No Croutons Required - The Winner for March

The challenge for March was to make a soup or salad with the treasured chickpea, otherwise known as the garbanzo bean. We received lots of tempting entries, but the favorite was Jenny's salad made with fresh chickpeas. What a treat! How lucky Jenny was to find some a rare delight. Congratulations Jenny.

Jacqueline will be hosting the April edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge for this month is to come up with a soup or salad featuring the allium family. Choose from onions, shallots, leeks, spring onions, garlic or chives.

Greek Macaroni and Cheese

Greek Macaroni and Cheese

Peter is always an inspiration for authentic Greek food, and I finally got around to making his Greek Macaroni and Cheese for a precious lady friend of mine. As usual I tweaked the recipe a bit, but a big thanks to Peter for the inspiration. I served this with jalapeño and Cheddar scones for an especially cheesy meal. Soon it will be time to go vegan for a few days to cleanse myself of all of these rich dinners! Spring can't come soon enough.

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Black Mustard Seed Rice

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
This is a spicy rice dish and it paired well with a Spicy Lentil Rasam (coming soon). It has been a while since I have shared a spiced up grain dish in this space, but better late than never. Grains such as rice, millet and quinoa really never need embellishments, apart from some butter and tamari perhaps, but it is always just fine to experiment. The birds are chirping. I think spring is finally here. What a delight to get out for some walks after this long winter of global freezing.
Mustard Seed Rice (Kadugu Sadam)

Slightly adapted from Dakshin

1 cup of Basmati rice
1/4 cup of raw cashews
1 teaspoon of sea salt, or to taste

For the Paste:
1 tablespoon of black mustard seeds
1/2 cup of dried coconut
4 - 6 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida powder
roughly 1 inch piece of tamarind
1/4 cup of water

For the Tempering:
1 tablespoon of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
3 teaspoons of ural dal, rinsed
2 dried red chilies, broken into bits
a handful of dried curry leaves

Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold running water and let sit for an hour or more in two cups of water. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid and air dry for 30 minutes in a fine-meshed strainer, tossing now and then to bring the moist grains to the surface. Transfer the soaking liquid to a medium large pot, along with the rice, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed - about 15 minutes. Set aside.

To make the paste, put the mustard seeds, coconut, red chilies, turmeric, asafoetida powder and tamarind in a food processor or blender with the water. Blend into a smooth paste, adding a bit more water if necessary. Set aside.

For the tempering, heat the ghee or butter and oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, red chilies and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to sputter and pop. Add the raw cashews to the pan and stir and fry until they begin to brown - roughly 3 - 5 minutes. Now add the paste and salt to the pan, stir and fry for another few minutes. Add to the cooked rice and toss until well combined.

Serve with a cooked dal such as Spicy Lentil Rasam.

Serves 4 - 5. Just yummy.

More rice suggestions from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Lemon Rice with Toasted Cashews
Indian Lemon Brown Rice
Tamarind Rice
Coconut Rice

On the top of the reading stack: Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist

Audio Accompaniment: Quiet Music by Steve Roach

Light and Creamy Ricotta Pancakes

Light and Creamy Ricotta Pancakes
Ricotta cheese lends delicious warmth and creaminess to make these pancakes a perfect way to greet a cool early spring morning. Light and fluffy besides, a thorough and patient beating of the egg whites with an electric hand mixer is essential … I still can't quite believe that I used to beat egg whites by hand with a whisk, but it is good exercise for the arm.

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No Croutons Required - Chickpeas

The mighty chickpea is a favorite in the homes of many vegetarians I know. The challenge this month was to come up with a vegetarian soup or salad featuring this most treasured legume. The garbanzo bean. There are lots of scrumptious entries this month and I will be going back to these entries time and time again. Thanks to all who sent in their lovely recipes. As usual, the choice won't be easy, but please vote for your favorite in the comment section or via email. Please note that neither my submission nor Jacqueline's is eligible for the vote.

Our very first entry is this delightful Creamy Garbanzo-ball and Wild Rice Soup from Sarah of The Ordinary Vegetarian. Inspired by some short grain black rice, Sarah included it along with carrots, celery, onion, peas, garlic, thyme, parsley, rice milk and tofu. Of course the soup would not be complete without some scrumptious fried chickpea balls made up with some tahini, herbs and some chickpea flour to bind with the cooked garbanzos. (Aurora, IL, USA)

Next up is PJ of Seduce Your Tastebuds with a satisfying Harira Moroccan Lentil and Tomato Soup. Chickpeas, lentils, vermicelli rice, onions, tomato, ginger, cinnamon and coriander come together with a Tadouria made up of flour, tomato paste, lemon juice and coriander leaves. I would certainly to be happy to have a bowl of this flavourful soup! (India)

Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs submits this lovely Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad. Simple to prepare, and very tempting to consume at one sitting, browned chickpeas and artichoke hearts are dressed with olive oil, lemon, basil, oregano and garlic, and then garnished with some chopped almonds. Who ever said simplicity could not be elegant too?! (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Jenny of Southern Fried Curry presents us with a real treat! Fresh Chickpeas, which I have never had. She dressed these little delights with a bit of sea salt, some olive oil, lemon juice and crumbled feta. Certainly a treat and fun for her little girl too who helped shell the fresh beans that Jenny describes as a bit nutty like cooked dried chickpeas, but are also sweet, a bit like peas or edamame. (Georgia, USA)

Sayantani who keeps A Homemaker's Diary is up next with this gorgeous Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Roasted Potatoes. This hearty salad is made up of chickpeas, roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cottage cheese (or feta), carrot, french beans, cucumber, onion, cabbage, olives and dressed with garlic, coriander, olive oil, lime juice, cumin seeds and harissa. This salad is just packed full of flavour and good for you too! (India)

Next up is Janet of Taste Space with a stunning Chickpea and Spinach Salad with Cumin Dressing and Orange Yogurt Sauce. Baby spinach is topped with a combination of chickpeas, cumin, mint, onion and parsley. Then a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne covers the chickpeas and and finally a yogurt orange sauce mixed with a bit of honey is poured on top. This salad would be sure to impress your dinner guests. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Ivy of Kopiaste enters the fray with a creamy Revithosoupa (Greek Chickpea Soup) that she describes as simple but most delicious, especially if you use Greek olive oil. Chickpeas here star with mashed potato, onion, olive oil and some lemon juice. Pure comfort food, especially if served with some crusty bread. (Athens, Greece)

Soma of eCurry celebrates the warm sunny weather with this delightful Roasted Artichokes Chickpeas & Garlic Salad with Lemon & Sesame. A perfect choice for artichoke fans, here they are paired with roasted chickpeas and garlic and dressed with a bit more garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper, lemon juice and zest, sesame seeds and some sesame oil. What a delightful lunch this salad would make. ((Plano, Texas, USA)

Up next is Deepti of A Hint of Spice with this Falafel Inspired Soup. This comforting soup combines chickpeas, garlic, onion, cumin, cardamon, turmeric, vegetable stock, fire roasted tomatoes and is served with yogurt and warm pita breads. Very warming and soothing. (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

Kirsten of From Kirsten's Kitchen to Yours gets creative and decides to make a Mediterranean Style Chick Pea, Kale and Tomato Soup instead of the hummus she usually makes with chickpeas. This "kitchen sink" creation includes chickpeas, kale, carrot, onion, shallots and roasted tomato sauce. Sounds pretty fine to me! (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe made three chickpea salads this month, but decided to submit this tempting Chickpea, Vegetarian Sausage, Pumpkin and Greens creation in celebration of St. Patrick's day. Chickpeas, grilled vegetarian sausages, pumpkin, tomatoes, a few mushrooms, spring onion, a handful of fresh basil, some parsley and chives are dressed up with yogurt, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and some mustard. Lots of flavour in this lovely green salad. (Melbourne, Australia)

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf submits a simple but tasty Chilled Chickpea and Everything Salad. Chickpeas, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and cucumber are dressed with basil, mint and lemon juice. Sweatha tells us you can add whatever you have on hand to this salad and suggests pasta, paneer and lightly cooked vegetables and nuts. Certainly this is a good standby recipe! (Bangalore, India)

My own entry this month is a Chickpea Salad with Goat Cheese, Olives and Arugula. My favorite legume is here combined with goat cheese, olives, onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, fresh lime juice, paprika, cayenne and chili powder and served over fresh arugula. Serve along with crusty bread for a satisfying lunch or dinner. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook submits this nourishing yet simple Chickpea and Pasta Soup. This colourful soup includes not only chickpeas and pasta, but also garlic, rosemary, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and chili flakes. Susan tells us this soup is perfect if you don't feel like cooking but don't want to sacrifice flavour or nutrition. Just lovely! (New York, USA)

Next up is Maninas of Food Matters. For our event, she was inspired to make a gorgeous warm Sri-Lankan-style Chickpeas Salad. Bursting with flavour, chickpeas come together here with caramelised shallots, green chili, brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric, coconut, fresh lime juice and some fresh coriander leaves. I think this one will quickly become a favorite in my kitchen. (United Kingdom)

From Lubna of Yummy Food we have a beautiful and colourful Chickpea Soup. Inspired by Vegetarian Bible, soft and buttery chickpeas are cooked in a spicy tomato gravy with garlic, onion, fresh coriander and lemon wedges. This would be enjoyable anytime of year, especially when served with crusty bread or rice. Simply yummy! (Bangalore, India)

Jacqueline, my dear friend and co-host of No Croutons Required, submits this lovely and nourishing Warming Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup. This warming bowl of nutrients is made up of chickpeas, red lentils, garlic, onion, carrots, cumin and vegetable stock. I truly wish I lived next door to Jacqueline! Perfect creation as always. (Scotland, United Kingdom)

Our final entry is from Aqua of Served with Love. She serves up this mouthwatering Sweet Potato and Chickpeas Chaat. This Indian inspired dish combines chickpeas, sweet potatoes, fresh coriander, chilies, onion, chat masala, cumin and fresh lemon juice. I just adore Indian dishes like this one. Aqua tells us it makes a fine evening snack. I would enjoy this anytime of day. (Singapore)

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

Chickpea Salad with Goat Cheese, Olives and Arugula

The theme for this month's No Croutons Required challenge is chickpeas. As warmer weather is finally upon us here in London, Ontario, I decided to make a salad rather than a soup. I do enjoy soup year round, but I wanted to celebrate the sunny weather with a Mediterranean style dish. Easy to prepare, but packed full of flavour, this salad will be on the menu again for sure. I do recommend you use top quality olives and goat cheese. Feta could be used instead of goat cheese if desired, though I rather enjoyed the creamy texture of the goat cheese.
Chickpea Salad with Goat Cheese, Olives and Arugula

1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (roughly 2/3 cup dried beans)
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of finely chopped fresh garlic
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 small tomatoes, chopped
generous half cup of pitted kalamata olives
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
Juice from 1 lemon or 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon - 1 teaspoon of paprika
dash of cayenne
dash of chili powder
a few handfuls of arugula (rocket)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, transfer to a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the chickpeas are buttery soft - roughly one hour. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and begins to brown.

While the onion is cooking, combine the chickpeas (garbanzo beans), parsley, goat cheese, olives, tomatoes, paprika, cayenne, chili powder and lime juice in a large bowl. Set aside.

Add the garlic to the pan with the onions and stir and fry for about one minute.

Remove from the heat and mix into the chickpea salad. Add sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste and a bit more olive oil if desired.

Serve over fresh arugula leaves, along with some crusty bread for a very satisfying lunch or dinner.

Other chickpea creations from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Hummus with Goat Cheese
Chickpeas and Paneer in a Spicy Creamy Cashew Gravy
Scrambled Chickpea Flour with a Fiery Red Chili Paste
Chickpea and Brown Rice Patties

On the top of the reading stack: Thai and South-East Asian Food & Cooking by Deh-Ta Hsiung, Becky Johnson and Sallie Morris

Audio Accompaniment: Mark Hollis

Jalapeño Cheddar Scones

Jalapeño Cheddar Scones

Biscuits and scones are a big favorite in my household and I am always on the lookout for new ideas. Regular readers will know I like some spice in my life and so I immediately bookmarked this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I have so many bookmarked recipes and cookbooks and never can seem to keep up, but I am certainly glad I baked up these little delights. I served these delicious scones with a cheesy Greek mac and cheese dish.

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Late Night Peanut Butter and Vanilla Ice Cream Treat

I admit I did not make my own ice cream, but this was an inspired late night creation that turned out even better than I expected.

Drop a spoonful each of natural peanut butter and raw honey over a couple of scoops of real vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, and top with a drop or two of real vanilla extract and a scattering of your favorite variety of granola.

On the top of the reading stack: Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan

Audio Accompaniment: Arc of Passion by Steve Roach

Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Spices and Coconut

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
This soupy, yet creamy curry is very easy to digest and was inspired from 660 Curries, a favoured book that I always browse through when I am looking for a simple, but tasty meal solution. As I have noted before, this cookbook is not vegetarian, but there are tons of creative vegetarian recipes, including ideas for appetizers, spice blends, egg curries, vegetables, legumes, rice and breads. Since I have been eating a lot of dishes with cheese lately, I wanted a vegan meal to cleanse the soul. Serve with basmati rice or Indian flat bread for a complete and satisfying dinner.
Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Spices and Coconut

Adapted from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer

1 cup of split urad dal, without skins
3 cups of water
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 inch piece of tamarind
2 tablespoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
5 green chilies, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
5 dried red chilies, crumbled
1 teaspoon of amchoor powder
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1/3 cup of dried coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
a generous handful of dried curry leaves

Soak the tamarind pulp in 1 cup of very hot water for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. Strain the liquid into a bowl with a fine-meshed strainer, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of the tamarind pulp. Discard the pulp and set aside the liquid.

Soak the coconut in hot water for 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

Wash the urad well in a strainer. Transfer to a large pot, along with 3 cups of water, the turmeric and the tamarind water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the urad dal is tender - roughly 20 minutes.

While the urad dal is cooking, heat the ghee or butter and oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and stir and fry for a minute or so. Now add the chilies, garlic, ginger, cayenne and amchoor powder and stir and fry for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the cocount, salt and curry leaves. Simmer until the mixture is thickened - about 5 minutes. Pour into the cooked dal, stir and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more water if needed.

Serves 4 - 5

More urad dal recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Urad Dal with Tomatoes
Fennel Flavoured Urad Dal Soup
Savory Rice and Urad Dal Pancakes

On the top of the reading stack: The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism by Theodore Dalrymple

Audio Accompaniment: Multila by Vladislav Delay

Ricotta Dumplings with Best-Ever Mushroom Sauce

Ricotta Dumplings with Best-Ever Mushroom Sauce

These not-quite-traditional dumplings made with ricotta and Parmesan cheese are creamy, filling, and just plain comfort food. Top them off with a batch of my "best-ever mushrooms sauce" — which is always better than I remember — and you've got a delicious dinner that is an improvement on tradition, as far as I'm concerned! I really could eat the sauce just all on its own, but the dumplings are a serious update — dare I say improvement — on tradition. I have served this sauce with plenty of foods, including scalloped potatoes, black-eyed pea and quinoa croquettes and fresh pasta. It is one of my favorite staple sauces and a big hit with everyone who has tried it.

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Chickpeas and Paneer in a Spicy Creamy Cashew Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Chickpeas and Paneer in a Spicy Creamy Cashew Gravy
I was browsing through the starred items in my Google Reader the other day and came across this mouthwatering creamy chickpea and paneer dish from Sunita's Kitchen that I have been meaning to make for quite a while now. I usually visit my friend Basil on Saturday night and as he loves paneer as much as I do, I decided it was time to make this delicious-looking dish. As usual, I have modified the original recipe somewhat to suit my own preferences. Thanks for the idea Sunita!

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Massaman Curry with Paneer Cheese

Massaman Curry with Paneer Cheese

I was inspired to cook this curry for the January edition of No Croutons Required. The theme was Thai soups and salads, and I contributed a hot and sour mushroom soup. To go along with the meal, I also prepared this massaman curry with golden brown fried paneer cheese and using a fresh homemade massaman curry paste. I spent many hours in the kitchen that day, as I also made my own nam prik pow sauce to go into the mushroom soup. It was certainly worth the effort and the meal was enjoyed with friends.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for February and the Theme for March

The theme for February was to recreate a soup or salad from a restaurant that made a lasting impression. The winner of the copycat round is Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe with this lovely and filling Parsnip Soup with Walnut Ravioli and Carrot Cream. Johanna based her soup on a dish served at David Bann's located in Edinburgh. Congratulations Johanna!

I will be hosting the March edition of No Croutons Required. The theme for this month is chickpeas because chickpeas are probably my favorite legume and I can never get enough recipes ideas for the treasured garbanzo bean. Create a vegetarian soup or salad featuring chickpeas and send me your entry by the 20th of March.