Monday, May 24, 2010

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

If I didn't already have a full-time job, I would have the time to make a recipe as many times as it took to get it right.  But since this blog is just a hobby in my off-hours, I make the recipe once, then blog (eventually) about whatever actually happened, good or bad, learning as I go.  As a side benefit, you (all 6 of you) get the benefit of knowing what not to do if you choose to attempt the recipe yourself.

That statement was probably more ominous than I intended it to be, as nothing really went that wrong with this recipe.  It's hard to screw up a salad, especially one with as many awesome ingredients as this one.

This recipe came from Food Matters, A Guide to Conscious Eating, a book by Mark Bittman.  I haven't actually read the book yet, but it has a lot of really good sounding recipes at the end that I was dying to try.

If I made this again, however, I would do one thing differently: I would cook the two strips of bacon at the time (like the recipe suggests) rather than using bacon that I had cooked the day before for our weekend breakfast.  I was thinking that I was being efficient, cooking a couple of extra strips knowing that I would need them for this salad the next day.

But if I had read the recipe thoroughly beforehand I would have seen that you first cook the bacon in a pan, then remove the fat and make the rest of the dressing in the same pan, allowing the darkened bits left behind at the bottom of the pan to incorporate themselves into the dressing, intensifying the bacon flavor.

I'm sure that what I did - crumbling the precooked bacon into the dressing at the last minute - did not allow this dressing to live up to it's full potential, though it was still pretty good (let's not forget it has fresh ginger and cumin!).  When you make this dressing, according to the recipe, mind you, I'm sure it will be fabulous.

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
adapted from Mark Bittman - Food Matters
Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 thick slices of bacon
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice from one orange
1 pound fresh spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Pile the potatoes onto a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine, then spread out into an even layer on the sheet.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes look crisp and browned on the outside but are just tender on the inside.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a cold nonreactive pan (i.e., stainless steel) and turn on the heat to medium.  Cook, turning once or twice, until crisp.  Drain on paper towels, and crumble into pieces when cooled.  Pour or spoon off the fat from the pan, leaving the darkened bits.

Put the pan back over medium heat, and add the last two tablespoons of oil.  When hot, add the bell pepper, onion, and ginger to the pan.  Cook, stirring a couple times, (the ginger will smell so good!) just until the vegetables are no longer raw, then stir in the cumin and the reserved bacon.  Stir in the orange juice and turn off the heat.  You can make it ahead of time up to this point, just warm the dressing gently on the stove before proceeding.

Put the spinach in a large bowl (large enough to toss the salad).  Add the sweet potatoes and the dressing toss quickly to combine.  Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fried Rice with Tempeh and Grilled Pineapple

I love homemade fried rice!  We made it with marinated coconut curry tempeh, which was such a good addition.  We also grilled some big slices of fresh pineapple to go alongside.

This is the same recipe I used last time, when I was just trying to use up random vegetables in the fridge, but this time I had more of the usual ingredients, so it looks more like traditional fried rice.

One other major difference was the type of rice vinegar I used.  Last time I used regular rice vinegar.  This time I used a low sodium rice vinegar, and I do not recommend it for you.  It did not have the same zing at all, and we ended up having to add salt anyway to make up for the lack of flavor.

We have had one bottle each of regular and low sodium rice vinegar for the longest time, as a result of combining our pantries when we moved in together (can you guess who had the low sodium one?).  We recently ran out of the regular, so I used the low sodium, figuring it wouldn't be that different, but since the "flavor memory" of my last batch of fried rice fresh in my mind, I could definitely tell that it was not the same.  

Fried Rice with Tempeh
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Serves 4-6

1 (7 ounce) package tempeh, seasoned or marinated if desired, cut into thin strips if in block-form
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3-4 cups cooked any long grain rice (start with about 1 1/2 cups raw) preferably basmati or jasmine and preferably chilled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup rice wine, sherry, dry white wine, stock, or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallion

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the tempeh strips and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Meanwhile, if the peas are frozen, soak them in a bowl of cold water so that they thaw while you cook.

To the same skillet, add one tablespoon of the peanut oil, heat over high heat.  When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and carrot and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables soften and begin to brown.  Watch the heat and lower it if the mixture looks like it is starting to burn.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Drain the peas and add them to the skillet.  Cook for about one minute, just until hot, shaking the skillet as they cook.  Add to the bowl with the vegetables.

Put the remaining two tablespoons of oil into the skillet, followed by the garlic and ginger.  Cook for about 15 seconds, then start adding the rice a little at a time, breaking up any clumps with your fingers as you add it to the skillet.  After all the rice is added, move it away from the center of the pan, and add the eggs.  Scramble them a bit, then incorporate them into the rice.

Return the vegetables to the pan and stir to combine.  Break the tempeh strips into pieces and add them to the pan as well.  Stir in the rice wine and cook for about one minute.  Next add the soy sauce and sesame oil.  After stirring to mix everything thoroughly, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Off heat, stir in the scallion, and serve.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red, White, and Blue Slaw

Didn't I just make coleslaw?

Yes, but hear me out:

1) It was a really nice weekend, so we grilled a lot.  Slaws are my favorite sides to make when we grill, because they can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, thus allowing me to fully enjoy the grilling experience - i.e., sitting outside sipping a beer while Joe mans the grill.

2) I still had half a head each of green and red cabbage that I didn't end up needing for the first slaw.  

3) This one has blue cheese!  (that right there was enough to convince Joe)

Joe is a huge fan of blue cheese, so he really liked this slaw.  I thought it was ok, but the blue cheese flavor was a little strong for me.  I only used half the blue cheese it called for too!  It was all we had left of a tub of crumbled blue cheese, so it was mostly the smaller crumbs.  I wonder if each bite got more blue cheese because the pieces were so small?  Or maybe that makes no sense whatsoever and I'm just not as big a fan of blue cheese as Joe is.

To go the the slaw, we made our standard BBQ bacon cheeseburgers.  The burgers themselves were just seasoned with Lawry's seasoning salt, then we topped them with sharp cheddar cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and BBQ sauce, all on a whole-grain bun.

I added a cup of shredded carrots to the slaw in place of one of the cups of white cabbage, just because.  I tried shredding the white cabbage just like the carrot, using the shredding blade, and it came out all small and I didn't like it.  I knew I don't like it that small, but I guess I had to try it again to prove it to myself.  I did the red cabbage the way I usually do, with the slicing blade, so the pieces come out bigger.  Also, we were out of scallions, so we didn't use any.

Red, White, and Blue Slaw
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 6-8

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 cups shredded red cabbage
4 cups shredded white cabbage (to me, this is basically green cabbage)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

In a large bowl (big enough for the whole slaw plus room for tossing) whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the crumbled blue cheese, then add the cabbages and scallions and toss to combine.

Serve immediately, or make ahead and store in the fridge for a couple of hours until ready to eat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sausage with Garlic Lentils

I'm behind on blogging, so this is a recipe we made last week.

This is a yummy comfort food recipe from Rachel Ray's Big Orange Book.  I have yet to really work my way through this cookbook, but it looks to be full of delicious, hearty meals like this one.  This particular recipe was in a section called "Meals for One".  Now, this is a Rachel Ray cookbook we're talking about here, so when she says it serves one, it really serves two for me and Joe, since we are not big eaters (not since I became a stickler for portion control anyway...).  

Never having made it before though, I wasn't confident that it would serve two comfortably, so I doubled everything but the sausage (the whole reason I was making this recipe in the first place was because it called for only two sausages.  I had exactly that number leftover from when I made the lasagna for mother's day; the kind I bought only came in one pound increments, so I had to buy two packages).  I was sure that two sausages would be enough for us, but I wasn't sure about the lentils or the green salad.  

I probably would have been fine making half the amount of lentils though, because 1/2 a pound of lentils makes A LOT, apparently, but it made great leftovers for burritos for lunch the next day, so I left it doubled in the recipe below.  Also, I used spinach (from our garden, yay!) instead of arugula.  You could also use vegetarian sausage if you don't eat meat, just cook according to the package directions rather than following the directions in the recipe.  

Sausage with Garlic Lentils
adapted from Rachel Ray's Big Orange Book
Serves 2, plus leftovers of lentil mixture

1/2 pound lentils
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 fresh sausages, pork, chicken, or lamb, hot or sweet
2 cups baby arugula (or spinach)
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse under running water to wash away any dirt or grit, then put them in a large sauce pot and cover with water by two inches.  Add the bay leaves and onion quarters and bring to a boil.  Let the pot boil for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, with a little bite left to them.  Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic with about 6 tablespoons of the oil in a large shallow bowl and let stand while you finish cooking.

Put the sausages into a small pan with about a 1/4 inch of water and about 1 teaspoon oil.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-high and let the water simmer for about 8 minutes or so.  Once the water has evaporated, cook for another 3-4 minutes to crisp the casings.

Put the arugula into medium bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently to mix.

Drain the lentils and add to the garlic/oil mixture in the shallow bowl.  Sprinkle the parsley on top and toss to combine.

To serve, pile some of the garlic lentils onto a plate.  Nestle some arugula alongside, and top with a sausage link.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw

I used to say that I hated coleslaw, but that wasn't really fair, because my only experience with it was the kind that comes in a paper cup next to the fish and chips.  You know the kind I'm talking about.  Soggy.  Drenched in mayo.  Maybe a faint hint of lemon.  

Those days are over.

Now I have a lot of fun trying out different recipes for coleslaw, and I never use mayo in it.  Oil and vinegar-based dressings taste great on coleslaw, and they are safer to bring to picnics since there is no need to worry about spoilage as with mayo-based salads.     

We served this slaw with some tofu kebabs that we grilled and basted with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.    

We also grilled some delicious green onions (first drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper).  

We made some white rice to go with it, but we completely forgot about it until after we were done eating.  Oh, well, we were full without it!

I accidentally ended up with some nice sherry vinegar a couple months ago, so I used that in this recipe.

To shred cabbage, I like to use my food processor, and I use the slicing disc (one large hole) rather than the shredding disc (many holes), because I think coleslaw looks more appealing when it's in slightly larger pieces, as opposed to the pre-shredded bags of coleslaw you find at the store.

And hey, if you think it might be fun to shred your red bell pepper with the shredding disc of your food processor as if it were a carrot, think again.  What you will end up with is red pepper pulp.  I didn't have another pepper, so I had to scoop it into a strainer to drain the liquid.  It worked out in the end, but I don't recommend it.      

Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 8

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh minced chile (jalepeno, Thai, serrano, or habanero), or to taste (optional)
1/4 cup peanut or extra virgin olive oil
6 cups cored and shredded Napa, Savoy, green, and/or red cabbage
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, roasted and peeled if you like, seeded, and diced or shredded
1/3 cup diced scallion, more or less
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley leaves

In a large bowl (large enough for the whole coleslaw, plus room to toss), whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic, and chile.  Add the oil slowly, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Add the shredded cabbage, peppers, and scallion to the bowl and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

This is best if you make it about an hour before you are going to eat it - the flavors develop and the cabbage softens a bit.  You can also make it up to 24 hours in advance, just drain the slaw before serving (it will be watery from the liquid released by the cabbage).

Just before serving, toss with the parsley.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hummus, Tempeh, and Cucumber Wrap

Earlier this week, we made these delicious wraps based on a recipe from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.  

The wraps are filled with tempeh, which is a great meat substitute.  One serving provides almost half of your protein for the day, plus a slew of other vitamins and minerals.  We often eat it on sandwiches instead of deli meat, or we chop it up and add it to enchiladas or salads.  It's cheap, and it freezes well, which is always nice.  In this recipe, you add flavor to the tempeh by cooking it in coconut oil with some ground coriander, garlic powder, and soy sauce.  I thought it was a really great seasoning combination!    

By the way, I'm always looking for new ways to use tempeh, so if you have a favorite recipe, please let me know!

To these wraps I added my first crop of veggies from my spring garden!  I've tried to grow both radishes and spinach in the past, but was unsuccessful.  This year though, my garden seems to be doing very well!

The recipes only calls for romaine and cucumber for veggies, but you could add others, such as other salad greens, carrots, bell peppers, red onion, tomatoes, etc.  There is hummus in the wrap, so just think of veggies you would otherwise dip in hummus and you should be good.  Also, it calls for whatever kind of bottled vinaigrette dressing you like, so we chose the only dressing we ever keep in our house: Yumm sauce, of course!  

If you don't want to use a tortilla, you can also serve this as a salad, like we did for lunch the next day:  

Hummus, Tempeh, and Cucumber Wrap
adapted from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch
serves 4

1 tablespoon refined coconut oil (or you could use vegetable oil)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (I probably used more like 1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablepsoons tamari or soy sauce
1 (8 ounce) package tempeh, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
4 tortillas, whatever size you want, white flour or whole wheat flour
1 cup hummus
1 cucumber, peeled and cut diagonally into thin slices
1 romaine heart, cut into thin strips, or torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup bottled vinaigrette dressing, whatever kind you like, or Yumm sauce

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, stir in the garlic powder, coriander, and soy sauce.  Add the slices of tempeh and cook for a few minutes on each side, until nicely browned.  Remove from heat.

They give very specific directions for assembling the wraps, see below, but just do it however you want.  I usually use such a small tortilla that it doesn't wrap very well anyway, so I just fork and knife it.    

To assemble the wraps, spread 1/4 cup of the hummus on each tortilla.  Divide the tempeh strips among the four tortillas and lay them in a column down the middle, leaving a 2-inch border on one edge.  Top each with some cucumber, romaine, and whatever other vegetables you're using.  Drizzle the dressing over each pile.  Fold one side of the tortilla up over the filling, fold in the edge with the border, and continue to roll the tortilla to the other side, making a tight bundle.  Serve seam side down on a plate.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

8-Layer Lasagna

My mom's birthday is very close to mother's day, so what we usually do is celebrate both occasions at once by going out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  This year, however, was different.  Joe and I invited my mom and the rest of my family to come out to our house for dinner.  I was a little apprehensive about taking on the task because I was due to get a tooth extracted a few days before, and I wasn't sure if I would be up for cooking a big meal, much less eating it.

It all worked out though.  We chose to make an 8-layer Cuisine at Home Lasagna, which I assembled early in the week and froze, taking it out to thaw in the fridge the day before (that didn't really work out too well, more on that later).  Joe also made rolls mid-week and stuck them in the freezer before baking them.  So on the actual day we were having dinner, I just had to put together the Caesar salad (homemade dressing and good!), bake the lasagna, bake the rolls, (which were brushed with a little garlic butter and tossed with Parmesan cheese and parsley at the last minute), and pick up the birthday cake we ordered from New Morning Bakery (white cake with Marion berry filling and butter cream icing....oh yeah, it was amazing).

I was on the fence about how to store the lasagna after I assembled it, because I wanted to put it together on a Tuesday, but the dinner wasn't until Saturday.  That seemed just a bit too long to refrigerate, but almost pointless to freeze, because I would have to take it out one or two days in advance for it to thaw anyway.  Some recipes I've seen say you can bake it from frozen, but this one specifically said to thaw before baking.

Well, regardless of what I should have done, it was frozen in the middle when we went to put it in the oven, so after about 30 minutes of cooking, the edges were bubbling away but the center was still cold.  So we turned the oven temperature down a bit, covered the top with foil to prevent burning, and let it slowly warm up.  We checked periodically with an internal thermometer.  Alton Brown says that all previously cooked foods should be reheated to 165 F to be extra safe, so that's what we did.  It took longer than we expected, but it was delicious, and well-worth the wait.

I think the most annoying part about the whole thing was par-boiling the "oven-ready" lasagna sheets.  Hello?!  I thought buying oven-ready sheets meant not having to boil them?  I guess they are prone to breaking during assembly, so Cuisine At Home recommends that you boil them for one minute so that they are more pliable.  Sounds simple enough, and I totally see their point, but it was a huge pain, in my opinion.  You are supposed to arrange the boiled pasta sheets in a single layer on a foil-lined, sprayed baking sheet, each layer of pasta separated by a layer of sprayed foil, so they don't stick together while waiting to be added to the lasagna pan.  Except, of course, we didn't have any cooking spray, so we had to drizzle oil onto each foil sheet and try to spread it out evenly without ripping it.  Also, my pasta sheets kept wanting to clump together in the pot of boiling water so I had to cook them in small batches, so it felt like it took forever.  Ugh.

On a brighter note, Joe's garlic rolls turned out especially delicious.

8-Layer Lasagna
adapted from Cuisine at Home, February 2004 issue
Serves 8-10

Notes:  Don't buy the brick of frozen spinach, buy the kind that is loose in a bag; it will thaw faster in the sauce.  Also, if you have a traditional 9x13x2 inch baking dish, you won't be able to get all eight layers in there.  Buy a disposable aluminum lasagna pan at the store (they are 3 inches deep), or just make your lasagna 6 layers, like I did, and have leftover filling to eat any way you want.

For the meat sauce:

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
2 cups yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons each dried basil, thyme, and oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup beef broth or water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Bechamel:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Pinch of nutmeg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
10 ounces Boursin cheese
Salt to taste
8 ounces frozen chopped spinach
1 egg, beaten

For assembling lasagna:

1 pound oven-ready lasagna sheets, parboiled (see my rant above)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

If baking this today, preheat the oven to 400 F, with the rack in the center.

To make the sauces: 

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown both meats over medium-high heat.  Spoon or pour off as much of the fat as possible.  Add the onions, garlic, tomato paste, dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf.  Cook until the onions have softened, about 8 minutes.

Add both types of tomatoes, broth, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.  Set aside.

For the bechamel, start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, cayenne, and nutmeg, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Stir often during this time to prevent scorching.

Add the flour and stir to coat.  Cook for 2 minutes, then gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth.  Add the Boursin in small pieces and whisk until smooth.  Season with salt to taste.  Set aside one cup bechamel for the top of the lasagna.  Let the rest of the sauce cool for about 10 minutes.  Whisk in the egg and frozen spinach.  Set aside.

Prepare the lasagna sheets as described above, and have both cheeses ready.

To assemble the lasagna:

1. Coat a 9x13x3 inch baking dish nonstick spray.

2. Spread 1/3 cup of the Bechamel on the bottom (it's a thin layer, that's ok).

3. Lay three pasta sheets across the bottom of the pan.

4. Spread another 1/3 cup Bechamel over the pasta sheets.

5. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce over the Bechamel (the sauces will blend, and they may not cover the pasta completely).

6. Top with mozzarella (I allocated two slices per pasta sheet).

7. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

8. Layer three more pasta sheets across the top.

9. Repeat steps 4-8 until all the pasta is used, or you run out of room (I admit, I pressed down on the layers of lasagna as I assembled it to fit in as much as possible).

10. Spread the reserved Bechamel over the last layer of pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

When ready to bake:

Bake lasagna, uncovered, at 400 F, for 40-45 minutes, or until hot all the way through.  The top should be a little browned and the sauce should be bubbling.  Take out of the oven and let rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rhubarb Lentil Soup with Creme Fraiche

Want to try something different with your rhubarb this spring?  Make this soup!  I cut this recipe out of Cooking Light magazine a couple of years ago because it sounded so interesting and I finally got around to making it this year.

I was at the farmer's market this weekend and the rhubarb looked really good!  I bought a bunch, so I had enough to make this soup, plus a little extra that I chopped and froze for a more typical strawberry-rhubarb crumble or pie later this spring (maybe using the strawberries out of my garden, if they would hurry up and grow already).

This is a very healthy soup!  It has lots of veggies, plus protein-packed lentils.  There is a lot of chopping initially, but the soup cooks pretty fast once you get going.  The Co-op didn't have any red onions that day, so I substituted a yellow onion and it was fine.  Instead of fat-free, low sodium chicken broth, I used Joe's mom's turkey stock.  You could also use vegetable stock or broth (which makes more sense actually, when you consider that the rest of the soup is meat-free).

You top the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche - so yummy.  Creme fraiche is cream that has been cultured, so it's a little tangy, and it has the consistency of sour cream.  The recipe actually has you stir together creme fraiche and dill, of all things.  SICK.  That is the one herb I loathe.  I was actually going to suck it up and buy some for Joe's sake, (and not allow it to come in contact with any of my other groceries of course), but they were out at the Co-Op.  What an absolute shame.

Rhubarb-Lentil Soup with Creme Fraiche
adapted from Cooking Light - May 2008 issue
serves 6

1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup dried petite green lentils
Cooking spray
2 cups finely chopped carrot (for me that was about 3 large carrots)
1 3/4 cups finely chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red onion (about one large onion)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped rhubarb (about 12 ounces)
4 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
6 tablespoons creme fraiche
Dill sprigs (optional)

Put the lentils into a small bowl, and pour the boiling water over them.  Let stand 10 minutes.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with cooking spray.  When hot, add the carrot, celery, onion, and parsley.  Sauté for about four minutes, then add the rhubarb, and sauté for another three minutes.  Drain lentils and add to pan.  Stir in the chicken broth and salt, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 35 minutes, or until lentils are tender (ours were done after about 20, maybe we simmered too fast?  Still tasted fine to us!)

Move the pan off the heat and let cool for about five minutes.  Blend about 3 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor.  Remove the center piece of the blender lid to allow steam to escape, and cover with a clean kitchen towel to avoid splatters (OR use an immersion blender and just blend about half of the soup right in the pan).  After you return the pureed soup to the pan, and add the pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the chopped dill and creme fraiche.  Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with a dollop of the creme fraiche mixture.  Garnish with dill sprigs, if you want.

Serving size = about 1 1/3 cups soup with 1 tablespoon creme fraiche mixture.
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