Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro Pesto1

This recipe is a delightful version of the classic basil pesto, especially for people like me that are not big fans of basil.

Cilantro pesto can be used in several ways. Use it as a condiment on your sandwich and bruschetta or as dressing on pasta salad. Add lots of shredded cheese to it and use it as a filling in puffs. A tablespoon added to hummus or egg salad creates an extra layer of flavor. Garnish your tomato soup with cilantro pesto to take it to the next level. These are just a few ideas. I am sure you can come up with many more of your own. Until next week, have fun cooking.

Cilantro Pesto
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Makes: About 1 cup

½ cup slivered almonds
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 serrano chilli, chopped and seeded, optional
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Place a small pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and roast them until they turn golden and fragrant. Remove and cool.

In the bowl of your food processor add the cooled almonds and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Add cilantro, shallot, serrano, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until coarsely ground. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle olive oil. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to use.

French Green Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup4

French Green Lentils (Lentilles du Puy) were originally grown in the volcanic soils near Puy in France but now they are also grown in North America and Italy. Green lentils don’t turn mushy and hold their shape well after cooking so they are especially good in salads. They are said to have top fiber content compared to other lentils.

I found a packet of organic green lentils at Whole Foods and could not resist trying them out in this lentil soup. I followed the same recipe that I use for my Moroccan lentil soup. The green lentils added richness and consistency to the soup. They take longer to cook than other lentils so I soaked them in boiling water for 15 minutes before adding them to the soup. If you do not have green lentils, you can use brown or red lentils instead. You will not need to soak them and they will take less time to cook. Adjust the chilli flakes and pepper to suit your palate. Fresh thyme leaves is the secret ingredient in this recipe so try using them instead of dry thyme leaves.

I’ve been posting soup recipes for the past few weeks and you can blame the cold weather on the East Coast for that. So, hang in there with me, while I try to keep my family warm with soup for supper.

Lentil Soup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 10

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
4 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons grated garlic
1 tablespoons minced thyme leaves, (or 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves)
1 cup chopped leeks, (white parts only)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon chilli flakes, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups medium-diced celery
3 cups medium-diced carrots
¼ cup tomato paste
2½ cups green lentils, (you can also use brown or red lentils)
12 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Rinse and soak the green lentils in boiling water for 15 minutes.

Add oil to a large pot, over medium-high heat. When it shimmers add bay leaf, onion, ginger, garlic, thyme, leeks and salt. Sauté until onion turns translucent. Add coriander powder, cumin powder, chili flakes, ground pepper, celery, carrots, and tomato paste. Stir and cook until the oil separates.

Drain the lentils and add to the soup. Then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once the soup starts boiling, turn the heat to medium-low, remove the lid and let the soup simmer and cook for one hour. Add lemon juice and red wine vinegar, stir and check to see if the salt is sufficient. Turn off the heat. Cover the soup and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Reheat the soup when you are ready to serve. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Lentil Soup Packet

Molten Chocolate Cake – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Molten Chocolate Cake3

Happy Valentine’s Day! Bake this easy, decadent Molten Chocolate Cake and you’re bound to impress your sweetheart. This cake has several names – chocolate fondant pudding, chocolate lava cake, and chocolate moelleux. The French call it chocolate mi-cuit (semi-cooked) which, I think, perfectly describes this cake.

The molten chocolate cake was born out of a chocolate accident in the kitchen when its creator master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten pulled an under-baked cake out of the oven. Served right out of the oven, these individual sized chocolate cakes release their ooey-gooey melted chocolate centers with your first bite. With a scoop of ice-cream, crème fraîche, or whipped cream it’s the perfect Valentine’s Day treat.

Molten Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 12 minutes
Serves: 4

1 stick softened unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon melted butter for brushing ramekins
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¼ cup granulated white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus 2 teaspoons for dusting ramekins
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional
Whipped cream or ice-cream and strawberries as garnish, optional

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour four 6-ounce ramekins. Gently tap and remove excess flour and set the ramekins on a baking sheet. You can also use molds, custard cups or even muffin tins instead of ramekins.

In a double boiler, oven simmering water, melt butter with chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips and butter melt and turn smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat whole eggs, the two yolks, sugar, and salt with a hand mixer, on high speed, for about four minutes or until the mixture turns thick and pale in color. Add the vanilla essence and beat just until it is incorporated. Using a spatula gently fold the chocolate mixture and flour into the egg mixture.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cake are firm but the centers are still wobbly and soft. Let the cake cool in the ramekins for one minute. You can serve the cakes in their ramekins or you can run a knife around the edge of each cake and then invert them onto serving plates. Gently remove the ramekins. Sprinkle the tops of each warm cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. I’ve decorated my cake with a beautifully carved strawberry rose.

I used Ghirardelli premium baking semi-sweet chocolate chips.
– You can make the batter several hours in advance. Butter and flour your ramekins, pour the batter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to bake. Bring to room temperature before you bake.
– Oven temperatures vary so check the cake after they have been in the oven for 10 minutes. The sides should be set but the centers should be wobbly and soft. This is important to get the perfect molten chocolate cake. It took 12 minutes in my oven.

Molten Chocolate Cake4

Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup2

Broccoli and cheddar cheese soup has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a comforting soup with all the creamy richness of cheddar cheese and broccoli. I still remember the first time I ordered it in a restaurant in California. I was hooked and I knew I had to learn how to make it.

You don’t need a whole lot of ingredients and it takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish. Making the soup begins with a simple roux, like they make in restaurants. I’ve used whole milk, heavy cream, mild cheddar cheese, and vegetable stock. You could switch the mild cheddar for sharp cheddar cheese, if you please.

For a lighter version, you could use oilive oil, evaporated fat-free milk, reduced fat half and half, and reduced fat cheddar cheese. Also, make sure that you use low-sodium vegetable stock or make your stock from scratch using my vegetable stock recipe. I’ve also seen recipes using unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of milk and heavy cream.

Well, here’s how you make my version of broccoli and cheddar cheese soup. I had it for lunch today, with a piece of whole wheat bread. I really enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
2 cups vegetable stock, (or chicken stock)
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 cups broccoli florets, (1 pound; I used some of the tender stems as well)
2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese, (8 ounces; set aside ¼ cup to garnish the soup)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn soft. It will take about three minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and flour. Stir constantly and cook for one minute. While whisking, slowly pour in the milk, vegetable stock and heavy cream. Add salt and pepper. Stir constantly and cook until the mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the broccoli. Cook for ten minutes, stirring once in a while, to make sure it is not catching to the bottom of the pan. Off the heat and add cheese. Stir until all the cheese is melted. Garnish each bowl of soup with a little grated cheese.

Note:  You could serve the soup as is or you could puree the soup in a blender, heat it up again, and then serve. I used a potato masher to mash half of the soup and I left the other half chunky. If the soup is too thick you can thin it down with vegetable stock or water.