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.

voraciousvander

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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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.

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-cookingrequired 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.

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Pan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

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Merry post-Christmas!

You look lovely today, btw.

I could have brought you a cookie recipe but that just seems wrong now. I can’t be bothered to turn on the oven, let alone throw measuring spoons and flour sifting into the mix. Ugh.

For me it was a Christmas filled with warm days, mangoes, pavlova, prosecco mimosas by the pool and lots of ham. Not too shabby.

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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.