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

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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White bean, garlic and basil spread

toast

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.

whitebeans

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

Mango and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Mustard Seed Dressing

arugulumango5Summer is officially here! My mum is visiting from Delhi, and today’s recipe is hers (although she says it’s not really hers, but she doesn’t remember where its from).  It’s a salad I’ve eaten many times while visiting my parents in Delhi, and it seemed perfect for the humid, sweltering day we had in Durham today.  Luckily, my mum agreed to model for me (those lovely hands in those photos, hers!), so today’s entry is truly collaborative.

For Indians, nothing symbolizes summer more than the appearance of mangoes in the market.  A sweet, juicy, dripping mango is what makes summer bearable, many would say.  This recipe is all about celebrating those incredibly sweet, ripe mangoes of summer, but contrasting them against some peppery arugula and two different dressings, one sweet and one sour.   You do need ripe, sweet mangoes for this recipe, so in the grocery store, look for mangoes that are a little soft and that give a little when you squeeze them (just like a ripe avocado).

You should prepare the different components of the salad separately: (i) the mango and arugula; (ii) the balsamic dressing; (iii) and the mustard seed dressing.

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arugula1I love the way this salad looks: the bright marigold of the mangoes, with dots of black, against the green.  And it couldn’t be easier. I hope you’ll try it! x

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 ripe mangoes, cubed (discard the center portion with the seed)

1 bag washed arugula (about 8 cups)

For the balsamic dressing:

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. honey

Pinch of salt and pepper

4 tbsp. olive oil, whisked in

For the mustard seed dressing:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds

12 curry leaves (approximately)

  1. Wash the arugula and dry it with a dish towel.  Put it in a large bowl leaving a hole in the center for the mangoes.  arugula2
  2. Cut the mangoes into cubes – they don’t have to be exactly the same size.  Place in the center of the bowl with the arugula and set aside.mangoes3
  3. Make your balsamic dressing: add balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk in about 4 tbsp. olive oil.  Taste and set aside.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat.  When the oil is very hot, add the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter for about 30 seconds.  mustardseeds1Add the curry leaves, but be careful, the oil will sputter, so be sure that you are not too close to the stove.  When the curry leaves become crisp and fried, turn off the flame and pour the mixture immediately over the diced mango.
  5. Pour the balsamic dressing over the arugula leaves.  Mix everything and serve immediately.arugulamango2

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“Burmese” Curry Noodles with Tofu, Baby Bok Choy and Carrots

Last night, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, The Layover, in which he spent a dizzying 30 hours in Singapore and ate his way through something like 8 meals. His last meal before he boarded his 17 hour flight back to New York was a heavenly-looking laksa, a spicy Peranakan noodle soup, for breakfast. Watching him patiently standing in line, sweating through his expensive shirt on an ordinary, humid morning in Singapore, made me long for that bowl of goodness.

So, here it is: a hot, spicy bowl of noodles and curry to simulate being in or around Singapore, minus the fascism. Since laksa usually involves some meat, it was merely a jumping-off point. In fact, once I started cooking, I went more in a Burmese direction – this is a modified khow suey, really, from the Shan state in Myanmar/Burma – than a Malaysian one (all references being very loose here). It doesn’t really matter; what you’ll find are big flavors and a balance of spiciness, sourness, and sweetness. Best of all, this dish is entirely vegan and vegetarian (simply omit the boiled egg as condiment).

This is a great dish for a dinner party—not only because its easy to scale up—but because all the condiments look so pretty laid out on the table, and everyone can personalize the curry to their liking. There’s something very nice about allowing your guests to engineer their own magic. What makes it super fun to eat are the condiments: a bit of egg, some fried garlic and shallots, fresh coriander, some green chili and lime.  Worth every bit of extra effort.

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A note about cooking:

Everything cooks up pretty fast, so make sure that all your veggies are chopped and ready to go before you start cooking. OR, if you are multitasking, chopping while your garlic and shallots are cooking, make sure to keep a close watch on them, so that you don’t burn them (I often have to make two batches)! You will have several things on the stove at once; at times, this feels like you’re creating music, with different melodic and rhythmic lines coming together, but it can also feel a bit chaotic. I’ve tried my best to show what kinds of multitasking work best here and when you really might want to do things one at a time.

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babybokchoytofucarrotPrep time: 40 minutes (with some multitasking)

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1/2 lb. egg noodles/Canton noodles/spaghetti (all work well in this)

5 oz. five spice or other pressed tofu (if you cannot find pressed tofu, use extra firm)

1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp. ginger-garlic paste

1” ginger, to grate

Two cups of baby bok choy (green beans or other greens work very well here too), washed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped in rounds

6 cloves garlic, sliced as thinly as you can

2 shallots, sliced with a mandolin or as thinly as you can

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 green chilies, chopped (or dried red chili is fine too)

1 tsp. red chili powder

Juice of one lime

Peanuts, for garnish

Cilantro, for garnish

2 eggs, hard boiled

Limes, for garnish

1/2 cup of warm water

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. If using the five-spice tofu, cut your tofu into cubes and cut the carrots into rounds. Add the ginger-garlic paste and turmeric and mix everything well. (If you can’t find pressed tofu and are using tofu in water, drain your tofu well, cut it into cubes, and fry it in 1 tbsp. of sesame oil, to sear it. See: http://mortarandpestle.info/malaysian-coconut-curry-with-okra-chips/ for more detailed instructions)  tofucarrots
  2. Steps 2, 3, and 4 can be done at the same time. In a large saucepan, bring water to boil for your noodles. Keep an eye on the time and remove them a minute before what the package instructions say. Set aside.
  3. Place two eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring this to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and cover the eggs. They will be ready in 10 minutes and will be hard boiled but still a bit creamy. Once done, chop your eggs and place in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. At the same time, heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan on medium heat.  Slice your garlic and shallots (you can use a mandolin if you have one). When the oil is hot, fry the garlic and turn down the heat to medium-low. Keep your eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t burn. In the meantime, place a paper towel on a dinner plate. When the garlic turns golden brown, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on the paper towel. Fry your shallots in the same oil until they are crispy and brown (not black!) again making sure not to burn them.  Set aside on a paper towel. shallots

shallotsfrying5.  Take 1 tbsp. of the oil from the fried garlic and shallots and pour into a medium or heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and green chili. Once the cumin starts sputtering, add the marinated tofu and carrots into the pan. Let the tofu and carrots cook for 30 seconds, and then add in the coconut milk with the warm water. Gently scrape the bottom of the pan, to get any bits of ginger or garlic. Turn the heat down to medium-low and bring the curry to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. burmesecurry16.  While your curry is simmering, heat a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the peanuts and roast until they are brown (3-4 minutes). Shake the pan occasionally to make sure they roast evenly. Set the peanuts aside in a small bowl.

7. Chop your condiments – the cilantro/coriander leaves and lime wedges.  Place your peanuts, shallots, and garlic, in separate small bowls. Once the curry has been simmering for about 10 minutes and the carrots are softened, add in the baby bok choy, along with 1 tsp. red chilli powder, salt and juice of one lime. Grate 1” piece of ginger into the curry. burmesecury38.  Add your noodles and gently ladle the curry on top. Let everything simmer for another 2 minutes, until the baby bok choy is tender, but still firm. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

9. Turn off the heat. Serve your bowl of curried noodles with your accompaniments: wedge of lemon, scallions, green/red chili, cilantro, peanuts, fried shallots, fried garlic, and egg.

 burmesecurry4

burmesecurry7Oh, and did I mention that it’s finally spring?

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Ful medames (Stewed fava beans)

Driving home one day from a cafe, my partner and I noticed a new Middle Eastern market which has opened up in what is fast becoming the Durham Muslim community’s hub (yay! finally!).  It was spring break, and with time on our hands, we decided to stop and browse.  My partner, who lived for some time in Jerusalem, was thrilled.  Though the selection of fresh vegetables was limited, we loaded up on lots of other goodies: a sturdy jug of Lebanese olive oil for $10, bulgur wheat (in lots of different sizes), fava beans, eggplant spread, pickled labneh, tahini, fresh pita…. There is also halal meat available, for nonveggies. 

I’ve been having a Middle Eastern spell lately, and this morning, I created my version of Ful Medames – a super easy, fast, delicious, and healthy breakfast.  It takes about 10 minutes and is fantastic with some pita bread, warmed and slightly crisped in the oven, and some soft or hard boiled eggs.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, grated or mashed

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bunch of parsley, finely chopped

  1.  Drain and rinse the fava beans well under cold running water.  Place the beans in a pot and cover them with water (there should be at least 1″ more water than beans). Bring the water and beans to a boil on medium heat.  Let the beans boil for about 8 minutes, until soft.
  2. While the beans are boiling, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Transfer the beans into the bowl and mix well.
  4. Using a fork, lightly mash the fava beans, making sure to leave some unmashed, so that you have different textures.
  5. Serve with pita/bread and/or some eggs!

fulmedames

Malaysian Coconut Curry (with okra chips)

I don’t know about you, but no matter the weather, my craving for Southeast Asian food – sweet, sour, hot, and spicy flavors – is always strong. There’s something about being jolted out of the dullness of the heat and humidity with a bowl of steaming pho or, in this case, being warmed up on a cold winter day with a spicy, sweet and sour Malaysian curry.

Malaysian cuisine, highly underrated and woefully absent in the US (at least outside of urban centers), is usually described as a mix of Chinese, Indian, and Thai flavors. However, there’s nothing derivative here; the fact that this curry is balanced and entirely distinctive speaks to its sophistication. Believe in the harmony of turmeric, tamarind, coriander powder, and soy sauce!  Having said that, I have no idea how “authentically” Malaysian this curry actually is. My dear and talented foodie friend, Tim, first gave me this recipe, along with Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. However, I have made several adjustments, mostly to turn up the flavors.

This thick, delicious, golden curry is perfect with a bowl of white or brown rice.  Today, I paired it with okra chips, which were a perfect complement (recipe here).  My friend stef, who is vegan, gave me a photography lesson today and joined us for lunch–so plus point, both recipes are also vegan. These photos are a product of their gentle but precise direction.

malaysiancurryraw

 

curryokra

Serves: 2
Total prep. and cooking time: half an hour

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. vegetable/canola oil
½ red or white onion, sliced in half moons
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. ginger
1 can coconut milk (400 ml. or approx. 13 oz.)
1 cup warm water
1 box firm tofu (preferably pressed or the firmest you can find)
1 tbsp. tamarind paste (you can add more after tasting)
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tsp. Madras curry powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. red chili powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. light brown sugar or palm sugar
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 scallion stalk, finely chopped
Chopped cilantro (a handful)
1 lime, cut in wedges

  1.  If using tofu that is in water, remove the tofu from the container and using a few paper towels, gently press down to release any extra water. Cut the tofu into 1” cubes.
  2. Put 1 tbsp. of oil in a pan on medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is hot, slide your tofu cubes into a sauté or sauce pan. You want to gently sear or brown them on both sides. After about 2-3 minutes, check to see if they are browned and turn them over to sear them on the other side. (If you are using pressed tofu from an Asian grocery store, you can skip this step).
  4. In a wok, add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook, until the onions start to brown (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Add the garlic and the white parts of the scallions to the pan with the onions and saute for 30 seconds.
  6. Pour in the coconut milk along with 1 cup of warm water. Once the mixture starts boiling, turn down the heat slightly, to a gentle simmer. Add the tamarind paste, sugar, Madras curry powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and red chili powder. Add the seared tofu as well.
  7. Using a grater or zest, grate about 2 tbsp. of ginger directly into the curry.
  8.  After about ten minutes, add in the soy sauce and chopped tomatoes.  At this point, taste the curry and adjust the spices as per your taste. Add more tamarind if necessary.
  9. Cook for another 2 minutes, until the tomatoes soften slightly, but they should still look fresh and brightly red against the golden, thickened curry.
  10. Add the green part of the scallions and chopped cilantro. Turn off the heat.
  11. Serve with brown or white rice and a wedge of lemon on the side.

Okra chips

A lot has been written and said about kale chips (2014 was apparently the year of kale), but I strongly recommend giving okra chips a try. I know some people don’t like the slimy quality that okra sometimes has, but by frying it, you change its texture completely.  These chips are crunchy, crispy, salty–the perfect replacement for a potato chips craving (I have a lot of those).  The chaat masala (easily available at any Indian grocery store) and squeeze of lemon at the end add a salty and sour note which make this the perfect snack, appetizer, or side dish.  From start to finish, your chips will be ready in 15 minutes. Eat ’em hot.

bhindi

bhindifry

friedokra
A squeeze of lemon at the end and a few coriander leaves, et voila.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

4 cups okra, sliced lengthwise, and then halved

2 tbsp. chickpea flour

1 tbsp. chaat masala

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

Squeeze of lemon

Coriander leaves (for garnish)

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat up 2 cups of vegetable oil.
  2. Cut the okra in half, lengthwise, and then into half again, as shown in image 1.
  3. Mix the chickpea flour, chaat masala, coriander powder, salt, and turmeric powder together, and then pour over the okra.  Mix well.
  4. When the oil is hot, add about half your okra mixture in.  Fry for about 2-3 minutes, until the okra turn brown.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra from the pan and transfer to a paper towel, to let the excess oil drain.
  6. Repeat with the remaining okra.
  7. Once the oil has drained, add a little more chaat masala on top, a squeeze of lemon, and garnish with coriander leaves.  Serve immediately.