Archive for January, 2012

Meatless Monday: Carrot Lentil Stew

Monday, January 30th, 2012

February is almost here and we’ve had just a couple of brief flirtations with snow thus far this winter, much to my kindergartener’s dismay. I keep reminding him that we tend to get our biggest snow storms in February, so there’s no need to completely give up hope just yet. In the meantime, we’re enjoying the unexpected bounty of sunny days, running around in the backyard and to the playground. And so quick and warming dinners are still very much in demand, like this hearty lentil stew. I’m sure Rachael Ray would classify this as “stoup,” thicker than soup but not quite a real stew. It hits the spot just fine on a chilly Meatless Monday, whatever you choose to call it.
carrot lentil soup

Recipe: Carrot Lentil Stew
Serves 4


  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups water
  • salt and pepper


1. Soak lentils in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain, set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Cook onion several minutes, until translucent. Add cumin and cook 1 minute. Add carrots, lentils and water, stir, and bring to a boil on medium high. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 30-40 minutes, until lentils are falling apart. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Note: Red lentils, sadly, lose their color when cooked. So the carrots add an important element of color to what would otherwise be a bit dreary looking. You could swap in cubed, pre-cooked squash or sweet potatoes if you prefer.

Egg Drop Soup (Happy Chinese New Year)

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

My son has been obsessed lately with preparations for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year. They’ve learned songs and made decorations at school and will be having a family potluck next week. To kick things off at home, we made paper lanterns and egg drop soup yesterday. He’s also asked for “uncut noodles” (symbolizing longevity) and fried dumplings or egg rolls.

Eggs — specifically tea eggs — are served to symbolize wealth and prosperity. Check out last year’s post on PBS Kitchen Explorers for more on the food traditions of Chinese New Year and an egg roll recipe. The Williams-Sonoma blog has a traditional three-course menu if you’re feeling more ambitious.

egg drop soup

Recipe: Egg Drop Soup
Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 2-4


  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 or 2 eggs (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • green onions, sliced


Whisk ginger into broth in a small saucepan. Turn to medium high and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium low, maintaining a gentle simmer, and whisk in miso paste until dissolved.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg(s) and corn starch until smooth. Hold a fork across the bowl and slowly pour the egg mixture through the fork tines into the broth, using your other hand to whisk as you pour. Remove from heat and serve immediately, garnished with green onions.

Makes 4 small appetizer servings, or 2 larger bowls.

Note: I used two eggs which made a very thick soup. If you prefer more broth, just use one.

Cooking with Kids Tips: Little ones can help whisk together the egg and corn starch — older ones can whisk as you pour the egg mixture into the broth. It’s fun to watch the egg turn into little ribbons in the soup. And always let kids add their own garnish — my son doesn’t like extraneous green things, my daughter added some cheese. (And loved it!)


For those of you in the DC/Northern Virginia area, there are two festivals coming up this weekend, the Chinese New Year Festival in Falls Church and the Lunar New Year festival at Fair Oaks Mall.

Are you doing anything with your kids to celebrate? Yes, getting take-out counts.

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

I once had the fortune to ride out a Florida hurricane at my great aunt’s house. How was this fortuitous, you may ask. Well for starters, I was with my uncle and aunt. Like any good son of an Italian mother, my uncle cooked up a storm as long as the power held out — there was pasta, scallops, and more. And in the backyard of the house, there were avocado trees. The fruits were strewn across the yard after the storm passed (thankfully, there was no serious damage in the neighborhood), and I flew back home several days later with a suitcase partially filled with fresh fallen avocados. If you’ve never had a Florida avocado, they are quite different than the standard Californian/Mexican Haas avocados found at supermarkets. They are several times larger, lighter colored and smooth skinned, and I find they have a fruitier flavor.

Once home with my hurricane souvenirs I set about to recreate a salad I first fell in love with on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico: the grapefruit avocado salad. The salad is simple to throw together, full of bright flavors to add cheer to cold winter days, and the healthy fats in the avocado help make it deceptively filling. Sometimes I just drizzle my grapefruit and avocado slices with straight olive oil, but it doesn’t take much longer to whisk it with lemon juice for the dressing.

Even when I have to make it with California avocados, it still serves to boost my mood during the dreary days of January.

grapefruit avocado salad

Recipe: Grapefruit Avocado Salad


  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1 large Florida avocado or 2 Haas avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • sea salt


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil to make dressing. Set aside.
  2. Peel grapefruit and separate sections.
  3. Halve avocado(s) lengthwise and remove pit. Cut into thick slices, still in the skin, and gently scoop the slices out with a spoon.
  4. Arrange grapefruit segments and avocado slices in bowl or serving dish. Drizzle dressing over salad and then season generously with sea salt.

Makes 2-4 servings.

There are a number of ways to build upon this recipe — adding fennel or seafood, for example. Do you have a favorite version?