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Q: Carrabba’s spicy lentil soup is just addicting. Unfortunately, it’s not always the soup of the day when I go. Can you get the recipe? — B.L.

A: Carrabba’s does not share recipes, so here’s my attempt at duplicating the soup. I like to use a hot Italian sausage or a good dose of red pepper flakes. You could certainly cut down on the fat by using Italian-style turkey sausage.

Could Be Carrabba’s Italian Lentil Soup

Makes 8 servings

1 pound Italian sausage

3 strips bacon, diced

3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrots

6 cups chicken or beef stock, divided

1 pound dried lentils, rinsed and picked over

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup diced zucchini

1 bunch Italian parsley, snipped

Grated Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar to finish

1. Place the sausages in a small saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook until sausages are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Drain. Pierce casings so fat drains off. Rinse and slice into 1/2-inch coins.

2. Meanwhile, saute bacon until crisp in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drain off fat and add garlic, celery, onions and carrots. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft. Add 1 cup of the stock and deglaze the pan. Add the lentils, remaining stock, tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper. Stir in the bay leaves and basil. Bring to boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 hour. Check from time to time and add water if necessary.

3. Just before serving, stir in zucchini and parsley, and cook 2 minutes. Serve with balsamic vinegar, grated cheese and extra red pepper on the side.

Per serving: 387 calories (20 percent from fat), 8.5 g fat (2.4 g saturated, 1.7 g monounsaturated), 52.8 mg cholesterol, 30.7 g protein, 46.6 g carbohydrates, 14.5 g fiber, 777 mg sodium.

Q: I’ve lost my recipe for honey-garlic sesame chicken like you find in Chinese restaurants. — Patricia, Miami Shores, Fla.

A: I came up with the recipe here when we moved away from South Florida and couldn’t find sweet, garlicky chicken at our new neighborhood restaurants. It’s time-consuming to make, but you’ll be hooked.

Sesame Chicken

Makes 8 servings

3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon dry sherry

3 drops sesame oil

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon peanut oil, plus additional for frying

2 tablespoons water


1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 to 1 cup honey, to taste

1 cup chicken broth

1/8 to 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, to taste

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon or more chili paste

To Finish

2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup chopped green onion

1. Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add chicken, toss to coat and let stand 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, saute the garlic and ginger in the sesame oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant and soft. In a bowl, whisk the honey, broth, vinegar, cornstarch, soy sauce and chili paste, and add to saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; the sauce will thicken quickly. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

3. In a heavy skillet, heat oil 2 inches deep to 375 degrees. Working in batches, fry the chicken without crowding until done. Drain on paper towels.

4. Place the chicken on a platter, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Serve over rice.

Per serving: 412 calories (21 percent from fat), 9.6 g fat (2.3 g saturated, 3.6 g monounsaturated), 129 mg cholesterol, 48.3 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 0.2 g fiber, 287 mg sodium.