Lentils, like other beans, are a good vehicle for the kind of strong flavorings we love. When cooking any bean soup, occasionally give it a stir to avoid burning the beans on the bottom.
Serves 8 to 10
2 large onions
11 cloves of garlic
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 bunch fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
1 gallon vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
3 cups lentils, washed and picked over
6 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
2 ripe plantains, peeled, cut in half, and diced
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 bunches cilantro, chopped
Cut 1 onion into chunks and the other into dice. Mince 6 of the garlic cloves and keep the remaining 5 whole.
Place the onion chunks, whole garlic cloves, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in the center of a medium square of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together to form a package. Place the fresh thyme in another square of cheesecloth and tie the ends together to enclose.
Combine the stock and the spice and herb packages, or dried thyme, in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes. Stir in the lentils and continue cooking until they are cooked through but still firm, 15 minutes. Strain the lentils, reserving the liquid and the thyme bundle.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the diced onions until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the plantains, carrots, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the plantains are soft and golden, 15 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and allspice and cook about 5 minutes longer, being careful not to scorch the garlic.
Add the lentils, their reserved liquid, and the thyme bundle. Bring to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the thyme bundle. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.
Brisket is easy to cook and great to have on hand for a comforting winter meal. The chipotle chiles add a pleasant mouth-tingling sensation that is not at all overpowering. Serve this beef brisket with smashed potatoes for a special holiday supper. It reheats beautifully for sandwiches and weeknight suppers. For sandwiches, reheat thinly sliced beef brisket in its sauce.
3 1/2 pounds beef brisket
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
flour for dredging
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 medium onions, chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled
3 dried chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 quarts chicken stock or water
5 bay leaves
salt to taste
1 cup Pickled Red Onions, (see recipe below), for garnish
4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Sprinkle the brisket with coarse salt and pepper. Dredge in flour to coat and shake off any excess.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat until browned on all sides, and remove. Reduce the heat to moderate and add the carrots and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes longer. Return the meat to the pan along with all the remaining ingredients except the salt and garnishes. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 1/4 hours, or until the meat slips off a fork when pierced.
Lift out the brisket and place on a cutting board. Cover with a damp towel. Pour the broth with the vegetables into a tall container and skim off the layer of fat that rises. Remove and discard the bay leaves and chiles. Pour the broth and vegetables into a blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree until smooth, add salt to taste and strain. Reheat the sauce.
Slice the brisket against the grain and arrange on a platter. Pour the warm sauce over it, sprinkle with pickled onions and sliced scallions and serve.
Pickled Red Onions
Makes 5 1/2 cups
1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon roughly chopped cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 beet, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges
Place the onions in a medium saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Strain and set the onions aside.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook 10 minutes. Add the blanched onions and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a container, cover, and refrigerate at least a day before serving. Pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator up to a month.
1 kabocha squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut in half, seeds removed (acorn, butternut, delicate are also fine)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika (sweet, spicy or smoked: to your taste)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 thyme sprigs
4 cloves garlic
2 medium onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
5 cups fresh carrot juice, from the refrigerated section
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Spiced Pepitas (see recipe), for garnish
Crispy Flour Tortilla Flatbreads (see recipe), for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat squash halves with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season liberally with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with the paprika of your choice. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil with cut side facing up. Place garlic cloves and thyme sprigs in each seed hollow. Roast until completely tender and lightly browned in spots, about 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Discard thyme stems, keeping the leaves and carefully scrape flesh away from skin. Discard skin.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until completely tender and nicely browned, about 15 minutes total. Add cooked squash flesh (discarding the skin) along with garlic cloves and thyme leaves. Stir to combine. Add carrot juice and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, skimming and discarding the foam. Remove from heat and blend until smooth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot, garnishing with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a generous pinch of chopped cilantro and 1 tablespoon Spiced Pepitas per bowl and Crispy Flour Tortilla Flatbreads.
Makes 1/2 cup, 10 servings
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
A pinch of cayenne, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup raw pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds), unsalted
In a small bowl, combine lime juice, cayenne, salt, and pepper and stir until dissolved. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pepitas and toast, tossing frequently, until seeds begin to expand and turn a light golden color. Add seasoned lime juice and stir well to coat all seeds. Remove from heat and cool in the pan. Serve at room temperature.
Crispy Flour Tortilla Flatbreads
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 12-inch flour tortillas
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Dissolve salt in lime juice, and then stir in paprika, cayenne and oil.
Brush 1 side of each tortilla with oil lime mixture. Cut each tortilla into 8 to 10-inch long, thin triangles with a sharp knife. Bake until crisp and lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes total. Transfer to racks to cool.
This simple, savory side of baked tomatoes, bread, and cheese is a colorful and comforting addition to the holiday table.
1 (1-lb.) loaf country bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in purée, crushed by hand
1 (16-oz.) can tomato purée
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, place soft bread, brown sugar and melted butter.
Pour out cans of tomato puree and tomato soup into bread mixture. In each empty can, pour about 1 tablespoon of warm water to rinse out the can, then pour water into bread mixture.
Using your hands or a spatula, gently mix everything together until thoroughly combined. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 1 hour. Serve immediately.