Lentil Minestrone Soup
Center Stage Salads
Beautiful Baked Pears
Here's a great dinner menu idea centered around a humble, yet nutritionally powerful legume, the lentil. A little background check on lentils reveals that man has been eating lentils for at least 8000 years. The word lentil comes from the Latin for lens, based on its shape. Lentils have been recorded as a common staple in Egypt for a good 3000 years, as well as enjoying great popularity in ancient Greece and all over the middle east.
Lentil recipes were printed in Apicius' Roman cookbook, 2000 years ago. They are mentioned in the Old Testament, and in today's culinary world, India takes first prize for growing more than 50 varieties of lentils. Species of brown, green and red lentils are commonly found in supermarkets and health food stores.
Lentils are quick cooking and do not require presoaking. They can be cooked and stored, covered, in the fridge for 5 days, wrapped airtight and frozen for months. Lentils pack a strong nutritional wallop, with one half cup (cooked) supplying 80 calories, 15 grams carbs, 3 grams protein, a trace of fat and 2 grams fiber. Use lentils in soups, salads, stews, grain dishes, and sauces.
For additional reading and recipes, take a look at Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison, The Versatile Grain And Elegant Bean by Sheryl and Mel London and Joslin Diabetes Quick And Easy Cookbook by Frances Giedt and Bonnie Polin.
|Lentil Minestrone Soup (6-8 Servings)
2 tbs olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup flat leafed parsley, chopped
2 tbs tomato paste
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 and one half cups lentils**
Aromatics 2 bay leaves, 10 parsley stems, 8 sprigs thyme
10 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bunch greens (chard, spinach, escarole or mustard greens) coarsely chopped
1 cup small pasta, such as orzo, ditalli or shells
1 tbs each red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard
Garnish Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, chopped parsley and celery leaves
- In large soup pot, heat oil, add onion, and garlic. Saute until lightly browned , about 10 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, vegetables and seasonings, and cook another 5 minutes.
- Add lentils,, liquid, and one half of the parsley. Bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer, and cook, covered for 30 minutes.
- Add pasta and greens to soup. Continue to simmer for a few minutes until pasta is barely cooked. It will continue to cook as it steeps in the soup.
- Remove aromatics and add vinegar and mustard.. Taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot with a gentle sprinkling of garnishes to enhance flavor and appearance.
** French green lentils take this soup to another level. You can find them in health food stores or gourmet market. They are inexpensive and delectable.
Nutritional Value: 1 serving (1 cup) = 130 calories, 9 grams protein, 40 grams carbs, 4.5 grams fat, 8 grams fiber
|Center Stage Salads
What does salad mean to you? Is it something that comes along as a crunchy little side dish to pick on as you wait for the main event? Is your salad consciousness limited to things like Caesar, garden or iceberg lettuce and tomatoes? If so, please consider how wonderful, nutritionally powerful with low carbs and high vitamin, fiber and mineral content, a thoughtful salad can be.
We are so lucky to have an incredible variety of greens available. Bibb and butter lettuce, watercress, endive, frisee, chicory, dandelion, arugula, mache, baby spinach, romaine and leaf lettuces are ours for the picking (or picking out, at the market).
Try combining several different colors and textures. Add a few toasted nuts and crumble a little fresh soft cheese, such as feta or goat cheese, finish with some slivers of fresh apple of pear.
To insure purity of taste, keep the dressing simple. A small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, mixed with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and grated zest, salt and freshly ground pepper, compliments salad greens and enhances their lively taste. As you experiment with different components, your salads will begin to take center stage rather than be a side dish waiting in the wings.
|Beautiful Baked Pears (4 servings)
Yes it is very important to exercise caution with the carbohydrates we eat. And yes, we all tend to love desserts. But with a little attention and skill, we can have both. A good basic rule of thumb to keep in mind is the "25 gram rule". This simple, yet elegant and exotic pear dessert is a good example:
4 small firm, ripe pears
1 tbs lemon juice, 1 ts. grated zest
One half cup Sherry or Madeira wine
One and one half tbs brown sugar
Generous pinch of cinnamon and ground ginger
- Peel pears, but leave stems on. Cut at bottom to stand pears upright. Brush with lemon juice and place in baking dish that holds pears snugly in place.
- Pour wine over pears. Mix zest, sugar and spices and sprinkle on top. Bake 40 -50 minutes until tender, in preheated 350 oven. Baste every 10 minutes with juices. Serve warm on a pretty dessert plate with pan juices drizzled over each pear A sprig of fresh mint makes a nice garnish.
Nutritional Value: 1 serving (1 pear and 2 tbs juice) = 100 calories, 1 gram protein, 25 grams carbs, 0.5 grams fat, 3 grams fiber