Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup

IMG_0335 lentils

Did you know that lentils are edible seeds from the legume family? They are well known for their lens shape and sold with or without their outer husks intact.Though they are  a common food staple in Asian and North African cuisines, the greatest production of lentils nowadays is in Canada.

For the most part, lentils have a number of health benefits. They are low in calories, rich in iron and folate and serve as an excellent source of protein. They  also pack health-promoting polyphenols and may reduce several heart disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes.

Lentils are often categorized by their color, which can range from yellow and red to green, brown or black. Red lentils are  are split and cook quickly. They’re great for making dal and soups and have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavor.  And the best part about lentils is that they are easy to cook and do not require pre soaking prior to cooking, making them perfect for soups and stews.

And with that being said, Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup fits the bill for healthy eating on a budget, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

This simple, yet robust soup is rich with spices and tomato. It gets a pleasantly thick body from white rice and  red lentils, which soften and break down during cooking. The Aleppo pepper is a wonderful addition, lending a gentle heat. If you can’t find it, order online or substitute with an additional teaspoon of paprika and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons long-grain white rice
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt, to taste
For the Aleppo pepper oil:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
For Serving:
Chopped fresh mint leaves or basil leaves
Lemon wedges 

In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Once it has stopped foaming, add the onion then sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, paprika and cumin, then sauté for 1 minute.
Add the lentils, rice, water, vegetable broth and 2 teaspoons salt, then bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer, cover and cook until the lentils and rice are tender and broken down, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium, heat the olive oil, swirling to coat the pan. Add the Aleppo pepper and cook until a few bubbles appear and the oil is bright red. Remove from heat and set aside. Serve the soup with Aleppo pepper oil drizzled over each serving.
Serve with mint or basil and lemon wedges.

Grilled Mozzarella and Red Peppers Sandwich

mozza2

This sandwich screams FRESHNESS, as it is made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil pesto and oven roasted red sweet bell peppers drizzled balsamic vinegar. With layers of flavor, it is the perfect sandwich for a Meatless Monday lunch option.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 red sweet bell pepper
1 Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Ball
2 slices of Provolone Cheese
4 slices Italian bread
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Vegetable cooking spray

For the Fresh Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500° F .

Place the red bell peppers on a rimmed backing sheet. Lightly coat the peppers with the vegetable spray and place in the heated oven. Allow the peppers to roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate it at about the 7 minute mark and remove when all sides have charred black. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow them to cool. When the red peppers have cooled to the touch, remove the charred skin by using a clean tea towel. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, then julienne the roasted peppers.

Using a sharp knife, thinly slice six pieces of cheese from the mozzarella ball.

To prepare the pesto spread: Pulse basil and pine nuts in a food processor: Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times.

Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more to taste. cover and set aside.

Set the oven to 450 ° F.

Take 4 slices of Italian bread and spread the pesto on one side.

Lay a slice of provolone ontop of the pesto.

Take one slice and with the pesto side up and layer with the julienned red pepper first.

Use a brush and lightly coat the top of the red pepper with 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar.

Add three slices of Mozzarella cheese ontop of the peppers and close the with another bread slice. The pesto side should be touching the mozzarella. Repeat the process for the second sandwich.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Melt the butter until it is lightly foaming. Gently place the sandwiches in the melted butter.

Fry the sandwiches for about 2 to 4 minutes on medium heat, as it the bread become golden brown. Using spatula flip the sandwich over until the bread is crispy and golden brown, for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Continue to cook the sandwiches in the oven, by placing the skillet sandwich in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes. Cook until the cheese is melted and slightly oozing from the bread. Remove from the oven.

Using a spatula, place a sandwich on a plate and serve immediately.

 

 

Cook’s Note:
Basil pesto oxidizes (darkens) when exposed to air, so to store, cover tightly with plastic wrap making sure the plastic is touching the top of the pesto and not allowing the pesto to have contact with air, making a complete seal. The pesto will stay greener longer that way. The pest will keep for about 2 weeks.


Frieda’s Meyer Lemon Lemonade

meyer lemonade

When life gives you lemons, hopefully  they will be Meyer Lemons. This variety of the citrus fruit has a soft, thin golden-yellow rinds and is sweeter, milder and less-acidic than regular lemon with a light herbal notes.

Did you know that a Meyer Lemon actually a hybrid? Believed to be a cross between a lemon and orange, F.N. Meyer first imported this hearty citrus the USA from China in 1908.

I have been so inspired by this delicious fruit, that I plan on planting a few of Meyer Lemon Trees in my backyard this spring.

Even though it is winter, enjoy a healthy dose of Vitamin C, form a nice tall glass of Meyer Lemon Lemonade.


From
Freida’s Specialty Produce, Inc.

Ingredients:
For the Simple Syrup:
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup water
1 cup mint or basil leaves or 1/4 cup fresh ginger slices (optional)

1 cup freshly squeezed Frieda’s Meyer lemon juice
3 to 4 cups cold water
Slices of Frieda’s Meyer lemon or Pink lemon, for garnish

Directions:
Make a simple syrup: In small saucepan, bring sugar and 2/3 cup of water to boil and simmer until sugar is fully dissolved. For herb-infused syrup, add your choice of herb( i.e. mint, basil or even a spice such as ginger) before boiling. Strain herbs from syrup, if used, and allow to cool.

Combine syrup with Meyer lemon juice and cold water in large pitcher and stir until well mixed. Serve over ice with garnish lemons if desired.