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Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Quinoa Success Story

Folks, we have a quinoa convert! I had a friend over for lunch yesterday who had never had quinoa. I had made quinoa salad, which was regarded rather... dubiously. But then enjoyed tremendously. Quinoa FTW!
Oh, and did I mention that we had this lunch out on the mirpeset? Mm hmm. On January 8th. Without jackets. Sorry, NY peeps.

(It should be noted that this friend also thought that Abraham Lincoln was the first Jewish president, so...)

I actually took a picture which I can't upload now for some reason. Wish you could see it- this salad is so chock full of color and goodness. It was the most delightful lunch I have had (all week).

Black lentils
Vegetables (and fruits!) for chopped salad. I used: cucumbers, pepper, carrot, beet, apple, avocado.
Pomegranate seeds (Chaval, really, if you're not a five minute walk from the shuk and can't eat incredible ripe pomegranates every day. Again, sorry NY peeps.)
Feta cheese
Dressing: olive oil, lemon, salt, zaatar, fresh parsley.

I cooked the quinoa and the lentils in separate pots because the lentils take longer to cook. How much longer? Please. I do not have this information. I also cooked the lentils in a finjan, so that's kind of cool. Yes, one could make this entire meal on a tiyul.

While they were cooking, I chopped the salad and got the seeds out of the pomegranate. Labor of love, pomegranates.

For the dressing, mix and shake. I adore the way that olive oil and lemon come together when you shake them.

Mix everything together to create a smorgasboard of textures and flavors and colors that will charm and inspire. ("And where do you buy this ke-no-wo? It is very American to try new things, yes?")

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Road Trip Peppers

So my brother and I just took a road trip from Palo Alto to Seattle.

We had less than two days to do the whole thing, plus we wanted to pop into San Francisco and Portland, so we didn't have a whole lot of time to do... anything. But we did have a terrific time together- it was a perfect road trip. Didn't really matter what we saw (some mountains from the car window), we just had a great time together, telling stories, listening to When Genius Failed (me and Ben, then just Ben), singing (just me) and being goofy.

Some things we did not see:
The coastline
Crater Lake

Some things we did see:
San Francisco (and a joyous riot/parade/dance in the street over the whole DOMA thing, which happened earlier that day)

Weed, CA (and a woman who talked to us for wayyy longer than we had time for about her personal crop and how sorry she was that she couldn't sell us any but she was running low... it was pretty easy to figure out why)

Shasta Lake (very beautiful, so we figured it was fine to skip Crater Lake. Also- we did a lot of skipping around Shasta Lake.)

Portland (whaaaat is up with Portland? Good thing I've seen Portlandia, or I would have really been in for a shock)

Obviously the most important part of a road trip is the food. We packed none, but along the way, we ate/drank the following:
-Crazy ice cream (the ice cream was the focus of our trip, really, and deserves its own post... maybe...)
-Pluots and peaches (from the Santa Cruz farmer's market)

-Voodoo Doughnuts (Apparently one of Portland's main attractions... four doughnuts later, we're still not sure why.)
-Stuffed peppers

The last three items are the ones I really want to focus on.
One of the absolute highlights of the two days was coming across a place called The Olive Pit in Corning, CA. They had billboards along the highway advertising free tastings and we were like- okay, we're starving (the complimentary breakfast at that half-star hotel we stayed at did not appeal), free is good. Plus we had to pee and find internet to download When Genius Failed. We go inside, and it's like a dream world, full of olives, olive oil, olivewood, almonds, pickles, jams. It's like that one aisle in Fairway, but the whole store! Ahhhh!

The woman at the counter starts plying us with free samples, which we accept (gratefully and graciously).
I'm really not an olive lover. I have to be really, really in the mood for olives. These olives, though, must be the stuff of the shiv'at haminim. If you've had the perfect olive, then you know. I don't need to go on.
The almonds in northern California are unlike almonds I've had anywhere else in the world. They are fresh and so flavorful. They really feel like they're packing a protein punch- you can feel yourself getting stronger as you crunch them. (We found these same almonds in Pike Place Market in Seattle a week later, bought a bag and they sustained us for a full 24 hours.)
The peppers, though, stole the show. They were these little red peppers stuffed with feta and mizithra cheese (which I had never heard of).

So we bought some almonds and peppers for the road, but they didn't last long, and we had hardly finished them before we were craving them again. A real, live thing-you-never-knew-you-wanted-now-you-can't-do-without. It's like a cell phone, or the internet, but a pepper.

So, we came back from the road trip and decided to have Friday night dinner together (still not sick of each other after a week and a half of very close quarters, definitely a good sign) and I decided to try my hand at those magical peppers. Not sure I got it right, and not sure the other guests at the meal really got why we were so into them ("um, stuffed peppers, they're not like a new thing") but for me and Ben, those peppers were one of the best parts of an awesome and ridiculous road trip and I tried to recapture the taste a little bit.

Road Trip Stuffed Peppers:

Peppers- I used those little guys in red, orange and yellow. They were a little bigger than I would have liked.
Feta cheese
Cream cheese (didn't remember that it was mizithra til I started writing this post)
Spices: I used paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic and a little curry
Marinade: Olive oil, fresh garlic, Italian seasoning

I broiled the peppers in the oven for like 10-15 minutes, just until they were sort of soft but still held their shape. I let them cool in the fridge while I mixed up the stuffing and did other Shabbat dinner prep.
The stuffing- feta, cream cheese and spices, mixed pretty well but still kind of chunky. I think I might have also added a splash of lemon juice but I'm not sure. In terms of amounts... approximate. I probably used a ratio of 3:1 feta to cream cheese.
When the peppers were cool, I used a small, sharp knife to remove the tops and seeds, then stuffed them with the cheese mixture.
When they were all done, I put them into a container and just doused the whole mess with olive oil, threw in a ton of minced garlic and Italian seasoning.

I think it was probably good to make them the day before and let them marinate a little. There are a few leftover so we'll see how/if they fare in the fridge.

They're good, for sure, but I think they were lacking that special on-the-road flavor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chickpea Sesame Cookies

Just when I'd decided that I was giving up this blog for good (because really), I made something so awesome that I just had to post. I made those Midddle Eastern sesame cookies. (Does anyone know if they have another name?)
Here's why I made cookies today:
-It's winter. Do I need more of a reason? I mean, I have one, but...
-I'm going to Israel in two weeks (from today! yayyyy!) and wanted to make something Middle Eastern-y. These are basically tehina/hummus cookies. How much more Middle Eastern can you get??
-Nostalgia. My students bring their own lunch every day. Sometimes they're pretty standard (pasta, sandwiches, chicken nuggets), sometimes they're very New York (sushi, pate and crackers), and sometimes they're really wild (whole mini pineapples, whole artichokes with garlic butter dip, an entire slab of parmesan cheese to grate into pasta). These kids are city kids, and I am impressed by their sophisticated, un-childlike palates. Which is why today, when I saw something that I won't mention specifically because it would probably be some privacy violation, it really surprised me. And got me all into a huff of, "My mother would never have sent me to school with a lunch like that!"
I tried to recall the lunches that I brought to school as a little kid, and was filled with fond memories of soups in thermoses, rice cakes with peanut butter, sunried tomato bagels with cream cheese... and one not-so-fond memory of a whole, cold baked potato in tin foil. Anyway, thennnnnn I had to bite my tongue as I remembered the lunch that I brought to school every single day for close to two years (7th and 8th grade). A baggie of cut-up carrot and cucumber sticks, a Dannon coffee yogurt, and four (exactly four!) sesame cookies. I would crumble the cookies into my yogurt. And from this lunch, I did not tire and I would not waver. (My mother did not put up much of a fight. I guess it's not a terrible lunch, nutritionally-speaking, and it certainly made her life easier. Unless, Heaven forbid! we ran out of Dannon yogurts.)
I don't think I've had one of those sesame cookies (from Ma'adan, on Cedar Lane) since 8th grade. I guess FLIK cookies took their place. Sigh.

Anyway, today I got that hankering that follows memory. Did a quick online search and guess what came up? Levana's website! And (best part!!) her recipe calls for chickpea flour. I just happened to have a jar of dried chickpeas that I've been trying to use up. And so- chickpea  sesame cookies! (I used Levana's recipe, but I made a few (minor!) changes, so below is what I did.)

A word on chickpea flour:
Apparently you can buy this in health food stores. I'm not sure that I would go out of my way to buy chickpea flour, but I guess maybe it's a thing people use? I used a coffee grinder to grind up approximately half a pound of dried chickpeas- and I ground it up really fine. This is not an activity that I would recommend unless you are prepared to get flour all over yourself and your floor. If you do choose to grind up chickpeas, use earplugs or something-- a coffee grinder is loud. I put on earmuffs, which helped a little. You might be able to use a food processor to make the flour, but I kind of doubt it- it would probably turn out too chunky (a raw chickpea chunk in a cookie? ew).

Sesame Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (scant)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 cup barley flour (any flour will do, but I wanted them to be wheat-free)
1 cup chickpea flour 
pinch salt
teaspoon ground anise (fennel) seeds
1/2 cup (approx) sesame seeds (I only had black sesame seeds (why?) which I think taste exactly the same as regular ones, but look way cooler!)


Cream butter, sugar. Add egg and baking soda, mix. Add flour, ground fennel, spices. Mix until you have a lovely dough.
Make little balls (Levana says they should be walnut-sized) and roll them in the sesame seeds.
Place (about an inch apart) on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Flatten the balls a little until they are sort of flat-topped ovals.
Bake at 350 degrees about 15-20 minutes. II baked mine for 15 minutes at 375, but my oven can be tricksy. Is there anything better than the smell of toasting sesame seeds? It is legit one of my favorite smells in the world.
Let cool, so they can get nice and crunchy.

And whatever- these are better than Ma'adan's. Sorry, Stuey.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Almost-winter kale/white bean soup

Today I finished a final paper for one of my grad school classes. I spent way less time on it than I should have, and yet, really just too much time (as in, last night and all day today). Around 2:30 this afternoon, after having worked on the paper for the past six hours, I decided to take a break. I was starving and I've been fighting a cold all week and desperately wanted soup but didn't have anything to make it with. I contemplated making pumpkin soup out of canned pumpkin (it's been done, and it's delicious), but I'm sort of over autumn, and ready for winter soups these days. Hello, December! As soon as I entered Westside Market in my paper-writing haze, I was struck by insight and inspiration that really could have been put to better use, and I just knew. Kale! It had to be kale!

Kale/White Bean Soup:
1 large bunch kale
1 potato
1 sweet potato
1 onion
garlic (I used like six cloves)
1 can small white beans
Spices (I used a giant dollop of red schug (my sinuses needed some clearing), turmeric, garlic powder, salt and curry)

This is the quickest and easiest soup ever, as long as you do things efficiently, ie- in the order that I will dictate. Whatever you do, the kale goes last! It only takes kale like two seconds to steam- you don't want it to cook for as long as the other vegetables or it will be a nutritionally blah mush instead of a super healthy steamed green.
1) Cut up onions, garlic, potato and sweet potato- put into pot and cover with water (you can always adjust the amount of water later, but you want to just about cover the vegetables). Turn the burner up to high.
2) De-stem kale and wash thoroughly. Do not worry about cutting the kale- you'll do that later. (Best way to de-stem kale is to just use one quick, upward movement to rip the leaves off the stems.)
3) At this point, the water in the pot should be boiling. Rinse the beans well and add to the pot.
4) Add spices, cover the pot. Don't turn the heat down.
5) Do something else for a few minutes. I took this opportunity to skim an article which ended up making the exact point that I was making about expository texts, so that was helpful. Block quotes! Woot!
6) When the vegetables are done, you can add kale. I added more water at this point because mine looked a little low, and I turned the heat down a little, but use your judgement. You can rip the kale into pieces if you're not planning on blending your soup. I wanted a smooth soup, so I just threw the big pieces in.
7) Give the whole thing a quick stir, turn off the heat.
8) I blended mine at this point with an immersion blender (aka a djudjer) and added a drop more water.

Consistency was perfect (that would be the potato), now my paper is done (surely you didn't think I'd procrastinate so much as to make soup and write a blog post before I'd finished?), and I am finding a moment of peace right here at my table. Happy almost-winter!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkins for All! (2 of 3)

Next up:

Stuffed Pumpkin

In honor of all the things you can eat out of a pumpkin and all the people who forwarded me this article.

Disclaimer: this is way cooler looking than it tastes.
Also, to be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of brown rice, and I think a quinoa stuffing would have been way better. This is what I did, but if I made this again, I'd probably substitute quinoa for the rice and leave out the broccoli altogether (it gets too mushy).

1 medium-sized pumpkin. They are everywhere now, but make sure that they're the sweet kind for eating, not carving.
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)
broccoli (I used one very small head- maybe made 1 cup when cut up?)
1 onion

1. Cut the top of the pumpkin off with a very sharp knife, and scoop out the seeds. Do something cool with the seeds, or just throw them away.
2. Put the whole pumpkin upside down onto a baking sheet, bake at like 400 for 2 hours (I think more than two hours is probably better, but it might start to collapse on itself. If you don't need the pumpkin to retain it's shape (for a different recipe, obviously) then just bake it for longer).
3. While the pumpkin is cooking, cook the rice. Brown rice takes forever to cook, and as with most grains, it's a 2:1 ratio, water:grains. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for like 45 minutes.
4. Dice the broccoli and onion and add to the rice during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. No need to mix in- the vegetables will steam-cook.
5. When the rice is done and the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, .scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh (but leave enough so that the pumpkin can still stand) and mix it in with the rice and vegetables to make a stuffing-like mush. At this point, you can also add any spices that sound appealing (salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, cumin, curry, whatever) and maybe craisins and toasted pecans. (I forgot the pecans- definitely would have been better with them.)
6. Put the stuffing into the pumpkin, put the stem on top. Voila.

Wish I had a picture... maybe this will do?
These are the jack-o-lanterns on my stoop. My super is very talented.

Weird... none of the beers are pumpkin ale. Or would that have smacked a little too much of cannibalism? (Sorry. Ewwww.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkins for All! (1 of 3)

This weekend, I have consumed the following:
Pumpkin scones
Pumpkin coffee (from Dunkin Donuts- not the latte, just pumpkin-flavored coffee)
Stuffed pumpkin
Pumpkin-broccoli bisque
Pumpkin ale

Yeah, it's all about the pumpkins. BEST SEASON EVER.
So here are some recipes from my weekend pumpkin-fest.

Pumpkin Maple Scones:
(In honor of fall and my maple-loving boyfriend)

3 1/2 cups flour (I used a combination of millet and barley, but any flour will do)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
A LOT of cinnamon and ginger, a little dash of nutmeg

1 stick butter (I use salted)

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups (1 can) pumpkin (NOT pie mix- I used Trader Joes organic, which I think is better than Libby's, but it's really all the same)

1- Preheat the oven to 350, line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray, but if you have parchment paper, use it! If you don't have any, you might want to consider getting some. Secret: the paper can be reused.)
2- Mix all the dry ingredients together well- make sure there are no clumps of baking powder or anything.
3- Add the butter to the mix and mix in with your fingers- keep it light! This works best if butter is at room temp
The butter should be in small chunks (recipes always say pea-sized pieces, which is a good way to think about it). You should be able to distinguish between the butter and the flour mixture- ie- the butter shouldn't be blended in.
4- Mix all the wet ingredients together, then add those to the mix. Stir gently- again, you don't have to blend this all together, just fold the wet and dry together so that nothing is actually dry. (That was not clear at all, but if you try it, you'll know what I mean. It's like folding beaten egg whites into a mixture.)
5- Dump the whole mess onto the baking sheet and form into a circle- it can be like an inch and a half thick.
6- Cut the circle into wedges, like a pie. I made 8 huge ones, but you can make more- just cut them up however you want to.
7- Bake for like 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and cracked.

Scones are charming and delightful to begin with, but when they can also be seasonal, they are truly the best thing ever.

Maybe tomorrow, kept inside (and home from work! woohoo!) by Hurricane Sandy, I'll make my own pumpkin spice latte to eat with my scone.

Pumpkins for All! (3 of 3)

And finally...

Pumpkin-Broccoli Bisque
In honor of the leftover pumpkin shell and in anticipation of the basic human desire for steaming soup during a hurricane.

The stuffed pumpkin appeared at Friday night dinner and by this morning was unstuffed, so I was left with a hollow pumpkin containing approximately half an inch of pumpkin flesh all around. Not wanting to waste the pumpkin, and craving a light, thin soup (it's such weird weather- not cold enough for stew, but creepy enough outside that I want comfort food), I decided to combine the pumpkin with some broccoli to make a bisque.

I used Mark Bittman's recipe, which is, as he implies, foolproof and versatile and amazing.

3 cups water (recipes always say to use chicken stock, but water is fine, I promise, as long as you season it well)
2 cups broccoli (diced)
Leftover pumpkin (maybe 1.5 cups?)
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup milk (I used plain almond milk)
Spices (I used salt, pepper and turmeric)

Add water and broccoli to a pot, bring to a boil, then lower to medium (or a simmer, whatever).
Add pumpkin (my pumpkin was already basically cooked, and I wanted it to cook more, but not too much, so I didn't add it at the beginning)
Let cook for like 20 minutes, probably less. No idea, really. Just cook it until the broccoli has reached the desired level of done-ness.
I used an immersion blender to mix everything because I wanted it really smooth and creamy, but it's also good chunky (except that then it's not a bisque. Actually, it might not be a bisque to begin with... I think bisques demand cream. Whatever...).
Add spices and the milk. Almond milk works perfectly dandily in this soup.

And now I'm all set for the hurricane of the... year.