Greek-Style Vegetable Casserole

I grew up in a house where dinner wasn’t complete unless there was something green on the plate – or at least something colorful and nutrient-dense. Some days it was sautéed spinach or steamed broccoli or roasted bell peppers, but most often it was a salad.

This meal standard has quietly followed me into adulthood (with the exception of a hardcore grilled cheese phase in college) – I find myself always searching for that all-important color on my plate.

Sydney winter has got me craving warm vegetable dishes in the place of the usual salad. This recipe for a baked Greek-style vegetable casserole is perfect for all sorts of vegetables (and for cleaning out the crisper drawer) – topped with feta and dill, it’s comforting and vegetable-packed with a robust Greek flavor.

It makes the perfect side dish for fish or meat, or simply have it as a meal on its own with some crusty bread or rice. A fried egg on top never hurt anyone either.

Greek-Style Vegetable Casserole
adapted from Bon Appetit
Feel free to swap the eggplant for zucchini, the potatoes for sweet potatoes, and add or subtract any vegetables you’d like.

– 1 small-medium eggplant (or half a large one) cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
– 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wedges
– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– salt
– 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedges
– 1 large carrot, cut into rounds
– 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips
– 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
– 1 14-ounce (400 gram) can peeled whole tomatoes, cut into quarters or cherry tomatoes with juices
– 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon dried oregano
– 2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
Heat oven to 450 F/ 230 C
Place eggplant, onion, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Season with salt. Transfer to a large baking dish (9×13″ or larger) and roast until the eggplant is slightly dried and beginning to turn brown, 12–15 minutes. Set eggplant and onion aside.
While eggplant is cooking, toss remaining 2 tablespoon oil, potatoes, carrot, red pepper, green beans, tomatoes with their juices, garlic, lemon juice, and oregano in a large bowl. Season with salt.
Place mixture in the same baking dish and top with roasted eggplant and onion. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and stir vegetables. Bake until pan is nearly dry and potatoes are tender and beginning to brown, about 25–35 minutes longer.
Sprinkle dill over the vegetables and let casserole sit for 10 minutes. Garnish with feta and serve.

Warm White Bean, Spinach and Herb Salad with Sumac

It’s Monday. How you livin’?

I’m living slow… Living like the biggest thing I accomplished yesterday was finishing season 2 of Downton Abbey (dang, WWI was an emotional roller coaster!) Living like I was so lazy yesterday that it’s taken the majority of my Monday to pull me out of my laziness slump and get my shizzle together.

I’m getting there.

Real talk: inspiration has been escaping me lately – in writing and in food. I’ve been doing my very best to work through it, but other things have been majorly clouding my head. Important things. Real life things.

But it’s time to get back on track!

Where to turn when I need to look at my crisper drawer with fresh eyes? To the badass vegetable master himself, Yotam Ottolenghi. Half an hour flipping through Plenty can work wonders – with beautiful photos and some fearless veggie cooking, I’m feeling the spark again already.

Warm White Bean, Spinach and Herb Salad with Sumac
inspired by Ottolenghi’s Plenty

– 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1-14oz./400-gram can), rinsed and drained
– olive oil
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced on a microplane
– 4 spring onions or scallions thinly sliced
– 1 teaspoon chili flakes
– 3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 1/2-1 tablespoon sumac
– salt & pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large pan. Add white beans and cook for 4 minutes, stirring only once or twice allowing them to turn golden in places.

Stir in garlic, scallions, chili flakes, spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally – allowing spinach to wilt down. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

Top with parsley, coriander and feta. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with sumac. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Carrot and Orange Salad

I’m excited!

This weekend some lovely friends are getting married. There will be speeches and Italian food and lots of love.

In two weeks, I get on a plane to New York where I will see some much-missed family and friends. I cannot wait to hug and laugh and eat and drink with all of my loves.

And look at these orange-y hues! So much to be spirited about.

Fresh, juicy oranges bounce off caramelized carrots and salty feta perfectly. It’s a salad to match my mood.

Carrot and Orange Salad
(serves 2)
– 4 large carrots, sliced into long pieces, 1/2 inch/1 cm wide
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
– sea salt
– 1 orange, segmented
– 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice from segmented orange
– 2 tablespoons feta cheese

Preheat oven to 230 C/450 F.

Mix carrots, olive oil, cumin, paprika and salt. Roast carrots for 15-20 until browned.

Let carrots cool for 5 minutes.

Combine carrots, orange, orange juice and feta. Sprinkle with additional sea salt and serve warm or at room temperature.

Bulk it up: serve on salad greens (spinach, kale, Romain, etc.) tossed with another drizzle of olive oil and tablespoon of orange juice. Top with toasted pepitas and chickpeas. Boom.

Fresh Pistachios & Peas

Fresh pistachios. Mind blown.

My vegetable and fruit delivery service said fresh pistachios were only available for another couple of weeks and they were selling some with their boxes this week. I couldn’t resist.

At first, I was surprised at their appearance (but let’s be real, I wasn’t really sure what fresh pistachios were all about in the first place.) A speckled yellow and pink soft skin encases the recognizable hard, oval-shaped shell. The nut at the center of all this business is softer and more mild than your typical salt roasted variety.

The smell of the skins has filled our kitchen for the past week – floral and slightly musky with a vague familiarity about it. Eating them plain is pretty excellent. And shelling and roasting them with a little salt makes them taste like the packaged kind – only better, fresher.

I thought their softness was kind of cool and akin to a fresh bean, so I decided to saute some with a little garlic to see how they turned out. The result is a beautiful, muted pistachio flavor with a slight crunch. Mixed with peas and a little feta, they make a snazzy looking side dish that is irresistibly green.

Whatever you do with fresh pistachios, keep it nice and simple. Let them shine.

Peas with Fresh Pistachios
(serves 2 as a side)

– 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
– 1/4 cup fresh pistachios, roughly chopped
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
– juice of half a lemon
– freshly ground pepper and salt
– 2 tablespoons crumbled feta

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add fresh pistachios and saute for 2 minutes until the insides are bright green and they are slightly golden and deep purple on the outside.

Add peas and cook for another minute to heat the peas through. Remove from heat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the mixture and season with a healthy amount of ground pepper and salt. Sprinkle with feta to serve.

Warm Red Cabbage and Corn Salad

In the past 7 days I:

  • Ate a silly amount of movie theater popcorn.
  • Ditto to mini Cadbury eggs. (Not the classic Cream Eggs, the milk chocolate ones with the crispy pastel-colored shell. Love.)
  • Wore workout clothes to run errands even though I wasn’t on the way to, nor coming back from working out. Sneakers paired with sweatpants make you look like a go-getter. Sweatpants with flip-flops make you look like a lazy college student. Fact.
  • Watched The Bachelor, Bring It On and Glee. (Not all on the same day. There would be no excuse for that.)

…I should also tell you that while I was watching that episode of Glee I was hula hooping pretty much the entire time. I don’t even like musicals. And I pretend hula hooping is exercise. I don’t know…

I am not particularly proud of these things, but I just felt like I should be completely… honest. About life.

Have I done anything redeeming this week?

  • I went to a Picasso exhibit (Culcha!)
  • We tried a new restaurant in Bondi.
  • I saw The Artist. (Silent movie! More culcha!)
  • I toasted a lot of coconut flakes and found various uses for them.

I also made this salad.

A good warm salad some how makes me feel better about my other, slightly shameful indulgences.

Balance. I think that’s what it’s all about. Get a dose of terrible reality television with a side of cubism. Wear your comfy clothes out in public when you’re grocery shopping, but put on a little pretty when you head out to dinner. Be 26 and buy yourself a hula hoop.

And leave a little room for some Easter-themed chocolate after the vibrant, crunchy, paprika-spiced salad.

Warm Red Cabbage and Corn Salad
(serves 4)
– 2 ears of corn, corn removed from the cob
– 1/2 red cabbage, shredded very thin
– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
– 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– salt & pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– pinch of cayenne pepper
– 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
– 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas
– a handful of chopped coriander

In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over a medium high heat. Add corn kernels and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until slightly golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over a medium high heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in paprika and cayenne.

Add cabbage and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes until the cabbage is just beginning to soften.

Combine cabbage with corn and let cool for 5 minutes.

Top with feta, pepitas and coriander and serve.