Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spiced Lentil Soup with Beef

SLS Cookbook contributor Yasmin Assef notes that this recipe has been passed down from her mother to her.  It's a favorite fall and winter meal and goes nicely with a warm, crusty loaf of Italian bread.

I particularly appreciated the warm and earthy undertones of cumin, cinnamon, and saffron in this soup, freshened up with coriander and lemon juice. Since I only had coriander seed, I crushed them in my mortar, and the light citrusy smell bloomed in my kitchen ... divine. To the soup, I added fresh chopped coriander (also known as cilantro) and parsley as a garnish.  Perfect for lunch or dinner.


1) I cut my veggies a little finer than the recipe indicated, because I started with baby carrots and then cut the celery to match.  You can cut your veggies bigger.

2) If you happen to have some leftover pot roast, you can use it to give you a head start on the soup. If you don't have 2 lbs. worth of leftover beef, scale back the recipe accordingly.  Skip the part of the recipe where you brown the beef, browning the onions and other aromatics. Add the cubed leftover beef with the tomatoes and spices, along with any pot liquor, and proceed with the recipe.  The leftover beef may shred from being simmered a second time, but that's okay.  If you want it to stay in more intact pieces, add the beef in the last 15 minutes of cooking; if you do that, you may want to substitute beef broth for some of the water, so the lentils and veggies absorb some beef flavor.

3) If you want to use pre-cooked lentils instead of starting from scratch, Trader Joe's in Darien, CT, by I-95 Exit 13, has excellent cooked lentils in the produce section. 

4) If you are looking for a great local source for fresh and well-priced spices, please check out Penzeys Spices in Norwalk, CT, near Stew Leonards.  You can also order online from Penzeys. For Indian and Middle Eastern Spices, Patel Brothers in Norwalk, near Best Buy, is a great place too.

Spiced Lentil Soup with Beef
Serves 6-8

1/4 cup olive oil
3 large onions, chopped
2 lbs. beef stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large celery stalks, sliced
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 35 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juice
2 quarts water
1 lb. lentils
2 bay leaves
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. saffron
1 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a large (8 quart) pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and beef.  Cook about 8-10 minute, until the beef is browned.  Add carrots, celery, and garlic; saute another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, water, lentils, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, saffron and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beef and lentils are tender.  Add pepper, lemon juice, and more water if needed.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lisa's Crunchy Chicken Salad

Cate Berger, parent of Will Berger '19, shares this salad, a perennial favorite of the Rusticus Garden Club from Lisa Gerard of Pound Ridge, NY.

This salad is about contrasts: crispy noodles against tender shreds of chicken, the sweetness of sugar vs. the tartness of vinegar, the pungency of scallions a counterpoint to the neutrality of iceberg lettuce.  When looked at in this way, the salad has endless variations and substitutions.  You need only your imagination to jump from this starting point to a fresh salad that works year-round, from a light summer salad to a hearty winter offering.

Instead of lettuce or with lettuce: shredded napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, edamame.

Instead of ramen noodles: fried wonton strips, fried onions.

Instead of almonds: pecans, walnuts.

For sweetness: dried fruit, manadarin oranges, shredded mango.

For my salad, I added shredded carrots and dried cranberries for color and texture.

As for the salad dressing, you can start with a ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts vinegar, as is noted below. You can add a little sesame oil and/or soy sauce.  A little mayo if you want it creamier.  You can also add sriracha, a garlic-chili sauce to provide some heat.

Note: Take a look at Will's Egg in the Hole recipe for a great breakfast treat.

Lisa's Crunchy Chicken Salad
Serves 6

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped and shredded
6 green onions, chopped
1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

4 tbs. butter
1-2 three oz. packages Ramen noodles (discard seasoning packets)
2 tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup (rice) vinegar
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine lettuce, green onions, and chicken in a bowl.  Set aside.  Break up ramen noodles, using 2 packages instead of 1 if you want more crunch. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in the skillet and add broken up noodles, sesame seeds and almonds.  Stir until gold brown, careful not to burn the noodle mixture.  Cool on paper towels. Please note that the noodle mixture can be made the day before and stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Whisk dressing together and toss with lettuce, chicken, and green onions.  Just before serving, add crunchy noodle mixture and toss.  Serve immediately.

Other SLS Cookbook Recipes which include crunchy ramen noodles:

Chinese Chicken Salad, p. 30
Asian Slaw, p. 32
Coleslaw Salad with a Twist, p. 33

Egg in the Hole

Will Berger '19 submitted this breakfast favorite to the SLS cookbook.

There's something very fun about eating an egg cooked within the circular confines of crispy buttered bread. Will recommends using the toasted circles for dipping into the warm yolk.

If you like your eggs more well-done, you can flip the egg/bread over and cook it some more.

Me?  I'm an egg over medium gal, and pass me the Frank's Red Hot Sauce.  A perfect meal.

Egg in the Hole
Makes one sandwich or two single servings

2 slices bread
2 eggs
2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter or top of a glass
Salt and pepper

Butter both sides of bread slices.  Using a biscuit cutter or top of a glass, cut a hole in the middle of each slice of bread.  Put bread and cut circles int a medium hot frying pan and brown lightly on one side.  Turn over bread when toasted on bottom side.  Add a little butter into the empty center of the bread.  Break an egg into each hole and cook.  Carefully turn each egg/bread over with a spatula and fry to your liking.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Use circles for dipping.

Dutch Puffed Apple Pancake

SLS Cookbook Contributor Amy Powless, Parent 2016 and 2018, notes that they always have a Granny Smith apple on hand -- just in case the craving strikes.

I can see why.  The puffed pancake is easy to make, fun to watch as it puffs up in the oven, and deliciously sweet and tart from the apples and dried cranberries. A great weekend breakfast or brunch offering.

Dutch Puffed Apple Pancake
Serves 4

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
3 tbs. packed brown sugar
Maple syrup, warm, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt butter in a 9" inch glass pie dish or cast iron skillet.  Arrange the apple slices evenly over the butter.  Bake the apples until they begin to soften, about five minutes.  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl to blend.

Remove the pie dish or skillet with the semi-baked apples from the oven and either take a heat-proof silicone pastry brush and brush the melted butter up and around the interior sides of the pie dish/skillet or spray the interior sides with non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour in batter and sprinkle dried cranberries evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the batter as well and put back in the oven.  Bake until the center is set and the edges are puffed and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Daddy's Famous Waffle/Pancake Batter

Every time I see Glenn Finley, I feel happy.  He is always cheery and smiling.  He loves food!

I'm not surprised that his daughters named his pancake and waffle recipe, "Daddy's Famous Waffle/Pancake Batter." I can imagine them laughing in the kitchen, as they enjoy these tender pancakes made by their awesome dad.

Daddy's Famous Waffle/Pancake Batter

Serves 4

Dry ingredients
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt

Wet ingredients
1 cup skim milk
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tbs. maple syrup
3 tbs. butter melted with 1 tbs. canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine both together, mixing until just incorporated.  There should still be lumps of flour.  Let stand 5 minutes.

For waffles: Cook waffles according to the instructions of the waffle maker.

For pancakes: Preheat 10- or 12-non-stick inch skillet over medium heat.  Add a little butter or oil to the skillet. Add 1/4-1/3rd cup batter to the skillet for each pancake.  Cook over medium heat until edges of the pancakes are dry and the top is bubbled and almost cooked. Flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Ninette's Award-winning Chili

Even though I am Filipino and have never lived in Texas, I have the odd accomplishment of winning two chili cook-offs with two different chili recipes. I developed this chili recipe for my colleague Sam Gaudet, who entered a chili contest with it and took home first prize. Simpler than the smoked chili I did for SLS’ first “Go Hot or Go Home” Chili Cook Off in 2009, it still has some of my signature ingredients: bacon, beer, and chocolate, which add a deep, smoky flavor.

Ninette's Award-Winning Chili

7 slices bacon, chopped
2 ½ lbs – 3 lbs. ground beef
2 medium-large onions, minced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced

Spice mix:
--½ tsp. cinnamon
--4 tbs. chili powder
--2 tbs. cumin
--2 tsp. dried oregano

 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (NOT puree) or 2 14.5 oz. cans Hunts fire-roasted tomatoes (if you use the latter, take one of the smaller cans and puree the tomato chunks in a small food processor or blender; use the other can as is).

½ tsp. Sanka or ½ cup coffee
1 cup beef broth
1 Guinness beer
½ tsp. liquid smoke
2-3 tsp. kosher salt
½ square unsweetened chocolate

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef.  Saute until browned.  When the ground beef is cooked, drain oil from the beef in a colander placed in a plate or bowl large enough to hold the excess oil.  Leave there for the moment.

In the same Dutch oven you used to cook the ground beef, render bacon until crisp over medium-low heat.  Remove the cooked bacon from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and place on top of the cooked ground beef. Keep the equivalent of three tablespoons of bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Remove the rest and discard.

Add onions to the bacon fat you left in the Dutch oven, and sauté for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and spice mix.  Turn heat to low and cook until onions are translucent, another couple minutes. 

Add reserved cooked beef and bacon to the onion-spice mixture in the Dutch oven.  Add 2 tsp. of kosher salt, the crushed tomatoes, beef broth, beer, Sanka or coffee, and liquid smoke to the Dutch oven and mix everything together.

Bring to a low simmer and cook for two hours to develop the chili’s flavor.  Check on the chili and stir occasionally, so that it stays at a low simmer. If toward the end of the cooking time, your chili is “soupy,” you can bring the chili to a medium simmer and simmer until it’s thicker.  Conversely, if the chili is getting too thick, add back some water, so that it’s the consistency that you like.

Mix in chocolate in at the end.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Enjoy with your favorite fixings.

Asparagus & Ricotta Toasts

It seems fitting to kick off my "Cook from the St. Luke's Cookbook" series with one submitted by Rachel Wagle, who led the cookbook charge.

Rachel wrote that this appetizer is a huge hit in her house and a favorite appetizer for dinner parties. Elegant and colorful, yet easily made, it's a lovely starter to a fun evening with friends.

One bite of the crisp toast, lemony asparagus, and milky ricotta, and you'll be hooked.

Asparagus & Ricotta Toasts (from Food and Wine Magazine)
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling and brushing

8 slices packaged thin white bread
3/4 pound pencil-thin asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh ricotta (5 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp 4 rounds out of each slice of bread and transfer to the baking sheet. Lightly brush the rounds with oil and toast for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly crisp.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, stir the lemon zest into the ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Spread the lemon ricotta on the toasts and top with the asparagus. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Serve right away.


SLS Cookbook Contributor Rachel Wagle and her family

Friends recommended the Wagles to SLS.  What struck them most during their initial visit was the positive learning environment.  "Kids and teachers seemed truly engaged and locked in to learning but in a very content, collaborative and productive way. It’s hard to explain really," Rachel says, "I just remember a vivid visual of happy, truly happy, faces all around."

Fast forward, and the Wagles have been an integral part of the SLS community for years.  Rachel notes, "Our boys have met incredible friends as well as teachers and staff, creating memorable moments and experiences they will take away with them for a lifetime. These are lifelong connections/foundations that have fostered their growth and will continue to do so. The school is truly special and has touched on a balance of rigorous academics and strong community."