No Croutons Required - The Winner for May

The challenge for May was to come up with a vegetarian friendly Mexican inspired soup or salad. As usual, we received some wonderful entries, and I would be delighted to try all of the dishes. We do need to crown a winner though, and congratulations to Janet of Taste Space who made this popular Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing. I will certainly be trying this soon. Such a beautiful summer salad!

Jacqueline will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to make a soup or salad featuring zucchini, otherwise known as courgette. Jacqueline is also featuring a giveway to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. Be sure to leave a comment on her post for a chance to win.

Off and On the Trail Bannock

Off and On the Trail Bannock

Bannock is a simple griddle-cooked or pan-fried quick bread that can be made with as little as flour, salt and water fried in fat. As such, it was a popular food among trappers and natives on the move in early Canada. Nowadays it's usually leavened with baking powder, giving it the texture of a dense scone and with the same floury taste. Dotted with raisins and cranberries and seasoned with a little ground cinnamon, bannock is an easy treat to make at home or out on the trail.

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Mixed Lentil Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
As I noted in a previous post, I recently picked up some fresh fenugreek from my local Indian grocery store. Not wanting to waste a big bunch of these delightful leaves, I searched through one of the latest acquisitions to my extensive cookbook collection and made this easy to digest mixed dal dish that I was able to share with friends. It goes especially well with basmati rice. For a real treat, serve with a selection of Indian appetizers, such as samosas, onion bhaji, pakoras and katchoori.
Mixed Lentil Dal

Adapted from "Pure and Simple" by Vidhu Mittal

1/4 cup of whole mung beans
1/4 cup of split mung beans
1/3 cup of chana dal
1/3 cup of toor dal
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 - 3 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of mango powder (amchoor)
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
dash of cayenne
1 cup of fresh fenugreek leaves
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley or cilantro

For the tempering:

1 tablespoon of butter or ghee (or oil)
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder

Soak the mung beans, chana dal, split mung and toor dal in enough water to cover for a few hours. Drain and transfer to a large pot with 2 1/2 cups of water and the turmeric. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the legumes are soft and tender - roughly 30 minutes. Add a bit more water if necessary.

Now add the tomatoes to the pot, along with the ginger, green chilies, mango powder, garam masala, cayenne and fenugreek leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare the tempering: Heat the butter or ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and chili powder. Stir and fry for roughly 1 minute and pour over the cooked dal.

Serves 4 - 5.

More Dal recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Tarka Dal
Urad Dal with Tomatoes
Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Spices and Coconut
Creamy Mung Dal Curry

On the top of the reading stack: Penguin Classics Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoyesvsky

Audio Accompaniment: Substrata V.2 by Biosphere

No Croutons Required - Mexican

I always do enjoy experimenting with various ethnic cuisines and this month the challenge was to make a Mexican-style soup or salad. Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry this month. There are lots of mouthwatering dishes on the menu to try. Please do vote for your favorite in the comment section or via email. Of course, the choice won't be easy, but help us crown a winner for May. Please note that neither my entry nor Jacqueline's is eligible for the vote.

Our first entry is a crimson, spicy Red Chili from Birds Eye View of Food and Laughter. Adapted from Nigella Feasts, this smoky chili features kidney beans, cumin, cocoa powder, coriander, red chili powder, onions, garlic, tomatoes and is topped with cheddar cheese and served alongside salsa and sour cream. She served this for friends along with yoghurt-paneer dip with crudités and hummus with pita bread as appetizers, and a Spanish almond-grape chilled soup. What a delightful feast! (India)

Next up is Sarah from The Ordinary Vegetarian with a hearty Black Bean and Barley Soup that she made to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. This entree soup is made up of onions, garlic, serrano pepper, celery, vegetable stock, barley, thyme, paprika, collard greens, hominy, fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, tomato paste and lime juice. Such flavour in a bowl and certainly a meal all by itself, though I imagine some crusty bread would go along nicely with this lovely soup. (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

MangoCheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen also celebrates Cinco de Mayo and submits this mouthwatering Jalapeños, Coriander and Avocado Pasta Salad. This inspired salad is indeed bursting with flavour. Macaroni, garlic, avocado, spring onions, marinated jalapenos, fresh coriander leaves, and lime juice are sure to please the palate. MangoCheeks served it with a corn and red pepper salsa. I did not know that pasta was a popular ingredient in Mexican cooking. How could I resist this dish? (West of Scotland)

Soma of eCurry graces our plates with Avocado and Mango with Chili, Lime and Pickled Ginger. This elegant and refreshing salad is perfect for warmer weather. Avocados, mangos, yellow tomato, cilantro and pickled ginger are lightly dressed with some fresh lime juice and a sprinkling of chili powder. So simple but a perfect summer meal. For something a little heartier, try adding some black beans or even nuts, as Soma suggests. (Texas, USA)

Barbara of Dish 'n' That enters this month for the first time with a tempting Roasted Mexican Potato Salad with Chipotle-Soy Dressing. Perfect for a picnic or get together, this salad is a mixture of regular and sweet potatoes. Roasted Huckleberry blue potatoes and garnet yams, spring onions and herbs, are sprinkled with fresh lime juice and then combined with a mayonnaise and chipotle adobe sauce. This refreshing salad is then served with fresh slices of avocado and sauteed tortilla strips. Such a impressive presentation too! (Hudson Valley, New York, USA)

Janet of Taste Space is up next with a stunning Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing. If you wish to impress dinner guests or wow your potluck friends, you will not fail if you serve this delightful combination of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, crushed corn chips, cheddar cheese, black beans and green onions, dressed with avocado, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic and olive oil. Simply wonderful. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

For my submission this month, I also decided to make a salad. This Mexican-style Potato Salad is made up of red potatoes, jalapeno peppers, avocado and celery and dressed with sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, chili powder and garnished with green onions and paprika. Add some cilantro if desired. No croutons required indeed. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Jacqueline, my dear friend and co-host of No Croutons Required whips up an easy but tasty Quinoa, Lentil & Bean Salad. Black beluga lentils, quinoa, kidney beans, tomatoes, avocados and fresh coriander are tossed with fresh lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, wholegrain mustard, chili flakes and black pepper. Certainly this is a perfectly balanced meal that would be ideal to serve during the summer months, though I would enjoy it anytime of year. (Scotland, UK)

Nithu enters the fray with this pretty Mexican Carrot Soup. Sauted garlic, cilantro, chili paste and onions, come together with carrots and potatoes and vegetable broth. This blended soup is easy to make, appetizing and good for you too. This soup would be an excellent way to incorporate some veggies with your meal. (New Jersey, USA)

Kirsten experiments with jicama again this month and submits this lovely Corn and Jicama Salad. Crunchy, with a sweet citrus flavour, here corn, jicama, red pepper and jalapeno pepper are marinated with lime juice and cilantro. This would be yet another perfect summer salad and it is so easy to prepare besides. (Los Angeles, California, USA)

From Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf we have this irresistible Mango Chipotle Salsa. Ripe mango, red onion and chopped walnuts are combined with cilantro, lemon juice, chipotles and adobo sauce. Perfect to serve as a side or with nacho chips. Sweatha tells us the first thing you experience is the heat and smokiness of the chilies, followed by the crunch of the walnuts and then the sweetness of the mango. Just yum! (Bangalore,India)

Last, but certainly not least, is this inspired and brilliant Pork-Free Pozole with Red Beans from Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook. Liquefied tomatillos and roasted and ground pepitas are featured with cumin, oregano, epazote, onion, garlic, green serrano chile peppers, red beans, pozole (hominy) and garnished with your choice of (or all) cilantro, shredded cabbage or lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, fried corn tortilla strips, roasted salted pepitas, white onion, avocado, grated cheese, and lime wedges. A beautiful and complete meal in one bowl. (New York, USA)

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

Mexican-Style Potato Salad With Avocado and Jalapeño

Mexican-Style Potato Salad With Avocado and JalapeñoWarm sunny days outside the window remind me that it's time to start enjoying cool creamy potato salads again. And with the deadline for this month's No Croutons Required roundup just days away, it's also a great opportunity to remind readers of this month's Mexican theme with this lovely Mexican-style potato salad With avocado and jalapeño.

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Mixed Berries and Balsamic Vinegar

Ricotta Cheesecake with Mixed Berries and Balsamic Vinegar

Normally I don't indulge in sweets and desserts but I couldn't resist this recipe that I found in the early summer edition of Food and Drink. It was also an opportunity to try out my homemade graham crackers as a base for the cake. There is a relatively small amount of sugar in this cake, but it is rich, so you will want to share with your friends and family, as I did.

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Homemade Graham Crackers
This is a recipe I have been meaning to post since I started my blog. Typically, store-bought graham crackers are rather stale tasting and too crunchy, but the homemade version reminds one of shortbread. I prepared a batch of these in preparation for a mixed berry cheesecake recipe that caught my attention. Even those of my friends who were skeptical about graham crackers were surprised. Easy to make and just plain good on their own, but also a perfect alternative for recipes calling for graham cracker crumbs.

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Once again, I have discovered that my posts have been shamefully copied without my permission on a website, pictures and text and all. I might have to change my rss feed as I am having difficulty figuring out how to change my current one. It is disgusting when you spend so much work documenting your time and someone just lifts it for nothing. Last night I was so upset, I considered deleting my blog and giving up this project that I have built up over the years.

Audio accompaniment: Ben Harper - Oppression

Mung Bean Paneer

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Revisiting an old favorite of mine, via Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi. As usual, I always change recipes and this time was no exception. Creamy mung beans with fried paneer is always an irresistible treat. This recipe is a particularly good one to serve to guests.

Mung Bean Paneer
Do take the extra time to fry up fresh paneer cheese instead of buying the pre-fried cubes. My only regret is that I didn't make my own paneer cheese from scratch.

Mung Bean Paneer
This is my submission to Susan's ever popular monthly event, My Legume Love Affair. This time the dear founder is the host.

Mung Bean PaneerMung Bean Paneer
Recipe by
Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking
Cuisine: Indian
Published on May 6, 2010

An old favorite, creamy sweet mung beans are cooked with tomatoes and spices and served with golden-brown pieces of paneer cheese

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  • 1 1/4 cups dried whole mung beans
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or oil and butter (2 tablespoons if using pre-fried paneer cheese)
  • 8 to 12 ounces (200 - 300 grams) paneer cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango) powder
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 - 3 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 - 5 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
  • Rinse the mung beans and soak for 6 hours or overnight in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and rinse.

  • Bring the 3 1/4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the turmeric, cayenne, paprika, sugar, ginger and 1 tablespoon of the ghee or oil and butter mixture. Add the beans, reduce the heat to low, and partially cover. Gently simmer for 50 to 60 minutes or until the beans are butter-soft but not mashed or broken. Remove from heat.

  • Transfer 1 cup of the beans to a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Return to the pan. Alternately, use a hand blender to mash a small portion of the beans in the pan.

  • If using fresh un-pre-fried paneer, heat 4 tablespoons of the ghee or oil and butter mixture in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. When hot, add the cheese cubes and stir-fry for about 5 to 10 minutes, constantly turning the cubes to brown them evenly on all sides. As they turn crisp and golden, remove with a slotted spoon and drop them into the cooked beans.

  • If using pre-fried paneer cheese cubes, add directly to the pan of cooked beans.

  • Heat the remaining ghee or oil and butter mixture in a frying pan over medium heat. Toss in the cumin seeds and stir for a few minutes or until they turn brown. Add the asafoetida, amchoor powder, garam masala and coriander, and immediately add the tomatoes and fresh chilies. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes turn into a thick paste. Pour the tomato mixture into the beans, then add the yogurt or sour cream, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and gently mix./p>

  • Serve hot or warm.

Makes 6 servings
Mung Bean Paneer
More mung bean recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Mung Bean and Vegetable Soup
Indian Sour Mung Bean Soup
Creamy Mung Dal Curry
Spicy Mung Bean Soup with Coconut Milk

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: A Blessing Of Tears by Robert Fripp

Portobello Mushroom Marinara Sauce

Mushroom Marinara Sauce
I've always wanted to make my own marinara sauce and when I recently found some quinoa pasta, I was inspired to come up with my own version. As tomatoes are rather pricey right now, I sort of cheated and used canned tomatoes instead of the fresh ones that I usually use. Easy to make and a good idea to serve with vegetables, your favorite pasta, tempeh, and of course northeast African millet patties and just plain good enough to eat by the spoonful. Your friends and family will thank you. There is really no comparison between store-bought sauces and homemade ones.

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