Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale

On a cold night, this dal is just what you’ll need to warm up. Not only is it warm and delicious, it is FULL of great flavor. The lentils get spice from serrano chiles (I amped it up a little with more than the recipe called for) and ginger, alongside the traditional coconut, garlic, cinnamon and cardamom flavors that you’ll find in dal.

My favorite part of this dish is the super flavor-packed kale that you heap on top. It is sauteed with mustard seeds and mixed with some of the onion/garlic/serrano mixture that forms the base of the dal, and hit with lime at the end. It gives just the right hit of acid and freshness from the greens, to offset the comforting lentils.

TW’s Tips

  • If you don’t have cardamom pods, replace with a teaspoon or so of ground cardamom.
  • It’s worth it to use coconut oil instead of olive or vegetable when sautéing for this recipe. It adds a much different undercurrent of flavor that you shouldn’t miss out on!
  • Make sure you taste and salt the dal well to really bring out the flavor.
  • If you like spice, add an extra chile!

Enjoy!

Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound red lentils
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 small white onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¾ inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 green finger chiles or Serrano chiles, stemmed and finely sliced
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 large bunch kale (about 9 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) canned coconut milk
  • Yogurt, for serving
  • Rice, for serving

Directions

Wash the lentils in a strainer in cold water until the water runs clear, then place in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside. Bash the cardamom pods with the side of a knife so they crack open.

Put 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil into a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves. Fry for a minute, then add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are browning and soft. Add the garlic, ginger and green chiles and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove a third of the mixture from the pot and set aside. (Leave the cinnamon stick behind.)

Drain the lentils and add to the pot, along with the turmeric and 4 1/4 cups of hot water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once they are boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and creamy.

While the lentils are simmering, chop the kale into thin strips and discard the thicker stems. Put the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil into a lidded frying pan (keep the lid off for now) over medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the reserved onion mixture and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the kale, shredded coconut and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of hot water and put the lid on to steam the kale for 2 minutes, or until soft and tender. Add the lime juice and stir.

When the lentils are soft and creamy, add the coconut milk and remaining salt and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat, and pick out and discard the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. To serve, ladle into bowls and divide kale over the top. Serve with a side of yogurt and rice.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

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It’s been chilly and I’ve been sick, so when I finally had enough energy to leave the house yesterday, soup ingredients were in order. It’s just a short walk from my apartment to Chelsea Market–couldn’t have planned that better!–so I bundled up and set out with my purse full of tissues. There’s a great but small market called Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Market that carries some of the best produce I’ve seen–and every kind imaginable, from 10 kinds of kale to real, legit baby corn in a husk (who knew that was an actual vegetable?)–and at great prices since they wholesale it to the Food Network (located in the same building) and tons of other restaurants in Manhattan. They also carry a great cheese selection, tons of nuts and dried fruit and good pantry staples, but don’t come here looking for much in the freezer or refrigerated case–it’s very limited. Definitely worth a trip if you’re looking for great produce.

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And since I was there, I just HAD to stop for a meat pie at Tuck Shop. This was by far my favorite bite on a recent Chelsea Market foodie tour I took with my girls Shahnaz and Anna. It’s delicious crust around perfectly seasoned beef — what could be better? Add some sriracha and you’ll be in heaven. We went to 10 different spots on the tour, so that’s saying something!

Back to the cheddar corn chowder — I chose frozen corn this time around since the fresh didn’t look great, but I can imagine that this soup with fresh, sweet corn would be even more amazing. It’s definitely getting a revisit from me to try that out. But it was a delicious success anyway — you get lots of great bacon flavor by sautéing the onions in bacon fat, and great corn flavor with some heft from the potatoes. A great meal on its own, or add some cornbread or a baguette and green salad (or meat pie) and you’re golden.

This is an Ina Garten recipe–love her stuff.

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TW’s Tips

  • Cut the recipe in half. Seriously, unless you’re cooking for 12 or want to freeze some. It makes a LOT.
  • Use homemade stock if you have it. If you don’t, learn to make it!
  • I used thin-skinned Yukon potatoes — as long as the skin isn’t thick like a russet potato, you’re good. You could even use red-skinned potatoes to give it a little more color.

Enjoy!

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
  • 10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Chicken and Egg Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Dill

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It’s getting to be soup weather in New York — complete with a rainy Nor’easter. This soup has some nice bright flavors from the lemon and dill, and it cooks up in 30 minutes — the perfect comfort food on a chilly night. I’ve never made soup with egg in it before — it adds a nice creaminess without cream or milk — just make sure you whip it thoroughly before stirring it in. Quick, easy and the leftovers are delish!

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TW’s Tips

  • The recipe calls for pastina, which you could probably find at a specialty Italian grocer. I opted for orzo, but you could also use Israeli couscous or any small pasta.
  • I used shredded roasted chicken and threw it in at the end to heat through, instead of putting the whole chicken on the bone in the pot.
  • Serve with pita or flat bread.

Chicken and Egg Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Dill

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 (2 1/2-to-3-pound) rotisserie chicken (on the bone)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup pastina (small pasta) or orzo
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups baby spinach or other baby greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)

Directions
Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the broth, 4 cups water and the juice of 1 lemon; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pastina/orzo and simmer until the pasta is cooked and the soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken; when cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite-size pieces.

Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk the juice of the remaining lemon with the whole eggs and yolks in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually whisk a ladleful of the hot soup into the egg mixture, then stir the warm egg mixture into the soup and return to medium-low heat. Cook until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the shredded chicken, spinach and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with feta, if desired.

Broccoli Soup

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I’m on a bit of a cold weather food kick, so needless to say, I have another soup in store for ya! My BFF Melissa made this for me a few weeks ago (it’s a Neelys recipe) and it’s so creamy and delicious, yet also surprisingly good for you! It uses only 1/2 cup of cream, and no cheese…and you would never know it. I made a triple (!!!) batch because I wanted to take meals to a couple of my girlfriends who just had babies. I figured they had probably seen way too many casseroles/pastas and were likely craving some vegetables, so this was the perfect solution (and also freezable if they didn’t want to eat it then).

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To add a little richness to the soup, sprinkle some cheese on top or a little sour cream, and serve with a crusty baguette that you can dip. Yummmm.

TW’s TIps

  • It is SO worth the investment to buy an immersion blender if you make a lot of soups. It’s also great for mashed potatoes. Otherwise, you can use a blender or food processor but you’ll have to do it in batches.
  • Make sure you taste it and add more salt as needed (I added more than I would have thought…probably because it was a triple batch, but whatever!)
  • Use homemade chicken stock if you have it.
  • To freeze, ladle into ziploc freezer bags (quart or gallon depending on what portion you want to freeze) and lay flat in the freezer. Then you can stand them up once they’re frozen and they thaw more quickly.

Broccoli Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, carrot, salt and pepper and saute until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, until the flour reaches a blonde color. Add stock and bring to boil.

Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Pour in cream. With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and then replace the lid back on the pot.

Pappa al Pomodoro, aka Amazing Italian Tomato Soup

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It’s been a rainy few days in San Diego, which doesn’t happen too often. I won’t complain, though — the variety is nice, actually — and regardless, it’s the perfect weather for a nice, warm bowl of soup, which I took advantage of with this awesome pappa al pomodoro. This is a classic Italian recipe — Tuscan to be exact — and was traditionally a way to get rid of that stale bread Italians tend to have hanging around. As you can expect from a classic Italian dish, the flavors are simple but delicious. You’ve got ripe tomatoes (in this case canned San Marzano), onion, carrot, garlic, fennel, basil and red wine, all mixed in with cubes of bread that break down and thicken it up a bit. This version by Barefoot Contessa incorporates a topping that absolutely nailed it for me — toasted bread (basically fresh croutons), pancetta and basil leaves baked in a hot oven and then sprinkled on top. It’s a great crunch with salt from the pancetta and the crispy basil leaves. Awesome.

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I made this with some of the homemade chicken stock I made the other day, which really made a big difference. It’s so nice to be able to control the salt, and I barely had to add any to this! It was so warm and hearty, and the perfect thing for a rainy night. Serve with a salad or a baguette.

TW’s Tips

  • I splurged on San Marzano tomatoes instead of the regular or store brand. I have to say, it was awesome and much sweeter than you would get from the run-of-the-mill brand.
  • I highly recommend pancetta for the topping — bacon as a replacement just won’t cut it.
  • Barefoot Contessa calls for whisking this before serving — personally, I wasn’t a big fan, particularly of the chunks of carrot. So, I just stuck it in the food processor and smoothed it out a bit. Perfect.
  • This makes a lot — as usual, I froze some, which will definitely take me through at least six more servings.

Pappa al Pomodoro

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Vegetable Lentil Soup

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This weekend I celebrated Christmas with some of my closest girlfriends at my house around my (if-I-don’t-say-so-myself) beautiful Christmas tree, and I needed the perfect homey, warm, comforting meal to go along with it. I settled on a soup — there’s not much better than gathering in a warm house with people you love and a warm bowl of soup.

I picked this vegetable lentil soup from Barefoot Contessa because it sounded like the perfect comfort meal. It’s packed with veggies — carrots, celery, onion, leeks — plus delicious green lentils that make you not miss the meat at all, and cooking it low and slow really brings out the rich flavor. Finish it with a hit of olive oil and grated Parmesan, and you’ve got a bowlful of happiness. I served this with a salad and bread. Super simple and easy.

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The girls loved it! We drank wine, ate our weight in amazing Humboldt Fog cheese, opened our “secret Santa” gifts and did a lot of laughing. The perfect holiday celebration if you ask me!

TW’s Tips

  • When you clean the leeks, chop off the upper 2/3 of tough green and just keep the lower white/light green part. Cut in half and then across making half-moons. Leeks can get sandy and it’s hard to wash out the sand, so throw the half-moons in a medium bowl of water and swish them around to get the sand out. It will settle to the bottom of the bowl and you’ll be spared any gritty bites.
  • Don’t obsess about the size of your vegetable “dice.” Not worth it.
  • I love the finish with red wine vinegar — in fact, I put a tiny splash in each bowl when I serve it, in addition to the two tablespoons you add at the end.
  • When I was eating up the leftovers, I ran out of Parmesan and substituted Pecorino Romano — just as delish.
  • This makes a LOT — I served four of us for dinner, ate it for several nights for leftovers and still had so much that I froze a couple of quart bags of it. They’re the perfect two-serving size, so I can thaw them in the morning and have a great bowl of soup that night.

I love this time of year. And I wish you a warm, family- and friend-filled Christmas!

Vegetable Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound French green lentils
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tequila Crema

I am highly (highly!) delinquent on this post — craziness with work plus a fun trip to the Grand Canyon interfered. I hate it when life gets in the way of my cooking! However, I redeem myself with this incredible recipe for chicken tortilla soup. This is a Guy Fieri and it’s super spicy but also really tangy, with some smoky flavor from the grilled chicken and an amazing, crunchy topper of homemade tortilla strips dusted with chili powder. Oh yes.

Starting with the chicken — it’s marinated in a yummy combo of lime juice, tequila, adobo sauce, garlic and spices — it packs a punch. Note that you have to take the skin off the chicken if you don’t buy skinless — it’s relatively easy to do, but I forgot until AFTER it was in the marinade, which made the process rather messy, and not my favorite. Raw chicken is not my idea of fun. This is also not the easiest chicken to make since once it’s cooked you have to take it off the bone, but ya know what? It adds flavor, so it is what it is. If you’re not into it, try boneless skinless thighs and just shred the chicken.

The soup itself is flavored with jalapeno pepper, onion, chili powder and cumin — simple but good. But it’s the toppings that really make this a winner…starting with sliced avocado, which will sell me on basically anything, and followed by tequila crema — sour cream spiked with tequila and lime zest, which gives a nice cooling effect. Add a squeeze of lime juice directly on the soup, and a sprinkling of cilantro…and finally, homemade fried tortilla strips. I admit up front, these are not the easiest to make, and your kitchen will smell like oil for a day or so. But there’s nothing like frying your own tortillas, and these make the perfect crunch on top. This is nothing like crumbled up tortilla chips — this is the real deal.

TW’s Tips

  • The sliced tortilla Guy Fieri called for as part of the soup base was a little weird. I didn’t like it. I thought maybe it was supposed to thicken it a little, but that didn’t really work out.
  • I’d skip trying to skin the jalapeno and just mince it after you char it — peeling the skin off never quite works, but the nice flavor from searing it is excellent.
  • Remember you’ve got to marinate the chicken for 6-8 hours.
  • Serve with corn bread…or corn bread studded with jalapeno.
Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tequila Crema

Ingredients

FOR MARINADE:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed

FOR SOUP BASE:

  • 1 jalapeño, roasted and minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, plus some for dust tortilla strips
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock, make sure this is stock, not broth (recommended: Kitchen Essentials)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (recommended: Muir Glen)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 corn tortilla, cut into strips (I’d skip this)

FOR SERVING:

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Pinch chili powder
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted and flesh diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

Put the vegetable oil, tequila, lime juice, chipotle pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Put the marinade in a plastic bag along with the chicken. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Add the jalapeno and grill until the skin is well charred. Remove the jalapeno to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to sweat the skin. When cool enough to handle, remove the stem, skin, and seeds, then finely mince.

Heat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once hot, add the onion and saute until starting to caramelize, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, minced jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, to taste. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the mixture. Deglaze the pan with some of the chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the remaining chicken stock, the crushed tomatoes and the lime juice. Add the tortilla strips and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

While soup base is simmering, heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and put on grill. Grill, turning until cooked through, about 14 to 18 minutes. Remove from the grill, to a large plate and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred. Keep warm.

For serving:

Heat the vegetable oil in a tall sided skillet to 350 degrees F. Add the tortilla strips and fry until they are golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of chili powder.

Combine the sour cream, 2 tablespoons tequila, and the remaining lime zest in a small bowl and season with salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

To serve, put some of the shredded chicken in the bottom of each bowl and pour in the hot soup base. Top with diced avocado, fried tortilla strips, the tequila crema, and cilantro. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.