Tag Archives: Italian

Indian Lentils + Coconut Makhani Sauce – Failed Ravioli = Soup

makhani lentil soup

There’s a best practice in debugging computer programs that recommends changing only one variable at a time in order to isolate the problem. I’ve also found this to be true when trying new ingredients, techniques, and combinations in cooking: try only one new thing at a time!

Failure to follow this rule resulted in some really bad ravioli last weekend. My vision was to combine Indian flavors in an Italian preparation: Indian-spiced lentils and carrots, stuffed into a chickpea flour ravioli, topped with a creamy makhani sauce made with coconut milk.

I’ve never made fresh pasta, or worked with chickpea flour. The result? Gummy, chewy, too-thick pasta with an odd, beany flavor. Not good.

At least the other components of the dish worked well on their own. These Indian-spiced French green lentils were simple to make and worked well as a side dish later in the week. The Coconut Makhani Sauce tasted like a warmly-spiced, slightly creamy tomato soup. They worked well together, too!

French lentilsLentils are fantastic. These are French green lentils, prior to cooking.

I’m offering the lentils and sauce as separate recipes. If you have other uses for one of the recipes, please share them!

Indian Spiced French Lentils

1 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup french lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium white onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 black cardamom pods

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cardamom pods and sauté until tender. Add lentils and broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Do not overcook lentils, or they will become mushy. Cooking time will depend on the age of your lentils. Older lentils are generally more dry and may take longer to cook, or require a bit more water.

Serve with rice, or add to Coconut Makhani Sauce to create a soup.

Coconut Makhani Sauce

1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
1/4 cup ginger, finely minced
6-7 garlic cloves, pressed
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seed, crushed
5  cups tomato sauce
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
Salt to taste
1 14 oz can coconut milk

Heat Earth Balance in a saucepan. Add cinnamon, cardamom pods, and mustard seed.

Once the seeds start to sizzle, add ginger, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Cook until small bubbles form on surface of the mixture.

Add tomato paste or tomato puree, cinnamon powder and celery seed.

Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, until reduced by about one third.

Just before serving, whisk in coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Cilantro Pesto and Caramelized Onion Pizza

It’s 52 degrees tonight! But it’s headed up to 90 this weekend, so it’s time to heat up the oven and make pizza while we can.

cilantro pesto caramelized onion pizza

The sauce is a Cilantro Pesto. It’s not just good on pizza, it’s great on black bean quesadillas, taco salads, sandwiches, and as a dip for jicama. All measurements are approximate, as long as you stick to the basic cilantro-cumin-onion-lime plan.

Basic Cilantro Pesto

1/4 of a white onion, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves (trim ends of stems)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper to taste

Combine white onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, lime juice, cumin and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil.

The Crust
My favorite pizza crust recipe
is from Fogazzo, a wood-fired over manufacturer. I don’t refrigerate my dough as the recipe indicates, I just leave it in a warm place for about 40 minutes, punch it down, then divide into 4 balls, and let rise for about an hour more. You can use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour to add some fiber, and throw in garlic powder or other spices. This time I went with coarse black pepper and oregano. The above recipe makes four 12-inch thin crust pizzas. I bake them on a stone at 450 degrees.

The Onions
So simple: just slice a white onion (Vidalia would work too) into strips and sauté in a bit of Earth Balance until nicely caramelized. I like to slice my strips from the top of the onion to the bottom, rather than cutting the onion into rings. I think the onions turn out less “stringy” after they’re cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.

I also sprinkled about 2 tsp of nutritional yeast on top for a little cheesy flavor.

So long, final days of spring.

Mushroom and Sausage Calzone

I love homemade pizza and calzones. With the wind gusting to 45 mph and the temperature near the single digits, it was a good night to heat up the oven. This Mushroom and Sausage (Field Roast Italian sausage) Calzone was hot, hearty, and filling. I could only eat half!

The crust is best made a few hours ahead of time, making this a good recipe for a weekend. It can be proofed on the countertop, or in the refrigerator overnight. All you need is a large bowl, a measuring cup, and something to stir it up.

Mushroom and Sausage Calzone

For the dough

(Note: this recipe makes enough dough for four 14-inch pizzas or calzones. It stores well in the refrigerator in an oiled container for about a week.)

1 3/4 cups warm water (100˚ F)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat water to 100˚ F. Dissolve sugar, then add yeast and wait 5 minutes to proof (it should be foamy). Meanwhile, mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. After the yeast has proofed, add oil to the yeast and water mixture. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until a somewhat cohesive ball forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Place ball in an oiled bowl and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes covered by a damp kitchen towel.

Divide dough into four equal parts, and form into tight balls. Coat the balls with a bit more oil to prevent sticking and either place back in the bowl, or in a baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to proof for 2-3 hours, or proof in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

For the filling (fills 1 calzone)

1 package gourmet mushroom blend – oyster, baby bella, shiitake, or whatever floats your boat – about 2 cups, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 Field Roast Italian Sausage, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I pulled a container from the freezer, but use any vegan tomato-based sauce you like)
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, shredded (or Daiya would work)

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, sausage, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 425 F, and place a pizza stone about 2 notches from the bottom of the oven to preheat.

To assemble a calzone, stretch one of the dough balls into a circle about 12-14 inches in diameter. On one half, spread the sauce, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edge. Spoon mushroom filling over sauce, and top with cheese. Fold over un-topped half of the dough, and roll bottom layer over top layer, pinching to seal edges. (You can wet the edges with a bit of water to get a better seal.)

Cut 3 small slits in the top of the calzone. Transfer to the preheated pizza stone. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.