Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spaghetti and Lentil balls

First, I must apologize for failing to update this blog for 8 months.  I can only imagine the horrible state I must have left all you kind readers in.  I'm sure by now you've tried all the other lentil recipes posted here countless times over and were starting to despair that nothing new awaited you.  Not true!  I am back with a delicious new recipe to tantalize your lentil-loving tastebuds, and challenge the assumption that that dish can only be made with meat.

Spaghetti and meatballs!  So wonderfully delicious, and now I will share the secret of how to make them sans meat.  The recipe is a little fussy to get everything to look just right, but I think it's worth it.

First you must start by cooking your lentils.  I kept it really simple, lentils, a bay leaf, and water to cover, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft.  When my lentils were done cooking I mixed them up a little with a fork to mash and break down some, but not all of the lentils.  I stopped here and threw the lentils in the refrigerator overnight.  If you decide not to stop here, you will need to let your lentils cool to room temperature before you put them in the meatball mix so as not to melt the cheese or cook the other ingredients.

Next, it's time to mix up the lentil balls with all the Italian meatball flavors.

I used this handy little processor.
Process in a food processor until finely chopped:

1 clove garlic
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
1/2 an onion

In a large bowl mix until well combined:
above mixture
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg lightly beaten

3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups of the cooked lentils
The complete lentil ball mixture.

Now we make the balls!

This is the part that gets a bit fussy, but it's really not difficult.  Use an ice cream scoop with a release function to measure, and immediately deposit your lentil balls onto a greased cookie sheet.  DO NOT try and roll the mixture around like you would a regular meatball because it will make a mess.  This is a rather wet mix, so it must be handled delicately and minimally.  Also, leave a little space between your meatballs as though you are making cookies, because the balls will spread out while they cook.

Lentil balls ready for round one in the oven.

Bake the lentil balls in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Don't be disappointed!  They will have spread and flattened out and look like lentil pancakes.  This is ok, it just means to achieve aesthetic perfection we must take one more tiny step and re-shape these blasted little balls.

Showing the lentil balls who's boss.

Remove the lentil balls from the oven, grab your ice cream scoop and a spatula and show these balls once an for all who's boss.  Take each lentil ball and push into the scoop, and compress in using the spatula.  Re-release the lentil ball back onto the cookie sheet.  Voila!  It is a beautiful lentil ball once again.  Reshape  the whole tray of balls and put them in the fridge for a few hours to help them retain their shape.

Re-shaped lentil balls.

Finally it's time to heat the lentil balls
Put the balls in a casserole dish (this time they can be close together) and cover generously with whatever sauce you choose to use.  Bake in a 350 degree over until warmed.  Serve over spaghetti or your favorite pasta.

Also, I know the is formatting sloppy.  Blogger is hard to use.

And last but not least, a question for reader feedback!!!!!!! (.....crickets comments posted.....)  What are some other ethnic meatballs we could try with lentils?  Please comment with seasonings for meatballs from your culture and Spicy Lentil Candles will try them out and post a recipe!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lentil Milanese

An Italian made with lentils!!!

Spicy Lentil Candles was recently inspired (not by a reader comment, because no one ever makes them) but by a trip to the delightful restaurant, Mulberry's, in Lackawanna.  Mike ordered veal milanese and we thought to ourselves, "how can we do this with lentils?"  What follows are instructions for this delicious experiment.  Enjoy.

1.  The lentil portion starts with a lentil loaf with a few flavor modifications.  To capture Italian flavors, substitute the ginger with 4 cloves of minced garlic and the
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro with 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Make this loaf the day before so it is chilled and firm and will bread and fry well. 

Steaming carrots and cooking lentils for the loaf
Everything ready to be blended into a loaf

The baking loaf

2.  Prepare 3 pie plates for breading.  1 contains flour, 1 contains 2 beaten eggs, 1 contains seasoned bread crumbs.  Slice the cold prepared lentil loaf into 1/2 inch thick slices.  First dredge in the flour and tap off excess.  Next dip the loaf into the egg.  Finally dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing firmly until they adhere on all sides to completely coat the piece of lentil loaf.

Breading Process

All breaded and ready to go

3.  Fry the breaded loaf in olive oil until golden brown on both sides.  You'll know it's time to flip it when the golden color starts to be visible up the edges of the loaf.  Set the fried piece on paper towels to drain.

Hot fried loaves
 4.  Make the salad.  The dressing is very simple.  Just zest and juice a lemon, whisk in some olive oil and add salt and pepper.  Toss a handful of arugula per serving with the dressing and place atop the breaded and fried lentil slice.  Add some sliced cherry tomatoes, and shred some Parmesan cheese over top.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Real Veggie Yummwich

I sometimes suffer disappointment when eating out a restaurants when I experience a mind-menu disconnect.  Basically I read a menu item, imagine it in my mind as some delicious creation, and when it comes to the table, the menu item is shockingly far from being anything like what I imagined.  This scenario does not always end in disappointment because sometimes the things that arrive are different from what I imagined but still delicious.  But then sometimes the food that arrives is just gross.

I suffered extreme disappointment at Betty's restaurant when I ordered the "Roasted Veggie Yummwich."  Their menu describes this sandwich as follows:

"Roasted Veggie Yummwich . . . . . $9.25
roasted eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red and green peppers,
onions, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs;
with lemon garlic mayo, asiago cheese, sprouts and tomatoes
in a large flour tortilla"

The thing that came out contained all these items (maybe) but they had been diced into such tiny pieces that nothing was clearly recognizable.  It was also greasy.

What follows is my recipe for a true veggie yummwich for people who love vegetables and enjoy eating food that does not appear to be pre-chewed. 

1 ciabatta loaf (makes 4 sandwiches)
1/2 small (4 oz.) goat cheese log rolled in herbs

1/2 sweet onion sliced on medium setting on mandoline (I love love love using the madoline because it does such a great job slicing all these veggies evenly and quickly.)
1 zucchini sliced on medium setting on mandoline
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 eggplant cut into rounds
 handful fresh arugula. 

1.  Heat oil in pan and saute onions and peppers until soft.
2.  When peppers and onions are almost done, push them to the side of the pan.  Add the zucchini to the pan and cook until tender.  Season veggies with salt and pepper.
3.  Meanwhile oil a baking sheet and roast lightly salted eggplant in a 400 oven, turning once, until soft.

To assemble the sandwiches:
4.  Cut the ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise and then slice each half so you have a base and top for your sandwich.
5.  Spread the base with the softened goat cheese.
6.  Add a light layer of arugula.
7.  Add a layer of peppers and onions.
8.  Add a layer of eggplant.
9.  Add a layer of zucchini slices.  (the thin slices will almost look like slices of deli meat when you pile them on.)
10.  Place the top of the bread on the sandwich, press down slightly and using a sharp knife cut each half diagonally into two triangle sandwiches.

This sandwich will only cost you $2.78 per sandwich ($11.12 for 4 sandwiches)!  So for about the same price of going to Betty's and being severely disappointed by yourself you can invite three friends over for lunch to have a delicious meal and a great time.  We ate two of the sandwiches for dinner, and wrapped the other two up overnight to take for lunch the next day, and that turned out quite well also.

Of course, you could take inspiration from the list of ingredients on Betty's sandwich and modify this recipe to your tastes.  I personally think there is just too much going on in that sandwich, and perhaps that's why everything needed to be in such small pieces.  Regardless, I prefer my sandwich because I would rather enjoy fewer ingredients in a more meaningful way.  Also, I think the substitution of herbed goat cheese does a much better job of imparting flavor, richness and creaminess than using a combination of melting cheese and flavored mayo, which mostly just added greasiness.

Tell me what's in your veggie sandwich! 


Friday, June 10, 2011

Tortilla Espanola

Tortilla Espanola is, as some would say, "the food of my people."  It is probably not what you think about when you think about a tortilla.  You may be imagining a flour tortilla that you would roll a burrito in, but instead it is an egg potato and onion omelet that can be cut in slices like a pie.  It is unbelievably delicious!  It is also a pretty simple recipe to make, except for one stressful moment right in the middle.  The whole process will take about an hour.

1 onion
4 potatoes
5 or 6 eggs
olive oil

1.   Thinly slice the potatoes into rounds using a mandoline and cook in a half inch of olive oil for about 15 minutes (until soft, but not browned), salting, and turning once.  Drain potatoes on a paper towel.  (If you want to save on fat and calories you can steam the potatoes until soft, but the tortilla is definitely more delicious if you fry the potatoes in oil.)

2.  Thinly slice the onion and cook in some olive oil until soft.

3.  Scramble the eggs in a bowl and add salt and pepper.

4.  Add the onions and potatoes to the egg mixture and mix to combine.

5.  Pour the mixture into a large hot frying pan with a bit of oil in it.  Slide a spatula around the edges and shake the pan a bit to make sure nothing is sticking.  Use a spatula to press down on the potatoes and make a nice even top on the tortilla.

6.  When the bottom of the tortilla is a nice golden brown you are ready to flip it.  Put a plate a little larger than the pan over the top of the pan, grab some potholders, take a deep breath, and flip the tortilla away from you, onto the plate.  Put the frying pan back on the stove and use the spatula to slide the tortilla off the plate and back into the pan to cook through the other side.  Keep running a spatula around the tortilla to make a nice clean round edges.  Once it is golden on the other side slide it out of the pan and onto a plate.

7.  Cut into wedges and serve.  Tortilla is delicious if eaten at room temperature or cold.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lentil Pasties (short "a" sound)

Pasties are a culinary tradition of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where they were historically a food carried by the copper miners into the mines for a delicious and hearty lunch or dinner.  Traditionally pasties would be made with beef, but, you guessed it, we made ours with lentils!

This recipe is delicious, but certainly not the quickest or easiest recipe.  As we made these I imagined myself as a copper miner's wife, up in the wee hours of the morning rolling out all this dough while cursing the world that I was up at this early hour and going to such trouble.  Even though these were a little time intensive, I thought they were totally worth the effort based on the deliciousness factor.  But it's probably a good thing that they take a little time and effort to make, because otherwise I would want to eat these all the time, and eating delicious, buttery pastries all the time turns one's body into a buttery pastry--something I'd rather avoid.

The process is (briefly) as follows: (makes about 8 pasties)
1.  Make and chill pastry dough
2.  Cook lentils and cool to room temperature
3.  Chop veggies and mix with lentils
4.  Roll out pastry dough
5.  Fill dough and shape into pasties
6.  Bake pasties

Now, in more detail:

1.  Make and chill pastry dough
Pastry dough is actually very simple and easy to make in the food processor, and so unbelievably delicious.  To anyone out there who likes to put Crisco or shortening in your dough - 1. gross! and 2.  try this dough, it is so much better!

Pulse in bowl of food processor for 10 seconds:
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks of COLD butter cut into pieces.

With machine running, slowly add 1/4 cup icy cold water and process for no longer than 30 seconds.

Test dough with your fingers, it should hold together when pressed.  This is it!  You are done!

Divide the dough into equal 3 ounce portions, roll into balls and flatten slightly with your hand.  Throw in the fridge to use today or in the freezer if you want to use later.  This dough is also delicious for fruit pies and makes enough for a top and bottom crust.

Pastry Dough - 3 ounce portions, slightly flattened, ready to chill and then roll out.

2.  Cook lentils and cool to room temperature

Cook 1/2 cup lentils in 2 cups of vegetable stock.  Let cool to room temperature.

3.  Chop veggies and mix with lentils

Chop into 1/2 inch dice:
2 turnips
3 carrots
1 onion
3 potatoes

Season with salt and pepper
Mix with lentils

4.  Roll out pastry dough

Clean and lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Roll out the dough, starting by rolling out a bit, turning dough 1/8 turn to the left, rolling out a bit of dough, turning dough 1/8 turn to the left, and repeating until dough is rolled out flat enough that you can cut a 10-inch round using a plate as a guide.  

Rolling out dough on floured work surface
10-inch round cut from rolled dough
5.  Fill dough and shape into pasties

Place about 1 cup of lentil filling on the dough and fold dough over the mixture.  Crimp the edges together and seal.  Cut several slits in the pastry dough and lightly glaze with an egg wash.  If you have any extra pasty filling, put it in a casserole dish and bake it alongside. 

Adding filling to the dough

Folding the dough over

Ready-to-bake, with slits cut into pastry and glazed with an egg wash
6.  Bake pasties

Bake in 350 oven for about 40 minutes.  Check on your dough and pull your pasties when they are looking delicious and golden brown.  Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.  Pasties can be served hot or cold.

Cooked pasty, resting on a wire rack--before being devoured!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sloppy Lentils

Good old sloppy joes with a lentil twist.  (This recipe makes 8 sandwiches.)

1.  Cook 1 1/4 cup lentils in 4 cups vegetable broth.

2.  In a separate pan saute in some olive oil:
  • 1 grated onion (grated onions are much juicier than chopped, so cook until all the excess water has evaporated away leaving the pan dry)
then add:
  • 2 stalks celery small dice
  • 1 red pepper small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic minced

When veggies are crisp tender add the spice mix, stir to coat and toast spices for a minute or so.

Spice mix:
  • 1/2  tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry ground mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of ground all spice
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

3.  Mix it up!
Add to fully cooked lentils:
  • spiced-cooked veggies
  • A 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • Tbl brown sugar
  • Tbl cider vinegar
  • 5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Bring to a boil and let simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors.

4.  Lightly toast some buns and using a slotted spoon to drain the mix a bit, pile the lentils atop.  We used Wegmans seeded Kaiser rolls.

5.  Enjoy (with a napkin ready).  I enjoyed my sloppy lentil sandwich with a side of macaroni salad.

Lentil Golabki

By guest poster / collaborator : Mike

The City of Buffalo recently celebrated yet another Dyngus Day.  This Polish holiday follows Easter Sunday and there is normally a table full of delicious Polish foods to enjoy at our friends’ place for the festivities.  I have gotten in the habit of making pierogi the last few years but I figured this would be the year to try something else.  Although our friends have postponed their Dyngus Day party until their schedules are free, I’ve decided to try out another experiment before I bring it over for all to enjoy: Lentil Golabki.  Golabki are pretty much cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice, cooked in a tomato sauce.  They are always great but the meat can be a bit much sometimes.  Obviously, a perfect opportunity to try it with lentils!

Here are the ingredients:

1 large green cabbage
2 tbls unsalted butter
1 onion – chopped
1 garlic clove – minced
4/3 cups dry brown lentils (rinsed)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup rice
1 green pepper – shredded
2 celery stalks – diced
4 cups tomato puree

First, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, remove the core from the cabbage and dice/chop/shred vegetables.  I use a cheese shredder for the green pepper – it’s kind of awkward to shred the pepper like this but it really gets it to a perfect size.  Cook the one cup of rice in a separate, smaller pot in two cups of water (bring water to a boil, add rice, cover and simmer 20mins) and set aside when done.

When the large pot of water is boiling, lower to a medium-high heat and throw in the whole cabbage.  After a couple of minutes you should be able to start peeling away the cabbage leaves.  You won’t be able to remove all the leaves right away so you’ll have to keep coming back to the pot and peeling them away - I suggest using tongs while the cabbage remains in the hot water.  Pull as many leaves away as possible because you’ll want to make as many golabki as you can.  Cut off any excess stem from the leaf because those will be too tough to eat.  Don’t discard the cabbage water - you’ll need some later.  

In another pot, brown the onions in the butter with some salt and pepper (1/2 tsp of each) and add the garlic.  After cooking the garlic for a couple minutes, add the chicken stock and lentils and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat on the lentils and cover and cook for 20mins.  After 20mins, remove the cover, turn up the heat and let the lentils reduce a bit - otherwise the filling will be too wet.  When the lentils have reduced, remove a cup and blend in blender and return the blended portion to the rest of the lentils, or use an immersion blender to blend about a cups worth.

In a large mixing bowl, add the rice, celery, green pepper and the lentils.   Line the bottom of a Dutch Oven with some of the cabbage leaves.  With the remaining cabbage leaves, spoon about 1/3 cup of the lentil filling into a cabbage leaf and roll it from stem to tip, pinching in the sides to keep filling from coming out.  Place each roll into the lined Dutch Oven, keeping them close together and place additional ones on top if necessary.  In a separate mixing bowl, mix two cups of the cabbage water with the tomato puree and pour it over the stuffed leaves.  Place the Dutch Oven on the stove and bring the cabbage-tomato puree to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot, cover for an hour or when the cabbage is tender. 

I served it with some sour cream but Martha discovered if you mix some dill with the sour cream, it’s even more delicious.  I’m thinking of adding carrots but any other additions or suggestions are welcome too!