Italian Lentil Salad
Adapted from Food Network
- 1 pound green lentils
- 2 green onions, chopped (including greens)
- 1 cup halved seedless green grapes
- 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Crumbled feta
Instead of boiling the lentils and getting watery, mushy lentils, baking them preserves their flavor and texture. First, cover lentils with water and 1 tsp salt. Soak for 1 hour, then drain well. In a large covered casserole dish or oven proof saucepan, add lentils, cover with water, 1/2 tsp of salt, cover and bake at 325 degrees for 40-60 minutes until tender. Drain and toss with remaining ingredients, except feta and toss with vinaigrette. Refrigerate to chill. Sprinkle with feta just before serving.
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
Place the lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste
I know it’s grilling season, but we’ll have all summer to talk about grilling recipes. This week I wanted to try out a recipe that has been tucked away and waiting for me to put my spin on it.
A while back, I asked you guys for a vegetarian meatball recipe, and you came through with some great ideas. Once I had the general concept down, I thought it was time to flavor it up a bit more. So tonight’s featured recipe is a vegetarian spinach ricotta meatball. With that in mind, the recipe theme came into focus. The versatility of ricotta cheese, from main course to desserts.
To start, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has done it and you can click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here)
Moving on to dessert, a friend of mine has what feels like weekly potlucks at work and she often takes Apple Lasagna, recipe here, that is always a hit.
And finally from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above that can be found here.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas for that tub of ricotta, let’s switch things up before we get to the featured recipe. I’d like to know if you’ve ever made your own wine, beer or hard ciders. I’d like to know details, where did you get your ingredients and how did it all turn out? Besides that, what’s on your menu for the weekend?
Now on to the featured recipe. These a so simple to make and taste so good, it’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re very light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. I think next time I might add a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
Friends are letting me test drive their Cuisinart Ice Cream maker and it inspired a whole week of frozen treats, which will conclude with the Friday Recipe Exchange.
I thought it would be good to start with the basics. The first recipe is for a cream only ice cream and I’ll link to a JeffreyW post that has an egg custard ice cream. Then I’ll add strawberries to it. These recipes all make 1 to 1-1/2 quarts.
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 3 tsp high quality vanilla extract)
Combine all ingredients (including the bean and its pulp – if you’re using extract, DO NOT add yet) in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to barely simmering, about 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly – remove the hull of the vanilla bean or add extract at this point, stirring in completely. Pour mixture into lidded container and refrigerate mixture overnight to mellow flavors and texture.
Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to unit’s instructions. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. It will reach a soft serve consistency. Then spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving.
Strawberry Ice Cream (or really Any Berry Ice Cream)
- Make the vanilla base (above), cooled overnight
- 2 cups of chopped frozen strawberries (or any quality frozen berry of your choice)
- 1 tbsp vodka
ice cream maker
Toss strawberries with vodka, stir into the cold vanilla cream mixture. Add to your ice cream maker and freeze according to unit’s instructions. Again it will be a soft serve consistency when done, remove to an airtight container and freeze for 1 hour before serving.
For an egg custard ice cream, go to JeffreyW’s post here.
JeffreyW makes strawberry ice cream, too
I thought this might be fun on Cinco de Mayo and I promised someone a vegetarian treat today.
The original recipe comes from Cooks Country and normally I’d just link to it, but they’re behind a paywall and I never know if you can access the information. So I’m reproducing it here.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Tasters liked the consistently sweet taste of grape tomatoes compared with other varieties. Tasters also liked the flavor of minced garlic present in many guacamole salad recipes, but thought raw onions were just too harsh, so we used scallions instead. Steeping the garlic and scallions in lime juice for a few minutes before combining them with the avocados mellowed their flavor.
We wanted plenty of peppers for crunch and bulk, but a large quantity of jalapeños made the salad too hot to eat. Milder poblanos, with just a hint of heat, were a better choice.
Serves 4 to 6
If you can’t find poblano peppers, substitute an equal number of Anaheim chiles, or a large green bell pepper mixed with up to 2 tablespoons of minced jalopeño chile.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper
- 4 scallions, sliced thin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 poblano chiles, seeded and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
- 2 ripe avocados, pitted, skinned, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see related Dicing Avocado tip)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. SALT TOMATOES Toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain 15 minutes.
2. MAKE DRESSING Combine scallions, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes, then slowly whisk in oil.
3. TOSS SALAD Add chiles, avocados, cilantro, and drained tomatoes to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
POBLANOS, THE RELLENO CHILES
Our recipe for Guacamole Salad calls for poblano chiles, a tapered, deep-green, medium-sized Mexican chile. They taste slightly bitter, similar to green bell peppers but with a spicier finish. Sold both fresh and dried (the dried are called anchos), they are used in many Mexican dishes, most famously in the United States in deep-fried, cheese-stuffed chiles rellenos. If you can’t find poblanos, substitute one medium green bell pepper and 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced jalapeño (about ½ chile) per poblano.
Quick note: I’ve been playing with the layout of the blog, so it may change several more times over the weekend. Please standby.
JeffreyW has been teasing with some impressive looking South of the Border treats lately, so I thought it would be a good night to focus on them. The featured recipe is an enchilada pie. It is kid friendly and a breeze to put together. Perfect for an easy weeknight dinner.
JeffreyW makes a similar dish, called Enchiladas Montadas (recipe here), which is pictured above.
Also from JeffreyW, a quick and easy Chicken Enchiladas (click here), including his terrific photos.
From frequent visitor, Joshua De Mers (you may know his as Yutsano), his Pork Enchiladas (recipe here).
All of that should give you an idea how to create your own enchilada to satisfy your tastes. Hit the comments and share some of your favorite enchilada, nacho, burrito or other favorites. And if you need more inspiration, click here for a complete photo gallery of JeffreyW’s enchilada creations.
Finally, tonight’s featured recipe:
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ large onion, chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 20 oz. enchilada sauce
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 10 corn tortillas
- 8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
skillet & 8×8 glass baking dish, lightly oiled
Add beef and onion to skillet and cook until beef is browned and onions are translucent. Add spices and sauces; let simmer while you prep tortillas. Tear tortillas into strips and use some to cover the bottom of a well-oiled casserole dish. Layer a portion of the beef mixture and cheese on top, then repeat (tortillas, beef, cheese) to fill up casserole; finish with layer of cheese. Bake 30 minutes at 350°