Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils

May 28, 2020

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I’m going to take a bit of a break from bread recipes today and tell you all about these Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils! If you are a fan of spicy, Tex-mex cuisine, you need to add this recipe to your repertoire.

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The Husband and I absolutely love zucchini. Can’t get enough of the stuff, which is a bit strange because neither of us liked it one little bit when we were kids. Now I want to eat it all the time. One of our absolute favorite sides are these Zucchini Spicy Grilled Corn & Cheese Pancakes:

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And zucchini adds moisture as well as flavor to my favorite Banana Bread recipe:

Zucchini Banana Bread

So yeah, we are all about zucchini here. Stuffing a few of them with some spiced up lager lentils seemed like a great idea. And boy was it ever! I first told you about these lentils when we made tacos with them. Absolutely delish!

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Now we’ve got those same spicy lentils wrapped with zucchini, rather than a tortilla. This is great news if you are trying to cut back on carbs. And you still get to top these Zucchini Boats with all the same fun toppings you would put on a taco.

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Another win is that these little boats are perfect for a Meatless Monday! I swear you won’t miss that meat at all.

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Later this summer, when you are absolutely swimming in zucchini, you will be so happy that I shared this idea with you. And the recipe is easily customizable, so if you are a hardcore carnivore – go ahead and add some meat. Turns out there really aren’t any rules. So have fun creating your own version of these Zucchini Boats today! (but I gotta say…these Spicy Lager Lentils are pretty amazing…)

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Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe inspired by: The Mountain Kitchen’s Meatless Mexican Zucchini Boats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils, cooked (you will end up with about 2 cups of lentils when cooked)
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz. chopped green chilis
  • 1/2 cup salsa (your favourite – We love Green Mountain Gringo Salsa)
  • 6 oz.- 8 oz. lager beer (I used Estrella Damm, Dos Equis would be great too )

For the spice mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish Smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

For the Zucchini Boats:

  • 4 medium zucchini – halved and with a channel scooped out for the spicy lentils
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Toppings: sour cream, Cotija Cheese, salsa, fresh jalapeños, fresh cilantro

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and tin of green chilis, cook for another minute or two.  Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently. You don’t want to burn the spices just crank up the flavor by cooking them.

Add the lentils, salsa and 6 ounces of the beer and stir to combine. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash the lentils until the mixture reaches the consistency you are happy with. Cook another few minutes until hot. If the lentils start to dry out, add another glug or two of the lager. ( If you haven’t slurped it down…cooking is hard & thirsty work!)

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to dredge out a channel for the spicy lentils to sit in. Don’t remove too much of the zucchini. Take care to leave at least 1/4″ flesh in the zucchini. Just remove the center seeds and discard.

Place the zucchini on the prepared baking sheet.

Fill the prepared zucchini boats with the spicy lentils. Sprinkle shredded Mexican style spicy cheese over the tops.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the zucchini are fork tender.

Remove from oven. Add any additional toppers you would like.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Pasta e Fagioli

April 4, 2020

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Ok…so things have really changed…for everyone…everywhere! And these changes are not going to be changing back anytime soon from the looks of it. Covid-19 has hijacked life as we know it. The world is pretty much on pause and folks everywhere are sheltering in place. At first, what I will call Stage I of my quarantine/lockdown, I was very motivated. I went on a cleaning spree, did loads of paperwork I had procrastinated on and finished our taxes. Then I totally organized my pantry, making an inventory of all that we had available and then sat down to plan out what meals were possible with the ingredients we had on hand.

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I wondered how easily it would be to have groceries delivered, so I signed up for Peapod through Giant groceries stores. Well, I found out that Giant did have quite a few items, no toilet paper mind you, but fairly well stocked all things considered. The a-ha moment came when I went to schedule a delivery. Not one time slot was available for three weeks! Yes. Three! Luckily our pantry was pretty full to begin with so three weeks was actually not a problem for us. Now, just because I put those items in my cart, doesn’t actually guarantee that I will get them. Giant does let you know that they may remove items from your cart if they are not available at the time of your delivery. So I don’t actually know what I will be getting. It will be a surprise. You know, kind of like opening Christmas gifts. So wish me luck! But let me get on with today’s recipe: Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans). This dish is also known as Pasta e Fasule (pasta fazool), which is its Neapolitan name.

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My pantry held almost all of the ingredients needed to make this hearty and filling traditional Italian soup. What I did not have, I was able to easily sub in alternatives. For instance, I did not have a yellow onion, but did have a package of pearl onions. Problem solved! Not to mention, there are many variations of this soup found in Italy. Sometimes it is completely vegetarian, sometimes it is made with sausage or beef, sometimes it has a tomato base and sometimes it doesn’t. So feel free to cook up your own versions depending on the ingredients you have on hand.

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This recipe that I’m sharing today makes a flavorful, fresh, creamy, and somewhat thicker soup with pancetta, white wine, carrots, cannelleni beans, lentils and pasta.

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And good news! This soup freezes very well. So if you are quarantined alone, you can freeze the soup prior to adding the pasta, which once added, tends to soak up a lot of the broth. When you are ready to eat it, just defrost and add the pasta before serving. It is a wonderfully delicious and comforting meal to warm you up on these still chilly Spring days! Stay safe out there and remember to wash your hands!

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Pasta e Fagioli

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 110 grams pancetta, diced (could sub in bacon)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 120 ml white wine
  • 1.5 L low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (439 gram) cans cannelleni beans or chickpeas (or combination), rinsed and drained
  • 50 grams dried lentils, rinsed (preferably French green lentils, but any green or brown lentils are fine)
  • 230 grams diced or chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (I only had a really spicy chili blend on chopped tomatoes – so our soup had quite a kick to it!)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (I did not have any rosemary, so substituted in fresh basil)
  • 105 grams dried pasta, such as ditalini (or whatever you might have in the pantry)
  • 35 grams freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Directions:

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and celery and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Add the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt, pepper, beans, lentils, diced tomatoes, bay leaves and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes, depending on the type of lentils you used.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer 240 ml of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender. Remove the center knob so steam can escape. Hold a paper towel or kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters. Purée until smooth and set aside. An immersion blender would work here as well.

Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Fish out and discard the bay leaves.

Stir the reserved puréed bean mixture into the soup. (If you’re having a hard time getting the mixture out of the blender, remove as much as you can with a rubber spatula, then add some of the hot soup broth to it and swirl around to loosen it up; it should come right out.) Cook briefly, until the soup is heated through.

Remove the soup from heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. If the soup seems too thick, gradually add 240-480 ml of water or more chicken broth and thin to desired consistency (note: the longer it sits on the stove, the thicker it will get). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.

Note: This soup is best served immediately; as it sits, the pasta and beans soak up the broth. If the soup gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of broth or water.

Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen, without the pasta, for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until simmering, add the pasta, and cook until the pasta is tender. (The beans may have soaked up some of the broth while frozen, so add more broth to thin out the soup, if desired.)

Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Pasta e Fagioli:

Le Creuset 5 1/2 qt. dutch oven
Breville Immersion Blender

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lentils

February 17, 2016

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Well…..Spring has definitely not arrived yet! It is COLD. You know, single digit cold which is saying something when you are dealing with the old Fahrenheit temperature scale as we still do. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it is February for goodness sake. What was I expecting? That dear old groundhog seems to have inspired me to jump the gun a bit on thoughts of Spring. Thank goodness I have this great Winter warmer of a recipe in these Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lentils. Comforting and tasty, this is just what you want to see on your dinner table. And, since there isn’t any meat to be found in  the mix, it is just perfect on a Meatless Monday.

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Not only is this dish yummy, but it is so easy to make. You only need one pot, which is a huge mark in its favor. And as it turns out, lentils are actually very good for you. These little legumes are chock full of B vitamins, are low in fat and high in fiber and protein. Indeed, lentil have the second highest ratio of protein to calorie of any of the legumes. They keep you feeling full for longer and can also lower your cholesterol and possibly reduce your risk of heart disease. Good stuff there! All these benefits and they actually taste great! Thick & hearty, this creamy lentil stew will give you the strength to hang in there until these last days of Winter blow themselves out!

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Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lentils

  • Servings: 4 - 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe slightly adapted from: Pinch of Yum

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • half a yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups uncooked lentils, rinsed
  • 2 medium Yukon potatoes, chopped (about 1 cup total)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (plan to add a few more cups as needed while cooking)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few sprigs fresh parsley
  • a few springs fresh thyme
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 5 ounces packed fresh baby spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the salt! – but remember not to add it until the lentils have finished cooking)
  • olive oil, red wine vinegar and freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Saute for 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and fragrant. Add the paprika and stir to coat. Next, add in the wine to deglaze the pan – a fancy term for scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the lentils, potatoes, broth, bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more broth as necessary so the lentils are just barely covered in liquid. When the lentils and potatoes are soft, gently mash the potatoes against the side of the pot with the back of the wooden spoon to thicken the mixture.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems, add the half and half and spinach. Stir to incorporate. At this point you can season with salt and pepper (season, taste, adjust, repeat). If you add the salt prior to the lentils being done, it actually makes them take longer to cook. So you’ll be glad that you waited! Top each bowl with a drizzle of good olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and a dusting of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve with a big hunk of cornbread or crusty rustic bread.

Enjoy!

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lentils brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


Lentil & Mushroom Ragu

November 4, 2014

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I’m going to have to beg your patience today. You see, I’m still a bit addled with jet lag as the husband and I just got back from a terrific vacation to Italy! (More on that to come…both recipes and pictures…I promise)

sneak preview ...on the Cinque Terre trail to Manarola

sneak preview…hiking on a Cinque Terre trail from Volastra to Manarola

Yeah, we have gone through the “falling back” bit of the time change thing twice, this past weekend here in the States and the weekend before in Italy. Not to mention having to deal with the usual 6 hour time difference to boot. Our whole sleep schedule thing is shot! But it was so worth it. We did make it back for Halloween, in an appropriate zombie like condition I must say. I can’t believe Halloween is now done and dusted! Time is just flying by. Thanksgiving and dare I mention it, Christmas will be here before we know it. Fall is my favourite season though, so I certainly don’t want to rush things. I’m going to try to take a bit of time to enjoy the right here and now, with all of its wind-blown, rustling leaves and crisp Autumn temperatures. And I’ve got some great Fall recipes coming up. I should probably warn you that there might be a fair few apple dishes on the way. I love apples. My favourite fruit and they are in season right now, so look out! But no apples today. Nope, no dessert dish today, but a lovely versatile dinner offering. This Lentil & Mushroom Ragu will blow your mind. I’m telling you, you will not miss the meat one little bit in this hearty veggie sauce.

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The husband and I both love lentils and mushrooms, so this Meatless Monday offering was a no-brainer. Not to mention that it is full of so many of the flavours that I just adore….like balsamic vinegar, red wine and basil. And it even has some red pepper flakes to kick up the spice factor. It almost seems that the folks over at Foxes Love Lemons, where I found this delicious recipe, made it up with me in mind! I served it over a bowl of fresh pasta, but it would be equally delicious over a salad. As we were chowing down on the last little bite of this stupendous sauce I found myself dreaming about using it as the sauce in a veggie lasagna. I imagine it would be so stunning nestled in between layers of pasta sheets, with some spinach and fresh mozzarella and parmesan! Now that the weather has turned a bit colder, this Lentil & Mushroom Ragu was sheer perfection! I think it will be in heavy rotation on the winter dinner menu.

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Lentil & Mushroom Ragu

  • Servings: 6 -8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Foxes Love Lemons

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 box (16 ounces) spaghetti or whatever pasta you prefer
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:

In large saucepot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, carrot, bell pepper and onion. Cook until vegetables are very brown and soft, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add wine; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Use wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan.

Stir in bay leaf, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, water, lentils, oregano, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water, as needed, if ragu gets too thick. Remove bay leaf and stir in basil.

Meanwhile, prepare spaghetti according to package directions.

Serve ragu over spaghetti. Garnish with parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Lentil & Mushroom Ragu brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 

 


Spicy Lager Lentil Tacos

September 12, 2014

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I’ll keep those Meatless Monday recipes flowing with this my latest offering…Spicy Lager Lentil Tacos! Everyone loves tacos right? We love all spicy food around here and tacos are not exception. I must admit though, usually when we have tacos they are stuffed with some sort of spicy grilled meat. Just take a look at these Carnitas Tacos, Double Decker Taco Cupcakes, and Carne Asada Tacos. I think my Breakfast Tacos are the only meatless variety I’ve mentioned thus far, and they are stuffed full of egg, which I know is off limits for some folks. So here is a spicy, flavourful meatless taco that everyone will love…Spicy Lager Lentil Tacos!

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I found this recipe over at Delish Knowledge. Now the recipe as they posted it is very healthy and vegan. Mine, well…..I’d like to think it was a bit healthier than your average meat-stuffed taco, however  I must admit I took that virtuous vegan creation and altered it a bit. Yup…I added in some beer, a bunch of cheese and some sour cream. Go figure! What can I say, I have a weakness of cheese…oh yeah and beer….

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So although these tacos are not suitable for vegans anymore, they still do offer all the benefits of lentils. Lentils, besides being quite tasty, are packed full of protein, essential amino acids and vitamins. They are also pretty inexpensive if you are on a budget. They add great texture to these tacos and really take on the wonderful smoky spicy flavours of the spice mixture.

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We had several meals from this batch of lentils, tacos one night, followed by burritos and finally as a Spicy Lager Lentil Taco Salad. I tell you, you won’t miss the meat at all and I bet you’ll find that you are eating them on days other than Meatless Monday.

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Spicy Lager Lentil Tacos

  • Servings: 12-14 tacos
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Delish Knowledge

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils, cooked (you will end up with about 2 cups of lentils when cooked)
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz. chopped green chilis
  • 1/2 cup salsa (your favourite – We love Green Mountain Gringo Salsa)
  • 6 oz.- 8 oz. lager beer (I used Estrella Damm, Dos Equis would be great too )
  • 12 – 18 small taco sized Corn or Flour Tortillas, or Taco Shells

For the spice mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish Smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

For the Taco toppings:  Your choice of: shredded lettuce, sliced jalapenos, diced tomatoes, shredded mexican cheese, sour cream, cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, guacamole, sliced avocados, jalapeno/cilantro crema

Ingredients:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and tin of green chilis, cook for another minute or two.  Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently. You don’t want to burn the spices just crank up the flavor by cooking them.

Add the lentils, salsa and 6 ounces of the beer and stir to combine. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash the lentils until the mixture reaches the consistency you are happy with. Cook another few minutes until hot. If the lentils start to dry out, add another glug or two of the lager. ( If you haven’t slurped it down…cooking is hard & thirsty work!)

Place a heaping spoonful or two into warmed taco shells or tortillas and add your toppings. The lentil filling will make about 12-14 tacos, depending on how stuffed you like them!

Enjoy!

Spicy Lentil Tacos brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 


Lentil Sloppy Joes

July 1, 2014

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Yes indeed, the 4th of July is drawing ever closer and I’m sure you are finalizing the plans for all of your festivities for the day. But when you were planning out your menu, did you have a vegetarian option in mind? If not, perhaps you might be willing to consider these Lentil Sloppy Joes.

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This vegetarian rendition of that childhood favourite will have your guests jumping for joy. Hearty, spicy, and somewhat remniscent of baked beans, I’m telling you folks won’t be missing the meat at all. Now your hard core carnivores might disagree, but I’m sure you’ll have them sorted with some ribs, pulled pork, hot dogs or burgers. Meanwhile, the meatless crowd will be delighted while tucking in to these filling and very satisfying, protein packed sandwiches. The fresh avocado is wonderful as a topper adding both great flavour and texture.

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And if you are serving that lovely Carolina Style Pulled Pork I blogged about last week, you might have some coleslaw around, which would likely also be quite tasty perched atop this vegetarian creation. And while these are great in a summer cookout setting, they are so easy to make and delicious to boot, I’m sure we will be seeing them year round in our house!

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Lentil Sloppy Joes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Veggies By Candlelight

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked lentils (brown or green) .. soaked a few hours (or overnight) .. drained & rinsed
  • 4 cups Smithwick’s Ale (** if not using beer .. water,vegetable or beef broth are great options)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 red pepper, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (if you prefer a sweeter sauce add one more tablespoon)
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ½ 
teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ 
teaspoon black pepper (or to taste – we like it peppery so I added 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper as well)
  • Toppings of choice (Tabasco, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, coleslaw, avocado slices, etc .. )

Directions:

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups beer or cooking liquid of your choice. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil, until softened.
Add the garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the cooked lentils, and the the rest of the spices (except the maple syrup & mustard). Stir gently until just combined.
Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.
Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld.
Enjoy!

Lentil Sloppy Joes brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 


Italian Lentil Salad over Crusty Mozzarella Toasts

February 1, 2014

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This Italian Lentil Salad, spooned generously over toasted crusty bread topped with melted fresh mozzarella, may have kept me alive last week. I kid you not. This meal is so incredibly hearty and delicious, it kept me going on the night that our furnace gave up the ghost and the temperature outside plunged to a bone-chilling 8° F (-13° C). Yup…Oh and the wind chill made it feel like 1°F (-17° C). Well, it didn’t get that cold here inside, but I was really freaking out that it would get just cold enough that all the pipes in the house would burst. Just two days before hand we had been dealing with a frozen sewer pipe. Needless to say, tension was running high around here that night. Luckily we had a gas fireplace in the living room that we were able to huddle around and big servings of Italian Lentil Salad which helped to not only warm us but to also fortify our souls for what further, yet unknown calamities were certainly lurking right around the frigid corner. And I should also mention that we had a big bottle of wine (or two) that perhaps helped to sooth our cold shattered nerves!

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I am happy to report that not only did we survive the most recent arctic blast unscathed, but our pipes held out like champs! Normally a big fan of Winter, this Virginia winter has proven quite bizarre for me. We have endured multiple days of temperatures which were only able climb to a high of 20° F (-6° C), and you can imagine where they headed once the sun went down.  However, even thought the temperatures are lingering in the polar vicinity, we haven’t had much snow (which I actually like), just the glacial cold. I was visiting Iceland in December and believe it or not, I feel I need to return if only to warm up! So it seems good old Virginia has become a land of the extremes; sweltering, miserable humid and sweaty summers followed up by bitter, raw Siberian winters. Hmmm….

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Frozen Virginia Vista

That most famous of groundhogs, Punxsutawney Phil, is scheduled to make his yearly appearance on Sunday.

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The critter himself!

I never thought I’d say it, but I hope he does not see his shadow and Winter is over. I do declare that with some trepidation because even though it was cold, and I do mean somewhat glacial, without a furnace the other night, I was able to put on enough layers and pile on enough blankets that I was comfortable. If not for my extreme dread over burst pipes, all would have been well. However, it is often so hot here when it does deign to “warm up” that I can’t get comfortable, no matter how nekkid (that’s a word right?) I get.

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Thinking back to those steamy Virginia summers, that is when I originally found this recipe on Pinch of Yum ( I did modify it somewhat). You see, I had planted an incredibly over active cherry tomato plant and was scouring the intertubes (my word for worldwide web) for recipes in which I could use my bumper crop. I made this salad quite a few times back then. Mind you, since we were at the opposite end on thermometer from where we are now, I served it cold, as a side salad, or sometimes over a bed of lettuce or if I was on the go, rolled it into a wrap. No matter which way I served it, it was absolutely delicious and refreshing. So, there you have it. This gem of a recipe is very versatile temperature wise and it certainly must be good for you, chock full of lentils, bulgur wheat and veggies as it is. No meat in sight. It will not only delightfully satisfy your hunger, but will also even allow you to feel somewhat virtuous as you tuck into a big plate of it. You really should add this one to your recipe box. You never know, it might just save your life!

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Italian Lentil Salad

recipe adapted from: Pinch of Yum

yield: 8 – 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry green (brown) lentils
  • ½ cup dry light bulgur
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 3-4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/4 grated parmesan cheese
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • toasted slices of crusty bread

Instructions:

Cook the lentils and the bulgur according to directions, using vegetable/chicken broth instead of water. When cooked, combine and set aside.

Saute the onion in the olive oil until it softens a bit and then add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan. Saute over low heat for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes and garlic are soft and fragrant. Remove from heat. Add the lentils, bulgur, basil and parmesan to the pan and stir to combine.

Season with dressing and salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.

If serving over toasted bread, toast bread slices. Place slices of fresh mozzarella on toasted bread slices and stick under broiler until cheese is melted. Top bread slices with heaping spoonfuls of warm lentil salad.

Enjoy!

P.S. Thanks to all you folks out there reading my blog! I have been at the food blogging thing for 3 years on February 1st and am so thankful anyone is actually paying attention! I hope I can continue to inspire you with my culinary adventures in the upcoming year.


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