Posts Tagged 'onion'

Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

I have been all about red lentils lately. They make the best soup, they’re such a pretty orangey-red color (which unfortunately changes to yellow when they’re cooked), and they are hopefully pretty healthy (I’ll have to check on that).

I normally cook them with Indian spices (mustard seeds, a little asafetida, cumin…) but this recipe called for cinnamon and bay leaves and it was AWESOME. Tangent: cooking onions with a cinnamon stick smells absolutely divine. Anyway, you cook up some onions with cinnamon and bay leaves, add the lentils and broth, and then (and this is the key) top the soup with caramelized onions. It is awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I was extra inspired and made two different side dishes to go with the meal: I roasted some cauliflower with curry powder and salt, and I tossed some sliced cucumbers with yogurt, fresh mint, lime zest, and a little paprika.

EDITED TO ADD: The picture below was expertly styled by Mike. I had put my camera away but this looked so much better than the pictures I’d taken earlier I had to get another shot.

This was definitely a much bigger hit with Mike than my white bean pesto…

Recipe:
(adapted from A New Way To Cook)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced crosswise
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
1 finely chopped garlic clove
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups hot water
juice of 1 lemon
salt

2 tsp butter (OR Smart Balance or other vegan butter substitute)
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, cut into thin half-circles
pinch salt
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bay leaves, and cinnamon and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, ginger, and cayenne and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the lentils and stir them so they’re coated with oil. Add 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of warm water. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the additional cup of broth and water, as well as the the lemon juice while the soup is cooking, adding additional liquid if it gets too thick. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have completely broken down into a smooth, creamy soup.

While the soup is simmering, caramelize the onions. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add the onions and cook over low, sirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until onions are very soft and brown. Season with a little salt.

To serve the soup, ladle it into bowls and top with onions and cilantro.

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Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes with Vegan Gravy

I love caramelized onions and I really love mashed potatoes, but the thought of combining the two never crossed my mind until I saw this recipe.

There I was, sitting on the couch right after work, agonizing over what to take with Thanksgiving with our friends this weekend, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and working on a grocery list, when I somehow stumbled upon it. I was even intrigued by the vegan gravy, although I normally despise gravy.

I picked up some groceries including, you’ll notice, roasted and salted pecans. I am definitely making pecan pie this weekend, but Trader Joe’s was out of normal pecans. I swear our Trader Joe’s has to be either the busiest store in the chain or is trying to win the award for Most Likely to Be Out of What You’re Looking For (they definitely have a good shot at that one). Anyway…since everyone seems to be on such a sweet with salty kick lately I though MAYBE the salted pecans would be really good in pie. Or I might just be crazy and it will be a total disaster…we’ll see.

I completely dropped the ball caramelizing the onions. I cut them into rings like I always do and it was only about halfway though the caramelization process that I realized chopped would have been a much better choice (and of course that’s what the recipe said to do but I obviously can’t follow directions). However, the flavor is amazing no matter what shape they’re in, so dinner was not ruined. Whew.

It always amazes me to see how much onions cook down. Mine went from this:

to this:

in about 40 minutes.

Then I just boiled my potatoes, drained them, and mixed them in my KitchenAid (never done that before, but it works SO WELL!) with a little salt, almond milk, and onions. Mike even said he liked them better this way than with lots of butter. SCORE.

After an 8 mile run in the dark (is it Spring yet???), there is not much that can beat a giant bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy!

Recipe:
(adapted from The Front Burner)

potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 medium potatoes (I used 4 red and 4 white)
1/2 cup almond milk
salt

gravy
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 cups water

First, caramelize the onions. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat (don’t let the pan get too hot, or the onions will burn instead of caramelize!)

Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about 40 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

While the onions are cooking, scrub the potatoes and cut into 1″ cubes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Drain and put in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix in a few pinches of salt, the almond milk, and the onions and beat on medium high until soft (adding more milk if necessary).

To make the gravy, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in the nutritional yeast and soy sauce, then use a wire whisk and add the flour. It will be a huge globby mess, but keep whisking quickly and add the water gradually.

Keep whisking until all the water has been added, by which point the gravy should be smooth and not lumpy (mine was a little lumpy but the immersion blender took care of that!) and simmer to thicken. Pour over the potatoes to serve.

Armenian Red Lentil Patties

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, I didn’t know Armenia even existed until a couple years ago, and I didn’t know how great their food was until a couple days ago, when an Armenian cookbook caught my eye at the library. (And I kind of think the only reason it caught my eye was because it’s a really pretty purple with nice writing on the spine). I know if I lived in Fresno or LA I would probably be very familiar with it, but I’m in a town that is desperately low on ethnic cuisine and diversity.

Because red lentils are my very favorite lentil (do you have a favorite lentil? I recommend red!) the recipe for red lentil patties was an obvious pick. Plus the fact that it’s a traditional recipe for Lent (which I don’t observe but know is currently occurring) just made it seem like the perfect thing to make. With bulgur and red lentils making a complete protein, it’s a great choice for vegetarians, not to mention the fact that it’s DELICIOUS. Basically, you just cook up some lentils with cumin, some onions with cayenne, then combine them together with fine bulgur and get a paste. You let that cool, then shape it into patties and sprinkle with onions and cilantro, and serve it with flatbread. Not fancy, but really, really good. The leftovers are great straight from the fridge too, but I don’t recommend taking them to work because the onion-breath factor is pretty high.

Recipe:
(from Simply Armenian by Brbara Ghazarian)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
1/2 cup fine grain bulgur (#1)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 medium onion, diced (I used a white onion)
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp olive oil
a few tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Put the lentils and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid on until the lentils are fully cooked (15-20 minutes). Add the bulgur, salt, and cumin and stir well. The mixture should be pretty thick – if there is still some water, keep cooking until the mixture thickens.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and most of the chopped onion, reserving about 1/4 cup to sprinkle on the finished patties. Stir in the cayenne
Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent (8-10 minutes), then add to the lentil mixture.
Transfer to a bowl to cool completely, stirring occasionally.
With damp hands, shape 1/3 cup at a time into egg-shaped patties. Sprinkle with reserved raw onion and parsley or cilantro to serve.

Onion Soup

I love French onion soup. Not the way I love tomato soup (for the nostalgia) or vegetable soup (because it’s healthy). French onion soup is just on a whole other level.

There’s just one problem: beef broth. The handful of recipes I’ve tried have all called for it, and back in my meat-eating days, I didn’t think twice about using it. I just kind of assumed that onion soup without beef broth wasn’t worth eating, so I hadn’t bothered to make a vegetarian version of it.

But a nagging craving got the best of me and I figured that even if it wasn’t worth eating, enough cheesy toast on top would at least make it tolerable, so I forged ahead with a new recipe which happens to call for beer instead of the wine I usually use. I can get behind that.

If you eat meat, I don’t see any reason to use vegetable broth… beef broth does give the characteristic flavor onion soup lovers crave. But if you’re vegetarian, don’t worry, this has everything you’re looking for, even without the beef broth. Win-win!

Recipe:
(adapted from McGuires Irish Pub Cook Book)

Serves 8

1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
2 tsp salt, divided
a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper
4 large onions, thinly sliced (I used a mix of red, white, and yellow)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable (or beef) broth
3 cups lager
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 bay leaves
8 slices wheat bread
8 slices Swiss cheese

Toss the onion slices with the flour, 1 tsp of salt, and black pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven and add the onions. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, about 40 minutes.
Stir in the broth, lager, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, allspice, bay leaves, and other tsp of salt. Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, removing the lid a few times to stir. Taste and adjust seasonings.
A few minutes before you’re ready to serve the soup, place the cheese slices on the bread and heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Ladle the soup out into bowls, then top with the bread and cheese to serve.

Curried millet with browned onions

indianmillet
When we lived in California, my husband and I were OBSESSED with Indian food. Seriously, I have to type it in all caps because it was not just some fleeting fondness. Our pantry was stocked with all the essentials: multiple kinds of dal, asafoetida, amchur, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, atta and chapati flours, and whatever else I could get my hands on at the Indian grocery store.

We were constantly on the lookout for Indian restaurants, and that didn’t stop once we got to Thailand. We quickly found our favorite vegetarian South Indian place, which happened to be just around the corner from our apartment. I was in heaven with such easy access to perfect iddli, sambar, and dosa.

And then the honeymoon was over. I realized I was tired of Indian food. Fortunately, since we were in Thailand, there were plenty of other options. Then when we moved on to Seoul, good Indian food became harder to come by, which was fine with me.

But the other day, when I was looking for ways to use millet (my new favorite whole grain – if you haven’t tried it yet, you should!), this recipe popped up and I realized I kind of missed those Indian flavors I used to be obsessed with. So I made this, and it was divine. The browned onions give it a subtle sweetness, and the cumin and curry provide that warm, exotic flavor that drew me into the world of Indian cuisine in the first place.

The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t need any exotic ingredients to make it. Although I highly recommend getting your hands on some Madhur Jaffrey books and visiting an Indian grocery store, this would be a good way to ease yourself into Indian cooking.

Recipe:
(adapted from Food and Wine)

1 cup millet
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 serrano chile, finely chopped (plus a few thin slices for garnish) – leave this out if you don’t want any spice or increase it if you love spicy food
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds and onion. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally until the onions are evenly browned (about 20 minutes).

Add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Stir in the millet, salt, serrano and water, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the millet is tender.

Remove the cover and stir in the yogurt, curry powder. Cook until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve garnished with a few slices of serrano.

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Vegetables

Creamy Lemon Pasta

My husband is incredibly easy-going when it comes to my cooking. Usually when I ask what he wants for dinner, he says “whatever you want to make” and eats it without complaint (he’s a keeper). So when he offers suggestions, I listen. Last night his only request was for something “not Asian.” Since we’ve spent the last 5 months living in Asian countries, I can see why he was ready for some variety.

For the first time since we moved to Korea, I bought dairy products and used them to put together this simple pasta. The cream sauce (which tecnhically doesn’t even have cream) is very light and has a healthy dose of lemon zest for flavor. I used the vegetables that looked best at the market, but this would work with just about any you have on hand.

Recipe:
1/2 pound dried fusili pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
pepper

Boil the pasta as directed on the package.
Meanwhile heat the oil over medium-high and saute the vegetables until tender.
Drain the pasta and toss with the vegetables. Cover to keep warm.
To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium and add the flour, stirring well.
Cook the butter-flour mixture for about 2 minutes, then add the milk little by little, stirring it in completely between additions. Add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly. The sauce should begin to thicken – if not, turn the heat up slightly but continue to stir.
When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour over the pasta and vegetables and toss well.

Brown Rice Salad with Spinach and Balsamic Chicken

IMG_7550

I read a LOT of food blogs on a regular basis, and I’m starting to see a trend: I gravitate towards blogs with a) fantastic, beautiful pictures and b) original recipes. This is because my blog usually has c) none of the above (but I’m working on it! I really am) and I’m hoping that I’ll learn a thing or two from the blogs that inspire me so much.

A few months ago my husband challenged me to come up with one (or more) new, original recipe each week. Because we were traveling the last 5 months, I couldn’t stick with it, but now that I’m back to cooking daily, I’m taking up the challenge once again.

IMG_7482

Today’s recipe was inspired by the bag of brown rice I recently purchased, and the beautiful bunches of spinach at the market. Since I pack my lunch every day, I knew I wanted to make something filling and nutritions, that could be eaten straight from the container without needing a spin in the microwave. I marinated some chicken in a little balsamic vinegar, cooked it up with some browned onions, and tossed that with citrus-scented brown rice, some raw spinach, and toasted walnuts. I know that sounds like a jumbled mess of flavors, but they come together really well.

1 cup brown rice
1 1/4 cups orange juice
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups washed spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Combine the brown rice, water, and orange juice and cook (on the stove top or in a rice cooker).
Toss the chicken with the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
While the rice is cooking, toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat (shake the pan to keep the nuts from burning) and remove when fragrant.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. Over low heat, cook the onion, stirring minimally, until translucent. Add the sugar, give the onions one good stir, and continue cooking until onions are browned (about 15 minutes).
Add the chicken to the onions and turn the heat up. Cook, stirring, until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
Put the chicken and walnuts in a serving bowl and top with the spinach.
Put the cooked rice on top of the spinach and let sit for a few minutes so the spinach wilts slightly.
Toss, then serve warm or at room temperature.