Spicy Red Lentil Soup: A Recipe from the Damselfly Inn

Something a little hot just for you!

A few fictional years  have passed since Nan Grady was feeding her friends at the Damselfly Inn, but she’s still very much a voice in my head. Married now, and going by Nan Fuller, and still feeding her friends. I imagine them gathered around the big farm table in her kitchen, guests out enjoying the art museum or a play at the college, or warming up by the fire in the parlor. It’s cold and snowy outside. The pastures are white; the Fuller herd is in the barns. The sun goes down early, so the sky outside is dark, but the lights are burning bright in the yellow Victorian on County Road, and soup is on the menu.

Nan likes easy comfort food, but with a little something spicy and unexpected, so this recipe is one I can easily see her making. Pull up a seat at her table, and enjoy!

  • 2 T. coconut oil (olive is fine, too)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • fresh grated ginger to taste (I used a couple of tablespoons)*
  • 1 T. Thai red curry paste*
  • 2 T. Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Tuong Ot Toi)*
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 T.  finely chopped garlic*
  • 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds*
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander*
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric*
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 4 c. vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • good pinch of saffron threads*
  • chopped fresh cilantro (if you’re into that)
  • plain greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, then sauté the onions until they are softened and translucent, but not browned. Add everything from the ginger to the turmeric and sauté for a minute. Dump in the tomatoes, broth, and lentils. Give it a stir, then add the saffron threads. Simmer for about 15 minutes. If you like, you can immersion blend it at the end for smoothness, but it’s not necessary.

Serve topped with cilantro and yogurt (or other dairy). Yum!

*Basically, adjust all the flavors to suit what you like.

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Cam’s Food Lab: Those Serious Eats Noodle Jars That Are Probably All Over Pinterest

The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous) | Serious Eats.

The article above grabbed my attention a while ago, when it made the rounds in my Facebook feed. It took me a couple of weeks to get around to trying it out, which is a shame, BECAUSE IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.

A daily infusion of gingery broth, noodles, fresh veggies, and a touch of heat… IN A JAR.

I have a Fresh Instant Noodles Caps Lock problem.

The concept is so simple. Layer wet stuff first, then veg, then dry stuff, then noodles, then fresh stuff, and close it up until it’s time to eat. Then add hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Voilà! Comfort food without the massive MSG and gratuitous fat infusion.

The actual article outlines the technique and 5 basic “recipes,” but I went off-script from the start. Mark makes a variation on Vietnamese Mi Hoahn Than that I adore, and my favorite stir fry is Chicken and Bok Choy in Ginger Sauce, so… I mixed them up, and camp up with this beauty:



Start with about a teaspoon of chicken Better Than Boullion, a pinch of minced garlic, as much chili-garlic paste as you like, and a generous tablespoon of grated fresh ginger.

Layer in matchsticks of red bell pepper–maybe an eighth of a good-sized pepper, and thinly sliced bok choy, leaves too! I buy the baby ones, and use two stalks or so. Then, sliced dried shiitake mushrooms and a little bit of chopped turkey jerky. I swear, it softens just a little in the water, and it’s perfect. Add a little handful of packaged, pre-cooked hokkien stir-fry noodles.

The original article suggests putting the garnishes in a plastic bag, but I find they work just fine for a few hours resting atop the noodle layer. I use the white and pale green parts of a scallion, sliced thin, and a large pinch of finely chopped fresh cilantro.

I also like my soup on the scalding hot side, so I add the boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and then empty the jar into a bowl and zap it in the office microwave for a minute. Lunch is served.

Ginger Bok Choy Fresh Instant Noodle Soup Unjarred

So much goodness in that bowl.

Now, go forth and create your own. Let me know how it goes.

Potato Salad

This one is for Sarah. And I have Nathan to thank for it. Now he makes beer. Mmmm…. beer.

Mustard-Roasted Potato Salad

Preheat your oven as high as it will go. If you use sheet pans to roast, line them with oiled foil or parchment. I like my nonstick roasting pan. I am also the world’s laziest dishwasher.

Scrub and rough chop 5 pounds of potatoes. I prefer a waxier potato like a yukon gold or white potato. Though, in the spirit of the friends above, a Maine potato will do nicely. Now slice the white parts of a bunch of scallions. Reserve the greens for later.

Add the cut potatoes and scallions to some olive oil–a few good glugs–and about a cup of mustard. I use a blend of spicy brown and dijon, but grainy works, yellow works. This recipe is all about easy. Toss in some salt, cracked black pepper, and a handful of fresh thyme sprigs. Mix it all up, coating the potatoes well. Arrange it on sheet pans or a raosting pan in a single layer–this is for even caramelization, which is key.

Roast this mess for about 45 minutes, turning the potatoes once during cooking. When they’re browned and roasted, and have begun to dry out just a touch, pull them out and cool to room temperature.

Ready? You’re basically done.

When they’re cool, pick out the thyme sprigs, which will probably have shed their leaves into the potatoes during cooking. Mix the potatoes with about 2 cups of plain, fat-free Greek style yogurt. Slice the scallion greens and toss them with the potato mixture.

Let the mixture hang out in the fridge for a while to marry the deliciousness.

Enjoy. It’s so good!

Bragging Rights

You’re invited to a Purim party/Hamantaschen bake-off.

While you have eaten your weight in Hamantaschen over the years, you’ve never actually made  the delicious little tri-cornered darlings yourself.

You go to Smitten Kitchen. You are, as always, rewarded.

You eschew traditional poppy seed filling in favor of lemon curd and Boysenberry jam.

You realize four hours before judging that you have neither the called-for lemon nor the ambition to go get one.

You swap in a clementine.

You bake up delicious Hamantaschen.

You win the bake-off!!!

You feel slightly like a fraud, since your ‘taschen are, like yourself, all Gentile.

But you still won.

You feel compelled to share the recipe you tweaked.

Brag Worthy Hamantaschen

Bragworthy Tiny ‘taschen
adapted from the Smitten Kitchen recipe

1 c. confectioners sugar
2 c. flour
1/4 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
zest of 1 clementine
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp., diced
2 eggs, separated
a splash of milk
lemon curd (I used Dickinson’s that I bought at Stop & Shop)
boysenberry jam (I used Trappist*, cause the monastary is near where I grew up.)

Bust out your food processor, plunk sugar through zest in and pulse it to blend. Your Small Sous Chef can help with the pulse button. Buttons, as we all know, are awesome. Now, get your button pusher to switch to On.

With the machine running, pour in your yolks and cubed butter and let it go until the dough comes together in a mass. Have your child stop the machine, then disappoint him by not allowing him to play with the wicked sharp blade remove the dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for an hour at least.

Roll the dough out less that 1/4″ thin. Have your Small Sous Chef help you cut 2 1/2″ rounds with the rim of a wineglass a cutter. Transfer your rounds to two parchment lined trays.

We yielded 4 dozen plus a small ball of raw dough for Mark to sample.

Now, fill half of them with approximately a teaspoon of lemon curd and half with approximately a teaspoon of jam. Mix your reserved eggwhite with a spash of milk. Brush the edges of the ‘taschen with this egg wash. Pinch the sides into three corners. Brush the tops and sides lightly with more egg wash.

Chill for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I baked mine for 15 minutes per tray, one tray at a time.

When they’ve cooled a little, transfer to a cooling rack.

Bring them to a bake-off and bring home your bragging rights!

*the irony is not lost on me

Better Than Sex?

Friday night was my dear friend N’s birthday party, a beer and cheese themed birthday party! I thought well, play to your strengths, woman! bring a cheesecake!

What cheesecake to bring, though? So I flipped open my go to cake book, The Whimsical Bakehouse. I read this on page 46:

A customer once said our Mocha Chocolate Chip Cheesecake was better than sex.

Friends, that it is mighty claim, indeed. Gauntlet? Thrown.

Here’s what I ended up doing, screw ups included. The results? Quite a few people who read here ate some. Your comments will be appreciated. I dunno about better than sex, myself, but it was pretty damn good.

Thanks, Fibby, for both of the photos!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 Package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1/4 c. + 2 T. sugar
4.5 oz. melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 10″ x 2″ springform pan. (If you’re me, your springform is 9″ x 2″ and you just plunged merrily ahead.) Wrap the bottom and outside of the pan in foil and set it in a large, deep roasting pan.

Put the cookies in a ziplock bag, seal it, and smash the bejeezus out of it with a rolling pin or saucepan or frying pan or meat tenderizer (not the pointy kind, the flat kind!).

Combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl and blend until moist. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of and about an inch up the springform pan. Set this aside while the oven preheats and you make the filling.

1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. instant espresso powder
2 pounds cream cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 1/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the cream in a small saucepan to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the powdered espresso. Let the mixture cool a little while you whip the cream cheese.

In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone on medium speed until it’s smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl thoroughly and often. Reduce the speed to low, and add in the warm cream, beating to incorporate, scraping often. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating only until they are incorporated into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (If, like me, you flagrantly ignored the pan size recommendations, you will have about an 8 oz. take out container’s worth of extra batter. Your spouse may or may not eat this raw.) Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the batter, and swirl them into the batter with a butter knife. Fill the roasting pan about 1″ full of hot water, and pop the whole thing into the oven. Bake for 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake looks just set and doesn’t wiggle too much if you gently nudge the pan.

Take it out and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Chill it overnight for the cool, dense texture that makes cheesecake so very divine.

About twenty minutes before serving, make the ganache.

4 oz. dark chocolate, rough chopped
4 oz. heavy cream

Heat the cream to a simmer in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let the hot cream melt the chocolate. Whisk the mixture until thick and combined. Let the ganache stand for a few minutes until it’s body temperature or cooler.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan, then release the springform sides. Pour the ganache onto the center of the cake, and gently smooth it across the top, allowing just a little to drip over the sides.

Dish it up with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday!” and two dozen craft brews to taste!