Chickpea Piccata

One of my favorite things about the post-Christmas week is that I get to try out the new cookbooks that I've invariably been given. This year, the first new book I'm exploring is Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the same lovely lady who gave the world my favorite vegan cookbook, Veganomicon.

This new book is different in that the recipes are intended to be more health-conscious. I love Veganomicon with every fiber of my being, but a lot of vegan recipes tend to be heavier on the oil and carbs, making them less healthy than what I want to eat regularly. This new book resolves that dilemma, and from what I can tell, it does so very handily.

This chickpea piccata is a delicious recipe that I would definitely make again. It was fast and flavorful, and I didn't feel gross afterwards. Perfect for a post-holiday meal.

Chickpea Piccata
From Appetite for Reduction
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A generous pinch of dried thyme
  • One 16-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup capers with a little brine
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 big lemon)
  • 4 cups arugula
  • One box of spaghetti
 Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the bread crumbs and toast them by stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. They should turn a few shades darker.

Add the vegetable broth, wine, salt, pepper, and thyme. Turn up the heat, bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and let the sauce reduce by half; it should take about 7 minutes. Add the chickpeas and capers and let heat through, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.

Place the arugula in your pasta bowls. Place the spaghetti over the arugula and ladle the piccata over the spaghetti.

Variations: Use mashed potatoes instead of pasta.

Orange and Thyme Scented Chili

Joe's been called out of town for work for the second week in a row. Last week it was rather sudden, but this week I had advance notice, so I was able to plan my meals accordingly. Predictably, I reverted to my law school living-solo strategy of cooking a large pot of something for myself and then eating it for every meal until I can't stand it anymore. This is not a strategy to which I would ever subject another person, but I find that it works quite well for my lazy self.

So last night I made a big pot of this amazing orange and thyme scented vegetarian chili. I was a little worried it would be too sweet from the orange juice, but the flavor is totally subtle and it's not sweet at all. In fact, it's balanced really nicely by the spiciness of the chili powder. Overall it comes together beautifully, makes the kitchen smell incredible, and is one of those recipes that I just know I'll be making again.

It tastes better than it looks...

Orange and Thyme Scented Chili
Paraphrased from One Dish Vegetarian Meals
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 10- to 14-oz package of frozen veggie burgers or sausages, thawed and crumbled
  • 1 cup mild or medium salsa
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper and jalapeno (if using), cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes or until softened. Stir in the chili powder, thyme, paprika, and brown sugar. Add the tomatoes, black beans, veggie burgers or sausages, and salsa. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Add the orange zest, orange juice, and enough water to get it to approximately the consistency that you want. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes, then serve.

Variations: You could try tempeh instead of the veggie burgers/sausages, or for all the carnivores out there, this would be equally delicious with ground turkey or ground beef substituted.

Butternut Saag

This yummy Indian-inspired meal is a great Sunday dinner. This was my yesterday: Cold, rainy afternoon. Football on TV (Bucs/Redskins, of course). A butternut squash roasting in the oven. Oh, also, a dog chewing out his stitches and needing to go back to the vet, but that's another story.

Anyway, saag is Indian-food-speak for a spinach dish. A couple months ago I made a tofu saag; this one subs out the tofu for butternut, which makes the whole thing slightly sweeter. (The original recipe I was using called for sugar pumpkin, but my grocery store didn't have any; the butternut worked great, but you could also use acorn or kabocha squash.) It's a great variation that's well worth trying.

Butternut Saag
Adapted from Veganomicon's Pumpkin Saag
  • Medium to large size butternut squash (or a sugar pumpkin if you can find one)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Large onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup water
  • A 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Two bunches of fresh spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Cooked rice (basmati would be best, though I used long-grain white since it was what I had)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice off the top of the squash to remove the stem, then cut the entire squash lengthwise into halves (be careful!). Remove the seeds and scrape out the stringy squash innards with a spoon. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a fork can easily pierce the flesh. Let the squash cool completely, then peel away the skin and chop the flesh into 1-inch chunks.

Preheat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes more, or until everything is golden brown. Add the pumpkin and cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the spices and salt, and grate the ginger directly into the pot (using a microplane grater if possible). Add the water and cook for about 5 minutes, mixing often. Use a masher or the back of a spoon to mash the squash up a bit -- I mashed mine pretty smooth, but you could leave large chunks if you prefer.

Add the spinach in batches, mixing well after each addition. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring often. Add the lime juice; taste and adjust salt if needed. Serve with hot cooked rice.

Tip: Roast the squash a day or two in advance so that you can throw this together in a hurry. Just wrap the baked squash in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Curried Lentil Soup

My dog had surgery yesterday. He had this nasty mass on his chest that got really infected a couple weeks ago, so the vet decided he should have it removed entirely. When they cut it off him and looked inside it, there was a thorn in there. A thorn. Seriously? That is the world's most expensive thorn. An $1100 thorn, to be precise.

So last night was kind of hectic as we dealt with our drugged-out dog lurching about the apartment slamming into walls, crying, and oozing blood all over the carpet. Fortunately, I had planned to make a soup last night, so it worked out well. When you have a sick patient in the house, soup just seems appropriate, you know? I did the prep work ahead of time, and then after we picked Walter up from the vet, I just let it simmer on the stove while we tended to his crying and oozing. Not my ideal Friday night, but the soup was really good at least.

Curried Lentil Soup
From Bon Appetit
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
  • 1 cup lentils (recipe calls for French green but I just used the regular brown kind)
  • One 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter (vegans can omit this)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

Add chickpea puree and butter (if desired) to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. (Soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.)

Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions.

Bonus picture: Walter in his post-surgery tee shirt (so he doesn't chew his stitches out...)

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Beans and rice are such simple food, but they were always one of my favorite things growing up. In Florida, Cuban food is a big part of the culture. (I bet you didn't know that the Cuban sandwich was actually invented in Tampa.) My mom used to make something similar to this version on a regular basis -- it's not fancy, but it's so good, with the smokiness of the cumin, the acidity of the vinegar, and the crunch of red onions on top.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Two 15-ounce cans of black beans, one undrained and the other drained and rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Lots of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium lime, cut into wedges
  • Chopped tomato (optional)
Prepare rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all but 1/2 cup of the onion and all of the pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the can of undrained beans with their liquid, the drained and rinsed beans, and 1/2 cup of water; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for flavors to blend, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and salt to taste.

To serve, spoon beans over rice; sprinkle with remaining onion and lots of cilantro; squeeze fresh lime juice over top. Serve with some chopped tomato if desired.

Healthier Eggplant Parm

Sorry for the long hiatus! I could go on about how Thanksgiving happened, and then I had to go to New York for a stupid legal training class, and the holiday season is just so crazy, but I'll stop myself here and say that I have dearly missed you, my (silent but) faithful readers.

I made this a couple weeks ago but am just now posting about it for the aforementioned reasons. Eggplant parmesan is one of those classic vegetarian dishes that everybody loves but is actually really horrible for you due to the frying and the cheese. Fortunately, it's not hard to lighten it up by baking the eggplant slices and using the cheese a bit more judiciously than you otherwise would. Even more fortunately, the dish is still delicious when prepared this way.

Healthier Eggplant Parm
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs, Italian-style
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and/or thyme)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 medium raw eggplants
  • 3-4 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder in a medium-size bowl; set aside. Remove skin from eggplant and trim off ends; slice eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Dip eggplant first into egg whites and then into bread crumb mixture. Bake eggplant on a nonstick cookie sheet until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once.

Place a layer of eggplant on bottom of prepared baking dish, then add 1/3 of tomato sauce and 1/3 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers in same order. Bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, about 10 minutes.

Vegetable-Barley Casserole

When I was younger -- in middle school and high school, mostly -- my mom was known amongst my friends for making casseroles. Every time I had people over, she would come up with some new concoction that would inevitably be a hit. I remember she had a pizza casserole that was popular, and her breakfast casseroles are famous amongst our family members (we still eat one every Christmas morning).

I can't say I love casseroles quite as much as my mom does, but I do enjoy a good one from time to time. Of course, my casseroles don't involve as much meat as hers used to, and they're certainly more healthy than I remember hers being. (Coincidentally, or not, my casseroles are also usually less delicious than hers.) But they're still pretty good. This one, for example, has lots of chewy barley, tomatoes, greens, corn, spices, and of course, some cheese to add the comfort factor. It's not my mom's recipe, but it'll do in a pinch.

Vegetable-Barley Casserole
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (low-fat if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, corn and Swiss chard; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, barley, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Heat through.

Coat a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon barley mixture into prepared dish in an even layer; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and mixture is hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into 4 to 6 pieces.

Variations: Add some canned black beans to this to make it even more filling.

Rice with Sage-Infused White Bean Sauce

I was out of town for most of last week at my company retreat in the Poconos (hence my lack of new posts). To say it was intense would be an understatement. There was a lot of early waking, sitting in sessions, listening to panels, forced group recreational activities, and heavy drinking/carousing until the wee hours. Not to mention unhealthy (and, to be frank, kind of disgusting) food for every meal.

So when I got home, I wanted something that was calming and healthy. I was flipping through one of my handy cookbooks, One Dish Vegetarian Meals, and came across this little gem. It's rice with sauce, which kind of intrigued me. But if you can put sauce on pasta, why not rice?

Turns out it's a great idea. I used chewy, nutty wild rice to give substance to the meal, while the sauce itself is simple but very yummy. Served alongside a simple green salad, this was just what I needed to get myself back on track.

Rice with Sage-Infused White Bean Sauce
From One Dish Vegetarian Meals 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cooked or canned Great Northern beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained if canned
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups uncooked wild rice
Put the rice on to cook, according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, and sage and saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces slightly and the vegetables are very soft. Transfer the bean mixture to a food processor and puree until almost smooth. Transfer the bean puree to a saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Reheat the sauce over low heat and serve over the hot cooked rice.

Black Bean Tostadas

So, this recipe isn't the most seasonally appropriate thing I've ever made, but I had a Mexican craving yesterday that had to be satisfied, and this was how I did it. Tostadas are such a quick and easy no-cook meal -- just throw the topping ingredients together in a bowl, toast some tortillas in a dry skillet or over the open flame of a gas stove, pile the former on top of the latter, and voila.

I estimated quantities in the ingredient list (enough to make topping for about 4 small tostadas, or a 2-person serving), but this is a completely adaptable recipe. Do whatever you like. If you want to go heavy on the avocado, knock yourself out. If you hate cilantro, omit it. This isn't the kind of recipe where precision is really needed. It will be good no matter what you do with it.

Black Bean Tostadas
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 medium jicama, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed under hot water to defrost
  • 1/4 cup avocado, diced (about 1/2 small avocado)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved (about 12 tomatoes)
  • 4 Tbsp canned green chili peppers
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice, from about 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 small corn tortillas
Combine all ingredients, except tortillas, in a large bowl; mix to combine. Toast tortillas and top each with about 3/4 cup of bean mixture.

Fall Vegetable Curry

Joe and I have this great routine on Monday nights. (I probably find it more great than he does, but bear with me.) I go to my Zumba class after work to shake my booty and burn calories while looking like a flailing idiot (but a flailing idiot that's having fun). Then I come home, shower, and eat a home-cooked meal prepared lovingly by Joe while we watch Jeopardy! together. Finally, I curl up on the couch (while he retreats to the bedroom to do work or Spanish lessons) to watch that evening's episode of The Greatest Show of Our Time.

(Speaking of which, did you guys watch last night?! Uh, I basically needed a cold shower after the last 2 minutes of the episode. SO. GOOD.)

Anyway, this is what I came home to after Zumba last night. The apartment smelled amazing - even from the inside of the shower. Curry, you are so wonderful.

Fall Vegetable Curry
From Cooking Light
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced peeled sweet potato
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder (if you don't have Madras, use regular curry powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • Cooked rice, for serving (I used brown basmati)
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Decrease heat to medium. Add cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve with yogurt and cooked rice.

Variations: The original recipe suggested adding a handful of chopped cashews to the cooked rice just before serving.

Lentil and Black Bean Chili

Sorry for the long blog absence! Last week I was working crazy hours (well, "crazy" for a non-profit lawyer, anyway) writing a brief that was due yesterday. I cooked last week, but usually forgot to take a picture and ultimately decided it wasn't really worth blogging about anyway.

But I'm back now. And hello, winter weather! I don't know about you guys, but it's officially cold in DC. Not, like, the hypothermia-inducing, can't-go-outdoors-without-20-layers Boston weather that I'm used to, but I definitely wore my winter coat to work this morning. October, I barely knew ye.

Anyway, what better cold weather fare than a hearty vegetarian chili? This one's super healthy and quick. It's nothing that'll blow your mind, but it's just really satisfying and meant to be eaten on a cold night while cuddling on the couch under a blanket watching TV with your significant other and/or dog.

Lentil and Black Bean Chili
  • 1-1/2 cups dried lentils, washed and picked over for stones
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (be generous)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • One large 29-oz (or two small 14-oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • Two 14-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
Place lentils in a large sauce pan and cover with water by several inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender but retain a little bite, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and salt; stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, along with beans. Stir well to combine, then cover skillet and simmer so flavors can blend, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in lentils and cilantro.

Japanese Grilled Eggplant

So for the blog I usually tend to stick with recipes for complete meals, whether it's an entree, a soup/stew or salad. But I made a great side dish tonight that I had to share.

It's a Japanese-style grilled eggplant that Joe and I both loved. I served it along with the soba noodles with spinach I blogged about a couple weeks ago. They complemented each other perfectly and made a tasty, healthy Asian-inspired vegetarian meal.

Japanese Grilled Eggplant
  • 2 large or 4 small eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced
Preheat an outdoor grill or stove-top grill pan and spray lightly with some cooking spray. Slice the eggplants on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Grill, turning as needed, until lightly charred and tender, about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove to a serving plate.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, ginger, and garlic until blended. Drizzle over eggplant and then sprinkle the eggplant with scallions.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

File this recipe under "makes your house smell like a Berber spice market." Tantalizing, no? This dish is a lovely Tunisian vegetable stew from one of my favorite cookbooks. I've made it a few times myself and have even coerced my Mom into preparing it at home during one of my visits.

Tunisian cuisine is an exotic blend of Mediterrean and desert ingredients. According to good ol' Wikipedia, lots of cultures have had an influence on its food: from Phoenicians, Arabs, and Turks to the French and the aforementioned Berbers. When you add all those together, you get tasty concoctions seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, hot peppers, and citrus. Of course, they're best served with a side of couscous, the national dish of Tunisia.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew
From  Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup currants or raisins (I had both, so I used a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Feta cheese
  • Cooked couscous (I used whole wheat)
In a large skillet, saute the onions in the olive oil for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the cabbage, sprinkle with salt, and continue to saute for at least 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne to the skillet and saute for another minute or so. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and currents and/or raisins, and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender. Add the lemon juice. Serve on couscous topped with feta.

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Noodle Toss

Dinner tonight was the kind of meal where I mess up tons of stuff, yet everything ends up turning out great anyway. But seriously, I screwed up repeatedly. I realized too late that I had no foil for wrapping the garlic; I threw it in the oven anyway, and it made little difference (well, maybe it got a little charred, but so what?). Then the garlic wouldn't mash into the fine paste I wanted, but the fact that there were big chunks of roasted garlic in the sauce was kind of awesome. And I forgot to reserve the pasta cooking water until it was almost too late.

But ultimately, this ended up being one of those really great dinners that's filling, has an intriguing blend of spices, and is actually really healthy on top of it all. I guess you could call that fool-proof.

I promise there are lots of veggies in here - they just all fell to the bottom!

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Noodle Toss
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • One small head of garlic, top sliced off, wrapped in foil
  • 12 oz uncooked egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (reduced-fat if you prefer)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 F.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and place onions, carrots, and squash on it. Drizzle vegetables lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt. Roast the vegetables along with the foil-wrapped garlic for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. In a large saucepan, stir together sour cream, broth, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and reserved cooking water. When vegetables are done, remove garlic from the foil and squeeze the flesh out of the skin into a small bowl. Mash garlic and whisk into sauce. Stir in roasted vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add noodles and toss with sauce. Season to taste and serve.

Greek-Style Spaghetti Squash

When I was in college, we sometimes were served spaghetti squash in big trays in the Adams House dining hall. It was usually plain or accompanied by a lackluster marinara sauce. Oh, and it was dry. And unseasoned. I wasn't really that into it, so I never really thought about making it at home until I saw a big bin full of beautiful yellow spaghetti squashes at the grocery store last week.

I'm glad I decided to give it a chance, because I loved this recipe. It's so healthy, easy to make, and delicious. You just have the squash going in the microwave while you make the quick sauce on the stovetop. The whole thing can be done, start to finish, in 15 minutes. And it's waaayyy better than that stuff you get in the dining hall.

Greek-Style Spaghetti Squash
  • One large spaghetti squash
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
Pierce squash with a fork in several places; place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, turning squash over every 3 minutes, until tender, about 12 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, chickpeas, oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a slow boil. Using a fork, scrape strands of squash into skillet with tomato-chickpea mixture. Cook, stirring, until squash strands are well coated; remove from heat and top with mint and feta.

A Pair of Mexican Desserts

You may have noticed that I haven't yet posted a single dessert recipe on this blog. I've been trying to stay healthy lately -- actually, I've been on a diet and have lost over 10 pounds (woot!). But tomorrow evening, I'm heading to a dinner party, and I've been charged with the task of bringing dessert. Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched for the opportunity to bake.

The dinner party is going to be Mexican cuisine -- guacamole, salsa, tacos, the works. So I obviously wanted to bring something that would fit the theme. The first thing that came to mind was Mexican chocolate. Holy smokes that stuff is delicious. Bittersweet chocolate with cinnamon and ground chilies. Yes, please.

So I made this Mexican chocolate tart. Chocolatey cookie crust, cinnamony and slightly spicy chocolate ganache filling, and cinnamon-spiced pecans. Say what?!

And of course, why bring one dessert to a party when you can bring two?! Just for kicks, I also made a batch of delicious Mexican wedding cookies. Crumbly, sweet, with a gorgeous nutty vanilla flavor. The perfect way to end a meal with friends.

Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package cookies, finely ground in processor)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 (3.1-ounce) disk Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra), chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
For pecans:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk all ingredients except pecans in medium bowl. Stir in pecans. Spread in single layer on sheet, rounded side up. Bake until just browned and dry, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheet. Separate nuts, removing excess coating. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, to within 1/8 inch of top. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. 

For filling:
Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolates; whisk until melted. Add butter, 1 piece at a time; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne. Pour filling into crust. Chill until filling begins to set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Arrange nuts in concentric circles atop tart. Chill until set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep chilled. Serve tart with whipped cream.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
From The Joy of Cooking
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a microwave safe plate. Cook uncovered in the microwave on high power for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will be very aromatic and feel hot to the touch, but they should not brown. Cool, then grind them finely in a food processor

Grease or line 2 cookie sheets. Beat butter, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until well blended. Stir in the ground pecans and the flour. Stir until well blended. Shape into 1-inch balls and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool. Roll the cooled cookies in confectioners' sugar.

Curried Chickpeas and Tofu

This is one of those meals that was incredibly easy to photograph because it's just so pretty and colorful. Sometimes I have to take a dozen shots before I get a photo I like, but with this one it was just one click and I was done.

On top of that fact (which I realize is probably not particularly relevant to anyone who may be reading this), this dish is also very tasty and a total snap to prepare. Start to finish, 20 minutes, tops. It's so simple that you can have a side dish going at the same time -- as you can see from the picture, I chose some simple steamed green beans.

Curried Chickpeas and Tofu
From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (use 2 if you are not using a non-stick skillet)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional, but great)
  • 1 cake tofu (3/4 pound), pressed for about a half hour (if you have time) and cut into cubes
  • 2 cups undrained cooked chickpeas (one 16-ounce can)
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro 
  • Plain yogurt
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spices. Add the cubed tofu and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Add the chickpeas and about 1/2 cup of their liquid, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until thoroughly heated. Serve topped with cilantro and/or yogurt if you like.
Variations: Vegans can feel free to omit the yogurt or to use soy yogurt instead.

Fontina and Roasted Eggplant Pita Pizzas

I'm not entirely sure how to classify this recipe. It's extremely easy, but it's not quick, since it requires 45 minutes of roasting vegetables. However, if you've already got the vegetables roasted -- say, from having this the day before -- making leftovers couldn't be quicker.

One thing is clear, though. This recipe is super delicious, and the way it makes your house smell while the garlic is roasting simply cannot be described. Oh, man. So amazing. It'll make you want to roast garlic every night of the week.

 Fontina and Roasted Eggplant Pita Pizzas
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 bulb (note: not clove) garlic
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large wheat pitas, split in half crosswise
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil cooking spray and spread onions on it; set aside. Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Coat garlic bulb with cooking spray; wrap in foil. Roast eggplant (unwrapped) and garlic (wrapped in foil) until very soft, about 45 minutes. Add onion to oven for last 20 minutes of roasting. Remove vegetables from oven and reduce temperature to 400 F.
Peel and mash eggplant; set aside. Squeeze garlic from its skin. Set pita rounds on a baking sheet and spread each with some garlic. Top with tomato sauce, eggplant, fontina and onions. Bake until crisp on the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup

When the weather is cold, I crave two things:
  1. Soup.
  2. Roasted stuff.
So I was pretty psyched today when Joe made me a roasted eggplant and chickpea soup for dinner. What?!

This recipe is from what I like to call Martha Stewart's "weeknight magazine" -- Everyday Food. They did a whole feature on roasted soups, but I immediately flagged this one for immediate preparation. I'm glad I did, since it's really delicious. Roasting the veggies gives it a nice full flavor, and a swirl of yogurt adds just the right amount of tang. A sprinkle of fragrant fresh oregano tops it all off.

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup
  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Fresh oregano
  • Plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, toss together eggplants, onion, garlic, and 4 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, leaving a wide strip of empty space at one end. In the bowl, toss chickpeas with 2 teaspoons oil. Transfer to empty space on sheet. Roast until eggplant is golden and cooked through and chickpeas are slightly crunchy, about 35 minutes.
Set chickpeas aside. Peel garlic and add to a medium pot, along with eggplant, onion, and broth. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some eggplant until soup is thick and chunky. Stir in chickpeas and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh oregano and plain yogurt.

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew

Finally! October has arrived, and there are a lot of reasons why it's my favorite month of the year. For example: cool weather, fall foliage, pumpkins, Halloween, scarves and tights, football, baseball... the list goes on and on. Oh, and fall food is in full swing -- at the farmer's market today, the bins were overflowing with gorgeous squashes, apples, onions, and tons of root veggies.

So for dinner tonight, I made a delicious root vegetable stew that's perfect for celebrating the start of my favorite 31 days. It's creamy, thick, filling, garlicky, herby, and just all-around wonderful on a cool night.

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 1/2 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 2 1/4 cups diced peeled rutabaga (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 cups diced peeled turnip (about 2/3 pound)
  • 1 1/4 cups diced peeled parsnip (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Crusty bread, for serving
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and rosemary; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in potato and next 5 ingredients (through the 2 cups water). Bring to a simmer; cook, covered, 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place 3 cups soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return to pan. Stir in cream, pepper, and salt. Serve with bread.

Thai Coconut Soup

I always love trying new recipes, so I don't usually make the same thing twice unless it's really good. So you should know it's really saying something that I've made this Thai coconut soup more times than I can remember.

This soup recipe comes from my favorite vegetarian cookbook, Linda McCartney On Tour.* Ms. McCartney was an animal rights activist who refused to "eat anything with a face." Her cookbook is fantastic and contains recipes influenced by all sorts of different world cultures and cuisines. I do have to say that I disagree with her choice of name for this recipe -- she calls it "tom yum soup," but it has pretty much zero in common with tom yum (at least as I'm familiar with it). This soup has more in common with tom kha gai, since it has a coconut base, except this is a vegetarian version with lots more veggies. And in my opinion, more deliciousness.

Whatever you want to call it, this soup has lots of wonderful flavors, and like all good soups it tastes even better the next day.

 Thai Coconut Soup
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper (or other, if your store has interesting types), seeded and minced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (if my store doesn't have it, I sometimes add some lime zest instead)
  • 3/4 pound eggplant, cut into half-inch cubes
  • One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • One 14-ounce can of coconut milk
  • Cilantro, anywhere from 2 to 4 tablespoons (or none at all)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cooked jasmine, basmati, or long grain brown rice
  • Chopped peanuts, for garnish
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and lemongrass stalks (leave them whole, or at least in large enough pieces that you can easily remove them later). Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the eggplant and cook for about 4 minutes until it has browned. Stir in the sugar and tomatoes, and mix well. Add the stock, coconut milk, and cilantro (if using). Bring to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes. Add the rice about 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Remove the lemongrass, pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with the chopped peanuts.

*Note: to be distinguished from my favorite vegan cookbook, which is definitely Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. You'll definitely see recipes from that book cropping up on this blog more than once.

Two Potato and Beet Hash with Poached Eggs and Greens

During the week, dinner tends to be a slightly rushed affair. I'm just so tired when I get home from work, not to mention starving and slightly low-blood-sugar-cranky.

But on Sunday evenings, with errands out of the way and the obligatory dog park trip behind me, I like to spend a while cooking up something special. Something that takes a little more effort than I would put in on a weeknight. Something especially delicious.

Tonight, with football on TV in the background, I made this seriously awesome fall dinner. It made the entire apartment smell like fried onions and sage. The hash is autumn root vegetable goodness personified; the poached eggs' broken yolks create a rich, practically sinful sauce; and the fresh greens brighten up the plate and keep everything light and in balance. Yeah, this meal took a little more time, and a little more effort, but it was so worth it.

 Two Potato and Beet Hash with Poached Eggs and Greens
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potato (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup cubed peeled cooked beets (about 1/2 pound)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 teaspoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 cups spring greens, frisee, curly endive, or other greens
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute for 5 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add potatoes, 2 teaspoons sage, and garlic; cook for 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in beets and salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add water to a large skillet, filling two-thirds full. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer gently. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. Break each egg into a custard cup or small ramekin, and pour gently into pan of water. Cook for 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove eggs from pan using a slotted spoon. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sage and a bit of salt and pepper evenly over the eggs.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and mustard in a large bowl, stirring with a whick. Add greens, toss to coat. Serve with hash and eggs.

Ratatouille's Ratatouille

First things first: I must give credit where credit is due. This wonderful recipe came from one of my very favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I have made it many times and each time I love it more and more. Huge thanks also go to Joe, who actually assembled and prepared this meal for us to eat tonight. (He has these few weeks off work, and let me tell you, having a house-husband is awesome.)

It should come as no surprise, given my love of Pixar, rodents, and food, that Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies. I simply adore the scene towards the end where the titular rat prepares a beautiful dish of ratatouille -- not the traditional peasant style stew, but a gorgeous haute cuisine version (developed in real life by Thomas Keller). And the food critic is transported and has a revelation and all ends well, of course, since it is a children's movie.

This is pretty much that dish. I don't know if it's exactly how Mr. Keller himself would have prepared it, but it is so intensely flavorful with the fresh vegetables and the thyme and the garlic that I just don't know how it could possibly be any better.

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 smallish zucchini
  • 1 smallish yellow squash
  • 1 longish red bell pepper
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
  • Orzo, couscous, polenta, crusty bread, or some other grain, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour tomato puree into bottom of a baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil, and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop orzo, polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.

Tuscan Vegetable Chowder

I love the first days of fall. That touch of chilliness in the mornings and evenings just puts a spring into my step. Fall is my favorite season. I love everything about it -- the trees changing color, the holidays (Halloween! Thanksgiving!), the coziness of it all.

And the food! Fall makes me crave nothing so much as a warm bowl of soup. This Italian "chowder" is easy, filling, and comforting on an autumn evening. And it's a complete vegetarian meal thanks to the textured vegetarian protein (TVP). Yeah, that's kind of a weird, gross-sounding ingredient, but I promise it's great. TVP is just soy-derived crumbles that you can add to anything for lots of protein, and it just tastes like whatever you're putting it in. Which in this case is a bowl full of herby, vegetabley goodness.

 Tuscan Vegetable Chowder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry textured vegetable protein granules (TVP)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
 Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, beans, TVP, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, green beans, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Serves 4.

Tomato, Avocado, and Golden Beet Salad

Tonight's dinner is 100% brought to you by Joe Fray. Well, I picked out the recipe and helped with the shopping, but I took no part in the actual making of the food. You won't be seeing him writing any guest posts, however. I asked him what he would say about the making of this meal, and he looked at me for a few seconds and said, "You chop things and put them in a bowl and mix them." Not the most loquacious when it comes to food writing, that Joe.

So I'll just tackle this from the point of view of the eater. This salad is delicious. It's great for early fall because there are still pretty decent tomatoes to be had, and beet season is now upon us. We ate the salad with crusty hunks of whole wheat baguette (and a great episode of House on TV).

Tomato, Avocado, and Golden Beet Salad
  • One bunch of golden beets, greens removed
  • 4 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 small red onion or half a large red onion, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon chives
Place a medium saucepan filled with water over high heat; bring to a boil. Add beets, bring back to a boil and reduce heat to medium; simmer until beets pierce easily with the point of a sharp knife, about 25 minutes. Remove beets from pan and place under cold running water until cool enough to handle. Peel beets with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/2-inch wedges; place beets in a large bowl.

Add tomato, avocado, onion, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to bowl; toss to combine. Sprinkle with basil and chives. Serves anywhere from 2-4, depending on how hungry you are.

Soba Noodles with Spinach

I know I've done a good job with dinner when we've finished eating and Joe looks down at his plate sadly and says, "I'm sad that this is gone." This Japanese-inspired soba noodle dish was one of those dinners.

I've actually never made soba noodles at home before, but it was easy and yummy as can be. Soba noodles, like quinoa, are great for vegetarians because buckwheat (the main ingredient) contains all eight essential amino acids. Yay complete proteins! The recipe does include a bunch of Asian ingredients that you might not have in your pantry, but I definitely recommend stocking up on them anyway -- then you'll have them on hand to whip up delicious boyfriend-approved meals at the drop of a hat.

 Soba Noodles with Spinach
  • 8 ounces uncooked soba noodles
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced
  • 8 cups leaf spinach (one big bag)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
 Cook noodles according to package directions (do not overcook, or noodles will be gummy). Drain and place in a large bowl. While noodles are still warm, add vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and scallions; toss well to coat. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil. When oil is hot, add garlic; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach to pan; cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss spinach with noodle mixture and serve.

Variations: Vegans could substitute brown rice syrup for the honey. This noodle dish would be great with a side of Asian-marinated grilled tofu (here's a sample marinade recipe from Epicurious).

Peruvian Quinoa-Vegetable Soup

I have the greatest memories of my trip to Peru with Joe. There's seldom a day that goes by when I don't think about something we did, whether it was the main event (hiking the Inca Trail) or something random but memorable (like paying a woman 2 soles at a train station so I could take a picture with her llama).

Our culinary adventures were equally memorable. We tried alpaca, guinea pig (hey, I wasn't a vegetarian yet), stuffed rocoto chiles, and those most delicious of cookies, alfajores. And some ceviche when we were in Lima. And lots of Inka Kola and pisco sours to wash it all down!


This Peruvian-inspired soup I made for dinner (borrowed from the lovely cookbook The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray) doesn't have any of that stuff in it, but it does have some traditionally Peruvian ingredients. Like quinoa, which has been an important staple in the Andes for 6,000 years. Even the use of soy sauce is authentically Peruvian, since a lot of the cuisine in that country was influenced by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which led to a fusion cuisine called chifa.

The soup's not much to look at, but it's delicious, filling, and healthy, and it reminds me of a great trip I took. Not bad for such quick work.

Peruvian Quinoa-Vegetable Soup
  • 7 cups water or vegetable stock (or a mix)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped potatoes (purple potatoes if you can find them)
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Place the water and soy sauce in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa. Begin prepping the vegetables and place them in the pot as you go. Start with the potatoes, carrot, onion, garlic, cabbage, jalapeno, and tomatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the quinoa is cooked, about 20 minutes from when the quinoa was added. Add the cilantro, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
Variations: You can saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for extra flavor before adding the water, quinoa, and remaining ingredients. For extra protein, you could also add 1 pound of extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes, after adding the veggies.