Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nimma Rasam

It is no secret that I love soup.  I could eat soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner....not kidding.  Nimma Rasam or lemon rasam, is one of my favorite soups to order when we eat Indian cuisine.  It is a brothy, tomato based soup that is spicy, tangy, loaded with flavor, and just downright delicious.  I feel like it is a healing soup as well since it contains turmeric, spices, lots of garlic, ginger, and heat from hot chillies!  I have been on the hunt for the perfect recipe for rasam since I had my first bowl.  This is my latest version, made with sprouted lentils so that it is hearty but still brothy at the same time.  If you love spicy soups, you are sure to love this! 

Nimma Rasam

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1/2 a large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
3 carrots, halved and cut on a diagonal
1 cup of assorted sprouted lentils
6 cups of water
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 head of garlic, sliced
2 small green chilies, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
lemon slices for serving
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped (plus more for garnish)
Basmati rice for serving

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1 tsp. of black mustard seeds
1 tsp. of cumin seeds
1/2 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 dried red chillies, rinsed and dried
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1/4 tsp. of hing 

Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot on low to medium, add the onion, and a sprinkle of Himalayan salt.  Saute until the onions are translucent, then add the tomatoes.  Cook the tomatoes down a bit until they are mushy (around 8 to 10 minutes), then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, and saute for another minute or two.  Add in the carrots, lentils, green chilies, ginger, garlic, and water.  Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer until the lentils are cooked through.  In the meantime, begin your tarka.  Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and cover the pan.  When you hear the black mustard seeds popping, quickly toss in the curry leaves, dried red chillies, and cover the pan again.  The oil will spit so be careful!  Shake the pan a bit and then add in the onion. Saute until the onions brown a bit and then add in the hing.  After a minute or two, dump your finished tarka into the lentils.  Stir in the lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  Simmer for 5 more minutes so the flavors meld together, season with salt/pepper, and then serve it with a bit of Basmati rice.  Enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Roasted Cabbage, Vegetables, and Garbanzo Beans with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables.  It is one of those versatile veggies that I gravitate towards whenever I am at the store.  I throw it in soups, roast it, saute it, stuff it, make it into a salad, or use it as a condiment in tacos.  You really can't go wrong!  Roasting cabbage is probably one of the easiest and no fuss ways to cook it.  I usually toss it with crushed fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, and olive oil, which is always yummy but decided to try something different this time around.  The peanut sauce below reminds me of the sauce you would have on Szechuan noodles in a Chinese restaurant which is why I can't stop making this!  It is that good!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Roasted Cabbage, Vegetables, and Garbanzo Beans with Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 carrots, thickly julienned
1 red bell pepper, thickly julienned
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper or ground Szechuan peppercorns 
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
lime wedges for serving
sriracha sauce for serving
1/4 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts
3 scallions, chopped 
Jasmine rice or rice noodles for serving

Spicy Peanut Sauce:
1/3 cup of all natural creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup of hot water
1 small garlic clove, grated
2 Tbsp. of rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. of low sodium tamari 
2 tsp. of honey

Preheat your oven to 425.  Place the cabbage, onion, carrots, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan.  Give the veggies a good sprinkle of salt, pepper, and then drizzle a healthy amount of olive oil over the whole thing.  Toss the mixture and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.  Toss again and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.  Add the garbanzo beans, toss once again, and return to the oven for 20 more minutes.  While the vegetables are roasting, make your sauce.  Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until the sauce is smooth.  To plate, place your rice or noodles on the bottom of a dish or bowl.  Next place the veggies on top of the rice, drizzle a good amount of the sauce on top, drizzle some sriracha, and top with cilantro, scallions, nuts, with a lime wedge on the side.  Enjoy!

Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking
Photos by Becky Loves Cooking

Monday, October 13, 2014

Greek Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is probably one of my favorite comfort foods.  I make several varieties utilizing many different types of lentils.  I also always seem to have the ingredients for a lentil soup so it is one of my go-to meals.  Usually, I make my classic Italian version but I decided to go Greek this time since I had quite a bit of pantry items to use up.   I just love the way dill, lemon, and feta, brighten up dishes.  A big bowl of this on a chilly day warms the soul!

Greek Lentil Soup

4-6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 Tbsp. of Greek seasoning (sodium free)
a bundle of fresh thyme (or 1/2 Tbsp. of dried thyme)
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper (optional)
4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 cups of green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/4 cup of fresh dill, roughly chopped (or 1 heaping Tbsp. of dried dill weed)
8 cups of water
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
half a 16 ounce bag of frozen whole leaf spinach or kale
zest of a lemon 
juice of a lemon (or two if they are small)
1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
cooked rice for serving (or some crusty bread!)

Heat the oil in a heavy 5.5 quart Dutch oven over medium, add the onions, pepper, carrots, celery, and a good pinch of salt.  When the veggies begin to brown, add the tomato paste, Greek seasoning, thyme, and crushed red pepper.  Once the tomato paste cooks and becomes a deeper color, add the garlic, and cook for another minute.  Add the lentils, water, dill, cover and bring to a boil.  Bring it down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are cooked through.  Add lemon zest, lemon juice, feta cheese, and spinach.  Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Ladle into bowls over a little bit of rice and enjoy!  

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Harissa

I love Brussels sprouts but to be honest, I don't go out of my way to pick them up at the grocery store.  They take a little work to clean but most of all, they never seem to be fresh.  Today I took my kids to Costco and while we were in the frigid refrigerator section (their favorite section of the store), I glanced over at the sprouts.  To my surprise, they were fresh!  No moldy ends or discolored leaves!  I threw a bag of sprouts into the cart and figured I would come up with some way to prepare them in a day or two.  While in the car, I kept asking my adorable children if either of them had passed gas.  They are usually pretty honest (and proud) about that sort of thing so I dropped it even though our car smelled to high heck!  When we arrived home and I began unloading the car, I quickly realized who/what the culprit was....the Brussels sprouts!  Of course!  I made the decision to get them in the oven as soon as I could because the last thing I wanted to deal with was a stinky fridge.  After glancing around the kitchen, I picked up my old standby, harissa.  I could seriously put harissa on everything and anything.  For those that don't know, harissa is a North African and Middle Eastern hot pepper sauce.  You can use it as a condiment or add it to dishes in the cooking process.  I feel like the roasting process intensifies and deepens the flavor of the harissa.  I have yet to make my own but I definitely plan on doing so in the future.  In the meantime, I have come across a couple of brands that have become my favorites.  I hope you enjoy this new take on Brussels sprouts!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Harissa

2 lbs. of fresh Brussels sprouts, outer layers removed and stems trimmed (halved if they are huge)
3-4 Tbsp. of harissa (I used Piquant Harissa)
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Himalayan salt
crumbled feta cheese
honey, for drizzling
fresh mint, chiffonade

Preheat your oven to 400 and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper (easier clean up at the end).  Toss the sprouts with the harissa, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and spread them out in a single layer on the pan.  Roast them for 20 minutes and then stir them a bit so that they get crispy on all sides.  Roast for another 20 minutes, until they are nice and crispy on the outside but not dried out inside.  For serving, garnish with feta, a drizzle of honey and fresh mint.  Enjoy! 

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stewed Italian Cucuzza Squash

Cucuzza?  What the heck is that?  It may sound like some sort of disease but in fact, it is my favorite summer squash.  Cucuzza (translation...Super Long Squash!), is a crazy Italian squash that can grow up to 10 inches in just one day!  In my family we always referred to it as "cucuzza-long" because apparently its given name didn't truly express how incredibly "long" these squash really are, haha!  Below is a picture of the cucuzza as well as a picture showing how they grow....

The cucuzza vines grew up an old dead tree!  

Cucuzza may be slightly labor intensive to prepare but they are SO worth it.  I will peel and core these guys until the cows come home because I just love the flavor of this squash.  It is sweet, mild, and doesn't turn to gush when you cook it, unlike other squash varieties.  The seeds inside of the cucuzza resemble those of grapefruit seeds......but on steroids, so yes, it needs to be cored.  The skin can be really tough so peeling is also essential.  I prefer to stew or saute my cucuzza but you can stuff them, roast them, add them to soups, etc.!  

Unfortunately, you won't find the cucuzza in the grocery store because let's face it, it probably looks like a Frankensquash to most people and it wouldn't sell.  Instead, you will have to grow them yourself, hunt them down through a CSA or local farmer's market.  I am blessed to have access to a local garden and boatloads of cucuzza!  

So enough of all of that, now onto the recipe!  

Stewed Italian Cucuzza Squash

4-6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
10 or so banana peppers (or 2-4 cubanelles), cored and sliced lengthwise
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
a bundle of fresh thyme
2 lengthy cucuzza squash, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced

Heat the oil in a 9-quart Dutch oven, add the onions, crushed red pepper, and a sprinkle of salt.  When the onions become translucent, add the peppers and cook until they soften.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook this mixture until the water from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated and the mixture has a deep red color to it.  Toss in the garlic and the thyme bundle, cook for a minute or so.  Next, dump in the prepared cucuzza and stir until it is thoroughly coated with the tomato mixture.  Turn the heat to low and cover.  Let this simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes to reduce the liquid that has come out of the squash.  Once the squash stew has thickened, turn it off.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve as a side dish or as a main meal over rice or pasta with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano of course!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Creamy Ethiopian Lentils

It is no secret that I am a sucker for new and different spices.  I absolutely love experimenting with different flavors in the kitchen.  My spice cabinet may be an avalanche waiting to happen but that won't prevent me from snatching up an exotic spice, given the opportunity!  While I have an abundance of different spices, I do make sure to use them all before they expire.  It is a challenge that I give myself and one I happily accept because it forces me to try different recipes and create my own!   

A few months ago, I spotted a spice called Berbere in our local Whole Foods.  For those that don't know, Berbere is an Ethiopian spice...a curry packed with heat.  Of course I had to add it to my collection regardless of the fact that I had no clue what to do with it or what it even tasted like (that is what Pinterest is for!).  Once I got home, I scoured the internet for recipes until I found a really good one.  I now make this recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen almost weekly!  I have made some slight changes but overall the recipe is the same.  This is just the perfect one pot meal for Fall.  If you can, make it the day before you serve it because, like a stew, it tastes even better the next day!  It really gives the flavors a chance to develop and meld together.  This dish also freezes really well so if you have leftovers, save them for another time!

Creamy Ethiopian Lentils

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
Himalayan salt
1-2 Tbsp. Berbere spice (I prefer Frontier brand for this dish)
2 large yams, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup of brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
3 cups of water
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled
4 cups of frozen organic whole leaf spinach
1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk


In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium, add the onions, and sprinkle with salt. When the onions begin to brown, add the Berbere and garlic.  After a minute, add the yams and stir to coat them in the spice mixture.  Add the lentils and broth.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the yams can be cut with a fork but haven’t turned to mush.  Add the tomatoes and then grate your ginger directly into the pot. Let the mixture cook for another 3 minutes or so over low heat, then stir in your coconut milk and spinach.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Serve over your rice of choice (I love Basmati) and enjoy!  

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking

Monday, August 11, 2014

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge chocolate cake fan.  Growing up, I used to insist on chocolate mousse cake for every celebratory occasion.  Not just any cake either, I wanted it covered in a chocolate ganache, chocolate shavings, and decorated with delicious marzipan.   Because I have been eating it for so long, I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur.  I can tell when a bakery uses cheap ingredients or fillers so unless I know a bakery is really good, I bake at home.  My go to chocolate cake recipe is one that I found in my Gourmet magazine back in 1999.....yes, I have been making it for that long!  I have tested many different brands of chocolate, cocoa powders, and coffees, in the process but believe I have come up with the perfect combination now.  I do prefer to use chopped up whole chocolate bars but this time I was in a pinch so I took a shortcut and used the chips. 
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!  It may just end up being the only chocolate cake recipe you will ever need!

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

For the cake:

3 ounces of fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I use Guittard)
1 1/2 cups of a strong freshly brewed coffee (such as Starbuck's)
3 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 tsp. of baking soda
3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. of salt
3 large eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup of canola oil
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk (shaken well)
3/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

For the ganache frosting:

1 lb. of fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I use Guittard)
1 cup of heavy cream
2 Tbsp. of sugar
2 Tbsp. of light corn syrup
1/4 cup of unsalted butter

Special Equipment:
two 10x2 inch round cake pans
parchment paper

Directions for the cake:
Preheat oven to 300 and line cake pans with parchment paper.  
Combine the 3 ounces of chocolate in a small bowl with hot coffee and let stand.  Whisk until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth.
In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another large bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer until slightly thickened and lemon colored (about 5 minutes or so).  Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs.  Beat until well combined.  Add sifted ingredients to the egg mixture.  Beat on medium speed until just well combined (careful not to over beat).  Divide the batter between the pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.  
Cool layers completely in pans on racks.  Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks.  Carefully remove the parchment paper and cool further.  Cake layers can be made one day ahead and wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Directions for the ganache:
Place chocolate in a large bowl (if using bars of chocolate, finely chop it).  In a 2-quart saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.  Remove pan from heat and pour over chocolate.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting.  Whisk again until smooth.  Let the ganache cool.  Sometimes after this step, I beat it with a hand mixer to make it lighter but that is optional.
Spread the frosting between cake layers, over the tops, and sides.  Cake keeps covered and chilled for 3 days.  Make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.  Lastly, enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Gourmet Magazine, March 1999 Issue