No Croutons Required - The Winner for September

The votes are in and the winner for the September Mediterranean soup and salad challenge is Priya with her gorgeous and warming Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup. Congratulations Priya! I'm very much looking forward to trying this.
Jacqueline will be hosting the October edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to make a soup or salad with ingredients you have on hand. Clean out the fridge, peek into the cupboard to see what staples are available or even pop into the garden to collect some veggies or herbs.

Mung Bean and Vegetable Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
My regular readers may have noticed that posting has been light here at Lisa's Kitchen lately. I hope to be back to my regular cooking habits and hence blogging frequency too. In the meantime, I share this nourishing soup containing one of my very favorite legumes.

Widely cultivated in the Far East and Indian subcontinent, the sad neglect of the bright green mung bean deprives busy cooks elsewhere of a nourishing and time-saving friend. Soaked overnight, mung beans cook in as little as 20 minutes and provide an easily digestible source of protein, dietary fibre as well as thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. Best of all, the mild and slightly astringent taste of mung beans pairs easily with almost any variety of vegetables and spices for simple, wholesome and delicious dishes that form a complete meal when served with rice or other grains.

Use this recipe as a simple template for quick and easy mung bean and vegetable soups, adjusting spices to suit your taste and incorporating your own favourite vegetables at intervals suited to their cooking times. In this case I used three carrots added with the beans at the beginning of boiling, and half a cup of fresh garden peas 5 minutes before finishing. Wholesome, warming and delicious, this mung bean and vegetable soup is thick enough to serve on a bed of rice or on its own in a bowl, and is a satisfying dinner solution when time is a cook's precious commodity.

Asafoetida powder — the ground resin of a fennel-like plant found in Asia — is a pungent spice reminiscent of onions and garlic but far more digestible (many Indians avoid onions and garlic altogether in favour of asafoetida). It is easily found in Indian and Asian grocers, and should be added to hot oil for only a few moments. If you don't have asafoetida, add one clove of minced or crushed garlic with the other spices.

This is my contribution to My Legume Love Affair, one of my favorite events started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Monsoon Spice.
Mung Bean and Vegetable Soup

1 cup dried mung beans
1 to 2 cups chopped vegetables
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Rinse the mung beans under cold running water and soak overnight in a bowl covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups of fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the cayenne and turmeric, and cover. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the beans are soft, stirring occasionally.

If using root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots, add to the pan with the beans and water. Add other vegetables at intervals suited to their cooking times (e.g., after 10 minutes for green beans, after 15 to 20 minutes for corn or peas).

When the beans and vegetables are cooked, remove from heat. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the brown mustard seeds, wait a few moments to let the seeds start to splutter, then quickly stir in the cumin and coriander. Toss in the asafoetida, stir once, then pour the seasonings into the soup. Let the soup sit for a few minutes to let the flavours mingle.

Season with salt to taste, and serve hot or warm. Serves 4.

Other mung bean dishes you may enjoy:
Indian Sour Mung Bean Soup
Mung Bean and Coconut Soup
Mung Bean and Tamarind Dal
West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup

On the top of the reading stack: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Audio Accompaniment: Vibrant Forms II by Fluxion

No Croutons Required - Mediterranean Soups and Salads

The challenge for September was to made a Mediterranean soup or salad. Mediterranean cuisine is rich in flavour and just plain good for you too. As usual, we received some tempting entries. A very special thanks to all who contributed this month. Please vote for your favorite in the comment section or via email. Do note that Jacqueline's entry is not eligible for the vote.

Our very first entry is this colourful Shepherd's Salad from Soma of eCurry. Very easy to make but packed full of flavour and goodness, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot chillies, red onion, fresh parsley and mint are tossed with olive oil and lemon juice and then topped with gorgeous chunks of feta and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve with some flat bread for a most satisfying meal. (Texas, USA)

Next up we have this lovely fusion-style Roasted Beet and Couscous Salad with Spice Feta from Mangocheeks. Homegrown runner beans, green beans, shallots, baby onions and rosemary are combined with cooked couscous, chickpeas, garlic, turmeric, cumin, lemon zest, chilies, fennel and coriander. This delightful dish is then topped with marinated feta cheese. It's certainly easy to see why this is a favorite dish! (Scotland, UK)

From Lysy of Munchkin Mail we have this delightful Italian Chickpea Salad. The mighty chickpea, along with sun-dried tomatoes, green pepper and olives comes together with some sauteed garlic, capers, parsley, red chili flakes and lemon zest. This wonderful creation is then served over some salad leaves. Some of my very favorite flavours are in this highly satisfying salad. (Warwickshire, UK)

Rachel of The Crispy Cook also comes up with a salad for this month's challenge. Inspired by a recipe she found in Food and Wine, Rachel uses some of her homegrown fennel for this Chickpea and Fennel Salad a la Mediterranee. Chickpeas, fennel and celery are dressed with garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, thyme and parsley. Varied textures here make for a very pleasing salad that can be served cold or at room temperature. (Saratoga County, New York, USA)

Joanne from Eats Well With Others enters the challenge with this substantial Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad. Inspired by the fresh basil her Dad has been nurturing, this easy to prepare salad consists of tortellini tossed with a pesto of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil. Robust and comforting! (New York City, New York, USA)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe serves up this sunny Lemony Mediterranean Salad. A salad that would appeal to me anytime of year, lucky Johanna is celebrating Spring. Rocket, artichokes, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled asparagus are tossed with lemon, garlic and olive oil. This would be an ideal salad indeed to enjoy with friends and family. (Melbourne, Australia)

Our first soup submission comes from Priya. She made a truly tempting Harira (a traditional Moroccan Soup). A meal in itself and often served at traditional ceremonies, this bowl of nourishment consists of tomatoes, onion, coriander, parsley, celery, ginger, chickpeas, lentils and some small pasta. Warming and wholesome and definitely a fine addition to any menu. (Paris, France)

Jessica of Fearless Kitchen gets creative and comes up with this Apple, Honeyed Walnut and Paneer Salad. Paneer might not be traditionally Mediterranean, but it's my favorite cheese and it goes so well with everything. This unique salad is made up of apples, toasted walnuts, cardamom, honey, rosewater, shao xing wine, grilled paneer, leafy greens, olives, lemon juice, red onion and olives. (Braintree, MA, USA)

Next up is Allie of Yum in the Tum. In an attempt to use up an excess of produce from the fridge, Allie came up with this refreshing Mediterranean Chopped Salad. Cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, celery, red onion, snap peas, feta and olives are tossed with a dressing of lime, red wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, honey, oregano and olive oil. Allie tells us this is great with left over pizza and I have no doubt about that. (Houston, Texas, USA)

Parita enters the fray with this easy but fulfilling Mediterranean Tomato Soup. The goodness of tomatoes are combined with zucchini, bell pepper, onion, olive oil, paprika, a wee bit of sugar, oregano, basil and some fresh cream. Just the soup to cheer up the tummy and the soul. (Switzerland)

Anshika of Cooking Pleasures offers up this easy but nourishing Taboule Salad that would be a fine addition to any meal. This classic salad is made up of bulgar wheat, lemon juice, fresh mint, parsley, scallions, tomatoes, chickpea sprouts, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The possibilities are endless for this fine creation. (India)

Muskaan of A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine simmers up this pretty and healthy bowl of Carrot, Tomato and Celery Soup. Tomatoes, carrots, celery, coconut milk, fresh basil, asafoetida and cumin make for a tasty meal, especially when served with bread and a salad.

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf serves up this delightful Carrot Macharmal-Moroccan Spiced Carrot Salad. Cooked carrots and garlic are sauteed with olive oil, paprika, cumin and pepper. This tempting salad can be served hot or cold, along with bread, or rolled in some lettuce or cabbage leaves. (Bangalore,India)

Our second last entry is this delicious Greek Salad from Shri of Tasty Touch. A true Mediterranean classic, this version is made up of mixed greens, red onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, pepperoncini and dressed with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. This refreshing salad was served with chana masala with plain rice and mango lassi. (PA, USA)

Our very last submission is from my dear friend and co-host of No Croutons Required, Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. She submits this gorgeous Halloumi Salad with Balsamic Tomatoes. What's not to love about this combination of fried halloumi, potatoes, tomatoes fried in balsamic vinegar dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and whole grain mustard? Served on a bed of lettuce leaves this is one hearty salad indeed. (Scotland, UK)

Jacqueline will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme for October.

Indian Style Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Weekdays are often so demanding that quick and simple one-pots quickly become about the only dinners for which I can muster any enthusiasm during the long stretch. But that enthusiasm is still conditional on providing a nutritious, balanced and delicious meal, and I've been quite taken lately with the idea of substituting puréed white beans for cream in blended vegetable soups to pack an added punch of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

I've already used this idea to wonderful effect in a cream of potato and turnip soup and a white bean cream of asparagus soup, and another opportunity presented itself this week in the form of a large, round and perfectly snowy-white head of cauliflower that I couldn't resist snatching up at the market. Not that an unblemished cauliflower is needed for this recipe — in fact, it's a good way to use up cauliflower that is beginning to wilt and brown, and I'm thinking very much right now of a close friend who regularly buys cauliflower and leaves it until it has to be cooked in a hurry.

Light Indian spicing lends a warm summery glow to this simple and elegant cauliflower soup suggested by a recipe found in Yamuna Devi's Vegetarian Table. The sweet and mild nutty flavour of split urad dal is a perfect complement to the spices and provides a gentle and delightful contrast with the cauliflower. Although available at any Indian grocer, the urad dal can be replaced with yellow split peas in a pinch — simply soak split peas for at least 4 hours instead.

Indian Style Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1/4 cup brown rice
2/3 cup skinless split
urad dal
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
large handful fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

Rinse the brown rice under cold running water and soak overnight in 1 cup of cold fresh water.

Before cooking, thoroughly rinse the urad dal under cold running water and soak for 2 hours covered in several inches of cold water.

Drain the urad dal and add to a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the brown rice with its soaking water and combine with the cauliflower, jalapeños, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, and most of the fresh parsley or coriander. Pour in 6 cups of water, or 4 cups of water and 2 cups of vegetable stock, and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat.

Using a hand blender or in batches in a countertop blender, purée the soup until smooth. Season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

Heat a stainless steel frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the brown mustard seeds and cover. Once the seeds begin to pop, remove from heat and stir into the soup.

Serve right away, or gently reheat. Serve garnished with the remaining parsley or coriander. Serves 6 to 8.

Audio Accompaniment: Vibrant Forms II - by Fluxion

On the top of the reading stack: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Mung and Azuki Beans with Fresh Peas and Spices

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mung and Azuki Beans with Fresh Peas and Spices
Earthy, wholesome and simply comforting, my husband raved about this nourishing dish and encouraged me to share it in this space. Fresh peas are always such a treat and pop delightfully in your mouth when cooked to perfection. Wanting a brief vegan cleanse, I resisted the urge to add paneer cheese — instead, I paired this dish with quinoa with coconut and roasted cashews.

Read this recipe »

Pomegranate & Blueberry Oat Smoothie

Pomegranate & Blueberry Oat Smoothie
It took a couple of months longer than usual but summer finally washed over southwestern Ontario a few weeks back with a familiar wrenching heat and wringing humidity, reducing otherwise healthy appetites and cooking ambitions to a minimum. And while bodily health might be braced under these circumstances with a cold gin and tonic on the patio, a little food value — no matter how reluctant — is still vital for its maintenance.

Oat, yogurt and fruit smoothies present a simple and delicious no-cook solution to stifling temperatures without burdening the appetite. Fermented in good, whole-fat yogurt, blended oats are ready to digest without cooking and provide you with the B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and soluble fat and fiber to get you through a summer day's lazing. And the natural mild nuttiness of oats and the tang of fresh yogurt form a perfect flavor backdrop to the sweet and tasty vitamins and anti-oxidants found in fresh fruit.

Pomegranate & Blueberry Oat Smoothie
In fact, the overnight room-temperature soaking of one part rolled oats and two parts whole-fat yogurt presented here is a one-size-fits-all base for adding any variation of fruits and natural sweeteners to make a thoroughly nutritious and digestible smoothie. This refreshing and nutritious pomegranate and blueberry smoothie was born with plenty of fresh and juicy local blueberries on hand as well as some wonderful samples of pomegranate juice generously provided by POM — a product I'm pleased to endorse both for its taste and for its health benefits.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for August and the Theme for September

The winner of the July Pepper Soup and Salad Challenge is Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen with this lovely and most tempting Sweet Pepper, Feta and Veggie Salad. Congratulations Dee. You certainly had some tough competition!

I will be hosting the September edition of No Croutons Required. As the summer nears to an end and the cooler temperatures begin to set in, my thoughts go toward warmer climates. I've decided the challenge this month is to make a Mediterranean soup or salad. Please recall that this is a vegetarian event, so eggs and cheese are great, but no beef, fish or chicken. A recap of the submission guidelines can be found here.