Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Parippu (Lentil Dal)

Parippu (Lentil Dal)

I absolutely love Indian cuisine but for some reason, I have been quite intimidated to prepare it at home.  Coming from my background of simple Italian cooking, I wasn't sure that I was even qualified!  At some point I decided that if I wanted to eat Indian cuisine more frequently, without going broke, I would have to jump right in and give it a try.  I decided to start with a dish that is relatively easy and a dish that I order regularly.  Lentil dal!  Dal is a wonderfully flavorful vegetarian dish.  I have tried several different dal recipes but this is by far the best one I have come across.  I slightly adapted (added a few ingredients) this recipe from the original in the cookbook, The Food of India.  This has become a go-to recipe in our home because it is loved so much! I hope that you enjoy it as well.   

Place all of the ingredients (excluding the tarka ingredients), into a pot!

Heat the coconut oil in a pan...

When most of the mustard seeds have popped, add in the other ingredients...

When the onions are browned, your tarka is finished! Add it to the lentils...

Parippu (Lentil Dal)

1 cup of masoor dal (red lentils), picked through and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
1 medium sized ripe tomato, chopped
1 cup of coconut milk
2 cups of water
2 small green chilies, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp. of turmeric
1/2 tsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp. of coriander

For the tarka (final seasoning):

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1 tsp. of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds
1 small onion, finely chopped
10 curry leaves, rinsed and dried
2 dried red chilies, rinsed and dried

Place all of the ingredients minus the items for the tarka, into a Dutch oven and bring to a boil, covered. Once the mixture has come to a boil, turn it to a simmer, and cook for 25 minutes or so, covered.  While the lentils cook, prepare your tarka.  Heat the oil over low heat in a pan. Add the cumin, mustard seeds and cover.  When the mustard seeds pop, carefully add the onion, curry leaves, and dried chilies.  Use the lid as a shield because your pan will spit when you add these ingredients! Cook the tarka until the onions are nicely browned. Add the tarka to the hot lentils, season with salt, and cook for 5 or 10 more minutes.  Serve over Basmati rice and enjoy! 

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe slightly adapted from The Food of India by Murdoch Books

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sauteed Cabbage and Beans

Sauteed Cabbage and Beans

This dish has been a favorite in my family since as long as I can remember.  Growing up, we had a huge garden in our backyard that was tended to by my great grandparents and grandparents (us as well when we were needed!).  I look back at it as my great grandparents and grandparents bringing a little piece of Italy back with them to the United States.  We had fig trees, apricot trees, pear trees, peach trees, a cherry tree, and every type of veggie or herb you could possible want.  You name it, we had it! Looking back, I realize how lucky and spoiled I was with fresh food.  It was the epitome of farm to table eating.  I don't think we shopped for produce at all when the garden was in bloom! 

 I remember a time when I was heading back to college after a weekend at home with my family (must have been 1998 or 1999?), my grandfather took me into the garden and asked me if there was anything I needed.  He didn't even let me answer, he just got to work preparing bags of fresh produce to bring back with me to school.  I was living in a house with some school friends so thankfully I had access to a full kitchen!  After he filled bags with fresh Italian peppers, basil, tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, etc., he handed me a huge Savoy cabbage.  I looked at him in disbelief! It was seriously the biggest cabbage I had ever seen! I said, "what am I supposed to do with this?!" Seriously, it was huge.  He laughed, gave me his signature warm smile and said, "just saute it with some garlic and oil".  I got back to college and did just that.  I was eating sauteed cabbage for a week straight and I loved it.  To this day, that was the best tasting head of cabbage I have had.  Below is my new and improved recipe.  I have added beans to make it into more of a meal and I think that they pair well with it! 

Start by sauteing your onions and crushed red pepper...

Add in your garlic...

Add in your cabbage...

Add in your beans once the cabbage is cooked to your liking!

Sauteed Cabbage and Beans

4 to 6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 small heads of either savoy or green cabbage (or one large), cored and shredded
1 15 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup of water or vegetable broth (if needed)
Himalayan salt 
fresh ground pepper

Heat the oil over low to medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add your crushed red pepper, onions, and a sprinkling of salt.  Once your onions are starting to brown, add your garlic and saute for a minute.  Once the garlic is fragrant, add in your cabbage, another sprinkling of salt, and some fresh ground pepper.  Stir so the cabbage is coated with the mixture in the bottom of the pan and cover.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is cooked through but not gushy!  If your cabbage is on the dry side, feel free to add a bit of water or vegetable broth.  Stir in your beans and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, partially covered. Sprinkle with some freshly grated Romano cheese and serve with some crusty bread! Enjoy! 

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rice, Beans, and Greens (Italian-style!)

Rice, Beans, and Greens (Italian-style!)

Do you ever have one of those nights where you don't have much in the fridge but just don't feel like heading to the grocery store? That was me tonight, so I decided to take inventory and see what I could come up with.  I had some leftover Basmati rice in the fridge and then of course all of the basics (garlic, onions, lemons, etc.).  I usually make sure I have the freezer somewhat stocked with veggies for soups and things but even that supply had dwindled! I did have a package of frozen broccoli rabe so I grabbed that, a can of cannellini beans, some wine, a lemon, and went to work.  I love southern-style black-eyed peas and collard greens so this is my Italian version of that dish.  The finished product had us scrambling for seconds! 

Start by sauteing your onions and crushed red pepper...

When the onions have started to brown, add your garlic...

Deglaze with some white wine..

Simmer and reduce!

Dump in the bag of frozen broccoli rabe...

Add your beans..

Rice, Beans, and Greens (Italian-style!)

3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 small organic onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper (adjust to your level of spiciness)
4 cloves of organic garlic, chopped 
1/2 cup of dry white wine 
1 lb package of frozen broccoli rabe (feel free to use fresh if you have it!)
1 15 ounce can of organic cannellini beans
1/2 an organic lemon (zested and sliced)
2 cups of cooked organic Basmati rice
Himalayan salt
fresh ground pepper
grated Pecorino Romano cheese for serving (optional)

Heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven on low to medium.  Add the onion, crushed red pepper, and a sprinkling of salt. Once the onion starts to brown, add your garlic and saute for another minute. Pour in the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half and alcohol has cooked off.  Add the bag of frozen broccoli rabe and saute until the broccoli rabe has cooked through but has still retained its bright green color.  Add your can of beans and cook for 5 additional minutes (until they are warmed through).  Salt and pepper to taste.

For serving, place one cup of rice on each plate.  Top with the beans and broccoli rabe mixture. Zest lemon on top of each as well as the juice of a lemon slice.  Sprinkle with some freshly grated Romano cheese and serve! 

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

I know what you are thinking, another vegetarian chili trying to mimic the real thing?? I promise you that after making this version, you won't miss the meat.  Just because a chili is vegetarian does not mean that it has to be bland and boring.  This is one of my go to recipes now so I always make sure I have the ingredients on hand to make it.  I highly recommend throwing this together the day before because it tastes even better when the flavors have a full day to marry. I serve this over Basmati rice with sides of guacamole, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips.  Family and friends have given this a thumbs up so I figured it was time to share the recipe! 

First step, saute those onions!

Add in your veggies once you get some color on your onions...

Next add in your chipotles in adobo as well as your tomato paste..

Once the tomato paste has cooked a bit and deepened in color, add your spices...

Add in your tomatoes and simmer until the mixture reduces a bit...

Next, add in your beans!

Add in your water, bulgar wheat, and any other spices you may have forgotten (whoops!)...

Vegetarian Chili

3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 bell peppers (green, yellow, orange), chopped
6 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
3 Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 or 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I prefer San Marcos brand), chopped
2 Tbsp. of chili powder
1 Tbsp. of ground cumin
2 tsp. of ground coriander
1 tsp. of Mexican oregano
1 Tetrapak of Pomi diced tomatoes (26 ounces or so)
2 15 oz. cans of organic black beans, rinsed
2 15 oz. cans of organic kidney beans, rinsed
1 12 oz. bottle of Mexican beer (feel free to substitute water in for the beer)
1.5 cups of water
1/2 cup of quinoa (rinsed) or bulgar wheat 


Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven on low to medium heat and add your onions with a sprinkle of salt.  When the onions start to brown, add the carrots, bell peppers, and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes. Next, add the tomato paste and chipotle peppers.  Once the tomato paste cooks and becomes deeper in color, add your spices.  After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes have reduced by about half.  Dump in your rinsed beans, beer, water, and bulgar wheat.  Stir, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once the chili is at a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes partially covered (stir frequently to prevent burning).  Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice with your favorite sides!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How My Love For Cast Iron Cookware Began...

How My Love For Cast Iron Cookware Began.....

Once per week, I have decided to share random things that I love on this blog.  I know cookware isn't very random because this blog is mainly about cooking but I have many other interests!  A friend posted a picture of her cast iron collection on Facebook, so I decided to snap a picture of ours as well.  As it turns out, we have quite a bit more than I had initially thought! 

I believe that my husband started my love for cast iron cooking.  On my 26th or 27th birthday (can't remember which!) I came home after a long day at work to a printed menu by the door accompanied by a glass of wine. How wonderful is that?! The house was cleaned and the floors were mopped. My kind of present! As I walked into the kitchen, heavenly smells hit my nose and my other present was revealed.  He had prepared duck l'orange in my present, a Le Creuset 15.5 quart goose pot! I was in awe because not only was he cooking duck for the first time ever but the pot was absolutely stunning. See picture below!

 Le Creuset 15.5 quart goose pot in the color red!

 The next addition to the family was this one....

Le Creuset 5 quart oval Dutch oven in the color flame!

If you are thinking about investing in a cast iron Dutch oven, I highly recommend this size as your first purchase.  The 5 quart is the pot that I seem to reach for most often.  I make everything from stews to homemade bread in this pretty little thing. It is the ideal size and starter item.  If you notice throughout the blog, this Dutch oven is the star in all of my pictures.  My parents gave this to us in 2004 as an engagement present. After all of these years, it still looks amazing and produces wonderful meals!  

The rest of the cast iron family were gifts from our wedding.  I think my friends thought that we were crazy for registering for all of these Le Creuset pots and pans!  The truth is, I just love the way things cook in cast iron.  Not only are they the perfect cooking vessels but they look really nice as serving pieces as well (double duty!).  The cast iron distributes heat evenly and the fact that they are enameled inside makes them a cinch to clean! They are a bit heavy but who doesn't need a bit of a workout here and there? I began using cast iron cookware over 10 years ago and I will never go back.  These are timeless heirloom pieces that will be passed along to my children.  If you take care of them, they should last you a lifetime.

*Just a note that there are many great brands of cast iron cookware on the market.  I featured Le Creuset because that is what we have.  Other brands to consider are Staub, Lodge (most affordable), etc. They come in all different price ranges making cast iron affordable for everyone.  The 15.5 quart goose pot was purchased on eBay for half price because there was a slight color defect on the lid and I believe that the 5 quart Dutch oven was purchased at a Le Creuset outlet so just keep your eyes peeled for deals! Also, be on the lookout for cast iron items at consignment shops and thrift stores because you can certainly find them there too! 

Feel free to post your beauties down below!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking

Friday, March 7, 2014

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts over Fresh Arugula with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts over Fresh Arugula with a Balsamic Vinaigrette  

Beets have been a favorite in my family since as long as I can remember.  I have always shied away from preparing them because they have always seemed rather laborious. Don't get me wrong, I have cooked them before but the scrubbing, peeling, and being left red-handed (literally! see picture below), have led me to bypass this particular root veggie in the produce section.  My mom makes beet salad regularly at my parent's house, always from fresh beets, so my husband has grown quite fond of them.  I think that my mom makes that salad especially for him these days.  So for my darling husband, whom I love so very much, I decided to pick the freshest little beets I could find and throw them together in some sort of salad.  I strayed from my mom's version but I think that he was just as content with what I came up with! They may be a labor of love but completely worth it for my dearest!  See recipe below.

All scrubbed and ready to go into the oven....

The after math from preparing the beets (use gloves if you have them!)...

Beets, glorious beets!

Balsamic vinaigrette fixings.....

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts over Fresh Arugula with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the beets
Preheat your oven to 350. Meanwhile, scrub your beets and place them in a baking dish (you can cover your beets for a quicker cooking time). Roast them until a knife slides in and out easily.  My beets took almost 2 hours but they were on the smaller side.  When finished, set them aside to cool.  Then peel the beets and slice them into 1/2 inch thick slices.

For the balsamic vinaigrette:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tsp. of Himalayan salt (or Kosher salt)
1/2 tsp. of fresh ground black pepper
2 heaping tsp. of Dijon mustard
2 tsp. of local honey
1/2 cup of a good balsamic vinegar
1 cup of a good extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients into a dressing carafe or a Ball jar and shake it up really well! Make this in advance if you can so that the ingredients have time to marry. If you don't have the time, don't worry about it.

Place a handful or so of fresh arugula (or greens of your choice) on a dish, top it with your roasted beet slices, crumbled goat cheese, chopped walnuts, and drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette.  Garnish with some fresh chopped dill if you like! Enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Giambotta (Vegetable Stew/Soup)

My Giambotta (Vegetable Stew/Soup)

I know what you are thinking...Giambotta? What the heck is that?! The translation from Italian is "vegetable stew". There is probably an official recipe for Giambotta on the web, however, growing up, this was a dish we made with whatever we had on hand (specifically veggies!). This is mainly a vegetarian dish but I believe in different regions of southern Italy, they will also include fish or meat.  In my Italian family, we have always made ours primarily vegetarian.  I remember my dad used to use leftover fried potatoes, green beans, and even frozen corn (he really loves corn)! This is my version which has ended up becoming more of a soup rather than the classic stew (if you prefer a stew, use less liquid).  It is such a versatile dish so don't feel restricted by my ingredients. I concocted this while trying to clean out our fridge and freezer! It received two thumbs up in my house so I decided to write it down and share. See recipe below.

Start by sauteing your onions and crushed red pepper...

Next, add your carrots and celery...

Add lots of garlic!

Then, a carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi because of the BPA free packaging and flavor!)...

Once the tomatoes have cooked down and reduced, add your thyme bundle, grain mixture, frozen artichokes, water, and pesto...I seemed to have lost a picture or two after this but I essentially just added the beans and spinach after the grains were cooked through.

My Giambotta

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
6 celery stalks, chopped
1 small head of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 12 oz. bag of frozen artichokes, chopped (tough tops removed)
1 bundle of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. of dried thyme
1/4 of ancient grain mix (rice, pearl barley, wheat berry, etc.)
6 cups of water or low sodium veggie stock
3-4 Tbsp. of a good pesto
1 15 oz. can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups of frozen whole leaf spinach, chopped
Himalayan salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
Grated Pecorino Romano for serving

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil on low to medium.  Add your crushed red pepper and onions, saute until translucent.  Add in your carrots and celery.  Once the veggies get some nice color, add in your garlic, and saute for a minute (you don't want the garlic to brown).  Next, add in your tomatoes and simmer until they are reduced by half (roughly 5 to 10 minutes).  Toss in your artichokes, thyme bundle, grains, and stir so that everything is nicely coated.  Add the water and the pesto. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, covered, for 30 minutes (or until the grains are cooked through).  Add the beans, spinach, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle Romano cheese on top before serving and enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking