Soups & Salads

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

Five minutes into making this soup I knew I had a winner sitting on the stovetop in front of me. Intense smells swirled around me while the softening onions took on a rich color from all the spices. I don’t get cravings for soups unless they pack a lot of flavor and this sweet potato and apple soup hits the mark so I am extremely pleased to be posting it for as the second post in my fall apple series.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

This soup does take a shortcut by using applesauce instead of whole fresh apples, but you could easily turn your apple picking finds into an impromptu applesauce by peeling, coring then crushing them. And then making this soup of course.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

The original recipe uses curry powder, but since I didn’t have any on hand I substituted with what was in my cabinet. Feel free to use my version or substitute with curry powder according to the notes in the recipe. The soup has that delicious warming quality that all fall soups should have as well as an exciting complexity of taste.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

Finishing the soup with a splash of curry butter really deepens this complexity. You might think, “Oh, it’s just a garnish, I’m going to skip the curry butter,” but do not make this mistake my friends! Although it’s just a simple concoction of butter, spices and apple cider vinegar, it adds a final richness and tang to the soup.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

The apple chip pictured in the soup photos is the perfect crunchy texture addition and I’ll be sharing the recipe later this week in my third apple post.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup  |  Lemon & Mocha

Spiced Sweet Potato & Apple Soup
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1¼ cups applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Directions
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl then set aside.
  2. Place the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once warm add the onions and garlic then cook until the onions are soft, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger, additional nutmeg and 1¼ teaspoons of the spice mixture that was set aside in the first step. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and vegetable broth then cover and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the applesauce then let simmer, covered, on medium-low for 20 minutes.
  5. When the potatoes are tender, puree the mixture until smooth with an immersion blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm while you prepare the spiced butter.
  6. In a small skillet over medium heat melt the butter then add the remaining ¼ teaspoon of the spice mixture. Stir over the heat until browned, just a couple minutes, then remove from the heat. Mix in the apple cider vinegar then drizzle over each serving of soup.
Notes
If you are using curry powder instead, substitute 1.5 teaspoons curry powder for the first 5 ingredients.

Recipe adapted from September 2010 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Watermelon & Feta Salad

Watermelon & Feta Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Can you believe summer is already almost over? Not to remind you or anything, but it’s August! Where does the time go? I don’t have nearly enough time to cook all the dishes I would like to, so it’s very rare when there’s a dish I go back to again and again. This watermelon salad is one of those dishes.

Watermelon & Feta Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Simple as it seems, this watermelon salad with feta and a citrus mint vinaigrette was my favorite recipe I discovered all last summer. Everyone I made it for requested the recipe. It is refreshing, healthy and has a surprisingly delightful flavor profile.

Watermelon & Feta Salad  |  Lemon & MochaI remember looking at the list of ingredients on the Food Network website and thinking, “this is going to be interesting…” But it all works and comes together in a seriously tasty way.

Watermelon & Feta Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

The vinaigrette consists of lemon and orange juices, minced shallots, honey for some sweetness and to brighten the salad some fresh mint. Of course some olive oil, salt and pepper are added to the mix. The little cubes of watermelon soak up just the right amount of the dressing and the feta adds some saltiness to balance the dish.

lemonandmochacom-456-2

Eat this as a snack, appetizer or side dish along with your summer meals.

Watermelon & Feta Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Watermelon & Feta Salad
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, about 2 lemons
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 3-4 large fresh mint leaves, julienned
Directions
  1. In a large measuring cup or small bowl whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallot, honey, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk carefully pour in the olive oil. Continue whisking until combined well.
  2. Place the watermelon in a large serving bowl, top with the feta and mint, then top with enough of the vinaigrette to coat the watermelon. Gently toss. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed then serve immediately.
Notes
Do not combine the vinaigrette with the watermelon until right before serving.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Food Network.

Pasta Tuna Salad

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I don’t have some great tale associated with this recipe. It doesn’t come from some heartfelt childhood memory. Nor did I stumble upon it in a cookbook with excitement and rush to make it. And it’s definitely not a copycat recipe from my favorite meal at my favorite restaurant.

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

The story is quite simple. One day I was deciding what to have for lunch. I had leftover noodles and tuna fish so I mixed them together with some raw veggies. It was yummy so I kept making it. The end. Sometimes the best recipes are the most simple ones.

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Many years ago this was my most requested dish from my friends for all our summer barbecues. This was before I ditched the boxed cake mixes and started baking these Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes of course.

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I don’t make it as often now since Matt is a tunafish-hater. Do you have anyone like that in your house? I rinse the can, toss it in the enclosed trash, run the disposal and eat the evidence, yet as soon as Matt walks in the kitchen the first words out of his mouth are, “Did you make tunafish?” Insert scrunched up grossed out face here. Is he a secret detective or do all tunafish-haters have such a ridiculous tunafish radar?

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Anyways, back to this delicious pasta tuna salad. The creaminess of the mayonnaise mixed with the pasta and delightful tunafish make this a perfect barbecue side dish, but the best part comes from the crunchy sweetness of the peas, bell peppers and grape tomatoes. I keep mine pretty basic, but feel free to jazz yours up with different veggies, different seasonings or even sun-dried tomato mayo.

Pasta Tuna Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Pasta Tuna Salad
 
Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound tri-color short pasta, cooked al dente
  • 12 ounces tunafish, drained and flaked
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise, more if desired
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces frozen green peas, cooked and cooled
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Combine the pasta, tunafish, bell pepper and mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Carefully stir in the tomatoes and peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
If serving after being refrigerated stir then add more mayonnaise if desired to renew it’s creamy texture.

Crisp Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus

My brother gave me one of the most thoughtful Christmas gifts last year: a copy of this beautiful Tasting Colorado cookbook. Every recipe is a popular dish from a Colorado restaurant, covering everything from fluffy biscuits to local mouthwatering steak. Not only did I wish I could stuff my face into every picture and eat the contents, but I’ve actually been to a few of the restaurants!

Although he’s a Boston native, Colorado stole my brother’s heart 10 years ago and he’s lived there ever since. I get a chance to visit him once or twice a year and for those of you who have never been add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and I’ve had some of my favorite dishes there.

While flipping through the cookbook and mopping drool from my mouth I was so excited to stumble upon this recipe from the restaurant Six89. Six89 closed in 2012 and their gnocchi salad disappeared along with it. Until now.

I cannot properly express in words the deliciousness of this dish. The crispy gnocchi together with the savory shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and nutty Parmesan is enough to have you going back for more. But when you add the shallot vinaigrette and leafy greens this meal becomes irresistible.

You can certainly use store-bought gnocchi to make this dish, but I highly recommend taking the extra time to tackle homemade gnocchi to experience the full potential of each mouthwatering bite.

Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 appetizer servings
Ingredients
for the gnocchi
  • 2 cups gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups asparagus, blanched and cut into 1” pieces
for the vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 4 cups baby field greens
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan, for serving
Directions
  1. Boil the gnocchi in a medium saucepan until they float to the top and are heated through, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the gnocchi until crispy and lightly browned.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium then add the shallots and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the asparagus slices and sauté until warmed through then remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
for the vinaigrette
  1. Combine the shallots, mustard, oregano and white wine vinegar. Whisk together well with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the gnocchi with 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Plate the gnocchi.
  2. Toss the baby field greens with some of the vinaigrette and place over the gnocchi. Top each plate with a generous serving of fresh grated Parmesan.

Recipe from Tasting Colorado:  Favorite Recipes from the Centennial State.

Weeknight Minestrone Soup

I’ve been really into soups lately. Not that I previously disliked soups, they just weren’t in my weekly routine mostly due to the fact that I always end up burning my tongue. Probably the same reason I don’t like hot coffee and let my hot chocolate come to almost room temperature so I can gulp it down, tongue intact. I guess I could also just try being patient, but that’s not really my thing when it comes to food.

Lately though, I’ve been putting aside my fears of burnt tongues and really digging soups. It all started with this cauliflower soup. The next week I made a broccoli version and the week after I made it with roast mushrooms. By the fourth week Matt and I decided I needed to expand my soup-making horizons. Enter this weeknight minestrone soup. Yum.

Now this soup was so quick to make that I had serious doubts about the level of deliciousness that it would reach. Doubts be damned, this soup is tasty! A perfectly well-balanced minestrone soup with a light tomato base full of perfectly seasoned and softened vegetables, beans and pasta.

I kept mine pretty traditional, other than the addition of kale, but you could customize this in any way that suits you. The next time I make it I might include some zucchini for extra greenery. And some mushrooms because I have a mushroom addiction. But that’s just me.

Weeknight Minestrone Soup
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups chopped kale or baby spinach, hard stems removed
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup small-shaped whole wheat or brown rice pasta
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for topping
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the dried oregano, parsley flakes, and paprika, then season with salt and pepper. Add the kale or spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pasta and beans. Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the pasta and vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve hot topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Recipe slightly adapted from the Food Network.