Archive for the 'spinach' Category

07
May
12

Sunday Roast and blue cheese.

After 6 remarkable years of Trader Joe’s, Panini Presses, immersion blenders, and culinary self discovery in NYC, I’ve hopped the pond to experience a new city and its charming ingredients. I’ve relocated to London for the next few years! Bring on the High Teas, Sunday Roasts, and radishes, y’all!

a rare moment of self reflection

But first, a moment of reflection. I moved to NYC knowing little more than how to navigate through a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and my prize recipe was a tuna casserole I proudly topped with Baked Lays and a generous serving of honey mustard dressing. Apparently, I went through a Midwestern phase in college? Come to think of it, I was making said casserole when I went through my Vince Vaughn phase, so that all adds up…

Anyways, I’ll forever be grateful for what New York taught me in terms of food. I ate in all the best restaurants, consumed an impressive amount of Food Network on the weekends, and cooked exclusively with Whole Foods and Farmer’s Market ingredients, so it’s safe to say I nearly peaked in terms of culinary ability.

Nearly is the operative word, here.

My next chapter is one filled with porridge, Yorkshire pudding, and shedloads (I’m a Brit now – mind the slang) of tea, and I’m confident I’ll flex more cooking muscles than I knew existed. And, believe me, I’m culinarily ripped.

Since I’ve arrived, I’ve done my best to go lady-balls-deep (see what I did there?) into the native cuisine, so that began with a Sunday Roast. It’s the equivalent of a Sunday brunch here, but more dudes are apt to join since you replace a $20 egg dish with a £15 dish of the meat of your liking (i.e. leg of lamb, roasted chicken, aged beef, pork shoulder, or fish), and it comes with roasted vegetables, roasted new potatoes, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. It looks like this:

Sunday roast

And it’s typically served with anywhere from 1-5 Guinnesses (Guinnei?) No, you say? That’s entirely optional? Well, I don’t care to experience it any other way.

Yorkshire pudding, for those who are unfamiliar, is that giant crusty popover looking thing to the left of my chicken. It’s alright, although I’d prefer if it weren’t such a misnomer. Say “pudding” and I’m bound to want something gooey.

Now let’s switch gears for a minute and discuss the sweaty side before we cover what British-y meals I’ve made so far in my temporary flat. I toured two gyms my first day here, assuming I’d go into London the same way I went into NYC – staking my claim on a treadmill before I had an apartment or job and considering the gym central to my daily mental health and happiness. As I was price comparing the two, though, I realized that the gym and exercise are not one in the same. I decided to hold off on the contract for now, and in turn encourage myself to be creative with my workouts. Maybs that will curb the resentment I occasionally develop towards the gym? We’ll find out.

For now, I bought a jump rope (or “skip” as they say in the UK) and have been jumping every other day or so. I then do some planks for my arms and core and tricep dips if I feel like showing my wings some more love. I’ve already gone to 3 dance classes in the week I’ve been in London, and the one I went to today was a total arse-kicker. I’ll be back. I may start doing yoga also, because with my Skip in my home I can get my cardio on whenever I want and have the freedom to take non-sweaty classes away from home. I’m SO into this idea.

Today, I went to the grocery before the aforementioned arse-kicking hip hop class (which they actually call “hip pop”..adorable), and I stocked up on some English staples. I got some carrots, radishes, an English cucumber, and blue cheese, and got to work chopping for a little salad I threw together:

Ingredients:

English Salad

4 c baby spinach
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1/4 c radishes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/3 c English carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
1 oz creamy blue cheese
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp grainy mustard
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by slicing the carrots, radishes and cucumbers, and placing on top of the bed of just washed spinach. I then dolloped the blue cheese all over the salad, because I’ve decided to develop a taste for the stuff all “When in Rome”-style, and I love it already. While my bed of veggies was complete, I whisked together the grainy mustard, honey and olive oil for a thick dressing to drizzle on top. I then finished the whole dish with salt and pepper and devoured. Pretty legit.

I also couldn’t get over how adorable my English ingredients looked on my cutting board. Just the cutest little veggies I ever did see.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to work the oven or microwave, and I left my Panini Press with its affinity for American voltage with my friend Ryan in NYC, so I’m pretty limited to the stove top these days. I went with one of my go-tos tonight with a British twist, so I made kale and tofu with blue cheese.

English cutting board

Ingredients:
4 c kale, chopped
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/3 package of tofu
1 oz creamy blue cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by heating the olive oil on medium heat in my skillet. I sliced the onion and tossed that into the oil. I cooked until it was translucent, and then I chopped and added the tofu to the skillet. I’m still adjusting to an electric stove after cooking with gas for 6 years, and I realized it would take approx a lifetime to get my tofu anywhere near golden. That’s typically how I like my tofu, but I was ravenous so I only cooked them for a few minutes. I then added the rinsed kale, and cooked that with the onions and tofu for about 5 minutes until wilted. I finished the dish with the lemon juice and dollops of melty blue cheese. Highly recommended. See below:

kale, onions and tofu with blue cheese

27
Feb
12

chicken/dance.

So, I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my body weight in chicken these past few weeks. In the days leading up to my abandoning vegetarianism, I was sure I’d take to the gamey and processed meats of which I’d never before experienced. I had vivid dreams of lamb and was openly envious when people spoke of prosciutto, so I couldn’t have foreseen myself clinging to America’s most over-exposed foul. And yet, I’ve clung. Nearly everything I’ve made recently is chicken-centric, such as these great feta-stuffed chicken burgers I found courtesy of Weight Watchers:

Ingredients:

feta stuffed chicken burgers

1 lb chicken breast, ground, raw

1 tbsp Oregano

¼ tsp garlic powder (I used 1 clove of fresh)

7 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

1 c lettuce (I used spinach)

¾ c peppers, red, roasted and sliced

Begin by heating up the Panini Press and coat it with olive oil cooking spray. Then mix the chicken, feta, garlic and oregano in a large bowl. Divide into four balls and press them into patties. Put them on the grill for about 7-8 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I chopped a head of cauliflower, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted those in the oven for about 15 minutes. I removed those and drizzled with lemon juice. I spent about 2 minutes sautéing the spinach in a pan with a little cooking spray, salt and pepper.

This recipe is, like, embarrassingly easy. I’m pretty sure it took me less than 20 minutes to cook, preparation and all. The burgers came out really juicy, and the feta and oregano were the perfect simple flavor combination. New favorite? Methinks so.

feta stuffed chicken burgers topped with spinach and red peppers, alongside roasted cauliflower

As far as the sweaty is concerned, I have been going to a dance class that I just adore. In the past I’d found that dance classes in NYC typically range from the awkward white girl zumba to the wannabe Broadway auditions, and there is very little demand for the working professional who simply wants to rediscover her shoddy childhood technique and learn a fun combo every once in a while (me). Imagine my surprise when I found a single class offered thrice (go with it – I’m trying out my Shakespearian tongue) a week that occurs after work and boasts an encouraging, delightful teacher. I’m thrilled.

The class ends at 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, though, a fact which kept me from regularly attending when I originally discovered it a few months back. At the time I thought of the timing as a major drawback, assuming that I’d be eating dinner by 9 p.m. at the earliest and therefore dreading the inevitable 9 hour stretch between lunch and dinner. Luckily, I recently began subscribing to the 5-6 short, light meals a day school of thought, so I’m able to do both things I love. Hallelujah. Moving forward, though, I’ll need to take care to have short preparations when cooking those nights. I found this great recipe for Parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted romaine in Bon Appetit magazine last week, and prepared it Monday in about 20 minutes. Seriously.  I’m beating Rachael Ray at her own game.

Ingredients:

Parmesan chicken and roasted romaine

1 ½ lbs chicken breast cutlets

½ c grated Parmesan and pecorino cheese blend

½ c panko breadcrumbs

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 large hearts romaine, halved lengthwise

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Salt and Pepper, to taste

This recipe also called for anchovies, but I can’t seem to let go of that childhood aversion, so I omitted them. You start by reheating the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and put them on the baking sheet. Then combine cheese, panko, 2 tbsp oil, parsley, and one garlic clove in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and pat the mixture onto the chicken. Place in the oven, and roast for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drizzle romaine with 1 tbsp oil and one chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven around the now golden chicken. The recipe says to roast for just 5 minutes longer, but I found my salmonella fearing self keeping them in there for at least 10. Remove from oven, and serve with lemon juice squeezed atop the whole plate.

This is one of the best meals I’ve made in recent memory. I was obsessed with what appeared to be a roasted chicken Caesar salad, yet needed no buttermilk dressing, buttery croutons, or any of the other unnecessary fattiness associated with components of the Caesar salad. This meal is a winner. Julius himself would be pleased.

Sadly, I had a few days last week in which I over-chickened. One such time happened last Friday, when I neglected to eat a proper dinner and headed home at about 10:30 p.m. On my way, I bought a chicken salad, which had the unfortunate 3:1 ratio of chicken to greens. I awoke feeling overly full and perplexed, as my late night cravings are usually of the cheese or baked goods families, and rarely constitute so much animal carcass. I found myself craving a little chicken distance after that experience, so I’ve decided to play vegetarian this week.

I made the Seared Tofu with Pine Nuts recipe I also found on Weight Watchers. I altered it a bit, as the original recipe called for Swiss Chard, and Trader Joe’s was without. I subbed a bag of mixed southern greens and some apple cider vinegar:

Parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted romaine

Ingredients:
4 tsp pine nuts

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp black pepper

8 oz tofu, firm, drained and sliced crosswise into ½ inch slices

2 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag mixed southern greens (collard, mustard and spinach)

¼ c Apple Cider vinegar

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add pine nuts and sauté until golden, shaking often so they don’t burn, for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Combine soy sauce and pepper on a plate, add tofu and turn to coat.

Heat oil in the same pan over medium-high heat, add tofu and sear until golden, about 2 minutes a side. Remove from pan. Add garlic to the pan and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the greens and cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to wilt. Add apple cider vinegar and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Serve the greens under the tofu; sprinkle 1 tsp of pine nuts on top. This just may be my most favorite detox dinner ever, and it’s easy on the eyes as well. See below:

Seared tofu over southern greens and pine nuts

31
Oct
11

spinning round two, pumpkin soup.

Breaking news: I am ready to give spin another chance! I know; I’m just as shocked as you are, Sweaty/Spicy masses. It seemed we were wholly unmatched when I attended my first 6 a.m. class nearly three years ago, but it’s possible there was just a learning curve to dealing with the pitch black room, blasting techo and overly amped-potentially-roided-out instructors? Either that, or tastes change and that’s what I now consider motivation? In any event, I went to a class here last Friday, and I’m dying to return. The class was short (45 minutes), I sweat (buckets), and I got two entirely separate endorsements of how toned Soul Cycle-enthusiasts become (once they drop several hundies). SOLD.

This new obsession couldn’t have come at a better time, because I’m starting to lose my daily gym motivation as it’s turning to Winter far too early. It’s just not the same when you need to strip away 17 layers of clothing to change into gym clothes at lunch. And going before or after work is out of the question these days. The days are getting shorter and it’s already getting darker earlier, and that’s a notorious motivation assassin. Blerg.

I’m making more of an effort to eat healthy these days to make up for my gym aversion, though. I made this quinoa primavera courtesy of my Whole Foods app:

Ingredients:

quinoa primavera

1 c quinoa
2 c water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ c finely chopped red onion
½ lb asparagus, ends cut off and discarded, the rest cut into spears
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c thinly sliced spinach leaves
1 tsp paprika (my addition)
juice of one lemon (my addition)
salt and pepper, to taste

You start by rinsing quinoa under cold water, and then drain it. Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

I had no cooked chicken in the house, so I bought thin breasts and seasoned them with paprika, salt and pepper. I baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, and removed from the oven.

Meanwhile, I heated the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then added onion and asparagus. Cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and peas, cook for one more minute. Stir in chicken and quinoa, add spinach and stir until it wilts, 3-5 minutes. I added lemon juice, salt and pepper, and ate.

Admittedly, this dish is kind of bland. I hate to waste food, so I added hot sauce when I ate it the next few nights. In retrospect, it would have been good if it were made to be creamy, so I think next time I’ll add Greek yogurt or something to give it some body.

That was the first Whole Foods app recipe I made, and it was kind of a fail despite looks. I learned my lesson judging the spin class too soon last time, and have deprived myself of nearly 3 years of a rock hard bod because of it. And, so, I gave it another chance.

I made a kale, mushroom and polenta sauté courtesy of the Whole Foods app.

kale, mushroom, tomato and polenta saute

Ingredients:

Canola oil cooking spray
½ lb button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes (my addition)
red onion, sliced (my addition)
5 Roma tomatoes, slice (my addition, it called for sundried tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 18-oz roll pre-cooked polenta, sliced
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese

I learned my lesion before with the bland quinoa recipe, so I manipulated this one a bit. You start by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat with cooking spray. The recipe actually calls for olive oil, but I’m not one for greasy kale so I went spray instead. Add onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and polenta, and cook for another few. Add kale and ¼ c water, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another couple of minutes until the kale wilts. Toss well, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and serve in a bowl. Top with Parmesan, and consume.

I’ve made many iterations of kale, but this has to be one of my favorites. It ties with the cannellini beans and lemon juice recipe, which is one of my old stand-bys. Delicious. Whole Foods app, you’ve redeemed yourself.

Now that it’s basically committed to Winter outside, I’ve decided it’s time to start making soups. Unfortunately, my immersion blender croaked earlier this summer while I was making salsa (sigh), and so I bought a new one earlier today. It’s Halloween weekend, so I figured it would be economically sound if I made a pumpkin soup that also happens to be a Weight Watchers recipe.

Don’t mind if I do.

adorbs

Ingredients:

3 ½ lb pumpkin
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 c vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp fresh sage, minced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

This guy has nothing to do with anything, but I thought he was precious so he made this blog’s guest list.

You start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut pumpkin in half, horizontally, and scoop out seeds and membranes. Set pumpkin halves cut-side down, place garlic clove under each half. Bake one hour.

I baked these earlier this afternoon as make-ahead, and then stored them in the refrigerator as I dragged myself to yoga. I will never understand why I go to yoga so begrudgingly, but I’m always so insanely proud I went. It’s one of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

Later on, I scooped the pumpkin flesh out of the shells into a large bowl. Add garlic and two cups of broth. I then pureed with the immersion blender, which not surprisingly resulted in a kitchen covered in pumpkin guts. After the mixture is smooth, pour the puree into a large saucepan. Stir in remaining one cup of broth, sage, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with sage and serve.

I would add butter to this soup and a little heavy cream; although I’m not surprised Weight Watchers omitted those two fatties. They’ll make the guest list next time:

pumpkin soup with sage

 

19
Oct
11

brunch, zumba, roasted root veggies

This carnivorous journey has proven quite interesting. I went from spending three years in meaty fear to fully embracing everything from the gamey lamb to the more mainstream meat trifecta of chicken, turkey, and beef. I then recalled my commitment to health, and so I downsized the red meat in my life and welcomed more lean proteins. Then, out of nowhere, I went all lady-balls-to-the-wall and had my very first duck bun! I’m almost ready to conquer ham, and I’m thinking a croque monsieur is the way to do it.

I’ve accomplished what I intended to do, which is to fully convert to a meat eater, enzymes to break down animal protein and all. I also cared to prove myself a worthy meat adversary, so that socially I prove more desirable as people who knew me as a veggie can get off on my unabashed consumption. And get off they do. You’re welcome, friends.

As a result, I no longer feel as if I have something to prove, meat-wise. And, so, I’ve decided that I prefer cooking mostly vegetarian at home, but I will continue to order meat when I’m out. Well hi there, happy medium. I knew I’d find you somewhere.

I’ve been making an awesome veggie-filled brunch on the weekends, and it’s always some variation of whatever veggies I have on hand and a poached egg. Last week, I made a particularly lovely one:

Ingredients:

veggies and a poached egg

1 egg
splash of white distilled vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 eggplant, chopped
2 c broccoli florets, chopped
2 c baby spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste

You start by filling a small saucepan with water, and bring it to a simmer. Add a splash of vinegar, and drop the egg in the water. Cook for 3 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon to dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook garlic in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray for a couple of minutes. Add broccoli, and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly tender. Add eggplant and more cooking spray, and cook until they begin to brown along with the broccoli. Add spinach, and cook until wilted, another 5 minutes or so. Serve under the egg, and top with Sriracha. It’s been my go-to weekend brunch for nearly a year, and I’ve yet to tire of it.

On the sweaty front, I just discovered zumba. I know I’m a little late to the party (ha! pun intended), but I sure am glad I showed up fashionably late. I find myself enjoying monotonous cardio less and less (running, I’m referring to you), and so it was refreshing to go to a Latin-infused dance class for a change. It’s well documented that I’ve tried nearly every type of exercise know to man, but I will always return to dance. And zumba is, like, really challenging! It’s super fast and complex, and the instructor will not slow down regardless of the class’s comprehension. I’m a lifelong dancer and show-off, so I was made for that.

I came home all Starvles the Clown after my class last night, and I was in the mood for lots of veggies. I decided to make ratatouille, and I found this great recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers.

ratatouille atop tofu shirataki noodles

Ingredients:
¾ lb eggplant, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 c portabella mushrooms, sliced (my addition)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c water
14 ½ oz canned diced tomatoes2 tbsp basil
¼ tsp black pepper
4 tsp Parmesan (my addition)

You start by putting the eggplant in a colander in the sink, and covering it in3/4 tsp salt. Let stand 20 minutes, and then rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook one minute, and stir. Add water, reduce heat, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil, pepper, and remaining ¼ tsp salt. Simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.

I sometimes watch Hungry Girl, and she constantly raves about Tofu Shirataki noodles. They are cheap, a good pasta substitute, and just 40 calories a bag, so I had to give them a try.

You start by draining and rinsing the noodles, and then microwave them for one minute. Pat them dry, because they are far too moist to consume at first. I added salt and pepper to the then dry noodles, and served them underneath the ratatouille. It was just about the healthiest thing I ever did make, and it was really tasty. Totes making it again.

Last week, I made this incredible Roasted Root Jumble that I stole from the adorbs Aarti Sequeira:

Aarti Party

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander (I used cinnamon)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 lb butternut squash, chopped (my addition)
cooked polenta, sliced (my addition)

The original recipe didn’t call for butternut squash, but I added it in for funsies. You start by pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the oil, cumin and cinnamon in a bowl, and then add ½ tsp of salt and a fair amount of black pepper. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cover them in the oil. Toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, then add feta and bake for 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, I cut the polenta into slices and pan fried in a skillet over medium-high heat. I cooked until they blackened a bit, and then served them underneath the jumble. I don’t want to overstate this, but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever consumed, save for a blackened salmon taco I had in Austin once. The roasted lemon is incredible, and I was able to quash my desire to add hot sauce by squeezing lots of flavor out of the lemons. That, in itself, is a massive accomplishment since I am a Sriracha obsessive. See below:

roasted root jumble with feta

13
Jun
11

roasted cauliflower salad & lentil walnut burgers.

One of my old college friends is what you would call an Extremist. She’s brilliant in science, the maths, and all other stuff that the right side of my brain atrophied to avoid, and yet she can craft a beautiful essay and color coordinate an outfit like no other. I love/hate her for being so well rounded. She recently enrolled in med school, but she can party harder than, like, Bluto. I once witnessed her spooning with a bottle of Patron because she didn’t want to risk enjoying a next day hair-of-the-dog Bloody Maria with an inferior tequila. That’s only a mild exaggeration.

I’d always enjoyed the sense of superiority I’d gain when calling her an Extremist and telling her I was going to introduce her to my friend, Moderation. It took me years to realize I was projecting and referring to myself, and it was I who needed to befriend Moderation.

And so, Moderation is the name of the game these days. Rather than jump into any workout craze, I am sticking to my midday gymming and going to the occasional dance and yoga class. I just found out that my favorite street jazz teacher will be teaching nighttime classes at the studio near me, so look forward to some West Side Story-friendly moves in the near future. I can finally have that dance fight I’ve always wanted! I’ll say things like, “Take that tour jete, bitch,” and “You don’t even know how high I can arabesque, ho. Now sashay, Shante.”

I turned on the 4 Hour Body nearly as quickly as I started due to its surprisingly restrictive nature characteristic of a diet (subtle sarcasm). I’m staying pescetarian for the time being, but I may move towards meat eventually. I want to be like Giada who eats everything in moderation, and stays just so fit and adorbs. I feel like once I master the long-lost art of moderation I can maybe broaden my horizons? It goes against my binge eating generation’s nature, but I will rise above it.

I made this Cauliflower and Arugula salad I saw Chuck Hughes make on the Cooking Channel:

Ingredients:

cauliflower arugula salad

1 cauliflower, trimmed, cut into small pieces and blanched
2 tbsp butter (he called for 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
4 cups arugula
2 shallots, thinly sliced (he called for one)
olive oil spray (he called for 2 tbsp)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup walnuts (he called for pine nuts)

I just love Chuck with his curiously Midwestern accent and overly expressive eyes when he’s detailing his ingredients. He’s like an aggressively tatted-up puppy. His recipes look damn good, too, and I wanted to pay tribute to him by making one tonight. I changed this one quite a bit due to ingredient restrictions, though, and I’m not proud of that. I left out the bacon to keep it veg-friendly, but carnivores should include.

You start by chopping the cauliflower into florets and blanching them to start. For those unfamiliar with this technique, you start by dropping cauliflower into salted, boiling water for about three minutes. Scoop it out and drop in a bowl of ice water and leave for a few minutes until they’ve completely cooled. This is meant to break down the fibers (I assume) and preserve the color and flavor in the meantime.

Chuck then says to saute in a pan with the butter until golden brown. I found this was longer than the 5 minutes he said and closer to 10, and I threw the first sliced shallot in with the cauliflower. I wanted Shallot City, Population: 1, and so I went there. Then I added honey and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, and cooked for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, mix together arugula, the shallot, the remaining red wine vinegar, and olive oil in a bowl. Top with the cauliflower and walnuts, and dinner is served. I really loved this dish, but next time I’m going to add some golden raisins. My sweet tooth is back with a vengeance.

While I’m not crushing fro-yo or enjoying some late-night rugelach, I’ve been countering the excess sugar intake as of late with some beans and greens. One of my go-tos is kale with lemon and cannelini beans, but I’m not sure I’ve ever featured it here. It looks like this:

kale with cannelini beans

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale, chopped and de-stemmed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c dry white wine
olive oil cooking spray
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp ground cumin
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

At some point in her career, Giada made something vaguely resembling this dish, but I’ve distorted it in my hundred or so iterations, so it’s barely recognizable.

I start by chopping the garlic and onion and sauteeing it over medium heat with the cooking spray. I then add about half the can of beans, and simmer for a few minutes. I season with about 1/2 tsp of cumin, salt and pepper, and let the beans start to brown. I then add the kale in batches, and cook it down until it starts to wilt. In this version I added some leftover white wine, and I’m glad I did because it added all kinds of flavor plus a fun sizzling sound upon its addition. I then cook for a few more minutes until the kale is all wilty, and then top with lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and more salt, pepper and cumin. It’s just so damn good, and total Poor Man’s Food so it’s ideal for the early month post-rent deduction scrimping familiar to my fellow New Yorkers.

I made these Lentil Walnut burgers from Whole Foods last week that I was relatively proud of:

Ingredients:

street jazz

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups cooked brown rice, divided
1 15-ounce can lentils, rinsed and drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

You start by heating the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

You’re then supposed to puree the rice lentils and egg in a food processor, but I have nothing of the sort so I merely mashed them together with a potato masher and some elbow grease. Transfer to bowl with vegetables, add remaining 1 cup rice and stir to combine. Form lentil mixture into 10 to 12 patties, using about 1/4 cup of the mixture to make each one.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Arrange half of the patties in skillet and cook, flipping once, until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat until the patties are done. I served with some sauteed spinach and onions, and it was really tasty. The food processor is a must, though, because my patties had a hard time staying together. I know what I’m treating myself to on payday!

lentil walnut burgers and sauteed spinach

25
Jul
10

phyllo dough pizza, fruity/nutty couscous

There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for  it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.

First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

Ingredients:

6-7 sheets phyllo dough

4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 zucchini, sliced

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup baby spinach

1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms

fresh mozzarella, sliced

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.  It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:

from left: nectarines, apricots, dates, pecans

Ingredients:

Near East brand whole wheat couscous with toasted orzo

1 nectarine, chopped

2 apricots, chopped

4 dates, chopped

small handful pecans, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.

When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.

Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product:

spiced whole wheat couscous with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates




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