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.

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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.

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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.)

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Za’atar Chickpea and Grain Salad

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I always seem to be carrying too much stuff.

I take public transport to work, so everything I need to make my day comfortable, I have to carry on my shoulders. I’ve begun to consider a backpack but there’s part of me that’s too vain to do that. It’s the part of me that used to work at a fashion magazine. She feels shame from even thinking about a backpack.

The other part of me is all, girl, get yourself a backpack and stop complaining!

For now, I’m still rocking my awkward too-heavy leather handbag and extra tote bag combo because I still need all of the things every day.

I need entertainment, so there’s usually a book (please don’t start talking tablets – I like my books with tangible and sometimes pre-owned paper pages.) I need to be protected from the elements and office air conditioning, so there’s always a cardigan and/or scarf, sunglasses and sometimes an umbrella. I need to be hydrated during my 50 minute commute, so there’s usually a water bottle an occasionally a coffee thermos.

And, of course, I need to be well-fed. There are a few decent lunch options around the office, but I prefer to bring my own most days. And snacks. I need the snacks.

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Sometimes organizing a lunch to bring can be annoying in the evening when all I want to do is plant myself on the couch and eat popcorn by the fist full. But most often, I like to see it as an opportunity to get creative with new spices and combinations of vegetables, grains, cooking methods and textures.

This salad was one of those finer combinations. I made a big batch of it on a Sunday night. We had it as a side dish with baked snapper that evening and I had it for lunch the following two days. It held up perfectly.

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Spiced Chickpea and Carrot Salad

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This salad is brought to you by: the insane heat that blanketed Sydney yesterday and my favorite skirt that’s a little tight after the long holiday season.

Seriously, it was shockingly hot. Like hotter than your average person’s body temperature. Clearly, seeing 43 degrees (109 Fahrenheit) on my phone weather left a big impact on me.

Anyway, turning on the oven wasn’t an option, nor was boiling or simmering anything. I needed something refreshing but also something with substance to get through the mid-day slump.

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Swiss Chard and Chickpea Salad with Peanut Chili Dressing

A good peanut dressing is hard to find. I’ve had quite a few misses that left me slightly nauseous and thoroughly discouraged.

Not to get all Debbie Downer on you, but I had kind of given up on making a good Asian-y peanut sauce altogether. (SO sad, I know.)

But when the mood struck for something a little spicy, gingery and peanutty, I decided to give it another try. And FINALLY, I ended up with something I was pretty happy with.

I thinned out the sauce with a little warm water to use it as a salad dressing (the sauce recipe below ends up on the thick side) over a nice crunchy and fresh mix of carrots, Swiss chard, chickpeas and rice.

This sauce is also great spooned over warm steamed veggies and tofu or as a dipping sauce for rice paper rolls or dumplings. A little swirl of Sriracha with it is pretty killer too.

PEANUT CHILI DRESSING

  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of half a lime (extra to serve)

Heat oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant, add chili and ginger and continue to cook for another minute, stirring.

Add peanut butter, soy sauce , coconut milk and water and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken. If it becomes too thick, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Allow to cool and add lime juice.

Serve over salad or as a dipping sauce for vegetables or dumplings.

SWISS CHARD AND CHICKPEA SALAD
(serves 2)

  •     1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and dried
  •     1/2 cup brown rice
  •     2 cups shredded Swiss chard
  •     1 medium carrot, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  •     2 green onions, thinly sliced (set some aside to garnish the salad)
  •     1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
  •     1/4 cup chopped peanuts (or cashews)

Place all the ingredients besides the nuts together in a bowl with the dressing and mix well to combine. Top with reserved green onions, chopped nuts and extra cilantro. Spritz a little extra lime juice on there for extra punch.

Lunch Today: Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate

This was what was in my lunch box today.

It’s another travel-friendly salad that keeps well when made and dressed a few hours in advance – the chard, in particular, really benefits from some marinating.

It’s kind of a bastardized version of tabbouleh – with refreshing parsley and cucumber, and the quinoa standing in for bulgur. I have dreams of topping this salad with crispy, spicy falafel – but alas, it was not in the cards for today. Instead, we have chickpeas and some feta for a salty flourish.

I added toasted coconut flakes because I’m addicted to them. True Life: I’m a toasted coconut flake fiend.  Yup. But here they add a nutty sweetness and a little crispy-crunch factor that works surprisingly well.

And the pomegranate. The pomegranate brings that tart crunch and a sassy pop of pink – it totally makes this salad a babe.

It’s all topped off with a honey lemon dressing that highlights the zesty parsley and salty feta.

Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
(Serves 2)
– 3 cups Swiss chard, cut into thin ribbons
– 1/2 cup chickpeas
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa*
– 1 small cucumber, pealed and diced
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, divided
– 1-2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, for garnish (optional)

Honey Lemon Dressing
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 3 tablespoons oil of your choice
– pinch of salt

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl or combine ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Combine the first 6 ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Pour dressing over this and mix well to combine.

Let sit covered in the fridge  for at least 1 hour. Top with remaining pomegranate seeds and toasted coconut to serve.

*Notes:
To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup dry, rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is puffed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Makes 1 cup.

Harissa Chickpea Burgers

Harissa, like sriracha, is another spicy addition to my pantry that I have no idea how I lived without. When it’s sizzling in a pan with some olive oil, the smell that drifts over the kitchen is intoxicating. That chili-garlic goodness is probably what a love potion tailored to me would smell like. It wins my heart.

I have been putting it in eggs, rice, hummus, fish, vegetables, pasta…yeah, everything. Some burgers seemed like a natural move.

Chickpea burgers, because I had some soaking.

And the rest, is history.

You can probably expect weekly harissa installments from here on out.

Unsolicited advice: if you don’t have some harissa up in your kitchen, get some. If anything, you can probably seduce someone with it. (No promises, though.)

Chickpea Burgers with Harissa
(makes 4 burgers)
– 3 cups cooked chickpeas
– 1 heaping tablespoon harissa paste
– 1/4 cup parsley and/or coriander leaves
– 1 small shallot, chopped
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced
– 1 egg and 1 egg white
– 4 small green onions/scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped
– salt and freshly ground pepper
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor with a sprinkle of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Process until the chickpeas reach a crumbly texture and the harissa is distributed throughout.

Place in a bowl and stir in the egg, egg white and green onions into the chickpeas until completely combined. Use your hands to form equal-sized patties, being careful not to make them too large. (About 3 inches/7.5 cm across)

Heat olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Cook patties until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Serve warm.

Suggestions:
Serve in pitas, small buns or over a salad.
I served mine with avocado, arugula and Greek yogurt spiced with cumin, garlic and chopped fresh coriander.
I also had one with this roasted red pepper sauce and some cucumber and tomato. Go nuts!