July 12, 2009

Spicy Carrot Sald

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. Slicing or julienning the carrots takes a bit of time (I used a mandoline and julienned the carrots, but it still took some time), but once that's done, the recipe takes hardly any effort at all. The caraway seeds give this a very distinctive flavor.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the carrots, garlic, sugar, caraway, cumin, paprika, and oil into a wide skillet or saucepan.
  2. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the carrots are slightly soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Bittman says to cook until the water is mostly evaporated. I never got that much evaporation, so I just scooped the carrots and spices out into a bowl with a slotted spoon.) Drain and remove to a bowl.
  3. Remove and mince the garlic cloves. Add them back to the carrots. Add the harissa, olives (if using), and feta (if using) and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Posted by spaceling at 04:59 PM

February 03, 2009

Cauliflower "Tortilla"

When I was a teenager, my mother used to often make tortilla for weekend brunch - the thick Spanish potato omelette, not the thing you wrap tacos in. We'd eat it inauthentically, but deliciously, smothered in fresh tomato salsa.

These days, with my trying to eat a low glycemic index diet, potatoes don't feature all that much in my cooking. So tonight, when I was thinking about an omelette for dinner, I thought, "Why not try to do a tortilla with that old stand-by of low carb potato substitutes: cauliflower?"

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put a bit of olive oil in a deep 10 inch skillet or saute pan with an ovenproof handle. Heat it over medium high heat.
  3. Add the onion and cauliflower and saute, stirring.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.
  5. When the onions are browned and the cauliflower is cooked through and browned a bit, add the eggs. As the egg begins to set around the edges, lift up the edge with a spatula and tilt the pan to let the uncooked egg run underneath.
  6. When the egg is mostly set except on top, pop the pan into the oven and let the egg finish cooking. This took about 5 or 6 minutes for me.
  7. Cut into wedges and serve. Smother inauthentically with salsa if you like.

Serves 2 if it's pretty much all you're eating. Could easily serve 4 if you served it with a nice salad and maybe a bit of good bread.

Posted by spaceling at 09:09 PM

March 16, 2008

Easy Polenta

Conventional wisdom says that making polenta requires tons and tons of stirring. Because of this, I've tended to resort to the "instant" stuff that cooks in 5 minutes, or the stuff you buy in tubes at the grocery store to slice up and saute.

So, I was intrigued to come across the claim by Jack Bishop, in his A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen that you can cook polenta with little stirring if you cook it covered, over low heat. I tried it, and it works. And produces a noticeably nicer polenta than the instant or precooked stuff.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a largish saucepan, bring the water to a nice, rolling boil. Turn the heat to low and add the salt.
  2. Pour in the cornmeal slowly, whisking constantly. (I actually just stirred rapidly with a wooden spoon. This part is important for not getting lumps. It takes about a minute to get all the cornmeal whisked in.
  3. Cover the saucepan. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal doesn't taste raw or gritty.
  4. Stir in the butter, and season to taste with additional salt.

Serves 4-6 people, depending on how much they like polenta.

Posted by spaceling at 08:03 PM

March 02, 2008

Eggplant with Peppers and Yogurt

I may be getting ready to declare victory in my ongoing quest to learn how to cook eggplant properly. I'm not sure that I've figured out what the secret is, though plenty of olive oil does seem to help.

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. It comes fairly close to duplicating an eggplant dish that I used to get at a short-lived Afghan restaurant in Berkeley. Served with a cucumber salad and some pita bread, it makes a quite satisfying meal.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put 1/3 cup olive oil and all but 1/2 tsp. of the garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I do mean large - I used the 14 inch monster that we usually refer to as "the shield of Achilles" around here. The eggplant reduces in volume quite a bit as it cooks and loses water, but getting it all in the skillet initially is a tight squeeze.)
  2. After about 2 minutes, add the peppers and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Beat the yogurt until it is smooth, then stir in 1/2 tsp. garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, and some salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the eggplant and peppers from the pan, pour the sauce over them, and serve hot.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:31 PM

October 09, 2007

Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

Hi! I'm not dead, nor have I stopped cooking, but I've been very busy and have been falling back on a lot of old standby recipes. I did try something new tonight that worked out really well - I think I've mentioned before that when I cook eggplant, it often comes out okay, but not great - in particular, the texture is often a bit spongy and not as silky as I'd like. Well, tonight I made some eggplant that was perfect. I don't know if the credit goes to the eggplant (a cute local variety with purple and white stripes) or the technique. Further experimentation is warranted.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut the zucchini into half-inch thick rounds. (I used small, relatively thin zucchini - if you're using big ones, you might want to cut the rounds into half moons.)
  3. Cut the eggplant into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini rounds.
  4. Put the eggplant and zucchini pieces into a roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle fairly liberally with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Dust with coriander, cumin, and paprika, tossing to coat.
  5. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender and just a little bit browned on the edges.
  6. Put the vegetables into a bowl, toss with lemon juice and additional olive oil to taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 2. (Next time I'm making a bigger batch.) I served with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and a gigandes bean salad.

Posted by spaceling at 10:03 PM

July 21, 2007

Mushroom, White Bean, and Summer Squash Ragout

This recipe is a riff on the Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil that I blogged a few months ago. It was inspired by my coming across some itty-bitty bite-sized baby pattypan squash at Whole Foods, and by having ~3/4 lb. of shiitake mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up.

It was very tasty, and this time Mr. Spaceling ate all his mushrooms instead of picking them out. (Perhaps Mr. Spaceling like shiitake mushrooms better than crimini mushrooms? Maybe it's the magic of parmeggiano reggiano cheese? I dunno. Further experimentation warranted.)


The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat, and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft.
  2. Add the garlic, sage, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just starting to look cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water or broth, and then arrange the squash in an even layer on top of the mushroom/leek mixture. Cover the skillet and let the squash steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cannelini beans, stir everything together, and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through and blend the flavors.
  5. Ladle the mixture into bowls. Drizzle each serving with a bit (~1/2 tsp. or to taste) of white truffle oil, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Makes about 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 05:26 PM

June 24, 2007

Chickpea Curry With Dill

I recently picked up a nifty little cookbook called 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. This features 50 relatively simple Indian recipes, centered around the five spices of coriander, cumin, mustard seed, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Not every recipe in the book uses all of these spices, and many recipes use additional spices, but they are the flavor backbone of the recipes.

The first recipe I made from this book was a black-eyed pea salad with cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro, chilies, and mustard seed. It was pretty tasty, but I had to substitute ingredients liberally because I hadn't checked the recipe before grocery shopping, so I think it didn't quite taste the way it was supposed to. The second recipe was this chick pea curry. It caught my eye because, as the author notes, it uses dill as more of a vegetable than an herb. It uses a lot of dill. If you are not a dill fan, skip this recipe.



  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan or a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until it has softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cayenne, coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the dill, chick peas, water, and salt. Cook, stirring, for 5-8 minutes or until the dill is tender.

I served this with a simple raita made by stirring together strained yogurt, diced cucumber, diced red bell pepper, finely chopped garlic, and a bit of ground coriander, salt, and pepper.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:44 PM

June 10, 2007

Garlicky White Beans and Kale over Teff Polenta Wedges

When I was in Florence back in April, one of the most amazing dishes I had was "fettunta": slices of bread brushed with olive oil and grilled, and topped with a mixture of sauteed cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) and white beans.

Since then, I've been itching to recreate that dish. I've also been wanting to have another try at teff prepared-polenta style. When I came across some nice Tuscan kale at the farmers' market yesterday, it occurred to me that the kale and white bean preparation would make a great topping for polenta.

The recipe turned out great. It would be equally good served over corn polenta. But if you want to recreate what I did, start by making your teff ahead of time, because it needs time to chill.

This recipe uses quite a lot of olive oil, because such amounts were called for in all the cookbook recipes for fettunta that I consulted for inspiration. ("Fettunta" apparently means "oily slice".) You could probably cut down some on the oil, although the oil and the starch from the beans emulsify into something that gives the dish a nice creamy texture. Mr. Spaceling described it as being like creamed spinach, only good. (Mr. Spaceling does not like creamed spinach. I fall more in the camp of thinking that anything that combines spinach and fat cannot be bad.)

Teff Polenta



  1. Bring the water to a boil. Add teff and salt.
  2. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the teff reaches the consistency of a thick spreadable porridge.
  3. Stir in the cheese. (To avoid getting clumps of melted cheese, add it bit by bit and stir thoroughly.)
  4. Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spread the teff out in the pan and let it cool a bit. Cover with more foil or plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Cut the polenta into wedges or squares. (I got 8 wedges out of a 9 x 9 pan.)

White Beans and Kale



  1. Wash the kale. Remove the leaves from the stems, and cut the leaves into bite-sized ribbons. Discard the stems.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the kale for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. (Plunging the kale into a bowl of ice water would probably be the approved method for shocking your greens. Rinsing with cold water worked fine.) Press out the excess water.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medim heat. Add the garlic, and saute for 30 seconds or so. Then add the greens and the beans. Simmer everything gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. In another skillet, heat a thin film of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the polenta wedges, in batches, until browned and slightly crispy on each side. Keep the cooked wedges on a plate covered with foil to keep warm.
  5. Serve a wedge or two of polenta in a shallow bowl, with the bean and kale mixture piled on top.

Serves 4 or so.

Posted by spaceling at 08:38 PM

May 12, 2007

Black Bean, Fresh Corn, and Mango Salad

You can tell that spring is here, because suddenly all I want to eat is salad. And fruit. (But oddly enough, rarely fruit salad. I'm not a fruit salad kind of girl.)

I was in the supermarket this afternoon, and came across some fresh corn and a lovely looking mango. And the idea for this salad was born. It's a bit sweet, a bit spicy (or a lot spicy if you want), and loaded with more anti-oxidants than you can shake a stick at. And it takes almost no time at all to make.

I like the combination of Tabasco and Sriracha hot sauces in this recipe. I find that Tabasco gives a nice vinegary bite, but doesn't taste rounded enough on its own. Sriracha adds a nice depth of flavor without being overpowering on the heat. It might be interesting to experiment with different hot sauces.

The Ingredients

I learned a neat trick recently for removing kernels from a corn cob: start by cutting the cob in half across the middle. This gives you two short pieces of cob, each with a flat end, and you can just stand them on your cutting board and slice the kernels off with a knife. Amazing. For the first time ever, I've cut kernels off an ear of corn without getting corn all over the kitchen.

The Steps

  1. Combine the corn kernels, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, mango, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Squeeze over the lime juice, and drizzle on some olive oil. Add a bit of the Tabasco and Sriracha sauces, and toss everything together well.
  3. Taste, and add more lime juice, hot sauce, oil, salt, or pepper to taste.

I served this over some baby spinach for a bit of extra greenery. It worked pretty well.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:32 PM

May 07, 2007

Lentil Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing

I whipped this up tonight because I felt like lentils for dinner, but due to the hot weather I didn't want anything too heavy. Mr. Spaceling requested that I blog this so I can be sure of making it again.

The secret ingredient in this is a whole-grain mustard. It helps add a nice sharpness to counterbalance to earthiness of the lentils. I used a British whole-grain mustard that's pretty mild - you'll probably need to taste frequently as you put the salad together to figure out how much mustard you need.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the lentils in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender, but still relatively firm.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, cut up your vegetables, cheese, and salami, and put all the ingredients except the lemon juice, mustard, and oil into a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper, taste the mixture, and add more mustard or lemon juice if necessary.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, drain them, and toss them while they are still warm into the large bowl. Add the dressing, and toss everything.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (You might find that you need to add more mustard.)

Posted by spaceling at 09:34 PM

April 22, 2007

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil

I adapted this recipe from the April 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. It makes a nice quick vegetarian supper that's especially great for mushroom lovers. (Mr. Spaceling, who is not a mushroom lover, picked out most of the mushrooms from his serving, but still enjoyed the dish. I'm trying to think of a variation that would allow for substituting the mushrooms with something else. Butternut squash would probably be very tasty, but Mr. Spaceling is not all that fond of that either. Hmm...)

The original recipe called for topping the ragout with toated whole wheat breadcrumbs, which probably would have been tasty, but the recipe is quicker and dirties fewer pans without it.

This recipe uses white truffle oil. As I understand it, white truffle oil is basically an artificial flavoring with no real relationship to actual white truffles. Many chefs disdain it for that reason. I think it works in this dish, though the dish would also be tasty without it.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushrooms and leek until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add beans, broth, garlic, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and stir in about half the parsley.
  4. Ladle the ragout into bowls, and drizzle each serving with about 1/2 tsp. of white truffle oil.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:00 PM | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

I've been making this tasty and versatile salad quite frequently of late. It's quick. You can serve it as a main course, or a side dish. You can add whatever vegetables you have on hand. It would probably also be good with diced cooked chicken or tofu if you wanted to really boost the protein content.

I thought I'd blogged about quinoa before, but a quick search didn't turn up anything. Quinoa is a Peruvian grain that is one of my favorites, because it is a whole grain that cooks in less than 15 minutes. You can use it in much the same way that you would use bulgur or couscous. Tonight, I used the "Inca Red" variety, which is an heirloom variety that's a very striking dark brown red color. Ordinary quinoa is kind of a pale yellow-beige.

Since this is such a versatile recipe, I'll give the basic proportions, and then describe some ways in which I've embellished them.

Basic Quinoa Salad Recipe

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well. (Quinoa seeds have a bitter saponin coating that keeps the seeds from being eaten by birds. Many commercial varieties have been either pre-rinsed or bred for lower saponin content, but I always rinse, just to be safe.)
  2. Put the quinoa into a sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed. (About 12-15 minutes.) Quinoa seeds have this funny little opaque band around the outside of the seed - the quinoa is cooked when this band has partially or fully separated from most of the seeds.
  3. Let the quinoa cool a bit, then toss with the chick peas, olives, feta, and other embellishments. Season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice to taste.

Quinoa Salad Embellishments

A selection of the following additional items can be added to the salad as appropriate:

There are probably lots of other things you could add. Tonight's variation used tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and roasted asparagus and was dressed with sherry vinegar and olive oil. (Good sherry vinegar, if I haven't mentioned this before, is a revelation. The stuff I get at the local grocery store is just meh, but the stuff I got at Whole Foods is amazing.)

Posted by spaceling at 08:50 PM

January 28, 2007

Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

This is another one from Nigel Slater's Appetite. This was the first time I had worked with store-bought puff pastry (or any kind of puff pastry for that matter). It's a great way to make something elegant with relatively little effort.

Though the technique is easy, this particular recipe is not quick, because you need to caramelize the onions. I think it took at least an hour, possibly longer - I didn't really keep track, because I was puttering around the kitchen with a friend, making other stuff, and just giving the onions the odd stir now and then. If you were pressed for time, I think the tart would be equally delicious with sauteed mushrooms, or cooked spinach, or thinly sliced artichoke hearts, or perhaps some sauteed eggplant and tomato, or...the possibilities are endless. Expect to see other tarts appear in this blog. (Though probably not right away - with the richness of the puff pastry and the cheese, this is definitely a "sometimes food".)

I served this cut up into itty bitty squares as a party snack, but it would work as a main dish paired with a nice green salad.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In your largest skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Pile in the onions, and cook, stirring now and then, until the onions are deep golden-brown and caramelized, at least 45 minutes, possibly longer.

    If you're like me, you're probably going to spend the first twenty minutes of this process looking at the onions and thinking, "Uh oh, they're not getting brown. It's not going to work." Patience. It will work.

  2. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. Lightly flour a baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry onto it.
  3. Score the pastry lightly with a knife to create a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Prick the area inside the border all over with a fork.
  4. Cut the cheese into small slices or break it up into small chunks.
  5. Spread the caramelized onions over the puff pastry inside the scored border. Tuck bits of cheese into the onion mixture.
  6. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Cut into squares and serve.

Posted by spaceling at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

December 16, 2006

Roasted Vegetable Salad

I'm catching up a bit on things that I made while my computer was being wonky. I made this for dinner one night last weekend. It was loosely inspired by a recipe in Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and by the fact that I'd picked up a pound of baby eggplant without any real notion of what to do with them.

The Ingredients

*Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste, composed primarily of red chilies, cumin, and coriander. It's hot, but not tongue-searing. I bought mine from Kalustyan's, though I'm not sure I picked a particularly good one. It seems a bit tame. I'll probably try making my own soon, since I have about half a dozen recipes for it in various books.

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Shake the pan until the tomatoes are coated with olive oil.
  3. Quarter the baby eggplants. (Or cut large eggplant into 1 x 1 x 2 inch chunks.) Put them in a baking dish large enough to hold in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 13 inch pan.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, and stir/shake to coat. (I also meant to add about a teaspoon of whole cumin seed at this point, but I forgot. I will try it next time, though.)
  4. Roast the tomatoes and eggplant for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring or tossing every 15 minutes or so, until they are browned and soft. (I went about 55 minutes, which I think was slightly too long for the eggplant - it was a bit dry when it came out of the oven, though it recovered nicely as it soaked up the dressing.)
  5. Let the roasted vegetables cool slightly while you prepare the other items.
  6. Combine the chickpeas, peppers, halloumi, and olives in a large bowl.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, harissa, cumin, and lemon juice to make a dressing.
  8. Stir the roasted vegetables and their juice into the chickpea mixture. Then stir the dressing and the cilantro into the salad.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve garnished with mint leaves and with warm pita bread on the side.

I think this would be equally good with a different mixture of roasted vegetables. Some roasted onions might be very nice, or chunks of zucchini. Perhaps even some root vegetables. I'll experiment when I next make it.

Posted by spaceling at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

September 03, 2006

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

The idea for this came from a recipe for a zucchini "carpaccio" I saw once in a food blog. I no longer remember which blog it was, and I don't seem to have bookmarked the recipe, but the basic idea stuck in my mind: slice zucchini very thinly, salt it and drain it a bit, and then toss with herbs and top with fresh cheese. (The original recipe used fresh ricotta; I used goat cheese.) I added some chick peas to make this more of a main dish.



  1. Put the zucchini ribbons in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Let them drain for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Rinse the zucchini ribbons and let them drain for another 5 minutes. Spread them out on a paper towel and pat them dry. (They don't need to be bone dry, but they shouldn't be sopping wet.)
  3. Toss the zucchini in a medium bowl with the chickpeas, olives, herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. As you serve the salad, dot each portion with bits of goat cheese.

Makes about 2-3 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:05 PM | TrackBack

Roasted Cipollini Onions

Tonight as part of dinner, I roasted the cipollini onions that I got at the farmers' market yesterday. I adapted a recipe from Andrea Chesman's The Roasted Vegetable. Cipollini onions are a small, flat onion that is fairly sweet.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Put the onions in a bowl of warm tap water for a couple of minutes. This makes them easier to peel. Then peel them.
  3. Toss the peeled onions with the olive oil, herbs and fennel seed. Spread them out in a lightly oiled roasting pan in a single layer.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes or so, then turn the onions over and roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste, and serve.

I served these with a yummy zucchini and chick pea salad - recipe to follow.

Posted by spaceling at 07:52 PM | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Pita Bread Salad with Olivada Dressing

This recipe came about as sort of a collision between two recipes. One was a recipe for a panzanella (an Italian salad involving toasted cubes of bread) with an olivada dressing featured in the weekly newsletter for The Splendid Table (who apparently excerpted it from xcerpted from Tomatoes and Mozzarella: 100 Ways to Enjoy This Tantalizing Twosome All Year Long by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora). The other was a recipe for fattoush (a Lebanese salad involving toasted pita bread) from Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I took some of the ingredients from the panzanella, some from the fattoush, added a few things of my own, and, hey, salad!

I suppose since I used pita bread, this is a fattoush, and not a panzanella. Maybe it's a fattounella. Or a panzoush. (The two greatest things about fattoush and panzanella, are 1) they're a great way to use up slightly stale bread, and 2) they're fun to say.)


For the salad: For the dressing:
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive tapenade (I used storebought tapenade)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • Steps

    1. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Place the pita rounds on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes total, turning once, until crispy. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.
    3. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
    4. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the salad to taste (the recipe makes more dressing than you'll need for a salad for 2 people), toss, and season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Break the pita rounds into bite-sized pieces. Put some salad in a bowl, garnish with pita, and serve.

    Makes enough to serve 2 hungry people as a main course, or more people as a side dish.

    Posted by spaceling at 03:39 PM | TrackBack

    August 10, 2006

    Bulgur Tomato Salad

    I made this Easy Bulgur Salad with Summer Tomatoes as part of dinner last night. It is indeed easy, and very tasty. It also seems like a very versatile recipe - you could add other herbs besides the mint, or additional raw or blanched veggies (next time I think I'll add some roasted red pepper), or some feta cheese, or even some cooked chicken or tofu if you wanted extra protein.

    I omitted the pine nuts because I didn't feel like fiddling with toasting them.

    I used the bulgur from the Mollie Stone's bulk bins, which was not labelled as to whether it was coarse, medium, or fine. I think that it's probably the type usually sold for making tabbouleh, which probably means it was a fine grind, but it worked in this recipe. (My local Indian grocery store sells bulgur in 4 different grinds, but most American supermarkets seem to carry just one.)

    This was the first time in ages that I've cooked bulgur. (I recall making tabbouleh at least once with my mother when I was a teenager, but this is probably the first time I've prepared bulgur in my own kitchen.) I think I'll be cooking it again - with a ~10 minute preparation time, it joins quinoa on the short list of "Good Whole Grains for the Last-Minute Cook".

    Posted by spaceling at 10:02 AM

    July 31, 2006

    Portobello Mushroom and Zucchini "Souvlaki"

    This is one of those serendipitously inspired recipes. I was wandering around the supermarket, thinking that something vaguely Greek would be nice for dinner, when I happened upon a pile of portobello mushrooms. The idea for this recipe popped into my head. It's a bit of a stretch to call this souvlaki - I believe the term refers to grilled meat. But it's not entirely unlike those souvlaki sandwiches you sometimes get in Greek restaurants.

    The recipe came out really well. Mr. Spaceling made me promise to blog it so that I would be sure to remember how to make it again.

    The Ingredients

    We used Sabra baba ganoush, which is by far our favorite commercial baba ganoush. (Actually, our favorite baba ganoush, period. While I can make a decent hummus, all of my previous attempts to make baba ganoush have been staggeringly unsuccesful.)

    The Steps

    1. Put the mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic into a medium-sized bowl. Add juice of 1/2 a lemon, oregano and pepper to taste, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
    2. Allow vegetables to marinate for 15-20 minutes. (I recommend using this time to put together a simple Greek salad of cucumber, red bell pepper, olives, tomato, and feta.)
    3. In a large skillet (the larger the skillet is, the easier it will be to get your mushrooms and zucchini nice and browned), heat a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms/zucchini mixture, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are cooked through and lightly browned. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
    4. Serve the vegetable mixture stuffed into pitas and topped with baba ganoush, if desired, along with the Greek salad.

    Serves about 2.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:14 PM

    March 18, 2006

    Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Soup

    I came up with this recipe to use up some stuff that I had in the fridge. I had a half a bunch of spinach left over from making the salad, and I had 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms that I'd intended to put in said salad before the salad took a turn in another direction. I also had some fresh thyme.

    My first taste of this soup made me say, "Wow!" It is amazingly rich and hearty tasting, even more so than most lentil soups I've had. I'm not sure if the key is the red wine, or the mushroom bouillon that I used, or what, but it's good. And completely vegan. (Well, if your wine is vegan. I didn't check mine.)

    The Ingredients

    The Steps

      Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get translucent.
    1. Add the mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to get tender.
    2. Add the red wine, and cook until it's reduced down considerably. (By at least half, I'd say, maybe a bit more.)
    3. Add the broth, lentils, and herbes de Provence. Strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and drop them into the pot (the leaves, not the stems). (Alternatively, you could just toss in the whole sprigs, and fish them out again before serving, but I like having the thyme leaves in the soup.)
    4. Bring the pot to a slow boil, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or longer), depending on how long it takes the lentils to be done.
    5. About 5 minutes before the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.
    6. Just before serving, taste and add freshly ground pepper and/or salt (salt probably not necessary if you used reconstituted bouillon) to taste.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

    February 12, 2006

    Meyer Lemon Salsa

    You may all remember that I picked up some Meyer lemons at the farmers' market a couple of weeks ago. I've been using them in various dishes ever since, but I had a feeling that I hadn't really found a way to use the special qualities of the Meyer lemon to their best advantage. The Meyer lemon does make a fantastic vinaigrette dressing, but when I used Meyer lemons in the way I most often use regular lemons - adding a squeeze or two of the juice to various dishes at the end of cooking to perk up flavors - I couldn't help thinking that I'd have been better off with a regular lemon - the Meyer doesn't have the bracing tartness of a regular lemon, and its subtle sweetness tends to get lost in any complex cooked dish.

    It was starting to make me downright grumpy. Here I am with some of the most culinarily-prized citrus fruit available, and I can't think of anything to do with it.

    Fortunately, a food blogger came to my rescue. Amy over at Cooking with Amy has an entire post on what to do with Meyer lemons.

    This morning, I tried out a variation on Amy's suggestion for a Meyer lemon salsa, with a few substitutions. I only had garlic-stuffed green olives, rather than oil-cured, and I had some parsley on hand. So, it's sort of a strange cross between a salsa and a gremolata. But it's tasty.

    The Ingredients

    The Steps

    1. Cut the lemon into slices, and cut the slices radially into very fine wedges. (Or however you like - basically you're looking for a lot of tiny chunks of lemon with rind attached.)
    2. Put the cut up lemon in a bowl, and tip your cutting board over the bowl to let any lemon juices run into the bowl.
    3. Coarsely chop the green olives and add them to the bowl.
    4. Add the chopped parsley.
    5. Drizzle in a little olive oil and stir everything together. Season to taste with pepper.

    Wow. I have to admit, I was a little dubious about eating the lemon rind, but this stuff is fabulous. It's got a wonderful sunshine-y lemon flavor, without being sour or puckery. I think it probably would be even better with some oil-cured olives - their earthier meatier flavor would round out the flavors nicely. Though I did like the garlic flavor from the garlic-stuffed olives. Perhaps next time I'll use some of each.

    I ate some of this on slices of rye crispbread. I'm sure it would be great, as Amy suggests, with grilled fish, or even with roasted chicken or pork. Or as a topping for a whole wheat pita stuffed with roasted eggplant and zucchini.

    I think I need to get to the farmers market and get some more Meyer lemons.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

    January 27, 2006

    World's Prettiest Salad

    I made a really gorgeous-looking salad tonight to accompany these Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps. It's a very simple salad, with just 4 ingredients: a couple of red bell peppers, half a head of purple cabbage, 4 or 5 scallions, and a bit of Ginger People Ginger Sesame vinaigrette.

    Here's what you do: Chop the scallions (both white and green parts). Thinly slice or shred the cabbage. (I used a mandoline to get really nice thin shreds, but you could use thicker slices.) Slice the bell peppers into julienne strips. (I probably could have done this with the mandoline as well, but I just used a knife.) Put everything in a bowl, splash on some of the Ginger People dressing, and toss well to coat.

    This salad just looks gorgeous in a bowl - the contrasting colors really seem almost jewel-like. It's also quite tasty, and you get a nice big dose of vitamins A, C, and K from it. And though it's not precisely traditional, it would make a great side-dish for a Chinese New Year celebration, with all that nice red.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

    January 26, 2006

    Roasted Kabocha Squash

    Kabocha squash is a winter squash that looks kind of like a small pumpkin, only it's green with light green stripes. I like squash quite a bit, but I rarely cook it, for some reason, and when I do, I usually go for the familiar old acorn squash. When I was at the Asian market last weekend, stocking up on instant miso soup, they had a big pile of kabocha, so I bought a couple. (I always go to the Asian supermarkets to buy instant miso soup, and I invariably leave with some item of produce I've never cooked before.)

    I ended up roasting one of them, using a recipe from Sally Schneider's brilliant A New Way to Cook. It's pretty simple - cut the top and bottom off the squash, and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. (I saved the seeds for toasting - I'll post on that later.) Cut the squash up into 2 inch thick slices.

    Mix up some spices in a bowl: 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, a sprinkling of salt and a pinch of cayenne. (Sally's recipe also calls for caraway seeds, which I omitted because I don't have any.) Brush the squash slices with olive oil, and rub them all over with the spice mix. Stick them on a baking sheet, and put them in a 400 degree oven for half an hour.

    Yum. Kabocha has a very creamy, slightly sweet flesh. It's less stringy than some kinds of squashes that I've had. It tastes a lot like sweet potato. In fact, if you blindfolded me and gave me a bite of roasted kabocha, I'm not sure that I'd know that it wasn't sweet potato. Maybe I'll do a side by side test sometime - I could roast kabocha and sweet potato together, and compare the flavors.

    The sweet warm flavors of the kabocha played off really well against the salad I served with it, which was watercress, avocado, and kalamata olives, dressed with a very mustardy Dijon vinaigrette. Mmmm. It's funny - I've been eating watercress from the salad bar of the cafeteria at work, but I didn't realize that it was watercress until I spotted some in the supermarket labelled "watercress". It's funny - I always expected watercress to be seaweedier somehow. Silly, really.

    I think next time I'll try a slightly different spice rub on the squash. I bet it would be brilliant with a touch of chipotle. (Of course, my culinary philosophy is that there is no food in the universe that wouldn't be improved by a touch of chipotle, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of soy sauce. Though I don't think there is any food that would benefit from all four at once. First person to send me a viable recipe for a chipotle-soy-lemon-balsamic vinaigrette wins a prize, okay?)

    Tune in next time, when I'll toast some kabocha seeds.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:50 PM | TrackBack

    January 19, 2006

    Tunisian Style Chickpeas and Chard

    Tonight I tried a new recipe that I found online: Paula Wolfert's recipe for Chickpeas and Swiss Chard in the Style Tunisian Sahel. Just to make it really simple and easy, I used canned chickpeas, and substituted vegetable broth for the chickpea cooking liquid.

    The most fun part of this recipe is pounding up the garlic, chile, salt, and coriander in a mortar. I have an inexpensive Japanese-style mortar (called a suribachi). It's more lightweight than other types of mortars I've seen, and it's probably not robust enough for some pounding jobs, but for bashing up a couple of cloves of garlic with some spices, it works just fine. The garlic/chile/coriander paste just smells heavenly. Pounding everything in a mortar that way really amplifies the aromas.

    I served this with pita bread and a salad of sliced tomatoes and olives dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I've been getting really good tomatoes at Mollie Stone's in Palo Alto lately. They're not quite equal to a really great summer tomato, but they actually smell and taste like real tomatoes.)

    Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

    January 17, 2006

    Halloumi with Chili

    Halloumi is a Greek/Middle Eastern sheep's milk cheese. It's quite salty, somewhat rubbery in texture, and has a disconcerting tendency to squeak against your teeth when you eat it. You might say it has a flavor similar to feta, but a texture similar to mozzarella. It's quite popular in Europe, but not very common in the United States. (I first had it when I was visiting Scotland. It was cut into little cubes and served in a Greek salad, much like you might use feta.)

    Tonight, I tried this recipe for Halloumi with Chili from Nigella Lawson's website. Oh, my. Halloumi is pleasant enough uncooked, but when you throw slices in a pan and cook them until they're browned on both sides, it becomes much tastier. Drizzle with a mixture of minced chilies (I used red jalapenos) and good olive oil, and top with a squeeze of lime, and it becomes magical. Serve it with a nice salad, and it becomes a really impressive quick supper that takes almost no time to make.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:40 PM | TrackBack