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.

Shrimp and Fried Avocado Tacos

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Photo Credit: Dennis Prescott, 2016.

 

Take your avocado obsession to the next level by rolling them in breadcrumbs, baking them to crispy perfection and stuffing them in a tortilla with a few spicy shrimp. This version of a textural dream that is crunchy, spicy, and refreshing, all at the same time.We are sure that your hunger for tacos will never be the same on Taco Tuesday!

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Avocados:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large egg whites
1 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium firm but ripe avocados

For the Slaw:
1 lime
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for serving

For the Spiced Shrimp:
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 medium (31-40 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
A squeeze of fresh lime juice

For Assembly:
8 small flour tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Chopped tomatoes, for serving

Directions:
To make the avocados:
Heat oven to 425°F.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Lightly beat the egg whites in a second small bowl. In a third small bowl, combine the panko with the oil.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit and peel. Cut each half into ½-inch-thick slices. Working with one slice at a time, coat avocado slices lightly in flour, then in the egg, letting any excess drip off and finally in the panko, pressing gently to help it adhere. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining avocado slices. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

To make the slaw: Finely grate the lime, making zest, into a large bowl, then squeeze in 2 tablespoon juice from the same lime. Whisk in the mayonnaise and a pinch of salt. Add the cabbage, scallions, and jalapeño and toss to coat; fold in the cilantro. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble to tacos.

For the shrimp: In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili and onion powders, paprika, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add in shrimp and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 24 hours for best results.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a a large heavy-duty or cast iron skillet on high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the shrimp.and cook until  just cooked through and slightly pink, about 3 minutes. Do this in batches if necessary with more oil; the shrimp should be in a single layer.   Turn off heat and finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

To assemble:  Grill tortillas on stove top over the flame until lightly charred.  Fill the tortillas with the avocados and top with the cabbage slaw, followed by three of four shrimp. Serve with extra cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream and chopped tomatoes, if desired.

Enjoy!


Braised Tunisian Chicken Thighs

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This is an easy recipe for braised chicken thighs with Tunisian flavors, courtesy of Los Angeles, California chefs, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo for Plated.com.

I made this dish for a second time with a variation to original recipe. I used skin-on, bone-in thighs and chicken drumsticks instead of skinless chicken thighs. Why? Well, you will get a better sear and slightly deeper flavor with the skin still. Using skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs will also increase the cooking time and always be sure to check that your chicken is for completely cooked at the proper temperature by using a meat thermometer.

This dish is best served with couscous or steamed white rice.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
For Spice Mix 1:
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

For Spice Mix 2:
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon harissa paste
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh Thai chile, halved lengthwise, seeds discarded,minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos, crushed by hand

Directions:
To make Spice Mix 1:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, paprika, caraway, coriander, and cumin. Stir everything together and set aside.

To make Spice Mix 2:In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, chile powders, coriander, caraway, and cinnamon. Stir everything together and set aside.

To marinate the chicken:Rinse the chicken, pat it dry with paper towels, and arrange the pieces on a large plate. In a small bowl, combine Spice Mix 1, the garlic, Thai chile, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Coat the chicken with this mixture, rubbing it in thoroughly. Allow the chicken to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.

To cook:
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Season the chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan with high sides and a tight fitting lid. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and sear on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the pieces and sear on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and Spice Mix 2 to the same pan in which you seared the chicken. Sauté until the onion is very soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.

Add the reserved chicken to the simmering tomatoes, nestling the pieces into the sauce. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Braise until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

To serve:

Taste the braising liquid and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Divide the chicken and sauce evenly between two warmed, shallow bowls and serve.

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