Thursday, September 30, 2010

Makhluta - Lebanese Lentil and Three-Bean Soup for MLLA 27


An extraordinarily hearty, traditional recipe from Lebanon, makhluta is a classic kitchen sink of a bean soup. If you are willing to swallow your pride by opening a few cans, this deeply comforting and filling meal can be prepared with such speed that it will be nearly ready by the time you've sipped the last of your preprandial cocktail after that shell-shocked day wherever it is that you work.

Of course, if you prefer the slow and satisfying ritual of soaking and simmering your dried legumes, you will not be disappointed with the relatively quick cooking method offered by Madelain Farah's recipe below, provided you remember to do your soaking the night before. And while you're at it, a good soaking the night before in a drawn bath does wonders for that shell-shocked day wherever it is that you work.

Makhluta - Adapted from the Beirut Restaurants recipe with additional inspiration from a recipe in Lebanese Cuisine by Madelain Farah (on page 32 in Google preview).

Serves 6 generously.


2 quarts richly flavored and moderately salted vegetable stock
1 cup brown rice (use quick-cooking for faster results)

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 very large yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) ground cumin

2 cups cooked and drained lentils
2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas
2 cups cooked and drained black turtle beans
2 cups cooked and drained green lima beans

6 very large Swiss chard leaves, coarsely shredded (remove center ribs if very bulky)
3 cups water

Additional salt to taste


In your very largest pot, Dutch oven, or soup cauldron, heat stock to boiling. Add brown rice. Reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (up to 45 minutes for regular brown rice; 10 minutes for quick-cooking kind).

In a medium saucepan, warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until translucent and golden without burning. Stir in cumin and heat a few more minutes to fragrance and flavor the onion and oil. Remove from heat and stir into stock with cooked rice. Stir in all legumes. Increase heat just to boiling, then reduce to a maintained simmer for 15 minutes.

In the same saucepan which you used for the oil and onion, heat 3 cups water to boiling. Add Swiss chard leaves, continuing to boil until they are limp (about 7 minutes). Stir leaves into legume mixture. If you find the soup too thick (dependent on how fast a simmer, how absorbent the rice, and how soft/starchy the legumes), add enough of the chard water to thin to your preference. Taste and adjust for salt. While wonderful fresh, this soup does reheat well, but will thicken considerably when chilled and idle, like a dense stew. Reconstitute with more water if preferred.


This is my contribution to MLLA 27, which just closed out and has been hosted by me. I expect to have the round-up and drawing results online sometime next week. Thank you very much for sharing your lovely recipes. Your hospitality is always appreciated.

Divya of Dil Se is now hosting MLLA 28. Divya has just returned from abroad and is refreshed and ready to receive your wonderful recipes.

Been There, Done That

Leblebi - Tunisian Chickpea Soup
Vegetarian Caldo Verde
African Peanut and Yam Soup

Other Peoples' Eats

Pomegranate Lentil Soup - Apartment Therapy - The Kitchn
Syrian Vegetarian Red Lentil Soup - Herbivoracious
Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Sumac - ecurry
Algerian Lentil Soup - 64 Sq. Ft. Kitchen
Soup Chick - All Things Soup - Lydia of The Perfect Pantry

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Disappearing Act – White Chocolate Peppermint Truffle Cups

Harlequin, 1888–1890, Paul Cézanne
via Wikipedia Creative Commons License

Now you see him, now you don't. That is the way it is within the short stories of Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Mr. Quin.*

Mr. Quin, Mr. Harley Quin, is a character of a particularly elusive nature, fashioned after one the most famous buffoons of the equally famous Italian theater popularized in the 16th century, La Commedia dell'Arte. Known for its improvisational slapstick and motley stock characters, this entertainment style was also all the rage in England, where the clown, Arlecchino, evolved into Harlequin, something of a romantic hero, fancied by Christie as "....a figure invisible except when he chose, not quite human, yet concerned with the affairs of human beings and particularly of lovers. He is also the advocate for the dead."

Mr. Quin, however a shadowy figure, is a subconscious catalyst of sorts for the true protagonist of the stories, the rather nondescript Mr. Satterthwaite, a man of advanced middle age whose own life lacks color and excitement. It is through Mr. Quin's vaporizing manifestations into and out of quasi-human flesh, which are sometimes seen by others, that provoke Mr. Satterthwaite into an agent who is critical to the resolution of crises in the circles of the very upper classes of English society where he feels himself most keenly as a humble observer.

In the story The World's End, Mr. Satterthwaite accompanies a feckless and supercilious duchess from the Riviera to Corsica, unbeknownst to him that he will engage in a drama which spares the life of a young, bitter artist betrothed to a jewel thief. As a picnic expedition to the very edges of a cliff reveals the flibbertigibbet nature of a fickle actress with a weakness for peppermint cremes, so it is also revealed that a secret compartment hides a glittering truth as magical as Mr. Quin's ghostly appearances and departures.

Christie cites The World's End as one of the scant favorites in this scant collection of stories. It is one of my favorites, too, for at the cliff's edge is the sea, where "....The road stopped....this was the end, the back of beyond, the beginning of nowhere. Behind them the white ribbon of road, in front of them – nothing...."

But as Mr. Satterthwaite says, “ It's an extraordinary place. One feels that anything might happen here...."


White Chocolate Peppermint Truffle Cups - From the Candy recipe

The only deviation I have made is replacing the semi-sweet chocolate with white chocolate. I have used a high-quality, cocoa butter-based white chocolate rather than white chocolate melts which contain milk powder and fat, such as palm kernel oil. These treats are very, very delicate and benefit from spending time in the freezer - do consider that they are the very soft centers of the typical truffles you enjoy with crusts of dipped chocolate or powdered sugars. Tiny, demi-tasse spoons would be charming tools for enjoying every last dollop of decadence.

White Chocolate Piped Truffle

This post was written for Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, who created and host Novel Food, the quarterly food-blogging event dedicated to celebrating what is eaten and imbibed among the pages of the literature we love to indulge in.

I am also sending this off to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, hosting Sugar High Fridays - Bite Size Desserts. Sugar High Fridays was created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess and is still enjoying popularity after several years.

(* This link is purely for descriptive purposes. I do not have any business relationship with Amazon.)

The Comfort of Corn - Toumorokoshi no kurīmusūpu - Japanese Corn Cream Soup for NCR

Toumorokoshi no kurīmusūpu トウモロコシのクリームスープ

We Americans all know the sensual, sloppy summer ritual of running our teeth repeatedly across an ear of corn, dripping salt-gritty butter down the corners of our mouths to our chins, barely giving ourselves time to breath as we savage the cob to a ragged, sad mess. Our smiles are now ragged, sad messes, too, but it's all for a good cause: the naturally sweet, carb-y comfort of fine local produce. Who would have thought that a world away, the Japanese would be peeling open cans of kernels for a ritual comfort all their own?

Corn cream soup, as it is known to the Japanese, is a miracle of ease that stirs very happy memories of childhoods fussed over by nurturing mothers. Though not terribly different from a corn chowder, it does have a distinctive hint of Asian flavor, chiefly from the addition of green onion rather than our use of celery. Though our summer is officially over, and the harvest of fresh corn will soon wane and yield to apples, pumpkins, and turnips, it's a comfort to know that comfort is only a can away.

Toumorokoshi no kurīmusūpu (Japanese Corn Cream Soup) - Adapted from a Tess's Japanese Kitchen recipe

Serves 2


2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 cup well-seasoned and salted vegetable broth
1 cup half and half, light cream, or whole milk
1 ½ cups canned or fresh sweet corn kernels
2 green onion blades, chopped, green part only
4-6 deep-fried lotus root slices (optional garnish)
Additional salt to taste


In large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until translucent and golden. Do not brown. Add broth and your dairy choice. Increase heat to a simmer. Add corn kernels. Heat through. Carefully pour hot liquid into blender. Purée briefly. The soup will have a light texture, but will not be velvety. Pour directly from blender container into serving bowls. Garnish with green onion and optional lotus root slices. Serve immediately with salt shaker on side.
This corn-centric recipe is for Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, hostesses of the popular monthly event No Croutons Required.  Lisa will soon have the round-up online.  Do stop over for a peek and a taste of what's on the table.

I'll be back with another recipe post later tonight.  See you then!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Announcing - My Legume Love Affair 27

Hello, everyone! It's my great pleasure to announce that MLLA 27 is being hosted here by me on The Well-Seasoned Cook. I'd like to follow the traditional of thanking the creator for allowing me the opportunity of hosting this long-running and popular event, but that would be just plain silly, so I will thank you instead. Without your great recipes, generosity, and work (yes, blogging is work, no matter how much fun), MLLA would not be enjoying the great success that it has since I launched the event back in February 2008.

So, with gratitude for, and in honor of, all the fine cooks who enjoy MLLA, I am tweaking the monthly prizes/random drawing structure to make your time here just a little more appetizing:

* NEW: Pick-Your-Own Prize - Choose any food-related book from Amazon U.S. with a value of up to 15USD (not including shipping). I will order the book and ship it worldwide at my expense. (F.T.C. Notice: I do not receive any compensation from Amazon.)

* Hurst Bean Prize - The winner's choice of six (6) Hurst Bean products, suitable for all diets. Hurst Bean sponsors this prize. Due to shipping restrictions, this prize will only be awarded to a U.S. resident. (F.T.C. Notice: I do not receive any routine compensation from Hurst Bean, although I did recently request two products of nominal value which are not available in my local markets. This has been the sole exception.)

* Drawing Structure - As has been the procedure in the past, in the event that the winner of the overall pool is a U.S. resident, that winner will be awarded both the book and Hurst Bean prizes. NEW: In the event that an international winner is drawn, a second drawing will be conducted from the pool of U.S. participants to ensure that every month the Hurst Bean prize will be awarded. The international winner will receive the book, and the U.S. winner will receive the Hurst Bean prize.

To participate, please:

* Post a recipe featuring legumes between now and September 30, linking it to this announcement. Send your post to thewellseasonedcook AT yahoo DOT com with MLLA in the subject line.

* Your choice of recipes is very broad. As much as legumes are most commonly known as fresh or dried beans, peas, lentils and pulses, they are also the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds. Add to the list alfalfa, fenugreek, peanuts, carob, tamarind, and other members of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, as well as derivatives such tofu, and bean flours and noodles, and you'll have a hard time focusing on just one. All courses and cuisines (vegetarian/vegan/non-vegetarian) are welcome, as long as legumes are the dominant ingredient. (Please note: In France, vegetables of all sorts are known as légumes. They are not included in this event.)

* Multiple recipes are permitted (although only one submission will be counted towards the random drawing/s).

* Recipes submitted to other events are also permitted.

* Recipes from archives can be accepted ONLY if updated and reposted as current.

* Recipes from those who are not bloggers are welcome. Please send me your name, location, recipe, and optional photo. I will ensure you are included in the drawing/s and round-up.

* Location of each participant is necessary so that I will know who qualifies to win the Hurst Bean prize, shipped to U.S. residents only. If you don't want your location published in the round-up, please indicate this in your email so that I can maintain your privacy.

* Use of logo is optional.

* Photo is preferred, but not essential, with a width or length dimension of 400 pixels.

* I will post the round-up and winner/s announcement during first week of October.

* My family and personal friends are not eligible to win any prize.

I'm very much looking forward to your recipes. Thanks again for allowing me to dine at your tables.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Paglia e Fieno - Straw and Hay Pasta with Peas & Porcini for MLLA 26 & PPN 179

 Straw and Hay Pasta

Vacation mode.  I'm sure you know that delicious mood I am talking about. Though one has returned to the regularly scheduled program of life, there are a few transitional days between the limp relaxation of being away from it all and the rigors of reacquaintance with the adrenaline rush.  You are protected by a cocoon of your own making. Nothing bothers you.  Not even the mangled mess of fettuccine seizing up on the platter before you, wrecking your plans to post an otherwise pretty darned good meal by its due date.  The world is a beautiful place.  Rather than shake your fist at the heavens and mutter enough blue words to make you blue in the face, you shrug and try it all over again.  And you give thanks - thanks to Simona, hostess of MLLA 26, for the tutelage to avoid another mess. This time, my meal is a mermaid's nest of relaxed and lovely noodles, obviously, in their vacation mode, too.
Straw and Hay Pasta – My own vegetarian recipe using porcini to replace the traditional pancetta

Serves 4-6


1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups half and half or light cream
4 dried bay leaves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup dried porcini pieces, reconstituted for ½ hour in 2 cups boiling water. (Reserve flavorful broth for other use.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground sea salt

12 ounces dried spinach fettuccine
12 ounces dried semolina fettuccine

2 generous cups fresh or frozen green peas, cooked in a small container of water in the microwave for 3 minutes and reserved in its cooking water to keep warm.
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra at table


Fill a very large pot, Dutch oven, or soup cauldron with enough water to boil the pasta. In order to prevent the pasta sticking to itself, it is critical that your vessel be large enough to accommodate the pasta with ample water to completely submerge it. It is better to use two vessels rather than cramp the pasta. Bring water to boil over high heat.

As water is heating, prepare the cream sauce. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook the onion and garlic in butter and olive oil until translucent and golden. Do not let the vegetables burn. Stir in half and half or light cream, then add bay leaves and ground black pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Slice porcini into slivers. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until oil thins (5 seconds). Add porcini and stir fry until glistening and frizzled. Remove from heat and toss porcini with sea salt.

Follow cooking time instructions on pasta packaging. Add fettuccine to boiling water. Increase heat slightly to return water to boil; maintain boil throughout cooking time. Pasta will begin to soften about 1 minute from commencing. Gently and frequently agitate pasta with a long-handled fork or chopstick to prevent sticking. Vigilant attention to the boil and agitation will ensure a good texture. Promptly remove from heat and carefully tip pasta into a colander to drain, allowing a little water to remain on it.

Working quickly, empty drained pasta into very large bowl. Pour cream sauce on top of pasta. Discard bay leaves. Toss gently to cover pasta with sauce. Transfer to serving platter or divide into individual bowls. Drain the peas. Top with Parmesan, fried porcini, and peas. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan on the side. --

This recipe is for Simona of Briciole, hosting MLLA 26.  Simona will have the round-up (in two parts) on line very soon.  Please stop by to have a look at yet another colossal collection of some of the best legume recipes under the sun.  And stay tuned for my announcement for MLLA 27,  hosted here by yours truly for September.  It's good to be back - I am raring to go.  I do hope you have all enjoyed your August.

I am also sending this to Ruth of Once Upon a Feast, hosting her own Presto Pasta Nights # 179.  Check out Ruth's round-up this Friday, September 3.

Been There, Done That ~
Potage Saint-Germain
Farfalle Alfredo with Grilled Vegetables
Spiced Vegetable Bean Fritters

Other People's Eats ~
Quinoa - Pea Salad - When My Soup Came Alive
Rice and Peas - Saveur
Vellutata di Piselli e Menta - Cindystar