No Croutons Required - The Winner for June and the Theme for July

The challenge for June was to come up with a vegetarian soup or salad featuring zucchini (or courgette as it is also known as). We received lots of wonderful entries this month and I am certain it was hard to choose a favorite, but a winner we have. Congratulations to Vanessa of Sweet Artichoke who submitted this mouthwatering Zucchini and Lentil Cold Soup. This would be ideal for those hot summer days.

I will be hosting the July edition of No Croutons Required. I'm changing things up this time around. Normally, the theme is vegetarian soups and salads but this month I want to challenge you to come up with a bread recipe that goes well with soups and salads. Quick breads, such as scones, biscuits and muffins, or yeast breads; whatever you think might go well with your favorite soup or salad is welcome. I also encourage you to mention and link to a salad or soup that would go well with your bread creation. I will except entries until the 20th of July.

Quinoa and White Bean Salad with Wasabi and Roasted Asparagus

Sweet, tender and elegant all on its own, the season's first few bunches of fresh local asparagus in my house rarely make it past a quick steaming with a light sprinkling of lemon juice and sea salt. But with a new bunch in hand with every trip to the market, slightly more elaborate preparations soon break up the routine without compromising the simple and modest treatment that so perfectly suits asparagus.

Roasted asparagus and fresh crunchy red bell pepper combine beautifully with the delicate nutty flavour of quinoa and a lively tamari, sesame and wasabi dressing in this colourful summer salad. The addition of white cannellini beans also makes this a complete and wholesome lunch or dinner.

If you don't have powdered wasabi on hand, substitute a lesser amount of cayenne pepper. Tamari sauce, however, is almost a kitchen essential — traditionally brewed from slow-fermented soy beans, it is far superior to anything marketed as just soy sauce, which is typically made with 40-60% wheat as well as quick hydrolyzed soy protein and caramel colouring. Good tamari sauces are wheat-free, contain more digestible proteins, and taste so much better than ordinary soy sauces that you'll never go back. You can find tamari sauces from such reputable suppliers as San-J or Eden Foods at most health food stores and large supermarkets.

This is also my submission to My Legume Love Affair, a very popular monthly event started by lovely Susan and hosted this month by Diana of Spain in Iowa.

Quinoa and White Bean Salad with Wasabi and Roasted Asparagus

Salad:

1 cup dried quinoa
1/2 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
1 bunch fresh asparagus
olive oil for brushing
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, sliced


Dressing:

2 tablespoons tamari sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 - 2 teaspoons wasabi powder, or to taste


Garnish:

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Scrub the quinoa under cold running water. Add to a pan, cover with 2 cups of cold water, and soak overnight at room temperature. Separately, rinse the beans and cover with cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Let stand overnight at room temperature.

The following day, bring the quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans. Add to a medium saucepan and cover with several inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

Preheat an oven to 425°. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and arrange the spears on a baking sheet. Brush each side of the spears lightly with olive oil. Roast the asparagus for 10 minutes, turning the spears over once. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Cut the spears into halves or thirds.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Mix the tamari sauce, sesame oils and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk the wasabi into the dressing, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time to create the desired spiciness.

Gently combine the quinoa, beans, asparagus, red pepper and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss.

Serve cold or at room temperature, with a scattering of toasted sesame seeds over each serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Other asparagus recipes you may enjoy:
Wasabi Roasted Asparagus
Asparagus and Oriental Tamari Dressing with Pine Nuts
Asparagus Pesto Rice
Farfalle Pasta with Cannellini Beans and Asparagus in a White Mushroom Yogurt Sauce

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Rustling leaves, chirping birds and lawnmowers

Cheese-Filled Tortellini with a Spicy Mushroom Sauce

Here is another classic from Raghavan Iyer's indispensable book 660 Curries. This recipe has been adapted from his Contemporary Curries section that includes many inspired vegetarian recipes that are sure to please fans of Indian creations. I'd be willing to sacrifice a lot to actually eat this man's food cooked by his own hands. Thankfully, I was fortunate to come across his book when I used to work at a local branch library. As I have noted before, this treasured cookbook has made a delightful gift on more than a few occasions.

This is a rich meal, but one that you will remember for years afterwords and also one that you will well consider making to wow your dinner guests. I admit I didn't prepare my own fresh tortellini, but it is summer after all, and warm weather in Ontario is too sacred not to enjoy while it lasts.

I am sending this off to Mansi of Fun and Food who is hosting this week's edition of Presto Pasta Nights, a popular food event started by Ruth.
Cheese-Filled Tortellini with a Spicy Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 1/4 pounds of wild mushrooms (I used cremini)
14 grams of dried mushrooms (I used lobster mushrooms)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 - 6 dried red chilies, crumbled
2 1/2 cups of sour cream
1/2 cup of mashed goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
2/3 teaspoons of garam masala
1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 pounds of fresh cheese filled tortellini


Heat the ghee, or butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium - high heat. when hot, add the mushrooms, garlic and chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms shrink and brown and begin to lose their liquid, roughly 10 - 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium low, stir in the sour cream and goat cheese, along with the garam masala and salt. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for roughly 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, reduce the heat to medium - high, and cook until tender. Drain and transfer to a serving dish.

Stir the dill into the sauce and cover the pasta with the mushroom sauce.

Yields roughly 6 servings.

More pasta recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen that you will be sure to enjoy:
Mushroom Marinara Sauce with Quinoa Pasta
Rye Pasta with a Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese with Spinach
Penne with Fennel, Tomato Sauce and Blue Cheese

On the top of the reading stack: Hitch-22: Some Confessions and Contradictions by Christopher Hitchens

Audio Accompaniment: street noise, chirping birds, rustling leaves and a dripping tap

Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies with Carob Chips

Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies with Carob Chips

Inspired by my dear friend Susan who is hosting Sugar High Fridays this month featuring the theme of bar cookies, I went into the kitchen and whipped up this gooey blondie mixture with carob chips. I am not especially smitten with sugar or sweets at this point in time, but many of my gentleman friends appreciate my efforts and how could I fail to disappoint? Of course, I had a few nibbles. Nice moist brownies are always a treat, especially with a cup of tea or — dare I say — a glass of red wine.

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Mixed Berry Cornmeal Muffins

Muffins are a treat anytime of year, and these berry delights were a perfect excuse to take advantage of the exceptionally plentiful harvest this year. I highly recommend using fresh berries rather than frozen ones. The addition of cornmeal adds a wonderful crunch to the moist berries and some fine dark chocolate doesn't hurt either.

Just one bite and you will be hooked!

The warm weather has been too alluring to resist, so posting might be a bit lighter around here for a bit. The landlady's sister has also moved in downstairs with her two sweet little doggies - a very good excuse to go out for walks indeed. And yard work and sunshine beckons besides.
Mixed Berry Cornmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cups of spelt flour or unbleached white flour
3/4 cup of cornmeal
1/3 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of orange zest
1 1/4 cups of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1/3 cup of crumbled dark chocolate
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla


Butter 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Mix in the berries and the chocolate chunks. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Fold into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Divide the dough evenly into the prepared muffin tins. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Leave the muffins in the tin for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool a bit before serving.

Other muffin recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Cherry Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins
Cranberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins

On the top of the reading stack: Hitch-22: Some Confessions and Contradictions by Christopher Hitchens

Audio Accompaniment: There Is No-One What... by the Palace Brothers

Chickpea and Lentil Salad with Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Chickpea and Lentil Salad with Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
This must be one of the tastiest salads I have ever prepared. I was inspired to make it in response to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge. The theme this month is zucchini. I adapted the recipe from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. These gentlemen say this is one of the most popular recipes on their menu, and after making this salad, I can see why. Buttery soft chickpeas and earthy French lentils combine beautifully with fresh crunch vegetables, fresh basil and a sweet tangy sun-dried tomato dressing. The key to a nice crunchy salad is to dice the vegetables to match the size of the chickpeas.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

As promised, here is a recipe I prepared with the most delicious homemade marinated sun-dried tomatoes that I have ever tasted. I adapted it from a vinaigrette recipe that I found in Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. If I ever get a chance to visit New York, I will for sure seek out their café. In the meantime, I can enjoy their informative and colorful book filled with lots of ideas for tarts, soups, sandwiches, salads, condiments, quick breads and cookies. So many helpful hints and amusing musings are included in this volume! Yet another treasured cookbook to add to the growing stack.

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Mexican-Style Kamut Berry, Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Mexican-Style Kamut Berry, Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Kamut is an ancient variety of wheat believed to have originated in ancient Egypt and — as the story goes — only recently cultivated again in modern times after the discovery of a few seeds in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Compared to most wheat, kamut is richer in protein, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids, and is more generally more easily digested and tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities.

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Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
I can never heap enough praise on Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries. A truly indispensable addition to any spice-filled kitchen, this inspired cookbook is consulted weekly and I certainly will be revisiting many of the creations I have tried already. It has also proved to be a well received gift on more than a few occasions.

Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
As I have noted before, this informative and creative book is not strictly vegetarian, but Mr. Iyer includes hundreds of vegetarian-friendly recipes, most of which do not take much trouble to prepare. There is no shortage of ideas for spice blends, pastes, appetizers, paneer, legumes, vegetables and rice. His helpful cooking hints and focus on ingredients is highly instructive. Recently my focus has been on his Contemporary Curries section. If you are looking for dishes to impress your dinner guests, you need look no further. My regular readers will know I can never resist the allure of paneer cheese and this recipe for saffron-Marinated paneer cheese with basil, cashews and pomegranate seeds was simply heavenly. Mr. Iyer describes the dish as "sexy" and humorously notes that even if you don't smoke, "you may well wish for a cigarette" afterwards.

 Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
Recipe by
Adapted from 660 Curries
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 10, 2010

Paneer cheese marinated in a saffron cream, baked, and topped with fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds and roasted cashews

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Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, yogurt or kefir
  • 1 scant teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 - 4 fresh green chilies, seeded and minced
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 14 oz (400 g) paneer cheese, cut into 1-inch thick and 3-inches long narrow strips
  • 3 - 4 scallions, finely chopped (include some of the green tops)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup roasted cashews, crushed into coarse pieces
Instructions:
  • saffron-marinated paneer cheese

    Bring the cream, yogurt or kefir to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle in the saffron, add the salt and chillies, stir, and remove from the heat. Add the paneer and gently stir to make sure the cheese is covered with the creamy marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  • Remove the paneer from the marinade, setting aside the marinade, and transfer the cheese to a greased broiling pan. Broil on the top rack of the oven, turning the paneer every few minutes. Broil until they are golden brown on both sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate.

  • Bring the marinade to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, uncovered, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the scallions, basil and cilantro. Pour the sauce over the broiled paneer and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and roasted cashews.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
Other delightful paneer dishes from Lisa's Kitchen:
Mung Bean Paneer
Massaman Curry
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese
Mattar Paneer

On the top of the reading stack: Elias, Or, the Struggle with the Nightingales by Maurice Gilliams

Audio Accompaniment: Translucence/Drift Music by Harold Budd and John Foxx

Staple Corner: Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes
I'm quite certain I will always have a batch of these freshly marinated sun-dried tomatoes on hand for numerous recipes from now on. I originally found this recipe in Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audereau, a fairly recent addition to my cookbook collection that has quickly become a favorite. I tweaked the recipe a bit in preparation for a bean and zucchini salad that I'm looking forward to trying and will be my submission to this month's No Croutons Required. The rest of the puzzle pieces will be coming soon. In the meantime, just indulge as is, over pasta, or with crusty bread. Use your culinary imagination. The jarred variety pales in comparison. Trust me. A bonus is this recipe is so easy to prepare. It took only 15 minutes to whip together with staple ingredients and this includes the cleanup time.

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Fresh Kamut Flour and Tibetan Campa

One of my favorite food events is Tried and Tasted, started by lovely Zlamushka. Due to time constraints, she has passed the reigns onto Lakshmi of Kitchen Chronicles.

Every month a blog is featured and cooks are encouraged to cook something from the archives and post about it. The founder of the event is the featured blog for this month. There are so many of Zu's recipes that I wished to try, but I finally settled on this Tibetan recipe, as Tibetan cuisine is something I have never experimented with, and I was completely smitten by the idea of using freshly ground flour. Instead of whole wheat berries, I used kamut berries and soaked them overnight, but otherwise I essentially followed the recipe that you can find here. Certainly a unique treat that can be served with a variety of vegetable dishes. I included these delightful little balls with an Indian chili. I am thinking these would be lovely baked in the oven for a short while and they were even better after a chill in the fridge. The flour can be sprinkled on a variety of dishes for some extra crunch as Zlamushka suggests.
Fresh Kamut Flour and Tibetan Campa

To make the fresh flour:

1 cup of whole wheat berries or kamut berries, soaked overnight and then air dried

For the Tibetan campa:

black tea
sea salt
ghee or oil


Begin by making the flour. Dry roast the kamut in a heavy pan over medium heat for roughly 5 minutes, until it darkens a few shades, stirring occasionally. Be sure not to overcook.

Let cool for a bit and then grind to your desired consistency in a coffee grinder.

Combine the flour with a splash of black tea and oil and sea salt. You will want a firm dough, so gradually add the tea and oil. Roll into balls and serve with your favorite vegetable dish or bean dish. I served mine with a spicy chili.

On the top of the reading stack: Short stories by Dostoyevsky

Audio Accompaniment: The ceiling fan in my office

Fiery Deviled Eggs

Fiery Deviled Eggs
One of the tastiest meals my Mom used to make was her famous potato salad that was always accompanied by deviled eggs. I like to spice things up, so I recently made a not so traditional, mayonnaise-free, fiery version to go along with a Mexican Potato Salad for a satisfying summer meal. With the addition of habenaro powder, these eggs are quite spicy, but the egg whites help to balance the heat, and the heat is further tempered if you serve them with potatoes.

Fiery Deviled EggsIf you don't have a piping bag, then a good alternative is to simply cut off a corner of a small ziploc bag. Load the bag with your mixture and squeeze into the egg whites. Thanks to my Dad for this tip. As I have noted in a previous post, you miss out on the fancy nibs that come with traditional piping bags, but you also avoid all the clean up and fuss.

Fiery Deviled EggsFiery Deviled Eggs
Recipe by
Published on June 1, 2010

Spicy, rich and creamy deviled eggs

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Ingredients:
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon habanero powder or crushed chilies
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup sour cream
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish
Instructions:
  • Begin by preparing the eggs. Place the eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cook for a few minutes, remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water.

  • Meanwhile, combine the mustard, habanero powder and cayenne in a medium bowl.

  • Peel the eggs, and cut in half crosswise. Carefully remove the yolks. Press the yolks and the goat cheese through a sieve into the bowl with the mustard. Stir in the sour cream for a creamy mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Spoon or pipe the mixture into the hollow egg whites. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Makes 12 deviled eggs
Fiery Deviled Eggs

Other egg recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Cheddar and Mushroom Shirred Eggs
Asparagus and Feta Cheese Scramble
Fried Egg Sambal
Shakshouka

On the top of the reading stack: Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Audio Accompaniment: After the Long Night/Playing the Game by Loren Auerbach and Bert Jansch