an essential addition to your pantry.

Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust and Fresh Rosemary

This tangy and zest artichoke tart was inspired by Maria Speck's wonderful book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. It is important to incorporate grains into your diet, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, and if you want to add some flare to your grains, this is surely a book you will want to consult. Gorgeous photos and so many helpful hints with a variety of recipes that will keep your tummy rolling in culinary ecstasy, this is one treasure that I quite happily happened upon. I highly recommend this book to my readers who appreciate grains as much as I do. Such a creative approach to grains, and you will learn that simple grains can be dressed up for a delightful addition to any meal. Many of her ideas I have bookmarked for sure.

artichoke tart with polenta crush and fresh rosemary

The filling is simply divine, loaded with fresh herbs and other Mediterranean flavors. The addition of sun-dried tomatoes really adds an extra kick along with some hot chilies. Once again, I managed to impress my dinner guests. A bonus is that it really doesn't take long to prepare.

Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust and Fresh RosemaryArtichoke Tart with Polenta Crust and Fresh Rosemary
Recipe by
Adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More
Published on June 10, 2012

A tangy, zesty and flavorful artichoke, cheese and egg tart loaded with fresh herbs and baked in a Parmesan polenta crust

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Polenta crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Tart:
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 fresh green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained and chopped
  • bunch of green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 cans or jars of artichoke hearts (12 - 14 oz), drained and chopped
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions:
  • Grease a 10-inch glass pie plate with butter or oil.

  • Begin by making the polenta crust. Combine the stock and water in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the salt and whisk in the cornmeal, slowly, and continue to whisk for another minute or so. Reduce the heat slightly, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese, the beaten egg and black pepper.

  • Have some water on hand and sprinkle as needed as you spread the polenta into the pie plate, using a rubber spatula to spread the crust evenly and up the sides of the pie plate.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, eggs, green chilies, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, dill, salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the crust. Distribute the artichoke hearts evenly throughout the filling. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and Parmesan cheese.

  • Bake in a 375° oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until the polenta has browned and the filling has set. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
artichoke tart

More dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Skillet Corn Bread
My Mom's Classic Butter Tarts
Caramelized Corsican Apple Tart

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Hang Massive

Fig Salad with Fresh Basil, Arugula, Goat Cheese and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette

This was my first time cooking with fresh figs and as the weather warms up, I look toward offering more salads at my dinner table. The blend of flavors here is magnificent. How can you go wrong with mixed greens and herbs, sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil? And then, there is goat cheese … a must for this recipe that I have adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

This is one of my favorite books that has so many offerings for vegetarians and vegans too. The pictures are divine and really, this should be a coffee table book in addition to a guide for wonderful meal ideas. Certainly a prize for us cookbook fiends. Indeed, there's plenty of goodness here and also lots of easy and adaptable recipes. I was considering adding black olives to this beautiful warm weather salad, but I think this dish stands on its own just as I outline here because the olives might be a bit overpowering, but perhaps green olives might be a nice addition.

fig salad with basil, arugula, goat cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette

Fig Salad with Fresh Basil, Arugula, Goat Cheese and a Pomegranate VinaigretteFig Salad with Fresh Basil, Arugula, Goat Cheese and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Recipe by
Adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London's Ottolenghi
Published on June 7, 2012

A fresh peppery arugula and basil summer salad served with a pomegranate vinaigrette and topped with fresh figs and crumbled goat cheese

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Dressing:
  • 1 large shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salad:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh arugula (reserve a small handful for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil (reserve a small handful for garnish)
  • 4 - 5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ripe figs, rinsed and kept at room temperature, sliced vertically and then cut into quarters
  • 5 oz (140 g) goat cheese, crumbled
Instructions:
  • To prepare the dressing, whisk together the shallot, Dijon mustard and pomegranate molasses in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper and then whisk in the olive oil gradually.

  • In a large bowl, combine the arugula, basil and sun-dried tomatoes, reserving some of the arugula and basil leaves for garnish. Toss with the dressing.

  • Transfer portions to plates and serve at room temperature topped with figs, crumbled goat cheese and more olive oil and seasoning if desired, and garnished with the remaining arugula and basil leaves.

Makes 4 servings
fig salad with mixed greens and goat cheese

More salads that you will be sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Greek Salad
Lisa's Classic Vegetarian Caesar Salad
Ethiopian Lentil & Mustard Salad (Azefa)
Quinoa Spinach Salad with Feta, Pomegranate and Toasted Almonds

On the top of the reading stack: The Ethnic Vegetarian by Angela Shelf Medearis

Audio Accompaniment: Jan Jelinek

Chickpeas in a Tomato and Tamarind Gravy with Spices


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Often I have been asked where my inspiration comes from in the kitchen. Plenty and varied it is. At times, when I am having a sleepless night, I will draft a recipe in my head and jot it down in the morning. At other times, I will get an idea and fuse a few recipes ideas into one that can surely be said to be my own. I enjoy looking through cookbooks and, time permitting, visiting my favorite blogs for ideas that I can adapt from and enjoy. At this point in time, after cooking for many years, I understand the correct balance of flavors and proportions that will please the senses of most of my friends and myself and husband.

chickpeas chutney

Oddly enough, this food blogger who cooks up creations that receive rave reviews does not like to eat too much at a time. Not a bad thing when you consider it. Why tax your system with a huge meal? All the same, if I am not really that hungry, my own food is the cure to that problem most of the time. I don't mean to sound arrogant here, but just saying that I know what I like. This thick chickpea dish is almost like a chutney and certainly pairs well with grains or wrapped up in a flatbread.

chickpeas

 Chickpeas in a Tomato and Tamarind Gravy with Spices Chickpeas in a Tomato and Tamarind Gravy with Spices
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 5, 2012

Chickpeas simmered in a thick and earthy but tangy and spicy tomato and tamarind gravy

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Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 - 5 black cardamon pods, crushed
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups water

  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds or dried thyme
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch of asafetida
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 large tomato, diced

  • 3 fresh green chilies, seeded and sliced into small strips
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, trimmed and chopped
Instructions:
  • Rinse the chickpeas and soak for 8 hours or overnight in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and rinse, and transfer to a large saucepan along with the ginger, garlic, baking soda, cardamon pods, cinnamon, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the chickpeas are tender. Mash some of the chickpeas with a fork or potato masher.

  • Heat the oil or ghee over medium heat in a frying pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and ajwain seeds or dried thyme. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Toss in the onion and stir and fry for 5 minutes or until the onion begins to brown. Now add the spices and salt and stir and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook until the mixture is thickened. Transfer to the pan of chickpeas along with the chilies, tamarind and half of the chopped herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly. and cook for another 15 minutes or until thickened.

  • Garnish with the remaining herbs and serve hot with fresh cooked rice or flatbreads.

Makes 6 servings
chickpeas tamarind chutney

More Chickpea dishes you are sure to enjoy from my Vegetarian Cooking site:
Baked Paneer and Chickpea Cutlets
Chana Saag
Chickpea Vindaloo
Chickpeas with Mushrooms

On the top of the reading stack: browsing my library

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