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Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Meatless Monday.

It’s become a thing in our house, like, I suppose, some of yours.curry

It’s something Ellen has instituted here, and it happens most of the time (except when it doesn’t).  The kids often object, but not all that strenuously unless I produce something with bulgur or faro or some other grain that they perceive tastes like packing peanuts.

So we’re constantly challenged to come up with vegetarian offerings that are packed with nutritional value and interesting genealogy and, oh yes, flavor.

Such is the case with this tasty and fragrant Indian-influenced soup adapted from a recipe taken from the pages of Vegetarian Times.  It’s loaded with flavor—it will perfume your whole house as it cooks—and protein and fiber, and will gain props all round as you serve it up with an interesting hunk of artisan bread or pita wedges or toasted naan, or a scoop of brown rice on the side.

Try this one.  It’s simple to make and memorable, too.

By the way, if you’ve avoided getting an immersion blender, this is the perfect excuse to get one, or ask Santa to deliver one to you this holiday season.

Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups cold water.

2 cups sweet onions, chopped

1 cup red lentils

3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 14-ounce unsweetened (light if possible) coconut milk

1  teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely round white pepper

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly minced

1 tablespoon Indian (or try Jamaican) curry

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add water, lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt, pepper, and the bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, curry, and cilantro.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes, then add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf.

Puree the soup, either in the food processor or blender in batches, or in the pot with an immersion blender, until velvety smooth.  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve hot with fresh sautéed vegetables, brown rice, and/or a nice fresh bread.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Morgan and her mom made these incredible spring rolls the other night for company, and they were a huge hit.  I thought they were every bit as good as any I have had at a restaurant.  Fact is, this is a restaurant recipe, from la Patisserie in Birmingham, Alabama, where a large Vietnamese population has resettled after the floods in New Orleans.  There is a wonderful video that accompanies this recipe, for which I will post the link at the end of this recipe.  Try these.  You will need to find a good Asian market to get the rice wrappers, but if you haven’t found one already, you owe it to yourself to find one.  Now.  The one near us is wonderful, and always smells great.  Very nice people, too.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces rice vermicelli
24 baby shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
3 leaves lettuce, chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons finely chopped Thai basil

Preparation:
  1. Whisk vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Set the dipping sauce aside.
  2. Fill a large bowl with room temperature water. Add rice vermicelli and soak for 1 hour.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in shrimp and cook until curled and pink, about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp and drain. Or you can buy precooked baby shrimp with the tails on.  Defrost and pinch off the tails.   Transfer rice vermicelli noodles to the pot of boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove and drain in a colander. Immediately rinse the vermicelli with cold water, stirring to separate the noodles.
  4. To assemble the rolls, dip 1 rice wrapper in a large bowl of room temperature water for a few seconds to soften. Place wrapper on a work surface and top with 4 shrimp halves, 1/4 of the chopped lettuce, 1/2 ounce vermicelli, and 1/4 each of the mint, cilantro, and Thai basil. Fold right and left edges of the wrapper over the ends of the filling and roll up the spring roll. Repeat with remaining wrappers and ingredients. Cut each roll in half and serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 6 spring rolls

Servings:  1 roll, 2 tablespoons dipping sauce

PP3

Vegetable Pad Thai — Weight-Watchers Style

Here is a vegetarian version of Pad Thai.  It is wonderful, slightly different, and tasty nonetheless.

Ingredients:

4 oz. flat rice noodles

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

6 scallions, thinly sliced

2 Thai chili peppers or 2 teaspoons Asian red garlic-chili paste

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced fine

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1/2 container extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and divided

2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

1.  Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water; let stand until noodles are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

2.  Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bell pepper, carrots, scallions, chili peppers, and garlic, and stir fry until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes.  Add fish sauce, brown sugar, and soy sauce, stir fry until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds.  Add noodles, sprouts, half the cilantro, and tofu.  Toss gently to mix all the ingredients and coat everything with sauce and heated through, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining cilantro and peanuts.

Serve either hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Serving:  1 cup

PP4

Chicken Pad Thai–Weight-Watchers Style

I have a weakness for Asian dishes, and I’m always looking to learn new ones.  Perhaps my all-time favorite Asian recipe is Pad Thai.  I can’t get enough of this dish, but traditionally, made in Thai restaurants, the calorie count is measured in the billions.  Having recently joined Weight Watchers, I now have to “skinny down” some of my faves.  What I’ll present here is an absolutely wonderful rendering of this Thai favorite, but beaten into submission.  This low calorie version has everything you could ask for in this dish, and yet has a much better PointsPlus value than traditional chicken Pad Thai recipes. It’s a great healthy meal idea to help satisfy your craving for Thai food, while still keeping you on track with Weight Watchers.

Pad Thai with Chicken

Ingredients:

6 oz chicken skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
4 oz dried rice noodles
1/4 cup egg beaters
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tbsp chopped dry-roasted peanuts
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce

Instructions

1.  In a large bowl, soak rice noodles in warm water until they are limp and white, about 30 minutes.
2.  Heat oil over high heat in a wok until very hot. Add the shallots and garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 10 seconds.
3.  Add the egg and cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 30 seconds.  Add chicken and stir-fry until mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
4.  Drain the noodles and add to the wok, tossing with tongs until they soften and curl, about 1 minute.
Add bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar , salt and chile-garlic sauce; toss until the chicken is fully cooked and noodles are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with peanuts and serve immediately.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Serving size:  1 cup

Serves 4

PP 7

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