My world for a lentil.

Hello, Lentils? Hi. It’s me. Peggy.

…Say what? I’ve fallen from your favor? Sorry I’ve been snubbing you for the past couple of months. But I’m needing—nay, craving—to have you back into my life. I’m done with wretched excess; the frothy creams, sumptuous sauces and trumped-up cocktails that caught my eye in December. I miss your tasteful earthiness, your smart frugality, your downright wholesomeness. Give me one more chance–I’m begging!–to make things right.

Always wash lentils and remove small stones before cooking.

Always wash lentils and remove small stones before cooking.

Mid-January finds me as another bloated statistic entrenched in detox, mainlining soups loaded with beans and veggies, forcing myself to pound out another mile (er…block) on the treadmill while my headphones knock out a lobotomizing Latin Dance Club collection, which insists my legs move forward.

And lentils are back into my life. What’s not to love about these petite colorful beans? User friendly, they cook fast and don’t need soaking; they’re a powerhouse of nutrition and easy on the purse strings. Below, I’ve assembled a slide show of lentil inspiration. One recipe not featured is a no-recipe-recipe I recently made: Quinoa-Lentil Salad: In separate pots, cook equal parts of black beluga lentils and quinoa until tender, then drain and toss in a vinaigrette made with a smidgen of garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Toss with feta cheese and you’ll be doin’ right by lentils.

Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt

Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt

Warm Lentil and Spinach Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

Warm Lentil and Spinach Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

Dal

Dal

Cheesy Lentil-Spinach Casserole

Cheesy Lentil-Spinach Casserole

Lamb and Lentil Soup with Tuscan Kale

Lamb and Lentil Soup with Tuscan Kale

Couscous Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Couscous Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Curried Lentil Soup

Curried Lentil Soup

Kale and Lentil Soup with Indian Flavors

Kale and Lentil Soup with Indian Flavors

Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt thumbnailWarm Lentil and Spinach Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette thumbnailDal thumbnailCheesy Lentil-Spinach Casserole thumbnailLamb and Lentil Soup with Tuscan Kale thumbnailCouscous Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes thumbnail
Curried Lentil Soup thumbnailKale and Lentil Soup with Indian Flavors thumbnail

Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant  • Warm Lentil Salad & Spinach Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette • Northern Indian Dal (Black Lentil Spread) • Cheesy Lentil-Spinach Casserole • Lamb & Lentil Soup with Tuscan Kale • Couscous Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes • Curried Lentil Soup • Kale and Lentil Soup with Indian Flavors

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When Entertaining with Small Plates, Less can be More

Another holiday season, a herd of family I can’t wait to see, all with their convoluted schedules, none of which coincide simultaneously. Therefore, I’ll be turning the holidays on and off several times in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be flexible. I’ll be creative. I’ll try to stay sober.

Entertaining Canapé Platter

Entertaining Canapé Platter

I’m thinking small plates and bite-sized packages by the fire will be appreciated. In a holiday stuffed with excess, less can often be more. Guests tend to eat slower, lingering over small plates. And in-between the plates, the conversation flows.

Freshly shucked oysters with a mignonette, followed by a couple of small pieces of buttery brioche topped with lemon creme fraiche and a smear of the most delicious roe your purse will allow. A sparkler, of course. Less is more, unarguably.

How about one perfectly seared scallop on a bed of wild mushroom risotto in a ramekin. Any protein and starch combination you particularly love can be scaled down; it will be savored all the more when downsized and served on a small plate. For dessert serve chocolate mousse and a dollop of Grand Marnier enhanced whipped cream in phyllo cups.

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Meatballs may be made in advance and frozen for up to a couple of weeks.

My freezer is an ally. The lamb meatballs in the following recipe were divided into aluminum pans, and then frozen. I take out a tray and bake them as needed. A garlicky tart tzadziki would be the perfect accompaniment, but I chose to drizzle pomegranate syrup/molasses onto the plate, then top it with the lamb.

The lamb meatballs pair especially well with phyllo cups stuffed with mediterranean ingredients you’ll find in the recipe below. Here’s another recipe (Inside Karen’s Kitchen) that inspired mine; she bakes her phyllo cups and the ingredients include sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Most quality groceries stock phyllo cups next to the frozen phyllo sheets in their freezer sections. They thaw in 30 minutes, then I stuff them with a variety of ingredients through the holidays. Again, here’s the link to my collection of other stuffings for phyllo cups  made in the past.

Phyllo cups may be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores, saddled next to the phyllo sheets. So flexible and versatile, what’s not to like?

Good things come in small packages. Have a lovely holiday season!

Recipe: Savory Lamb Meatballs with Pomegranate Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 Tablespoons currants
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped mint
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 pound of ground beef (chuck makes the juiciest meatball)
  • Pomegranate syrup, as needed
  • Orange zest, optional garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk eggs together with garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, currants and cardamom (if using). Stir mint and panko into seasonings to combine.
  2. Gently knead the lamb and beef into the mixture. (Cook a small bit of the batch, taste, and adjust seasonings to palate.) Divide and form into apx. 32 meatballs, shaped a tad larger than a golf ball. (They may be frozen for up to 2 weeks, at this point.)
  3. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. On middle rack of oven, bake (thawed) lamb 15 minutes. Serve with pomegranate syrup garnished with orange zest, if using.

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): apx. 34 meatballs (a bit larger than) golf-ball sized 

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Mediterranean Salad in Phyllo Cups

Ingredients

  • 15 mini phyllo shells* (1 box), defrosted
  • 1/3 cup your favorite hummus or baba ganoush
  • 1/4  cup diced English cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons diced roasted red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil or mint

Instructions

  1. Divide hummus or baba ganoush between phyllo shells.
  2. Combine  cucumber, roasted red pepper, feta cheese and basil or mint; add freshly ground pepper to taste. Evenly between the shells and serve.

*I used the Athens Mini Fillo Shells brand, found in the freezer sections of most groceries.

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 15 stuffed cups

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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A Million Recipes and Nothing To Cook.

Savory Baked Quince stuffed with Lamb

Savory Baked Quince stuffed with Lamb

Planning a dinner party menu, for me, is like figuring out an outfit to wear for a special occasion; so many choices but nothing comes together. The (such-a-deal) taupe sheath with a metallic band is very cool but none of my shoes are right. And accessories? Don’t even go there. The Baked Quince stuffed with Ground Lamb and Currants is festive but I’m stumped about a side dish. And dessert? Forget about it.

Maybe you have similar issues, especially when you’re busier than ever stuffing goodwill towards all into a few short weeks. I’ve perused my Holiday Cookbook and have pieced together some soup-to-nuts festive dinners, including cocktails, that may ease some of your strain. (I do believe in potlucks. I do, I do, I do….)

Proposal #1: Super-Easy & Festive Menu

Appetizer: Gorgonzola Pear Dip  Notes: Stupid simple, but oh so good. Can be assembled in 5 minutes and made the night before; all but the addition of pears, which should be stirred in a couple of hours before serving. Serve with a sliced baguette or Rosemary-Raisin Crisps (or something similar) I’ve enjoyed from Trader Joe’s.

Roast Pork with Rosemary and Garlic

Roast Pork with Rosemary and Garlic

Main Course: Roast Pork with Rosemary and Garlic Notes: How can something so easy taste so heavenly? Five minutes to prep the roast and about 45 minutes to roast. Don’t overcook!

Pick your Side(s): Maple-Glazed Butternut Squash Notes: The only thing time-consuming is attacking the butternut squash. I prefer the slices but you could save time and use the pre-cut cubes.

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes

Balsamic Red Cabbage Notes: Buying a bag of sliced red cabbage makes this recipe a cinch.

Baked Apple stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes Notes: OK. A tiny bit more involved, but they can be made well in advance to baking, and they are  nirvana with pork.

Sauteéd Chard and Currants: No recipe for this, it’s so easy. Simply remove greens from stems and sauté chopped stems in butter or olive oil with currants until almost tender. Stir in chopped leaves and season with salt and pepper. Using chard with red stems looks quite festive on the plate and the sweet currants are delish with the pork.

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Dessert: Yogurt and Fig Cake Notes:  I love this cake and it’s the simplest scratch-made cake I’ve ever made. It may be made a couple of days in advance and freezes well. Substitute frozen or dried figs if you can’t find fresh. I’d go the distance and serve this topped with whipped cream infused with Grand Marnier.

Cocktail: Lucy’s Pig Punch Notes: This is a yummy whiskey and apple potent. But to keep thing really simple, serve a creamy Chardonnay with fruity notes, particularly apple, before and throughout the meal.

Proposal #2: A bit more involved, a bit more classy-sassy, but most of the prep work may (and should for survival) be done well in advance.

Sherried Shrimp Bisque

Sherried Shrimp Bisque

Appetizer: Sherried Shrimp Bisque Notes: I love serving appetizers in shot glasses! The bisque be made a couple of days in advance; it ages well.

Main Course: Flank Steak Florentine (header photo) Notes: Pretty  on a plate and may be rolled and prepped the evening prior to  cooking and serving. If you prefer your beef cooked medium or well-done, make this Standing Rib Roast instead. The sides listed below are compatible for both. Flank steak toughens the longer it cooks.

Pick your Side(s): Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato and Mushroom-Leek Casserole  Notes:  Can be made a day in advance. Fabulous with beef.

Portobella Mushrooms Caps stuffed with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes Notes: Can be made 3-4 hours in advance. Tidy little package.

Pasta with Roasted Chestnuts, Bacon and Sage

Pasta with Roasted Chestnuts, Bacon and Sage

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chanterelles and Bacon Notes: Omit the Chanterelle and Bacon Sauce if you’d prefer the dish less rich.

Pasta with Roasted Chestnuts, Bacon and Fried Sage Leaves Notes: Save time by purchasing roasted and peeled chestnuts.

Chocolate-Rum Mousse with Whipped Cream and Raspberries

Chocolate-Rum Mousse with Whipped Cream and Raspberries

Dessert: Chocolate-Rum Mousse with Whipped Cream and Raspberries or Ginger Molasses Bundt Cake with Lemon Curd Notes: The mousse can be made 24 hours in advance; the cake several days in advance.

Cocktail: I’d serve a classic Manhattan made with American rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and orange bitters–grated fresh nutmeg would lend a holiday note; and a solid Cabernet with dinner. 

 

 

 

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