The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

7:57 PM

What's for Dessert - Creamy Oreo Cheesecake

Posted by Sugar and Spice

Oreo Cheesecake 
with an Oreo Cookie Crust

Here is a recipe for a delicious Oreo cheesecake that will be sure to please everyone for a special occasion, or just for dessert any night! This cheesecake has chocolately Oreo cookies in the batter, as well as the crust.

About 32 Oreo cookies (a standard package should leave you with some left over afterward)
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
8 ounces of sour cream
3 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (not imitation)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
Place about 18 cookies in a food processor, and add the melted butter.  Pulse until the cookies are broken up, then blend until the mixture will press together along the sides of the food processor, and resembled a wet sand texture.
In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese until you attain a fluffy texture. (You may also use a standing mixer).
Continually mixing at a low speed, add in the sugar until thoroughly mixed.
Next, keeping the mixer going at low speed, add each egg one at a time until incorporated, then add the vanilla, flour, and salt and mix those in as well.
Add and mix in the sour cream.
Roughly chop the remaining Oreo cookies.

Place half of the chopped cookies into the batter, and fold them in.
Pour the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, and sprinkle the remaining chopped cookies over the top.
Place the springform pan in a water bath (a larger baking dish with some water in it, to prevent cracking of the cheesecake).
Bake the cake at 325 degrees about one hour, or until golden brown and firm in texture.
Turn off the oven, open the oven door slightly, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another hour.
Take the cheesecake out, and let it cool before slicing.
Top with whipped cream or fruit, and enjoy!

Posted by Grely (Sugar and Spice)

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10:41 PM

What's on the side? Fregola with Portabella Ragù

Posted by Magic of Spice

Fregola with Mint and Thyme 
Portabella Ragù

Fregola [Freg-o-la] is a pasta that graces many dishes in the land of
 Sardegna Italy. Sardegna is an island in the Medetaranian Sea and fregola is said to
primarily be prominent in the Southern region of the island.  It is a semolina dough
 pasta that are small and round in shape. It can be prepared in a variety of ways
and served either cold or hot. Many dishes prepare fregola like a couscous,
 however the texture and flavor are quit different. The texture is course with a
nutty and robust flavor.  

I had a couple of portabellas on hand as well, and some gorgeous
fresh strawberry tomatoes. And since I live in Southern California, many of
my herbs are still flourishing...Sorry to everyone stuck in the cold, dry herbs
will work as well :)

Ragù is a sauce for those of you not familiar, is generally a sauce served with meat...
more specifically ground meat. The basics of the sauce are still present here,
a thick almost stew like sauce that has been slowly simmered to allow a marriage of
flavors. You may have seen Bolognese Style, meaning Ragù that is being served
over a bead of pasta. I have also played around a bit here by adding some fresh
organic arugula in place of spinach.

What you will need:

For the ragù
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
6 ounces portabella mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup vegetable stock
*2/3 cup tomato purée
1 teaspoon himalayon pink salt, finely ground
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, finely ground
A pinch or two of cinnamon, ground
6 strawberry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
(or 3 roma tomatoes)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
(or 1 teaspoon dry)
4-6 fresh mint leaves, torn
1 - 11/2 cups arugula
Shaved Toscano pepper cheese, grated
(or other hard a cheese
Large sauté pan with lid

For the fregola pasta
1 cup fregola
2 cups vegetable broth
Small sauce pan

* If using a canned or jarred tomato purée check salt content prior to salting your sauce.
Note: These recipes can be doubled if serving as a main dish versus a side dish

Let's get cooking:

For the ragù
Heat a medium sized sauté pan on medium heat, add truffle oil until hot.
Add shallots and sauté until just begining to become translucent, add garlic
and continue to sauté  for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and
coat in your oil mixture. Cover and allow mushrooms to sweat and their juices begin
to start flowing, about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Remove lid and add the
wine, continue to sauté uncovered until most of your liquid has reduced. Reduce
 heat to low, add stock, tomato purée, salt,pepper, tomatoes, thyme and mint.
Allow your sauce to simmer on low, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes of so.
  Note: you should have a nice thick sauce, but if sauce thickens too quickly add a
small amount of additional stock. Just before serving add arugula, until just wilted.

For the fregola pasta
Bring vegetable stock to a boil then add fregola, reduce heat and simmer
10-15 minuted or until liquid is absorbed, or per package instructions.

Get this look:
If planning to serve this dish as a side or starter dish, you can achieve this presentation
by placing a tablespoon of so of tomato purée that has been lightly seasoned with a
bit of pepper. Now taking a small ramekin or 1 cup size measuring cup,lightly oiling
the inside. Fill with your prepared fregola and press down with a medium firmness to
pack the fregola pasta. Turn ramekin over and tap lightly on the bottom to release
the fregola maintaining a circular appearance. Remove portabella slices from the
ragù sauce and place on top of each cylinder. Top with your remaining ragù sauce
 and garnish with grated cheese if desired :)

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Shades of Winter Salad with 
Avocado and Lemon Curd Dressing 

There are some extraordinarily beautiful Winter fruits and vegetables.
This salad is more of a through together...If it's fresh and in season, why not!
You can really throw any available fruits and vegetables here. The idea is to have
a nice fresh mix together with a wonderfully creamy dressing...Hey we deserve some
fat if we are going all health conscious right? 

We have here...Circus Cauliflower Florets, Tri-color baby beets
blood oranges and adorable little crab apples. Plus some avocado, tomatoes,
sliced shallots and of course our butter lettuce. Below we will make our dressing and
talk about roasting beets, but the ingredients are really up to you :)
Oh and I added some almond slivers too...

What you will need:
The dressing
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
4-5 tablespoons crème fraîche
2-3 tablespoons lemon curd
A few splashes of white balsamic
A few splashes pistachio oil
*Cream or half and half
Pepper to taste

Let's get blending:
Mix all ingredients except oil and vinegar in blender until smooth.
Slowly add oil until mixture is thick but velvety, then add vinegar
to taste and desired consistency. *Note: a bit of cream or half and
 half can be added to thin dressing. Pepper to taste.

Roasting your beets:
Note: My beets were purchased peeled, but if you are purchasing
 un-peeled whole beets do not peel prior to roasting.

This process will take you through assuming you have whole beets...
Many times the greens are still attached to the beets, we will want
to trim these but leaving about 1 inch top to each. Your can also trim
or retain the root end, but do not cut into the beet itself. This will help
 in preventing the beets in "bleeding" and make them much easier to
handle. You can now place your trimmed beets into a baking dish.
Lightly toss with oil and a bit of sweetener, I used agave. And cover
loosely with foil. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. Turning
half way through process at least once.  If you  are roasting baby
beets,15-20 minutes or until fork tender. For medium to large beets
 roast 40-50 minutes, or until fork tender.

Allow beets to cool to touch then remove stems and roots to desired amount
 peel and slice to desired shape.  For the baby beets I just cut in half lengthwise.

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Azuki Bean Soup with Sage,Chamomile
 and King Oyster Mushrooms 

These Organic Heirloom Azuki Beans were a new find for me...These legumes
are said to be more easily digestible than others within the legume family. They are
small round red beans with a distinct white stripe along one side, almost appearing as
 if they were sprouted. Although they are highly popular, I have only enjoyed them as
 a paste in pastries prior to my concoction here, that we shall be referring to as a
"soup" during this post :)

These Azuki beans have a wonderful nutty flavor and texture and hold a bit
firmer than other varieties I am familiar with, they also have a bit of a sweet flavor
and aroma naturally. Said to cook more quickly than other varieties as well. I did
notice one distinct fact being that they held a firmer shape once fully cooked. I
 would have mistakenly assumed that they were not fully cooked if multiple taste
tests had not taken place. End result, I found them to be quite enjoyable in this
soup and will not hesitate to make this on many more occasions.

I also had a few Organic King Oyster Mushrooms and thought they would
be delightful here. Trimmed and split lengthwise...

Our fresh vegetable selection, along with garden sage helped out in
the "It's good for you" arena. 

The addition of chamomile, since the majority of my soups have at least
a partial tea base...went along with the easy to digest and overall Zen factor 
of this soup. Along with our spice selection of Piment Doux or Sweet Pimentón
which is a smoked Spanish Paprika and our Ras el Hanout~a combination of
caraway, cumin, coriander, fenugrec, mace, cinnamon and cloves.
Note: Ras el Hanout basically means~The best spices being offered, so this
could be a various blend depending on where you have purchased the spice blend.
You can of course create your own blend either by following this selection or
creating your own set of favorites...

What you will need:
16 ounces azuki beans, pre-soaked*
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 cup white wine, optional
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons grapeseed or other light oil
6-8 large sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound baby carrots, trimmed and chopped
1 head celery, trimmed and chopped
3-4 tablespoons dried chamomile, ground
(place in a mesh bag or tea bags)
1/2 tablespoon honey
(I used avocado  honey)
2 arbol chili pods
1 teaspoon ginger,ground
1/2 tablespoon Sweet Pimentón
1 tablespoon ras el hanout or desired spice mix
14 ounces tomatoes, cooked and peeled
6 king oyster mushroom, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
2 leeks, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Let's get cooking:
In a sauté heat your oil, add garlic and onions continuing to sauté until
just translucent. In the meantime add all ingredients to your crockpot, except
tomatoes, mushrooms and leeks. Add garlic and onions and set to a low/medium heat
setting. Leave to cook for five to seven hours, depending on heat level, then add tomatoes,
mushrooms and leeks. These should be added 1 1/2 to 2 hours before prior to your
 beans becoming fully cooked. Continue to cook until beans are still slightly firm
but easily pinched between your fingers,  or to desired tenderness.
Garnish with avocado slices and crème fraîche.
Serves 6-8

Alisha~Magic of Spice

This dish is going over to Hearth n Soul

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Cocoa Mousse with Grand Marnier, 
Blood Orange Molasses and Awards

I love making mousse and heaven knows I love rich dark cocoa...
So does my son Adam (aka Truffle Shuffle) and he has been torturing me
to make this for him...or remake to be more exact. I made this mousse for
my Espresso and Cocoa Cookie Sandwich back in August. The only change
I made was to replace the coffee liqueur with Grand Marnier as I was to serve
this with a Blood Orange Molasses and thought that Grand Marnier would
 complement nicely .I will add the recipe for the molasses, but if you would
like the mousse recipe click here . Plus we have Awards, and dessert goes
with awards around here :)

The Awards
As with other awards in the past, we would like pass these awards forward
to some other bloggers/sites that we both enjoy and respect. Respect for
both their creativeness whether it be with their photographs, dishes or words.
But the most important reason is the support and joy that they spread through
our beautiful world of blogging. Again with No Rules attached, you can pass
them on to someone else that inspires or captivates you if you choose.

We received The Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog awards
from our dear and amazing friend Nancy over at Spicie Foodie.
Nancy has the most amazing site around loaded with stunning photography
and delectable dishes that anyone would enjoy. She is also the author of
a new cookbook An Epiphany of the Senses along with a featured recipe in
 Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook. As if this were not enough to make you
hang out on her site for hours at a time, she manages to be one of the most
supportive and friendly bloggers that I have ever had the pleasure to know.
If you by any chance have not had the pleasure, you absolutely must rectify this
and pay her a visit.
We are so honored to have received these awards from you Nancy.
From all of us...Adam, Grely and Alisha
Even Sweets
Jennifer Food Thinking 

Along with A Fabulous Blog and  360° Foodie awards
from another wonderful friend Maya over at Foodiva's Kitchen.
Maya creates some of the most visually stunning dishes around...her creativity
and ingenuity is nothing short of inspiring. And the baking...Oh my!
Aside from all of this she is another one of my favorite bloggers for the joy
and passion that she spreads to all of us...If you have never had a chance to
get to know her and her site, please stop by and say hello.
Maya we are so pleased and honored to receive these awards from you.
From all of us...Adam, Grely and Alisha

What you will need:

Blood Orange Molasses
4 blood organges, juiced
(1 cup juice)
1/8 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Small sieve

Let's get cooking:

In a small sauté or reduction pan add juices and sugar, cook over a high heat,
until sugar has melted. Lower the heat to a medium high and continue to reduce
 liquid until the sauce coats the back of your spoon.

Get this look:
After allowing your mousse to chill, about 1/2 hour or so.
Fill a pastry bag with your mousse, using a flower style tip and starting about 4"
from the center of the plate. Gently squeeze the pastry bag  allowing your mousse
to create an open circle of desired circumference. Without breaking the stream
of mousse continue to fill the circle. Once you have an enclosed circle begin to
raise your bag gradually as you build onto an the circle using a spiral motion. Continue
this motion until you achieve the amount of mousse per serving (about 1 cup).
*Note: Make sure you back has desired amount of mousse per serving before beginning
each plate. Allow your mousse to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes just prior
 to serving.Garnish with warmed Blood Orange Molasses.
Serves 4-6 or 1 Truffle Shuffle

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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10:42 PM

What's for Dinner? Rustic California Galette

Posted by Magic of Spice

Rustic California Galette
with Black Beans, Mushrooms 
and Langostino Tails

It started like this...I was seriously in the mood for some guacamole and I had
a few tomatoes that needed to be used up. So as I was ransacking my fridge I
found a few other goodies (leftovers) that could be used. Spicy black beans, more
mushrooms and a few hot peppers. In the freezer I had langostino tails and pie crust.

 I also had some wonderful Asiago cheese with rosemary and olive oil,
plus a nice aged Cheddar...Having the makings for a nice fresh guacamole 
and a bit of pico de gallo, and not wanting tacos again. I decided on a savory
pie, but since I and not exactly a traditional pie expert...I went for the free 
form galette, easy :) 

I wanted to say a bit about the pepper I used. For Christmas I received
several culinary delights and wanted to say just a bit about one of them.
Penja Pepper also known as Pepper From Paradise as called by the Ventians.

This is a  white pepper of the Penja valley in Cameroon.
It is said to be a rare and unique pepper. It comes from volcanic soil of Penja Valley.
It has a very delicate, warm and woody flavor, with a woody and musky aroma.
A bold and strong flavor, but not too spicy and would compliment most any dish.

What you will need:
9" pastry sheet
1-2 small medium tomatoes, sliced
1 cup cheese, shredded
*I used the rosemary and olive oil asiago
and a well aged white cheddar

For the beans
15 ounces black beans, prepared
(if using canned include liquid)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons ancho chili spice, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground

For the mushrooms and langostios 
12 ounces langostino tails
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/8th teaspoon lemon zest
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili spice, ground

Let's get cooking:
To begin prepare your dough or crust...If using frozen follow instructions.
Now in a medium sized pan add beans along with all other ingredients and simmer
uncovered on a medium/low heat allowing the liquid to reduce and flavors to merge.

In in a large heated sauté pan add oil until hot. Once oil is heated place shallots and
garlic in the pan, sauté just a minute or two until just softened. Add mushrooms and
remaining ingredients except langostino tails. Continue to sauté on a medium heat
 until mushrooms just begin to soften then add langostino tails and toss.
Continue to toss until all ingredients are incorporated
and langostino tails are heated.

Remove both your beans and mushroom mixture from heat and set aside.
*Note: Make sure that you strain off all liquid from your beans prior to adding
them to your pastry sheet.

Get this look:
Place your pastry round on a piece of parchment paper atop of a baking sheet.
Leaving 2 inches around the perimeter of your dough, begin to layer filling.
 Starting with your beans, then your mushroom and langosino tail mixture.
Now layer on your tomato slices then cover with shredded cheese.
Bring sides or your dough or sheet up over the edges as shown in the photo above.
Brush tops lightly with oil or melted butter.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes
or until crust has browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes or so
prior to slicing...Garnish with fresh Guacamole and Pico de Gallo
Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Ricotta Stuffed Sweet Peppers 
with Ratatuille Sauce

If you like vegetable lasagna, you will enjoy this dish. Basically we are doing a 
vegetable lasagna without the pasta. We have ricotta along with a quattro
 formaggio blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone). With crimini
mushrooms,  fresh spinich and fresh basil. All of these goodies packed into
our capsicum or bell peppers. These lovely bells do indeed belong
to the "Pepper" family, yet they rate a zero on the heat scale. Oh but
 they are sweet and we can stuff them to our hearts desire.

For this recipe I used  ratatuille nicoise, but you can use a simple marinara
instead. If you are not familiar with  ratatuille nicoise, it is a sauce of tomatoes
and vegetables.Generally bell pepper,zucchini and eggplant with herbs
 and spices. You can purchase this sauce already prepared or make your own.
As we are using a relatively small amount of sauce here that I already had available,
I will share a recipe with you at a later date when we will be using a more
 significant amount :)

What you will need:

For the Peppers
6-8 large bell peppers
(red, yellow and orange)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
6-8 large basil leaves
2 cups ratatuille nicoise
or marinara sauce

For the mushrooms
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine or water
12 ounces crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
A pinch or two of sea salt

For the riccota mixture
24 ounces riccotta
24 ounces quattro formaggio, shredded
(reserve a tablespoon for each pepper)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Let's get cooking:
Add oil to a pre-heated medium sauté pan. Add shallot and garlic, cooking
until just opaque. Add mushrooms, wine and spices tossing until incorporated.
Cover and simmer until mushrooms are tender, stirring  occasionally.
About 10 minutes or so depending on the thickness of your mushrooms.

Place all ingredients for your ricotta mixture except for reserved amount of cheese
in a medium sized mixing bowl. Blend until mixture is fully incorporated.

Prepare your peppers by removing the tops then removing the
ribs and seeds from the inside. After washing your peppers pat the
inside dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Get this look:
Once you have everything prepared, we are going to layer our ingredients
individually like you would if preparing a lasagna. Starting with our first layer
of the ricotta mixture, then a layer of mushrooms. Now more of the ricotta mixture
followed by a spinach layer. Again another layer of ricotta and finally our basil.

Place your sauce in a large baking dish and add your peppers, spooning
a bit of sauce over each. Loosely cover your dish with foil and bake in a pre-heated
oven at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until peppers are soft. You should
baste your peppers one to two times with sauce from the pan. Once your peppers
are tender sprinkle with a bit of additional cheese and return to oven uncovered
until cheese has melted.

To serve, place each pepper on an individual dish adding a bit of remaining
sauce to each. Additional shaved parmesan or other hard aged cheese can
be added along with a slice of crusty bread.

Note: This could also be served as a side dish by cutting each pepper in half.
Serves 6-8

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

This is going over to Your Best Recipe for January 2011

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 Bhutanese Red Rice and Lentil Pilaf

I had some of this beautiful rice along with some fresh organic lentils.
I had been thinking about what I wanted to do with my wonderful treats
when I ran across this recipe Red Lentil-Basmati Rice Pilaf from
Victoria of Mission Food...
If you have yet to pay Victoria a visit I encourage you to drop by. Her site is
packed with energy, fun and some seriously delightful food :)

I normally do not adapt recipes that I find, primarily due the fact that
I just don't follow directions very well ;) However in this case I really
loved the flavors here so I adapted slightly to meet the ingredients I had on hand.

Speaking of ingredients there are a couple here that some may not be familiar with.
First we have Bhutanese Red Rice another Heirloom Rice from Lotus Foods.

This is a red japonica rice and is semi-milled, some of the reddish bran is left on the rice.
So it cooks a bit more quickly than an unmilled brown rice. High in fiber, trace minerals,
vitamins and antioxidants. Plus this gorgeous rice boasts a fantastic rich nutty flavor.

Next we have our Daun Salam Leaf... typically these aromatic dried leaves are used
in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines. They are the dried or fresh leaves from the
Daun Salam tropical tree and have a bit of a sour note. They are used in a variety of
dishes in much the same way as the Bay leaf. However in most of the reading I have
done on this herb it is suggested that you do not use Bay leaf when a recipe call for
Salam leaf. I personal did not find the flavor to be similar to a bay leaf.

What you will need:
*Altered ingredients

*4 teaspoons sunflower oil
1/2 cup onion, finley chopped
*3 cloves garlic, finley chopped
*1 cup Bhutanese Red Rice
1 Salam leaf, or bay leaf
3 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
3/4 teaspoon  coriander, ground
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
*1 cup fresh black lentils, whole or split
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole scallion, sliced

Let's get cooking:

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until translucent. Stir in the rice, Salam or Bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

In a separate saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Stir in the ginger, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes then cook 1 minute. Add the lentils and stir to coat evenly with the spices.
Add 1 1/2 cups water boiling water, season with the remaining  pepper.
 Bring back to a boil continuing for about 3 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer,
covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
Notes: Lentils can cook at varied rates so it is important to check the periodically while
cooking. In addition, make sure to use boiling water verses adding raw lentils to water
then bringing to a boil. Do not add salt until lentils are cooked to desired tenderness
as this can make your lentils tough.

Get this look:
In a large, warm serving bowl, combine the cooked rice and lentils, mixing thoroughly.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with the sliced scallions.
Serves Four

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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