Red Lentil Soup with Warm Spices

I absolutely love red lentil soup. I have made several versions and I have always been pleased with the results. It’s easy, healthy, and delicious. This version was incredibly creamy. I loved the pop of color from the flavorful toppings too.

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I modified the proportions. We ate it with a green salad and warm naan- a perfect light dinner. Vegetable stock can be substituted for the chicken stock for a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Soup:

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped fine (I used a food processor)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups chicken stock & 4 cups homemade turkey stock)
  • 4 cups water
  • 21 ounces (3 cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 T (1/4 cup, about 1 lemon) freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning

For the Topping:

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp dried mint, crumbled (I omitted it)
  • tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

To Make the Soup:

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to simmer. Simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half are broken down, about 15 minutes.
  6. Whisk soup vigorously until it is coarsely pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Cover and keep warm. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Thin soup with water, if desired, when reheating.)

To Make the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in small skillet or in the microwave. (I only did 1/2 of the topping because I froze 1/2 of the soup!)
  2. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika, as desired.
  3. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle each portion with spiced butter (about 1 teaspoon), sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

North African Bean Stew with Winter Squash

This is a healthy and hearty vegetarian stew. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with steamed spinach on the side. I loved that it was loaded with warm spices.

The recipe was adapted from Brooklyn’s Kos Kaffe via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used farro instead of barley, used canned beans, and increased the amount of garlic. I also reduced the amount water to achieve a thicker consistency. Nice.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Baharat Spice Blend:

  • 1 T sweet paprika
  • 1/2 T ground coriander
  • 1/2 T ground cumin
  • 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

For the Stew:

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 2 leeks, white and green parts, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated
  • 1 cup finely diced fennel, fronds reserved (1 medium or 1/2 large fennel bulb)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baharat spice blend
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley or farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  •  large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • 4 cups cooked beans or chickpeas (I used 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (1/2 large or 1 small squash)
  • 3/4 cup peeled and diced turnip (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • plain yogurt, for serving (I used Greek yogurt)
  • aleppo pepper or hot paprika, for serving
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Make the baharat spice blend. Set aside.
  2. Cut leeks in half, slice into half moons, and soak in a bowl of water. Drain and finely chop in a food processor.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and cook leeks until they begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. While the leeks cook, finely chop the cilantro stems, fennel and garlic in a food processor.
  5. Stir the cilantro stems into the pot, along with diced fennel and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in baharat, cinnamon and tomato paste, and cook until paste begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in broth, 1 cup water (water can be omitted for a thicker consistency), the barley/farro, and the salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stir in saffron, if using, and reduce heat to medium. (The original recipe uses 3 cups of water- increase for a more soup-like consistency, as desired.)
  8. Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. (I simmered the stew for 20 minutes because I used par-cooked farro.)
  9. Stir in beans, squash, turnip and lentils; cook until barley/farro and vegetables are tender, about another 30 minutes.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Remove cinnamon stick.
  11. Ladle stew into bowls. (I served it over rice.)
  12. Spoon a dollop of yogurt on top and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with cilantro leaves, fennel fronds and Aleppo pepper or paprika, as desired.

Chile Chicken Nachos

One of my friends has been trying to convince me to make nachos for dinner for quite some time. My kids (who were well aware of this suggestion) were so deprived, they have ordered nachos on several occasions as an entrée when we’ve indulged at a Mexican restaurant. 😉

When I saw this recipe for “party nachos,” I thought that I could (and should) serve them for dinner! Crazy? Nope. My kids were thrilled. After all, nachos are a sheet-pan dinner. This version uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut too.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Rick Martinez. I scaled down the proportions. However, I did prepare the full recipe for the rotisserie chicken and sauce, keeping half to use for tacos, etc., on another occasion.

The bottom layer was reminiscent of a enchilada pie, or taco or enchilada skillet meal- other weeknight favorites over here. The rotisserie chicken meat is coated with a fabulous, full-flavored sauce. This sauce brings these nachos to the next level. I loved all of the toppings too. Very cheesy.

When not being served for dinner, these nachos would also be a great appetizer or snack, of course.

Yield: Serves about 6

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 T achiote paste or tomato paste
  • 8 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded (I substituted 2 ancho chilies plus 4 guajillo chiles)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (or 1 T adobo sauce to keep things mild)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bones and shredded
  • 1 10-oz bag frozen corn, thawed, drained
  • 1/2 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, chopped
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1/2 cup) or finely grated Cotija cheese (about 1 cup)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 8 to 10-oz tortilla chips
  • 1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • thinly sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, avocado cubes, and pickled jalapeños, for serving, as desired
  • sour cream, for serving, as desired
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high until shimmering.
  2. Cook garlic and half of onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Stir in achiote paste/tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until brick red, about 1 minute.
  4. Add dried chiles, chipotle chile, stock, cumin, and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until chiles are very soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Place a rack in the center of oven; preheat to 350°, preferably on convection.
  6. Transfer chile mixture to a blender and purée until smooth.
  7. Return to saucepan, stir in chicken, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; season with salt. Remove from heat; set chicken aside until ready to assemble. (Reserve half of this saucy chicken for another use; only half is needed for the nachos.)
  8. Meanwhile, toss corn, chopped poblano chile, half of the feta/Cotija cheese, and remaining onion in a medium bowl until combined; season with salt.
  9. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  10. Arrange half of the chips in an even layer on the bottom of the baking sheet.
  11. Top with half of the reserved chicken mixture, half of the corn mixture, and half of the cheddar.
  12. Repeat layers with remaining chips, chicken mixture, corn mixture, and cheddar.
  13. Bake nachos, rotating pan halfway through, until cheese is melted and edges of chips are beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes.
  14. Serve topped with radishes, cilantro, avocado, pickled jalapeños, remaining feta/Cotija cheese, sour cream, and other desired toppings alongside.

Do Ahead: Nachos can be assembled 1 hour before baking. Cover with plastic and store at room temperature.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes & Pancetta

Full-flavored sheet pan dinners are a dream. I loved that this one was seasoned with smoked paprika- it has such a fabulous depth of flavor. The “jammy” roasted tomatoes were sweet and delicious. I served the chicken and sauce over a bed of brown Basmati rice to soak up every last drop.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated broccoli florets and increased the amount of garlic. In addition to rice, I served this dish with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. Wonderful.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 10 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • 1 T sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (preferably different colors), halved
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, optional
  • 2 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh dill, parsley or other herbs, for serving (I used cilantro)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Season chicken all over with salt, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Smash all the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and peel them.
  4. Finely grate two of the garlic cloves into a small bowl. Stir in the 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, oregano, brown sugar, and cumin. Pour over chicken, tossing to coat.
  5. Add tomatoes, broccoli florets (if using) and remaining smashed, peeled garlic cloves to baking sheet, spreading them out around the chicken. Season tomatoes and broccoli lightly with salt and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  6. Scatter pancetta on top.
  7. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir the tomatoes and pancetta, but don’t disturb the chicken.
  8. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  9. Stir the tomatoes, broccoli, and pancetta around in the pan, scraping up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom and sides, and stir in the herbs and black pepper to taste.
  10. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you like.
  11. Place a bed of rice on a platter, if desired. Transfer the reserved chicken to the platter.
  12. Spoon tomatoes, broccoli, garlic and pancetta over the chicken to serve.

Duck Tacos with Refried Black Beans

I usually think of duck meat as being too fatty to agree with me. 😉 After seeing Sara Moulton make these tacos, she convinced me to give it another chance. In this dish, the fatty skin is removed and the shredded duck meat was very moist and flavorful.

I often see the vacuum-sealed, cooked rotisserie duck at Costco. On my last visit, when most the fresh poultry was out of stock and the rotisserie chicken was limited to one per visit, there was plenty of rotisserie duck available. 🙂 These tacos could also be made with rotisserie chicken, of course, but this was a nice change. My son thought that they were “next-level.”

This recipe was adapted from Sara’s Weeknight Meals, via SaraMolton.com. I doubled the original recipe to use the entire rotisserie duck and added additional toppings. The leftover filling was just as delicious reheated and served with fresh toppings and taco shells. The healthy and quick refried black beans were fabulous too.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Spice Blend:

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

For the Filling & Toppings:

  • 1 half of a cooked rotisserie duck
  • 1 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 3 T water
  • 12 ready-to-eat regular-size taco shells, warmed according to package directions
  • chopped or shredded iceberg lettuce or finely-shredded cabbage, for serving
  • chopped tomatoes (I used chopped grape tomatoes)m for serving
  • shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend, to taste, for serving
  • prepared salsa, for serving
  • light sour cream, for serving
  • cilantro, for serving
  • diced avocado, for serving
  • canned diced chilies, for serving
  • hot sauce, for serving (I used Chipotle Cholula)
  • rice, for serving, optional
  • Refried beans, recipe below

To Make the Spice Blend:

  1. Add the ingredients to a bowl and stir well to combine.

To Make the Fillings, Toppings, & To Serve:

  1. Remove the skin from the duck meat. Shred enough meat from one half of a rotisserie cooked duck to yield 2 1/2 cups.
  2. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the shredded duck and spice blend and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the water and cook, covered, for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Divide the filling among the taco shells.
  6. Top with the lettuce and tomatoes, and sprinkle with cheese.  Top with cilantro, avocado, diced chiles, and hot sauce, as desired. Spoon on the salsa and sour cream, if using.
  7. Serve immediately with refried beans on the side. (The refried beans can be used as an additional taco filling, if desired.)

For the Refried Beans:

  • 2 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (I used 1 large yellow onion when I doubled the recipe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups thoroughly cooked black beans or one 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  4. Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the beans and chicken stock, cover, and cook until the beans are very soft and the flavors are well blended, about 5 minutes.
  6. Use a fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the beans.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Note: Cooked, rotisserie duck can be purchased online @Maple Leaf Farms.com.

Shakshuka with Feta

As in my last post, this recipe was re-published in a New York Times special section called One Pot/Pan/Skillet: 24 Brilliant Recipes for Everyone Who Hates Doing the Dishes. My dream. 🙂

During this time of self-quarantine, I have made or plan to make several other dishes from this collection including past favorites like One-Pan Shrimp Scampi with Orzo and Mustard Chicken with Shallots and White Wine.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. We ate it for dinner with a crusty sourdough baguette and a giant green salad. This quick and tasty dish can be served any meal of the day.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with their juices, coarsely chopped (I used San Marzano)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 5 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 6 to 8 large eggs (I used 7)
  • chopped cilantro, for serving
  • hot sauce, for serving
  • warm pita or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low. (I used a large enameled cast iron pot.)
  3. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes; stir in cumin, paprika and cayenne, and cook 1 minute.
  5. Pour in tomatoes and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in crumbled feta.
  7. Gently crack eggs into skillet over tomatoes. Season eggs with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot sauce and warm bread.

Turkey Corn Chowder with Bacon

This chowder was the best use of leftover turkey I’ve found so far. It was so wonderful, it may have to become the traditional recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my house. It was loaded with flavor and topped with bacon. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Rhoda Boone. It would also be wonderful with shredded rotisserie chicken.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 slices bacon (4 ounces)
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds (halved lengthwise if large)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 medium jalapeño, finely chopped, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 cups (48 ounces) homemade or store-bought chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Two 4-ounce cans mild diced green chiles, drained
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cups shredded turkey or rotisserie chicken
  • 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half, plus more to taste
  • sliced scallions, for serving
  • chopped parsley, for serving
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Drain on a paper towel and crumble into small pieces and set aside, reserving the fat in the pot. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat, and save for another use.
  3. Return the pot to medium heat, and add onion, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes more.
  5. Add jalapeño and cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.
  6. Add stock, sweet potato, chiles, oregano, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cook until sweet potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the turkey or chicken and corn and cook until warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and half-and-half. Continue to cook until just warmed through.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning, thinning the chowder with another 1/4 cup half-and-half, if desired.
  10. Serve chowder topped with crumbled bacon, scallions, and parsley.

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