Archive for ‘Healthy Cooking’

December 11, 2013

Homemade Labneh and Quesadillas

labneh

I feel fairly at ease attempting the basics in the kitchen – sautéing, roasting, chopping, boiling, broiling. I’ve got those on lock.

And then there are other kitchen endeavors that I’ve learned to avoid. Pastry, for example, is not something I’m down with on a regular basis. Nor is deep-frying or preserving.

Normally something like making one’s own cheese seems like dicey territory, but yogurt cheese – or labneh – is where it’s at for us novices. All that’s involved is a little stirring and a bit of patience.

Labneh is almost like a Middle Eastern cream cheese, spreadable, creamy and a little tart. And super easy to make.

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November 12, 2013

Eggplant Po’Boys

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This recipe was inspired by Killer Poboys in New Orleans. I was reading their most recent menu (because that’s something I do in my spare time) and was instantly excited by their vegan option. Each individual ingredient was original and all together it sounded like a sandwich I could totally get on board with.

I think that’s what I love about vegan and vegetarian cooking so much – it encourages a different level of creativity, inevitably making vegetables taste more interesting and satisfying.

Now, a po’boy is really just a sandwich. But in New Orleans it’s a sandwich on a fresh pillowy baguette. It’s almost certainly one of those things that people claim cannot be replicated outside of the city due to the water – like bagels in New York or sourdough in San Francisco, I tend to believe these dough-related myths.

October 30, 2013

Sesame Chili Soba Noodles with Kale

soba2

I’ve been a dedicated – and admittedly uncool – brown-bagger for as many years as I’ve been working a full time job. More than just the limited food options nearby, I bring my lunch to eat healthy and stretch my paycheck.

This is the sort of dish that makes it easy to bring your lunch to work. Quick to make, packed with toasty sesame and warm chili flavors, and effortlessly vegan. It’s all about making meals play double duty – you know, cook once, eat twice.

I made this soba noodle dish after a Sunday shopping excursion when I returned home ravenous. I whacked it together in a few hasty minutes and gobbled it up even quicker.

June 19, 2013

Mushy Peas: The Best Way to Use Frozen Peas?

mushy peas

My affection for all things British runs deep.

As a kid with an excessive imagination, I found British history to be far superior to that of any other country – it was somehow more exciting and romantic to my small brain. And for most of my life, I considered British best. From classic rock bands, to history, to comedy.

London was my one and only choice of city to study abroad in, and I soaked up every bit of it I could. I walked everywhere and anywhere, became a regular at museums and pubs, and fell intensely in love with the city. Even its food.

What all of this nostalgic babbling is getting at is a little side dish called mushy peas.

June 11, 2013

Falafel with the Fixings

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I was first introduced to falafel, as I imagine many girls from suburban Long Island are, in college. One of my girlfriends lived in the East Village in a cozy little studio (way cooler than the dorm rooms and shared bathrooms I endured until I was 20) where she also happened to live around the corner from one of the best falafel shops.

The little vegetarian balls of goodness were perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, and soft, fluffy and a little spicy on the inside. Five dollars got you a pita heaving with falafel, salad, tahini and chili sauce to go. The perfect dinner prior to a night out with the girls.

I’ve made a few attempts at my own non-fried version. I’ve tried baking them, using both cooked canned chickpeas and dried but soaked chickpeas; and sauteing them using different binding agents and methods.

This has been my favorite attempt yet.

While these don’t quite hit the mark on crunch-factor (but let’s be real, that’s a hard thing to achieve without a deep fry) but the taste is perfect – zesty, fresh, and a little spicy.

Add a warm pita, good tahini spread and some hot sauce and I’m transported back to my younger days of frolicking around lower Manhattan with my favorite ladies.

Food 2013 021

 

Falafel with Fixings

recipe adapted from Just a Taste

Falafel:

  • 1 cup roughly chopped green onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  • ½ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup spelt flour
  • Olive oil

For the tahini sauce:

  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2-4 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or crushed
  • salt & pepper

For Serving:

  • Pita bread
  • Chopped tomato, cucumber and red onion salad
  • Tahini Sauce (above)
  • Hot sauce (I prefer Franks Red Hot Sauce on such occasions)

Directions:

Place green onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse just until they are finely chopped. Remove the mixture and set aside.

Add chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, salt, chili flakes, and cumin to the food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped but not pureed.

Return the onion mixture to the food processor, along with the baking powder and just enough flour so that when you pulse the processor, the mixture begins to form a small ball and is not sticky. (You can add more flour if the mixture is too wet.)

Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

While the falafel mixture is chilling, prepare the tahini sauce by whisking together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and water. Add more water if necessary, you want a slightly runny/spreadable sauce. Season it with salt and pepper and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Once the falafel mixture has chilled, use a spoon to form the mixture into balls, about 2-3 tablespoons each. (You can also add additional flour at this point, if the mixture is too wet to scoop.)

Heat a large pan over medium heat with a generous glug of oil to well-coat the pan. Allow the pan to fully heat up (about 3 or 4 minutes) then add the falafel one by one, browning them on the first side for 3 minutes, then flipping them once and browning the other side until the mixture is cooked throughout.

Transfer the falafel to a paper towel-lined cooling wrack and immediately season them with salt. Repeat this process until you have cooked all of the falafel.

Place 2 or 3 falafel inside a halved, warmed pita with tahini sauce and chopped salad. (And hot sauce, if desired.)

May 27, 2013

Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

b-sprouts pomegranate 

My brussels sprouts default is a toss up between some roasting action or pan-frying. Either way, they’re cooked until golden, almost charred in places and caramelized.But sometimes it’s nice to keep it simple.Raw brussels sprouts have a really nice delicate flavor and a great yielding crunch, when sliced thin.

Ideally you’d use a mandolin for this thin-slicing, but if you’re like me and don’t have one because you’re afraid that: a.) superfluous kitchen tools will one day swallow your kitchen, or, b.) you might seriously hurt yourself on one; you can just use an old fashioned knife and give it your best shot at “thin.”

I mixed the thinly sliced b-sprouts with some cooked and cooled barley for a nice chew factor, along with toasted pecans for an almost-caramel-ly nutty crunch and pomegranate seeds for color, pop, and tartness.

To round it all out I drizzled a simple maple Dijon vinaigrette over the thing and called it lunch.

vv4
May 11, 2013

3-Seed Fennel Slaw

3-seed slaw2

Truth time: I used to love me some KFC.

These days I don’t find myself at fast food restaurants that much…or at all. But as a pre-teen and teenager I was all about an extra-crispy meal with potato wedges and a biscuit. Ohhh the biscuits.

Between the heavily seasoned crunchy chicken and biscuit/potato double-carb-punch, the whole situation was near perfect for my 15-year-old palate. The one and only problem was that nasty little styrofoam container filled with mayo-laden, tasteless coleslaw. I just couldn’t get into it. I liked vegetables and salad (albeit less than fried chicken), but this was not that.

So I went along in life thinking of myself as an anti-slaw kind of lady; until one day it occurred to me that slaw could be made into something I could enjoy. I’m a total texture and crunch fan, so I knew we could make this work.

We could keep the cabbage and carrots aspect and add some fennel for gourmet flair, but we’d have to ditch that mayo business. In its place, we can use a Greek yogurt and vinegar-based dressing along with lots of seeds for tang and spice. (This method also works for eliminating mayo from tuna and egg salads.)

I’m bonkers for the fennel’s aniseed flavor and crunch and for the taste and texture of toasted sesame, fennel and cumin seeds. I like the lightness of the dressing and how it allows the spices and vegetables to shine through.

This is how we shall do slaw from this day forward in my house.

Bring on the (non-Kentucky) fried chicken. (Or veggie burgers.)

3-seed slaw 1

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April 28, 2013

Mushroom Lentil Burgers

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Can we talk about the importance of a good burger? When the mood strikes, it’s impossible to shake, right?

My favorite burgers involve a whole heap of stuff. I like condiments and lots of little accessories on all the things I eat, but especially on burgers.

I love caramelized onion, melted cheddar, bbq sauce, tomato, and lettuce for crunch. But lets be real, with all of that stuff, sometimes it doesn’t really matter whether the burger underneath it all is beef or chicken or legume – especially if the meat version isn’t up to scratch, I’ll take a veggie burger in a heartbeat.

Despite my love of a perfect beef burger and obsession with toppings, I think a good-quality veggie burger can be just as badass as a meat one, albeit in a slightly more hippie kind of way.

The key to an excellent vegetarian-friendly burger begins with packing lots of flavor into the pattie.  (See also various add-ons above.)

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