a dash of this or that

I post mostly about food. sometimes travel. sometimes work. I reblog webcomics, dogs, art, science, tv and sports.

kale+arugula+cauliflower+quinoa +carrots+raisins = this beautiful mess of a #notsaddesklunch

Here’s the recipe. It’s really delicious, with a nice spicy kick!

I made this last night and it felt like magic—turning cauliflower into what looked like snow in the food processor, and then cooking it for a short while until it became something that is almost indistinguishable (in appearance AND taste) from couscous. I used everything the recipe called for, but I had some mushrooms, carrot and celery hanging around, so I sauteed them and added it to the mix. I also added a bit more za’atar, plus a dash of smoked paprika, and pomegranate arils. Tasty, and I feel so virtuous while eating it! I’m glad I kept on hunting for a cauliflower after striking out in 2 stores this weekend (strangely). 

I ate it with a piece of smoked salmon that I impulse bought at the new Whole Foods in my neighborhood and it was a perfect accompaniment. 

What I did while I was fasting for Yom Kippur.

I may have said a prayer while it was in the oven.

Baking a challah was on my list of personal goals for 2013. Aim big!

So of course I entrusted my ability to cross this one off on the expert instruction of smittenkitchen

A beautiful, delicious mess of roasted eggplant, topped with tomatoes, olives, red onion, mint and ricotta salata. Recipe (like so many of the best things I eat), c/o smitten kitchen.

It’s taking a lot of will power to not eat the whole damn thing.

Pretty, Pretty Picnic

I’m falling so behind in my CSA posts. But I took the pictures, and I’m dedicated to posting them! I’m going to try to queue some up right now.

I made this zucchini salad to share with friends at a picnic I organized on the oh-so-lovely Governors Island. I added some arugula from le CSA, and ultimately couldn’t resist/wait for tomatoes, so I picked up some little orange beauties at the farmers’ market, so in went some of those as well. Very tasty, summery, and excellent picnic fair (and not too bad as leftovers for a  #notsaddesklunch either)!

Spicy Lunch*

Though this photo was snapped at dinner time last week, I’m currently munching on the 2nd batch of its leftovers for lunch. And it’s kinda spicy, but oh-so-good. In fact, the lunchtime leftovers of this have been a lot more enjoyable than the first bowlful pictured here. Guess it needed time for the flavors to marry. Also definitely better cold/at room temperature than warm.
Another bowl full of CSA goodness, this is a take on pad thai, utilizing a half a head of cabbage in place of the noodles. So yeah, this dish is uber-healthy. The cabbage is cooked down, and then there are raw crunchy veggies mixed in — red cabbage, edammame, and also from my CSA, shaved carrots & slivers of daikon. The sauce is a mixture of tomato paste, soy sauce, peanut butter, sriracha and other seasonings.
Based on this recipe, which I basically halved and then adapted to my needs.
P.S. Do you like my owl chopsticks?
 every single time i eat something spicy for lunch, i think about my colleague’s boyfriend’s twitter handle. can’t help it.

Sometimes I Even Cook Meat

Last Sunday evening, after an early street fair dinner, I wisely took the time to prepare the amazing Saffron Chicken Salad that is in Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook. I don't have this cookbook (but I want it!), but someone who does has made me this salad multiple times and I love it so much.

When fennel and basil made an appearance in this week’s CSA share, I could only think about recreating said salad. So I scoured the internet for the recipe (since my cookbook-owning friend was out of town) and found some foodbloggers who had recreated it. Also this perfectly breezy video by the recipe’s creators. I didn’t know that there was saffron in the recipe, so that was an exciting discovery since I had brought back a bit of it from my trip to Dubai and had yet to use it.

Though making the orange sauce and roasting the chicken were not exactly quick steps, it was not at all hard, and I could even leave the hot kitchen for a bit of the time since the sauce needs to reduce for a while. I wound up throwing in the peas from the previous CSA share in to the salad after I shelled them and saw how small the yield was—not exactly worth making a whole other dish out of them. Otherwise, I did not stray from the recipe. False. I used mint instead of cilantro along with the basil. Because I wanted to.

When all was said and done, I kept the salad elements separate and brought them all in various containers to work on Monday—refreshing sliced fennel in one, amazing orangey baked & shredded chicken in another, chopped herbs, peas and chili slices in another, and olive oil and lemon juice and a bit of salt in a tiny honey jar. Then Monday through Thursday, I assembled my lunch time treat.

This versatile salad proved to be perfect for the heatwave I really wish were over, and I’m pretty sad I have none of it left.

Oh, and p.s. I felt like playing with this new photo app called “Over”, so my pictures here look so…bloggy!

Dinner club leftovers inspired by my travels for #dinnertonight

If you want to recreate it, here are the recipes: 

dal: http://mrssmithcooks.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/red-lentil-dahl/

paneer:  http://usmasala.blogspot.com/2011/07/paneer.html

which I used in this dish: http://usmasala.blogspot.com/2013/01/matar-paneer.html

eggplant: http://usmasala.blogspot.com/2011/05/achari-baingan-eggplant-curry-with.html


Friday-fueled Sunday Supper

On Friday afternoon, my work day was cut short because they were re-wiring our internet connection. Oh, drat!

I wound up hanging out in Michelle’s office with her and Daniel for a while, helping with a sort-of extra-curricular project, and eventually we made some cocktails too. Still, without any real plans for that night, I had some energy to take on a project other than my post-trip laundry when I got home.

So I decided to make the lasagna I’d been imagining a reality. What, you don’t imagine lasagna recipes in your free time? 

While I’m a proponent of having a well-stocked kitchen/pantry, I’ve also been trying to work from/with that stock more recently — that includes “staples” like rice or quinoa, and impulse buys like vodka sauce from Trader Joe’s and ricotta cheese. 

I’d purchased the vodka sauce because I was craving it, and the ricotta because it was on sale and I had an open box of lasagna noodles in my cabinet for a long time. And when I realized I didn’t have any other pasta around, the destiny of all three items was clear. Lasagna a la vodka!

The only things I needed to buy just to complete this meal were some ground beef (arguably optional) and a ball of fresh mozzarella.

Here’s how I did it:

I sauteed half a red onion and a clove with garlic in a bit of olive oil before adding two slices of chopped bacon, since there is frequently some kind of smokey pork in pasta dishes with vodka sauce. I browned 1/2 a pound or so of ground beef in that mixture. Once it was cooked through, I tossed in half a cup or so of frozen peas (another frequent vodka sauce accompaniment), kept the heat on until they didn’t look frosty any more, and then set the pan aside. 

Then I very carefully cooked my lasagna noodles (learning from past disasters where all of the noodles tore and/or stuck together). As you can see from the picture, this was a relatively petite lasagna, so I only needed about 6-7 noodles. I wound up cooking all 10 that were left in the box (silly me) in two batches because my pot wasn’t really big enough to accommodate more than that. Once they were done, I took each noodle out of the pot individually with tongs, and after a quick stop in a strainer, I laid them out on a cutting board, with plastic wrap between the layers. No sticking or tearing!

Then I mixed up about 8oz of ricotta with an egg, and a bunch of grated romano and fresh mozzarella  I saved a bit of the mozz for the top, but not much, because fresh mozzarella doesn’t really do the really good melty thing anyway. 

When I was finally ready to assemble the dish, I sprayed the bottom of my casserole with some cooking spray, and then put down about half a cup of the vodka sauce. Next came overlapping noodle halves, then about half of the cheese mixture, half of the meat mixture, more sauce. I repeated that with another layer of sauce, noodles, etc. and then a final layer of noodles and the rest of the bottle of sauce, topped with the reserved mozzerella that i cut into strips and then a bunch of grated romano cheese.

The lasagna noodle box had a recipe on it that I consulted for cooking times—which meant that I covered the dish with foil and cooked it for 30 minutes at 375, and then removed the foil and cooked it for another 15. 

My house smelled amazing, and when I took it out of the oven, it was appropriately bubbly and slightly crispy around the edges.

When I finally tasted the finished product for dinner last night, I was very pleased with everything about it. Not only did it taste perfect, it felt very good to have invested some time in the kitchen after traveling for more than a week. And even more so because I made up the “recipe” myself.

Comfort Food 101

I’ve been spending the last several weeks of summer attempting to find out whether you can OD on tomatoes.

I’ve sampled new varieties at the farmers market, and with the ones I’ve purchased, I’ve roasted them, layered them on bread, popped them into my mouth, paired them with bacon, basil, avocados, eggs, sausage, corn, and pinned a dozen or so more preparations that I dream of concocting.

So, can you OD on tomatoes? Answer: no.

Tonight’s episode of the tomato show was a play on the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese pairing that seems to placate everyone’s soul. I was in a bit of a funk mentally and physically earlier in the day, and this comforting combo started to make me feel better just by thinking about it.

I followed this recipe for Tomato, Basil and Cheddar soup, with a few of my own twists, as per usual. I halved the recipe, for one. Instead of canned diced tomatoes, I used what I had— a 15-ounce can of tomato puree, along with a medium-sized farmer’s market tomato and a few purple-hued cherry-sized ones, diced up. I used dried rosemary instead of oregano. And I couldn’t resist adding two slices of crisp, chopped bacon. Final touch, thick pieces of broiled-with-olive-oil sourdough bread cut into large croutons. 

I managed to devour this bowl full of goodness and savor every spoonful at the same time. Comfort food indeed.

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