Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Lentilles du Puy.  Three little words.  With such Big. Whoppin’. Impact.  French green lentils expound my incessant love affair with the South of France.  I discovered these petit buggers during our first lunch in Provence .  It was love at first bite, I tell ya.  Upon (reluctantly) returning home, I hunt down these all-star dried legumes and start to dream of the many ways to incorporate such a mini-tour-de-force into our meals.  They are the Mighty Mouse of all legumes, a powerhouse of nutrition stored in the smallest of packages.


And, they’re so darn pretty to look at – smooth, curvy, with a shade of blue-green that a Benjamin Moore paint color could be named after – that I barely want to cook them.  All these years of befriending only their musty, brown siblings.  What was I thinking?  I will make up for lost time.  French green lentils are now a part of our staples, just like milk, bread and um…chocolate.  I get immense comfort knowing my staples are resting quietly behind closed doors, ready at a moment’s notice whenever I need them.  I also feel immense happiness after simple staples transform themselves into a super tasty, nutritious, and satisfying meal.

French green lentils + some garlic + some fresh thyme + mirepoix, with a toss of cumin and broth, equals a soup that will have you coming back for seconds, and dare I say, thirds.  This stuff is so good, that I’ve eaten it the following day (when Tony doesn’t finish it off) cold, straight from the fridge, for lunch – or breakfast even.  It’s usually a race to see who gets to it first.  Hence, the breakfast option.


Lucky for us, a much needed summer storm fell our way with thunder, lightning and the works (which is pretty special in our neck of the woods) and offered me the perfect opportunity to dust off the Le Creuset and prepare a batch of French Green Lentil Soup.  The cool evening breeze and the smell of just fallen rain made the perfect backdrop for a trip down memory lane to Provence, the South of France and those three little words, Lentilles du Puy.


French Green Lentil Soup
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten

French green lentils are available in your specialty food store or by mail-order.  I buy them right in our bulk food section.  If you love this soup, don’t forget to check out my favorite potato and leek soup and pumpkin soup.

Music Pairing: C’est L’amour, Edith Piaf


  • 1/2 cup French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 medium onions)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano


In a small bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain. In a dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onions, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Uncover and check the soup periodically to ensure there is enough broth and/or water to cover the lentils.  Add more if needed.  Check the seasonings and adjust to taste.  Stir in red wine vinegar.  Serve hot, topped with a dollop of sour cream, cilantro and sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

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My favorite Thai restaurant taunts me with a green papaya salad that I can’t get enough of, especially during these summer months.  Throughout the hellacious years of remodeling our house, we’d frequently get takeout and marshal our goods, which nearly always included this green papaya salad, to a nearby beach for dinner, whilst our poor kitchen stood bathed in two inches of dust.  With the home projects (finally) complete, I became fixated on making the salad in my own kitchen.  Unfortunately, my quest for fresh green papaya, I quickly discovered, came up empty handed time and time again, on our cloistered little Island.

What to do, what to do.  One day, while browsing through the produce isle, I noticed a lonely basket of jicama, wedged uncomfortably into a corner.  Ah ha!  I immediately grabbed one and thought it might serve as a good substitute for the green papaya I pined after.

Upon reflection, I now see the error of my ways.  All this time, I could have been utilizing and appreciating the deliciousness of these strange looking, thick skinned, turnip-like creatures I so often passed by.  Jicama have a crisp, refreshing crunch, similar to that of a water chestnut, only better.  They are quite mild, with a hint of sweetness, and a good source of Vitamin C.  Plus, the word jicama sounds cute.  This simple jicama and mango salad comes together in a snap and is perfect for summer months when all you crave is a light, refreshing salad that is full of lip smacking flavor to boot.  We still go to the beach for dinner, but now I can pack a picnic with my new tasty salad and finally let go of my longing for the green papaya.


Jicama and Mango Salad
Kiss My Spatula’s version of the papaya salad from her favorite Thai restaurant

When choosing jicama, make sure they are firm when squeezed and have smooth, unblemished skins.  To make this salad into a full meal, top with grilled or boiled shrimp.

Music Pairing: Johnny Nash, I Can See Clearly Now


  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into matchsticks about 2-3 inches long
  • 1/2 medium mango, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha hot chili sauce (more if you like it H-O-T)


Gently toss together jicama, carrots, mango and mint in a large bowl.  Whisk fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, brown sugar, water and hot chili sauce in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust to your liking.  Toss with prepared jicama blend until coated.  Leave to sit in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Plate and sprinkle with peanuts and additional mint, if desired.


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Growing up half Vietnamese and half Chinese, many family dinners revolved around fish and vegetable dishes straight from the motherland.  Mom’s creations were always simple, fresh and super delicious.  She never had a recipe for any of them.  Not one.  They were all passed down through word of mouth and simple observation from my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all previous generations before them.  One of my all-time favorite dishes involved the steaming of catfish, with a sauce for dipping that was good enough to drink.

I remember years ago, while living in Chicago, I had dinner at a very popular, so-called “upscale French-Vietnamese restaurant”.  I was already rather skeptical (and quite disturbed) upon entering what appeared to be a Hollywood set of Casablanca.  All the diners even looked like actors pretending to eat.  Perusing through the menu, I spotted their steamed fish and decided to give it a try.  Besides being served on a small banana leaf, it tasted almost exactly the same as Mom’s.  From that evening on, I knew what the term “French-Vietnamese restaurant” really meant.  It meant being able to charge $40 for a dish that could be made for less than $10.

It was a good lesson learned.  I still love steamed fish, and in particular, steamed halibut.  And, I love my handy, dandy steamer.  I truly couldn’t live without it.  In less than 10 minutes flat, the fish is perfectly cooked and a healthy, delicious dinner is on the table.  Thanks, Mom!


Steamed Halibut
Kiss My Spatula’s version of her Mom’s steamed catfish

Feel free to substitute the halibut for any flaky, white fish such as red snapper, catfish, cod or sea bass.

Music Pairing: Old Friends, Simon and Garfunkel, The Concert in Central Park


  • 2 halibut steaks, 1-inch thick, skin removed (about 1 pound total)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp thinly sliced ginger (more, if you are a ginger lover like me)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • handful of chopped cilantro


Add 2-3 inches of water to the bottom of a steamer and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, place halibut steaks on a plate that fits inside the steamer.  Lightly salt and pepper steaks.  Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a small bowl.  Spoon sauce over halibut steaks.  Get every last bit.  Top with ginger and 1/2 of the scallions.  Steam for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of halibut steak.  Check water level occasionally during cooking to ensure steaming water does not evaporate fully.  Add more boiling water if needed.  Remove from steamer and top with reserved scallions and cilantro.  Serve immediately with rice and a side of stir fried vegetables.


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