Chicken and Rice Soup.

I started out the week feeling a bit under the weather. On Monday, I got home from after-work cocktails, ate a quick dinner, and got right into bed. Still not at my best on Tuesday, I went right home after work and decided to jump on my sickness problem with an good old-fashioned remedy: I poured a glass of red wine and made this soul-warming soup…which I ate in bed under my cozy comforter while watching the Cubs lose another game. I’ll be sure to make a note here if I make a miraculous soup-driven recovery, but either way, mannnn was this soup good. Most soups with this much flavor take at least an hour or two to cook, but this one only takes about 45 minutes total! Lightly spiced chicken, rice, and veggies in a warm, comforting broth: just what a sick girl needs.

INGREDIENTS

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup brown rice
1 tsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium potato, diced
6 cups stock or broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried marjoram leaves

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350. Season the chicken breast with cumin, ginger, red pepper flakes, coriander, salt, and pepper. Wrap it in foil and bake until just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

In a small pot, cook rice according to package directions. We want the rice slightly “al dente,” since it will be going in the soup pot after it’s cooked.

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat butter and add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Cook about 3 minutes, until starting to soften.

Pour in stock or broth and season with parsley, marjoram, salt, and pepper (be generous with the pepper!). Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 20 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked, shred or cut it up into bite size pieces and add it to the pot. Cook an additional 10 minutes or so.

Garnish with fresh parsley and prepare to be comfort-fooded.

Baba Ganoush.

I’m no farmer and I don’t know anything about the seasonality of produce. Visiting most American grocery stores, the average shopper would have no idea when various fruits and veggies were in season, because stores sell pretty much everything, all year round. And while it can be nice to have fresh avocados in winter and apples in spring, there’s really nothing as good as in-season local produce, picked by farmers and eaten by me on the very same day! On Saturday morning at the farmers market, I saw more eggplants in more different varieties than I even knew existed, so my keen non-farmer Spidey Sense tells me it must be eggplant season in the midwest. I picked up a nice big one and made this classic Middle Eastern roasted eggplant spread. Go get your own before the season passes!

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
2 tsp lemon juice
fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 tsp hot paprika, plus more for dusting
salt and pepper to taste

A successful morning at the farmers market.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Pierce eggplant 8 times. Place on hot grill or directly on gas stove over medium high flame. Turn so that each side chars evenly.

When the skin is charred, remove from heat.

Stuff garlic cloves into the slits in the eggplant.

Roast on baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is completely softened. Set aside to cool.

While eggplant cools, combine all other ingredients in a bowl.

When the eggplant has cooled enough to touch, cut off the stem and peel off as much of the skin as you can.

Cut into three pieces and add to a food processor along with all other ingredients.

Spoon into a bowl and dust with more paprika. I forgot to do it for the photo, but an extra drizzle of olive oil isn’t a bad idea either.

Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets.

The end of a bag of lentils sitting in my pantry, a great little beet stand at the farmers market, and a passionate and undying love of goat cheese contributed to my creation of this lentil salad. Goat cheese and lentils are fine and dandy, but I’m definitely not a beet lover. I do enjoy them from time to time, but I’m picky about how they’re prepared. Luckily, goat cheese is a beet’s best friend. Throw these two buddies over a well-dressed lentil salad and you’ve got yourself a dish that will make non-members of the beet chorus change their tune! Oh, and I forgot to mention, there’s bacon, too. Just in case you needed more convincing.

INGREDIENTS

3 small beets, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for the beets
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus 3 sprigs
squeeze of honey
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 cup French lentils
bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
4 cups chicken stock
4 strips bacon
2 shallots, minced
goat cheese

DIRECTIONS

First, get the beets a-roastin’.  Preheat oven to 375 F. Rub the beets with a bit of olive oil and wrap them in foil. Set them on a pan and roast for about 45 minutes, until fork tender.

When the beets have cooled enough to touch, slice them.

Next, the dressing. Whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, vinegar, mustard, 1 tsp chopped thyme, honey, and salt and pepper. Let it sit a while so the flavors can marry.

To prepare the lentils, bring stock, bay leaf, and sprigs of thyme and parsley to a boil.

Stir in lentils, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

In a large frying pan, cook bacon until browned to your liking and remove from pan. Don’t drain off the grease.

Turn off the heat and add shallots to pan with hot bacon grease. Cook for 1 minute, until they just start to brown.

Drain lentils and remove bay leaf, parsley, and thyme, and add lentils to warm pan with the shallot. Stir in most of the dressing and then taste, and add more dressing if you need it. Garnish with bacon bits, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced beets. Dig in!

Herbed White Bean Dip.

I made chili with the first can of accidentally-purchased white beans; now, what to do with the second can? I considered making another batch of that heavenly chili, but a brave chef would branch out and try something new. And I really do try to be a brave chef, after all. So I took the advice of my cousin Caitie and my reader Laurie and made a bean dip. This herby, spicy dip is a great substitute for hummus (ironically, that’s what I meant to make when I picked up these cans of beans in the first place!), but spread a hefty scoop on a sandwich and you’ll go nuts! A totally guilt-free dip or spread–what more could I ask for from an ingredient I bought by accident?!

INGREDIENTS

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/8 tsp fresh lemon balm, minced
1/4 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
generous pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste (you’re gonna need more salt that you think, so go easy and add more as needed)
1 can great northern beans or other white beans, drained
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a food processor: first the gorgeous garlic, herbs, and spices.

Then the beans and olive oil.

Blitz everything until you reach desired consistency. Add more olive oil as needed. Then add more cayenne pepper because you didn’t add enough the first time.

Garnish with parsley and serve with warm pita bread, tortilla chips, spread on a sandwich, or my favorite, with orange and purple carrot sticks.

Watercress and Radish Salad with Mustard Jalapeño Vinaigrette.

The farmers market had some beautiful watercress and radishes on Saturday, so I picked up a few bunches of each, content in the knowledge that a yummy salad was in my future. Most of the time, I’m not a salad fan–or more accurately, not a lettuce fan. I’ve found that the salads in my life fall into two categories: boring or bad for you. That’s why, when I think of a salad like this one, which is neither boring nor bad for you, I get really excited and have to share it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp orange marmalade
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, rinsed
1 bunch radishes, rinsed and sliced
1/2 tomato, diced

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, marmalade, shallot, jalapeño, parsley, and salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine watercress, radishes, and tomato. Toss all ingredients together.

Pile onto a plate and  sprinkle with more pepper. Enjoy!

Upside-Down French Onion Soup.

Named for its backwards assembly, this dreamy dish is similar to your standard French onion soup, except you serve it upside-down! The “croutons” go on the bottom, the soup sits on top, and the cheese goes everywhere. Drool. And if you hate wasting things as much as I do, this is the perfect way to use up the stale leftovers of easy French bread or any other baguette-type bread. With butter, cheese, chicken broth, garlic, and fresh herbs, it’s is the ultimate comfort food. A word of warning, though: while the onion-shallot-garlic trio makes for awesome rich flavor, I discourage anyone from eating this potent soup prior to a date or a job interview, unless the date (or the job) is a garlic farmer. If your date is a garlic farmer, you’re in luck! Because this recipe serves 2.

INGREDIENTS

1 pad butter
olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices stale French bread (I used easy French bread), cut in halves
chopped parsley and grated gruyere cheese for serving

DIRECTIONS

Over medium flame, heat butter and olive oil in a pot and add onion.

Cook until softened and add garlic and shallot. Cook 2 minutes.

Add thyme and bay leaf and pour in chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper. To serve, place bread in a bowl, spoon soup over it, then garnish with parsley and gruyere. Best served piping hot!