Thursday, December 30, 2010

Puy Lentil Cobbler with Roasted Vegetables and Pumpkin Biscuits for MLLA 30

Lentil Cobbler with Pumpkin Biscuits

It's beginning to look at lot like...Thanksgiving. OK, so I didn't shoot and post anything that I specifically prepared for holiday meals over the past month, but this Napoleon's-chef of a recipe utilized many leftover ingredients which otherwise would likely have gone missing and grotty in the fridge.

This is an extremely versatile dish. You can easily veganize it by omitting the cheese and preparing the biscuits with butter and honey substitutes. You can also dispense with the biscuits altogether; the lentil/vegetable base makes a great quick stew, or hearty soup if you return all the cooking water to it. Trimmed of the fat and full of a confetti of natural vegetable colors, the pared-down riffs allow you a transition to more sensible eating, a perfect kick-off for New Year's resolutions to better health. Please remind me of this when I blog about two take-no-prisoners celebratory recipes early next year.

Puy Lentils & Roasted Vegetables

Puy Lentil Cobbler with Roasted Vegetables and Pumpkin Biscuits
- [Lentil and vegetable recipe, my own. Biscuits are adapted from Country Living; link follows.]

Serves 4 - 6.

2 cups Puy lentils, rinsed
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried sage, dried thyme, or crushed, dried rosemary
1 1/2 cups baby or julienne carrots
1 cup red onions, sliced or diced (I used halved pearl onions)
2 cups diced potatoes, peeling optional (scrub potatoes well if leaving peel on)
1 cup diced rutabaga (also known as a swede or yellow turnip)
3 cups coarsely chopped kale or chard (I used both)
Salt and Pepper to taste (optional; bouillon will be salty)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Recipe for Pumpkin Biscuits, below


Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add bouillon cubes and lentils, making sure water covers lentils by at least two inches. Return to boil, then reduce heat to simmer lentils until cooked but slightly al dente. Drain lentils, reserving them in a very large bowl with 2 cups of their cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil briefly until it shimmers. Stir in your dried herb choice to distribute, then add all the vegetables, tossing well to combine. Place skillet in oven on center rack. Roast vegetables for 12 minutes. Toss them again, and roast for an additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and stir into lentils and reserved liquid. Transfer into a large casserole dish, at least 9 inches in width or diameter. Top mixture with shredded cheese. Arrange cut biscuits over cheese without overlapping. (Depending on size of casserole, you may have several extra biscuits.) Place assembled casserole on a cookie sheet, arranging any extra biscuits around the casserole. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until biscuits are well browned and cheese has melted. Carefully remove from oven; the casserole will be very hot and heavy. Serve in casserole at table on a large trivet or heat-proof tile. A very large serving spoon will ease dividing and transferring to individual dishes. Top each serving with a biscuit or two. Serve additional biscuits on the side.

Pumpkin Biscuits - Recipe from Country Living
[The changes I made (white whole wheat flour for the white flour, and halving the butter), created a much less rich and much more rustic dough than the original. The flavor of pumpkin is very subtle. For a more pronounced pumpkin flavor, use white flour.]

Ready to Bake - Lentil Cobbler

Pumpkin Biscuits

This recipe is for Priya of Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes, who is kindly hosting this month's My Legume Love Affair 30. Priya will be welcoming your recipes through tomorrow, December 31.


Been There, Done That ~

Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie
Yellow Raspberry Rosemary Crisp
Crumb-Topped White Peach Pie

Other People's Eats ~

Peach and Berry Cobbler - Kalyn's Kitchen
Sweet Potato Cobbler - Saveur
Vegetable Cobbler - Ezra Pound Cake

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Congratulations to ....

(Graphic: Microsoft Free Clip Art)

of the blog, Bittersweet. Hannah has won a copy of A Life in Balance by Meg Wolff, courtesy of the author and publisher. Hannah was the lucky seventh commenter on my recent review post, and was selected by


I received a total of twenty-nine comments. Two were omitted (one friend; one latecomer).

Hannah, I will be contacting you shortly to make arrangements to ship your prize to you. I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway. Your very thoughtful comments are much appreciated. I wish you all good health and happiness. See you soon!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Meg Wolff's "A Life in Balance" - A Review and Giveaway

"Health is not valued till sickness comes." - Dr. Thomas Fuller, English physician, 1732.

“ Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are. - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Lawyer, politician, epicure, gastronome, 1826.

"…. man is what he eats.” - Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach, German philosopher and anthropologist, 1863.

"Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat." - Dr. Victor Lindlahr, American physician and health movement pioneer, 1923.

“First and foremost is improving the way you eat.” - Meg Wolff, cancer survivor and macrobiotic nutrition advocate, 2010.
It has been many, many months since I first met Meg Wolff, a seriously health-conscious blogger who writes about diet and nutritional issues on her blog, Becoming Whole 2; The Huffington Post; and her titular site, Meg Wolff. It was, like several million connections in this age of ferocious technology, an online introduction. It was in the early days of launching My Legume Love Affair, a monthly bean-centric food-blogging event which I created to highlight the health benefits, beauty, and marvelous global diversity of every sort of seed and pod bean, as well as other comestible legume plant products. Meg had contributed two fine recipes to the event: a simple navy bean soup, and a vegan chili. Little did I know how much Meg embraced the plant-based meals which I have continued to celebrate from all far corners of the world. Little did I also know the reason for her commitment to what some would consider a radical change in diet: Meg Wolff had been visited not once, but twice with cancer.

Cancer is among the most terrifying diagnoses, haunting not only those who have the misfortune of learning that they have the disease, but also the medical community. Men and women of science have made truly remarkable inroads against its ravages, and yet they still have their work cut out for them in terms of understanding its causes and identifying those who might be most vulnerable. Developing new treatments to eradicate or slow the disease's progression are equally challenging in making a positive change for patients whose quality of life and very longevity are at stake.

Meg, after enduring the loss of her leg to bone cancer, and her breasts to a radical mastectomy when the cancer returned, decided to take it upon herself to search for answers that were far away from the traditional treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, both of which did not leave her with a particularly hopeful outlook for future years of disease-free happiness.

Twelve years later, Meg has more than survived the illness which doctors predicted would take her life in a matter of months. Meg is thriving now, because she had nothing whatsoever to lose by adopting a plan for a plant-based diet, eschewing animal proteins and fats; sugars and other dubious sweeteners; and conveniently processed foods which taste great when you are stressed and in a hurry to be fed, but do not properly nourish.

From this simple, yet radical dietary and lifestyle change, Meg has written A Life in Balance – Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health. With an emphasis on Asian ingredients which have proven to benefit the longevity of women on the Pacific Rim, Meg presents recipes which embrace whole grains; vegetables, herbs, and fruits; legumes; seaweeds; natural sweeteners; and soy products.

Many of the recipes are not particularly difficult to prepare. “Squashed Adzuki,” a mash of four easy-enough-to-find ingredients, will be making its debut on my table very soon. Meg also presents dishes from such notable authors as Rip Esselstyn, creator of the popular 28-Day Engine 2 Diet; and Rory Freedman of the Skinny Bitch series of cookbooks. With so many varied dishes, there is no reason to be bored. The cookbook even presents some very unique and satisfying recipes for the sweet tooth in you. Yes, you can have your treat and eat it, too.

You will not find lard-laden pie crusts, nor high fructose corn syrup in any of Meg's bountiful offerings, but what you will discover between the pages of innovatively delightful recipes are those little precious life lessons on stress reduction (the stress which is often responsible for our poor eating habits), a greater appreciation for life's miracles, and the possibility that you may find yourself quoting Rabbi Harold Kushner:
"One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick."
I am very pleased to be able to offer a giveaway of Meg's lovely new book, A Life In Balance - Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health. To be eligible to win, please leave any sort of comment on this post. Anonymous comments must include a contacting email address. I will assume all shipping charges no matter where the winner globally resides. All I request is that you read and cook from it in good health. Comments for the pool of entrants will be collected until 11:59 p.m. New York time, a week from today, December 15. The playing field, at my insistence, is level. The winner will be selected through a random drawing. My family and personal friends are not eligible to win. Even if you have won a previous prize from MLLA, you are still eligible to win this happy, healthy cookbook. I will announce the winner on December 16.

F.T.C. Notice - I received a review copy in addition to a giveaway copy (at my request) from the author and publisher. I am glad to promote this book and would have done so even if I wasn't afforded a copy to give away.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Akara - Nigerian White Bean Burgers for My Legume Love Affair 29

Akara Burger

I've been on a bit of a rampage with cookbook purchases lately. And while I have firm and traditional plans to cook and bake many a European recipe between now and the new year, I am as stuck on torrid spices same as I ever was. I am now the giddy owner of not one, but four compilations from Africa, North Africa, Lebanon, and the Silk Road.

It's getting to the point where my German-American mother is throwing her hands up in exasperation, wailing:

"When are you going to blog again about your heritage recipes? I know you love flinging yourself and your pots and pans to the far corners of the Earth, but don't you think you are neglecting so many great standards from the countries you hail from? Where are your pies, your cookies, your layer cakes; your casseroles, your noodles, your sandwiches?"

"I'm starting my holiday baking very soon, Ma. I know I didn't do Jack-O-Lantern much with the pumpkins and other hard-shelled squashes, but they'll keep, literally. I just need to get one more of those "far-flung" recipes out of my system, then I'll be turning out tortes, pastries, cocktail party nibbles, and those orange, custard-y thingies baked in a crust that everyone's been raving about the last month."

"You haven't baked a pumpkin pie in so long that you don't know what it's called anymore? So, what are you making?"

"I want to try akara, Nigerian bean fritters that are shocked with tiny bits of habanero. Only thing is, I'm in a clutch for one of the ingredients, and the recipe really isn't authentic without it. I have no idea where to get it quick in a hurry; it's not exactly a bread-and-butter item in these parts, despite my ability to source a lot of the diverse and unusual. I'd really like to fry them up once as they are meant to be."

"What is it?"

"Red palm oil, very popular in the tropical regions across Africa."

"Oh, I have it."

"Thanks, Ma. The shortbread stars will be in the oven shortly."

Akara Burgers
- Inspired by the Akara recipe from my copy of The Africa Cookbook - Tastes of a Continent by Jessica B. Harris


2 generous cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained (Great Northern, Navy, or small white)
1 large egg
1/2 cup dry, sturdy unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon very finely minced fresh habanero pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons red palm oil* (or other frying oil if not available)

Garnishes (Optional)

Shredded radicchio or other salad leaf (I choose radicchio as a bitter foil for habanero's heat and the musky, woody flavor of red palm oil.)
Mayonnaise or salad cream
Capers or chopped pickle
Additional black pepper


Reserve a quarter cup of beans. In a food processor, grind the remaining beans and egg into a coarse paste. Transfer the bean paste to a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, red onion, habanero, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine. Add reserved whole beans, stirring only to combine without breaking them. Form into 4 burgers of uniform size and width, building up the sides evenly to prevent them crumbling at edges when they fry. Warm red palm oil in large skillet over medium-low heat just until it melts. It will be solid, like shortening. Fry the burgers for five minutes on each side until browned. Due to its supernaturally high beta-carotene content, the oil will color the burgers a bright, light orange; ensure browning takes place so that the egg binding is fully cooked. Transfer burgers to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve burgers as is or dress them up on a bed of salad greens and top with optional garnishes, which do add interesting flavor contrasts as well as visual appeal. Alternatively, you can slide burgers into toasted whole grain rolls. In any case, serve immediately while still hot.
* Red palm oil can be found with limited availability in large, diverse metropolitan areas where African communities reside. Due to its extraordinary health**-benefit profile of high percentiles per tablespoon of Vitamin A (9,333 IUs) and Vitamin E tocopherols and tocotreinols (15 IUs), it can also sometimes be found in health food stores. Despite its solid texture at room temperature, it is not a hydrogenated fat and does not contain trans-fatty acids. It does, however, contain 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, and is not a low-calorie food at the typical 120-130 calories per tablespoon of pure fat.

This recipe is for dear Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, who hosted MLLA 29 for November. Her round-up is already online here.

Priya of Mharo Rasthajan's Recipes is now hosting MLLA 30 for December.


** And speaking of health, seriously good health and seriously healthy eating, please stay tuned for my next post when I review Meg Wolff's A Life in Balance. It's a cookbook that's easy to recommend and a tribute to Meg's commitment to stay alive despite two frightening bouts with cancer. Meg's publisher has sent me an extra copy which I will be giving away a week from the review post. I do hope you can stop by for a winning chance, but most importantly, to learn from Meg's inspiring story what winning chances are all about.