No Croutons Required - The Winner for September

The challenge for September was to make a soup or salad featuring corn. Thanks to all who sent in their delightful creations. The most popular entry this time around was this creative and mouthwatering Corn and Saffron Capuccino from Sweet Artichoke. Congratulations Vanessa.

Jacqueline will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge for October is to make a soup or salad featuring noodles.

Marinated Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Olives

Marinated Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Olives

Of all the "little foods" of the eastern Mediterranean "meze" tradition, hummus has always been a favorite choice of mine not only for entertaining friends but also for simple and convenient light meal solutions. The simple background of ground chickpeas lends itself to adaptation to many varieties of spices and flavorings, making it one of the most versatile of foods in the vegetarian kitchen. So for me, it's another opportunity to make use of my favorite marinated sun-dried tomato recipe, which I've already put to good use in this delicious vinaigrette and in this rich and wonderful pasta sauce. And how could I resist including olives?

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No Croutons Required - Corn

The challenge for September was to come up with a soup or salad featuring corn. If you enjoy this staple vegetable, you will be delighted with the entries we received this month. Of course, it will be difficult to pick a favorite, but please do vote for your favorite entry via email, or leave a comment. Do note that my submission is not eligible for voting.

Our first entry comes from Cathy of What Would Cathy Eat? She offers up this delicious summer Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad. Cathy quotes Da Vinci, noting that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". This easy to prepare salad is made up of raw sweet corn, tomatoes, red onion, lemon juice and olive oil. Simply toss it all together. How easy is that? (Brooklyn, NY, USA)

Next up is Sadie of So Many Veggies, So Little Time with this tempting Smokey Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes and Baby Spinach. Sadie used corn cobs to make a stock for this chowder that consists of corn, onion, carrots, sweet potato, potato, red pepper, a dash of creole seasoning, black pepper, cornstarch, milk, gouda cheese, spinach and some smoke flavoring. Such a healthy bowl of nutrients, and you can throw in any veggies you happen to have on hand. (Deep South, USA)

Aine of Pea Soup Eats submits this tried and tested Sweetcorn Chowder that has become a staple in her kitchen. Blended together are sweetcorn, onion, cumin, milk and salt and pepper to taste. This versatile recipe is sure to please the pickiest of eaters, including children. Garnish with parsley or some finely chopped onion if desired. (UK)

Mango Cheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen serves up this mouthwatering Spiced Tamarind (Imli) Corn Soup that brings back fond childhood memories. Sweet corn, onion, romano pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, tamarind, and vegetable stock are pureed for a burst of flavour. This certainly would be enjoyable with some cornbread. (West of Scotland, UK)

Vanessa of Sweet Artichoke contributes an inventive and exciting Corn & Saffron Capuccino. Corn is combined with urad dal, cream, espelette chili, veggie stock and then garnished with saffron infused in cream. What a lovely dish to serve your guests or to just indulge in on your own. Vanessa notes you can replace the urad dal with potatoes, though I am especially smitten with the idea of urad dal in this dish. (Switzerland)

Megha of Live to Eat weighs in with this recipe for Mixed Baby Corn and Cinnamon Salad. Crunchy baby corn is tossed with sprouted beans, gherkins, green olives, tomatoes, celery, cinnamon, basil, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Megha loves corn and this is certainly a salad that would fill out a meal and it is easy to prepare too. (India)

Denise of Oh Taste n See enters the fray with this spicy and warming Chipotle Corn Tomato Soup. How could I resist this blended combination of corn, onion, carrot, garlic, stewed tomatoes, chipotle chilies, Adobo sauce, turmeric, paprika, thyme, oregano, tomato paste and milk. (Seattle, USA)

Our next entry is from Akheela, who blogs at Torviewtoronto. This most tantalizing Corn and Vegetable Salad includes corn (grilled or boiled), onion, tomatoes, red pepper, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. For a variation, you might want to consider adding other vegetables or fruit, such as avocado. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Satyasree of Super Yummy Recipes is up next with her Sweet Corn Bell Pepper Soup. This creamy and healthy soup is sweet and just plain good for you. This smokey soup is made up of sweet corn, bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, milk, corn flour, pepper, parsley, and a wee bit of sugar. Such a lovely Autumn soup. (Minneapolis , MN, USA)

Tanvi of Sinfully Spicy cooks up this amazing Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro-Tamarind Dressing. This most satisfying salad is made up of husked grilled white corn, ripe avocado, sliced roma tomatoes, red onion, lettuce and dressed with olive oil, lime zest, tamarind, chili powder, a bit of sugar, cumin, coriander, salt and black pepper. A perfect accompaniment to any meal if you want to spice it up a bit. (Las Vegas NV, USA)

Our next entry is courtesy of Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf with her fine Curried Corn Salad. Fire roasted corn is tossed with bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes. Add lemon juice, chili powder and curry powder and garnish with cilantro or parsley for a most appetizing soup. Chat masala would also be nice alternative to curry powder. (Bangalore, India)

My dear friend Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook cooks up a special Asian inspired Japanese Corn Cream Soup. This comforting bowl of delight would grace any table. Here we have yellow onion, veggie broth, cream, and corn all blended together. Garnish with green onion and/or deep-fried lotus root slices for a real culinary treat. (New York, USA)

I am pulling a favored recipe from the archives this month. This recipe for Tomato Corn Chowder, inspired from a local Mexican restaurant, is made up of onion, garlic, corn, tomato, hot peppers, spices and herbs (cayenne, turmeric, cumin, mustard powder), fresh lemon juice, tomato juice and cream. I could not resist sharing this again. (London, Ontario, Canada)

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

Arborio Rice Pudding

Milk, rice and honey — and only just the littlest bit of time and attention — are almost all you need to make one of the great comfort foods, warm rice pudding. Delicious at any time of year, rice pudding is gentle on the stomach with plenty of easy-to-digest nutrition, so it is also good choice to serve to those under the weather.

Thick and plump, unwashed arborio rice has a higher starch content than ordinary rice and creates an especially rich and creamy pudding. If you don't have arborio rice, other short-grained white rices will work as well.
Arborio Rice Pudding

4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup arborio rice
3-inch piece cinnamon stick
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh berries, dried fruit or chopped nuts for serving

Place the milk, rice, cinnamon and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan, until the rice is soft and creamy. Stir in the honey and remove from heat.

Stir in the vanilla and remove the cinnamon stick. Pour into bowls, and serve warm garnished with fresh berries, dried fruit or chopped nuts as desired. Serves 4 to 6.

More pudding recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Cherry Pudding
Lemon Sponge Pudding
Blueberry Raspberry Pudding Cake

On the top of the reading stack: Some Points in Between... Up Till Now by Robert Polidori

Audio Accompaniment: Marsen Jules

Wild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Wild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad Dal
Modern Spice by Monica Bhide is quickly becoming a favored cookbook in my kitchen. And best of all, Ms. Bhide includes lots of recipes for paneer cheese! I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while now, but better late than never. The first time I made it, the pictures turned out muddy, so I was loath to share until I could properly capture this pretty dish.

I served this delightful dish with Indian-Style Beet Salad with a Yogurt Dressing, also inspired by Modern Spice.

Wild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad DalWild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad Dal
Recipe by
Adapted from Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen
Cuisine: Indian
Published on September 9, 2010

An extraordinary and colorful spiced wild mushroom and rice pilaf served with golden brown fried paneer cheese — a modern-style Indian classic

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  • 1/2 oz (14 grams) dried wild mushrooms
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup urad dal without skins
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 3 cups fresh wild mushrooms (portobello, oyster, cremini or shiitake), sliced
  • 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder or crushed dried red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 14 oz (400 grams) paneer cheese, cubed
  • handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, chop the mushrooms, and set aside.

  • Rinse the rice and urad dal and soak in 2 1/2 cups of water as well as the mushroom soaking water for 20 minutes.

  • Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and stir and fry for 5 minutes. Increase the heat slightly and add the dried mushrooms and fresh mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid and the liquid evaporates.

  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the green chilies, turmeric, cayenne, chili powder, coriander and fenugreek. Stir in the rice and urad dal with their soaking liquid, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the paneer cheese and fry, stirring often, until the paneer is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon.

  • Fluff the rice and mushrooms with a fork. Transfer to serving plates, top with the fried paneer cheese, and garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Makes 4 - 6 servings
Wild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad Dal
Other recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Paneer Mushroom Masala
Shredded Paneer with Tomatoes, Chilies, Mushrooms and Chickpeas
Chickpea Vindaloo

On the top of the reading stack: Great Masters: Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian

Audio Accompaniment: Laughing Stock by Talk Talk

An Interview

I was recently contacted by Kira who runs Pasta Recipes by Italians. If you enjoy pasta, this is the site to go to. Lots of recipes and information about pasta in general. She requested an interview with me and I was more than happy to take part. Thanks to Kira for this opportunity to talk about my blog and cooking.

Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Chat Masala Powder ( Chaat Masala )

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Homemade Chat Masala (Chaat Masala) Powder
Chat (or chaat) masala is a very popular spice blend in northern India where it is often tossed with fruit or chickpeas to make simple "chat" snacks sold by street vendors. While there are dozens if not hundreds of recipes for chat masala, dried mango or amchoor powder and black salt are essential ingredients — these are combined with various seeds and spices to create a wonderfully hot, sour and salty mixture that is absolutely delicious with cool or tangy foods. Chat masala is a favorite of mine when sprinkled on fresh tomatoes or hard-boiled eggs, or incorporated into summer salad dressings. If you haven't tried chat masala already, you will be in for a treat.

Good pre-blended and packaged chat masalas are always available in Indian grocers, but making your own is always a preferred option for freshness and for experimenting with flavors — besides which, it only takes minutes to prepare a batch that will keep for months. This recipe comes from Yamuna Devi's indispensible treasury of authentic Indian cooking, Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Mango powder, black salt — also known as rock salt — garam masala and asafetida are also available at Indian grocers.

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No Croutons Required - the Winner for August and the Challenge for September

The challenge for August was to make a soup or salad featuring the mighty carrot. As usual, we received some appetizing submissions and congrats to Sweet Artichoke who won the August edition with this most delicious and healthy Carrot, Cashew and Coconut Soup. Some of my favorite flavours are in this delightful bowl of soup.

I will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. For September, the theme is corn. Make a soup or salad with corn as the shining ingredient. I will except entries until the 20th of September.