Archive for the 'zucchini' Category

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

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

26
Feb
10

veggie pizza with truffle oil and parmesan.

The weather has been all kinds of Bipolar lately. One minute it’s all “Aren’t I gorgeous? Check out my bright blue skies. How’s about some Sun? Done. Mild temps? You got it, baby,” and the next moment it turns all, “You want cold? I’ll give you cold. I’ll give you freezing, bitch. How’s 17 degrees? Wait, wait, I’m not done. How’s about two feet of snow? Want flurries for days?” And you’re left with cracked and bleeding knuckles and what can only be described as mild irritation.

Last weekend was one of the highs. I got to the point where I left the coat at home and wore loafers without socks to shop a little. Admittedly, I jumped the gun just a little on the lack of coverage, but damn was it a nice preview of what’s to come. I’ve started to feel like a hamster on a wheel at the gym every day, so it was fucking delightful to run outside. On Saturday, I went back to my track and ran two miles, and then I ran another couple of miles alongside FDR. Running alongside traffic is really underrated. I did the same thing on Sunday, except this time I did the track, the path along FDR, and then ran through the streets. I mean, danger? Never heard of it.

I just watched “Into the Wild” last night, and it actually changed my life. Like, I’m obsessed with this Emile Hirsch and (most) everything his character stands for, but that movie is also such a love letter to nature. Emile spends 3/4 of the movie looking all athletic and tanned and doing all kinds of risky outdoorsy activities, and I think that’s when I connected with him most. Of course, he gets all miserably Jesus on the Cross-like once he gets to Alaska. That’s not really of interest to me. Anyways, I was so ready to start running, hiking, paddling, etc.  As if on cue, the weather hit one of her lows yesterday.  We got like two feet of snow overnight and shitloads of snow ALL damn day. Who, me? Bitter? Never.

On the spicy side, I made the most delicious veggie pizza earlier this week. My friend introduced me to Chelsea Market, which I’m almost ashamed to say I had never checked out in my three years in NYC. It’s MECCA. The place is filled with fresh food markets, Italian specialty stores, delicious bakeries, etc. Also, it’s dirt cheap. I bought an entire week’s worth of groceries for $18.95! Suck it, Whole Foods. Anyways, my pizza was made of:

Ingredients:

Veggie pizza

whole wheat pizza dough

1 small Japanese eggplant, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

tomatoes on the vine, sliced

cremini mushrooms, sliced

mozzarella, sliced

fresh basil

fresh thyme

olive oil

truffle oil

I started with some store bought dough, which you can get at Trader Joe’s for $0.99. You have to let it sit at room temp for about 20 minutes, so in that time I sliced up all my veggies and preheated the oven to 425 degrees. I rolled out my dough and put it in my little pizza pan sans oil. Risky, I know. I then laid all my veggies atop each other and sprinkled the whole thing with thyme. I drizzled both oils on top, and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. I added the basil at the last 5 minutes so it wouldn’t wilt, and it came out all kinds of delicious.

I’m not sure how attractive it came out, but see below for the first piece I ate…which was followed by two more pieces. I served it with a little Parmesan cheese on top and doused it in red pepper flakes. So good! See below:

Veggie pizza with truffle oil and parmesan




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