No Croutons Required - The Winner for October and the theme for November

Congratulations to Susan of Holly Grove Kitchen for winning the Noodle challenge for October. I can never resist mushrooms and I am excited to try this Mushroom and Noodle Soup.

I will be hosting the November edition of No Croutons Required. This month the challenge is to come up with a soup or salad featuring the mighty quinoa. Known to the ancient Incans as the "mother of all grains," quinoa is not really a cereal grass but is used just like a grain, with the important difference that is contains a food value that no grain can match. With an almost perfect balance of essential amino acids, quinoa is an unusually complete source of proteins in the plant kingdom, and is also a very good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E. And as simple and almost as quick to cook as white rice, the light and fluffy texture and delicately sweet and nutty flavour of cooked quinoa makes it a tasty and healthy alternative in a variety of grain recipes.

Quinoa Pudding

Warm and fragrant steam rising from a gently simmering saucepan of quinoa pudding is really almost as enticing an experience on a cool autumn day as savoring its delicate texture and slightly sweet and nutty flavor in the bowl. Resembling small opaque tapioca pearls swimming in cream, quinoa pudding is just as pretty and easy to prepare as tapioca. And with quinoa's almost perfect amino acid profile as well as bountiful calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E, it's also versatile and wholesome enough to serve as a delicious and nourishing breakfast porridge.

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Black and Yellow Chickpeas with a Coconut Chili Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
My trusted volume of 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer has many post-it notes sticking out from the pages. Excuse me for once again raving about this fabulous book that includes lots of inspired ideas for spice blends, appetizers, paneer dishes, legumes, vegetables, grains and fusion style Indian curries. The introductions to his recipes are informative and highly entertaining. This cookbook is highly recommended from Lisa's Kitchen and it makes a great gift too for cooks that enjoy creative and heart-warming, but often easy to prepare, Indian dishes. Coconut and chilies go so well with the chickpeas and spices in this dish. While the black chickpeas add a nice texture, wholesome regular yellow chickpeas could be substituted instead.
Black and Yellow Chickpeas with a Coconut Chili Sauce

2/3 cup of dried black chickpeas
1/3 cup of dried yellow chickpeas
6 green cardamon pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (roughly 2 - 3 inches long)
4 tablespoons of ghee or a mixture of butter and oil
2/3 cup of dried coconut
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
4 - 6 green chilies, chopped
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
a generous handful of dried curry leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt

Rinse and soak the chickpeas in enough water to cover overnight. Drain, transfer to a large pot and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add the cardamon pods, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cover and reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the chickpeas are tender - roughly 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While the chickpeas are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a frying pan. When hot, add the coriander seeds, coconut and chilies to the pan. Stir and fry until the coconut begins to brown. Transfer to a blender, along with 2/3 cup of water and blend into a paste. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and fry until they turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Add the curry leaves to the pan, stir and remove from the heat.

When the chickpeas are finished cooking, add the coconut paste, mustard and curry leaves and sea salt to the pot. Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and cardamon pods before serving.

Serves 4.
More chickpea recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Chickpeas, Kidney Beans and Lentils with a Spicy Tomato Sauce
Chickpeas and Paneer in a Spicy Creamy Gravy
Chickpeas with Coconut Sauce
Spicy Chickpeas with a Tangy Tomato Glaze

On the top of the reading stack: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Audio Accompaniment: Under the Wood by SYSYPHE (this track pleasantly drowns out the doozers who are yet still making a terrible racket on our street.)

Think Food

Think Food

***Update: Giveaway contest is now closed***

I am excited to announced that one of my recipes was recently published in a new cookbook entitled Think Food published by Posit Science. My Goat Cheese Toasts with Arugula, complete with extra-virgin olive oil, is sure to nourish and please your tummy. This lovely book features recipes from 50 bloggers. Each recipe is accompanied by a professional photo, along with information about the cook who contributed their creation. I am especially delighted to offer my readers an opportunity to receive a copy of this book, at my expense. I will ship anywhere in the world. All you need to do is leave a comment, and I will do a random draw to determine the winner. Comment by November 6th for a chance to receive a copy of this most inspiring book. Do note that this book is not vegetarian, though there are some wonderful options for vegetarians and vegans included.

Think Food

Sautéed Spinach and Cannellini Beans with Balsamic Vinegar

"Mid-week meals" are those fast and simple recipes we all need to cope with weekday hustle and bustle with a minimum of bother but without sacrificing taste and nutrition. And at 15 minutes from scratch if the beans are cooked ahead of time, they don't come much faster or simpler than this one. Sautéed spinach and tender cooked beans sautéed in balsamic vinegar and spices are a delicious way to top off cooked noodles, pasta, rice or polenta for a filling, zesty and wholesome dinner.

Asafoetida powder can be found in any Indian grocer. If you don't have any on hand, substitute a couple of cloves of minced garlic added to the pan before the dried red chili flakes.
Sautéed Spinach and Cannellini Beans with Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, trimmed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with the vegetable stock and and a cup of water, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Drain and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid for cooking noodles if desired.

Heat a large skillet or wok over just less than medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the chili flakes, stir once, then sprinkle in the asafoetida. Quickly add the spinach and sauté until the leaves are just wilted, 3 or 4 minutes.

Turn down the heat slightly, and stir in the beans and balsamic vinegar. Warm throughout for a few minutes longer, then add the salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

Serve hot over noodles, pasta, rice or polenta. Serves 2 to 4.

More Cannellini Bean recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Cannellini Bean and Grape Tomato Salad with Lemon Dressing and Rosemary-Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata
Creamy Cannellini Bean Soup with Jalapeño Gremolata
Cannellini Bean Sauce and Herbed Tomato Sauce over Carrot Rice

On the top of the reading stack: 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra

Audio Accompaniment: Nova

Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Chat Masala

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Chat Masala

Hot, sour and salty, chat masala is a popular northern Indian spice blend that forms a delightful combination with cool or tangy foods like fresh cucumbers or tomatoes. Naturally, it is perfect addition to legume based salads like this Indian-style chickpea salad loaded with both tomatoes and cucumbers, with a little corn and fresh hot chilies for good measure. A colorful, healthy and delicious light lunch or dinner on a hot day or cold day.

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