No Croutons Required - The Winner for June

The voting is complete and the winner of June's No Croutons Required Legume Challenge is Salty Girl with her mouthwatering Salad with Chickpeas, Couscous and a Soft Boiled Egg. Congratulations Salty Girl. You had some mighty tough competition.

Holler will be hosting the July edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to make a soup or a salad showcasing your favourite herb or one you haven't experimented with yet.

Toasted Coconut and Tomato Chutney


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Toasted Coconut and Tomato Chutney

This fresh chutney would be an ideal accompaniment to a variety of savory Indian treats. I choose this to serve with these mixed vegetable cutlets. I couldn't resist enjoying a few spoonfuls before the cutlets were ready. Yes, it's that good. Courtesy of Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine.

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Almost Old-Fashioned Baked Beans

Almost Old-Fashioned Baked Beans

Canadian baked beans have come a long way from their ancestral origins in old Québec, where huge pots of navy beans were cooked for seven or eight hours with little more than salt pork and molasses, enough to feed enormous families. Onions, mustard and ketchup add a comforting tang to these pork-free baked beans that take far less time to cook and yield a much more manageable amount — a new, vegetarian-friendly comfort food tradition for modern families. Any white bean can be used in this recipe, but I prefer to use a mixture of navy beans and white kidney beans.

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Lime Biscuit Thins

Lime Biscuit Thins

Or shall we call these slightly tart, citrus flavored flaky little delights crackers instead?

These slightly tart, citrus flavored soft flaky little delights come from Yamuna's Table by Yamuna Devi. This alluring collection of more than 200 thoughtful and unique recipes from a proven master of traditional Indian cuisine has occupied my attention of late. Inspired by the flavors of India, Ms. Devi experiments with ingredients common to North America and beyond. All of the selections are straightforward, but her elegant serving suggestions make this an essential cookbook for wowing dinner guests, yet perfectly suited as a book for everyday cooking.

A big fat post-it-note has been attached to this recipe for the past few weeks. Savory treats are most decidedly a weakness of mine, so I made a choice and nibbled on it with pleasure too. Soft and flaky with gentle lime and spice, these were perfect!

Slightly adapted from the original recipe to suit my cheesier, zestier preferences, I substituted heavy cream for skim milk, increased the amount of lime juice and cayenne and added a dash of cumin besides.

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Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup

I've recently had the pleasure of working with an Indian lady on a temporary assignment at my workplace who, apart from being an extraordinarily kind and gentle woman of many other interests, is a vegetarian who regularly cooks traditional Indian meals for her family. Imagine my own delight when she brought in little gifts of her fine food and her many suggestions and observations after discovering my own longstanding fascination with Indian vegetarian cooking!

Although I had already been aware of this aspect of many traditional Indian diets, I was struck by the general taboo against using onions and garlic that she placed on her cooking. This proscription, it was explained to me, is maintained by many Indians for the purpose of avoiding impurities that affect the body's balance and hence spiritual meditation. I am not Hindu of course, but I was not altogether surprised by this explanation after a bit of reflection, for as much as I enjoy the flavors of onions and garlic, there is a quality to them that I feel compelled to avoid for a while after eating too many. And as much as I enjoy eggs and cheese, I similarly feel the need to eat a mostly vegan diet for a few days if I've overindulged.

… Which got me to thinking. I found that my husband was skeptical on the subject, but then I should not have been surprised — he has that typical male aptitude for being internally insensitive, for all his other fine qualities. Still, I decided that there could be no harm in following some Indian sensibilities at least when it comes to Indian food, and resolved that I would make more of an effort to substitute onions and garlic with asafetida as do many Indian vegetarians. A very potent and pungent powder made from the dried resin of the stem and roots of a giant fennel plant that grows in Iran, Afghanistan and the Kashmir region of India, asafetida — also called "hing" — is a staple in many Indian kitchens for its alleged anti-flatulent properties and for the flavors of onion and garlic that it imparts to food when fried quickly in hot oil or ghee. So strong it is that a pinch will do for any recipe, so a tin will last you ages. Every Indian grocery will carry it. I'll still use onions and garlic in other cuisines like Mediterranean where it would be unthinkable to do without, and will continue to use them in my Indian dishes, but Indian dal and vegetable cooking is perfectly suited to using asafetida, and I will continue to adjust recipes accordingly.

As it turned out, I had already planned on making this curried black-eyed pea soup with onions and garlic when the thought came to me, and it was but a matter of moments to make the substitution. A very light, fragrant and colorful soup perfect for lunches or small dinners, I did not miss the onions and garlic at all — in fact, I'm convinced that the asafetida is what made it perfect.

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Baked Strawberry Pancakes

Baked Strawberry Pancakes

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did”
~ William Allen Butler


Very true, but what use are kind words spoken about strawberries if one is not eating them? The summer's first pint of local strawberries finally arrived in my home this week and it was with no delay that I paid my own tribute which, while not as lyrical as Butler's, would taste that much sweeter.

This recipe was copied from a cookbook years ago, long before I thought to start a food blog and became concerned with proper attributions, and so I've entirely forgotten what book it may have been except that I recall it had belonged to someone's Jewish grandmother. I apologize to whomever wrote the book, but at least the reputation of Jewish grandmothers will not suffer. Ridiculously simple and with little added sugar to let the natural sweetness of fresh strawberries shine, these baked pancakes are soft and creamy and slightly chewy inside with just the finest lightly crisp exterior, rather like a baked custard. Do not spoil with syrup, they are absolutely perfect as they are!

Although these are strawberry pancakes by right and parentage, I had a few fresh apricots left in the kitchen and couldn't help turning one of the two pancakes the recipe makes into an apricot-and-strawberry version with a few slices of apricot. I'm sure the strawberries didn't mind — I know that I didn't!

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Spicy Baked Tortilla Chips

Spicy Baked Tortilla Chips

Emboldened by the memory of my successful wine-inspired spicy popcorn, it occurred to me to make some wine-inspired homemade tortilla chips to go along with some delicious homemade salsa I received from my friend Reg. I confess, I didn't make my own corn tortillas from scratch to transform into some spicy chips, but no matter, as these homemade tortilla chips trump your typical overly crisp, excessively seasoned packaged varieties. I saved some for the next day, just to be sure. These come highly recommended from my kitchen. A coating of lime and olive oil is essential, but feel free to cut down on or increase the amount of spice sprinkled over top to please your palette. Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or any other fresh combination that suits your fancy.

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No Croutons Required - Legumes

A big thanks to everyone who contributed a bean creation to this month's edition of No Croutons Required. If you are seeking new and inspired ideas for soups and salads featuring beans and pulses, you will want to browse around for a while, as you will find plenty of recipes from around the world to satisfy your palette. Each and every entry is worthy of appearing within the pages of a published cookbook, but only one will win the June Legume Challenge. The task is not an easy one, though your participation is desired; vote for your favorite in comments or via email. Please note that Holler and I do not qualify for the crown.

The early bird this month is Ivy of Kopiaste, with her Beans al Pesto. Inspired by some leftover Cardamom and Rocket Pesto, she got creative with a staple white bean dish and came up with a eclectic bean salad comprised of cherry tomatoes, olives, veggies, herbs and some of that pesto. I can't prevent the idea of feta from popping into my head. A versatile recipe indeed. (Athens, Greece)

Suganya of Tasty Palettes prepares a healthy but satisfying warm Lentil Fattoush Salad. Lebanese in origin, this delightful combination of brown lentils, cucumber, lettuce, and peppers is dressed with a tangy mint and parsley dressing and garnished with caramelized onions, scallions and cheese. (United States)

Mansi whips up a filling Sprouted Bean and Lentil Salad that is just perfect for the summer months. The beans are combined with tomato, cucumber and herbs and dressed with a tangy dressing consisting of tamarind, lemon juice and chat masala. Next time you overindulge in ice cream, consider serving this salad up for dinner to compensate. (California, United States)

Deeba may be Passionate About Baking, but that doesn't stop her from coming up with healthy dishes, like this Sprouted Mung Dal Salad with fresh vegetables, mint and a splash of lime. Deeba eats sprouts on a regular basis, and provides some other serving suggestions in addition to her delightful salad. (New Delhi, India)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe gets creative with this Asian-style Shitake and Star Anise Split Pea Soup that is packed full of flavours. This thick and warming soup contains not only one of my favorites, dried shitakes, but also watercress, ginger, onion, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Chewier than traditional split pea soups, this sounds like one interesting soup. (Melbourne, Australia)

Salty Girl tries to beat the heat with this Salad with Chickpeas, Couscous and Soft Boiled Egg. Mixed greens, radish, apple, and red pepper are tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette, topped with chickpeas, onion, couscous and soft boiled egg. A satisfying and balanced choice for a hot summer day, but no doubt a fine choice for any season. (Washington, DC, United States)

Siri sets her sights on the ever popular chickpea and comes up with this mouthwatering, slightly spicy pureed Garlic, Chickpea and Spinach Soup. This unique soup is easy to prepare but just bursting with legume and veggie goodness. Serve with some Naan or crusty bread for a satisfying lunch or light dinner. (North Carolina, United States)

Mindful of reliable staples, Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs makes a Classic Three Bean Salad. Another good choice for hot temperatures, this colourful combination of red kidney beans, chickpeas, Great Northern beans, red pepper and onion are dressed with a pungent dressing of fresh mint, tarragon, cilantro, red wine vinegar, olive oil and garlic. A good choice for a buffet, but the addition of fresh herbs makes this fit for the finest of tables. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Ashley of Eat me, Delicious has missed the last few months of No Croutons Required, but she managed to find the time to come up with a stunning Beet, Barely and Black Bean Soup for June. This balanced meal in a bowl takes the idea of Borscht to new heights. The black beans and intense beets are highlighted by onion, garlic, tarragon, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and lots of dill. Beet lovers are sure to rejoice. (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Sunita comes up with a bean lovers delight with her Mixed Beans and Lentil Broth. Much more than a broth, an assortment of beans and pearl barley is cooked risotto-style along with arborio rice, carrots and mixed with a bit of paneer and a spicy tomato garlic paste. This one-pot meal is a perfect way to use up quantities of beans that have been hanging around in your cupboard for while. (United Kingdom)

Inspired by our event, Petra of Food Freak makes this refreshing Citrus Curry Lentil Soup that she has been meaning to try for a while now. An interesting twist on an old classic, the lentils, along with a few veggies, are cooked in a broth flavoured with spices and a blend of fresh grapefruit, lemon and lime juice. Top with a bit of agave syrup, or perhaps some sour cream or yogurt if desired. (Hamburg, Germany)

Allie of Yum and Tum takes some time out from her studies to prepare this Appaloosa Bean Salad. Bored with her usual southwestern-style bean salad, Allie pairs appaloosa beans with celery, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes and hard boiled eggs and dresses the whole delightful combination with some mustard, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and some fresh mint. Serve warm or chilled. (Houston, Texas, United States)

Next up is Hetal of Isha's Kitchen with a tempting Sprouted Green Gram Salad that she makes regularly. Also known as mung beans, Hetal tosses one of my very favorite legumes with some tomato, peppers, onion, lime juice, chili powder and fresh cilantro. Easily adaptable to a variety of tastes, and simple to make besides, this is sure to become a classic in many a household. (Houston, Texas, United States)

Kittie, the winner of the May challenge, submits a bright and colourful Bean Salad with Capers & Oregano that is a perfect solution for a quick yet healthy dinner after work before heading out for some fun. Lightly steamed green beans, kidney beans, capers and tomatoes are seasoned with red chili and garlic and smothered with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. (East Sussex, United Kingdom)

This Puy Lentil, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Salad is my entry for this month. Feta cheese marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and mint is then combined with roasted red peppers and sturdy puy lentils that have a remarkable ability to hold their shape. Easy to make, but bursting with flavour, this salad is sure to please feta lovers like myself. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Our next entry also features the extremely popular lentil. Arundathi often prepares this Quick and Easy Lentil Salad consisting of sprouted lentils, cucumber, tomatoes and lemon juice for breakfast. For the dressing, she makes a chutney from chilies, cilantro and gram dal. A quick and healthy way to start the day, you can't go wrong with classics like this one. (India)

Rachel of Tangerine's Kitchen also submits a sprouted salad, but her Zesty Sprouts Salad features homemade mung bean sprouts rather than lentil sprouts. For this salad, sprouts and tomatoes are dressed with oil, vinegar, a wee bit of sugar, garlic, mustard and chili powder. Ready in no time, this colourful salad is a perfect accompaniment to any meal. (India)

Maybelle's Mom submits this tasty sounding French Lentil Salad with Roasted Garlic Lavendar Vinaigrette. Grilled asparagus and radicchio, radish, carrots and a few cherry tomatoes mingle with the lentils. The whole delightful combination is tossed with a vinaigrette of olive oil, mustard, cider vinegar and a few lavender leaves. An elevated experience indeed. (Ohio, United States)

With the help of her mother-in-law, my co-host Holler of Tinned Tomatoes brings together some of my favourites in this Balsamic Beetroot & Chickpea Salad with Mint. Even though she is on vacation, Holler couldn't resist the fresh beetroot available to her, and I'm very glad of this. Serve this tempting salad with some pita breads and hummus - preferably outdoors says Holler - for a very enjoyable culinary experience. (Scotland, United Kingdom)

Fellow chili fiend, Nora of Life's Smorgasborg, makes a spicy Savoury Chickpea Salad with red pepper, onion, and spice. Originally she included some extremely hot peppers that she bought without knowing that they were a variety of Habanaros, one of the hottest peppers on the planet. Luckily, she managed to save her salad by picking out most of the fiery bits. (Sydney, Australia)

Cooking Panda of Flexitarian Menu enjoys breaking the laws of culinary traditions and accordingly comes up with this unique Apricot Lentil Salad with Beets and Mint that turned out to be better than expected. A meal in itself, brown and green lentils are combined with apricots, barley, onion, some vinegar and olive oil and topped with roasted beets and a dollop or two of spicy mint yogurt. (Brooklyn, New York, United States)

Wendy of A Wee Bit of Cooking couldn't resist picking some fresh rocket from her garden for this simple, yet tempting Rocket and Chickpea Salad. Tossed with a light dressing of lemon, olive oil and a wee bit of garlic, this is an ideal salad for a hot summer day. Wendy tells us it was nutty, fresh and delicious. (Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom)

Inspired by Mark Bittman, Jen of Little Bird Eats prepares "a mouth-puckeringly tart" Lemony Lentil Salad. Jen tells us this staple combination of lentils, capers, two lemons, garlic and chives is also good the next day, albeit a bit mellower. This versatile salad can be enjoyed all year around with a great variety of dishes. (Ireland)

With so many different kinds of beans available, it's easy to incorporate more beans into your diet without growing bored, especially if you mix a whole bunch together like Hippolyra did for her Mixed Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. Rocket and spinach is topped with spring onion and beans, followed by squash roasted with rosemary. Garnish with some sprouts and cherry tomatoes for a lunch that will drive your co-workers green with envy. (United Kingdom)

Rasmus from Sweden writes his very first post in English so he could submit this colourful Cool But Hot Tomato Soup to No Croutons Required. This inviting bowl of pureed tomatoes, cannelini beans, carrot, celery and spices will refresh you on a hot day, while tantalizing your tongue. (Stockholm, Sweden)

Lysy submits a delightful Sprouts and Bulghar Salad that she made after picking up an organic sprout mix at the market. The crunchy sprouts are paired with bulghar wheat soaked in stock, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and chives. Dress with oil and lemon juice for a fine and healthy lunch. Lysy says it is her new favorite salad. (Warwickshire, United Kingdom)

The Budding Cook has lately begun to explore salads, and she comes up with this Bean Salad that is every bit as elegant as it is hearty and filling. Roman beans, corn, cucumber and scallions are all dressed up with olive oil, lemon, Dijon mustard and ready to eat. (United States)

Kevin of Closet Cooking uses one of my very favorite grains, quinoa, as a base for this texmex style Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad that I would need an iron will to resist. Complete with jalapenos, cumin, lime and cilantro, this creamy salad can be served warm or cold for a perfectly balanced vegetarian meal. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Anna of Morsels and Musings makes this lovely Indian Tamarind and Peppercorn Rasam. Toor dal is here ground into a powder, combined with pureed tamarind, tomatoes and lots of spices, resulting in a thick, brothy bowl of bliss. Serve with rice and Indian flatbread for a light, but decidedly satisfying meal. (Sydney, Australia)

Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once makes a gorgeous Spicy Chickpea and Onion Soup that is likely to become a staple in many a household. Tomatoes serve as a base for this thick soup of chickpeas, caramelized red onions, harissa, and rocket and spinach leaves. Haalo served this bowl of yumminess with cheese and rocket filled pita breads toasted into a sandwich. Dinner doesn't get much better than this. (Melbourne, Australia)

Last but not least, from Michelle of Greedy Gourmet here we have a classic Creamy Pea Soup. Consisting of only two ingredients, not counting the seasoning and the parsley garnish, this simple yet impressive blend of peas and crème fraîche is ready in ten minutes. A busy schedule is no reason to sacrifice good taste or nutrition. (United Kingdom)

Holler will be hosting the July edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the end of the month for the theme and this month's winner.

Dal Kootu (South Indian Lentils and Vegetables)


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Dal Kootu (South Indian Lentils and Vegetables)

Kootus — or koottus — are a moist but not too saucy vegetable and lentil dish popular in South India, commonly served with rice or Indian flat breads. This recipe is ever so slightly adapted from a new-to-me cookbook featuring traditional South Indian dishes called Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India. I borrowed it from the library and promptly ordered a copy — this one is very highly recommended.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares

Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares

I was introduced to a sample of these decadent little squares by a friend and former neighbor a few years ago. I immediately noted the recipe, but until now haven't been self-disciplined enough to trust myself with more than the memory of this simple but heavenly pairing of chocolate, peanut butter and, yes, butter and sugar. But a recent occasion to treat some co-workers was sufficient encouragement to make a whole pan. Almost as good as the peanut butter cups I made for my Dad, yet decidedly easier to prepare, you just can't go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate. Bring along some cocoa fruit treats for a diabetic and gluten-free option.

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Shredded Beet, Dill and Coconut Salad

Shredded Beet, Dill and Coconut Salad

I've come across so many tempting recipes for beets lately that I almost let my three little lonely beets expire in the fridge because I couldn't make up my mind what to do with them. A day of catching up after a weekend away reminded me of a simple recipe for a raw beet salad that I saw a while back in my copy of Yamuna's Table. An additional bonus was this gave me an opportunity to use some of the fresh herbs growing in my little backyard garden. The fried mustard seeds compliment the earthy flavor of the beets nicely, while the coconut competes pleasantly with the strength of the finest of red beets. The orange slices that serve as a base for the rest of the ingredients contribute a refreshing citrus-y element to the dish.

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Apricot Rum Fritters

Apricot Rum Fritters

Every year around this time my favorite produce store begins importing small baskets of the freshest, firmest and most perfect apricots from the U.S. One glance at the delicate rosy blush on the sunward side of the fruit and I can never resist picking up another basket even if I haven't gone through the last purchase, which leaves me the problem of finding another way to dispose of apricots in quantity. Well, I say "problem" as though that's not the sort of problem we all wouldn't mind having, so let's just say "opportunity" instead.

Let's see … there's about a dozen apricots in a basket and this recipe makes about a dozen warm, crisp and sweet apricot rum fritters. Problem or opportunity solved! Maybe not such a treat for the waistline, but then it would be a shame to waste those beautiful apricots, wouldn't it?

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Puy Lentil, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Puy Lentil, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Dark earthy green-brown and dotted with fine bluish speckles, Puy lentils are easily the most attractive lentil I've come across, but it is their remarkable ability to hold their shape when cooked and their warm, peppery flavor that makes them the king of their species. It's really a wonder that I bought a small bag about two years ago and let them languish for so long before rediscovering their delights just a short while ago.

This little salad is so very simple, but oh so delicious and refreshing on a warm day — but what else would you expect from almost anything with marinated Feta cheese and roasted red pepper. If you choose to roast your own peppers instead of using the jarred variety, you are in for a treat and they smell heavenly when you pull them from the oven. Just start the roasting at about the same time as the marinating — simple but fail-proof instructions can be found here.

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Middle Eastern Chickpea and Olive Salad

Middle Eastern Chickpea and Olive Salad

Sometimes a food event will inspire me to come up with something I hadn't necessarily planned on making. Such was the case with this moderately spiced Middle Eastern chickpea and olive salad that I made specifically for *AWED*, a food event celebrating world cuisine. Siri is hosting this month's edition and she choose Middle Eastern appetizers as the theme. Originally I was going to make a halva, but suddenly the deadline was upon me and so I opted for something more familiar and simple that turned out to be decidedly filling enough to serve as a satisfying meal in itself alongside some rice.

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