Category Archives: legumes

Hearty Cabbage ‘n Lentil Soup With or Without Smoked Sausage

It’s about time a post a great soup recipe and I’m sure this one would please both, vegetarians and carnivores. This October is definitely taking a Swiss food direction for us: the recently discovered Vaudois sausages are actually the culprits of turning this wonderful vegetarian soup into a real carnivorian treat. First thing first though, this soup is incredibly nourishing and soul-soothing already in its vegetarian version. The ingredients and spices in it already make a perfect flavor combination and are bursting with healthy nutriments. The smoked sausage however does bring its taste and depth to the level the non-vegetarian would never forget.  Naturally, with the modern scientific approach to cooking, a teaspoon of liquid smoke can deliver relatively similar aroma in vegetarian version (although you probably won’t even need it). But the succulent smoked sausage itself, especially the one we discovered recently at Saucisson Vaudois deli, well, that’s a different story…

Last week-end we headed to Mont Saint-Grégoire (about 40-minutes driving from Montreal) to have our last year’s walk through the golden leaves of the fall and collect some apples. This area is known to have a number of Swiss farmers settled there over the years (true, the mountain scenery looks remotely Switzerlandish). Not surprisingly, on our way to the mountain forest we stopped by at Saucisson Vaudois in a tiny town Sainte-Brigide. Just by the number of cars with Montreal’s licenses and European-looking people stepping out of them (some were wearing Tyrolean hats indeed) we knew something was going on in there. The selection of all things Swiss was impressive including of course the smoked sausages and their names, like Waadtlaenderwurst or Nuremberg Bratwurst.

Lower right image credit Saucisson Vaudois

The October special sausages like saucisse aux chou grabbed our attention and we got some to try along with bunch of other things that make you drool. For the record, many Montreal celeb restaurants, like Au Pied De Cochon, for example, are buying Vaudois specialties directly from them (which explains why you don’t necessarily see those products in major groceries).

One of their best selling items is a blood pudding and most of the time if you come by in the afternoon, chances are you won’t find any. We were lucky to get some and believe me, after it’s been slow-cooked with onions, apples and cider for about 30 minutes, it WILL make our taste buds singing Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo! (provided you like boudin in general and tried some of the world’s best).
If you’re currently visiting Montreal to enjoy the fall scenery, look no further and go to MontSaintGrégoire. It’s not only quintessentially quaint place for cabane a sucre (maple syrup attraction). Each fall the majestic matured sugar maple grove of Charbonneau turns into a breathtaking Pan’s Labyrinth of adventures hidden among the enchanted trees.

Just meandering along the red & yellow leaf-covered trails in a splendor of the dazzling colors is already serene and relaxing. But you have so much more options: from apple-picking (yes, it’s still on) and food & beer sampling; to biking or horse-riding, to hair-raising tree-top trekking…

And as you look out into the majestic fall scenery (and/or perform some thrilling Tarzan flips in Arbraska on a zip line), your appetite is growing and soon you find yourself making pit stops at farms and local deli to hurry back home after and sample what you bought…

And then 30-minutes later this uber comforting soup is born. The Vaudois smoked sausage with cabbage (a cuire) with cooking instructions: ‘boil for 20 minutes’ suggested that it dived directly into a hearty mix of boiling veggies. Cabbage in, cabbage out and so it was a cabbage soup; with the touch of the traditional Swiss Papet Vaudois (leek, potatoes, wine) ingredients; bunch of spice and dark greens to lift up the taste and benefits; and lentils for an extra fiber and protein (specifically in vegetarian case).

Boy oh boy it was good, Oktoberfest-like too, with a cold glass of beer on a side. Cheers!

Great Tip: cooking a whole smoked sausage, be it Swiss Vaudois or Spanish Chorizo and slicing it right before serving delivers much tastier results than cutting the sausage in pieces before cooking (then the sausage loses half of its taste and color).

Useful swaps: use these (almost interchangeable) ingredients to match your taste or fridge selection:

-1 leek to 1 onion, thinly sliced (add all at the time to add onion);
-2 potatoes to 2 sweet potatoes or 2 big carrots (add all at the time to add potatoes);
-3 mentioned spices (paprika, cumin, coriander) to a heaping tablespoon of ground or paste curry;  
-¼ cabbage to 4 cups of kale (add all at the time to add kale);
-1 big tomato to 1 cup of diced canned tomatoes or 1 cup of tomato juice;
-1 pound smoked uncooked sausage to 1 pound smoked cooked sausage (add 5 minutes into the end of cooking);
-½ dry red lentils to 1 cup any canned/rinsed lentils or navy beans
Enjoy your fall cooking!
Yields: 6 generous portions.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp chili flakes
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground coriander
 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 big tomato, diced
½ cup white wine or apple cider vinegar (optional)
6-7 cups vegetable broth, or chicken stock, or water
¼ small green cabbage, shredded
1-2 bay leaves
1 lbs smoked uncooked sausage
½ cup dry red lentils
2 cups kale (or Swiss chard, or spinach), coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh parsley or basil for garnish, minced
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large pot to medium high and add chili flakes. Add onion, garlic and sauté for one minute. Add paprika, coriander, cumin and mix. Add leek and potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes more. Add tomatoes and sauté for two more minutes. Optionally, add a big splash of white wine or apple cider vinegar.
Add broth, cabbage and bay leaves, stir and bring to boil. Add the sausage. Reduce heat to simmering. Half-cover the pot with the lid and cook simmering for 10 minutes, until potatoes are almost done.
Add red lentils, mix well, bring back to boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, add kale, mix and simmer for 2 more minutes uncovered.
Check the seasoning, discard the bay leaves, remove the sausage and set aside to cool down a bit (3 minutes). Slice the sausage to the bite-size pieces. Ladle the soup in the bowls and add the desired amount of sausage to each. Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil and serve immediately.

Nifty Herbed Lentil Avocado Spread

A quick and luscious herbed lentil avocado spread is yet another proof how delectable and versatile a meatless dish can be, specifically, towards the end of Lent.  A cross between hummus and guacamole, packed with herbal flavors and good-for-you ingredients, this speedy little thing really belongs to the party table, as it combines with number of ingredients.
Spring has finally sprung in Montreal breaking the ice on St. Lawrence, flooding the streets with melting snow and filling the air with singing birds. The other day I went National Geographic in our backyard to capture some of that spring renewal commotion, which might seem usual, but feels so refreshing to look at, after a long working day in the stone cold city. Especially after a few of those herbed spread nibbles.  
I have been starving for some new vegetarian ideas for a while now, so at some point I decided to ditch the cookbooks and just check what I have left in my pantry and fridge for an instant catch and there a can of lentils and few avocados got my attention. With a bit of lemon juice, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic, cumin and chili and a lot of fresh herbs, a nifty spread was born within less than 10 minutes.  Call it a spread or a dip – it’s all good –not only on the baguette slices (in this case, Easter Cypriot bread we baked last Tuesday which will follow shortly), but with many other things including eggs. Little quail eggs with running yolk pair fantastically with it. 
A few tablespoons of it mixed with hard-boiled egg yolks and a pinch of smoked paprika deliver smart and tasty twist on a known party pleaser: the devilled eggs. Although not as sophisticated as porcini stuffed eggs they still make a great party offering (during Easter times included) and variety.
Smear the spread on crostini topping them with thinly sliced radish, cucumber or zucchini for a crunch, or use the spread in a sandwich instead of mayo. Garnish a bowl of steamed rice with it.

Finally, my most recent application of this spread was to add a few tablespoons of it to the 10-minutes vegetable stir-fry (carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mini corn and fresh bean sprouts) at the very end of cooking. Why not? Lentils go perfect with veggies as do olive oil, herbs, tahini and lemon, while avocado (the nature’s butter) is adding a smooth soft touch to the dish.  

And that’s how I kept it simple (my 2014 credo) and used my herbed lentil avocado spread within 24 hours. If you prefer, swap lentils for canned beans or chickpeas and your spread will be as delicious. Add avocado flesh, tahini, olive oil, garlic, spices and salt … some hot sauce for an extra zesty taste if wish be. 
Few short pulses and viola: enjoy your spread!     
One year ago:   Knockout Lamb Chops;
Yields: party of 6 to 12 people depending on appetite.
2 avocados flesh, scooped out
1 can (19 oz) lentils, drained, OR beans, OR chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, a bit more for drizzling
1 small bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, etc.), coarsely chopped
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground chili (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt to taste
For serving: assorted bread, crackers, tortilla chips, crudités
Scoop the avocado flesh into a food processor. Add the lentils, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, olive oil, herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. If necessary add a bit more olive oil to reach the right consistency. Transfer the spread to bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with bread, chips and crudités.

Grandma’s Whole Pea Soup on Cold Wintry Night

It’s been cold, really cold in the last few days. A sudden strike of an obsession with grandma’s soup is not unusual during such times. Along with a distant memory of a grand granny cooking a pea soup in a giant cauldron for the family of 60+… so warm and comforting.
What else can be on your mind while driving home with a growling belly in this biting frost and with more than 50 shades of gray around? Perhaps a stew or a bowl of steamy mashed potatoes? Chances are though this rustic soup is not only among my infinite ramblings this evening…
I bought a $1.50 pack (1lb or 454 gr) of organic whole peas on our last visit to the farm because I knew the time for this soup was coming.  There was a recipe of Soupe aux pois de grand-mère labeled to it, which I am presenting to you, although, hugely modified. The recipe asks to add 341 grams of canned corn at the end, which I’m not so sure about, but it might be an idea to thicken some liquid vegetarian version.  For the vegetarian version I suggest you use a good vegetarian stock and give the chopped veggies a quick fry-stir with a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil before adding them to the pot. You can find the whole peas in most of the supermarkets in Quebec, or order them on-line. The farm-bought, of course would always be cheaper and fool-proof organic.
NOTE: Just like beans, whole peas require soaking in the water for 8 hours or overnight before cooking. But if you are not very legume-sensitive (or, in other word, reactive), feel free to use a rapid method of boiling peas for 2 minutes, letting them sit for an hour and then cook as instructed … which still requires a bit of time, so I suggest you do your math when ready to cook this soup.
Peas are usually coming into the recipes in a split form, but this French Canadian classic is made with whole peas and is traditionally a part of Cabaneà sucre (sugar shack) menu Québecois are so famous for.  Which brings me to the question of the non-vegetarian version based on beef or veal stock, with the addition of some ham or pork sausage and, of course, the salted pork lard (LOTS OF IT)… The recipe stipulated ½ pound of lard, but I did not use any because I had something better – a home-smoked and braised hock… 
So if you will excuse me, my dear fellow-vegetarians, I have to include this part to keep the lyrics. I really wanted to step my game up in the carnivore version of this soup, so what was supposed to be a simple salted lard and/or ham in an old-fashioned version (don’t worry, I keep the classics in the recipe below) of the whole pea soup, became a real German-style state of the art smoked pig knuckle slowly braised in the oven. The richness of it combined with slow-cooked peas is truly a heavenly combination.

Using braised knuckle requires some extra prep. Last week-end we had a bit of sun, which felt almost like an approaching Cabane à sucre time (or perhaps the Imbolc celebration would be closer). We made a fire outside for a little alfresco break from our 6-months long winter strong conditions. I decided to use this occasion to smoke whatever I could for the future culinary applications, including a few pork knuckles. It’s really no-brainer: you just smoke the knuckle over the fire on all sides (torch is OK in your own kitchen on a day like today). Then cool it and clean it with the brush under the cold running water and it’s ready to be braised for 2 hours with a few cloves of garlic, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and a bit of liquid (such as water, broth, wine, or, my favorite, mix of water and apple cider vinegar).

Ta-dah, few hours later you have a great addition to a soup or stew, or can start eating it as schweinshaxe Bavarian style. Add sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and beer and you will be in a German heaven. In my case though it makes a great addition to the rustic pea soup when de-boned and minced. Please do not discard the skin from the cooked hock, because it actually is a great swap for salted lard and a major flavor booster. Add it to the soup 15 minutes into the end of cooking.

You can prepare the whole pea soup up to three days ahead and might notice that it will taste better with time. Next day it will be much thicker and velvety: the flavours will be married, the smokiness will shine through more prominently.  Serve it with baguette crostini, garlic croutons and aged cheese on a side garnished with a bit of fresh parsley if you wish.

It’s not for no reason that this soup is one of the homiest and most comforting dishes in the French Canadian menu: it’s a humble delight to come home to on an Arctic winter night.


One year ago: Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette


Yields 6-8 servings
1 lb or 454 gr dried yellow whole peas
½ lb salted lard (optional)
1 ham hock (or 1 smoked and braised pig knuckle)
9 cups of water (or 10 cups of vegetarian broth for vegetarian version)
3 cups of veal or beef brown stock (or 2 cups cream of corn for vegetarian version)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried savory
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
* 1 can (341 gr) cream of corn (optional for vegetarian version)
Cover the peas with water and soak overnight or for 8 hours. Drain. Alternatively, you can skip soaking by rinsing whole peas in cold water, then placing them with the rest of the ingredients (except for the cream of corn in the vegetarian version) in a pot, bringing to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour.
Bring the soup back to the boiling point, lower the heat and let it simmer covered for 1 hour or until the peas become tender.  Remove the hock, let it cool, then de-bone, mince the meat and return into the pot for the final 15 minutes of simmering. For vegetarian version, add cream of corn 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
Check the seasoning. Remove the pot from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Optionally, you can now puree the soup in a blender to the consistency you like. Taste again for salt and pepper and serve garnished with fresh parsley, chives, or garlic croutons.

Easy Cassoulet à Ma Façon

Yesterday I was emptying my freezer in celebration of the Lent (which has already begun, but never mind) and here is what I found among many strange things you sometimes can find in your freezer: 1 duck leg, 1 chicken leg and a small batch of chorizo sausages. Does it ring a bell? For me it was a direct order to go and pre-soak the beans for a hearty cassoulet, which would be hard to beat in this cold, grey and wet Quebec weather.

Three cities in France are in parental competition for the birth of Cassoulet: Carcassonne, Toulouse and Castelnaudary.
Roughly, Castelnaudary claims to be the world capital of the version with duck or goose confit, while Toulouse and Carcassonne have their variations of lamb and pork ingredients.

The one I will never forget I tried in the port of Canal du Midi: was the duck confit variety, hence the Castelnaudary version appeals to me most and the duck leg became quintessential part of this dish to me. If you have any duck confit already prepared in your fridge, feel free to use it. Chicken legs would be an OK replacement for the student budget. Here is a classic recipe from the place of origin (sorry, its in French):

via Wikimedia Commons
And now, here is my twist on the recipe. First, French it up by boiling the beans with the onion pierced with cloves. While the beans are cooking, brown the duck and chicken legs along with sausages (mild chorizo or Polish kielbasa are the best choices for this dish) with a head of a garlic halfed. Deglazing with wine adds a layer of taste. Mix the beans, meats and veggies and cover with broth and tomato sauce.
The herbs from Provence successfully complete the symphony and your dish is ready to go to the oven. Special note about the crumbs: in the classic recipe topping dish with the crumbs is a must and you have to press it dish down 7 times during cooking. In my version I skip it for caloric reasons, but you are still welcome to use it if you want. Once ready, serve hot with a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape or Cahors.
Since it is called an easy recipe (which I also tend to like leaner), I also skipped the lard, pork and pork rind ingredients. By the way, you can easily turn this recipe into completely vegetarian by omitting all kinds of meat in it, however, it will not be a cassoulet anymore, as the major flavor of this dish is coming from the combination of the meat ingredients and beans mingled during slow cooking. No matter how hard you will try to cut on fat or calories, Cassoulet is so rich that usually you will have some leftovers. One of the ways to re-use them next day is to turn them into some healthy burritos.
Get your favorite tortillas and few slices of cheese; give a quick stir to sliced green pepper, onion and garlic; make a wrap with all the ingredients and bake it in the oven for a few minutes. Add a little cucumber, radish, avocado salad and a choice of yogurt and salsa and, voila, a healthy, nutritious and balanced meal is ready!
1 lb white beans
1 onion pierced with 2-3 cloves
1 duck leg
1 chicken leg
1/2 lb chorizo sausage or kielbasa cut into 1/2” slices
1 garlic head cut in half
1/3 cup of white wine to deglaze
1 carrot coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk coarsely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce or coulis or 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry thyme
1 teaspoon of dry sage
2 bay leaves
pinch of chilli peppers
1/2 cup bread crumbs (optional)
Soak beans overnight or 6-8 hours before cooking. Drain, rinse, cover with water, add a small onion pierced with a few cloves and salt and simmer for about 1 hour or until al dente. Discard the onion.
Preheat the oven to 300F
Season the duck leg, the chicken leg with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil for about 5 minutes each side, then add sausages and 1 garlic head cut in half and continue browning for another 10-12 minutes to almost ”done” state. Add a good splash of wine to deglaze, then remove from pan and put aside. Add carrots and celery to the dry pan and brown them slightly. In the meantime, cut the browned meat in coarse pieces.
Mix all the ingredients: beans, meat and veggies in the Dutch oven, add the tomato sauce, the chicken broth and the herbs. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 1hour. Remove the cover, sprinkle with bread crumbs (if using) and put back in the oven for about 1/2 hour or until the beans began to split and the broth has thickened. When ready, mix carefully discarding bay leaves and garlic head, and serve immediately.