31p Vegan Moussaka from Cooking on a Bootstrap | VeganMoFo Day Twenty-One

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

I didn’t actually intend for all the non-original recipes I made this week to come from Cooking on a Bootstrap, but here we are on Thursday and, yes, I’m making another one. Or to be more accurate, Steven is making another one. Made another one. Feeling the beginning of dinner burnout (not to mention knowing I’d be tired from a particularly busy day at work getting our next issue of the magazine off to the printer), I asked him if he could take the lead on dinner last night. He agreed. I sent a couple recipe options, all of them featuring eggplants (aubergines to you Brits!) because I had bought two at the farmers market last weekend and wanted to use them before they went squishy. Steven’s choice: the vegan moussaka from Cooking on a Bootstrap.

My experience with moussaka is limited. When we lived in Wisconsin, our favorite co-op frequently featured a vegan moussaka at the hot bar. It was rich and creamy and filling and a total comfort food. But I don’t think I’ve ever made it myself, nor had I tried a dairy-based version before going vegan. So I was pretty pleased when Steven chose this recipe. It seems that my streak of not having to make moussaka (but still getting to enjoy it!) continues!

Alas, my dream of another uber-creamy moussaka would remain just that: a dream. The recipe simply didn’t yield enough white sauce to cover the lentil and eggplant filling; the sauce got absorbed into the filling and had entirely disappeared by the time we sat down to eat. The scant sauce also meant that there wasn’t enough left to cover the top layer of eggplant slices; they remained just a tad dry up until the point of serving, when I mixed them in with the filling. Perhaps our robust American eggplants were too large compared to daintier British aubergines, and that discrepancy upset the filling-to-sauce ratio? It’s possible. Perhaps offering a weight measurement for the aubergines would help. (Steven also notes that the recipe didn’t specify which size casserole dish to use or when to add the mustard.)

All that said, this was not by any means an unsatisfying dish. But moussaka it was not. Better to call it a lentil and eggplant bake, then, and enjoy it as such.

48p Tin Bolognese from Cooking on a Bootstrap | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Nineteen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

If rice and beans is the number-one quintessential cheap dish, pasta must come in a close second. Yes, you can fancy it up with creamy vodka sauce or garlic butter or garlic alfredo sauce, but even a classic, simple, cheap tomato-based red sauce poured atop your favorite noodles can’t fail to satisfy.

One step up from a classic red sauce? A lentil-based bolognese, with mushrooms, red wine, and lots of garlic for added flavor. Another recipe from Cooking on a Bootstrap, this so-called Tin Bolognese relies on tinned (canned if you’re in the U.S.!) mushrooms and lentils and comes together at just 48p a serving. I used fresh mushrooms, bulk lentils cooked from dry, and garlic from the garden, rendering it a Not-So-Tin Bolognese. Jack uses stuffing crumbs for a little bulk and flavor; I opted for panko because that’s what I had in the pantry.

Not terribly photogenic (especially at 6 p.m. when the light is failing and I’m trying to take a photo through a north-facing window), but I assure you it was tasty! Thanks to the lentils and my use of whole wheat noodles, the protein content was more than respectable (I estimate ~30g per serving, with just over two servings total), making this a filling and wholesome meal. Pasta does it again.

How to Make Lentil Soup Without a Recipe

lentil soup template

As the DC area grimly prepares for its first blizzard of the season (and, really, our first significant snowfall of the season!), I’m positively gleeful about the impending weather. It weirds me out that we’ve made it halfway through January without snow, and I’m ready to get snowed in. I’ve got good books, good coffee, and good soup to see me through.

Call me plain, but I love a solid lentil soup. I don’t know the last time I’ve used a recipe to make one, though; I usually see what I’ve got in the fridge and the pantry and go from there. And my blizzard batch is no exception. It’s chock-full of add-ins: carrots, celery, potatoes, kale, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and more. I thought it might be fun to share a modular, customizable template for making lentil soup for those times when you don’t want to follow a recipe but do want a little guidance.

Following this template is pretty simple. I’ve divided the ingredients into different sections and indicated how many items from each section you should choose. You can, of course, add more or less depending on what’s in your pantry — this is just a guide. But by sticking to ingredients from each section, you should end up with a hearty, filling soup with diverse textures and flavors. Note that the white wine is highly recommended but not essential. The same goes for most ingredients. Your soup won’t be ruined if you don’t have celery, and the measurements are just suggestions. Be flexible, play with the template, and enjoy.

lentil_soup_template

One-Pot Lentil Soup (a Template)
Serves 4-6

The basics (use all)

  • 1 T olive oil (you can use more if you prefer, or even just water-sauté the mirepoix if you want to avoid added oil)
  • Mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery — the amounts don’t really matter, but aim for about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 3-5 cloves minced garlic
  • Low-sodium vegetable broth (3-4 cups, depending on how soup-y vs. stew-y you want it to be)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils
  •  1/3 cup dry white wine

The veggies (choose 2-3)

  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium golden potatoes, diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1-2 cups canned diced tomatoes (use the juice, too)
  • 2 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach

The additional protein (choose 1)

  • 1/2 cup Beyond Meat chicken, shredded gently
  • 1/2 cup soy curls
  • 1/2 cup vegan beef chunks, chopped if too large
  • 2 vegan sausages, sliced into rounds and cut in half (sautéed ahead of time, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Additional 1/2 cup lentils

The spices (choose 1 blend or make your own)

  • Basic blend
    • 1 T nutritional yeast
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • “Beef stew” blend
    • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Curry blend
    • 1 T curry powder
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • Salt and pepper to taste

To start, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium. When it begins to shimmer, add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns, until the onion is translucent.

Add your spice blend and give everything a good stir, then add the veggies to the pot UNLESS you’re using kale, spinach, or another green. Hold those till later. Add the lentils (including the additional half cup, if using) and the quinoa, if using. Stir everything again and then add your broth. The broth should cover all your ingredients with about an extra inch of liquid.

Bring everything to a boil, give it a good stir, and then turn it down to low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Around the 30 minute mark, add your protein (unless you’re using quinoa or additional lentils) and greens, if using. Add more broth or water, if necessary. Give everything a good stir and cook for another 15 minutes.

After 15 more minutes, check the soup to see if the lentils and potatoes (if using) are soft. At this point, you can also taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. You could also add more liquid if you want it soupier. Simmer for longer if necessary.

When all ingredients are cooked to your taste, add the white wine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and then serve.

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What kind of meals do you like to create off the cuff? Would a template for something else be helpful?

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With its slightly astringent bite, radicchio isn’t a vegetable I cook with frequently—truth be told, I’ve used it only a handful of times. Recently, though, I stumbled across a method for cooking it that promised to transform it into something much more palatable: roasting! I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself. What vegetable doesn’t benefit from a little olive oil and some time in the oven at high heat? Roasting radicchio brings out its sweetness, especially in the tender inner leaves. The outer leaves retain some of their bite, but those inner leaves practically melt in your mouth.

I served my roasted radicchio alongside a warm lentil dish that features one of my absolute favorite veggies: Brussels sprouts. I also added pomegranates for a textural contrast and a bite of sweet juiciness that plays well with the strongly flavored sprouts, and a sprinkle of pine nuts adds the finishing touch! I flavored my lentil dish with Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar, a lovely mild vinegar that even I—a noted vinegar-hater—can’t totally dislike. If you don’t have it, though, feel free to use another light vinegar and a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges
Serves two

For the radicchio:

  • One head radicchio
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced as finely as you can get it (or pressed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For the lentils:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils

For the dressing/salad:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange muscat champagne vinegar (or 1/2 tablespoon your favorite vinegar + 1/2 tablespoon orange juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pine nuts for topping (optional but highly recommended)

Add the water to a medium sauce pot and heat on high. Preheat oven to 425˚. Prepare a short-rimmed baking pan by spraying it with oil or lining it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the radicchio marinade: olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. Set aside.

Quarter the radicchio by trimming the woody bottom off and cutting the radicchio into four wedges. Using a pastry brush, coat all of the exposed surfaces of each wedge with the olive oil marinade. Place cut-side down on the baking pan and place in the oven while you prep the Brussels sprouts.

If the water’s boiling at this point, add the lentils, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Roughly quarter each Brussels sprout (or halve them if they’re particularly small). You don’t have to use uniform precision; just make sure each piece is roughly the same size. Add to a bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and paprika until well coated. Remove the baking pan with the radicchio from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the radicchio quarters so the other cut side is down and give the Brussels sprouts a good stir. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts start to crisp up.

While the veggies are roasting, keep an eye on the lentils. When all the water is absorbed, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Uncover it and let it sit, stirring the lentils frequently to cool them a bit.

After the lentils have cooled for about five minutes, drizzle in the dressing ingredients and stir until the lentils are well coated. Allow the mixture to sit while the veggies finish roasting.

Once the Brussels sprouts are crispy and the radicchio has wilted and darkened, remove them from the oven. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the lentils, top with pine nuts, and serve immediately with the radicchio wedges on the side.

~~~

What’s your favorite way to serve radicchio? Brussels sprouts? 

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

LVV MoFo 2014 main

11 days into Vegan MoFo and I’ve yet to feature a soup. Shocking! That oversight gets remedied today with a hearty tomato-y red lentil soup that couldn’t be easier to throw together. This ain’t your typical red lentil soup, though—the addition of quinoa not only boosts the nutritional profile, but adds a textural counterpoint to the softer lentils.

This soup is versatile, too. Yellow potatoes could easily stand in for the sweet potatoes, and diced carrots would make a fine addition. If you don’t have quinoa, I suppoooose you could leave it out. And if you prefer a creamier, richer soup, just add some full-fat coconut milk towards the end of cooking. That kiss of lemon juice added at the end is non-negotiable, though. Trust me, you’ll want to keep it.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
Serves six

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2″ knob ginger, minced
  • 1-2 T your favorite curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • 3 C water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or puree)
  • 2 C red lentils
  • 1/2 C quinoa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced scallions or chopped cilantro for serving

In a large stockpot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or so. Add onion and ginger and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add spices and sweet potatoes and stir until the sweet potatoes are well-coated. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, red lentils, quinoa, and two cups of the water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked and the lentils are soft. Check every 10 minutes and add extra water in half cupfuls if necessary.

When the sweet potatoes and lentils are fully cooked, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the lemon juice, reserving some for serving. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the leftover lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and diced scallions or chopped cilantro.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils boast an impressive nutritional makeup, and this soup adds a few other key ingredients to nourish you. One serving offers 24% of your daily value of iron and 17 grams of protein… but you might not want to have just one serving.

What’s your go-to soup recipe?