No Croutons Required - The Winner for May

The winner for May's Asparagus challenge is Caffettiera of La Caffettiera Rosa who entered this exotic and unique Asparagus Cappuccino with Cinnamon Air. An irresistible creation indeed. Congratulations to Caffettiera as the competition was tough as usual.

Jacqueline will be hosting the June edition of No Croutons Required. The theme this month is the grill. Grill or roast some ingredients to include in a vegetarian soup or salad.

Dried Cherry Scones

Quite by accident, and a happy one at that, I happened across Sarabeth's Bakery and not able to resist yet another cookbook to add to my extensive collection, immediately ordered a copy. Oh my! I was delighted to receive this gorgeous cookbook. Yes, this could be a tantalizing coffee table book as the photography is stunning and the reading most instructive. But what would a good cookbook be without perfect recipes? Inspired and accomplished bakers will treasure this collection of tried and tested creations. Pastries, muffins and biscuits, breads, cakes, pies and tarts, cookies, desserts, frostings, fillings and sauces and so much more are featured. Step by step images are often included and you can be sure you will become a master chef in your own kitchen if you follow the procedures.

As I enjoy savory quick breads, the first recipe I tried and adapted was Currant Scones. I substituted dried cherries for the currants, but otherwise followed the instructions. Moist inside, crunchy on the outside, serve with jam, butter, or just nibble and enjoy. They also go well with soup.

Dried Cherry Scones

3/4 cup of whole milk
2 large eggs
3 cups of unbleached white flour (I used spelt flour)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
a sprinkle of ground nutmeg
10 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup of dried cherries
1 large egg, beaten, for glazing

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Cut the butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter or knife and fork until it is reduced to small crumbs. Mix in the dried cherries.

In a small bowl, beat together the milk and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and eggs. Stir until just combined.

On a floured surface, knead the dough gently until it comes together. Carefully roll the dough into a 3/4 inch thick round. Flour a sharp cookie cutter (roughly 2 - 2 1/2 inches) and cut the scones and transfer to the prepared baking sheet leaving an inch or more between each biscuit. Gather up the remaining dough and repeat.

Brush the top of the scones with the beaten egg and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown for about 20 minutes. Cool on the pan for a few minutes and then serve warm or at room temperature.

Yields 12 - 15 scones.

More scone recipes you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Apple Cheddar Scones
Jalapeno Cheddar Scones
Cranberry Coconut Milk Scones
Cheddar Parmesan Scones with Dill

On the top of the reading stack: Food and Drink

Audio Accompaniment: Vladislav Delay

Beetroot Palya

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe

This colorful, sweet and gently spiced beetroot palya — or poriyal — is adapted from a newly acquired cookbook that I absolutely adore. I give the nod to Yogi Kitchen for recommending "Mysore Style Cooking: The Secret Recipes of Mysore, India" by V. Sandlhya. Beautifully illustrated, strictly vegetarian and inspired by her families well guarded recipes, Sandhya has a home-based restaurant where she serves yogis. If you want to learn about the healing food that comes from the region of Mysore, this is the book to get. Lots of ideas for legumes, grains, salads, vegetables, spice powders, breads, raitas and chutneys, and sweets. Most of the recipes are vegan friendly too. Though I wish I could visit her home, I am happy to have a chance to recreate some of her delicious and nourishing recipes. I am excited to learn more about South Indian cooking.

I find her mantra inspiring too: "Your thoughts will go into the food you cook. As you grind the paste or knead the dough you must be aware of your thoughts. Be calm and happy and your food will pass this on to your guest."

Read this recipe »

Tamarind Chickpeas

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Tamarind Chickpeas

One of the great delights of discovering Indian cooking at home is finding an astonishing array of new and exciting ingredients never seen in our mothers' kitchens. New spice blends add a tantalizing fragrance in our cupboards and challenge our culinary habits. One of my favorite Indian ingredients is the pulp of the tamarind fruit, widely used in south Indian cooking. Versatile and easy to use, the refreshing slightly sour and sweet tang of tamarind tempers the heat of chilies and adds a wonderful extra layer of flavor to spicy dishes, as well as a lovely aroma that prepares the senses for an extraordinary dining experience.

Even before adding the tamarind in these lovely Indian-style chickpeas, the scent of nigella and fennel seeds being lightly fried in olive oil is almost indescribably inviting and makes the preparation of this dish seem as rewarding as eating the final product. Nigella seeds, also known as "kalonji" or black onion seeds, are easily found in any Indian grocer, as are tamarind paste or dried tamarind pulp.

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No Croutons Required - Asparagus

The challenge for May was to come up with a soup or salad featuring asparagus to celebrate Spring. We received some lovely entries. Please do cast your vote in the comment section or via email. Please note that Jacqueline's entry is not eligible for voting.

Our first entry this month is from Akheela of Torview. This lovely Asparagus Potato Soup is made up of asparagus, sauteed onions, garlic, cubed potatoes, cream, salt and pepper and a pinch of cumin. A wonderful texture we are told and easy to make and it goes well with bread. How could I resist? (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Next up is Janet of Tastespace with this tempting and creative Asparagus, Strawberry and Basil Salad with Mosto Cotto. Such a lovely presentation, this salad is made up of shelled edamame, steamed asparagus, fresh basil, strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and added to a bed of baby spring mix. I bet feta cheese would go well with this salad. Colorful and just plain good for you. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Mango cheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen submits this mouthwatering Asparagus and Radish Pasta Salad. Such a touching post, we have asparagus, radish - cut into heart shapes, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil and white wine vinegar. Just yum. (West of Scotland)

Next up is Astra of Food and Laughter with this dish that contains both mushrooms and asparagus. Such goodness is combined here. Her Warm Asparagus Salad with Portabella Mushrooms is made up of olive oil, a bit of butter, asparagus, portabella mushrooms, red onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar, marjoram, cannellini beans, pinto beans and Parmesan cheese. Earthy and so good for you. (Dayton, Ohio, USA)

From Yogi Kitchen, we have this nourishing Creamy Vegan Asparagus Soup that was inspired by No Croutons this month. Celery, a bay leaf, fresh parsley, asparagus, potato, yeast flakes, miso, tahini, soya milk and freshly squeezed lemon juice are combined in this stunning and fulfilling soup. (Tarifa, Spain)

From Valerie of City Life Eats we have a lunch box meal that did not last long. This Asparagus Quinoa Salad combines the goodness of asparagus with quinoa, garlic, parsley, almonds, cannelini beans and spinach. I am sure this would not last long in my kitchen either. So tempting and I could easily have this for breakfast too. (Washington, DC, USA)

Caffettiera of La caffettiera rosa enters this starter which I think would be a meal in itself. This inspired Asparagus Cappuccino with Cinnamon Air made up of milk, stock, agar agar powder, cinnamon, asparagus, potato, almonds and cream is indeed fit for a king, especially served with some savory biscuits. (Germany)

Torwen submits this beautiful combination of Pasta and Asparagus and Wild Rocket. Bronze plate extruded spaghetti is combined with the goodness of white asparagus, wild rocket, garlic, limes, herb salt and toasted pine nuts. Such a fresh dish that would be hard to resist. (Germany)

My sweet friend Jacqueline contributes this most delicious Herby Spring Pasta. Baby potatoes, penne pasta, asparagus, fine beans are dressed with fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil and sprinkled with some feta, which is one of my favorite cheeses. Perfect and I always wish I lived next door. (Scotland, UK)

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

Spiced Sour Cream Apple Muffins with Dried Apricots and Pistachios

Apple Muffins with Sour Cream, Dried Apricots and Crushed Pistachios

Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dessert, these slightly sweet muffins are surely a delight for any occasion. I prefer to use spelt flour for a grainy texture that reminds me of cornmeal. Spicy, savory, with a hint of sweetness, these plump muffins are sure to please your palate and fill your tummy. No regrets here. Apple treats are always a crowd-pleaser and you just might want to ignore your friends for a day or two and gobble up the whole batch. Kefir or Greek yogurt works well in place of the sour cream if desired, though I like the tart, thick flavor of sour cream.

Read this recipe »

Penne Pasta with Ricotta, Parmesan and Tomatoes

Midweek meals are often a challenge for cooks on the run, so sometimes an easy pasta dish is the best way to go to feed the family. Add some fresh tomatoes and some cheese into the dish and you are in for one satisfying meal, especially if served with some crusty bread and a healthy salad. Pure comfort food to help fight the rainy spring blues. You can simplify this dish further by using canned tomatoes, though I think fresh cherry tomatoes along with a plump chopped tomato really make this dish, especially with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms. Red pepper flakes can also be used instead of the chopped fresh chilies. Cheese lovers will be coming back for seconds.
Penne Pasta with Ricotta, Parmesan and Tomatoes

1 pound (450 grams) of penne pasta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 hot green or red peppers, finely minced (or a teaspoon of crushed red chili flakes)
a dash of asafetida (optional)
a dash of cayenne pepper
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and finely chopped (squeeze out excess liquid but reserve the soaking water
14 grams of dried mushrooms (oyster and / or portobello), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and chopped
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
a scoop of sour cream (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium low heat. When hot, toss in the garlic, hot chilies, asafetida (if using) and garlic. Stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add all of the tomatoes to the pot, along with the dried mushrooms, increase the heat to medium and simmer for roughly 10 - 15 minutes. Add some of the reserved soaking water from the sun-dried tomatoes to reach your desired consistency.

While the tomatoes are cooking, bring a large of salted water to a boil and then add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is just tender. Drain well.

Mash or blend the tomatoes together with a hand blender or food processor. Add the pasta to the sauce, adding more water if it is too thick for your liking. Remove the pot from the hot element and stir in the ricotta, Parmesan, olives and fresh basil. Add a dollop of sour cream to the pot if desired, along with salt and pepper and gently stir until well combined.

Yields 6 generous servings.

More pasta recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Rye Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese
Pasta and Feta Cheese Casserole
Cheese-Filled Tortellini with a Spicy Mushroom Sauce
Farfalle Pasta with Cannellini Beans and Asparagus in a White Mushroom Yogurt Sauce

On the top of the reading stack: more and more cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Terry Lee Brown Jr.

Paneer Cheese Cubes with Chickpea Flour and Spices

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
This month I am pairing up with Val of More Than Burnt Toast. She had a brilliant idea for a food event - Invite a Blogger to your Table. The idea is to challenge another blogger to replicate a recipe that you come up with.
Here are the guidelines for Val's event and click on this link to see her post:

Choose a dish to prepare and invite 1(one) blogger to create that dish with you. You can source your recipe from a cookbook, magazine, blog or any other source. Your dish can be sweet or savoury; easy or complicated. Decide upon a date that you can both mutually post your recipe within a 4 week time frame.

Link back to More Than Burnt Toast somewhere in your post as the caretaker of this event. Please feel free to use the Avatar/Badge above "Invite a Blogger to Your Table". Once you have made your dish with your blogging friend or friends and posted it, you can choose to STOP or CONTINUE on and "invite another blogger to your table" to make something DIFFERENT on a mutually agreeable date within the next 4 week time frame.

If you would please e-mail Val at bloggerstable(AT)gmail(DOT)com for no other reason than to let her know you have participated. She would love to see what you have accomplished.

Cut and paste these instructions into your post and contact a friend. Let magic happen and let's get cooking!!

Paneer is one of my favorite cheeses and I can never have enough recipes on hand for this classic Indian delight. I've made the following recipe, adapted from 1000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra, twice already.

The second time around I experimented further and pre-fried the paneer cubes and simmered a finely chopped tomato along with the spices before adding the paneer and chickpea flour. Whatever variation you try, if you enjoy paneer as much as I do, you will not be disappointed with this dish that goes well with rice on the side, your favorite Indian flatbread and a fresh leafy green salad. Serve with a nice crisp dry white wine for an extra special treat.

Paneer Cheese Cubes with Chickpea Flour and Spices - (Besan Paneer)

400 grams of paneer cheese, (homemade or store-bought) cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons of dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon of amchoor powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3 tablespoons of chickpea flour
a generous handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

Cut the paneer cheese into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

Heat the ghee, or butter and oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and stir and fry for a minute. Now add the ginger, ground cumin, green chilies, fenugreek leaves, amchoor powder, cayenne, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric and salt. Stir and fry for a few minutes. Add the paneer cubes to the pan and cook, turning the cheese every minute or so until lightly browned. Sprinkle the chickpea flour over the paneer and stir to coat. Cook for another 5 minutes, flipping the cheese often, making sure to incorporate the chickpea flour evenly. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.

Serves 4 - 6.

More paneer dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Saffron Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
Paneer Tikka Masala
Chickpeas and Paneer in a Spicy Creamy Gravy
Paneer Butter Masala

On the top of the readings stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: silence, finally (no doozers and no lawn mowers for the time being)

Black-Eyed Peas with Tomatoes and Spices

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Black-Eyed Peas with Tomatoes and Spices

Extended family dinners are a constant challenge when there is a vegetarian in the mix. We cannot function on salads alone, and what's up when there's even meat in the potluck salads? I am so thankful that I learned to cook Indian food, as it is just perfect for vegetarians looking for a nourishing meal.

Pure and simple and homemade. This is a spicy dish that will appeal to legume lovers and it goes so well with rice — jasmine rice, brown rice or white basmati. I served this with tamarind potatoes to complete the meal.

Read this recipe »

Mushroom Cheddar Cheese Toasts

My best friend Basil came over for dinner last night and I always like to make special dinners for him and of course my sweetie too. This time we enjoyed a kidney bean salad with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and olives along with these delightful cheese toasts that are easy to prepare and very addictive. Just perfect as an appetizer, but take care so you don't spoil your dinner with too much in your tummy - mind you, these toasts could be a delightful dinner all on their own. Vegetarians and carnivores alike will be sure to enjoy this treat.

Button mushrooms can be substituted instead if desired. Lots of mushroom goodness either way.

Mushroom Cheddar Cheese Toasts

1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cut into roughly 1 inch slices
5 cremini or 3 portobello mushrooms, cut into small pieces
14 grams of dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and cut into small pieces
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
unsalted softened butter
2/3 cup of extra old cheddar cheese
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
red chili flakes

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the bread slices on the sheet.

Spread some butter on each piece of sliced bread. Sprinkle the mushrooms and jalapeno peppers over the bread and top with cheddar cheese, sprinkle with some salt, black pepper and hot chili flakes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for roughly 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

More appetizers from Lisa's Kitchen you might like to try:
Olive Tapenade
Fiery Deviled Eggs
Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Olives
Hummus with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Olives

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Yoga music

Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Sweet tamarind, spices and potatoes make for a perfect dinner accompaniment. Where is spring? At least the trees are budding and London has been getting a wee bit of sunshine, though it is mostly just raining tears. Cool temperatures call for comfort food. Homemade spice mixtures really add to this dish. I will also note that if you suffer from insomnia as I do that this is a wonderful late night snack.

Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)

I served this with some spicy black-eyed peas. Sour cream or yogurt helps to cut down the heat if desired.

Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)

Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on May 6, 2011

Tangy and spicy potatoes cooked with tamarind and Indian seasonings

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp or paste
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 whole dried red chilies, broken into pieces
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chat masala (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • small handful of fresh cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Scrub the potatoes and roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until tender in a 425° oven. Let the potatoes cool, then peel and chop into 1-inch or bite-size pieces.

  • Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve and reserve 3 tablespoons of the liquid.

  • Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. When hot, toss in the asafetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, red chilies and the tamarind water. Stir for a minute or so, then add the cooked potatoes to the pan and stir well.

  • Now add the ground coriander, chili powder, cayenne, garam masala, chat masala, mint, coriander or parsley, and salt to the pan. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently and tossing the potatoes occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned. Serve hot.

Makes 4 to 8 servings
Tamarind Potatoes with Spices (Imli Aloo)

More potato dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Scalloped Potatoes with Best Ever Mushroom Sauce
Crunchy Potatoes, Bengali-Style
Potato, Onion and Stilton Frittata
Mexican-Style Potato Salad With Avocado and Jalapeño

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Arvo Part

Vegetarian Refried Beans

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is refried beans. Mine is not the most traditional, but it is certainly a well visited recipe in my house and my friends just love it too. I've posted a variant of this recipe before. This time I used a combination of black beans and pinto beans and served the dish with jasmine rice smothered in butter. You can also serve as a wrap with grated cheese and shredded lettuce, topped with some sour cream. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

Vegetarian Refried Beans

This is my submission to this month's My Legume Love Affair, a popular event started by lovely Susan and hosted this month by Smitha.

Vegetarian Refried BeansVegetarian Refried Beans
Recipe by
Cuisine: Mexican
Published on May 3, 2011

Spicy hot vegetarian refried beans — great served over rice or in warmed corn tortillas

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 2/3 cup dried pinto beans
  • 2/3 cup dried black beans
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon powered ginger
  • 2 - 3 jalapeños or fresh green chilies, finely diced
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • pinch of asafoetida (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • Rinse the pinto beans and black beans, and soak overnight in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and rinse, and add to a medium saucepan and cover with several inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the beans for 1 hour or until very soft. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

  • Put the tomato, ginger, jalapeños or chilies, hot sauce and spices in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the tomato mixture begins to thicken.

  • Heat the oil or butter in a cast-iron skillet or large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, fry the onions for a few minutes. Next add the beans a few tablespoons at a time, using a fork to mash the beans.

  • Once all of the beans have been added to the pan and mashed, add the tomato mixture and corn. Stir and fry until the beans begin to dry out and brown a bit, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and serve hot with brown rice or over warmed corn tortillas.

Makes 6 - servings
Vegetarian Refried Beans

More Mexican recipes from Lisa's Kitchen:
Mexican-Style Kamut Berry, Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad
Mexican-Style Potato Salad With Avocado and Jalapeño
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
Tomato Corn Chowder

On the top of the reading stack: Pure and Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine by Vidhu Mittal

Audio Accompaniment: Harold Budd

No Croutons Required - The Winner for April and the Theme for May

The winner for April's birthday challenge is Susan of Holly Grove Kitchen with this tempting Rosemary and Walnut Soda Bread. I can just imagine the lovely aroma in Susan's Kitchen while this bread was baking. Congratulations Susan as the competition was tough indeed this month.

I am hosting the April edition of No Croutons Required. Spring might finally be arriving here in Ontario after a long and harsh winter with loads of snow and cold temperatures. To celebrate, I am choosing asparagus as the challenge for May. Make any soup or salad featuring this flavorful and versatile vegetable. Cleansing and healthy, packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, you just can't go wrong including this delightful veggie into a dish.

For a recap of the guidelines to submit your recipe, check here. I will except entries until the 20th of this month. Very much looking forward to your inspired creations.