Lentil Soup Warm My Heart


I love soup.  Especially in winter, when the icy cold winds seem to penetrate my body & soul.  Enter the lentil, specifically the Lentil du Puy or the French green lentil.  I adore the earthy flavor of these legumes and how they hold their shape even after cooking for an extended period.  Combined with a few aromatic ingredients, this tiny bean makes a pot full of soup that provides lots of fiber and protein, together with fantastic flavor and texture.  I promise it will warm your heart too.


The process is simple, wash the lentils in a strainer and pay attention to be sure there is no foreign matter mixed in (I’ve found tiny, tiny stones on occasion).  Sauté aromatic vegetables and herbs of your choice in either oil or butter, I like to add lots of ground pepper but wait to add salt later as it can impede the cooking of the legume.  If you have it handy, splash a few tablespoons of sherry, red or white wine or white vermouth onto the sautéed vegetables.  Add the lentils, add stock or water to cover the contents of the solids in the pot by a couple of inches, a tablespoon of tomato paste and simmer uncovered for a couple of hours, stirring every so often.  Add more water if the soup seems way too thick.

This time, I used 2 ribs of celery, 3 carrots, 1/2 red onion, 1 plum tomato chopped, 1 shallot, 2 cloves of garlic and lots of fresh thyme.  After sautéing the vegetables and herbs, I splashed a few tablespoons of dry sherry into the pot (You can skip this step, but I like to build the flavor and I had it.  Red or white wine or vermouth would work too).  I used water as I was gifting soup to a friend who is vegetarian but I have also used chicken or beef broth in the past.  When the soup had cooked for a couple of hours, I added a box of chopped fresh white button mushrooms and a handful of chopped, soft, sun dried tomatoes that I had sautéed together first for about 10 minutes.

Sauté of aromatic vegetables and herbs

After simmering, taste for seasoning and serve.  If you like a more pureed texture, you can use a handheld blender to puree some or all of the soup.  Sometimes I will puree a bit of the soup but always like to leave a portion of the lentils whole, as I like the texture. If you like, you can add some water if the soup is too thick for your liking.

The soup is so much better when made the day before, if you can wait.  Try toasting a piece of good bread, rubbing it with a clove of garlic which has been peeled, and then drizzling extra virgin olive oil over it, then place the toast in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the hot soup on top.

Warm my heart, lentil soup.

Lentil Soup

Cranberry Blaahg

raw materials

raw materials

I’ve never been the type of person to suffer from any holiday blues, but this does not mean that I don’t appreciate that others do.
So of course, my answer to holiday depression is….(wait for it) food!
Cranberries, ruby red on the plate with their combination of sweet, tart, and bitter flavors can be transformed in so many ways.
I love the various consistencies ranging from gelatinous (hello, my daughter’s favorite canned variety which keeps it’s shape for life, with the ridges still visible even after removed from the can) to the smooth and silky yet still textural conserve version, which is my favorite.
I’ve been making this raspberry version of cranberry sauce for years – because I love raspberries and California raspberries, while not local, are pretty good in November combined and cooked with cranberries.  I’d be telling a lie if I didn’t say that I am hesitant to even share how simple this recipe is, because I’m pretty sure people think it’s a big deal to make. (Shhh).  Get over your holiday blues with my Cranberry Blaahg and recipe for fast, fresh, simple + delicious conserves.

Cranberry Raspberry Conserves 

  •  2 pints of fresh raspberries
  • 16 oz fresh cranberries (rinsed, picked, stems removed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBS Chambord black raspberry liquor (optionally delish)

One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that there are only 5 ingredients + water.

 Combine everything together except the Chambord, in a large pot.  Be sure the pot is ample enough, as this mixture will bubble and foam up. Notice my smaller sized pot which bubbled over into a very sticky mess…don’t do this!
Cook on a medium high heat until everything starts to bubble and foam.
Bubbling cranberries and raspberries

Bubbling cranberries and raspberries

Reduce your heat to medium and stir.
When you start to hear the cranberries pop and everything starts to break down and looks saucy, you are done.  Add the Chambord now, if you choose to use it.
cooked and reduced berries, sugar and water

cooked and reduced berries, sugar and water

Because cranberries are naturally high in pectin, the conserves will be naturally jelled upon cooling.  Additionally, you will be happy to know that cranberries are an antioxidant and a super food.
Cool and refrigerate, conserves will keep for up to a week (if it lasts that long).  Excellent on cold meat sandwiches (turkey, pork, roast beef, chicken or ham – you choose) and as a condiment with cheeses.
Cranberry Raspberry Conserves

Cranberry Raspberry Conserves

Simmering Peppers in Syrup

Simmering Peppers in Syrup


My sister came for dinner bearing edible treats, a large package of beautiful Mariachi Peppers in bright orangey red.  They came from a farm via the Headhouse Farmers’ Market at Headhouse Square, which is the once a week outdoor market in our hood.  I immediately sliced one open to taste (love heat and hot peppers).  They were described to her as “not very spicy,” but I beg to differ.  My pepper slice definitely rated highly on the Scoville scale.

I stared at the bowl of colorful heat on the counter for several days, watching them start to shrivel, pondering which way I was going to prepare the peppers so that my family and I could continue to enjoy them.  My first idea was home made hot sauce, but I already had a jar of that lurking in the fridge.  And then it came to me – a sweet, savory and spicy vision; a condiment for cheese, sandwiches, soups and more.

I simply sliced the peppers into 1″ rings with their seeds (the seeds is where most of the heat resides and I like that), and then combined 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water, 1 tsp sea salt and about 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar in a medium sized pot.  I brought this simple syrup mixture to a simmer and cooked it for about 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar and slightly reduce the liquid.  I then added the peppers to the simmering syrup and cooked the mixture at a lively boil for about 10 minutes, until the peppers were softened and the mixture thickened.  The air in my kitchen was spicy and fragrant from the peppers and vinegar.

When the pepper mixture cooled, I transferred it to a glass Ball jar and marveled at the glossy, colorful contents.  The syrupy liquid is sweet, spicy and a bit tart from the vinegar.  I imagine drizzling it into my soups and using it to glaze grilled or roasted meats and vegetables. I even like the idea of sparingly adding it to some super chilled tequila and lime, in the style of my favorite current cocktail “Blue Heat” at Vernick.

The pepper slices are begging to find their way onto a cracker with some sharp cheese or even better yet, into a proper Italian Hoagie on a fresh, South Philly roll.

Thanks sister.

Candied, Pickled, Mariachi Peppers

Candied, Pickled, Mariachi Peppers

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup


I like to make this dairy free, vegetarian soup when tomatoes are at their peak ripeness, end of summer. Look for large, meaty plum tomatoes, ideally. Caramelizing the tomato, fennel and shallot amplifies their sweetness, creating many layers of fantastic flavor. I like to serve this garnished with a slice of toasted baguette spread with creamy goat cheese

  • 2TBS + 1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, peeled, trimmed and halved
  • 8 Large plum tomatoes, trimmed and halved
  • 1 Fennel Bulb, trimmed and cut into quarters, reserving the dark green leafy fronds, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, trimmed and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Pre heat oven to 400°F
  2. Toss tomatoes, fennel and shallot with 2 TBS of oil and spread onto a non-stick sheet pan.  Place tomatoes cut side up.  Season liberally with salt and black pepper.
  3. Place pan in hot oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until vegetables start to sizzle and caramelize, looking browned.  Remove pan from oven.
  4.  While vegetables are cooking in the oven, heat remaining oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Sauté carrots sprinkled with 2 TBS of the reserved fennel fronds, stirring often for about 5 minutes until wilted and softened.
  5. Add the contents of the sheet pan, including all of the accumulated juices to the pot with the carrots. Add 4 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste to the pot.
  6. Simmer the pot on medium for 10 minutes, stirring often and taste for seasoning.
  7. Transfer contents of pot to a blender, carefully.   You may have to do this in 2 or 3 batches; blend all ingredients very well and transfer mixture to a clean pot. 
  8. Re-heat and serve immediately or allow to cool, refrigerating and serving the next day reheated.
Serves 6
Note:   Be extra careful when blending hot ingredients in a blender to allow some hot air to escape while blending ingredients, by slightly moving lid to a side position or removing the center plastic part of the lid and covering with a towel so the ingredients don’t splatter.  Neglecting this step can cause a hot explosion.

Red Snapper with Feta, Artichokes and Dill




  • (4) 6 oz  red snapper fillets (skin on)
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup hellmans mayonnaise
  • 1 small clove peeled garlic, minced finely or pressed
  • 2 tbs greek feta cheese
  • 1 tbs reggiano parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts in water, drained well and roughly chopped
  • 1 plum tomato chopped in small dice
  • 1tbs fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 2 tbs fresh dill, chopped finely
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees (really)

For the artichoke topping

  1. Mix, mayonnaise, 1 tbs lemon juice, garlic, feta, parmigiano, artichoke hearts, tomato, mint and 1 tbs of dill in a small bowl, combining thoroughly.  Season to taste w/ black pepper and salt, being careful with the salt as the feta is very salty.

For the Fish

  1. Oil the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil and place snapper fillets, skin side down in pan.  Season fillets liberally with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice rubbing into fish well.
  2. Top each fillet with a generous amount of topping, spreading evenly to coat the top of fish.  Roast fish in preheated oven for approximately  15 minutes, until fish is just cooked.  Allow fish to rest, loosely covered for 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle remaining 1 tbs of dill onto fillets and serve immediately.


Serves 4



Maple Glazed Acorn Squash

This simple vegetable dish is Autumn on a plate with its striking colors of deep green skin and golden orange flesh. The sugars in the squash caramelize beautifully creating a full, rich flavor in the mouth, and the maple syrup creates a candy like coating. For the non-squash lovers, this is like a combination of sweet potato and carrot, delicious directly out of the oven but equally as divine cold the next day!

This simple vegetable dish is Autumn on a plate with its striking colors of deep green skin and golden orange flesh. The sugars in the squash caramelize beautifully creating a full, rich flavor in the mouth, and the maple syrup creates a candy like coating. For the non-squash lovers, this is like a combination of sweet potato and carrot, delicious directly out of the oven but equally as divine cold the next day!

  • 1 acorn squash, washed, cut in eighths, seeds removed
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & fresh black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 375°f
  2. Place squash on a foil lined sheet pan with sides and drizzle with olive oil.  Using your hands, toss squash with oil until well coated on all sides.
  3. Sprinkle with liberal amounts of salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast in for 20 minutes skin side down, or until tender and starting to brown.
  5. Pour maple syrup over squash slices, brushing to coat well and continue to roast for another 5 – 10 minutes, until everything is glazed and bronze.
  6. Transfer to serving dish and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Sautéed Zucchini and Summer Squash with Herbs

Quickly sautéed mixed colors of summer squash cooked with fresh thyme is simplicity at its finest.  I love the sweetness of the caramelized squash combined with the earthy, herbal flavor of thyme


  • 4 medium zucchini and yellow squash, trimmed, washed and dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1TBS extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized sauté pan on medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add squash to the pan, season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper, add thyme and toss squash in pan for 4-5 minutes until it is nicely browned and cooked through.
  3. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Pan Roasted Apples with Salted Caramel Sauce

Sautéed apples served with deliciously sweet and salty caramel sauce tastes heavenly. Use tart apples, such as Granny Smith, which will balance the decadent sauce. This is my idea of an adult caramel apple!


  • 4 Granny Smith or other tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced in half and each half sliced into 4 slices
  • 1/2 cup salted butter plus 1 teaspoon for the sauté pan
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt


For the apples

  1. Melt the 1 tsp of butter in a large skillet set over medium heat.
  2. Add the apples to the pan and sauté them for 5 to 7 minutes, until they turn golden and tender. Remove the apples from the pan and set them aside.

For the caramel

  1. In a separate small pot set over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the heavy cream. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Place the sugar in a separate heavy bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. Sprinkle the water over the sugar and allow it to dissolve over the heat without stirring.
  3. Cook the sugar undisturbed, watching carefully and as the sugar begins to caramelize, occasionally shake and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the color. This will take approximately 8 – 10 minutes.
  4. When the caramel is a rich golden color, (be careful as the mixture goes from pale to burnt very quickly) remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the hot cream and melted butter to the caramel. Stand back during this process; the hot caramel will bubble up the sides of the pan and hot caramel and sugars are a nasty burn.
  5. Return the caramel to low heat, whisking constantly. Cook and stir the caramel for about 2 minutes over the low heat. Remove from the heat and season the sauce with the about 1/16 teaspoon sea salt; stir until it is dissolved completely.
  6. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the warm apples and serve immediately.


Serves 6

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette


Crispy and creamy at the same time, this warm goat cheese disc served with fresh greens and the nutty flavored sherry vinaigrette is a perfect combination of textures and flavors

  • ½ Cup unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 small logs chevre type mild goat cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 small handfuls of baby salad greens
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • 6 teaspoons sherry mustard vinaigrette


  1. Place bread crumbs on a large dinner plate.
  2. Slice cheese into cylinders ¾” each with a knife which has been warmed in hot water and thoroughly dried (this will aid in slicing the soft cheese).
  3. Dip each slice of cheese into the beaten egg and then roll gently in the bread crumbs .  Place crumbed cheese slices onto a cookie sheet lined with foil and chill for 1 hour.  (can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead). (Make as many cheese discs as servings you are preparing)
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Bake cheese slices in preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  While cheese is baking, toss salad greens well with vinaigrette and divide evenly onto 4 plates.  Top each salad with a slice of warm cheese, sprinkle with chives and serve.
Sherry Mustard Vinaigrette
  • 1 clove fresh garlic peeled & mashed to a paste or pressed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smooth french dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly chopped herbs (parsley, chives, mint)
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix garlic & salt w/ a small whisk until well combined.
  2. Add mustard and vinegar combining well.
  3. Slowly whisk in olive oil to emulsify dressing.
  4. Taste for seasoning and add herbs.


Serves 6

Braised Moroccan Style Chicken

Fragrant With Heady Spices And Exotic Flavor, This Dish Combines The Spicy, Sweet And Salty Flavors That Are Synonymous With Northern Africa. These Types Of Braises Are Often Served On Large Platters, Family Style With Couscous


  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 8 Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • Salt & Fresh Pepper To Taste
  • ¼ Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ Teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled And Minced
  • 1 Onion, Peeled And Sliced
  • 6 Ripe Plum Tomatoes, Chopped (Use Drained Italian Canned If Not In Season)
  • 1 Cup Pitted Green Olives
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • Juice Of 1 Orange
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth Or Stock
  • ½ Cup Pitted Prunes
  • ½ Cup Dried Pitted Apricots
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat in a deep, heavy skillet.  Saute the chicken, seasoning with salt, pepper, cinnamon & cumin on both sides for approximately 3 – 5 minutes per side, until browned.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Add additional tablespoon of oil to pan, as needed and saute garlic and onion for 2 minutes, until translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, tomato paste, orange juice, chicken stock, prunes, apricots and bay leaf to pan and cook, stirring for 2 – 3 minutes bringing to a simmer.
  4. Add reserved chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, spooning sauce over chicken.
  5. Cover and braise on a low simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is tender and cooked through.
  6.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 4

photo by Kristi Senat