Spicy cauliflower and chickpea salad

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A nice, warm winter treat (though this is good cold, too)! I know cauliflower is making a comeback, as it should! I’m particularly fond of it roasted, a little charred, smoky, but still sweet. This has just the right amount of spice without being overwhelming. Enjoy it with some tapas, bread, and a glass of wine (that’s what I’m going to do right now. Oh yes, and binge watch Project Runway).

Adapted from: Simply Nigella

Prep time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer or 2 for dinner

Ingredients

1 small head of cauliflower

3 tbsp. regular olive oil

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 can (approx 400 gms.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

2 tbsp. harissa

2 small, vine ripe tomatoes

Salt, to taste

Bunch of cilantro OR parsley, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 425 degrees F. Trim the cauliflower into small florets. gobi1
  2. Whisk the oil, cinnamon and cumin seeds together in a bowl. Tip in the cauliflower and toss to coat. Pour the contents into a baking tray or dish and bake for 15 minutes.gobi2
  3. In the ‘dirty’ bowl that you used for the oil, add the harissa, tomatoes and chickpeas and mix together well. chickpeaharissa
  4. When the cauliflower has done its 15 minutes, take it out and add the harissa, tomatoes and chickpea mixture to it. Mix everything and put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.roastedcauliflower
  5. Once the cauliflower is tender, sprinkle with salt. Garnish with cilantro or parsley leaves and serve!chickpeafinal

Pearl couscous salad with paprika and mint dressing

We’re back to school, lovelies! And what a back-to-school dramaturgy it’s been. We’ve been having a record-breaking heatwave here in southern California, no joke, temperatures reached 100+ with nasty Santa Ana winds (the equivalent of the Delhi ‘loo’) blasting in from the desert.

This salad has been a lifesaver in this unseasonably hot weather. Not only does it keep well in the fridge for days (making a most delicious lunch indeed), but it is easy, quick, cooling, and manages to strike that magic balance between being both light and filling (perfect for teaching days). Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients – almost everything is replaceable and substitutable – you can replace the couscous with quinoa or another grain, you can replace the chickpeas with white or kidney beans, and you can replace the mint with basil or parsley. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whatever you’ve got lying around, I promise it will work. The toasted almonds add such a nice crunch and depth of flavor, you really do need the crunch, so if you have to substitute them, use something crunchy!

You get a hint of cinnamon and smokiness from the bay leaf in the couscous, which adds that subtle vacation-y feeling to this. So we can pretend like summer’s not really over.

Bon appetit!

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dressing

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2 as generous lunch portions, or 4 as a side

Ingredients

2 cups pearl couscous (sometimes called “Israeli couscous”)

1 15 oz. can (about 430 gms) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1 stick cinnamon

2 small or 1 large bay leaf

1/2 cup black olives, halved

2 cups cherry/grape/heirloom tomatoes, halved

4 small Persian cucumbers, chopped

4 cups boiling water

3/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds, lightly toasted

3 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or any cheese you like, or omit if going vegan)

For the dressing:

4 sprigs of mint, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar is fine too)

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Dry roast the couscous in a saucepan until the pearls start browning, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. To the couscous, add 4 cups of boiling water (double the amount of couscous you are using), the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, onion and a pinch of salt. When it starts to boil, lower the heat, put on a lid, and cook for about 12-15 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, assemble your other ingredients: chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.
  4. In another small pan, toast your almond slivers and set aside.
  5. Prepare the dressing.
  6. When the water from the couscous has evaporated and the pearls have puffed up, set aside and let the mixture cool down for a few minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves carefully. Lightly fluff the couscous with a fork.
  7. Add the dressing. Gently combine everything with a fork.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese and toasted almonds on top. Serve!

Note: if you will be eating this as leftovers, don’t add all the almonds now – just add them to your own bowl. Save the rest and add them just when you are about to eat so they stay crunchy.

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Pasta with tuna, parsley, olives and lemon

 

tunapasta6I had my last day of teaching this past Thursday, the end of my first year in a new job. I feel euphoric(!) – so pleased to be done with teaching and administrative duties for the time being, and to finally be able to work on my own stuff (Academics are a weird breed; we are grateful to have more time to work).

Anyway, these last few weeks have left me feeling spent, and I’ve been reaching for dishes that don’t require a trip to the grocery store, yet that don’t scream “PANTRY.” It is very, very likely that you will have most of these ingredients sitting around (I know I do). I love this recipe because it is all about combining staples–like olives, tuna, and pasta–with a generous dose of herbs, acid, and freshness, making this light and delicious. And you probably don’t need to leave the house!

A few tips, though: buy absolutely the best tuna that you can (sustainably caught, in olive oil, preferably from a jar rather than a can. I couldn’t find tuna in a jar, so I bought an expensive can of sustainably caught albacore tuna in olive oil.) Also, you are welcome to make your own breadcrumbs (they take exactly 8 minutes), but since I was feeling exceptionally lazy, I just used Panko breadcrumbs that I had lying around, and they worked beautifully. Third, I am a big fan of whole wheat pasta, but with this recipe, I think you really have to go the white pasta route. There are just too few ingredients here to disguise a chewy whole wheat pasta (but feel free to try if you are committed to it!)

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Serves: 2

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Approx. 200 gms. spaghetti per person 

20~ olives (I used a combination of green and black, but use whatever you have)

1 can/jar tuna fish

2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped

3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, lightly browned (you can also make fresh breadcrumbs by putting two slices of bread in a food processor, adding a dash of olive oil and pulsing. Then toss into the oven on 350 F for 6-8 minutes)

The zest of 1 lemon + its juice

1 tbsp. olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

1 cup pasta water (reserve before draining the pasta)

Generous grind of pepper

  1. Put the water for pasta to boil. Once it’s boiling, salt generously, and add in your pasta. Keep track of the cooking time (it will vary according to the package). In another small saucepan, add your breadcrumbs and brown lightly. Or make your own breadcrumbs (see above).
  2. In a separate bowl, assemble the rest of the ingredients: chop the parsley none too fastidiously, add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and olives. Mix together.
  3. Drain the pasta, but make sure you save 1 cup of pasta water (you don’t have to use it all). Add the parsley, lemon juice, olives, pepper, and olive oil. Add a little pasta water as well and mix everything together.

tunapasta54. Gently flake the tuna into the pasta (do this after mixing all the other ingredients so that you don’t break it up too much).

5. Sprinkle your breadcrumbs on top.

 

6. Serve!tunapasta7

Soba noodles with kale, tahini and ginger dressing

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Here we go: another quick, yummy lunch fix. I’ve been tripping on this no-cook dressing for weeks now. It can literally be ready in less than 10 minutes (not counting the time that it takes for your water to boil). But honestly, this is perfect if you are like me and rush home starving and want something quick, tasty and also healthy. I usually have these ingredients in my pantry as well, so it’s not as if any shopping is required for this.

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tahinidressing

Prep. time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 bunch purple or green kale

25 gm (1 bundle) of soba noodles per person

1/3 cup tahini

2″ piece ginger, grated

1/2 cup warm water

1 tbsp. sesame oil (+ a dash more for noodles)

1 tbsp. sriracha (add more if you like)

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. honey

1 scallion stem, finely chopped

1/4 cup sesame seeds, roasted

  1. Put about a liter of water to boil. In the meantime, remove the kale leaves from the stem and prepare your tahini dressing (combine tahini, ginger, warm water, sesame oil, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, honey and soy sauce).
  2. Once the water is boiling, throw the kale leaves in and blanch for about 5-6 minutes, until leaves soften. Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves and set aside.
  3. Throw in the soba noodles into the same boiling water, carefully noting cooking times which will depend on whether you are using dry noodles or not. Once a la dente, drain noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to cool. Add a dash of sesame oil on top of noodles to prevent them from sticking. Pour in dressing and massage into the noodles nicely.
  4. In a bowl or plate, arrange your kale at the bottom. Add the noodles and sauce. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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A kickass cup of (Mad Men) chai

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It’s been rainy and cold here in San Diego (well, for San Diego standards). We badly needed the rain, but the cold weather has created in me unquenchable chai cravings. Everyone knows that the rain (monsoon, to be more specific), pakoras and chai are a killer combination. But chai also always reminds me of weekly Mad Men sessions with friends in grad school and my friend Chika would usually ask me to make a cup of chai at some point, which I was more than happy to do. Chika, this one’s for you!

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Smashed ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. And yes, that’s my mortar and pestle. Now I really feel like I’ve revealed myself to you.

And nah, this isn’t the watered down, teabag chai from Starbucks or even your neighborhood coffee shop. I’m sorry, but no teabag chai, no matter how aromatic, can compare to the zing of this tea. For me, the ginger is essential here: it’s brightness and sharpness contrasts beautifully with the milky sweetness of this tea. You just have to boil these spices together for a few minutes. They will fill your kitchen with the most fragrant, beautiful aroma. And will wake you up.

The best damn chai of your life, I promise.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 7 minutes

Ingredients

3 cups water

1″ ginger piece, smashed

3 cloves cardamom, smashed

3 cloves

1/2 a cinnamon stick

1 tbsp. black tea leaves or 2 black tea bags

1/2 cup milk of your choice (rice/almond/coconut/soy/cow’s)

Sugar/honey/agave syrup (optional, per your taste)

  1. Bring the water to boil in a pot and then add the spices, all of which (besides the cinnamon) you should smash with a mortar and pestle to release the aromas. Let everything boil together for 2-3 minutes on high heat.
  2. Once the water has slightly changed color, add in your black tea bags. Lower the heat to medium and let boil for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat off and pour in the milk. Gently swivel the pot around so that the milk distributes evenly in the tea.
  4. Using a strainer, pour into two cups. Add a sweetening agent if you like. Serve immediately.

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Sugar snap peas with breadcrumbs, chili and garlic

Happy spring! Apologies for the radio silence, lovelies….what can I say? First year on the TT is kicking my butt. But believe me, I’m determined to make time to blog again. And just slow down.

This week in my CSA, I got a beautiful bunch of sugar snap peas–bright, green, sweet, and crisp. In fact, when I was trimming the peas, they actually exuded this sweet fragrance. How amazing is that?

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This recipe, which I read and slightly adapted from food52.com, is super fast, super easy, and super delicious. It blew me away and I hope you enjoy it too. It makes a great side, light lunch, or appetizer. And now is the perfect time to enjoy them! I love how the crunch from the breadcrumbs complements the crunch of the peas. The heat from the cayenne and slight tanginess from the lemon zest work really well together here too.

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SUGAR SNAP PEAS WITH BREADCRUMBS, CHILI AND GARLIC

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2 (as a side)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

3 cups sugar snap peas, ends trimmed

Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or red chili flakes

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or any breadcrumbs)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan on low heat. When the oil is hot, add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes). Add the garlic clove, cook for another minute, then turn off heat. Put into a mixing bowl and zest the lemon into the mixture and add the cayenne pepper or red chili flakes. Set aside.
  2. In the same saucepan, add another tbsp. oil and add the sugar snap peas. Saute for about 2 minutes, until they are still bright green but cooked through. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Mix everything together; squeeze some lemon juice on top. Serve immediately.

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Baked potato with chive sour cream

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Happy Thanksgiving, lovelies! As we stuff ourselves, let’s not forget the historical basis of Thanksgiving: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/33781-no-thanks-how-thanksgiving-narratives-erase-the-genocide-of-native-peoples

I am on my way to a pesctarian Thanksgiving feast at a friend’s house, and we are all bringing a dish to share. I offered to make mashed potatoes, but after some humming and hawing, I realized I am much more in the mood for a baked potato: the crisped, charred skin, soft interior, and a dollop of deliciousness in the form of a chive sour cream. Inspired by Nigella’s recipe, I lightened up the sour cream with some Greek yoghurt. You really can’t tell the difference. Use Idaho or any other Russet potatoes  – they are the best potatoes for baking because of their high starch content (Yukon Gold’s are the best for mashing).

While this is a great Thanksgiving side, sometimes it can also be a really comfy meal in itself. The best part is: once you pop them in the oven, you have an hour and fifteen minutes to do whatever else it is you need to do (in my case, writing a letter of recommendation for students – ’tis’ the season)!

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Hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, fun evening with lots of good food and wine.

Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

6 Russet or Idaho potatoes, washed, scrubbed and dried with a towel

8 oz. sour cream

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt

1/3 cup chives, snipped with a scissor

1 tsp. whole grain mustard

1 tsp. salt

A good grinding of white pepper

Metal skewers for the potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Clean the potatoes and skewer them. Once the oven is at the right temperature, place the skewers directly on the oven rack (this makes for the crispiest skin, rather on than a baking sheet or foil).
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, make the chive sour cream. Mix the sour cream, yoghurt, mustard, salt and pepper into a bowl. Snip the chives into the bowl. In another bowl, snip about 6 strands for garnishing at the end and keep separate.chivesourcream
  4. When the potatoes are done (about 1 hour, 15 minutes), remove them from the oven. Take them off the skewers and cut a cross in the top of each of them and slightly squeeze them so they open out and place them into a bowl.
  5. Garnish the potatoes with the extra chives. Serve the potatoes with the chive sour cream on the side and have people help themselves. bakedpotato

Fall roasted veggies with haloumi

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Tonight, I’m attending a moveable feast in my neighborhood. Each person is responsible for serving one course in their home, and then we move to the next person’s house, and so on. Theoretically, anyway. My guess is that somewhere around the second or third house, we might all fall down with the wine and good food buzzing in our bodies, but who knows? Maybe we actually will make it to dessert.

My friend Denise and I are co-hosting the second course of the evening, appetizers. She is making a mushroom dip and I decided to make these roasted vegetables with haloumi, which I once saw on Nigella Bites. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cheese on the menu tonight, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. This is also a great recipe for a weeknight dinner – just pop it into the oven and forget about it until five minutes before its ready to eat. Rewarding, rustic, delicious, easy.

If you don’t have/can’t find haloumi, you can substitute with feta or with another salty, crumbly cheese. Or you can also make your own haloumi, which I am going to attempt to do, thanks to this recipe: http://wholesome-cook.com/2012/07/18/homemade-haloumi-cheese-in-an-hour/

Prep time: 1 hour

Ingredients

One large sweet potato

1-2 yellow or red potatoes (whatever you have on hand)

1 red bell pepper

1 red onion

1/2 head of garlic (about 6-8 individual cloves)

4 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes or cayenne pepper (optional – I feel it adds more flavor)

Grind of pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the potatoes into slightly smaller cubes than the sweet potato (the potatoes are denser than the sweet potatoes, so need slightly more time to cook). Add each ingredient to the pan as you go.
  3. De-seed and cut the red peppers into approximately the same size cubes and add to pan.
  4. Half the red onion and then cut each into 4-6 segments. Discard the outer skin. The onion chunks should stay together.
  5. Separate the cloves of garlic but you don’t need to remove the skins (yay).
  6. Drizzle your olive oil on top and mix everything together with your hands.
  7. Season with pepper and/or red chili flakes if you wish. Don’t add salt because otherwise your vegetables will get mushy.
  8. Arrange all the vegetables in a baking dish. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Gently turn the vegetables about halfway into the baking process.roastveg2
  9. About five minutes before the vegetables are done, slice the haloumi cheese and lay on top of the veggies. Turn your oven on the broiler, and broil for 5 minutes. The cheese should get brown on top (if you don’t want to use cheese, just add salt at this stage).roastveg4
  10. Serve!

White bean, garlic and basil spread

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In continuation of my quest for hearty, delicious lunches, here is a quick and delicious white bean spread, perfect on a wholegrain toast with some avocado and tomato. The basil flavor really comes through and makes this pop as a dip or spread. I had it today for breakfast and now, I want it every day.

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Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 15 oz. can (approx. 425 gms) white, cannelini, or great northern beans

10 basil leaves

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (don’t worry–its going in the food processor)

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Drain the can of beans and rinse well, until the foam disappears from the beans. Add to a food processor. whitebeansrinsed
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients into your food processor and blend everything until smooth. Add more water if you want a smoother or creamier consistency. whitebeanprep
  3. Taste and adjust for sourness, salt and pepper.beansblender
  4. Eat as a dip with pita chips or use as a sandwich spread. Bon appétit! whitebeantoast

Pumpkin and Salmon Thai Yellow Curry

‘Tis October– jewel-toned pumpkins and pale, pimpled gourds and squashes are everywhere, ranging from the miniature, bite-size variety to the pregnant ones too heavy to carry and the big white ones that look like enormous heads of garlic.

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Here's the one I bought: just your average, cute-looking mid-sized gourd
Here’s the one I bought: just your average, cute-looking, mid-sized gourd

To me, this recipe – pumpkin and salmon yellow curry with bok choy – embodies what October is all about: a slight chill in the air, Halloween decorations adorning window displays and backyards, settling into the rhythm of the semester, while the end (six weeks more!) is tantalizingly close.

This recipe comes courtesy Nigella, specifically Nigella Bites. I love Nigella, the simplicity and lushness of her cooking, especially when she’s cooking for one. Her recipe includes shrimp as well, which of course, you can add here if you like along with the salmon. But I think the salmon is quite hearty and substantial on its own. This golden, marigold curry is perfectly balanced and will warm you right up after a long day at work or school. Aside from prepping the pumpkin, which can take a few minutes, the rest of it is pretty straightforward and quick.

Prep: 40 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

Approx. 1/2 pound salmon fillet (preferably organic), skinned and cut into large, bite-sized pieces

1 lemongrass stalk, cut in thirds (whack the lemongrass with your knife at different points along its spine so that it releases its lovely citrusy scent)

1/2 a medium-sized pumpkin, peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks (3/4 pound approx.)

1 1/2 cans of coconut milk (approx. 20 oz.)

1 tbsp. Thai yellow curry paste. Start with 1 tbsp and then add more during the cooking if you want more heat.  (I like the brand Mae Ploy. You can also use red curry paste if you don’t have yellow – see my recipe here). Note: the curry paste is not vegetarian – it has shrimp paste in it

2 tbsp. palm sugar (use cane sugar if you can’t find palm sugar)

1-2 tbsp. fish sauce (start with 1 tbsp and add more later if needed)

1 1/2 cups warm water/vegetable stock/ fish stock (I used vegetable stock here)

1 tsp. turmeric

3 heads of bok choy or any other green vegetable

Juice of one lime

Cilantro, for garnish

  1. Prep your ingredients: first, cut up the pumpkin into bite size pieces – discard the mushy center and seeds and remove skin.

    Knife skills are not perfect but as long as they are more or less the same size, it doesn't really matter.
    As you can see, they are not all perfectly the same size, but as long as they are more or less the same, it’s fine.
  2. Cut the salmon into bite size pieces as well, approximately the same size of the pumpkin.

    This is the beautiful fillet I got today.
    This is the beautiful fillet I got today.
  3. Chop your lemongrass and put a heavy saucepan or crock pot on medium heat.
  4. Add 1 tbsp. of curry paste into the pan and skim the creamy bit of the coconut milk from the top of the can. Combine the curry paste and coconut cream well until it becomes a thick but pale-looking sauce. yellowcurry1
  5. Continue to gently stir the sauce and add the warm water or stock, fish sauce, lemongrass, palm sugar, and turmeric. Bring to a boil. The sauce will become bright and golden once you add the turmeric. yellowcurry2
  6. Add the pumpkin and simmer, on medium-high heat until the pumpkin is almost fully cooked (cooking time of squash varies considerably – so keep an eye out. It could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes).
  7. Pierce the pumpkin with a fork and when it is still a soft but with some stiffness still in it, add the salmon and bok choy and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  8. When the vegetables wilt, squeeze in the juice of one lime.
  9. Taste to make sure the flavors are balanced. Add fish sauce if you desire more saltiness, sugar if you want more sweetness, and more lime if you want it more sour. Take the pan off the heat and garnish with cilantro just before serving over white or brown rice.
  10. EAT!pumpkincurry3

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