Avocado, Beans, Dinner, Lunch, Quick, Soup

Aztec Soup (Spicy Tortilla Soup)

Aztec Soup (Spicy Tortilla Soup) on alickofsalt.com

Here is a recent addition to our repertoire of favorite dishes that are quick to make. But first, a quick digression on my relationship with soup.

Soups are a huge part of my heritage. It’s the first part of every main meal. I didn’t particularly appreciate this custom growing up because, as picky as I am about food in general, I’m even pickier about soup. I was happy to eat it if it was made by my mom or grandma and even then, it couldn’t be just any soup. It basically had to be either strained chicken noodle soup with thin, homemade noodles or fresh bean soup with a tomato base.

And then I had a version of this soup in Nicaragua. It’s a tomato base soup with avocado and cheddar and, the best part, crispy tortilla strips. No, wait, the best part might be how quick it is to make.

It’s slightly tangy, likely from the tomatoes we use, and I’ve made it spicy enough to require some nose-blowing mid-meal. We add fried black beans for some extra protein because we have it as a single dish meal. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and make it vegan by skipping the cheese.

Part of what makes eating this soup so fun to eat is that you continually replenish the toppings and can have crispy tortilla strips with every bite. I like letting some of the tortilla strips soak slightly, so parts are crispy and parts are soft. My partner like to eat them before they have a chance to soften.

We generally snack a lot during the day so eat relatively small meals. But serial snackers as we are, this soup that’s supposed to serve at least 5 people is only enough for two meals for the two of us.

A website update: I added a favorite tools section to the website which features some of our favorite kitchen things. The products link to the site where we bought them (or had bought from us from our registries). You’ll notice that currently everything that’s on there is from Amazon. That’s in part because I’m only an affiliate there, but in larger part because I actually do buy almost everything from them. They got me hooked, the tricksters, with a free prime account when I was a student living in a city that had no home goods stores within waking distance and I had no car. If you are a human (i.e. not a spam bot), feel free to suggest your must-haves on that page, and not just from Amazon. I look forward to any recommendations!

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Dinner, Lamb, Lunch, Meats

Ground lamb with pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, and a side salad

Spicy lentil soup with sausage on alickofsalt.com

This is the most labour-intensive recipe posted here so far, but it is a delicious one. It is a Middle Eastern dish heavily adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. It is actually the cover recipe of the book, to give you a sense of what I mean by ‘heavily adapted.’ The original recipe calls for using yields from three other recipes to make it, harissa and preserved lemon peel, and Zhoug. I use none of these here, but I bring in ingredients from all into the dish.

There are quite a few exotic spices in this recipe, the most exotic of which is sumac. Sumac is a slightly tart spice that can be used as a salt replacement. It is a beautiful purple color and the reason the lamb in the picture looks the way it does. You may have seen it in salt shakers at Middle Eastern restaurants. If your grocery store doesn’t carry it, check Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops or look for it online.

The recipe calls for ground seeds so if you have a mortar and pestle, it’s time to break it out! If you can’t be bothered, use already ground spices. We used our brand new mortar and pestle but we only had caraway and cumin seeds on hand and we used already ground coriander. Directions on how to prepare your own ground spices are below in the Tips section.

We serve it with two slices of toast and a salad with carrots, beets, avocado, pomegranate seeds (when they’re in season), and a simple dressing.

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Dinner, Lunch, Pizza

Homemade pizza with crispy crust

Homemade pizza with crispy crust on alickofsalt.com

After suggesting that you use any leftover dough you may have if you don’t like the bread it gives you by making pizza more than three months ago, I finally have a pizza recipe ready for you. I made the low whole-wheat version of the dough here but reduced the salt a little more. Making the dough early enough to allow for at least an overnight refrigeration will make your life a lot easier when rolling it out. Remember that the dough can be used within 14 days of making it. The actual preparation of the sauce and toppings takes about as long as heating up the oven so this is a quick dinner once you have the refrigerated dough.

The basic tomato sauce is tomatoes, ground pepper, a tiny bit of salt (if you can afford it in your diet), and red chili pepper flakes if you like spicy food. We sometimes add garlic and other spices to the sauce. We always top with mushrooms and fresh mozzarella and, when we’re feeling fancy, with shrimp. I of course made the fancy version to post.

I assume in my directions that you have no experience making pizza. I also assume that you don’t have any of the pizza-making tools you could have because we certainly don’t. We cook our pizzas in our 12-inch cast iron pan, but see the tips section for suggestions on how to cook it on other mediums like cookie sheets or baking stones.

I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to roll out the dough and let it sit. The longer it stays out of the fridge, the stickier it gets and trust me, you don’t want to end up having to try to scrape it out of the pan after it’s cooked. Let’s just say that you generally don’t end up getting much of the crust when you have to do that. So, I recommend getting everything else ready before bringing the dough out of the fridge to form it into a ball and roll it out. Any surface the dough will touch should be generously dusted with flour to prevent from sticking, your hands included. More importantly, dusting cornmeal on the rolling surface and cooking surface is the only way we’ve found to prevent the dough from sticking. If you work with the dough quickly, don’t leave it out of the fridge for long, and dust the cooking surface with cornmeal, you probably won’t have any issues with it sticking to the cooking surface. But if you’re worried about the non-stickiness of the pan you choose to use and don’t want to risk having toppings with scraped up dough for dinner, you can line the cooking surface with parchment paper. This will, however, make the bottom of the crust a little less crispy and might not allow you to eat the pizza by holding it in your hands if that’s your preferred method to eat it.

To prevent the crust from getting soggy once it’s cooked, we eat it one slice at a time and leave the rest on the cutting board.

Oh, I should also mention that since posting the revised dough recipe, I’ve learned that the stickiness of the dough depends not on how much whole wheat flour I use, but on the brand of the flour I use. Using the high-end flour (you know, the most expensive brand) has given me the stickiest dough but the best results with the loaves (the interior is more moist and less shiny). As far as I can tell, there’s no difference in the result when making pizza, so I would actually recommend using the lower-brand flours for pizza, since the dough is less sticky and easier to roll out.

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Dinner, Figs, Fruit, Grains, Lunch, Pomegranate, Quick, Quinoa, Salad, Vegan, Vegetarian

Baby kale autumn salad with figs and pomegranate

Baby kale autumn salad with figs and pomegranate

Here is a seasonal recipe combining the last of the summer fruit season with the beginning of the winter one. I really like the sweetness the ripe figs add to this salad but if you’re unlucky enough to live in a place where figs are no longer available, you can add some fig jam to the dressing or just skip the figs altogether.

The main sources of protein in this salad are the quinoa and pecans. I try to time it so that both the quinoa and the pecans are still warm by the time they go in the salad. We prep the fruit and vegetables while the quinoa is on the stove, the pecans go in to the oven just before the quinoa is ready to rest and we toss and dress the salad as the pecans cool.

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Chickpeas, Dinner, Legumes, Lunch, Quick, Salad, Vegan, Vegetarian

Crisped chickpeas and arugula salad

Crisped chickpeas and arugula salad

One of our quick, go-to meals when we’re feeling lazy is some version of this salad. This particular version is vegan. Its large amount of protein from the chickpeas and sunflower seed kernels should satisfy omnivores as well. We add just a simple dressing and we don’t add a lot of it. The cherry tomatoes, ripe avocado, and grated carrot and beet add a lot of flavor on their own.

We add a whole can of chickpeas because we never remember to use the rest of the chickpeas when we use only half. But it’s really quite a lot of chickpeas. If you soak your own or if you’re better at remembering to use the things that end up in your fridge, you could easily halve the amount in the recipe and still have a satisfying meal.

We prepare everything that goes in the salad while the oven is preheating and while the chickpeas are in the oven so the salad is pretty much ready to eat by the time the chickpeas are ready to come out of the oven.

This recipe, too, has in part been adapted from my cooking bible, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The crisped chickpeas are adapted from the book and their recipe is also available on the Smitten Kitchen blog.

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