Tag Archives: Starter

{ Brushetta with Prosciutto, Ricotta, Apples, & Olives }

Before almost every meal at my house, I find that there are a few moments where everyone gathers around the kitchen center island, anxiously waiting for dinner to finish cooking. The table has already been set, but the meat may need to rest another minute before carving, or the sauce may have to reduce a bit more before serving. It is during this time that I like to “pre-game” for dinner (confessions of a fat girl) with an appetizer–and bruschetta is always at the top of my list! I steal a few slices of baguette from the bread basket, toast ‘em in the oven or on the grill, and then top them off with any and every thing that I can find in the fridge.

This week, my little sister Ella, turned me onto a new layering of ingredients and flavors, which included; sliced granny smith apples, creamy ricotta cheese, chopped kalamata olives, and thinly sliced prosciutto.  Not going to lie, I had some reservations about these particular food combinations at first, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the sweet and salty contrast of the prosciutto and ricotta. The slightly tart bite of apple also added another unexpected dimension to the plate, and was a refreshing palate cleanser in-between toasts.

If I were to serve this at a party (which I certainly will in the future!), I would allow the guests to create their own toasts by serving the ingredients separately, this way everyone can have exactly the toppings they want. The dish is so simple and relatively inexpensive (cost of ingredients averaging $10 for 6 servings), but it very important that you use quality ingredients–high grade (or homemade) ricotta is a  MUST! (I suggest Wegman’s brand for $3.00). I also suggest that you season the ricotta with a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before serving it…it adds more umph–and looks pretty!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 baguette, sliced on diagonal, 1″ thickness
  • 2 cups high quality (or homemade) ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto

{ To Make the Bruschetta Toasts } Use a silicon brush to coat the sliced baguettes with extra virgin olive oil. Place them on the grill, turning until well toasted on each side (about 3 minutes per side). NOTE: You can also toast the bread in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees, which takes about 5 minutes.

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{ Lentil Soup }

Lentil Soup

When you think of your favorite vegetable, I highly doubt that lentils come to mind. Maybe we forget about them because they are so small, or because they so rarely appear in the American diet, or because they have very little flavor when cooked improperly (which they often are).  Lentils are kind of like lima beans; people find reasons to dislike them…and not just dislike them, but passionately dislike them—with a vengeance! You never really meet someone who is on the fence about lima beans or lentils—either they love them or loathe them. End of story.

Well I just so happen to love both, and have finally found a lentil soup recipe so delicious that it can convert almost any lentil hater. But before I even get to the recipe, let me first give you some other reasons to love lentils (or at least give them a shot). Lentils, despite their tiny size, derive about 26% of their calories from protein, so they are pretty much a super food. They have the third highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp and Health Magazine ranks lentils as one of the five healthiest foods you can eat. Lentils are a staple in India and the Middle East, and its time for Americans to start appreciating their nutritional value as well.

This lentil soup recipe, which is adapted by one from one by Ina Garten, is healthy, filling, cheap to make, and delicious! It doesn’t look very pretty in a bowl (more like a pile of brown mush) but the flavor is strong and incredible. My roommates were a little skeptical when they first saw me eating it (I was hoping they would stay skeptical so I wouldn’t have to share…no such luck), but they too loved it once they tried it. It’s hearty and warm, and really low in fat. Anytime I’m looking to loose a little belly fat, I replace two meals with this soup and it most certainly does the trick!

Also, this soup freezes great since there is no dairy in it. Since I’m only cooking for myself, I like to buy individual plastic containers that I can freeze single servings in. Take it out the night before and heat it up when you’re ready to eat. Most of the time it tastes even better because the flavors have fully developed.

My only cooking suggestion is to make sure that you only use the white part of the leek, because the green part will make the soup taste bitter. It is okay to use some of the lighter green color but if you use too much the bitterness will come through in the broth. Also, if you decide to use dried thyme leaves instead of fresh ones (I do not recommend this), remember that dried herbs are more pungent and therefore require less so I would only use ½ teaspoon of the dried thyme. And as far as salt goes, I don’t add a whole lot because I prefer to top off my bowl with a heaping of freshly grated parmesan cheese, which has a natural saltiness that comes through and flavors the dish, but feel free to add more salt if you find it too bland.

Ohh, and I almost forgot…it is very important that the garlic does not burn when making this soup so when I sauté my veggies in the stockpot (see directions), I add the garlic about 5 minutes after the rest of the veggies.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 pound French green lentils
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ cups celery, diced
  • 1 ½ cups carrots, diced
  • 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

{ To Make Lentil Soup }

In a large glass bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to soak for about 20 minutes, or until lentils soften. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic with the salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the carrots and celery and allow to sauté for about 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils and carrots are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Remove from heat, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to incorporate. Serve hot and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

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