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I have been on quite a lentil kick lately.  First there was palak daal, then lentils with bacon and now mujaddara.

Mujadarra is a lentil dish with rice (or wheat) and cooked onions that is often found in many Levantine cuisines. I have always loved the flavors of Lebanese (and it’s neighbor’s) cooking, and after a two-part trip to Beirut courtesy of No Reservations and Netflix, I couldn’t get that food out of my head.

mujadarra and spiced yogurt ingredients

So I decided I would make Smitten Kitchen’s Lebanese-style stuffed eggplant which I first recalled eyeing way back when, but then the sun came out and it seemed a bit heavy.

The ground lamb could easily become lamb meatballs and a mujadarra that I spotted on Food 52 seemed to be the perfect compliment. Bonus that the spiced yogurt from the lentil dish would also work with the meatballs. Perfect!


This was my first time making mujadarra, but it will definitely become a regular addition to meals around here.

Man, I forgot how good jasmine rice is!  Thankfully the lentils upped the ‘health’ ante, so I didn’t feel too bad about having a big heaping of white rice.  And with the charred onions, yes please!

Mujadarra components

As for the spiced yogurt, I didn’t have fresh cumin or any coriander, nor spiced paprika, so I added a pinch of cayenne to regular paprika, went with ground cumin and threw in some sumac, which is often found in Middle Eastern dishes.  To be honest, it was a teeny-bit gritty, almost like the ratio of spices was too heavy, but I think freshly ground could’ve eliminated that, and maybe the sumac wan’t really needed.  So all that means is the original recipe I gather was better than my substitutions.🙂

I have been trying to add to my spice cupboard, so I am excited to try it next time with my new aleppo pepper.

Making mint spiced yogurt

A quick side note about the meatballs, Read the rest of this entry »

Lentils with Bacon

I know that in polite company, you don’t try out new recipes on unsuspecting guests.  But since my dinner guests are often close friends, I figure they can handle the challenge of ‘sure hope this turns out okay.’ Plus, as good as roast chicken is, that can’t be the only thing I serve company.

But when I made these lentils with bacon early last week, I knew they would be perfect for our little dinner party come Sunday. Double win – know what to do & know it will be good!

Celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bacon & french lentils

making lentils with carrots and bacon

On Monday, I made them without the fennel (per the recipe on Amateur Gourmet) and on Sunday I added it in (per the original Anne Burrell recipe).  Sure, if you have one on hand it doesn’t hurt, but it is not worth an extra trip to the store. What makes these lentils shine are the bacon (obviously), the still crunchy veggies (unlike those found in lentil soup) and the perfectly bright and balanced finish of mustard and vinegar.

Searing steelhead trout

I thought these lentils matched perfectly with steelhead trout (Monday) and salmon (Sunday) which both received a pan-sear/oven-roast-finish treatment.  (They were also great reheated for a little lunch the next day, which is always nice to know.)

Maybe I will get in the habit of trying things out before guests come over … or on second thought, maybe sometimes is a good place to start.

Adding the mustard and vinegar

Pan-seard Steelhead Trout and Lentils with bacon

Recipe from Anne Burrell via Amateur Gourmet

As you may have noticed, when it comes to cooking posts, there are a few sites I reference more than most:  Smitten Kitchen & 101 Cookbooks.  Between the two of them, they often seem to have what I want – one a bit more decadent, revved up versions of your favorites (or soon to be favorites) and the other healthful but not too ‘granola’ recipes that are perfect for weeknights.

And thankfully neither sticks to only one cuisine.

So when I was craving both dal (of any sort) and saag paneer (a spinach dish with paneer – a fresh Indian cheese with a texture similar to tofu), and when my store didn’t have paneer  on hand, I did a quick search on my go-to sites to see what they offered that combined those two ideas.

It should come as no surprise that they both offered plenty in the lentil department, but it was Heidi’s Palak Daal that hit just the right notes with the spinach and lentil combo.


chile butter - heaven!

I attempted to make it without substitutions or changes, but alas, that did not happen.  I doubled the amount of spinach as I really jonesing for some greens, but probably definitely should have chopped it a bit more finely.  I skipped the asafetida, as I didn’t have any (or know what it is!!) and for the ‘pure red chile powder’ I used my regular chile powder with a touch of cayenne, because that was what I had (and again, not totally sure what ‘pure red chile powder’ is).  Might be time for a spice class. : ) And  according to the picture above, its looks like I threw in a few chile flakes too.  Cie la vie!


To serve, we skipped the rice and heated up some (store bought) naan and topped it with a super-quick psedo-riata.  Might not be the most traditional, but it was just what we wanted.

Palak Daal from 101 Cookbooks

Thanks to Heidi {again} for another winner!  Here is the recipe … Enjoy!



Do you ever go out to a restaurant, order something that looks good, like it so much you want to make it at home and realize you already have everything you need?  It’s as if your body must have really needed those nutrients to have been attracted to them in both places.  Oh, that doesn’t happen to you?

Me neither.

Or not exactly.


A while back I ordered a lentil and kabocha salad and liked it so much that I wanted to make it again.  The squash was spiced and roasted and I loved the lentils in a salad – they were almost al dente, so they created a nice contrast to the soft squash and even their normal soft(er) presentation.

But what had me really coming back for more was the ricotta salata.

In the summers I love to make a zucchini and summer squash spaghetti with lots of lemon, mint and basil and top it with a mound of ricotta salata, but I don’t use it too much in the winter.  I think that may have been what sealed the deal for me on this dish, as (at least in my head) it made the whole salad a perfect representation of the departing winter and upcoming warmth.


Back at home, I did have lentils and a squash on hand, so it was basically meant to be, and we can just ignore the fact that I always have lentils and squash is pretty common around here during the fall and winter.  I even had the mint – which is not a given in months with an “r.”

The only thing I needed to run out for was the ricotta salata.

So this counts for my threory, right?

Read the rest of this entry »


Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!


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