Slow-Cooker Barley & Lentil Soup

[Barley and Lentil Soup]The new year always brings an onslaught of “healthy eating” recipes. I suppose I’m not different as this soup is fairly healthy. Lentils and barley both provide a decent amount of fiber and carrots are good for you, right. I use a reduced sodium broth base and then add salt at the end via sriracha and/or a bit of Parmesan cheese.

As an aside, I like the concept of a slow cooker however in practice most of the recipes finish too quickly for them to be practical for me on a weeknight. When I work from home though I can take 10 minutes mid-morning, toss some ingredients together and then have dinner ready when I want to eat.
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Spinach and Zucchini Curry

[Spinach and Zucchini Curry]Monday night found me with no dinner plan. There were a couple of aging zucchini in the fridge, still firm but starting to blemish and a purple bell pepper, all from the farm stand near work. I found a package of frozen spinach in the freezer and a vague plan started to form. The result was a curry-like dish.

Spinach and Zucchini Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed (see first direction)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove the brick of spinach from the package, place it on a cutting board and cut it into about 20 cubes. This is easiest if spinach is mostly thawed. Transfer cubed spinach to a clean dish towel, twist towel into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the onions and peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions/peppers to a bowl, retaining as much oil in the skillet as possible, and set aside.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. When oil is shimmering add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute zucchini and cook, undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers, again retaining as much oil as possible.
  4. Once again return the skill to medium heat. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has been released, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, probably no more than 30 seconds.
  5. Return the onions, peppers and zucchini to the pan and add the curry and paprika. Stir until spices are distributed throughout the skillet then add the tomatoes, yogurt and water. Stir until the yogurt is fully dispersed into the vegetables, creating a sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.

Notes:
I nuked the frozen slam of spinach for a minute on full power to knock it from brick to mostly thawed. Your mileage, and microwave, may very.

You may wish to remove the seeds from the zucchini. I do this after quartering by just running the knife along where the seeds meet solid zucchini. Seeds aren’t really a problem on smallish zucchini. When the zucchini get to the large size the seeds can turn to mush in your dish.

We served this with white rice.

Baked “Spanish” Rice

The word Spanish is in quotes in the title because I suspect this dish bears little resemblance to the rice dishes served in Spain. We often serve this when we make some sort of American-Mexican food, such with enchiladas. It also goes well with grilled meat.

Baked “Spanish” Rice
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (long or medium grain)
  • 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Position your oven racks so that a covered dutch oven will fit. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions & peppers along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the rice to the pot and stir until coated in oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just starting to change from white to opaque.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until all of the broth has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  6. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.

Tabouleh

I want to call this a quick recipe even though it takes 3 hours to get ready. Most of that is letting it sit on the counter though so I think it is an easy addition to a menu. We served it alongside lemon grilled chicken thighs and sauteed corn with bacon this past weekend.

Tabouleh
Servings: 8+
Prep time: 60 minutes
Total time: 3 hours (with lots of downtime)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur , fine or medium grain, rinsed under running water and drained
  • 2 lemon, divided (see directions), juiced and zested
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2cups minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup assorted tomatoes from the garden
  • 4 medium scallions , green and white parts, minced
  • 2tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves (or 1 rounded teaspoon dried mint)

Directions:

  1. Zest and juice 1 lemon and 1 lime. Combine with enough warm tap water to equal 1/2 cup.
  2. Place the bulgur wheat in a micowave safe bowl and add the lemon/lime water. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes so that the liquid can rehydrate the bulgur.
  3. Taste the bulgur and see if it has rehydrated sufficiently. If not you can either let it continue to sit for another 10-20 minutes or you can cover it with plastic wrap and microwave it on high for 2 minutes.
  4. While the bulgur rehydrates you make the dressing. Combine the zest and juice from the second lemon, olive oil, a big pinch of salt, several grinds of pepper and the paprika with a whisk.
  5. When the bulgur is ready mix in the parsley and dressing. Stir to combine and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
  6. 15 minutes before you want to serve the tabouleh prep the tomatoes. We used a mix of grape, cherry and green zebra tomatoes. The grape and cherry ones were halved. The green zebra was diced to an equivalent size. Add the tomatoes, scallions and mint to the bulgur. Stir to combine and serve.

Notes:
Please don’t add the tomatoes before you refrigerate this dish. Tomatoes taste best at room temperature and putting them in the fridge dulls the flavor. Honest. You can refrigerate the leftover tabouleh however it won’t taste nearly as good the second time around.

Slow-Cooker Curried Chickpeas

One of the reasons I share the list of what we made for our Saturday night gatherings is so I have a way to recall what we made previously. This dish is based on a recipe I found a year ago which I made, liked and forgot about. I’ve tweaked it a bit to use the spices we had on hand and adjusted the ratios for the amount I was making for Saturday night dinner.

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Cauliflower, Potato and Spinach Curry

I found this recipe in Joy of Cooking a few weeks back while looking for carrot recipes. No carrots here but cauliflower is near carrots alphabetically and this caught my eye.

The spinach makes a nice addition to what would otherwise be a rather beige dish. We enjoyed it over hot rice.

Cauliflower, Potato and Spinach Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and rough chopped
  • 3 lg. garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1 2-3″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 Serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 2 medium onions, 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz. spinach, stems removed and chopped into bit size pieces

Directions:

  1. Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Chop the cauliflower, dice the potato, slice the apple, etc. Measure out oil & water, open the cans, drain the chickpeas. It really makes things easier when you start working at the stove.
  2. Combine the curry powder and flour in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. 3/4 fill a large sauce pan with water and bring it to a boil. Fill a separate bowl with cold water (few ice cubes would help but aren’t necessary).
  4. While the water comes to a boil combine the apple, garlic, ginger and peppers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Processor for 10-15 seconds to finely chop the apple and combine.
  5. Once the water is boiling add the cauliflower, return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. When 5 minutes is up remove the cauliflower from the hot water and transfer to a the cold water bath.
  6. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer these to the cold water bath as well.
  7. In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and apple/garlic/ginger/pepper mixture. Stir to coat and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Add the curry powder/flour mix and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for ~3 minutes to bloom the spices in the curry powder and cook out the raw flour taste.
  9. Add the coconut milk, water and salt. Stir and bring to a boil.
  10. Drain the cauliflower & potatoes; add them to the curry along with the chickpeas. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  11. Dump the spinach on top of the curry and cover the pot. Let the spinach steam for a minute then stir it into the curry. Cook for 3-5 minutes; you want the spinach cooked but not lifeless.
  12. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as you wish. Serve.

Notes:
I used Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder in this dish. I use it when I don’t want to make my own blend.

I’m always surprised by how much green comes off of spinach when you rinse them properly. Other greens can easily be substituted for the spinach.

The recipe seems to have a lot of steps. OK, the recipe has a lot of steps. The boiling/shocking steps can be a bit of a pain however I think it helps with the overall texture of the dish. You could probably skip the food processor if you want to grate the apple and chop garlic, ginger and peppers fine yourself. The end result is definitely worth the effort, at least in our opinion.

Clean out the Fridge Soup

Sometimes I’m at a loss for what to make for dinner and I stare into the open maw of the refrigerator with the hope that inspiration will strike. This recipe came from one such occasion. This past week I found some left over tomato sauce, a couple of cups of a weak chicken “broth” I had saved when I poached some chicken, a small amount of grated onions and a bin of sliced mushrooms reaching a point of no return. The cupboard yielded a bit of Israeli couscous plus some seasonings.

[cleanouthefridgesoup]

I’m rather happy with the result.

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