Ethiopian Spicy Red Lentils

This is exactly the kind of dish that I was hoping I’d find when I chose Ethiopia as my next culinary destination.  It’s healthy, quick, spicy, and vegan-friendly.  Another bonus: it’s made with common, easy to find (in a health food store anyways) ingredients.

I’m a huge fan of lentils but I tend to use the green/brown or black beluga variety.  Red lentils cook up even faster, making them perfect for a quick weeknight meal.

I gave the same word of caution when I posted the berbere recipe, but berbere mixes can vary widely in terms of heat.  If you’re using a pre-made mix, you might have to adjust the amount of seasoning to taste, or even add some cayenne to spice things up.  I found 1 1/2 Tablespoons of berbere to be just right when the lentils were mixed with an equal amount of rice to help temper the heat, but it’s probably better to start with less… you can always add more at the end.

Ethiopian Spicy Red Lentils

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 Tablespoons nit’ir qibe (can substitute vegetable oil)
* 1 large red onion, chopped
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1-inch piece fresh, peeled ginger, minced
* 1 Tablespoon berbere (can use up to 1 1/2 Tablespoons if you like a lot of spice and heat)
* 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, pureed with the juice

* 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
* 1 cup dried red lentils
* salt and pepper to taste
* chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat the nit’ir qibe or oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for two minutes. Add the berbere and stir to coat.

Add the pureed tomatoes and broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Rinse the lentils under cold water and then add to the broth mixture. Stir to combine. Simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste. Top with plenty of chopped cilantro.

Serve hot over rice.

Ayib- Fresh Ethiopian Cheese

I never would have thought my introduction to cheese-making would happen when I was cooking African cuisine.  Italy or France… maybe.  Ethiopia… not so much.  But almost all the spicy recipes call for a side of cottage cheese or yogurt to help temper the heat.  Turns out, that’s a just a Western substitution for ayib, a fresh cheese that’s something of a cottage cheese-ricotta hybrid.

I’d always heard making soft cheeses was easy and I’m happy to report that the rumors are true.  All you do is boil up some milk, add lemon juice and strain the mixture and let it sit overnight.  Season with salt and pepper and you’re dunzo.  Slather it on some injera, sprinkle it on top of a spicy stew, or just sneak a bite or two.  I won’t judge.

Ayib- Fresh Ethiopian Cheese

Yield: Approximately 1-1/2 cups

Ingredients:

* 1/2 gallon milk (8 cups or 2 quarts)
* 2/3 cup lemon juice
* salt and pepper
* chopped chives or green onion for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Bring the milk to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the lemon juice. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until curds begin to form. Remove from heat.

Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth (or use a very fine sieve). Spoon the curdled milk into the sieve or collander and rinse with cold, running water to remove any lingering lemon flavor from the curds. Place over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and let drain for 8 hours or overnight.

Discard the liquid. Place the cheese in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Top with chives or green onion, if desired.

Watergate Salad a.k.a. Pistachio Pineapple Delight

Although I generally strive to eat healthy, minimally processed foods on a day-to-day basis, I’m happy to take a breather now and then to enjoy something like this Watergate salad.  Considering I’d never heard of Watergate Salad before seeing the recipe in Christy Jordan’s cookbook, I was surprised to flip over a bag of marshmallows and see another recipe for it there.  I must be living under a rock or something… or at the very least not in the habit of reading the back of marshmallow bags.

In this dish an instant pistachio pudding packet gets combined with crushed pineapple, whipped topping, mini marshmallows and chopped pecans.  It’s the kind of pleasantly retro and weirdly addicting dessert that you might find at all-you-can eat buffet.  Supposedly the recipe, originally called Pistachio Pineapple Delight, was created in 1975 by Kraft, but renamed after the political scandal by an unknown journalist trying to drum up interest in the recipe.  Note to self: start coming up with more interesting recipe names.

Watergate Salad, Adapted from Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everybody Feel Like Family and the back of a bag of Kraft Mini Marshallows 🙂
* 1 small box instant pistachio pudding (4 serving size)
* One 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
* 1 cup mini marshmallows
* 1 cup chopped pecans, divided
* 8-ounce container whipped topping, divided
In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix, the whole can of crushed pineapple (juice and all), the marshmallows, 3/4 of a cup of the chopped pecans and half of the container of whipped topping.  Stir well to combine thoroughly.  Chill before serving.  Spoon into individual dessert bowls or glasses and top with a dollop of the remaining whipped topping and some chopped pecans.

Serves six to eight.

Lemon and Blueberry Greek Yogurt Parfait

If you’ve ever had lemon-blueberry scones, bread or cheesecake before, then you know that lemon and blueberries are a combination right up there with chocolate and vanilla or peanut butter and jelly.  This pretty (and super simple!) layered concoction brings the two favors together in a dish that’s appropriate for breakfast, dessert, or anytime in between.

If you’re the kind of guy or gal who’d like to make your own lemon curd, a recipe is forthcoming.  Normally I’d hammer it out right away, but I’m feeling a bit loopy at the moment.  I spent most of the Sunday on a boat out in some pretty choppy water.  Good times, but I feel like I’ve still got my sea legs and a case of mal de debarquement.  God I love the French language, everything sounds so pretty… even land sickness.  But I’ll get the recipe up just as soon as the room and laptop stop moving…

Blueberry and Lemon Greek Yogurt Parfait

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

* 7 to 12 ounces plain Greek yogurt
* several Tablespoons lemon curd
* handful fresh blueberries

Directions:

In a clear glass or dessert bowl, alternate layers of Greek yogurt, lemon curd, and blueberries. Serve immediately.

Note: I wrote out some really basic proportions, but feel free to just eyeball it or adjust the amounts to meet your specific preferences.

Khmer Pork with Yard-Long Beans

With the exception of bacon, I really don’t cook with pork very often.  It’s a shame because it’s so versatile… just like that other white meat (i.e., chicken).  I guess I have the blog to thank for making me be more adventurous with pork.  There were some great curried jerk pork chops with mango salsa when I was cooking my way through Jamaica and some incredible pork tenderloin from my time in the Basque Country.  I still dream about that pan sauce… so so good.

And once again, pork doesn’t disappoint in this Khmer dish that combines thin slices of pork with yard-long beans.  The recipe is quite mild and easy to prepare, but it still packs a whole lot of flavor due to the addition of fish sauce.  Never cooked with fish sauce before?  It’s smelly, it’s funky, it’s wonderful.  Although I lived twenty-something years of my life without it, it’s become an absolute staple in my kitchen.  I think you’ll love it too.

Khmer Pork with Yard-Long Beans

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 6 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 red chile pepper, seeded and minced (I used a seeded red Jalapeno)
* 1/2 pound lean, boneless pork, thinly sliced across the grain
* 1 teaspoon palm sugar (can substitute brown or white sugar)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
* 1/2 pound yard-long beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
* 1/4 cup water
* chopped cilantro

Directions:

In a large skillet or wok heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to brown. Add the minced chile pepper and cook another minute.

Add the pork, palm sugar, and salty and stir fry until all of the pork has turned from pink to white. Add the fish sauce and the beans and cook for another two minutes. Add the water, bring to a simmer and let cook until the beans are tender crisp and the pork is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with rice.

Garlic and Parmesan Kale Chips

This past week I’ve been slowly transitioning back to my normal eating.  Although it’s not easy, I’m doing my best to not go overboard on previously restricted foods (although a package of mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates is making this a particularly difficult task).  So rather than dive into a bowl full of cheesy, gluten-free mac and cheese, which I’ll admit sounds pretty awesome right about now, I sprinkled just a little bit of Parmesan sprinkled on these otherwise cleanse-appropriate kale chips.

Kale chips were quite the food blogger darling about a year or so ago.  There were subtle variations between different bloggers’ versions, but they all follow the same basic premise: kale, one of the healthiest greens out there, masquerades quite successfully as an unhealthy snack chip.  They’re like a lighter, more delicate potato chop.  If the salty crunch of the chips isn’t enough to entice a skeptic into trying a one of these, perhaps the Parmesan and garlic will…

Garlic and Parmesan Kale Chips

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 bunches kale
* 2 Tablespoons olive oil
* 2 large garlic cloves, minced
* salt and pepper
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse kale and pat dry. Remove and discard the thick ribs and roughly chop the leaves. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the edges are crispy and slightly browned.

Note: You really want to make sure there’s no moisture on the kale prior to coating with olive oil as water will prevent the chips from getting crisp.

Banana, Almond and Chocolate Ice Cream

There comes a time during every cleanse when I reach a breaking point.  I’m just glad to know that next time I’m ready to call it quits and head to the drug store and pick up some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I can whip up this banana, almond and chocolate ice cream instead.

This might look somewhat familiar to you… it’s a riff on the Mint Chocolate Ice Cream I made earlier in the month.  I liked it so much that I wanted more… but I also wanted to play around with different flavor combinations.  Peanut butter and chocolate would have been my first instinct, but peanut butter is a no-go on the particular program I’m loosely following.  Feel free to substitute peanut butter if that’s what you have on hand.

Healthy Banana, Almond and Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

* 3 very ripe bananas, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen
* 1/3 cup almond butter (can substitute peanut butter)
* 1/4 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
* chopped almond and chocolate for garnish (optional)

Directions:

If using a high speed blender such as a Vita-mix or Blendtec: Place the bananas and almond butter into the blender container. Turn on the machine and quickly increase speed to high. Use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades while processing. Once everything is slightly combined, stop the machine and add the chocolate chips. Turn the machine back on and again increase the speed to high. In about 10-30 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and mounds should appear in the mixture. Stop machine immediately or melting can occur.

If using a food processor: In a food processor combine the bananas and almond butter. Process until almost smooth. Add the chocolate chips and process until well combined.

Scoop into bowls, top with chopped chocolate and almonds, if using, and serve immediately.

Note: You can also freeze the mixture to get a harder ice cream, but you may have to let it sit out and thaw for a minute or two before you’ll be able to scoop it.

Eggs Stuffed with Tuna and Anchovies

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there who was scared of hard-boiled eggs as a little kid.  I mean, have you guys seen the unappetizing greyish tint of the yolk of overcooked hard-boiled egg?

But eventually I had a small bite or two in a Cobb salad and the world didn’t end.  In fact, I kind of thought it was pretty good… but certainly not great.  But then I saw this post from Clothide about how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg using a technique that she’d learned from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes…   I gave it a shot and I’m now very much a fan.  You’ll get eggs with a gorgeous goldenrod-colored creamy yolk every time.  I definitely recommend the technique for these eggs.

And speaking of these eggs, if you like deviled eggs and you like tuna salad, give them a shot.  They’re like a two-for-one special.

Hard Boiled Eggs Stuffed with Anchovies and Tuna

Ingredients:

* 5 eggs at room temperature
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 3 oz can tuna, drained and flaked
* 5 canned anchovy fillets, minced
* paprika (optional)

Directions:

In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. Carefully lower the eggs into the water and cook (water should be at a constant low boil) for eight minutes. Remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and immediately put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Peel the eggs and cut them in half. Scoop out the yolk and place in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, tuna and anchovies and add salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the hollow cavity of the egg whites and sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Basque Lemon Shrimp

Well, it’s finally happened.  My dairy and meat loving self has finally started to crave the lighter foods of summer.  And so this lemon shrimp dish found me just in time.  It comes together quickly but needs an hour or two to marinate.  Just try not to make it too far ahead of time- the lemon juice will continue to “cook” the shrimp, leaving it a bit rubbery if you let it sit for more than a couple hours.

But my guess is they won’t make it that long.  With a pleasant lemony tang punctuated by the occasional sharpness of the olives and anchovies, the shrimp are great alone as a cold salad or antipasto.  Or put them atop a bed of greens or grains with a side of sliced avocado for a simple summer meal.

Basque Lemon Shrimp

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup lemon juice
* 1 Tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
* 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
* 6 anchovy filets, roughly chopped
* 1 medium red onion, very finely sliced
* 1 bay leaf, crumbled
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
* salt and pepper
* 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced (optional)

Directions:

Prepare marinade by combining the lemon juice, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, olives, anchovies, red onion, bay leaf, and cayenne.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan and fry the garlic 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally until no longer pink. Add the shrimp, garlic and accumulated juices into the marinade and stir to coat.

Let cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge to chill another hour or two, stirring once or twice.

Serve alone or atop a bed of lettuce or whole grains, with the sliced avocado, if desired.

Gluten-Free Lamingtons- Sponge Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Coconut

An Australian classic, Lamingtons are little cubes of sponge cake covered in chocolate frosting and shredded coconut.  It’s probably an understatement to say that they’re kind of a big deal Down Under.  I mean, I even saw blogs devoted solely to these cakes.

Most recipes I saw called for a powdered sugar and cocoa powder based frosting.  I put it head to head against my favorite chocolate ganache.  It’s probably no surprise which won.  And I’m by no means a frosting snob (I’ve definitely been caught eating frosting straight out of the jar many times before), but the ganache is smoother, richer and actually coated the cake better.  And it’s super simple to make as well.

If you’re looking for more coconut flavor, adding some coconut extract to the sponge cake was a nice variation.  It’s also common to cut the cake in half and fill with whipped cream.  It also looks like I’m one month too early to the party… July 21st is National Lamington Day in Australia.  Mark your calendars…
 
Note: the recipe for sponge cake batter makes a bit more than a square baking pan, so use leftover batter to make some cupcakes to snack on while you’re assembling the lamingtons.  The cake is delicious on its own… almost like a rich Angel Food Cake. 

Gluten-Free Lamingtons- Sponge Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Coconut

Ingredients:

Sponge Cake:
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
1 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups heavy cream

1/2 to 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray and place 6 cupcake liners into a cupcake baking pan.

Mix rice flour, baking powder, guar gum and salt together in a small bowl. In a large bowl beat egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer. Gradually increase speed to high and slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar until the whites hold soft peaks.

In another large bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg yolks until thick. Add the remaining sugar gradually until the mixture lightens. Add the flour mixture, the vanilla extract and the coconut extract, if using, and mix until smooth.

Fold in about one-third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk and flour mixture to lighten the batter. Gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into the prepared cake pan and the cupcake tins. Bake until the cake springs back when touched lightly, about 20-22 minutes for the cake and about 16-18 minutes for the cupcakes.

Use a small knife to cut around the sides of the cake pan to loosen the cake. Invert onto a wax or parchment paper-lined cooking rack and peel off the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely. Cut into 16 squares and let dry out for several hours, or overnight, on the counter or in the fridge.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate ganache. Heat the heavy cream in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave until hot, but not boiling. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for several minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool for a couple minutes. Place the coconut in a wide shallow bowl or on a plate.

Take individual pieces of sponge cake and carefully drop into the chocolate ganache to coat all sides. Once coated, place on a cooling rack covered with wax paper and sprinkle with the coconut. If you’d like more coconut, roll the ganache-covered cake in the coconut to coat on all sides.

Repeat with all pieces of sponge cake. Use any leftover ganache to frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with coconut. Place in the refrigerator to allow the ganache to set.