Radish Top Soup—More Bang for the Buck.

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One Saturday, I came home with my AMAP goodies which included radishes and their very green leafy tops. I was supposed to have 240 grams worth of radishes and I felt slightly cheated when I saw that the greens took up so much volume and added weight until I bumped into my neighbor and fellow amapien friend who must have seen the slightly disgruntled face I must have pulled while weeding through the crate of radish…

Je fais une bonne soupe avec les fanes de radis, said Marcel.

C’est vrai? Dites-moi …I quipped.

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Radish leaves have an earthy and peppery taste. If you like watercress soup, you’ll love this. The recipe is so simple and quick to make and it’s delish. It’s a healthy green soup that just keeps you feeling clean and good.

Apparently it is full of vitamin C, more per serving than in the radish itself and a high concentration of vitamin B6, magnesium, phosporus, iron, calcium, and vitamin A.

So next time you buy radishes from the market don’t get rid of your radish tops. You’ll get more value and get a meal out of it!

I didn’t pull a face last Saturday when I got radishes on my list again.

Radish Top Soup

INGREDIENTS//Serves 2-3

• 1 medium yellow onion, diced
• 1 medium potato, diced
• 1 bunch fresh radish leaves, chopped
• 1 litre water
• Salt, adjust accordingly
• Chili pepper, adjust accordingly
• crème frîache, dallop (optional)

Instructions

RInse the radish leaves and leave aside until needed.

In a medium size pot, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and cook up the onions.

Add a litre of water and the potatoes to the pot and bring it to a boil.

Once it hits boiling point bring the heat down to a simmer. Add your salt.

When the potatoes are cooked through add the radish greens and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Adjust with chili pepper powder and more salt if necessary.

Let it cool and whizz it up in a blender.

NOTE
Re-heat the soup before serving after it is all blended together. You can add a dallop of crème fraîche to the soup for a creamier texture and perhaps a more balanced taste but personally I find the starchiness of the potato makes it creamy enough.

Fried Green Zebra...Tomatoes!

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Green Zebra tomatoes and fried green tomatoes are all a first for me. Unfortunately, I was too eager to cook them up before I could snap a portrait of the Green Zebra tomato to show you its beauty.

It’s vibrant green skin is vertically striped all around with a slight yellow hue. It’s perfectly taut, citrusy, and sweet.

The film title Fried Green Tomatoes popped in my mind straight away when I hovered over my little lovelies on the kitchen top. So there you have it…

Fried Green Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS//Yields 12-15 pieces

• 3 green tomatoes or Green Zebra Tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch (approx. 1.3 cm) thick
• 1/2 cup (60 grams) corn starch
• 1 egg, whisked
• Half tablespoon crème fraîche (I didn’t have buttermilk but it is widely used in this recipe)
• 2 cups (100 grams) panko bread crumbs
• 1 tablespoon of mixed herbs and spices, your preference (I used cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper)

Dip

• 125 grams greek yogurt (an individual container serving size)
• Half clove garlic
• 5 sprigs of parsley
• 1 lemon wedge
• Salt, adjust accordingly

PREPARATION

Mix the herbs with the corn starch in a bowl.

Add the crème fraîche to the egg and whisk in a separate bowl.

Add salt and pepper to the panko breadcrumb in another bowl.

Lay out the three bowls in the order you will use them: corn starch, egg, panko.
 

Dip

In a small blender or mixer combine all the ingredients and whizz it up.

Pour it into a small bowl, add salt to adjust accordingly.

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour some vegetable oil in a large skilet about a half inch deep.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat.

After the oil is heated start your tomatoes by going down the assembly line: dredge it in the corn starch, then dip it into the egg mix, and then completely coat with the panko, and place it gently in the heated oil.

Continue until the pan is almost full making sure not to overcrowd the tomatoes.

Fry each side until golden brown. Take it out and lay it on a wire rack or napkins to drain some of the oil.

Serve with the dip.


Roasted Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Ingredients: onion, cardammon seeds, ginger, Esplette red pepper, coconut oil, coconut milk, vegetable broth, roasted pumpkin

Ingredients: onion, cardammon seeds, ginger, Esplette red pepper, coconut oil, coconut milk, vegetable broth, roasted pumpkin

I didn't think I could have mishaps with my camera while taking photos of food that doesn't move, food that sits still, and no-motion food but just before the hols I broke my 50mm lens taking pictures of the the raw veggie makis —um, let's just say I had two left feet while jumping over my very still food set.   Then, today my camera somehow fell out of my hand and took a dunk into the soup before splashing everywhere and all I could recall was orange patchy blotches everywhere. 

Clumsy, clumsy me, and a very lucky, lucky me as I had a protection filter that actually did what it was meant to do, protect my lens—close call.   We are all cleaned up now.

Soups are the thing for me lately.  I'm purging myself from refined sugar, dairy products, wheat, and alcohol this month so it's just easier for me to keep a big batch on hand and heat it up whenever I want.   Besides, it's less hassle when I don't have to think about what to eat myself.  Thinking for the three others in my family is plenty enough for me.  Wouldn't you agree?

I usually have a variety of dairy replacements at home but I don't exclude it.  We like to mix it up day to day so it makes it easier for me to snatch a bottle of dairy replacement out of the fridge when I am making something that normally needs some dairy product.  These days I'm just making more of a conscious effort of what I consume than usual.   I'm taking care of myself instead of neglecting myself.  I call it my period of restoration.   This is my jump start into the new year.

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Roasted Pumpkin Ginger Soup

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 700 grams pumpkin, roasted with skin
• 1 small onion
• 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) knob ginger
• 2 cardamom seeds
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 1/4 teasoon chili powder ( I used Espelette red pepper)
• 2 cups (500ml) vegetable broth
• 1/2 cup (100ml) coconut milk

Toppings:

Crushed sea salt, grilled sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds, goji berries




INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot, drop your coconut oil and add the onion, ginger, and cardammon seeds. 

Cook until the onion is brown. 

Add the vegetable broth.

Cut up your roasted pumpkin with the skin into chunks and add it to the pot along with the coconut milk and the chili powder.

Bring the soup to a boil.  Then turn off the heat and let it stand before you use your hand mixer or blender to liquify it.

Use a mortar and pestle and crush some sea salt, grilled sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Sesaon with this topping accordingly. 


 

Cauliflower Parsnip Purée

The parsnip seems to be a star vegetable this winter.  It just had a portrait write-up about it in the French journal Libération with a soup recipe included by Alain Ducasse.

Parsnip is the je ne sais quoi in soups and it's what adds that special something to the stock of the pot-au-feu.  In the ancient times, the Roman Emperor Tiberius imported this vegetable from Germania and it was used to strike the bell in the bell tower.  In the Middle Ages, it was one of the vegetables cultivated by the monasteries.  It was overshadowed by the growing popularity of the potatoes in the 18th century and has just finally made its comeback to the dining room table.

Cauliflower Parsnip Purée

INGREDIENTS//Serves 6

• 1 Parsnip, peeled and chopped
• 500 grams cauliflower, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, roasted
• 2 dollops crème fraîche
• 30 grams butter
• 1/2 bunch chives


INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot of water add some coarse sea salt and the parsnip and bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.

Cook for 15 minutes or until you can stab a fork through the parsnips.  

Add the cauliflower and cook until tender.

Pour your parsnips and cauliflower into a colander and drain.

Transfer it to a large mixing bowl (if mashing by hand) otherwise transfer into a food processor.

Combine the rest of the ingredients, garlic and crème fraîche. 

Mash with a fork or blend it all together in your food processor.  Adjust accordingly with some coarse sea salt. 

Garnish with some chopped chives.

 

 

Buddha Bowl #1. Eat Bold and Bloom.

Buddha bowls have been the rage in healthy living in the past year or two.  I never knew what I had been eating actually had a name to it.  I like to think of it as a gratitude bowl.  Now, I'm not trying to get hippy-dippy on you, but it is a bowl of goodness for your health, mind, and body so we should be grateful for what we have on this earth and for what Mother Nature gives to us.

Brown rice and quinoa mix topped with hijiki tofu patties, beetroot, cucumber wakame sunomono, red cabbage, spinach, crushed avocado with yuzu and poppy seeds, and carrot ginger dressing.

Brown rice and quinoa mix topped with hijiki tofu patties, beetroot, cucumber wakame sunomono, red cabbage, spinach, crushed avocado with yuzu and poppy seeds, and carrot ginger dressing.

This is a one meal bowl with an emphasis on plant based foods.  There are 4 basic components to it: grains and/or nuts and seeds, protein veggies, starchy vegetables, and a dazzling dressing or sauce.

You can use plant based proteins such as avocado, beans, nuts, seeds, and tofu.  Other protein substitutes may be egg, sustainable fish and lean meats (for those who need a little more).  Play around with the textures of your veggies which can easily be achieved by the way you cook them (boiled, steamed, sautéed, raw, roasted) or cut them (diced, cubed, sliced, julienned). 

The combination between texture and taste is something you can be mindful to while eating.  A mix of raw vegetables and lightly cooked, steamed, or roasted vegetables add different dimensions to a bowl.  Be generous to yourself and be abundant in your veggie servings.

What's great about it is that you can reincarnate any leftovers and recreate new bowls. 

Buddha Bowl #1

INGREDIENTS// 1 meal bowl

• brown rice and quinoa mix
hijiki tofu patties
• beetroot, raw and grated
cucumber wakame sunomono
• red cabbage, marinated
• spinach or chard
crushed avocado with yuzu and poppy seeds
carrot ginger dressing


INSTRUCTIONS

Choose a special bowl and assemble all your elements of goodness on top and around your grains.

Top it off with your special dressing or sauce. 

Eat bold and bloom.

 

Five Veggie Soup

Walking home one day with another mother after picking up my kids from school, thoughts of dinner started to arise.  When I asked her what she was making, she told me: something very simple, vegetable soup.  I am a big fan of vegetable soups and a big fan of simplicty so I asked her how she made hers, and it's true, it is so simple and so healthy that the most complicated part was to remember the list of the five veggies.  After that, you just throw it all in a pot and toss in a bay leaf if you want.  Great thing is that you've got five different veggies in it and you can add more or less of one or another to achieve a slightly different variation in its taste, texture, and color; my kids think they are getting a different soup when they see that it's green.

FIVE VEGGIE SOUP

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 3 zucchinis, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 2 potatoes, medium size and chopped
• 1 bay leaf (optional)
• Salt (adjusted to taste)
• 3.5 cups water
INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot, add 3.5 cups of water (or about 1 litre for a thinner soup consistency) and the potatoes. 

Bring it to a boil and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Cover the pot and simmer on low-medium heat until the vegetables soften. 

Let it cool and then pour it into a blender to liquify. 

If you need to re-heat the soup pour it back into the pot and re-heat on low heat.

NOTE

I added more carrots this particular time so the soup is more orange in color. 
To adjust the consistency of your soup, you can first add all the vegetables into the blender, and liquify it by gradually adding the amount of liquid left in your pot until you achieve the consistency you like.

 



 

Watercress Salad and Cilantro Dressing

A colorful diet is a healthful diet.  Orignally I was looking for jicama to add to this salad.  It was supposed to be a jicama watercress salad with mango slices except that I couldn't find it nearby.  My brain still thinks we are in San Diego but being back in Paris, this meant I'd have to find a specialty Mexican store (not near me).  Popular in Mexican cuisine, jicama has also spread to find itself cultivated in Asia.  Ding!  So off I went to my local Asian stores in search of jicama.  Well, I didn't quite find the jicama, nor was there a ripe mango ready for me, but I did wind up with a bunch of fresh nèfles (very similar to the loquats of Asia).  

Upon arriving at home I was greeted by Lady Jo and was handed a basket of organic veggies.  She was on duty call at her local organic co-op and got dibs on the veggies left behind.  Now, just so you know, I fully support the "No Veggies Left Behind" act and accepted the vegetables gracefully.  I eyed the big beetrootfor that would feed me for at least a weekand whipped out my mandoline to get working on it.  So this is how a dish begins to transforms itself, jicama replaced by beet root and mangos by nèfles.  Ooh, what else can I use on my mandoline since I have it out ahhh...yes, carrots... then a little bit of this, and a little bit of that...

Watercress Salad and Cilantro Dressing

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4-6

• 1 bunch watercress
• 2 carrots, julienned
• 1 medium beetroot, julienned
• 1 cup loquats (neflè), cut into bite-size pieces; mango is also a good substitution.
• Handful of sunflower seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds)

Dressing

• 1 bunch coriander (cilantro)
• 1 shallot
• 1/2 lime, juiced
• 1/2 inch of ginger, fresh and grated
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 Thai chili, cut a piece according to your spice level
• 1 1/2 tablespoon tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
• 1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
• 2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon vegetable or canonla oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse the watercress and put it in your salad spinner.

Prepare a medium size bowl.  Separate and discard the stalks from the leaves, keeping just the thin, top bit of the stalks attached to the leaves.

With your mandoline, prepared your carrots and beetroot and set them aside.

Cut your fruit into bite size pieces.

Prepare your dressing by combing all the ingredients into a food processor.

Process until smooth.

In a salad bowl, add your watercress and pour in the dressing.

Toss together so that the watercress is drenched in the dressing, and then add in the rest of the ingredients.

Sprinkle some sunflower seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds) over your salad before serving.


 

Ratatouille Quesadilla

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I just got back from San Diego, where I was paying a visit to meet my newborn niece, Sabine.  Unbiased of course, she is gorgeous.  Her nickname is "Bean" because that's what came out of her older sister's mouth when she was all of one year old trying to pronounce "Sabine".   Ever since she started out as a 'lil bean in her mama's belly, she's been referred to as "Bean".

Bean has that baby smell that I quickly got addicted to.  Every early morning, 6 a.m. to be precise, I would wake up and head to the kitchen: to find her, hold her, press my nose against her head and then inhale her baby scent.  If you are wondering why the kitchen, it's because my brother-in-law has started his day and mine (bless his heart) with a whole other scent, the coffee dropJapanese style drip.  He has his tools in order: grinder, scale, and drip filter,

This is how my mornings played out until I got over my jet lag: rise and shine at 6 a.m. soon became rise and snooze til 9 a.m.  Although I still had Bean's baby scent to look forward to, gone was the aroma of the other bean the coffee beanMy brother-in-law was long gone and off to work.

Besides sniffing Bean's head and drinking coffee from the drip, I did eat a lot of Mexican food.  Afterall, San Diego is just next door.  I thought I knew it all from my days milling about at Mexican family soccer games in some Brooklyn park, where I could eat freshly made tortillas and salsa off their portable, makeshift grills right out of the backs and trunks of their cars, and buy Tecate beers straight from their coolers, all for two dollars.  Apparently not.
 

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I discovered an ingredient called hominy that I'll have to search for in Paris.  Once I find it, I'm keen on making a fish based or vegetarian based pozole which I'll share with you in the future.  As for now, I have French Provençale ratatouille leftovers that I've converted into a Mexican quesadilla dish.  Olé!

Ratatouille Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

•  1 x 400 gram tin of red kidney beans or other bean of preference
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 1 tablespoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 150 grams of emmental cheese
• 2 cups ratatouille or any vegetable filling
• 1/2 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
• 2 large flour tortillas
• Dallop of sour cream or crème fraîche

INSTRUCTIONS

Add some cooking oil in a pan and cook the shallots over medium heat until they have softened. 

Add the tin of beans and stir.

Throw in your spices: cumin, chili powder.   Stir it up a bit.

Then transfer it to a small mixing bowl and mash it up with a fork or a masher.

Since I had ratatouille left over, you can choose any combination of vegetables; just cook it beforehand.   My kids love this with spinach, so I simply steam the spinach.

Lay out your tortilla and spread half of it with the bean mash, and the other half with your vegetable filling of choice.  Be careful not to add too much filling otherwise it will fall out.  Try to keep it thinly spread.  Sprinkle some coriander over the cheese.

Grab two to three handfuls of cheese and spread over the beans.

Place it on a large cooking pan over medium heat and cook until the bottom of the tortilla warms up and starts to speckle up golden brown.

Using a spatula, fold the quesadilla in half.  Press down on the quesadilla with the back side of the spatula and cook until the whole side is golden brown and then flip and repeat.

Transfer to a cutting board and cut them into wedges.

Serve along witha dallop of sour cream or crème fraîche (depending on which country you live in) and garnish with coriandre.


 

Tarte aux Épinards

This is one of my first, self-impressed French dishes I have ever made.  I learned it from ma belle-mère—yep, my mother-in-law— that's how we address our mother-in-laws in France.  It can be so ironic for many, but I got lucky; I truly do have a belle-mère. 

The kids call her "Mamie Jacotte", an affectionate term rather than the literal translation, "grand-mère";  Jacotte is shortened from Jacqueline.  She's not only a fantastic belle-mère and grand-mère, but a wonderful cook.  I have picked up many of her tips and recipes in cooking and this is just one of many. 

Ma belle-mère makes simple and intricate dishes.  I usually opt for the former recipes.

Tarte aux Épinards

• 1 puff pastry
• 500 grams spinach, frozen or 700 grams of spinach, fresh
• 1 clove garlic, minced and sauté
• 4 eggs
• 4 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
• 100 grams of emmental cheese
• a pinch of nutmeg
• Salt and pepper according to taste

INSTRUCTIONS//serves 4-6

Take your tart or quiche pan (around 10 inches in diameter, 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep or 25 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep) and roll out the puff pastry and place it into the pan.  Press the pastry into the sides of the pan. 

Use a fork to poke some holes into the bottom of the puff pastry to release any trapped air and to keep it from puffing up when baking. 

Once your oven is pre-heated at 190° C (375°F), place it in the oven to bake for around 10 minutes or until the puff pastry changes color to a golden brown.   This step is called blind baking; It partially cooks the pastry dough to prevent a soggy crust.  Check often during the duration of this time so that if you catch your pastry puffing up, just slide it out of the oven, take a fork to poke more holes and press the pastry back down into place, and place back into the oven.  Some people use ceramic beans or dried beans to keep the pastry from puffing up. 

Take it out of the oven and place the spinach filling inside.

Spinach Filling:

If you are using frozen spinach, cook it down on low heat until it thaws.  Drain out the excess liquid.  If you are using fresh spinach, begin with the the next step.

Sauté your garlic in a pan with a half tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. 

Then add your spinach and toss it around with the garlic.  Sauté for a couple of minutes and add some salt.  With fresh spinach, sauté and then cover the pan with a lid to let cook for 5-10 minutes or until wilted.  It should be a nice, saturated green.  With a pair of tongs, take out the cooked spinach and place it in a bowl and leave it aside to cool down.  Push down with the pair of tongs or a fork to get rid of excess liquid.

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat in 4 whole eggs.

Add your heaping dallops of crème fraîche and mix.

Stir in the emmental cheese.

Then a pinch of nutmeg, some salt and pepper according to taste.

Mix the spinach in with the egg, crème fraîche, cheese batter.  Stir until the spinach is evenly mixed in.

Pour this mixture into your blind baked puff pastry and place it in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 190° C (375° F).
 

NOTE

I have used both fresh and frozen spinach for this recipe.  It just depends on what I have in my fridge.  In France, I buy the frozen spinanch with their stems (épinards en branche).  If I use fresh spinach I trim the thicker part of the stems and keep an inch or two below the leaf.  You can also use 125 grams of yogurt to replace the crème fraîche. 

Spring Watercress Soup

Welcome spring, oh how I've been waiting for you to arrive.  I'm craving spring greens like watercress but somehow the salad route is not the way I want to go.  It's still pretty gray and cold these days in Paris so I think a warm detox soup is in order.  Watercress is apparently a powerhouse veggie, high in many nutirents especially vitamin K and vitamin A—good for the bones and the eyes, and a versatile vegetable that can be steamed, eaten raw as a salad, and liquidized into soup.

Watercress Soup (Soupe au Cresson)
 

INGREDIENTS//Serves 6

• 40 grams butter
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 4 potatoes (small to medium), rough chop
• 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
• 2 bunches watercress, rough chop


INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan, heat up your butter and then toss in the onion, shallot, and garlic.  Sauté for about a minute or two.

Add the potatoes and sauté them all together until translucent.

Add 1.5 liters of vegetable broth to the ingredients, cover, and bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Rinse the watercress clean.  Tear off about a half inch of the ends and rough chop the rest.

Add the watercress.  Cook for a few minutes or until the watercress has wilted.

Allow the soup to cool.  Using a hand blender, mix until smooth. 

Rewarm over low heat before serving.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a dallop of crème fraîche with some toasted pine nuts.

NOTE

I never ate so much butter until I arrived in France.  It's just superior to the American one.  Simple as that.  No competition.  I use butter to sauté my alliums and potatoes in this recipe but you can choose your oil of preference.

 

Velouté de Panais

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I love being reintroduced to a vegetable.  I must admit, I put parsnip on the back burner for a while.  I just got tired of roasting them or mixing them up with potatoes that I just plain 'ole forgot about 'em—out of sight, out of mind.   Most recently, I came across this delicious soup and I had to share because it's so simple to make and it's simply nutritious.  Via Brussels,  this recipe has landed on the right table.  Remember Lady Jo from the ginger biscuit recipe?  Well, this one is from another Jo (-hanna) and it's all in the family.

Velouté de Panais (Parsnip Soup)

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 2 large parsnips or 4 medium size parsnips, chopped
• 1 onion, sliced
• 1 litre vegetable stock ( 1 vegetable stock cube)

INSTRUCTIONS

Wash and peel your parnsips. 

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions for a couple of minutes before tossing in the parsnips.  The onions should be translucent and the parsnips should turn golden brown.

Add a litre of water to the parnsip and onion mix and add a vegetable stock cube.

Bring it to a boil over medium heat and then lower heat to simmer until the parsnips are tender.

Let it cool slightly.  With a slotted spoon scoop out the parsnips and the onions, and put it in the blender adding half the vegetable broth.  Purée until smooth and keep adding some vegetable broth that's left over and blend together until you get the soup consistency that you like.  The more broth you add, the thinner your soup will be.
 

NOTE

I was wondering what the soup would taste like without adding a vegetable stock cube.  So in my second batch of soup I omitted it.  The flavor of the parsnip is robust, sweet like a carrot but with a consistency of butternut squash.  It's like drinking a warm sweet nectar—too sweet for me.  The vegetable stock brought out the savoriness of the soup which was the perfect balance.
 

Spinach Wonton Ravioli

Viktor, my six year old son, and I filled and folded 35 spinach wonton raviolis.  He's quite the meticulous one; thus, the model perfect raviolis.  It was a cold and gray afternoon, and we were cozy at home busy adding more raviolis to our lot and looking forward to dinner.

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It snowed while Viktor and I were setting up to photograph these wonton raviolis.  We were so engrossed with how to steady the reflector while he would be assisting in the "snowfall scene" of the Parmigiano Reggiano that we didn't even notice the real snowfall scene happening right outside.  It was already late in the afternoon and we were racing against the light of day.   He was busy grating away at the cheese and I was looking through the view finder trying to capture the moment.  Through the view finder all I could see were these white, fluffy flakes of cheese falling upon the wonton raviolis and thinking to myself, this looks like a beautiful snow flurry scene and how nice it would be if it happened just once before spring comes upon us. 

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Interrupted by a phone call from "Papa" asking if it was snowing by us because we get all kinds of different weather in different parts of this city at the same time—lo and behold, large, fluffy snowflakes tumbling down right under our nose, and not the Parmigiano Reggiano ones, but the real ones!  We dropped everything, and ran to get our boots, coats, mittens, bonnets and scraves—the whole bundle—so that we could play under the snowfall.

Spinach Wonton Ravioli

INGREDIENTS//yields 35 raviolis

• 500 grams spinach, fresh (cooks down to approx. 250 grams)
• 250 grams ricotta cheese
• 3 heaping tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
• 1 egg, divided (yellow and white)
• Pinch of nutmeg
• Salt and pepper, according to taste
• 1 pack wonton wrappers

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Take a large pot and fill it with roughly 3 inches of water.   Bring the water to a boil.  Add your fresh spinach and some salt and close the cover to steam your spinach.   It should take about 5 minutes.  Once it is a saturated, dark and wilty green, take it off the stove and let it cool on the side.

Place your egg yellow, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium size mixing bowl.  Mix by hand.

Take your cooled down spinach and squeeze out as much excess water possible.   Place it on a cutting board and chop finely.

Add the spinach to the mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix it together.

You can also transfer the spinach to a food processor and process with the rest of the ingredients until smooth if you don't want to mix by hand.

Lay out your wonton wrapper and place 1/2 tablespoon of the spinach filling in the center of the wrapper.

Brush some egg white along the edges of the wonton wrapper and take one corner of the wrapper and fold over to meet the other corner.  Gently press down from the center towards the edges to press out any air and to seal the wonton ravioli. 

Dust a baking sheet with some flour and line up your raviolis.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.   Add some raviolis making sure not to overcrowd them in the pot.  Boil for 3 minutes and take them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate.

Grate some Parmigiano Reggiano and drizzle some olive oil over the spinach wonton raviolis and serve immediately. 

NOTE

The wonton skins are delicate and they cook quickly.   They will burst if you let them cook too long.
My mother in law gave me a great tip...I freeze a whole untreated lemon so that I have it on hand for use.
I grate a bit of this frozen lemon over my raviolis along with the grated cheese and olive oil for a fresh twist. 
 

Glass Noodle Salad

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I recall visting Thai friends on lazy, sweltering afternoons in their homes and finding their extended family members under the influence of indolent heat, sprawled out on timeworn floors of the veranda supported by equally timeworn stilts, peacefully resting in the shade.  It made me want to do the same, and I was welcome to lay out my sarong and find a spot.  A comfortable position would soon be found; I would find myself sitting or laying there happy to have escaped the sun rays, dust billows from back country roads, and scooter vibrations, relishing the shade and tranquility until a platter of fresh herbs and vegetables would arrive with some nam phrik, a chili shrimp paste based sauce, to dip into.  Slowly, the family members would wake and sounds of squeaks and creaks from the wooden planks and shuffling would stir as they gathered around the platter to share this afternoon snack.  As I bit into this fresh, crisp combination of raw herb and vegetable dipped into nam phrik on this hot and lazy, sultry day my senses had been awakened.

While eating my way through Thailand in the early 90's, my palate received an education in appreciation of fresh herbs and raw vegetables.   A habit I picked up is adding fresh herbs (herbs! herbs! herbs!) to almost everything.  I love that it simply livens any plate up and adds subtle or bursts of flavor to it.   In this glass noodle dish, be very generous with your herbs. 

Glass Noodle Salad

INGREDIENTS//serves 8-10

• 500 grams cellophane noodles (a.k.a vermicelli bean thread, glass, and mung bean noodles)
• 7 whole carrots, raw and julienned
• 250 grams snowpeas, raw and julienned
• 2 celery branches (optional), raw and julienned
• 1-2 bunches of fresh coriander
• Bunch of fresh mint

Dressing

• 1 shallot, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
• A thumb's length of lemongrass (optional), slit lengthwise and bruised slightly
• 2 tablespoons or 50 grams palm sugar or regular sugar
• 1/2 cup sushi vinegar
• 2 tablesoons soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten-free)
• 1 tablespoon Sriracha
• 4 tablespoons sesame oil
• 2 whole lime
• 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or Vietnamnese vegetarian fish sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

Bring a big pot of water to boil and then turn it off.  

Add the noodles in the boiled water for 5-10 minutes.  Drain.  Then run under cool water and drain again.  The noodles will look white and translucent.  Transfer it to a large mixing bowl.

Add some sesame oil to the noodles to keep them from sticking. 

Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut through the noodles to shorten their length.  Leave on the side and begin to prepare the vegetables. 

Combine all your prepared raw vegetables in a medium mixing bowl and set it aside.

Rinse and dry your coriander and mint.  Tear the coriander leaves and the mint leaves off their stems or simply use your kitchen shears and trim the herbs into a bowl. 

Combine your noodles and vegetables.  Add the dressing. 

Toss together, add the herbs, and toss again.

This is a great dish to prepare in advance.  I find the longer the noodles and vegetables sit in the dressing, the more flavor it soaks up.

DRESSING

In a measuring cup add the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and palm sugar. 

Pour in the sushi vinegar, add the tamari (or soy sauce), the Sriracha, sesame oil and the juice of the whole limes.   Stir until all the ingredients are mixed in together.  (If you don't mind bits and pieces of the shallot, garlic and ginger—this is the way I do it by hand.  Otherwise, throw everything into a blender although you will have pulp from the ginger so you'll have to pass it through a strainer).

If you use lemongrass, let the dressing stand (the longer the better—for at least an hour) until the flavor of the lemongrass infuses into the dressing.  Then discard the lemongrass and mix the dressing in with the noodles in the mixing bowl.  Add the vegetables and herbs and toss until everything is coated with the dressing.

NOTE

You can switch your vegetables up between carrots, beansprouts, snow peas, celery and whatever other vegetable you imagine to go along with it.  My favorite combo is with carrots and snowpeas.  You can also top it off with some shrimp or morsels of chicken.
 

 

 

Hijiki Tofu Patty

Reminiscing my Dojo days in NYC...

Back in the 80's and early 90's, vegetarian restaurants were few and far between to be found in New York.  As far as I could recollect there was Dojo which was a vegetarian friendly restaurant, Angelica's Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant and Souen, a macrobiotic restaurant.   I ate at these places so often when I was a student at NYU that it has pretty much shaped the way I eat regularly.  I love all things tofu, sea vegetables, rice, beans, and veggies.  Give me a hijiki tofu burger from Dojo's or a dragon bowl from Angelica's anyday.

Since Dojo's hijiki tofu burger and their carrot ginger dressing recipe are top secret,  I can only do a rendition of it— but it's oooh, so goodThis is one of my fave comfort foods and it runs in the family. 

Serve it along with some brown rice, fresh raw veggies, topped off with Dojo style carrot ginger dressing. 

DRIED HIJIKI

DRIED HIJIKI

The yin and the yang of food...

Growing up my mum always told me "oh, you're too yin",  meaning that my body was deficient in qi or vital energy.  I always had cold hands and feet no matter how hot and humid it was on a summer day which is a symptom of yin.  I even wore socks under my duvet covers.   She would place bowls of tonic soups in front of me urging me to eat.  Soups such as yam and ginger slices, and Chinese herbal chicken soup comprising of korean ginseng, red dates (jujubes or hong zao), astragalus root (huang qi), codonopsis root (dang shen), and Chinese yam (huai shan) . Then there were the tea concoctions such as astragalus, red dates, and goji berries.   These replenishing soups and teas were to increase my yang in order to restore the balance in my body.  If I had chapped lips, I was suddenly told "oh, you're too yang", and that was quickly followed up with more soups and teas such as the green bean soup (mung beans or lu duo) with rock sugar and the chrysanthemum tea to increase my yin.

The relative levels of yin and yang in our bodies are continuously changing and they need to coexist harmoniously.  Most of us are naturally more yin or yang.   When out of balance symptoms can be observed like those cold feet and chapped lips of mine.

Hijiki is one of hundreds of seaweed types that can be classified as a brown seaweed and is considered yang.  Seaweeds break down into three broad basic categories: red algae, green algae and brown algae.  You can buy dried hijiki at any of the Japanese or Korean food stores on or near rue St Anne in the 1er or 2e arrondisement of Paris.  It is first soaked in water and then drained to use in cooking with other ingredients.

Hijiki Tofu Patty

PREPARATION

Soak hijiki in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes.
Press and drain tofu for 20-30 minutes.

INGREDIENTS//yields 8-10 patties or 4 burger-size patties

• 5 grams dried hijiki seaweed
• 12 ounces firm tofu
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh and finely grated
• 1 medium carrot, grated
• pinch of ground white pepper
• 1 tablespoon white miso
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon tamari sauce
• 2 scallions (white and light green parts finely chopped)
• 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

INSTRUCTIONS

Soak dried hijiki in warm water for 30 minutes, rinse and then drain.  Set it aside.

To rinse and drain liquid from the tofu.  Cut through tofu in 1/2 inch slices and press between heavy cutting boards to drain any excess water for about 30 minutes or simply use a cheese cloth to squeeze out the excess water.  The tofu will be crumbled anyway.

Sauté the carrots, garlic, and ginger in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until the carrots are limp.  Add a pinch of white pepper.  In a bowl, add the miso and crumble the tofu.  Use your hands to mix the crumbled tofu and the miso paste together. 

Stir in the cooked carrots and the hijiki.  Then add the tamari sauce, sesame oil, scallions, and sesame seeds. 
Mix it all together.

Form the mixture into round patties and place them on a baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes at 175° C (350° F).

Carrot Ginger Dressing
 

INGREDIENTS//yields 1.5 cup dressing

• 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
• 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
• 1/2 thumbs length fresh ginger
• 1 tablespoon sweet white miso
• 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons roasted sesame seed oil
• 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, olive oil, or vegetable oil
•  4 tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS

In a blender or food processor add the carrots, shallot, and ginger and pulse until finely chopped.

Scrape down the sides with a spatula.  Add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and blend together.

Add some water and slowly drizzle in the oil. 


NOTE 

I also like to add zucchini to the hijiki tofu patty mix.  You can simply add a half zucchini (grated) in with the carrot and sauté together.   Then follow the rest of the directions.  As I've said before any extra veggies I can sneak into a recipe makes me feel good, especially when I watch my kids gobble it up!

 

Pâté aux Pommes de Terre

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There was an interesting article in the NY Times a few months back.  It was about families in the city and in Brooklyn forming tight-knit communities who live in the same building or in the same neighborhood.  They were willing to sacrifice space and to stay put in their close-fitting apartments to forge their children's close relationships with their neighbor's children.  It then turns into a nice network between the parents where they can rest worry free knowing that their child is just next door, upstairs or downstairs.   Inevitably, gatherings and dinners are hosted between them deepening their relationships, and eventually leading to kid sleepovers and babysitting swaps.  

This story hit home.  I live in a 14-story building and I keep an open door policy the minute the kids get home.   They are usually rotating between our home and their neighborly friends' homes.  Instead of running through backyards, my kids are runnng down the hall or up and down between floors of our building.  They love this liberty of being able to run between their friends' apartments on their own.  I love it too since I know there is always a surrogate parent around to keep an eye out for them, one of whom is my neighbor Natalie.  

Nat is originally an Auvergnate (someone from Auvergne, located in the middle of France).  Just a tidbit of history, she comes from the ancient provinces of Bourbonnais (where the long string of Kings in France were sired) which now comprises territory in the department of Alliers, and some in the department of Puy-de-Dômes and Cher.  Alliers and Puy-de-Dômes make up part of the Auvergne region.   Fast forwardNat has a daughter who is in the same class as my daughter.  Needless to say, our daughters spend a lot of time together which in turn means we moms usually find each other around wine o'clock for a quick catch up and to pick up or drop off the kids.  It was during one of these times that I found myself in her apartment, glass of red in hand, learning how to put this charmingly simple pâté aux pommes de terre together.   A speciality dish from Bourbonnais—her personal tip to me was "lay that butter on"!

Pâté aux Pommes de Terre

INGREDIENTS//serves 6

• 1 medium size onion
• 4-5 medium size potatoes
• 2 pâtes brisée (tart pastry)
• Bunch of fresh flat parslely
• 50 grams unsalted butter
• 20 cl crème fraîche
• Salt and pepper according to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Slice your onions thinly and put it aside.

Peel your potatoes.  Using a mandoline or a sharp knife slice the potatoes into slivers.  Salt them slightly and put them aside.

Take your tart or quiche pan (around 10 inches in diameter, 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep or 25 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep) and roll out one tart pastry and place it into the pan.  Press the pastry into the sides of the pan. 

Use a fork to poke some holes into the bottom of the tart pastry and place in the oven to bake for 3-5 minutes so that it's slighty baked.  Take it out of the oven and then begin layering your ingredients.

Getting back to your potatoes, wipe off the excess moisture and place a layer of potatoes covering the entire tart pastry.  Follow up with a layer of sliced onions, then snip (I love to use scissors in the kitchen) some parsley leaves all over.  Add slivers of unsalted butter all around.  Repeat the layering until you have used all your ingredients.

Roll out your second tart pastry and place it over the layered potato tart.  Fit the top into the tart.  You'll need to press down gently along the top edge of the tart pastry to even out the crust edges with the underlying tart.  Then press along the sides to seal the pastry together.

Take a paring knife and with the sharp tip cut out a one inch circle in the middle of the tart pastry.

Place it in the oven at 190° C (375° F) for 45 minutes.

The tart pastry should be golden brown.  Take it out of the oven. 

Keep your oven mittens on.  Hold onto the pan and use the paring knife with your other hand to cut along the interior seam of the potato tart.

Take a large size spatula and slip it under the top tart pastry and lift up to place it on a flat surface on the side.

Prepare the crème fraîche.  Add some salt and pepper and stir it up with a fork.  Scoop out the the crème fraîche and spread it all over the open face potato tart.   Finally, cover it with the tart pastry that you lifted off earlier and put it back in the over for 5-10 minutes so that the crème fraîche spreads through the layers.  Then it's ready to be served.  Bon appétit!

White Asparagus and Fennel Butter

White asparagus with compound fennel butter.

I must be missing NYC these days.  There are loads of recipes on how to cook white asparagus but the one that caught my eye was the one from Prune restaurant in the East Village.  My first thought was "Oh my gosh, it's still there".  Bits of NYC establishments are slowly being erased from when I knew it due to rent increase.  I get a pang in my heart when I read about any old haunts of mine closed down to be replaced by global retail or supermarket chains.  So happy to see that Prune is alive and kicking. 

Watch Martha Stewart and chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune restaurant making this delicious asparagus starter.

White Asparagus and Fennel Butter

INGREDIENTS//serves 2-3

• 1 bunch fresh white asparagus
• 1 lemon, divided (zest in compound butter and juice for asparagus)

COMPOUND BUTTER

• 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
• 1 whole fennel, finely sliced (including fronds, chopped)
• Lemon zest
• Pinch of salt
• Dash of pastis liquor

INSTRUCTIONS

To prepare your asparagus, snap off the stems where it naturally breaks and peel off the tough skin.

Prepare the lemon zest using a microplane or a flat or box grater with fine holes.  Then use the remainder of the lemon for juice you'll add into the pot of boiling water to cook the asparagus.  Save some juice to be squeezed just before serving the dish.

I don't have an asparagus cooker/steamer so I bundle the asparagus together with parcel string and I cook it in a pot.  Tie the parcel string around the bottom of the bunch of asparagus and tie further up to hold the asparagus in place so that it tries to stand.  To keep the asparagus in place and standing in the pot, brace it with two long skewers through the bundle of asparagus (cross through the bundle with a skewer forming an "X"). 

In a pot, add about 4 inches of water or enough so that the base of the asparagus will be covered.   Squeeze lemon juice and add salt to the water.  Bring it to a boil.

Add the asparagus and cover with a lid for about 30 minutes.  Make sure the asparagus is nice and soft and that the tips are steamed. 

Strain the asparagus, let it cool and serve on a plate with shavings of the fennel butter.  Drizzle some olive oil for extra delicious fat and salt to taste with a squeeze of lemon.

COMPOUND BUTTER

Finely slice your fennel and chop up the fronds. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and caramelize your fennel for about 30 minutes on medium heat letting the natural sugars come out on its own.  During this time add whole of lemon zest to the fennel and add the fronds. Then add some salt and pepper.

When caramelized, splash a dash of pastis liquor and ignite it.  When the flame burns out let the fennel cool down. 

After cooling, in a food processor add your fennel and chop it down until fine.  Then take the rest of your softened butter and add in chunks at a time. 

Remove butter compound mixture from bowl and spoon onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll into a log.  Put it in the freezer until ready to use in a plastic ziplock bag to keep it airtight.  Use a mandoline or the large hole-side of a box grater for butter shavings.

 

Beetroot Hummus Dip

Living under the influence of a little girl, the color pink has made its way onto my table.  I never thought of my daughter as a pink kind of girl.  She's the kind that jumps into a mud hole and has uncontrollable laughs when she's covered in dirt.  She eats her whole carrot stick with a grip so hard, no one can pry it away from her even if your life depended on it.  She enjoys wrestling her brother to the ground, screaming at the top of her lungs, and coming home with grass stains on each and every possible limb.  Yet, she also loves to dress in pink and eat anything pink.  Preferably a cloud fluffy full of cotton candy pink.

This is dedicated to my little girl.  A variation to the basic hummus recipe that includes a veggie, the beetroot!  Any extra veg I can get in a day makes me feel good.  I have snuck this one into the hummus dip.  No secret about it, the color itself screams out loud.  It's an eye-popper and attention grabber that's perfect for parties.  I like to have this for breakfast, lunch or a snack on a piece of whole grain bread with slices of avocado and black radish.  So does Mila, but sans radis for now.

Beetroot Hummus Dip

PREPARATION

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight with a cover.  Be sure to add more than enough water to cover the chickpeas because they swell up to almost double their size. 

INGREDIENTS//yields 2.5 cups

• 1 cup dried chickpeas (yields about 3 cups cooked, 1 cup cooked=150 grams)
• 2.5 cloves garlic
• 1.5 teaspoons cumin
• 1.5 teaspoons sea salt (adjust accordingly to personal taste)
• 3.5 tablespoons tahini paste
• 1 small beetroot (boiled until soft), about 70 grams
• 1.5 lemon, juiced
• Olive oil, drizzle

INSTRUCTIONS

Drain and transfer your soaked chickpeas to a large cooking pot.  Fill it up with water with about an inch or two to cover. 

Bring it to a boil and then turn down the heat to a slow simmer for at least two hours.  If you see some white foam during this time, just scoop it out.  Taste check every 10 minutes afterwards to see if is firm enough on the outside and tender on the inside.  Next drain and rinse them under cold water. 

Optional:  I have heard of people peeling skin off of each and every chickpea before adding it into the food processor.  Apparently, the dip comes out smoother.  I don't know.  I never seem to have the time to do this.

Add all your ingredients into the food processor and turn it on.  Use your spatula to swipe along the sides occasionally so that you get every bit of it to blend together for a smooth consistency.  You can add water to the batch if it is too thick. 

Top it off with a generous drizzle of olive oil.

NOTE

I am a garlic fan.  I like my hummus and beetroot hummus with a sharp garlicky taste and a slight citrusy twang to it.  If you want a milder recipe just use 2 cloves of garlic and the sweet flavor of the beetroot will come through.  Add enough water as needed to achieve the consistency you like.  I added nearly a half cup of water to this recipe.
 

Heartwarming Red Split Lentil Soup

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Brrr, winter season is right around the corner and this soup fills me up and keeps me nice and toasty.  One of the best things I love about Paris is that it is full of ethnic diversities.  You can find pockets of many ethnic communities spread thoughout this city.  I love the idea of being able to dash over to the 15th arrondisement just to pick up a date syrup at a Persian grocery store.  This is where you will find a restaurant row of Persian cuisine and grocery stores a.k.a Petite Perse or Little Téhéran.  As I enter the grocery store, my sensory receptors are instantly heightened, things seem foreign and I am intrigued.  This is where I can easily pass an hour picking up every jar and package to decipher its labels, discover ingredients and wonder how these things are used.  What gives me pleasure is the feeling of having purchased my date syrup straight from Persia—minus the cost of airfare and flight time!  I appreciate every drop of syrup that comes out of the jar because I know it has traveled a long way.  Plus, it's a nice conversation piece.  "Oh, the date syrup? I bought that from  ̶P̶e̶r̶s̶i̶a̶,  umm—I mean the Persian grocers in the 15th..."

I can carry on about other goodies that I buy from Litte Africa (Chateau Rouge in the 18e), Chinatown (Ave de Choisy in the 13e, Arts et Métiers in the 3e, Belleville in the 10e, and Little Tokyo (rue St. Anne in the 1er and 2e) but it'll be a long list.  Today I was in La Chapelle (Little India in the 10e) for a baby bump portrait session.   I was early so I picked up some mangoes and red split lentils for this recipe and made a pit stop at the no-frills Indian take-out joint for its chai.  With my hands cupped around the chai, I stepped out in the cold and hovered over it.   I took in the scent of spices wafting up from my masala chai, lifting my head towards the streets in front of me and with a long exhalation felt removed from wherever it is that I come from.  It didn't matter. 
Today, I was in India.

Red Split Lentil Soup


INGREDIENTS//serves 6

• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 3 carrots, diced
• 2 stalks celery, diced
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• 1.5 teaspoons coarse salt (adapt according to taste)
• 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1.5 liters vegetable or chicken broth
• 2 cups lentil (red or yellow split lentils)
• 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/2 teaspoon curcuma (or tumeric powder)
• Bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
• 1 wedge of lime

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium Dutch oven or heavy pot.  Then add the diced carrots, celery, onion, minced garlic and bay leaf.  Add some salt and mix.  Cover the pot and let it cook for 5 minutes.  

Uncover and add the cumin seeds, stirring it around.  Then add the tomato paste, the liter of vegetable broth and lentils.  Bring it to a boil. 

Turn down the heat to a low simmer.  Add the curry powder and curcuma.  Cover and let it simmer for about         15 minutes or until the lentils are soft. 

I usually take a cup of the soup and pour it in the blender with a small handful of fresh coriander.  Then I stir this back in with the rest of the pot.  It gives it a chunkier consistency.  Squeeze a bit of lime and garnish with fresh coriander.

NOTE

It's kind of a cross between lentil soup and lentil curry.  You can add more liquid to it for a soupier mix or less liquid for a thicker consistency.  If you opt for the thicker consistency, you can top it over some basmati rice for a more filling and curry like meal.

P.S.  I just had to throw this one in the mix...