No Croutons Required - The winner and May's Challenge

The voting is complete and the winner of April's mushroom challenge is Suganya of Tasty Palettes who submitted this beautifully tempting Baked Portobello stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce, served over lemon and olive oil dressed greens. This is a mushroom lover's dream! Congratulations Suganya! You had some tough competition.

Holler will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere finally look forward to summer it's time to bring on the salad. Holler invites us to "add a cheese be it blue, crumbly, creamy, pongy, smoked, gooey or chewy. From vegetarian to vegan." Warm or cold, your entries are most desired. Your submissions are due by May 20th. For a recap of the guidelines, please go here.

Black Bean Pastries (Empanadas con Frijoles Negros)

Black Bean Pastries (Empanadas con Frijoles Negros)

Whenever I get the opportunity to see my Dad, I always like to make a special meal for him. Always open to the prospect of experimenting with flavors — especially when heat is a central component! — I decided upon a Mexican meal which included these spicy black bean pastries (or "pasties") that I only slightly adapted from my now cherished copy of World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown.

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Shakshouka (Tunisian Tomato & Pepper Stew with Eggs)

Peppers

Tunisian in origin, some version of the spiced and stewed pepper and tomato dish with eggs known as "shakshouka" can be found almost anywhere in the eastern Mediterranean where it is a popular staple in local bakeries and diners, served in pita breads or with pieces of leavened bread on the side to soak up the rich juices. This variation comes largely from Celia Brooks Brown's World Vegetarian Classics, which I've come lately to adore, with my characteristic addition of a little hot pepper twist to give it an extra kick. A glorious and warming breakfast on a cool spring morning for me, this "shakshouka" would make an equally colorful, surprising and popular dish to serve guests for lunch.

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Gingered Tomato Sauce


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Gingered Tomato Sauce

Despite the Indian origin of the "chonk" or oil-fried spice seasoning in this very simple tomato sauce from Yamuna Devi's Vegetarian Table, it makes a beautiful and versatile deep-flavored pizza or pasta sauce as well.

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Miso Rice with Carrots, Peas and Grape Tomatoes

Miso Rice with Carrots, Peas and Grape Tomatoes

This is a lovely and simple rice dish to serve alongside a Japanese-themed meal, such as adzuki croquettes with a spicy sesame sauce, and if you use a dark miso like "hatcho", "mame" or "aka" it will very much resemble a fried rice both in taste and appearance. You can use a sticky Japanese rice, but the miso will make any kind of rice grain sticky anyway.

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Rum and Ricotta Fritters (Fritelle di Ricotta e Rhum)

Rum and Ricotta Fritters

Sunny Sunday mornings in the spring are for me a time of peaceful indulgence in the slow and easy transition between those cool and crisp mornings to the prospects of warm afternoon sunshine outside my kitchen window. What a perfect time to put on a pot of hot coffee and leisurely stir up a batch of these simple little rum and ricotta fritters — light, airy and golden like the day to come, and just like little pieces of the fluffiest and most delectable pancakes you can imagine. Dusted with icing sugar or dipped in maple syrup or a warm spiced chocolate sauce, the memory of the scents and flavors will linger gloriously in your nose and mouth for hours.

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Beetroot and Quinoa Salad with Feta Cheese and Olives

Beetroot and Quinoa Salad with Feta Cheese and Olives

A long favored staple in my kitchen, quinoa seems to be the trendy grain of the day. I've come across quite a few new quinoa ideas over the past few months, including Lucy's beetroot and quinoa salad that I made only a few days after she shared the idea with her readers in a post devoted to economical, yet nourishing and tempting lunch box alternatives. Lucy suggests you serve the cooked grains wrapped in lettuce, drizzled with a bit of yogurt or sour cream. I opted for a side dish dinner version, and included some Feta cheese.

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Baked Paneer and Chickpea Cutlets


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Baked Paneer and Chickpea Cutlets

If you haven't tried paneer cheese, you are missing out on one of the tastiest delights of Indian cuisine. This versatile unripened cheese can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, salads, main dishes, and even desserts. It has a texture much like firm tofu or ricotta and unlike many other cheeses, does not melt during the cooking process. It is readily available at Indian grocery stores, though you can also make it yourself. Because it has a fairly mild taste, it takes on the flavoring of the ingredients it is paired with.

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No Croutons Required - The Mushroom Roundup

Thanks to everyone who submitted a mushroom dish for this month's edition of No Croutons Required. Checking our email has been particularly exciting this month as Holler and I are both mushroom fiends. We received a good number of inspired ideas and I'm looking forward to trying them all. Though it will not be an easy choice, I invite readers to vote for their favorite in the comment section or by emailing us. Please note that Holler's salad and my soup are not eligible for votes.

Our first entry comes from Jackie Vetter, who missed last month's deadline by a day. She shares her Mushroom-Barley-Stewp, so named because it's thicker than a soup but not quite a stew. This nourishing bowl of goodness is a meal in itself, as it also contains carrots, peppers and northern beans. Serve it along with a corn muffin and a side salad and you have one satisfying and warming dinner. (Georgetown, Indiana, US)

Deb of Key West Wine and Gardening cooks up an easy but jaw-droppingly delicious appetizer. These succulent Grilled Mushroom Caps With a Pesto & Pepper Filling are made with cremini mushrooms, and include some of Deb's homegrown cayenne peppers. Foraging for mushrooms on a forest floor would be great fun with an experienced guide, but thankfully, edible mushrooms are readily available from the local market. (Key West, Florida, US)

Kitchenetta from Got No Milk offers up a tempting Asparagus-shitake Quiche that is sure to appeal to lactose intolerant diners who miss classic dishes containing milk and cheese, and easily adapted to suit the preferences of dairy addicts. Topped with sauteed asparagus and supported with a whole wheat crust with dill and sliced almonds, this quiche would be perfect for a spring brunch. (Pennsylvania, USA)

Suganya tempts the palette and tames the beast with this Baked Portobello stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce, served over lemon and olive oil dressed greens. Inspired by a restaurant meal, Suganya transforms this meaty mushroom into a beautiful entree salad that would be fantastic for lunch or dinner. (Southwest, USA)

Sia of Monsoon Spice makes a fiery Mushroom Chettinad that her aunt often made for her. These chewy mushrooms are cooked along with dry chillies, peppercorns, tamarind paste and coriander leaves. A spice lovers delight, this dish can be served over rice, flat bread or between bread slices and crisp lettuce greens. (United Kingdom)

No mushroom roundup would be complete without a cream of mushroom soup and Petra of Food Freak comes up with a Double Cream of Mushroom Soup that sounds mighty fine. The double in this case refers to both the cream and the mushrooms, and includes some cream cheese and chopped herbs. I'll take two bowls please! (Hamburg, Germany)

Medhaa of Cook with Love also makes a healthy creamy mushroom soup. Her easy to prepare Cream of Mushroom Soup with Spinach and cloves would make a delightful light meal served along with some toasted bread. (Palmerston, Ontario, Canada)

Chow Vegan serves up an elegant King Oyster Mushroom Salad that would indeed be fit for royalty. The gently sauted shrooms are served over a bed of oil and vinegar dressed endive and lightly cooked green beans. (San Francisco, USA)

Lysy of Munchkin Mail shares a unique but easy Grilled Mushroom Salad served with Strawberries, Watercress and a Poppy Seed dressing. This refreshing salad would be a good choice for a summer menu. No Croutons Required! (Warwickshire, United Kingdom)

Some of very favorite flavors are featured in this mouth-watering Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Salad that Pixie tossed together. Baby salad greens are topped with caramelized red onion, sauted portobellos, feta cheese and some dressing. Another fine choice for a summer menu. (Kent, United Kingdom)

This Thai Coconut Mushroom Soup is my contribution to this month's No Croutons Required. Spring has finally arrived and originally I was going to make a salad to celebrate, but I couldn't resist this light and elegant brothy soup made with homemade coconut milk. As it turns out, this is an ideal spring soup. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Tracy of Tracyfood doesn't include a picture of her Mushroom Miso Soup that actually helped her land a job, but I am sure this soup that includes two types of miso and soy sauce makes for one beautiful bowl of soup. Appropriate for vegans and vegetarians alike, Tracy tells us this soup is very flavorful and easy to prepare. (Eugene, Oregon, USA)

Dhivya of Culinary Bazaar makes a 5 Mushroom, Rocket and Pasta Salad that is substantial enough to serve as a light lunch or dinner. In addition to lots of yummy mushrooms and pasta, this luscious salad includes some kidney beans, roasted red pepper and tomato. (California, USA)

Holler, my co-host of this vegetarian event, makes a salad with one of my favorite grains. Check out this spicy Mushroom and Quinoa Salad garnished with feta cheese and fresh basil. This is Holler's first time cooking with quinoa but it's a first class recipe. She had some leftover the next day and included some sun-dried tomatoes. (Scotland, United Kingdom)

Lucy's nourishing recipes are always an inspiration and her mushroom contribution is no exception. This gingery Warm Oyster Mushroom and Leek Salad would be perfect any day of the week, all year round. Though Lucy thinks it might be more appropriate to call this dish a stir-fry rather than a salad, there would surely be no arguments if this was set before you at the dinner table. Most intriguing is the contribution of the leeks to the dish, which are described as "a tangle of egg and gluten-free noodles." (Melbourne, Australia)

Divya of Dil Se contributes a classic Cream of Mushroom Soup. This is a very versatile recipe that can be adapted to suit the preferences of the cook. Divya recommends adding shredded cheese if you want a richer soup and heavy cream is you like a thick soup. Any combination of mushrooms can be used in this earthy bowl of warmth. (Los Angeles, California, USA)

Our next entry is from Miri of Peppermill. This Mushroom, Red Pepper and Broccoli Roasted Salad is one of her favorite summer foods. The veggies are roasted in olive oil and then tossed with more olive oil, crushed red pepper, vinegar, lime juice and mixed herbs. Any combination of vegetables can be used for this salad, but I dare say, mushrooms are a must! (Delhi, North India)

Helen, the winner of last month's No Croutons Required, takes miso soup one step further with this "cleansing and invigorating" bowl of Mushroom, Nori and Wakame Noodle Soup. Exotic mushrooms are here combined with buckwheat soba noodles and sea weed in a elegant bowl of soup perfectly suited to the warmer weather. (London, England, United Kingdom)

Gretchen serves up a Peruvian Mushroom Ceviche. White mushrooms are marinated in lime juice, garlic, herbs and ginger and served over lettuce alongside cooked sweet potato. A fresh sounding meal indeed. (Lima, Peru)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe was crowned the very first winner of No Croutons Required. She's back this month with moody Mushroom Sherry Stew. Johanna does not share my enthusiasm for mushrooms, but this combination of mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, peas and herbs certainly sounds sublime. (Melbourne, Australia)

Kevin has for a good while been a source of culinary inspiration, especially when mushrooms are on the menu. Kevin bought more mushrooms than he needed to prepare this irresistible Teriyaki Mushroom Salad, but extra mushrooms are further cause for inspiration, and Kevin made a Cream of Mushroom Soup with roasted mushrooms, herbs and cream with the remains. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Kittie claims she is disorganized this month, but still manages to make the submission deadline with an enticing Spicy Mushroom Bulgar Salad. This refreshing combination of mixed mushrooms, bulgar wheat, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket leaves dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil would be a fine salad to pack for a picnic. (Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom)

Our final entry is from Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Her Morel Stuffed Mushrooms feature a very flavorful filling of sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, potato, cheese and morel powder. These delectable little bites would be a perfect appetizer or you could pair them with two kinds of beets as Laurie does for a particularly satisfying vegetarian meal. (Alaska, USA)

Holler will be hosting the May edition of No Croutons Required. The theme, along with the winner of April's challenge, will be announced at the end of the month.

Peanut Butter Carob Balls

Peanut Butter Carob Balls

If you are looking for a healthy but decadent tasting treat, these carob balls are just the thing to make and take very little time to prepare besides. They are rather like a truffle, only denser as these little balls of bliss are made with peanut butter, honey and carob powder. Naturally sweeter than chocolate or cocoa, carob powder is made from the roasted and ground pods of a tree native to the Mediterranean region commonly known as the carob tree. Though carob is a member of the legume family, I'm not sure if the benefits of carob are any holier than the virtues of good quality dark chocolate or cocoa … but I do know I always lament the passing of the last carob delight of the batch.

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Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

If you like your pancakes light and fluffy, overnight-soaked oats are probably not the way to go with your batter. But if you like thick, wholesome and nourishing pancakes, these banana oatmeal pancakes are warm, moist and tasty little parcels of all the many vitamin, mineral, soluble fat, fiber and protein benefits of soaked oats.

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Saffron-Brandied French Lentils

Saffron-Brandied French Lentils

With their beautiful dark green and blue speckled appearance and earthy peppery flavor, Puy lentils ought to be an essential part of your pantry if they aren't already. So named from the Le Puy region of southern France, these little lentils hold together perfectly when cooked and look like nothing other than little brown pearls swimming in bowls of this light and gorgeous saffron-and-brandy perfumed soup. Serve with a green salad for an extraordinary lunch, or with rice and vegetables for a light but satisfying and unique dinner.

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Staple Corner: Hot Green Chili Sauce


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Hot Green Chili Sauce

My copy of Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi spends nearly as much time on my desk as it does on my kitchen bookshelf. Commonly referred to as the bible of Indian cuisine in my house, this book contains a wealth of valuable information on Indian cooking traditions, in addition to providing cooks with a seemingly endless range of ideas for Indian meals. My latest excursion into Ms. Devi's book found me flipping through the Chutneys, and Sauces and Relishes chapters. I was looking for a condiment to serve along with the baked paneer and chickpea cutlets I had planned.

I settled on a hot green chili sauce that I have modified somewhat from the original recipe. The tomatoes are only cooked for a short period of time over low heat making this a very fresh tasting sauce that turned out to be the perfect spicy accompaniment to the cutlets. I enjoyed it the next day with some samosas and look forward to trying it with other Indian snacks and pastries.

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Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

Mushroom lovers will adore this light and wonderfully fragrant Thai-spiced soup made with fresh and dried mushrooms. And cooks will love the simplicity. The freshness of the broth is enhanced by preparing fresh coconut milk from dried grated coconut, but you can use light coconut milk from a can as well. When you smell the broth cooking you will be very glad it doesn't take long to cook.

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Corn Cakes with Blue Cheese and Honey

Corn Cakes with Blue Cheese and Honey

I've always enjoyed trying new recipes, but before I started Lisa's Kitchen, I would often make the same dishes, with little variation, over and over again until I tired of them. Cooking more often than not thus became a necessary chore and food a required fuel. There are still days when I have little time or inclination to cook, but this past year my kitchen has become my creative studio. Not only do I look forward to sharing culinary ideas with fellow food enthusiasts, I get to eat the products of my labor.

Corn Cakes with Blue Cheese and Honey

As elegant as these little corn cakes are, they were made on a lazy Sunday evening when I wanted something light but unique for dinner to go along with the red wine I had been enjoying for a few hours since afternoon breakfast. These chunky yet chewy cakes are mighty fine garnished with a bit of blue cheese and honey for a very appealing contrasts in texture and flavor — although soft goat cheese or balsamic jam would make a winning combination too. Choose your own culinary adventure.

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Cheddar and Mushroom Shirred Eggs

Cheddar and Mushroom Shirred Eggs

The Indian-style baked eggs Florentine that I made the other week were not only a tremendous success on the breakfast table but were an apparently very popular recipe with my readers as well. So I couldn't resist revisiting the idea this week, but replacing the creamed spinach with what is probably my favorite all-purpose ingredient — mushrooms. Without spinach, of course, they're no longer eggs Florentine and since I can't come up with a fancy name for cooked eggs on top of mushrooms I'm just calling them cheddar and mushroom shirred eggs. Whatever they're called, they're just as good as the eggs Florentine.

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Basmati Rice with Ginger-Seasoned Yogurt


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Rice with Ginger-Seasoned Yogurt

Yamuna Devi offers an extensive selection of rice dishes, and though I have owned The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking for many years I've yet to try every recipe in the rice section of her book, let alone all of the recipes calling for rice throughout. I'm happy to have some inspiration to look forward to. My latest excursion into this most favored book is this not very spicy delightful rice, making it a good tempering dish to go along with a fiery meal. It's best served chilled, meaning you can prepare it ahead of time to go along with a more elaborate meal.

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Mushroom Nut Roast in Puff Pastry

Mushroom Nut Roast in Puff Pastry

Never having even eaten nut loaf before, let alone having made it, I was a little hesitant to make something for Johanna's roundup of nut roast recipes. I'm a beans and grains kind of vegetarian, preferring my dinners to resemble meat as little as possible. I'm also not accustomed to thinking of nuts as a main dinner feature. But I didn't want to let Johanna down and so turned my attention to coming up with something for her event. Mushrooms were a must, I knew that much, but where to go from there? After browsing through a few recipes, including two recent ones from Lucy and Dhivya, and another one I found via a google search, I drafted an idea that incorporated puff pastry. If I was going to try something new, I was going for the total experience this time around.

Mushroom Nut Roast in Puff Pastry

The result was a wonderful surprise! The mild nuttiness of the quinoa complimented the nuts perfectly, without overpowering the earthy flavor of the mushrooms. I may have used a bit too much puff pastry, but the added flaky crunch was a nice addition. I served it with salad and my simple salsa sauce. A very satisfying meal it was that was very much enjoyed by my sweetie and myself. While nut roast is not likely to become regular fare at Lisa's Kitchen, I do thank Johanna for the occasion to try something I likely would otherwise have avoided.

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Kale and Vegetable Soup

Kale and Vegetable Soup

I find nothing more satisfying than a hot bowl of brothy vegetable soup when I'm trying to shake off winter and a head cold at the same time. Not much appetite, even less energy… you know the routine. There's no better cure than a hot bowl of broth and vegetables to warm up a cranky stomach and to keep the effort of cooking to a minimum. Chop and toss the ingredients in the pot as the broth is heating, and you've got a delicious and nourishing trouble-free dinner for any invalid. The steam from the soup filling the kitchen is invigorating by itself.

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Cannellini Bean Sauce and Herbed Tomato Sauce Over Carrot Rice

Cannellini Bean Sauce and Herbed Tomato Sauce Over Carrot Rice

Once in a while it's a treat to prepare something that looks like a gourmet meal and give it a gourmet-sounding name without going to the trouble of gourmet preparation. This layered cannellini bean and carrot rice entrée began as an attempt to modify an ordinary Indian rice and dal one-pot "kichari" and turned into something neither Indian, one-pot, nor ordinary once I decided on using cannellini beans, which are too good not to enjoy a pride of place on their own on any plate. And when the Italian-inspired seasonings started taking over in the planning, a little zesty tomato sauce just seemed to be the perfect way to top everything off.

As elegant as this dinner will appear at your table and as delicious as the triple layers of textures and flavors will disappear into your mouth, this recipe is actually very simple and makes an entire meal alongside a simple green salad or some steamed vegetables. The best part is that the drained cooking liquid from the beans makes an astonishingly tasty stock for cooking up a very easy and delicious kale and vegetable soup the next day.

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