Build A Meal 2 – Three-Course Veggieful

Okay, there’s quite a bit of chopping going into this meal, but it’s worth the taste of tons of fresh vegetables.


Tomato Vegetable Soup

Main Course

Creamy Asparagus Penne


Masoor Dhal Salad

Dessert (pick one)

Let’s go with the simple and healthy here… fruit salad.  You want to be a little bit unhealthy?  Add a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream or mascarpone cheese creamed with a little honey and lemon zest.


For something quick and warm, try out my Sweet Pastry Bites.


Carrot Lentil Tahini Soup


1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

4 to 5 large carrots, diced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups red lentils (masoor dhal)

1 quart vegetable stock or water

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp tahini (sesame) paste

Salt & pepper to taste


1.  Saute onions, celery and carrots in oil until just starting to soften.  Add lentils, spices, herbs and vegetable stock.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are soft and the carrots cooked through (about 30 minutes).

2.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the cilantro and tahini paste.  Puree using an immersion blender or, in batches, in a blender.

3.  Return to heat.  Adjust seasonings.  Bring to a simmer.  Serve hot, garnished with some more fresh cilantro.

Vegetarian Lentil Soup


1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, diced

3 carrots, diced

2 tbsp tomato paste

3 ripe tomatoes,diced (or one can peeled, diced tomatoes)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

2 quarts cooking liquid (vegetable stock, water, or a mix)

Salt & pepper to taste

1 or 2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves

1 tbsp red wine vinegar


1.  In a large soup pot, heat the oil and saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots until the vegetables are just starting to soften.  Add the tomato paste, mix well and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are just starting to stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add the fresh tomatoes and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.

2.  Add the cumin powder, herbs, lentils, salt, pepper and cooking liquid.  Stir well.  Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat.  Continue to simmer until the lentils are cooked and soup has thickened (about 45 minutes).

3.  Taste and adjust seasonings per your preference.  Stir in the spinach leaves and red wine vinegar.  Serve hot with salad or crusty bread.

Masoor Dhal Salad


1 cup whole masoor dhal (red lentils)

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/2 cup cucumber, seeded and diced

4 scallions, both white and green parts, diced (feel free to swap out for finely chopped red onion for stronger flavor)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste


1.  Cook masoor dhal in water until just done.  Do not overcook as the dhal will become mushy.  Drain and set aside to cool.

2.  In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper.  Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times.

3.  When the masoor dhal is cool, combine with the veggie mixture.  Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold.

Curried Coconut Lentil Stew With Easy Rice Pilaf


Sorry for the break between posts.  We spent a long weekend at home with my parents and I hardly did anything in the kitchen but help my mom a bit.  I did make a big vat of Italian vegetable soup so that my parents would have some home-cooked soup for lunch for a few days.  The original recipe is from Canyon Ranch, if you’re interested.  It’s a very adaptable recipe and I frequently change out ingredients depending on my mood.  My only changes this week were substituting chick peas for cannelini beans, omitting the fennel and cheese, and adding a little ditalini to bulk up the soup into a one-pot meal.

Anyway, it was a long drive, we returned very late and I didn’t much feel like doing the grocery shopping or cooking the next day.  So, we ended up with a pot full of whatever I had in the pantry… which turned out to be some spicy curried coconut lentil stew and a simple basmati rice pilaf.


1 tbsp olive or canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

2 or 3 serrano chillies

3 stalks celery, diced

3 medium carrots, sliced into rounds

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tbsp curry powder

1 1/4 cups brown lentils, washed

6 cups water or vegetable broth

1/2 cup frozen corn (or fresh)

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 15-oz can coconut milk

3 cups kale, chopped into thin strips (including stalks)

1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped

Salt to taste


1.  Heat the oil in a 5-qt pot.  Add the onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, celery and carrots.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and curry powder.  Saute for a few minutes, until the spices become fragrant.

2.  Add the lentils, water or broth, and one tsp salt, and mix well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the corn and continue to simmer until both the corn and lentils are cooked.  Add water or broth if the stew is getting too dry.

3.  Add the frozen peas, kale and coconut milk.  Still on low heat, allow the stew to reach a simmer, and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste and stir well.

4.  Remove from heat, garnish with parsley or cilantro, and serve over rice or as is.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to two days.

For the rice

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp cumin seeds

8 peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

3 or 4 cardamom pods

1 1/2 cups basmati rice, uncooked

Salt to taste

3 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth

1.  Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom pods.  Saute until fragrant and cumin seeds just begin to darken.

2.  Add the rice and saute, stirring continuously, until much of the rice has turned opaque white (instead of translucent).  Do not allow any of the rice to brown.

3.  Remove from heat and pour into an electric rice cooker.  Add one tsp salt and 3 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth.  Turn on the cooker.

4.  When the rice is cooked, fluff and serve immediately.  Can be stored in the fridge for a day or two.