After enjoying many a burger on ourUSAtrip this summer, F suggested we eat vegetarian for a month after getting home. We didn’t eat much meat to begin with, and I rarely cook meat for myself when F isn’t around. In the past couple of years we’ve been thinking more about the ethics and environmental impactof eating meat. We thought a vegetarian month would expand our recipe repertoire and be a fun challenge. Read on to see what dinners we made…
Our vegetarian month went well and neither of us craved meat. The most difficult part, I found, was finding good veggie options while out and about: Tesco has limited vegetarian options in their lunchtime meal deals… We tried a bunch of new recipes and some will definitely become part of our regular rotation.
We like a bit of meat in our diets for the iron and protein (and taste), but ethically and environmentally it makes sense to cut down quite a bit on our meat consumption. So we’ve decided to keep eating mostly vegetarian but allow up to two dinners per week to be cooked with some kind of animal protein (chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc) that we buy from our local butcher (much happier chickens!). We can also be flexible when eating out.
What has your experience been with eating vegetarian (or not)? If you are a vegetarian, I applaud you!
F was away for work this week and I don’t usually feel like cooking when he’s not around, tending to gravitate towards salads, grains, and other quick-prep dishes. Melissa Clark’s recipe for couscous salad with dried apricots and preserved lemon had caught my eye recently and sounded like the perfect thing for a healthy weeknight dinner. I read the recipe to get a general idea of flavors and then improvised from there, using lemon juice rather than white wine vinegar, parsley instead of dill, and adding almonds for protein and crunch.
Health in a bowl
The salad turned out really well: I’ve fallen in love with the combination of sour-salty preserved lemon and sweet, chewy dried apricots. Finely chopped herbs make a great green base for salads and a nice alternative to lettuce.
This dish is light, fresh, and healthy. I enjoyed it so much that I made it again when F got home, adding some grated carrot and diced cucumber for extra veggie points. Feel free to add or subtract ingredients as you’d like — it would work equally well with small couscous or a grain like barley, buckwheat, bulgur, or quinoa.
Gosh, the summer has flown by. Was it the same for you?
This blog has fallen a little by the wayside… I’m still here, just less frequently and with fewer of my “own” recipes, especially now that I can save all my favorites to NYT Cooking. Even though I’m posting fewer recipes doesn’t mean I’ve stopped cooking…on the contrary, our kitchen remains an exciting and comforting place amidst the stresses of daily life.
Here’s a peek into what F and I have been cooking over the past few months, in no particular order.
Smitten kitchen’s takeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. Simple and delicious — I made them when F was away at a conference and managed not to get too tired of them despite having them over the course of 4 meals in two days… The Woks of Life’s Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly — it took 3 hours but was totally worth it for the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the pork belly in rich, sticky sauce. So so good. We will definitely make it again on our next leisurely weekend.
Non-photographed but just as tasty dishes:
Melissa Clark’s Lunchbox Harvest Muffins (NYT Cooking) are moist and not dense at all, despite using only whole wheat flour. They’re packed with grated apple, carrot, and zucchini and made great afternoon snacks for F and me during the workweek.
I had always wanted to try making bircher muesli and finally did this summer. I used Nigella’s “basic bircher muesli” recipe and it turned out exactly like I’d hoped. Last week I made a double batch, which got us both through two weekday breakfasts.
Galettes have been on my mind for a while — they keep popping up on the cooking blogs I read, filled at this time of year with stone fruit or late summer vegetables. I finally decided to try my hand at one when in the same week Melissa Clark posted a couple galette recipes with a great-looking rye-flecked crust, and The Kitchn came out with a summer vegetable galette. Both recipes looked great, so I adapted my crust from Clark,and my filling was inspired by The Kitchn.
A galette comes together easily, in large part because you don’t have to shape the dough into a pie dish or anything — you can just go free-form and pile on your fillings of choice. F and I had made some pesto that we’d frozen, so I thawed it and spread it liberally over the crust; it worked as a lovely base for the tomatoes and zucchini. And this crust is very nice. Despite the excess oil/butter that appeared on the baking sheet at the end, the bottom of the crust didn’t get soggy and had a lovely bit of flaky crunch. I highly recommend this summery galette and am looking forward to trying my hand at a sweet version!
Make crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and then whisk in enough cream or milk to make 1/3 cup; set aside. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work in with a pastry cutter or your hands, until the butter chunks are chickpea-sized. Drizzle up to 1/4 cup of the egg mixture (reserve the rest for later) into the flour-butter and stir until the mixture just comes together (it will still be crumbly — that’s okay). Stir in the lemon juice and zest.
Lightly flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough a few times, until it comes together into one piece. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
While the dough is chilling, slice your tomatoes and zucchini.
After the dough has chilled, assemble the galette: Preheat the oven to 200C (400F — don’t use the fan/convection setting!) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch (30cm) round and slip it onto the baking sheet. Spread 1/2 – 3/4 cup pesto on the dough, leaving a 1.5-2-inch (3-4cm) border around the edges. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the pesto, then top with the zucchini slices. Fold the pastry edges towards the center, overlapping as necessary (see photo above). Brush the exposed pastry edges with the rest of the egg-cream mixture.
Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden-brown. When you take it out of the oven, soak up any excess liquid with a paper towel or two. Cool the galette for at least 10 minutes, then garnish with grated parmesan.
While waiting in the airport to fly back to London from Rochester a few weeks ago, I treated myself to a Women’s Health magazine for some light and fun reading. It had a few tasty-looking recipes, including one for “quick miso ramen with poached eggs.” I tore out the recipe and presented it to F upon my arrival in London. He was game, so we whipped it up — adding chard and oyster mushrooms for more veggie punch — for dinner that evening. It took a mere 30 minutes start-to-finish, tasted delicious, and definitely helped with jet lag! Feel free to adjust the vegetable and liquid amounts to make it as soup-like or not as you want (we prefer lots of broth and vegetables).
Miso Ramen with Bok Choy, Chard, & Oyster Mushrooms(adapted fromWomen’s Health Sep 2014 issue; serves 4-5)
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp white miso paste
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp freshly-grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
250-300g ramen noodles
200-300g bok choy, roughly chopped
200-300g chard, roughly chopped
100-200g oyster mushrooms, sliced
optional: chili sauce (such as Sriracha), for garnish
In a large pot, whisk together the stock, miso paste, soy sauce, ginger, & garlic. Bring to a boil.
When the stock mixture boils, add the noodles, bok choy, chard, & mushrooms. Cover the pot and let simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and the veggies are tender to your liking. Serve into bowls and garnish with as much or as little chili sauce as you’d like.
Browsing through some recent issues of Cooking Light for the pretty pictures recipe inspiration, I came across these “Silver Dollar Corn Cakes.” As I do lovemypancakes, I was intrigued by this more savory variant. Turns out that we had bought corn and green onions in our last shopping and so had almost all the ingredients on hand.
The corn cakes turned out really well, acting not as a side but as the main event for our dinner, complementing chard and green beans. F thought they were great — even with ketchup! I could also imagine them being good with a dollop or two of sour cream. These are basically cornbread in pancake form, so they’d be great alongside any meaty main. We actually enjoyed the leftovers with fried eggs for Saturday brunch. I made most of my corn cakes bigger than silver dollar-sized, in part because that shortened the cooking time, but the little ones are so cute that I might do them all small next time.
Visiting my parents in the summer is always fun, in part because there are always so many delicious fresh/seasonal fruits and veggies around the house. My dad and I, finding ourselves alone for dinner on a Friday evening, improvised with what ingredients we had and created a colorful and healthy spread: He made delicious BBQ chicken and I came up with this salad, inspired by Mark Bittman. Add some grilled eggplant, and you have a perfect summer meal.
Fresh Corn & Avocado Salad with Basil & Lime (inspired by Mark Bittman; serves 3-4)
2-3 generous handfuls of your favorite salad greens
4 cobs of fresh corn, blanched & kernels cut off
1 ripe avocado, diced
handful of fresh purple basil, minced (feel free to use “normal” green basil)
small handful of fresh mint, minced
juice of 1 lime
1-2 glugs olive oil
to taste: salt & pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch the corn cobs in it for about 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the water, let cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs.
Combine the corn kernels, diced avocado, minced herbs, and salad greens in a large salad bowl. Squeeze the lime over everything, add some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss until the salad is evenly coated.
I grew up eating a lot of chicken. One of the family staples, especially in the summertime, is my dad Terry’s amazing gin-barbecue chicken. Usually baked in the oven, though occasionally grilled, this is one of the simplest chicken recipes you’ll come across: marinate chicken pieces in gin and barbecue sauce, then bake for an hour and voila! An easy and delicious dinner.
Not-so-crispy (but just as good), July 2014
Barbecue chicken goes well with grilled vegetables — I prefer eggplant and/or zucchini — and a big salad. Also gin and tonics, which my family affectionately calls “G&Ts”. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination! If you want some more carbs with your meal, rice does a good job of soaking up the barbecue juices.
I’ve been wanting to make socca for a while but had no chickpea flour (aka gram flour) in the house until I made these spinach and potato patties a few weeks ago. Left with an open Wednesday evening and plenty of gram four, I had no more excuses and turned to Cookie and Kate for guidance on how to make it.
Socca is a sort of crepe/pancake/flatbread hybrid, baked and/or broiled in a skillet in the oven. It is really easy to make and, after you’ve let the batter sit for an hour, cooks quickly. Though socca is traditionally enjoyed plain or sprinkled with a few herbs, I topped my first attempt with zucchini, tomatoes, and shaved parmesan to make a light and healthy pizza-like dish — great for a quick weeknight dinner. But it was so good that I made it again the next night, this time leaving it plain enjoying some sautéed veggies on the side. Feel free to try your own topping variations (let me know what you come up with!) or just enjoy the socca plain — you won’t be disappointed.
Socca with Zucchini, Tomatoes & Shaved Parmesan (adapted from Cookie and Kate; makes 2 generous servings)
1 cup (120g) chickpea/gram flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 zucchini, julienned
1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
to taste: parmesan or other hard cheese, shaved
One hour before you want to bake the socca, whisk together the gram flour, water, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic, and sea salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.
To make topped (‘pizza-style’) socca:
Turn your oven’s broiler on and move the oven rack up to 8 inches underneath. Put a large skillet in the oven to preheat.
When the oven/skillet have finished heating, take the skillet out (use oven mitts!) and swirl 2 tbsp of olive oil in it. Pour in the socca batter and pop it in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
Remove the skillet from the oven. Move the rack back to the middle of the oven, switch back to normal heating, and turn the temperature down to 215C.
Pour the last 1 tbsp olive oil over the socca and arrange the tomatoes, zucchini, and parmesan on top. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
To make plain socca:
Put a large skillet in a rack in the middle of the oven and turn the oven on to heat to 225C (top-bottom heat, not convection).
When the oven/skillet have finished heating, take the skillet out (use oven mitts!) and swirl 2 tbsp of olive oil in it.
Bake the socca for 10-11 minutes, then switch over to the broiler, move your oven rack up, and broil the socca for 2-3 minutes or until it begins blistering.
A travel-related post on our lovely week in southeastern Spain is coming soon. While that’s in the works, here’s a summery pasta salad that I made for a simple late dinner on a warm Spanish night. We enjoyed this with some grilled zucchini and eggplant — and chorizo for F — on the side. It’s great slightly warm or cold for lunch the next day (with the leftover grilled veggies chopped up and mixed in). This pasta salad is a great base for experimentation — you can add or subtract ingredients as you like. Let me know what your favorite combination is!
In the mood for pizza but don’t feel like making dough? Use puff pastry and it will be called a tart but will pretty much be pizza. That’s how this caprese tart was born, along with inspiration from Simply Delicious. All you need are pre-made puff pastry, some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a glug or two of olive oil. It comes together quickly — great for a weeknight dinner — and results in a gooey, delicious, healthful tart. It’s great on a warm spring or summer evening with a green salad.
Springtime makes me crave easy, light, delicious dinners. I whipped up these partially whole wheat crepes with smoked salmon and dill on a Monday evening, and they were the perfect thing with some leftover potato salad and a green salad. All I did was use this crepe recipe, replacing the buckwheat flour with whole wheat flour. Fill a fresh crepe with a strip or two of smoked salmon, a dollop of sour cream, some capers, and a sprinkle of fresh minced dill. Voila! Dinner. (Or lunch. Or even brunch!)
Sorry it has been so long, readers! I’ve been busy juggling the end of my MA courses with a new part-time teaching gig. More updates on both of those to come. In the mean time, here’s a delicious recipe for your weekend enjoyment:
I’ve made dal before and was pleased but not overly smitten with the result. This dal, on the other hand… We’ve made it multiple times in the past month — it’s that easy, that quick, and that delicious. F gets full credit for this, which he found by Googling (ah, Google) “dal recipe” one night when we wanted a quick protein to go with our roasted root veggies. He chose a recipe that came up near the top of the search results and it turned out well-spiced and flavorful. Enjoy it with roasted veggies, rice, naan/pita, yogurt, or just on its own.
1 onion, finely chopped (we did this in the food processor)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
4 cups water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
to taste: salt
optional: 2 tbsp tomato paste
Heat the sesame oil in a medium pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softening and translucent.
Add the spices to the onion mixture and stir well to combine.
Add the lentils and water to the pot; stir well. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the lentils simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes or until they are tender and the dal is at your desired consistency.