Good Things Lentil-Tomato Soup with Bok Choy and Lemon

This past week I often wondered “is it me?” or “is it them?” when pondering the roller coaster world of photo shoots. To put it mildly this past week was one for the books in all ways. I am still reeling a bit from the drama, the multitudes on all the various sets, the daily mental Rorschach test I needed to do to keep things balanced. Do you have weeks like that?

Along with “the crazy” there are some very good things afoot….one good this weekend is that we “spring forward”into Daylight Savings time and I, for one, love it when I get that extra hour of natural light at the end of the day.  It was also International Women’s Day this past week. I hope you celebrated all the great women in your lives… mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, every last one.  Another good thing was I made comforting, healthy, warm and cozy lentil soup. When the going gets tough, the tough make soup! Soup and laughter can get you through a lot.

Red Lentils, tomatoes, broth, chopped fresh bok chop, lemon juice all cooked together with some herbs served piping hot with an additional squeeze of fresh lemon and toasted baguette slices. Easy, quick and cozy.

Lentils are full of good things as well. An edible legume, they are rich in complex carbohydrates which will boost metabolism and help burn body fat. The are a good source of fiber, low in fat and are good sources of folate and magnesium. Lentils are gluten-free as well. You can have a pot of lentils ready to eat in about 30 minutes more or less which is another good thing.

The lemons add a wonderful flavor layer to this soup which is a cross of tomato soup and lentil soup with a bok choy twist. Enjoy. I you  have leftover, freeze for later. It’s nice to have some good things ready and waiting for when the days get tough!

Good Things Lentil-Tomato Soup with Bok Choy and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of dried red lentils (or any other)
  • 1 can of cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2 to 3 cups water as needed
  • 1 bunch of bok choy, trimmed and chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • lemon wedges for serving
  • toasted baguette slices for serving

Directions:

  1. Rinse lentils well in mesh strainer. Place in a stock pot.
  2. Add can of tomatoes with juice, garlic cloves, broth and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Cook, stirring every now and then, until lentils are just beginning to soften, 20 minutes or so. Add water as lentils cook if needed.
  3. Stir in chopped bok choy and cook for another 10 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Serve piping hot in bowls with lemon wedges for squeezing into soup and toasted baguette slices.
  5. Note: You can freeze leftovers for later if you like or enjoy for lunches later in the week.

Teresa Blackburn.    www. teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

The Politics of Minestrone

dsc_0527

It has been mentioned and implied to me in passing that perhaps a food blog is not a place for politics. I say food is one of the most political things in the world based on the abundance or lack of,  trade agreements between countries, crops and the ability to farm or not farm,  all affected by conflicts, weather, whims and cultures. Every food we eat or drink is influenced by governments here and abroad. Food is something that many have too much of and many more have too little of. If that is not political I am not sure what is. How do you feel about this?

dsc_0483

The greens in this soup recipe were picked and packaged by workers in Southern California, the canned beans and tomatoes, the Parmigiano came from Italy as well as the word “minestrone” meaning ” a thick vegetable soup with or without pasta”.  The white bowl in my photo was made in Portugal, the pepper grinder from France and the salt pot from a ceramicist in Nashville….oh yeah, the sea salt from England. The quality and safety of each is determined by rules and laws set down by local and federal governments. Trade agreements allow us access to these items.. All directly depend on the politics of where they come from and where they are going to end up. Such is the “politics of minestrone”.

dsc_0498

The rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano add a unique flavor to a pot of minestrone. So don’t toss them when you have grated down to the rind, save for soup.

Hearty, easy and comforting. We can all use a little comfort…no?

dsc_0512

This is an interesting website with lots of interesting videos about food that might make you think about all kinds of food and life in some new ways.

March Minestrone Soup

dsc_0512

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss Chard, trimmed & rough chopped
  • 1/2 head of Savoy Cabbage, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh baby Spinach leaves
  • One 28oz. can of whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 quart low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a stock pot heat olive oil and add chopped onion and celery and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in smashed garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
  2. To pot add tomatoes with juice, breaking up whole tomatoes as you add them to the pot with your hands. Stir in the chicken broth and water.
  3. Toss in the Parmigiano rind and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the cut up cabbage and spinach leaves and cook on low for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chard leaves and beans and cook another 15 minutes on a low simmer.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Discard Parmigiano rinds before serving.

Note: This soup is often served with a cooked, small pasta such as mini shells or ditalini. Trying to cut calories wherever I can we just ate as is.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   http://www.foodonfifth.com

“Weekend Kitchen Math – When 4 = 2”

When does 4 equal 2? When  4  first-crop small ripe tomatoes from my garden became 2 simple, fresh meals in just minutes. Each meal uses 2 small ripe tomatoes.  

Weekend meals should be easy to prepare, should incorporate fresh from-your-garden, or the farmer’s market,  vegetables &  fruits, should definitely be enjoyed with a crisp chilled glass of wine and each bite should make you very, very happy.

The thrill is never gone when I find ripe tomatoes in my garden after weeks of waiting, watering and wondering. Saturday morning I found these little jewels hanging ripe on the vine waiting for their close-up.

SATURDAY EVENING SALAD:

2 small ripe garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced

slices of feta cheese

slivers of red, yellow or orange bell pepper

Arugula

A simple vinaigrette

Directions:

1. Arrange tomato slices in a ring around the outside edge of a dinner plate.

2. Add a handful of arugula in the center of the plate.

3. Create “spokes” with the bell pepper strips.

4. Evenly arrange feta slices over tomatoes.

5. Serve with a drizzle of your favorite home-made vinaigrette. Season with sea salt & cracked black pepper.

SUNDAY EVENING PASTA:

1 pkg fresh gnocchi (I used a sweet potato gnocchi) or any other fresh pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

Shredded Spinach leaves

2 small ripe garden tomatoes chopped

Directions:

1. Cook fresh Gnocchi/pasta in boiling salted water for about 2-4 minutes. Drain quickly & return pasta to pan. A few tablespoons of cooking water should be left in the pan.

2. Add a generous 1/2 cup grated Parmesan & toss with pasta & pasta water.

3. Add portions of Gnocchi to serving bowls, sprinkle shredded spinach leaves over the top.

4. Scatter chopped tomatoes  &  additional grated Parmesan. Season with sea salt & black pepper.

Bon Apetit!