Tag Archives: Lentils

Tofu, soba, shiso, with a Lenzu-mame closer

22 Aug

Some days I’m completely uninspired to cook at home.  I scurry through the house around dinner time, assembling healthy, but quick meals for the girls.  Summer-time dinners are easy and fun, and often do not require much preparation.

With the garden producing green beans, long beans and shiso in abundance, I am able to offer lightning fast meals.

In the past week, the girls had a variety of classic summer Japanese dishes such as:

Zarusoba, or chilled, drained, soba noodles, served with a dipping dashi based sauce, topped with chopped scallions, julienned shiso and grated ginger.

Hiyayakko, or chilled and drained medium-firm tofu cubes, served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, garnished with chopped scallions, thinly sliced shiso, grated ginger, katsuobushi and sesame seeds

Blanched okra, cut into 1/4 inch slices, with ponzu sauce

Blanched string beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, served with soy sauce and katsuobushi

Tamago dofu, or literally “egg tofu” – conventional, and store-bought – but one of my all-time favorites as a child.  It’s essentially, savory egg custard, served cold, with a dashi “soup”

Fresh tomatoes with a bit of salt (or none)

Yet, after a few continuous days of light, summer eating, I started craving a hearty, belly-warming soup.

Lentil soup fit the bill.

Into a large pot, I brought 6 cups of water, and 2 cups of chicken stock to boil. 

Into the pot (in order) went the following:

2 cups dry lentils – picked over, rinsed, and drained

2 onions, quartered, and cut into bite sized pieces

3 medium potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 carrots, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tbs of powdered shiitake

Two large handfuls of string beans – these are from the garden, so I’m not sure how much they weigh.  I cleaned them, and cut them into inch-long pieces, de-stringing some of the larger beans.  I have a mixture of home-grown long-beans and regular string beans in this soup.

I simmered this over medium heat until the lentils plumped up, and became tender (about 30 – 40 minutes).  I seasoned with a little sea salt, pepper, as well as a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Sometimes I season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, or even, a good amount of sriracha sauce. 


I often serve poached eggs with whole wheat toast for the girls’ breakfast, and the girls love their “dip-dip” eggs.  For this week, I served the poached egg over the lentil soup, and allowed them to sprinkle just a little sea-salt (on their own) over the egg.  They then carefully broke open the yolks, and mixed it into their soup, and enjoyed their “dip-dip” egg soup.

“Jiji, Baba, we had LENZU-MAME (lens-shaped, Japanese name for lentils) soup today!”  they announced on skype. 

“Mame-mame!” the little one happily added.




Soup for Monday, Soup for Tuesday

5 Apr

My older daughter started attending Japanese school this past Saturday.   We headed from the  barren desert of ethnic food to the exciting cultural melting pot (and in proximity to) of Queens County, NY.

When I was growing up, there was a significant Japanese population in the Queens area during the late ’70’s through the mid ’80’s.  There were several Japanese weekend schools in the area, and a good Japanese meal was easily accessible without having to traverse into Manhattan.

These days, there are gems of authentic Japanese restaurants scattered across the area, especially around areas that still have local Japanese residents; however, I don’t get to frequent them as often as I wish due to scheduling and bedtimes.  Plus, I have to travel far for certain specialties – such as savory egg custard, or chawanmushi which I would have to pre-order at Takumi, whereas at Yamaguchi Restaurant, they have it on the regular menu. 

After an activity-packed first day, we met up with my brother, his wife, and a dear friend of mine in a Korean restaurant specializing in sul long tang.  My daughter excitedly ran to her uncle and auntie, and chattered away.  I studied the menu, decided on a sampler of savory pancakes, or jeon, followed by a comforting bowl of the milky white sul long tang.  My brother ordered a fiery bowl of yook hwe jang, my sister-in-law a hot bowl of dolsot bibimbap, and my buddy, a squid bowl, or pieces of cooked squid in sauce over rice.  I can’t remember the official Korean menu name for that dish….

Once we enjoyed the various jeon that arrived, our entrees arrived, and I was excited.  My soup, a fragrant, mild, white, beef marrow soup is served with a bowl filled with chopped scallions, and a clay pot filled with grayish salt.  Yes – you flavor the soup yourself!  I loved adding a bit of scallion and salt, and adjusting the flavor.  The soup had thinly sliced brisket, noodles, and rice, which I ladled into a smaller bowl for my daughter.  The wait staff came by with a pot full of cabbage and radish kimchi, which they efficiently cut into manageable slices with scissors.  Iced barley tea, or boricha was served with the meal.

We then tucked into our meal.

A content silence descended – mainly, from me, and I savored each drop of my soup.  I coaxed my daughter to finish her bowl of soup – but I could tell she was fading quickly.  She had quite the busy morning, and was starting to unravel.

We kissed friends and family good-bye, and we headed back home.

Sunday, I started my usual preparation for the week, and realized, I could continue my soup kick.  So I made another lentil and vegetable soup, and added vegetable alphabet pasta. 

Here’s what went into it:

2 cups lentils, washed, picked over and drained

6 cups water

3 chopped carrots

3 chopped celery stalks

2 chopped medium onions

1/2 box of Trader Joe’s hearty vegetable stock

1 bag of baby spinach – added at the very end, rinsed and drained

2 bunches of beet greens, washed carefully, and chopped into 1/4 inch

salt, pepper

1/2 cup alphabet pasta

I brought the water and stock to a boil, and added the lentils, carrots, celery and onion.  I lowered the heat to medium after 5 minutes, and skimmed off the foam that rose to the top.  I further lowered the temperature to a low simmer for 30 minutes, checking on occasion, and stirring.  I added the pasta into the soup, and stirred well.  Although the box calls for boiling the pasta for 5 – 10 minutes at high, I prefered to cook it over lower heat, simply because I tend to find the pasta stuck and burnt on the bottom of the pot.

Once the pasta was cooked, and the lentils softened, I added the beet greens, and let it cook for about 5 minutes.  I then added the spinach at the very end, folding the leaves into the soup.  I adjusted the flavor with salt and pepper at the end.

This was my daughter’s lunch for Monday.  I did a trial run with a small amount on Sunday night, and she happily picked out the letters, and said, “Mama, I like this soup.  Can I have this tomorrow?”

Monday night, I received an email text from my husband telling me he was feeling ill, and that he had a high temperature.   I had put the girls down to bed, so I figured I would put together a quick chicken soup in case he was hungry.  Into a pot went:

1 box TJ’s Organic free-range chicken stock

2 carrots cut into quarters, and then chopped

2 chopped celery stalks

1 chopped medium onion

A cup of defrosted, cooked, chicken – shredded

1/2 cup star-shaped pasta

I brought the stock to a boil, and added all the vegetables, and cooked on a low simmer until softened.  I then added the pasta, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened.  I then added the shredded chicken, and at the very end, adjusted the taste with salt and white pepper.

My husband came home looking very pale, and not hungry.  I sent him to bed, and set the soup pot aside to cool.  I was excited – my daughter now had two options for lunch on Tuesday… not to mention, I, myself, had soup options for lunch!

**Recommended thermos for lunchtime soup transport – the Thermos Nissan vacuum insulated food jar, which keeps food hot for 5+ hours.

“M” for Monday, Meatballs and Mom

28 Mar

I find my weekends no longer belong to me.  My body automatically wakes up at 7:30, at the latest, and I catch myself “switching” on – physically, I will myself to haul my legs over the side of the bed, and mentally, I start going through the motions of the weekend routine.  My thought process turns on, and I start worrying… Men men or toast.  Fried egg or poached egg.  What do I do if my husband wants waffles, and I have to repatriate the waffle-maker… that annoyingly cumbersome hunk of metal with waffle irons that DON’T come out of the machine.  How am I supposed to wash it!?

This weekend, Saturday brought the girls poached eggs with soldiers (with “Nanna” Marmite, in reference to their British grandmother); Sunday brought multi-grain waffles (grr) with Applegate bacon.  I watched the girls “dip dip” their toast pieces into their eggs (Mama, eggie sauce!) and on Sunday, I grumbled as I wiped  up the bacon grease on every close surface, and battled with the waffle irons who simply aren’t designed to be washed in hot water and soap. 

Of course both days’ breakfasts were followed by birthday parties.  Cake! Juice! More juice!

It was great to see the girls have a good time.

Of course, weekend chores beckon, and after I did my rounds at Makinajian’s and at Trader Joe’s, I started my Sunday routine.

The oven was set at 350, beet greens were cut off, and beet roots were put into a Corningware, and into the oven.  Chicken drumsticks were rinsed, patted dry, drizzled with a little olive oil and poultry seasoning, and similarly, into the oven.

I filled a large saucepan with water (4 cups), and set to boil.  I added 3 chopped carrots, 3 chopped celery stalks, 2 chopped onions, and 2 cups lentils, pre-rinsed and picked over.  I also added half a box of TJ’s hearty Vegetable stock, and brought everything to a low boil, and cooked for 45 minutes, stirring often.

While everything was cooking, I snuck out of the house with my dog for a quick walk around the neighborhood – a good mile on mixed terrain, which I love to do, but find myself unable to sacrifice 20 minutes in the morning…

Once the beets were tender, I took them out of the oven to cool, and checked on the drumsticks.  The pot was stirred once again, and I lowered the heat to a simmer, and covered with a lid.

Sunday dinner was corned beef , cabbage and potatoes I had actually made on Friday.  Trader Joe’s had some Uncured Corned Beef (conventional) – which I bought as I thought to myself, “How can Corned beef be uncured?”  My beloved pressure cooker had everything tender in an hour and a half – and I was ready to feed my husband, except he came home after a rough day (read= week), and begged out of such a heavy meal.  “We can have it over the weekend…” he reasoned.  Fine, I retorted, plated myself a portion and savored the salty goodness with healthy dollops of Colman’s mustard.  I made up for the lack of my annual corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day in a weekend!

After the kids were bathed and tucked into bed, I tackled the last stretch of my weekend routine. 

This week’s protein is turkey meatballs – so I made a batch of baked turkey-flax-oatmeal-veggie meatballs, and meatball soup with stelline pasta in vegetable broth.

The ingredients for this week’s baked meatballs are:

1 pound ground turkey

2 palmfuls of flaxseeds

1 palmful steel-cut oatmeal

3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 1 large onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 inch long piece of ginger, all chopped finely in food processor

1 tablespoon, shiitake powder

I mixed the ingredients together well, by hand, and formed 3/4 inch sized meatballs.  I placed these on lightly greased pyrex/bakeware, and put into a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

For the soup, I used the remaining box of the vegetable stock, which I brought to boil on the stove.  I added 1 chopped carrot, 2 chopped celery stalks, and 1 medium chopped onion, and let it cook until the onions started becoming translucent.  I then added 1 cup water, and a round of soy sauce.  Once the stock came back to a boil, I started dropping 1/2 inch sized meat balls into the pot.  I let the pot boil for about 10 minutes after the last meatball was dropped, and then added a handful of the pasta, and stirred gently.  I then lowered the heat to a very gentle simmer, and covered the pot.

When the oven timer went off, I checked the meatballs, and removed from the heat.  I let the soup simmer just a little longer, and switched the heat off.

For Monday lunch, here’s what I packed.

Turkey meatballs

Blanched sugar snap peas

Boiled quail eggs

Sliced yellow pepper

Sliced and peeled Japanese cucumbers

Hopefully we have a home run lunch today – and yes, folks, sometimes I rest up on the beets for one day!