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Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category

pomegranate chicken kabobs cooling, ready to pack up

I’m still a little bit confused by New England weather. I mean, I lived here a few years ago when I went to The College (how’s that for subtle?), so I was ready for a long Winter. I was even prepared for the little peek of early Spring followed by a couple more snow storms. But I keep trying to figure out Summer, and I want to compare it to places that I am familiar with. I thought perhaps summer might be a little bit like LA’s “June Gloom”. Or San Francisco where the fog rolls out every morning. But I think it’s just unique with its own, er, charm. I’ve decided that it’s just predictably unpredictable.

All I know is that when I pulled together a last-minute potluck picnic last weekend to celebrate my friend Marina’s coming to town and fully anticipated that it would be held on my living room floor, I awoke last Saturday morning after a week of drizzle to a gorgeous sunshiny day. I even cleaned up my place anticipating a toddler’s grabby hands (or at least took care of the things that reached about waist-level for me).

So my friends and I were blessed with a beautiful day, an outdoor picnic, a bounty of food, and of course a fun afternoon with each other (and I got a relatively mess-free home…at least up to toddler-eye-view).

Here’s the menu, and like I did for my last dinner party, I’ll try to fill out the recipes as I go along.

the prettiest Challah I’ve ever made thanks to a new braiding technique

Guacamole (below)

Corn Edamame Salad (below)

Mayo-free Egg Salad (below)

Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (made with Spinach)

Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs (below)

Simple Chocolate Cake

Contributions from friends (feel free to send recipes or include in comments): Green Salad, Wine, Fruit Salad, Halva

Here are the salads that I made.

1) Guacamole

I normally add tomatoes to my guac, but I didn’t have any this week. However, I did have a jalepeno so this one came out nice and spicy.

Mash together flesh of 2 avocados, 1/2 finely diced jalapeno = ~1t (seeds removed – and don’t attempt to put on your contact lenses after dicing like I did!), 1T grated onion (optional), 2-3 generous pinches salt, and 2-3 T lime juice. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cumin.

2) Corn Edamame Salad with Pink Salt

This is a very easy salad that I threw together with things I had in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, adjusting and tasting as I went along. This made about 4-5 C salad and there was about 1/2 C remaining for me to take a picture of the next day (but my pic came out blurry).

Roast 3 ears of corn in oven as directed a few weeks ago. Cut kernels off of cob.

corn cut off the cob

Cook 1 bag (10 oz) frozen shelled edamame — I microwaved in a bowl with 3T water and a pinch of salt for 1-2 minutes. Drain water.

Mix corn with cooked drained edamame and add some quartered baby tomatoes (15-20).

corn edamame tomatoes

Dress with  rice vinegar (2-3T), toasted sesame oil (2T) and a pinch of salt. Serve with Hawaiian pink sea salt. I bought this pink sea salt at Target (I can’t seem to find it on their website any more) and its ingredients are sea salt and Hawaiian Alaea. A quick online search revealed that alaea refers to a harvested Hawaiian reddish clay that contains iron oxide; alaea salt is traditionally used in ceremonies to cleanse, purify and bless tools and canoes and imparts security on the item being blessed, and in healing rituals for medicinal purposes.

Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt

3) The Baking Architect‘s Egg Salad with Mushrooms

Ellie, aka, The Baking Architect, serves this no-mayo egg salad before many of her lunches. She forwarded me this recipe guide in the middle of a busy Friday to help me prepare for my picnic when I realized I had no mayo and was already boiling my eggs. I have put in my own measurements, but you can obviously adapt for whatever sized crowd you have.

Boil 8 eggs. The fail-proof method I learned for perfect boiled eggs is as follows: Prick a hole in the end of each egg with a clean pin. Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Drain out hot water and refill with cold water to stop cooking. Shake eggs around in pot to crack eggs. Shells will come off easily when cool, and yolks will be creamy.

Sautée sliced mushrooms (I sliced about 10 cremini mushrooms) with 1 diced onion and a pinch of salt and some garlic powder — or minced fresh garlic (1-2 t) — in plenty of olive oil (3T).

Allow eggs to cool and then dice the eggs in two directions on an egg slicer. Add the mushroom-onion sautée and mix well. Serve cold or at room temperature.

~~~

And now for the chicken:

4) Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs

Since this was a last-minute picnic, I tried to avoid doing a major shopping trip and used as much food as I had in my kitchen as possible. I remembered that I had a fair amount of dressing left over from that salad with beets and ruby red grapefruit that I made for my dinner party the prior week and figured it might make a good chicken marinade. It did and this chicken would also  be great thrown atop the salad if you decided to make the two dishes together. This is a really easy dish to make on a grill, grill pan, or my old stand-by, the George Foreman.

Make pomegranate marinade (see original post for more detail): Whisk together 1/3 – 1/2 C pomegranate juice, ~1T sugar, 6T orange-flavored olive oil, and salt, and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Cut 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Soak in marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Thread onto bamboo skewers (I put 4 chunks per skewer and made a dozen skewers, putting a beet on the end of each) and grill a few minutes on each side until fully cooked.

Pomegranate chicken kabobs on the "grill"

I let the kabobs cool a bit before packing them up in an rinsed out salad container for easy transport the next day (I was still hoping for nice weather, and my wish was granted).

These kabobs were a favorite of Mo’s — Jamie and Brad’s toddler — as he wandered around the mini Japanese zen park down the street from my place, navigating the huge “upside-down wok” and fake grass (that we were happy to discover does not seem to retain rain water from previous nights).  They were also a hit with Lola, Dani’s puppy, who kept sniffing at our licked-clean skewers after gobbling up the one chunk that slipped through Mo’s fingers.

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city living

One of the perils of city living is that when the temperature rises, there is little respite. I have lived in most of the major cities along the northeast coast, so I can officially attest to this. Growing up in the suburbs, we could easily escape to our neighborhood pool where my sister and I spent many summers on the swim team. Or just sit on the deck in the sun. And while I love the excitement of living in a city, the hundreds of options right outside my doorstep, the (relatively easy…well, in NY) public transportation, the culture, the art, the vibrancy, I do miss having a large kitchen and easy access to an outdoor grill.

Granted, I fully believe that like washing dishes and taking out the trash, grilling should be largely relegated to men. But miss it nonetheless I do, or at least the authentic flavors. I have made do in many of my apartments, and I think I’ve done a decent job adapting. I once actually made an entire Fourth of July barbecue on a collection of George Foreman grills (culled from friends and neighbors).

While it’s not quite corn season yet, I have recently been making corn-on-the-cob in my oven and if I may brag, it might not be grilled  … but it’s really pretty good.

Oven-Roasted Corn-on-the-Cob

 The technique here is similar to grilling in that I use a high heat in the oven and steam the corn in its husk. After dousing with some butter and salt, cover the corn with grated cheese.

The cheese that I’m loving right now is 5 Spoke Creamery‘s Tumbleweed. This kosher (Kof-K) artisanal dairy had caused a bit of a stir in kosher and non-kosher circles, being mentioned in articles here (along with Sugar River Cheese Co.) and here, and in a recipe for cheese croutons featured in the New Yorker magazine a few months ago by Dirt Candy (a vegetarian restaurant in NY) chef-owner Amanda Cohen. I can’t wait to try her salad recipe, though I’m not sure I’ll actually candy the grapefruit. I’ll leave you to read what others have written about the Tumbleweed, but I would describe it as creamy, European tasting (probably because it is made with raw – aka unpasteurized – milk) if that makes any sense, and with a strong tangy slightly earthy flavor. It has a nice melt-in-your-mouth feel and it spreads well without being too soft. Let it come to room temperature before eating (but if you’re going to grate it, feel free to pull it right from the fridge).

Serves how ever many cobs you make.

– Corn-on-the-cob

– Butter (optional)

– Salt

– Cheese – such as 5 Spoke Creamery’s Tumbleweed

Preheat oven to 425ºF and put rack in middle of oven.

While oven is heating, pull the husks back and remove silks from corn. Replace husks over corn and wrap end of corn with aluminum foil if necessary to seal so that the corn will steam in its own little packet. Cobs don’t need to be completely covered – the burnt parts are nice…you just don’t want everything to completely dry out.

Place cobs directly on the oven rack and cook for ~20 minutes until corn is tender but still crisp.

Allow corn to cool a bit and then unwrap, peel back husk, and use one or two husk strands to tie the remaining ones together, creating a handle of sorts.

Slather with butter if you’d like, throw on a pinch of salt, and generously grate cheese over the top. Eat immediately.

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playing hooky

I was supposed to go to a dance class last night (my new Wednesday evening ritual…yeah!), but after a few too many days of forgetting to wear sunblock (1 day is too many and I really should know better!) and then relishing in the sunshine that had been hiding from us here on the East coast, I realized that I was just a little too pink and weary to make it through a 2+ hour fabulous but exhausting and requiring-full-concentration modern jazz class.

Of course, I had already prepared a light veggie dinner in anticipation of a hungry return from class on which I gladly munched away  as I readied myself for an evening of dancing that would be a little less about concentration, technique, positioning, and placement. My friend Tammie and I decided to kick back and check out a live Brazilian band at Beehive. Complete with caiparinhas (the national drink of Brazil made from Cachaça [a sugarcane alcohol], sugar and lime that I first tried at my friends’ wedding in São Paulo), a demonstration of the  steamy Rio-style partner dance called Samba de Gafieira (followed by our own feeble attempts at emulating some of the hip-swaying fast-and-fancy footwork), an ad-hoc capoiera circle, and good conversation with friends new and old, the evening provided a wonderful respite from the sun.

Rejuvenated and armed with two different kinds of sunblock (yes, they are both from Europe – Piz Buin and La Roche-Posay Anthelios), I’m ready to spring/summer smarter and return to the Wednesday dance classes that I have quickly grown to adore.

Marinated Zucchini Salad

-163 sharp

Many marinated zucchini salads call for cooking your vegetables first, but in a heat wave, I try to do anything to avoid turning on my oven or stove. This salad, drawing from a Greek-inspired dish from Saveur and an Italian recipe from RecipeZaar, is a great use for zucchinis that are in abundance starting this time of year through the end of summer. Some of my other favorite recipes for zucchini include zucchini bread and zucchini parmigiana (instead of eggplant).  Choose zucchinis that are firm and dark green and not too large.

Serves 4-6.

– 2 medium-sized zucchinis or 3-4 small zucchinis

– 6-8 white mushrooms

– 1 bunch spring onions (4-5)

– fresh dill

– juice of 1 lemon (~1/4 C) or 1/4 C white wine vinegar

– 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

– kosher salt or other coarse salt

– pepper

zucchini, mushrooms, dill, wild spring onions

Cut zucchini into thick matchsticks. You could use a mandoline or a julienne peeler, but I don’t have the former and the latter makes strips that are far too thin for this recipe. I just hand slice everything.

Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any clinging dirt or debris. Don’t submerge in water or the mushrooms will become water-logged and soggy. Remove ends of stems and slice lengthwise.

Slice whites and light greens parts of the spring onions into thin circles.

Rinse dill, pat dry, and finely chop. Add as much as you’d like. In the batch I made without mushrooms, I added a few T. In the batch I made with mushrooms, I added a large handful.

Toss all vegetables  and dill into a large bowl.

Make dressing: juice one lemon into a medium sized bowl (should yield ~1/4 C) and then pour in an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil while quickly whisking the mixture to make a quick emulsification (this is pretty cool when you realize you can do it yourself and it’s really easy — it took me about 30 seconds). Add salt and pepper to taste (~ 1-2 t of salt or more, 5-6 grinds of pepper) and whisk again. Taste by dipping a thin slice of mushroom.When the dressing is to your liking, pour atop the veggies and dill and toss everything together.

If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can just drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the veggies and throw salt and pepper on top, then toss everything together. I was feeling a little fancy.

If you don’t have a lemon, or want a slightly different flavor, you can use white wine vinegar as your acid, or even try a mixture of the two.

marinated zucchini with lemon and white wine vinegar (no mushrooms)

Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. The salad gets better with time. After a few hours, I usually taste it and find that I need to add a little more salt (much better than it being too salty).

Enjoy after a dance class, while dressing for a night out on the town, or at a picnic with friends.

zucchini and mushrooms marinated in lemon with loads of dill

***

Since I did indeed miss my dance class to go see a Brazilian band, I wanted to share a video of the great contemporary Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo, that I saw a few years ago at BAM. Lau had come to visit from London, and the infamous foursome – Jeremy, Thierry, Lau and me – was reunited for an amazing non-date evening. Here is a video of one of the pieces that we saw that night. What I love about this number, besides its infectious music, is the choreography’s playfulness and freedom, the use of light and shadow to make it look almost like there are extra dancers, the simplistic costumes so the audience can focus on the purety of the dance, and how the dancers incorporate the unique back curtain into the entrances and exits.

What I love about Grupo Corpo is the incredible variety of their numbers and their musicality, their pulling from folk dances and rhythms from their local environs and the broader cultures (Asia, Africa) that make up the melting pot of their own home. Below is a trailer to a documentary with excerpts from many of their numbers, showing off their versatility.

Another one of my favorite numbers is Lecuona – a series of duets filled with longing, desire, and passion (of all types) danced to music written by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona, including this sexy tango…

… culminating in a waltz of 6 couples (starts at 3:25) that looks like a black-and-white movie.

I want one of those white flowy dresses with the open backs!

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Almost everything I own has a story. Part of that is because when I travel, I love to shop.  And I don’t just shop for clothing and shoes… I usually bring home an extra bag of local (kosher) food that I can’t find at home so that I can extend the experience of my trip and share it with those back home. I hope to share some of these finds with you in the future, as the spirit moves me.

I spent a few weeks in South Africa in 2003, mainly in Cape Town, working on a health care project with some classmates for the city of Cape Town under the direction of the late Ivan Toms. We worked hard in city health clinics  every day (my team was charged with uncovering the cause of an 8 million Rand increase in drug costs) and had the opportunity to explore different aspects of Cape Town live in the evenings and on the weekend.

jackass penguins near Cape of Good Hope

After my first weekend spent in Seapoint, I was fortunate enough to befriend a local, Tali, who showed me around much of the local scene beyond tourist spots. We ate out, went to bars off the beaten track, shopped beyond the V&A Waterfront, and I met people whom I imagine I would have been friends with had I lived there.  We even went to grocery stores and this is where my habit of seriously bringing home  local ingredients began. Besides sweeties (mmmm….Sally Williams nougat), one of the most interesting things that Michal introduced me to were uniquely flavored salts. I bought one such salt mixture that Tali recommended called “Darling Buds” made by The Cape Herb Company that contains coarse sea salt and various dried flowers – rose petals and buds, lavender, cornflowers, chamomile, and calendula. The smell is heavenly and I often use it in place of regular salt. There are many other varieties with interesting ingredients and most, if not all, are kosher. The bottles are refillable and you can easily adjust the grind size.

darling buds, grinder removed

Luckily, these salts and many of the spice mixtures made by The Cape Herb Company have made it stateside, and I have seen (and purchased them) in Fairway (see Resources for further info). They can also be ordered online at Chelsea Market Basket.

Floral Roasted Potatoes

This recipe actually has nothing to do with South Africa; it just uses the “Darling Buds” salt to accentuate the herbes de Provence spice mix with lavender to give regular roasted potatoes a delicate floral scent and flavor. I love lavender and use it as often as I can!

This is just a good guideline for roasted potatoes. Here I used all-purpose russet potatoes that I purchased for potato peels. The crunch comes from the high heat. You can cut the potatoes into larger chunks, but I chose more of a  home fries-size; bigger chunks = roast for longer. You can obviously use any spice mixture you want — good traditional alternatives include garlic, rosemary, dill, or some heat from red pepper flakes or cayenne.

Serves 2-3.

4 potatoes

1-2 t Olive oil

Herbes de Provence (with lavender)

Salt and Pepper (I used black pepper and “Darling Buds” made by The Cape Herb Company)

Preheat oven to 450°F

Cut potatoes (can peel for a more delicate look) into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes. Soak in water for at least 30 minutes (or longer) to draw some of the starch out, keep crisp, and to make sure the potatoes don’t turn turn color from air exposure.

Drain water and lightly pat the potatoes dry. Spread potato chunks out onto a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle with a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil (~1-2 T) and toss with herbes de Provence (~1.5 T), 5-6 grinds of Darlings Buds floral salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Herbes de Provence

"Contains chevril, basil, rosemary, tarragon, garlic, lavender, marjoram, savory, thyme, and parsley"

Bake for about 30 minute or until edges are golden brown and crisp, shaking the sheet occasionally to free up any potatoes that are sticking.  The smell of the lavender and other flowers is divine as the potatoes are crisping up in the oven.

Allow to cool a few minutes before eating (if you can…I always burn my tongue and the roof of my mouth). These are great anytime.

roasted floral potatoes

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shake it off

Hangin’ around

Nothing to do but frown

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

That Carpenters song is sometimes hard to kick when the beginning of the week goes something like this:  rainy Monday, rainy Tuesday, rainy Wednesday, rainy Thursday…

I like songs that go with my mood, but there’s a problem when that mood sticks around for too long. And, I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to get a song out of your head once its stuck.

But then there’s the power of music to change your surroundings. My friend Tammie suggested a song yesterday when we were chatting, and I liked its title, “Shake It Off” and its chill beat. (Apologies for not embedding, but Mariah’s business team seems to be blocking all embed abilities – which I can respect – protect those artists’ dollars!).

The best part of yesterday was my decision to take a modern jazz dance class. And it was a great class. Just what I needed and long overdue. The teacher (more info below the recipe) focused on technique and positioning and placement. Her warm-up and choreography were organic and felt good. And there was no rush to end class – the 90 minute class ran well over 2 hours. We finished the evening with a several minute cool-down and stretch. I returned home feeling great.

Knowing that I would be ravenous after class, I was thankfully prepared. I made a salad that required several hours of marinating. So it was waiting patiently to replenish my body after the music and dance class had replenished my spirit.

Panzanella

Panzanella is a bit like a savory Italian version of pain perdu (French toast) — coming up with a use for one- or two-day old, stale bread. I make it with baguette because that’s what tends to go stale on me these days. There are endless varieties and I found a few that I’ve tucked away in my files, such as an artichoke version from Sam at Becks & Posh and Giada De Laurentiis’ traditional version with capers, olives, and peppers in addition to tomatoes. I just stuck to what I had in my fridge and pantry – the cucumbers give it a nice crunch. This can be tossed atop a bed of greens, or eaten as is.

Makes 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. All measurements are very approximate.

Slice stale baguette and then cube (~3/4 inch).

2-day old baguette

Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and toast in oven for 5-10  minutes (250ºF).

Prepare remaining vegetables that you will add to salad by cutting into bite-sized pieces. I decided to use 1 cucumber for crunch, 1 yellow tomato, and about 3/4 C of slow roasted tomatoes (the remains of a pint that I had roasted the other day – directions here). Chiffonade some basil as well.

my mise-en-place!

Place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl with the cut vegetables and basil. Toss with ~ 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil and ~2-3 T good balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to marinate for 1-3 hours at room temperature, adding additional oil and vinegar (in equal quantities) if necessary to help bread soak up (but not drown in) the vegetable juices.

panzanella

***

As usual, in any post that mentions dance, I must leave you with a video. I chose my class carefully based on location (so that I could hopefully return) and the reputation of the teacher. Andy Taylor-Blenis teaches at the premier Boston jazz dance school – the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio where I took classes when I was in college (I only took with Jeannette) — so I knew she was quality. She is a senior company member with Prometheus Dance and has a history in folk dance which I explored last year when I performed with Nishmat Hatzafon. This seemed like a great blend of where my dance has come from and where it’s heading, since I want to start a Nishmat-like group up here mixing lyrical jazz, emotion, Jewish and Israeli themes, hopes of peace, and a rich sense of history. I found this excerpt of some Prometheus pieces to share.

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gils-picture

photo by Gil R., desserts by Andrew

You know you’re going to an Israeli event when the invitation states:

If you do attend, you’ll need a valid ID with you, no extra bags will be allowed nor weapons.

And there was nowhere else I wanted to be last night but surrounded by Israelis when the sun was setting and Yom HaZikaron — Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror — bled  into Yom HaAtzmaut — Independence Day. No strangers to symbolism, Israel starts Yom HaZikaron with a 2 minute siren and the country stops and stands in silence. It knows that its birth and continued existence are owed to the soldiers who protect its citizens, those who have been lost to terror attacks, and those who continue to be missing in action or in captivity. In a land of mandatory conscription, no one needs a reminder of this connection.

But you get a group of Israelis in a room and about the only thing (besides that um, interesting Maxim women of the IDF PR attempt by the Israeli government which in my opinion was creative though clearly a bit unbalanced) that can get their attention before the speakers begin is a video on a big screen that sounds something like Stomp (a personal favorite, given my previous tap dancing percussive days).

Starring Shekatek and created for Israel’s 60th Birthday last year; shows some of the best of Israel – its agriculture, technology (especially the biotech that I love!), cultural diversity, the beach, powerful women, tall dark men, all those religions, the serenity, the street culture and foods, the diversity, the beach (oh, did I mention that already?)

Nadav Tamir, Consul General of Israel to New England, then spoke, followed by Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley. The themes of their comments focused on friendship and partnership between the US and Israel, the importance of Israel as a strong democracy, and Israel as a country of high tech innovation (with Coakley citing statistics such as Israel having one of the highest per-capita rates of patents and companies on the NASDAQ). I was also personally touched by Coakley’s mention of Israel’s significant work in the area of  family violence given that my last visit centered on some of these issues.

flowers for Yom HaAtzmaut

Full of Israeli pride, I decided to make a dish from my new favorite cookbook with the “burnt eggplant” technique that Janna Gur demonstrated in her class and that I have mastered over the past few weeks. Gur said that her mother used to call this dish “the reds and the blues” because of the tomatoes juxtaposed against the eggplants. Eggplants are called chatzilim in Hebrew and are ubiquitous in the country. When rationing was in effect during the early years of statehood, newspapers and radio gave advice on making the most out of available food, and eggplant recipes abounded, yielding a mock chopped liver that most of my NY friends won’t have a Central Park picnic without. Traditional chatzilim salad adds some garlic, oil or mayo, and lemon juice. I like Gur’s milder tomato addition. Need I point out the symbolism of the red tomatoes and one of Israel’s (“blue”) national dishes, paired together like the the flags? Probably not, but subtlety has never been my forté.

033e

Yom HaAtzmaut Chatzilim, or “the Reds and the Blues”

chatzilim on toast

Adapted from Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food and dedicated to Israel and the US’s continued strong relationship, a safe return for soldiers in captivity, and fewer new things for all sides to have to remember.

I “burn” the eggplants in my oven since I do not have a gas stove — make sure to prick the eggplants a few times so that they do not explode. The main adaptation I made to Gur’s recipe is that I leave out the garlic and add both onion and tomatoes. I also significantly reduced the amount of oil.

When buying (standard) eggplants like the one on the upper left, they should be dark purple, unblemished, and should feel light for their size. Store them in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3-4 C of salad/dip.

– 2 medium eggplants (or 4-5 slender Thai eggplants)

– 2 tomatoes (to get ~ 1 C grated)

– 1/4 onion (will  use ~1 T grated)

– 2 T vegetable oil

– Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preheat your broiler.

Prick skin of eggplants with a fork or knife to prevent an explosion all over your oven. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet just below broiler and check on them every 10 minutes or so, turning them as necessary. The thinner Thai eggplants took about 20-25 minutes and were ready when they turn brown and dry.

One Thai eggplant ready after 20 minutes

The larger eggplant took about 25-30 minutes and you can tell that it is ready when the skin gets thin and papery, turns black in some places, and the eggplant softens and releases juices.

While the eggplants are broiling, prepare the other ingredients. Grate the two tomatoes on the medium sized holes of a box grater – this should yield about 1 cup of  tomato pulp and seeds without skin. Grate a quarter of an onion on the same side of the grater to get a pretty fine (without much work) onion liquid and paste-type consistency. There will be some onion left over — use it in guac or anywhere you like raw onion for a slightly milder flavor, or just use it in place of cooked minced onion. burnt eggplant, grated onion, grated tomato

Allow eggplants to cool – at least 10 minutes. Once cool, you can very easily separate the skins from the flesh.

eggplant flesh removed from skins

Mash the eggplant with a fork or put into a food processor. My preference is a fork. Drain any extra liquid so that the final salad isn’t too watery. Add the grated tomatoes (try to get mainly pulp and less liquid), 1 T grated onion, a few generous pinches of salt and some serious grinds of pepper, and stir everything together. Add 2T oil last.

I love spreading this on toast, or setting atop a plate of greens.

Romanian-style Roasted Eggplant Salad

Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel live (and prosper peacefully)!

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well-dressed

quinoa mango salad with lime cumin dressing

I’ve been playing around with quinoa since before Passover to find some good recipes; since it’s a great source of non-meat protein, I figured this would be a prefect choice to bring over to lunch with my vegan friend “farmer Laura.” Like tofu or rice, quinoa tends to take on the flavor of its sauce, but I have sometimes been disappointed with quinoa if it isn’t well-dressed.

Actually, I have sometimes been disappointed with people if they aren’t well-dressed. And by this I mean not appropriately attired for the setting. Flip-flops in the lab or an office. White socks with black shoes. White at a wedding if you’re not the bride. A full-Windsor knot tie with a button-down collar. My classmate in the hospital did not appreciate when I shared this commentary with him.

But I digress.

Back to the quinoa. Because I was really happy to find not one, but two, quite well-attired quinoa salads for different moods. One spicy and sweet with the best that  warmer weather has to offer. The other hailing from a warm climate, but  more savory and using mainly pantry staples.

A few words about preparing quinoa. It is pretty versatile and most of the products I’ve seen sold in my neighborhood are pre-rinsed, obviating one preparation step for removing the bitter-tasting saponin covering. The easiest way I’ve found to get fluffy quinoa is to boil quinoa in salted water (1:2 ratio) for about 15 minutes in a covered pot, remove from the heat, fluff with a fork once the water is absorbed, and then allow the quinoa to fully cool in the covered pot. Only add the dressing and other ingredients to quinoa that has cooled to avoid a slimy mess.

Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

when I found some beautiful watercress!

when I found some beautiful watercress!

Adapted from Julie at Kitchenography’s Quinoa, Watercress and Mango Salad with Lime-Curry Vinaigrette. I eliminated the red pepper, doubled the mango, substituted cumin for curry, and made the dressing a bit sweeter, spicier, and saltier. The star here is the mango,  but the dressing is pretty kicking as well.

Serves 3-4

– 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (if not using pre-rinsed quinoa)

– 2 mangoes, diced

– 1 bunch watercress, stems removed (or 2 handfuls baby spinach in a pinch) – watercress has a bit more assertiveness to balance out the sweetness of the mango

Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

– Juice of 1 lime (~3 tablespoons) – don’t forget to zest first

– 2 teaspoons cumin

– pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

– 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

– 1 1/2 -2 t brown sugar or honey (my preference is sugar – demura sugar works well also)

– 3 tablespoons canola oil

– Salt and pepper

– Lime zest for garnish

Put 1 C quinoa, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 C water  in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered until it has cooled completely.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together (or just put in a small jar and shake) and set aside.

Note – I keep ginger in the freezer. It thaws quite quickly and is easy to grate on a little grater like the one that I bought in Chinatown several years ago (not sure which Northeastern city I was living in and which Chinatown was nearest) or with a Microplane.

grated ginger

When the quinoa has cooled, toss with enough dressing to moisten (about 1/2-2/3 the dressing). Add the watercress (or spinach) and mango, and toss, adding enough additional dressing to lightly coat. Taste for salt and pepper and add additional as appropriate.

Serve garnished with a sprinkle of lime zest and cayenne pepper for color and a kick.

090

NOTE: you can prepare the quinoa portion with dressing a day or two in advance – the mixture improves as the flavors sit) and then add mango and watercress at the last minute, splashing on some extra dressing. Additionally, leftover salad does equally well in the fridge for a day or two as watercress does not wilt much with this dressing (spinach holds  up almost as well). last bite, still good 2 days later

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Pantry Staples

Mediterranean Quinoa salad

Adapted from Lauren at East Village Kitchen. This is a very simple salad that mainly uses ingredients you have around your pantry, plus fresh basil (that I have on my windowsill). Despite what I have said in the past about sun-dried tomatoes, if you reconstitute them in hot water in the time it takes to cook the quinoa, they will be pretty good and the right consistency (but don’t let them soak for too long!) — I prefer this to the jarred, packed in oil variety.

Serves 3-4

– 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes

– 3 T olive oil, divided

– 1 onion, chopped

– 1 C quinoa, rinsed if not using pre-rinsed

– 1/4 C white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

– 1 lemon

– fresh basil

– salt and peppers to taste

Cut sun-dried tomatoes into strips with kitchen shears and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15-20 minutes while preparing quinoa (DO NOT SOAK FOR LONGER!). Drain water and allow reconstituted tomatoes to cool in ~1 T of olive oil.

Heat 1-2T olive oil in saucepan over medium heat and saute chopped onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Add 1 C quinoa and 2 C water (or follow instructions on quinoa package) to pot containing translucent onions and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered until it has cooled completely.

Once quinoa has cooled, add vinegar and about 2 T of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste).

Add sun-dried tomatoes plus the olive oil that they have been sitting in. The oil is now also infused with some of the tomato flavor.

Chifonnade a small handful of fresh basil (~1/2 C) over the top (again, kitchen shears are pretty handy here if you want to take a short-cut ) and mix with quinoa. As the basil gets crushed, its flavor releases and mixes with that of the concentrated tomatoes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. If too acidic, add a splash of olive oil. Like the other quinoa recipe, this one also improves with about a day in the fridge.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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