Vegetables that delight.

Roasted Golden Beets & Fig Fall Slaw

I must have been with my good friend Nate when I discovered beets for the first time: real beets, out of the earth, not a can, roasted to perfection, alongside (you guessed it!) goat cheese and greens. I must have immediately lost my mind with that first taste, because there are few flavors as unique as the contrasting combination of sugar and dirt exemplified in this deeply hued root vegetable.

 

While roasting remains the best way to cook beets, I have thought a lot about what could go well with beets better than super creamy, super rich goat cheese. Carrots were delicius, chocolate was a good contender, but the hunt was not complete until this beautiful Fall slaw salad I have prepared for you today.

If beets are the sexiest of root vegetables, figs rein the fruit category. I mean, come on, figs are dark, mysterious, and hard to get. But once you get your hand on a basket full of fully ripe, beautiful figs, there is just nothing better.

 

This slaw, above any other I have made, banks on a series of contrasting elements: Sweet and tart, soft and crunchy, earthy and crisp. Coated in a light, tangy lemon vinaigrette, every ingredient works together for a perfect, happy mouthful of bright, sweet deliciousness. 

This slaw is easy to make, beautiful to the eyes, and perfect to the soul:

Refreshing

Sweet

Tangy

Tart

Crunchy

Light

PS. If you don’t have fresh figs, swap for the dried version. Try reconstituting (moistening them) in orange juice for a couple of minutes before serving.  

 

 

Roasted Golden Beets & Fig Fall Slaw

Serves 3-4

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Zesty Lemon Vinaigrette

  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. raw local honey, or maple syrup if vegan
  • salt to taste 

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until incorporated. Set aside until ready to eat.

Roasted Golden Beets & Fig Fall Slaw

  • 2-3 golden beets
  • tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ small cabbage, shredded thin
  • 4-6 figs cut into quarters
  • 1 large handful cilantro, parsley or even mint
  • ½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove skin off beets, then cut into thin slices. Place in a baking sheet with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss until beets are evenly coated in oil. Roast for 35 minutes. 

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add a hefty pinch of sea salt. Toss, then let sit for 5 minutes. Add roasted beets, figs, cilantro, and sunflower seeds. Pour Lemony Vinaigrette into salad and stir until everything is evenly coated. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat. If eating later, I would hold adding the sunflower seeds until ready to eat, to preserve crunch.

Market Frittata

I had a hard time coming up with something insightful to say alongside this recipe. A year ago, I wrote a post on frittata. If I weren’t so honest, I could have done a quick copy-paste and gotten away with it. My feelings about frittata haven’t changed at all.  Yes, it is delicious. Yes, it is versatile and seasonally friendly. And yes, if you use the right ingredients, it could make your day significantly tastier.  But, is a frittata life changing? Definitely not.

As I grasped for words, trying to make this post a little more exciting and a little less Monday-y feeling, I realized something very important, something I tend to forget when I get carried away, making complicated recipes that use “strange”, healthy ingredients only available to us Brooklyn dwellers. I realized that this post should be about keeping things in perspective by offering an affordable, easy-to-make recipe that can help you become a better cook and a healthier person.

So there, here is a recipe for an ordinary, weekday dish, which is healthy, seasonal, delicious, and above all do-able. Here is a dish that probably will not change your life, but it will make it tastier and easier.

 

Frittata is one of those recipes that will never fail you.  You can make throughout the week, on a budget, with whatever ingredients you might have at hand. It is perfect for dinner alongside a salad, great for breakfast, and a good enough even for lunch. It reheats well, and lasts for days in the fridge.

Because eggs go well with almost every single vegetable, frittata is above all a blank canvas that can adapt to the seasons flawlessly. Give it to me in winter with potatoes and onions, and I will be happy, with tomatoes and eggplant in the summer, and I will be happy then too.

This frittata is composed of sweet summer tomatoes, herbaceous tatsoi (which can be easily be substituted for spinach or bok choi), and a delicious Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. The flavors are fresh and  aromatic, the colors, bright and sunny enough to uplift the spirits, even at 9 PM on a fall Tuesday night. This frittata is energetic and vibrant, satisfying and robust. A meal that delights, even the most ordinary of days.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Makes about a cup and half, depending on size of peppers

Cook time 45 minutes

  • 2  red bell peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder (optional, add more or less to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place peppers on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning once. Peppers are ready when skin in blistered black. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum wrap. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Once peppers have cooled, remove foil, cut stem out, then remove skin, by peeling away from flesh. Place flesh in food processor alongside garlic, sea salt, chili powder and olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning, then add more salt if necessary. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps for 4-5 days. (This is great on quinoa, pasta, or other egg dishes!)

Market Frittata

Serves 2

Cook time 25-35 minutes

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups raw tatsoi, bok choy or spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5-6 heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • ¼ cup Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Thinly slice shallots and tatsoi, or spinach or bok choi. Place in a 10 inch sauté pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt. Sauté for five minutes. Tatsoi should have reduced in size by three quarters and shallots should be translucent. Stir in tomatoes. Sauté for another couple of minutes.

In a large bowl whisk eggs, until whites and yolks are mixed in together, then add turmeric and a pinch of salt. Pour eggs over vegetables. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for five minutes. Transfer to oven and cook for another ten minutes, checking every two to three minutes for the top of the frittata to set. Remove as soon as eggs are fully set. Flip Frittata onto a serving plate and either serve immediately, at room temperature, or cold. 

Baba Ghanoush

I am not ready to let summer go, neither are the skirts, dresses, and shorts, or the sunglasses I stole from my husband. I am not ready for shorter days, when the sun sets before the workday ends, the brisk morning air, or the falling leaves.

My farmer’s market bag is definitely not ready to transition into the hearty stuff either, it wants to keep holding the ripest of tomatoes, the crispest of lettuces, the most aromatic of herbs, the most colorful peppers, and most importantly lots of eggplant of different shapes, sizes, and hues.

 We are not letting go, and we don’t care. Winter can wait, and so can Fall.

Inspired by a good friend’s family recipe, this baba ghanoush (meaning pampered daddy in Lebanese) is one if the most perfect of foods. Complex and rich, this roasted eggplant, cumin scented, lemony spread, is as easy to make as hummus, but much more interesting. Middle eastern in origin, baba ghanoush doesn’t just celebrate eggplant beautiful, creamy texture; it heightens it to its fullest potential. Slow roasted in a hot oven, the center cooks until collapsing flat. The skin is then removed, it’s flesh blended with lots of garlic, tahini, cumin, and lemon; a combination of flavors that simultaneously make this dip hearty, and light. If I could, I would eat this baba ghanoush with every meal, spread over bread, spooned over a crisp vegetable, or alongside quinoa or rice.

Silky smooth and utterly delicious this baba ghanoush makes summer ending worth it, or at least bearable until there are no more eggplants to eat.

 

Baba Ghanoush

Makes a cup and a half

Cook Time, about an hour 

  • 1 pound eggplant (about 2 medium sized eggplants, or 5 small round ones, pictured)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • juice of 1 ½ lemons
  • small handful of cilantro
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice eggplants into vertical quarters. Place in a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with pinch of sea salt and one tablespoon of olive oil. Toss until evenly coated. Roast for 50-55 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Peel skin off, should be easy once eggplant is fully cooked through and soft.

Place cooked eggplant flesh in a food processor with cloves of garlic, tahini, cumin powder, lemon juice, and cilantro. Pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. I added another small pinch of salt. Serve over bread, as a dip, or by itself. Keeps for a two to three days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Fried Quinoa with Crispy Eggplant and Bok Choy

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This is the kind of meal you make after a grueling day at work that turns into an even longer night of a few too many pre-dinner drinks to compensate the above stated stress. Whether overworked, over stressed, or hung-over, this is the perfect recovery food salty, fatty, lip smacking delicious, that also happens to be good for both your body and soul.

I have never been a late-night-Chinese-take-out food kinda gal, but several months back, I got home to an from a long day turned into night to an empty fridge, with nothing but leftovers quinoa, a bag of frozen peas, eggs, and soy sauce. Without much hesitation, or a plan mapped out, everything magically landed on the pan and came together beautifully in minutes, though as messy as I felt. Every single craving I might have been having was immediately satisfied, one bite at a time. Sweet peas popping one after the other coated in salty miso and soy, laced in velvety egg and spiked with spicy ginger. Delicious.

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Because my immediate crush on this newly discovered recipe was not going naway, I decided to build on it and develop a recipe that was as delicious but slightly more complex. I wanted to explore the potential of using different vegetable combinations to achieve a layered flavor experience. Since the end of summer is upon us, eggplant was the vegetable of choice. To balance the eggplant’s creaminess I incorporated bok choy for crunch and freshness. The perfect balance of earthy eggplant and herbaceous bok choy served as the perfect foil to the salty combination of soy and miso. 

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This recipe is flexible, and you should feel empowered to work with whatever ingredients the season brings as long as that soy-miso-ginger to egg and quinoa balance remains intact. I can’t wait to try a version during fall with cauliflower and some sort of squash, or even carrots and sweet potatoes could be amazing, or during early spring a combination of wild leeks and peas. The key here being to keep it simple, while still experimenting with the flavor profiles and textures you like.

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Fried Quinoa with Crispy Eggplant and Bok Choy

 Serves 4

Cook time, about 35 minutes

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1 pinch of salt

1 cup eggplant cubed small, from half a large eggplant

2 tbsp. vegetable or sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced

1 small onion, diced small

2 tbsp. tamari, or soy sauce

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. miso paste

1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 bunch Chinese cabbage (bok choy)

2 eggs

1 handful fresh cilantro

2 green onions, sliced

1 tbsp. roasted peanuts or sunflower seeds

To cook quinoa:

Place quinoa in a large bowl with enough water to cover it by an inch. Using your hand stir quinoa a couple times, then drain through a sieve. Rinsing removes quinoa’s subtle bitter taste. In a pot, place 1 cup of vegetable broth or water with 1 cup of quinoa and a pinch of salt. Bring water to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium high. Simmer until most of the water has been absorbed. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Quinoa is cooked when translucent, a small white ring will emerge around the grain when ready. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

To make Fried Quinoa:

Place a cast iron* pan over high heat. When cast iron is hot, add a tablespoon of oil and eggplant. Cook stirring occasionally for about ten minutes. Eggplant should be soft throughout and crispy on the edges. Add another tablespoon of oil if necessary. While eggplant cooks place another large sauté pan over high heat. Add another tablespoon of oil, diced onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and sweat vegetables out until translucent and soft (about 5-8 minutes). In a separate cup whisk together soy sauce, miso paste, and ginger. Add soy-miso paste into the pan and stir. Reduce heat to low.

Add cooked quinoa and eggplant. Stir until well incorporated. Thinly slice Chinese cabbage and add to pan, cover for a couple of minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt. Whisk two eggs together then pour over quinoa. Stirring constantly for two minutes until softly scrambled and well incorporated into the quinoa. Remove from heat. Add Chopped cilantro, green onions and peanuts over quinoa. Serve immediately with a side of soy sauce.

*I like to cook the eggplant in a cast iron pan, to ensure crispy edges and deep roasted flavor. Nonetheless, if you do not have a cast iron, cook the eggplant in a regular pan with the onions.

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Deep-Dark-Chocolate-Nutty-Tahini Raw Chocolate Pudding

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I am heading out of town for the week, and as a token as my affection for all you food lovers out there, I made this quick post as I pack the last few items required for a week in the desert…

This Deep-Dark-Chocolate-Nutty Tahini Raw Chocolate Pudding comes together in minutes, using a few basic ingredients that are both incredibly delicious and downright good for you. Bananas, avocadoes, tahini, and dark chocolate are whipped together in the food processor until silky smooth. The pudding is then refrigerated, for a refreshing bite.

This totally addictive pudding is the perfect late summer dessert, a transition into fall as days get shorter and chocolate cravings more intense. Rich and decadent, this beautiful dessert might seem dainty and delicate, but the deep-dark-chocolate-nutty-tahini combination is for keeps.

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Deep-Dark-Chocolate-Nutty Tahini Raw Chocolate Pudding

Serves 2-3

Cook time: 5 minutes

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1 ½ large ripe avocado, peeled
  • 3 tbsp. good cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. tahini (optional)
  • 1 pich salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. If you want to get extra fancy, pass the pudding through a sieve to remove any little lumps that the food processor might have not gotten to. Place in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Top with sea salt and cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or olive oil. 

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Rosemary & Peach Pound Cake

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I have been going through a serious baking hump. It has been months since I turned the oven on, whisked some sugar and fat into a luscious, sultry dessert to devour after dinner. Months of struggling with the idea of baking without wheat, without almond four, without a clue as to how to make a moist fluffy cake without the ingredients I had made myself familiar with. I kept thinking about it, over analyzing the situation, feeling sorry for myself like a big loser. I was dreaming up ideas of fruity summer cakes oozing with ripe peach juice, delicate and sweet, but I couldn’t find a recipe that I could eat, so I left it at that; powerless and without cake.

Maybe the seven peaches sitting on the counter, temping me with their scent convinced me to stop being a wimp. Maybe it was the lack of anything better to post, or all the yoga I have been doing, but something stirred up inside me when I woke up on a cloudy weekend morning ready to bake, no matter how many times I had to try, or how hard I would fail. I was ready to just close my eyes and trust my instinct, go with my gut not my brain, let go and trust myself.

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Right then and there, groggy eyes and in pajamas, I started mixing oats with rice and tapioca flour, I whisked some eggs, I poured out maple syrup. I sliced those same peaches that had been tormenting me, and carefully laid them out on a loaf pan. I sprinkled them with rosemary and sea salt. I poured the batter over the peaches, placed the pan on the oven and crossed my finger as hard as I could, hoping for a miracle.

For what seemed the longest forty-five minutes of my life, I waited, anxiously. I checked maybe once, or twice, or thirty times, with my fingers still crossed. But when that cake came out of the oven, I knew it would be a winner. The air thick and dense haunted the apartment walls with a rich peach and rosemary cloud of summer goodness, every breadth overwhelmed.

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This Rosemary and Stone Fruit Pound Cake is the perfect combination of the sweet flavors of summer fruit and aromatic rosemary, coated in a moist cake, with a delicate crumb. Made with maple syrup and dark brown sugar, the batter bakes into a dark hued delicacy that tastes nothing short of sublime. When paired with perfectly cooked peaches each bite tastes almost boozy, and definitely unique. A struggle worth resolving by going with my gut.

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Rosemary & Peach Pound Cake

 Cooking time 55-60 minutes

  • 6 large peaches, apricots, or a combination of both
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • ¼ cup arrowroot or tapioca flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned gluten-free oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a piece of parchment paper that is the length of your loaf pan and wide enough to have at least three inches of overhand along each side of the pan. Grease the pan with a little bit of coconut oil, then place parchment paper on pan.

 Wash and pat dry your stone fruit. Cut stone fruit into thin (about 1/8 inch) slices, but don’t worry about them being too perfect. Line the bottom of the pan evenly with the stone fruit slices. Sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves and a tiny pinch of sea salt over fruit slices.

In a food processor place tapioca flour, rice flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Pulse until oats resemble coarse flour. Set aside. In a large bowl mix maple syrup, brown sugar, and coconut oil. Whisk until evenly distributed. Add eggs, and whisk. Add flour, milk and lemon juice. Stir until just incorporated. Pour batter into baking loaf with peaches. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Cake will be ready when after inserting and removing knife into center of the cake it comes out clean. Let cake cool slightly out of the oven, then invert pan into serving place, and carefully remove parchment paper.

Let cool.  Serve with ice cream, sorbet, or summer berries for dessert, or as is for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. 

Enjoy!

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Hot Green Chili Sauce and a Monster Stacked Sandwich

I found myself over the kitchen sink, skin on fire, burning hot and steady, under a refreshingly cool stream on New York tap, when the obvious realization that chili pepper should always be taken seriously popped into my head, especially these farm fresh, just picked, angsty jalapeños.   Mind you I had been taking all the necessary precaution of washing my heads vigorously and continuously, scraping under each fingernails for any stubborn fiery chili juice, but it still got me. And, it burnt hard. Each fingertip turned bright red, screaming for relief. I kept ignoring it as I kept cooking, over a pot of hot, green, hot sauce.

You see, we had just gotten back from a trip to the market, when one of our favorite vendors insisted on us purchasing the most beautiful basket of chili peppers. No, we could not buy just one, or two, but the full basket, which contained about twenty peppers, of three or four different kinds, most of which I had never heard of. Seduced by the bright green color and intrigued by the challenge of cooking with a new “very spicy” set of ingredients I left the market feeling eager and encouraged, with a tad too many peppers in my bag.

 

Us Puerto Ricans, we don’t really eat spicy. Aside maybe from the pique we pour over fried street food, we lean towards the meaty and aromatic. Our peppers are sweet and harmless, and are usually part of our version of a Trilogy. Nonetheless, here I was standing over cutting board, slicing chilies, removing their seeds, one pepper at a time, and running my fingers through the spiciest of foods. 

I chopped into one, two three, maybe five peppers when a wave of heat seeped into my eyes, then my lungs. One cough, two. Tears. Shit! What did I get myself into?

After transferring the chilies into a pot, the cloud became thicker, more potent, creating a seven-minute chili flavor force field, impenetrable and thick. Then like magic everything softened and sweetened. These peppers finally gave in; only to become the best chili sauce I have ever eaten in my life. Sorry Sriracha!

Complex. Sweet Spicy. Herbaceous. Delicious green goodness. My kind of food.

When you taste this Hot Green Chili Sauce you will know what I mean. As soon as you take a bite, you get an immediate hit of heat that is robust and fierce, then  it mellows out, giving way to the sweeter side of summer peppers. Mixed in are ton of shishito peppers, herbaceous, sometimes sweet, sometimes hot, but always delicious. These add a layer of flavor usually foreign to spicy sauces. With a plentiful handful of the always present cilantro and garlic to spare, this chili sauce in unique and refreshing as it is hot and feisty. 

It tastes good with about anything, and when I mean everything, I am talking about savory summer dishes like grilled vegetables, fish, and meat; or on top of tacos, tamales and quiches; with eggs, cooked over easy, scrambles, or soft boiled. This sauce is delicious!

To prove its potential as an everything sauce, I made a sandwich that would stand up to this sauce’s complexity. Stacked and rich, this full flavored sandwich is no wimp. It is neither your boring turkey sandwich nor your childhood PB&J. This sandwich is as kickass as the sauce it is paired with.  Layers of pea hummus, greens, avocado, and eggs stand up this Hot Green Chili sauce with finesse. Both the creamy hummus and the dreamy avocado are a match made in heaven, paired beautifully with an oh so rich, oh so decadent runny fried egg spiced to perfection. Each bite as decadent as the first, filled with surprise; filled with delight.

Go ahead. Make this sauce. Pair it with this sandwich. I dare you. Just wear gloves (and maybe a gas mask).

 

Hot Green Chili Sauce

Makes about 16 oz.

Cook time about 10-15 minutes

  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 5 hot yellow hot pepper
  • 4 long hot green chili peppers
  • 10 shishito peppers
  • 1 small yellow or green bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. raw sugar

If you skin is sensitive, consider wearing gloves when handling all hot peppers. Wash and pat dry all chili peppers. Cut stems off and remove all seeds. Thinly slice and place in a large pot with one tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until peppers begin to soften, about 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat. Add cilantro, vinegar, and sugar. Stir. Let cool completely. Transfer ingredients into food processor and pulse until smooth. Store chili sauce in an air tight container for up to two weeks.

Stacked Monster Green Sandwich w/ Hot Green Chili Sauce

Serves 1 

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, toasted (I recommend Free Bread if GF)
  • 2 tablespoons Chimichurri Hummus or Pea Hummus
  • Handful spinach, or other green of choice
  • ½ an avocado, sliced
  • 1 egg, fried
  • 1-2 tbsp. Hot Green Chili Sauce

Place a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for two minutes. Crack egg directly onto the pan. Cook until whites are set and start to curl up on the side, about 4-5 minutes. In the mean time, toast bread. When toast is ready, add two tablespoons of the Pea hummus to one piece of toast. Place spinach leaves flat on top of the hummus, then the sliced avocado, followed by the fried egg. Drizzle Hot Green Chili Sauce over the egg. Serve open face or as a sandwich. Eat immediately. 

Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti

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New York minutes are like springs.  They stretch far enough only to collapse with full force into themselves. The pace of life is fast, and it is difficult to slow down, even after returning home from a long day. You walk out the door and boom! You heart starts beating with that of the City’s, your feet moving with everybody else’s. We are constantly moving and stopping feels like a luxury left behind wherever we came from. Us New Yorkers, we  deal with it.  We scream. We curse. We hustle. Sure, we take breaks but these escapes usually happen in in unexpected places (cramped yoga studio, back of a cab, an empty subway car, anyone?). My escape? You know it involves a knife and a cutting board, a pot, slowly simmering over a burner, transforming amazing ingredients into meals I can share with others.

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While minutes seem short outside my kitchen, the few ones I spend in there are precious, and I try o stretch them just far enough for them to collapse as soon as I step out.

With an over abundance of sweet heirloom tomatoes on the kitchen counter, I found myself indulging in a slow, full hour plus of cooking, without rushing over the onions caramelizing fast enough, or the wine evaporating too slow for everything to be ready in time. I let the ingredients cook slowly, as if transported to a different place where thing don’t need to be done by yesterday. The outcome: sweet, sweet perfection!

This marinara sauce is light and refreshing, hearty with umami, spiked with arugula micro greens. This marinara sauce is sweet, delicate, yet robust and satisfying. When paired with perfectly cooked spaghetti and crispy eggplant everything seems to fall into place, everything seems to make sense. This is why good things take time, and can’t be rushed.

This recipe requires time; an abundance of time in Manhattan minutes. But these few extra minutes are delightful and worth the investment. Even magic happens.

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Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti

Serves 2

Cook time 70 minutes

  • ½ pound heirloom tomatoes (about 20 Roma tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes
  • couple sprigs of basil, 7-8 leaves
  • ¼ cup dry white wine 
  • 4 oz. dry spaghetti, GF or regular pasta
  • 6 fairy tale eggplants or alternatively ½ small eggplant
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Handful of herbs, such as parsley, or micro greens (arugula works best!)
  • Olive oil for plating

 

Wash and pat dry tomatoes. Using a pairing knife, make a superficial 1-inch cross cut at the bottom of each tomato. Set aside. Prepare an ice bath by placing several ice cubes in a large bowl with 4-5 cups of cold water. Set aside. Place a large pot with 4-5 cups of water over high heat. Bring water to a simmer. Drop half of the tomatoes into the water. Cook for 30-60 seconds, skin should be slightly wrinkly. Remove tomatoes and drop into water bath. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. After four to five minutes in ice water, drain tomatoes and peel skin off pulp. Place pulp in a bowl and using your fingers, crush lightly.

In a large pot, preferably a dutch oven if you have one, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook for seven to ten minutes. Add peeled garlic cloves and chili flakes. Stir and cook for a minute. Add crushed tomato pulp into pot with onions and garlic. Add wine and basil. Stir. Reduce heat to the lowest and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce becomes dehydrated, add wine, or alternatively, water, about a half cup at a time as necessary

When the Marinara is fifteen minutes to being ready, place water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add a bit of oil, about a tablespoon, and a pinch of salt. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente (soft with a bite!). Drain, keeping about ½ cup of the cooking water.

As the pasta water starts to cook, simultaneously, start cooking the eggplant. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Heat until smoking. Place eggplant that has been cut into cubes, or ½ inch disks if using fairy tale eggplants. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side until golden, crispy, soft. Remove from heat when ready and set aside.

When pasta is ready, transfer into pot with marinara sauce. Stir in ½ cup of pasta water and stir. Add eggplant. Stir. When ready to serve, add microgreens, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Devour while hot. 

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Cumin Charred Tomato and Lentil Salad

Every summer, towards the tail end of July, I start getting antsy, nostalgic even. The prospect of temperatures dipping back into single digits and good times ending drives me insane. While the feeling is premature, I can’t brush it off. I want to hold on to summer until December comes around. Heck!, I wish I could hold on to summer all year long, embracing the energizing beams of the sun, one minute at a time, stepping out of a chilled building into a warm, bright hug, eating sweet, sweet tomatoes, drinking Prosecco.

As a personal reassurance to the clear fact that winter is not coming just quite yet, I try to make food that reminds me there is still time to bask in the sun and eat good, delicious vegetables. Food that reminds me that, even though it might seem like the end, the good stuff is yet to come, food that keeps me optimistic, food that means so much more. This food is energizing, refreshing, and tasty. It is robust without being heavy. This food is good. This is the food of the moment, without either the future, or the past, in mind.

 

This lentil salad celebrates the cusp of summer, the vibrant flavors of sun ripened tomatoes, charred sweet, drenched in a earthy, tangy cumin mustard dressing. This salad travels well, and can feed a crowd. Perfect for the beach, or even a picnic, whether you are on a boat by the river, the Atlantic or the Caribbean. This salad is bold and aromatic, distinct and sweet, yet spicy and smoky. This salad is summer, and it is here to stay.

Cumin Dijon Dressing

 Makes about 1/3 of a cup

  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp. tahini
  • 1 tbsp. white rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Cumin Charred Tomato and Lentil Salad

 Serves 4-6

  • ½ cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Place lentils in a large bowl with 3 cups of water. Soak* for at least three hours. Drain lentils and rinse. Place in a pot with 3 cups water and a big pinch of salt. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and cook for fifteen minutes. Drain, and set aside.

Place halved tomatoes, garlic clove, a pinch of salt, and olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat, cook, stirring occasionally until tomatoes become blistered, about five to seven minutes minutes.

Place tomatoes in a large bowl with lentils, sliced scallions and parsley. Stir in Cumin Mustard Dressing and mix until everything is evenly coated. You can either eat immediately, while still hot, or refrigerate for later use. Tastes amazing either way.

 (*Soaking is optional, but helps reduce overall cook time)

Tasty Plan Cooking School: Whole Grain Rice Basics

Rice is the backbone of Latin American food, or at least it is in Puerto Rico. I grew up with it, for lunch and dinner, with beans, with chicken, with bistec, and with with shrimp stew. There was nothing, not even the fried street food by the beach, that I associate more with my childhood, my mother, my grandmother, and my country than a good bowl of rice, with enough crispy edges at the bottom of the pan to devour after the meal was done: greasy, salty, crispy, delicious. I loved that stuff so much as a kid, that I made sure to teach all of my roommates in collage how to cook white rice, the right way; the way that would lead to a crispy edge, drenched in black beans, aromatic, hearty, and oh so Latin! Simple food, cooked to perfection, with a lot of love.

As I ventured into eating less meat, (which eventually led to me becoming a full on vegetarian, that neither judges nor tries to recruit!) rice transformed from existing in the background of a meal into a full frontal delicacy I could experiment with. With thrill, a little bit of nostalgia, and a lot of curiosity I recently ventured into experimenting with what is out what is out there in the world of whole grain rice varietals to discover an ingredient that is rich in history and tradition, I found a grain that delights!

 

For the second installment Tasty Plan Cooking School, I bring you the basics to perfectly cooking with Whole Grain Rice, and a simple trick that will change the way you cook rice for life.

I guess, I am old fashioned when it comes to cooking rice. I like to cook it in a pot with salt and oil, over a real fire. I have never cooked rice in a rice cooker, and don’t intend to ever go there. When my mother taught me to cook rice, we used short grain white rice. This varietal cooks in second (okay, okay, twenty minutes total). So when I started cooking with whole grain brown rice I was completely thrown off by the longer cooking times (who has 60 minutes on their hands anyway, right?). As an architectural student I did not have that kind of time at my disposal, and upon moving to New York and getting a real life, that time shrank even more. And while I cook every night, or at least try to, I steer clear of anything that takes more than 30 minutes, which would explain my lack of interest in time consuming, needy, whole grain rice divas! Hence the discovery of soaking!

Soaking grains, like soaking nuts and beans, makes cooking whole grain rice ten times easier and faster. With as little as three hours of soaking rice in water, cooking time shortens half fold.  You could soak for and hour, and up to eight, nine, or ten, the results are amazing. The longer it sits, the less water it needs to cook, the less time, the less effort. The more you soak your whole grain rice, the sooner you can have dinner ready, warm, steaming on a bowl with whatever it is that you like to eat rice with, whether it is soup, a stew, in a salad, or in a bowl with the season’s freshest ingredients. Tasty!

 

Pictured are three of the many whole grain rice varietals readily available in the market: brown basmati, red, and black rice. Each one is significantly different from the other, hence my selection to cook these particular ones.

Brown rice is fluffy and nutty. It puffs up as you cook it, for an easy bite, and a lot of flavor. It goes well with everything and a great substitute from white rice. I like how it selfishly absorbs flavor, no matter how ordinary or sublime. Red rice is earthy and almost sweet. It is very hearty, and stands out as a unique, extremely special varietal that we haven’t’ seen a lot of yet. I particularly like to cook it with hearty vegetables and bold flavors, such as this tomato stew. Black rice is the most decadent, richest, and unique of the three. While you can buy this at any gourmet store, you can get it for cheap in Chinatown. I particularly love this type of rice as a base for salads. Black rice is floral, and it is richer in antioxidants than blueberries, wine, and chocolate combined, a true delicacy, a super food in disguise.

I hope this simple recipe and unique rice varietals will get you in the kitchen, cooking real food, that is wholesome, delicious, and good for you!

 

Perfectly Cooked Whole Grain Rice

Serves 3-4, Cooking time about 30 minutes 

  • 1 cup whole grain rice (brown, red, or black)
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ¼ tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil

Place rice in a large water with 3 cups of purified water. Soak for three hours. Drain soaking water and rinse rice using a sieve. Transfer rice into a pot. Add 1 ¾ cup of water, and if you feel like experimenting a broth of choice (vegetable, mushroom, chicken, etc), salt, and oil. Over high heat bring water to a boil (about 6 minutes), reduce heat to medium-high, and continue cooking, uncovered until most of the water had been absorbed (about 15 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes depending on the varietal, brown rice taking the least, black taking the most amount of time.

Once rice is cooked, tender with a bite (no hard parts!), remove from heat and let rest for five minutes covered. When ready to serve, fluff with a fork and serve while still hot.

Enjoy!

 

   

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