Posts tagged ‘dinner’

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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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.)

April 28, 2013

Mushroom Lentil Burgers

mushroom lentil burger 1

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.)

February 15, 2013

Simple Shakshuka

voraciousvander//tomato eggs
I’ve had a busy two weeks since starting my new job.
At the end of each day, my brain is near exhaustion from just trying to remember names, learn new systems and commuting on crowded trains. Stimulation overload!
By the time I get into the kitchen, even the concept of inspiration is foreign to me. I’ve been falling back on easy and tried and true methods like roasting and sauteing for nearly all of my meals. And when all else fails, there are eggs.
shakshouka
So this is what you could call Shaksuka. Which is pretty much a fancy way of saying eggs poached in a rich tomato and pepper sauce.
A simplified version of just tomatoes, garlic and chili used to be my go-to when I was cooking just for myself after work. And I’m bringing it back! Here, there are a few extras like onion, peppers, paprika and cumin – to add some depth and smokiness.
This dish is a hug made of food.
It’s ease. It’s comfort. It’s perfect for one. Or two, if necessary.
February 1, 2013

Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

voraciousvander -eggplant

Oh hey slow cooker, hey.

You’re looking really great over there on the counter, all warm and stuff.

But not too warm that you heat up the whole dang apartment like that gauche oven. No. You’re super classy and independent  You take your time, do your job well and I don’ t even have to supervise you.  You’re like the perfect job candidate.

Sorry.

I was just…ah, having a fake conversation with my slow cooker to provide a weird/funny introduction to a recipe that I cooked in my slow cooker. NBD, guys.

Slow cookers make me think of meaty stews and thick soups, so at first, they don’t really seem to fit in with summer cooking. But they’re actually pretty perfect for summer (and obviously winter, spring, and fall.) No oven, no stove. Just toss a bunch of things in there, leave it alone, and come back to find a whole meal of cooked food!

Great right?

I love our slow cooker, it’s easy to clean and takes everything from pork neck to big summer eggplants to flavor nation.

January 30, 2013

Mushroom Gyoza

voraciousvander - mushroom gyoza3

Dumplings, gyoza, potstickers. Whatever you want to call little parcels of goodness, I recommend getting involved.

They’re cute, 2-bite-sized and are typically packed with flavor. They’re hard not to like.

I’ve made a sweet potato version before (which I’m going to revisit in the near future) but I usually leave this sort of thing to the professionals.

But if you can find some good pre-made wrappers, making gyoza at home is super easy – and might impress whoever you’re feeding. Once you get the hang of folding the little dough rounds, it’s a pretty soothing activity, too.

You can make the filling a day in advance and let it sit in the fridge. Or you can prep the gyoza a couple of hours before you’re ready to cook them.

I served them piping hot with a simple dipping sauce of a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and a little sriracha here and there. There are plenty of other dipping sauce options, but I tried to keep it simple to let the flavor of the shiitakes shine.

I’m going to go ahead and warn you: these are addictive. I served the two of us about 16 dumplings for dinner with a big salad and I wish I’d made more. Like double more.  Just a FYI.

January 25, 2013

Red Lentil Dahl with Kale

voraciousvander -RL dahl

Even in summertime I crave comfort dishes. I’m talking warm, heavily spiced bowls of things that might make you sweat a little when you eat them. I dunno. I’m aware that no one likes to sweat whilst eating, but I’ll take it over eating chilled soup. Gazpacho? I just…can’t. I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)

You know I’m game for a massive minimal-cooking-required salad, but homegirl needs a cooked meal several times a week, regardless of the weather. It’s something about sitting down at night to eat something that has a story. Something that’s been chopped and sautéed and simmered.

I love experimenting with cuisines that I find a little intimidating, it’s like facing your fears in a totally contained and inconsequential way!

Whatta rush.

Since I’ve been cooking, I’ve found Thai and Indian cuisines to be among my favorites to make at home. Mostly because they involve big vats of stew-like concoctions that can be custom-made to involve heaps of vegetables, tons of flavor and spice, and require being mopped up with rice and/or flatbread. (In general, I enjoy mopping my food up with carbs. It’s satisfying and delicious.)

Plus, a good curry paste can’t really let you down.

January 23, 2013

White Bean, Mint and Cilantro Salad

Food 2012 009

Timing is a funny thing.

Not funny ha-ha. But funny-strange.

You can time a dish in the oven to perfection, you can catch the train right before the doors close, you can be in the right place at the right time with the right person.

You can also burn a batch of cookies, have similar train doors slammed in your face, miss opportunities, or get pooped on by a bird. (Which, I can tell you from experience, actually does fall into the funny ha-ha category.)

It’s all a matter of timing.

I guess what makes it funny (non-ha-ha) is that we can’t control it.  Things happen when they happen and we can’t do much about it, other than use our own time wisely.

We can put time into hanging with the people we love, caring for ourselves, and into the goals we want to achieve.

But cooking in summer? Well, ain’t nobody got time for that.

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