Posts Tagged ‘food’

Mom’s Turkish Lentil Soup Recipe – for Rowena

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Lentil soup’s always been my favorite comfort food growing up. It’s thick, hearty, delicious, vegan, and easily modified with whatever ingredients I have on hand.

When a friend asked for favorite vegetarian recipes, I looked up lentil soup recipes online (it’s the most standard soup in Turkey), but wasn’t satisfied with any of them. So here’s how I make it with all fresh ingredients.

Lentil Soup

– 1 cup red lentils (washed and drained). There are different kinds out there; I prefer the roundish, bright, smooth orange ones. Some are more yellowish, flat, and matte in appearance; don’t get those.
– 8 cups water
– 1 tablespoon rice
– 1 medium onion (whole)
– 1 carrot (diced)
– 1 potato (diced)
– 1 tomato (diced)
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– salt to taste
– fresh chopped parsley (see ‘modifications’ below)

– Put all ingredients except the oil and parsley into a pot and bring to a boil with the lid fully or partly open. (Yes, leave the onion whole! It just bobs around.) Pay special attention; mixture tends to bubble up and boil over easily during this step.
– Once it’s boiling pretty vigorously, bring heat down to medium. Leave the lid partly open. Stir 1-2 times once every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes. If not stirred enough, the lentil tends to stick to the bottom of the pot and get burnt during this step.
– Add the oil about half hour after the boiling has started. Continue cooking and stir occasionally.
– Add the fresh parsley until the soup is nearly “done.” This is hard to describe in writing, but you’ll know it’s done when the lentils have nearly entirely dissolved into solution, smell cooked, and the soup has thickened. I’d say this take about 45 minutes after it’s come to a boil. As my mom says, “You’ll know.”
– Most people take an immersion blender to it at this point. I prefer mine left as is: chunky. You can blend the onion into the soup, or if you’re not blending it, just throw the onion out.

Modifications: (the fun part)
– I often add dried thyme and black pepper. Could also do rosemary, turmeric, cumin, bay leaves, etc. When adding dried herbs, add them early on.
– Sometimes I substitute chopped kale or collard greens, etc. instead of parsley. Go ahead and put in a large amount; it shrinks down considerably. Add it a little earlier than you would the parsley.
– You can throw in any other vegetable you think would go. In the past I’ve added bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, shaved brussels sprouts, etc. The possibilities are endless. Bell pepper, especially, really heightens the flavor.
– Sometimes I add chopped jalapeño (to everything).
– Some people use chicken stock or bouillons to add flavor. I think that’s cheating.

Azeri-inspired quinoa: a “recipe” without measurements

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Azeri-inspired quinoa

I traveled to Azerbaijan recently with my family. While we saw many parts of the country and took numerous pictures, what stuck with me the most was the subtle differences in the flavors and ingredients in the food. I ate more tarragon than I ever had in my life up to that point – it is not an herb that’s been in my family’s culinary repertoire. I loved the pickled sour cherries, especially when they were cooked into rice and soups. And, I noted that the flavors tended to lean towards more sour than spicy. I put these elements together in my mind with whatever I had in the pantry when I got home (except I had to go out and buy the tarragon). What came out has nothing to do with anything I ate there, but it turned out more delicious than I’d imagined it could be, and made me fondly reminisce about Azerbaijan.

I don’t want to put precise measurements here, because I made a small batch and “winged it” with the proportions for what felt right. You should do the same. I’ll just tell you how I made it.

– quinoa
– olive oil
– Craisins
– lemon
– fresh tarragon
– salt

1. Sauté some craisins in olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice for a bit. Zest the lemon peel and add some of it in there, too.
2. Bring water (proportional to quinoa package instructions) to a boil and add it to the craisins.
3. Chop up plenty of tarragon and stir it in with the water.
4. Add quinoa and cook it.
5. I threw some fresh tarragon on top as a garnish, just to be a poser. You don’t have to do that. In fact, you don’t have to follow any of these instructions.

Savory Kumquat Mint Oatmeal

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

I thought of this experiment to get rid of the rest of the kumquats before going on vacation. The results were so fantastic that I had to share.

Ingredients (for 1 serving – scale as needed):
– A handful of kumquats (about 6-8)
– 1/2 onion
– ~2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
– Olive oil (I think I used 1-2 tbsp)
– Oatmeal and water, amounts following package directions
– Salt, as needed (I think I used 1/2 tbsp)
– (egg, avocado)

1. Dice the kumquats and onions and sauté them a little in a saucepan with olive oil and salt.
2. Once the mixture is mushy and juicy, add the mint. Continue cooking until the onions caramelize a bit.
3. Add the water to the mixture and bring to a boil.
4. Once the water begins to boil, stir in the oatmeal and simmer as long as needed, following package directions.
5. Once all the water is absorbed and the oatmeal is perfectly mushy, transfer onto a bowl and top with a poached egg and avocado. Garnish with fresh mint.

Savory, tangy, and delicious… I don’t know if I can top this one.

Note: Kumquats are rare, so I’m wondering if I could substitute a 1/2 lemon in their place next time… peel and all. It’s worth a try!

Two Savory Oatmeal Recipes

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Oatmeal is so boring. For years I thought that the only way to make it palatable was to douse it in brown sugar or honey, and I’m more of a fan of savory foods, so I wasn’t interested. I never really thought of making savory oatmeal until a friend Sam posted a photo of oatmeal with a poached egg on top back in 2012. I was intrigued, but didn’t bother to try it until I had a place of my own this year.

These are two pretty simple recipes I’ve experimented with so far. I am now an oatmeal convert.


Kale and Onion Oatmeal

This one’s very quick to make in the microwave in those weekday mornings when you’re rushing to work (given that you’ve done the prep work!). Therefore, the recipe below serves one and utilizes the microwave.
You can do this stovetop and with multiple servings, too, obviously. I made a pot of it for my friends yesterday, and they all loved it.

– 1 bunch kale*
– 1 onion*
– olive oil
– salt
– microwavable oatmeal of your choosing
– egg

* I usually make a big batch of sautéed kale and onions and add it to my food over the course of the week. Don’t eat it all at once, unless you are throwing a big oatmeal party!

1. Chop up the onions and sautée them over a wide pan for a little bit in olive oil.
2. Chop up the kale and add to the onion. Add salt as desired. Put the cover on and cook it until you’re happy – I like mine pretty wilted, so it may take over a half hour.
3. In a bowl, put in as much oatmeal/water as you want (or as the packaging suggests).
4. Throw a few spoonfuls of the kale/onion into the oatmeal/water mixture, add a dash of salt, and stir the concoction.
5. Follow packaging instructions for microwaving.
6. Stop the microwave 30 seconds prior to the time running out, crack an egg on top, then put back into the microwave for an additional 1-1.5 minutes.**

** I’ve found that the egg cooks faster when it’s closer to the edge. If it’s still runny, just stab it a few times once it’s out of the microwave; the oatmeal will be pretty hot and it will cook instantly.

Tomato, Onion, Thyme Oatmeal

This one’s a stovetop recipe and serves one. I wanted something filling to make it through most of the day, and it hit the spot!

– 1/4 onion
– 1 tomato
– 1 teaspoon or more thyme
– oatmeal of your choosing
– salt

1. Chop up the onions and sautée them over a little saucepan for a little bit in olive oil.
2. Chop up the tomatoes and cook with the onions until the tomatoes are soft and mushy. (Or, cook more until they caramelize a little bit.) Add salt and thyme as desired.
3. Add as much water as the packaging suggests, mix it all together, and bring it to a boil. (I boiled the water in an electric kettle because I was impatient.)***
4. Add as much oatmeal as the packaging suggests and simmer until it’s done, stirring occasionally.
5. I garnished this one with Greek yogurt, but you could also slice an avocado and/or poach an egg on top.

***I made a rookie mistake and attempted to use milk instead of water. Don’t do it!! Tomato is acidic, and it curdled the milk when I boiled them together (duh, in retrospect!). I googled the problem and apparently this is a common issue when making creamy tomato soup. Some sites suggest adding baking soda to the tomato, which neutralizes the acid. You could also add the tomato slowly into the milk. Makes sense, but I was too lazy/hungry to experiment with it this time.

Anyway, I hope this inspires you to take a foray into the world of savory oatmeals! I had googled a few examples when starting out, and my own recipes are simpler and way tastier than a few I found in “wiki-how”-type websites.

Wood & Vine

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

I’m breaking my blogging silence with the description of an amazing dinner I had about two weeks ago. I can’t stop thinking about it still, but the details are escaping me, so I’d better write it down already.
I had some time to kill before I met up with a group of friends for a Book of Mormon showing at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, so I stepped into a fancy looking farm-to-table restaurant and treated myself to a delicious solo meal.

I had:
– Their special Cabernet of the day,
– Hand-cut seasoned fries,
– A salad with arugula, mint, pomegranates, candied pecans, and honey vinaigrette,
– Sorbet made with fresh grape, pears, and orange, drizzled with fresh local honey.

The meal was so simple, but the flavors were so delicate and satisfying. And now it is captured forever on the Internet.

Wood & Vine

It took me a few hours to realize that the name is a play on words for the nearest intersecting streets, Hollywood and Vine. But shhhhh…..


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Henry: Do you listen to old music?
me: How old?
Henry: Like Motown, oldies…
me: I listen to 14th century music.

Ken: You know, when I was young, a good friend and I would go to a diner at 2am, and order a large order of onion rings…
John and me: Yummm..
Ken: …fried zucchini…
John and me: Mmmm!
Ken: …and hot chocolate.
John and me: Wait… WHAT? All at once?
Ken: Of course! Why not?
John and me: Ugh.

Sandwich Rant

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

What the heck is this? I thought I ordered a sandwich, not an overstuffed baguette taco. How am I supposed to eat this? Does the assembler not know the function the bread serves in a sandwich? What is the point of lining up tomatoes and sprinkling lettuce on TOP (i.e. theoretically, THE SIDE) of the sandwich? Wouldn’t it simply fall off as soon as I align the sandwich the proper way by rotating it 90 degrees? Gravity, HELLO. If I ate the sandwich the way it is pictured, the bread would open up and the entire sandwich would roll open as soon as I bit down on it, making it an extremely wide open-faced sandwich. Do they expect me to rotate my head 90 degrees to the side to be able to eat the sandwich and keep it folded? In addition, the bread only covers 2/3 of the circumference of the cross section. Once I bite, it’s all going to burst out the top. Do they expect me to restrain the filling by pressing it down with my hand? What’s the point of having bread, then? Just make it a burrito! I would have liked to go back, give the sandwich back to whoever made it, and make him eat it in front of me. But alas, I ate it all already.

Professor Bad Trip sharings

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

I went to an amazing concert on Monday, and hopefully the first of many. A friend of mine turned my attention to the Monday Evening Concerts series, which is a non-profit organization that has been featuring new music since 1939 (and made premieres of some big-name composers such as Boulez, Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg and Ives).

I went to the concert alone, and just in the nick of time! I left work at 7:00 (was shooting for 5:00, but I was engrossed in work), made it Downtown by 7:30, and had parked my car by 7:40, which left me time to buy and gobble up a tiny turkey sandwich (which I embellished with hot sauce and black pepper) and even read all the program notes.

The concert was entitled “Professor Bad Trip,” named after the work by Fausto Romitelli that made up the second half of the concert, and featured the Argento Chamber Ensemble. The program was truly eye- and mind-opening and can be found here.

Alas, I could not find YouTube videos for all of the featured music, but here is a smattering… (more…)

Shrimp Shumai

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Back when I spent the summer of 2006 in Japan, one of my favorite food discoveries was “shumai,” little bite-sized steamed dumplings with some sort of meat filling. Unfortunately, most of the shumai out there was pork-based. The couple managing the dorm I stayed in knew about my (only) dietary restriction, pork, so on the days that shumai was on the menu, they would make shrimp shumai specially for me. It would make my day.

When I returned to the States that year, I browsed through Japanese stores until I finally found boxed frozen shrimp shumai. I was stoked! I would steam them and eat them a couple at a time…. until I looked at the ingredients one day and realized that it contained pork fat! I had to give the remaining shumai away to a friend. The happiness was short-lived.

This afternoon, when I was perusing the happy hour menu in one of the Japanese restaurants I frequent, the item “shrimp dumplings” caught my eye. I figured it would be something like gyoza, so I decided to order some, after asking the waiter repeatedly if there was any pork in it — she didn’t understand why. Then, they arrived. They were shumai!

how to eat sushi

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

The coordinator of MIT’s summer Japan program forwarded us a link to a video that’s a parody of how to properly eat sushi. (Don’t worry, not all of it is true.) Click here to see it!