Quinoa & Arugula Bowl with Yoghurt Dressing

IMG_3708 And I’m back…. It’s the beginning of the CSA season and as usual the first couple of months the boxes are light and filled with a multitude of varying greens. This past week, I received arugula. I usually prepare my arugula in a salad with a drizzle of amazing pear balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I decided this time, and mainly due to the fact that I was having guests for dinner to use my arugula more for a main meal.

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Introducing, the Quinoa & Arugula Bowl with a Yoghurt dressing inspired from the California Barley Bowl, which alludes to the feel and taste of this bowl. Well…. if feels and tastes very clean and pure. It’s the sort of thing you can do most of the prep ahead of time – cook the quinoa, tossed with arugula (or sprouts), toasted sliced almonds, avocado, a bit of feta – all dolloped with a simple lemon zest yogurt sauce.

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This bowl was a hit with my guests. First it fed as a side dish eight people and the yoghurt dressing was such a welcoming surprise to cool us down from the blistering heat we’ve been experiencing lately. There was a morsel of leftovers and my cousin Talia ate it for breakfast. It has such a healthy organic west coast feel that I totally get why it can be suitable for breakfast. Mind you… Talia happens to be from California, so this was probably nostalgic for her.

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California Barley Bowl

Serves 6
Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups arugula
¼ cup feta cheese
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (*optional- I like a little spice)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

 Yoghurt Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup finely chopped chives
¼ cup finely chopped dill
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper

 Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, toss together cooked quinoa, arugula, feta cheese, almonds, salt, and red pepper flakes.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon zest, juice, green herbs and black pepper. Top the quinoa bowl with the yogurt sauce, place sliced avocados around the salad and serve.

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Stir Fry

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Serving mushrooms whole, according to Asian tradition, is a sign of wealth. 
These are just some of the things I have learned through my travels in Asia. 

While my parents lived in Bangkok for many years, I had the opportunity to visit with them several times. Bangkok would serve as my hub to bounce to Hong Kong, and visit my family there. My fathers’ first cousins developed a thriving import/export business in Hong Kong. Luckily I was raised close to them and we made every effort to get together during the summer. If it was not Hong Kong, it was NY. If it was not NY, it was somewhere across the globe at a Club Med. It was chaotic, but fun.

When I visited my family in Hong Kong they were so kind to me. We went to Lang Kwai Fong which was the HOTTEST place for international restaurants and nightlife.
Now if I am in Hong Kong, what do I want to eat?
Chinese Food – of course.

A number of different styles contributed to Hong Kong Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential is the Sichuan cuisine. It is is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as as ginger.

This Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms reminds me of those days in Hong Kong with my family dining at a typical Szechuan restaurant in red decor. All ingredients are so classic to the cuisine and so tasty. Pour it over rice noodles where the sauce is absorbed by the noodles.

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bunch Baby Bok Choy, roots trimmed
4 ounces fresh shiitakes, stems discarded
1 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
Directions:

  1. In a large non stick skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add bok choy and mushrooms. Stir until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine, soy sauce, red pepper and water. Pour over the vegetables and continue cooking until the leaves are just limp.
  4. Serve hot over noodles.

Barley, Beet & Kale Salad with Feta

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This salad is more than a salad, it is a meal. It has everything you would want in a meal and a salad;  protein to sustain your stomach for a while and, fiber and antioxidants (kale & beets), salty feta and a fresh orange zest to round out the flavors. Although I have made this salad/meal with barley (which is wheat free, not gf) you can sub out any grain, like quinoa or wild rice. It would give the same overall effect. This is a meal that gets better over time. You can prepare this a day in advance while the kale softens up from the rice vinegar dressing. Kale is not one of the wimpy greens that shrivels up and gets mushy with a dressing; it’s assertive at first and holds up but with time and maceration in a vinaigrette it absorbs the flavors and softens up a bit. It’s also one of the many reasons you can keep this in the fridge for a few days and grab it as a lunch in a packed container.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 bunch Tuscan kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch squares
1/4 cup minced shallots

3 medium, trimmed
1 1/4 cups pearl barley or quinoa or wild rice
4 ounces feta, crumbled
2 teaspoons (or more) unseasoned rice vinegar

Directions

  1. Whisk 1/4 cup oil, white wine vinegar, sugar, and orange zest in a large bowl to blend; season with salt and pepper. Add kale and shallots; mix until completely coated. Cover and chill until kale is tender, at least 3 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°. Arrange beets in a small baking dish and drizzle with a little oil. Season with salt and turn beets to coat. Cover with foil. Bake beets until tender when pierced with a thin knife, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Peel beets. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
  3. Cook barley in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 45 minutes. Drain barley and let cool completely.
  4. Add beets, barley, and feta to kale. Drizzle salad with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar; gently to combine. Season to taste with pepper and more rice vinegar, if desired.

Roasted Bell Pepper & Chickpea Salad

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Ever hear of the term, traffic light peppers? Sometimes, peppers are sold in packs of three: red, green yellow, like a traffic light. For a colorful traffic light salad, you can use any or all colored bell peppers. A little fact on peppers… Red peppers are actually green bell peppers that have ripened and sweetened.

These days, winter is just not ending and we are into the month of March already. I have been feeling a bit run down, which I am sure is due to me sitting indoors more often than not. Not getting enough fresh air and exercise as I usually do has left me a little under the weather, or more aptly put,  (SAD) seasonal affective disorder. I need to see the sun! This bleak winter is enough. So to boost my immune system, I need a shot of vitamin C. Now I know most people like to pop it, but I like to eat foods rich in vitamin C and one of the high ones on the food chain is the pepper. So here we have a deliciously fresh and perky salad that is also full of protein. While you can’t see it in the photo above, there are chickpeas hiding in there. A whole can full.

I do want to point you to a previous post on how to roast peppers to bring out the sweetest meatest flavor. I suggest you roast more peppers than needed, to store in the fridge in blanket of olive oil and fetch it for salads, sandwiches or to dress up a tired pasta. This salad is very straight forward in taste and in assembly. Mint and lemon bring the salad to a whole new level of fresh that just wakes you up out of the winter slumber.

INGREDIENTS

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas
4-5 roasted peppers (can be a variety of peppers)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 scallions, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Drizzle of virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Roast peppers as described here.
  2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas, then pat dry with kitchen towel.
  3. In a medium size bowl, toss the roasted peppers, chickpeas and the remaining ingredients. Serve at any temperature you prefer. I prefer room temperature as the flavors are more pronounced.

Spiced Kohlrabi Fries

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A quick post for a quick dish…. I cooked up the Afghan Ratatouille from my cookbook, Silk Road Vegetarian and instead of pairing it with basmati rice, I wanted a change up. So I opted for kohlrabi fries. They are actually not too fried, and coated in a perfect blend of chili powder, cumin and curry. They are harder than french fries, but so much healthier. When cooked, the flavors intensify as  the outside of the kohlrabi caramelizes, and the flavor sweetens and mellows.

Vegetarians in Paradise (not NY right now #freezing) predicts a hearty comeback for this neglected member of the Brassica oleracea family, (I used to be a Science teacher so had to throw in the nomenclature) more commonly called the cabbage family. Some people have mistakenly labeled kohlrabi a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. This is understandable since both are members of the brassica family, but they are not of the same species.

I can only guess that other more pungently flavored vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus have simply upstaged the kohlrabi whose flavor is mild and delicately sweet, its texture, crisp and moist. Though the flavor of kohlrabi is unassertive, delicate hints of cabbage and broccoli come to the foreground.

For those unfamiliar with this ancient jewel of a vegetable, its appearance somewhat resembles a hot air balloon. Picture the turnip-shaped globe as the passenger section; its multiple stems that sprout from all parts of its globular form resemble the ropes, and the deep green leaves at the top represent the parachute (#goodimagination). Kohlrabi is often mistakenly referred to as a root vegetable, but in fact it grows just above ground, forming a unique, turnip-shaped swelling at the base of the stem. Now that we got a visual of the non root vegetable, without further ado is the recipe…. kohlrabi_s4x3_lg Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 – 2 pounds kohlrabi
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon rice flour or chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Sea Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick slices, about 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide.
  2. Heat oil over medium high heat in a heavy skillet. Meanwhile, combine the flour and spices into a large bowl so they are lightly coated.
  3. When the oil is sizzling, carefully add the kohlrabi into the skillet in batches. Cook on one side until it’s browned, about 3 minutes. Then turn the pieces over to brown on the other sides. Once done, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. Serve hot.

Moroccan Swiss Chard Carrot Salad

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It’s winter in New York. The weather has been vacillating between cold and colder or snow and slush. While yesterday was snowing, today it’s all being washed away with rainy slush. So I am home with a cold and I just want something easy to eat that will be fulfilling and yet wash out my system from this cold. That being said, at this time of year a lot of root vegetables are in. In particular, carrots and celery. Couple that with swiss chard and harissa (to burn out this cold) and a bright sprinkling of lemon and we have a medicinal dish.

According to Chinese medicine and basically all ancient food traditions, we should be eating to the seasons and during the colder seasons, increase the heat in our body. Makes sense. So this Swiss Chard & Carrot salad, which is not only delicious, has tons of garlic (which acts as an antibiotic) and harissa, which is a hot and spicy red pepper sauce that will dry out this cold. If you can’t find harissa, which is usually available at an ethnic supermarket, then replace it with hot sauce. Or you can purchase from my dear friend, Osi at Osi Living, here. You can be sure, it’s organic and made with the finest ingredients.

This recipe has been adapted from Wolfgang Puck’s contribution to The New York Times Passover Cookbook.  On these colder days, when you wrap a thick cardigan around your thick wool sweater, it’s the perfect recipe.

Yields 4 (as a side dish)

Ingredients
1∕3 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
6 thin long carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 ribs celery,
peeled and cut into small chunks
1 large bunch Swiss chard or spinach, ribs and leaves, sliced thin

Dressing
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of Harissa (depending on your level of heat preference)
Freshly ground Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the half oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté until just fragrant.
  2. Then add the celery and carrots. Cook until the carrots start to soften or sweat. Add the Swiss chard and cook an additional 10 minutes, until very reduced and very tender.
  3. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, and pour over the vegetables, mixing thoroughly. Serve Moroccan Swiss Chard Carrot Salad at room temperature.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Carmelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

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The last week of the CSA and fennel was in my box. I don’t think most westerners know what to do with fennel, as it’s not the most popular vegetable. It’s origin is unclear, however believed to come from the Mediterranean vicinity. Today it is grown widely in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks. Fennel is an interesting vegetable, as it looks somewhat like celery stalks, and yet it has a pronounced licorice flavor. The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are all used in this dish from Yotam Ottollenghi’s, Plenty.

To caramelize the fennel, a dash of sugar and vegan butter are needed which brings out the sweetness and licorice aroma. If you love the Italian Golia licorice candy, then you’ll definitely love this. Although this is a vegetable dish with spots of goat cheese that just makes this dish glide down your throat. This recipe is absolutely delicious, and very versatile. You could serve these as a vegetable side, or anywhere you’d eat caramelized onions – in salads or rice dishes…

Serves 2

Ingredients

2-4 small fennel bulbs
2 Tbsp unsalted vegan butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar, depending on your sweet tooth
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed or diced
grated zest of one lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper
fresh dill, for serving
goat cheese

  1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First, cut off the leafy fronds, keeping a bit aside for the garnish. Next, slice off the end of the root and remove the tough outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthwise into 1/2 in. thick slices.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take a few minutes. Using tongs, turn the slices over and cook for another few minutes. Remove from the pan, add a bit more olive oil and butter if needed and repeat the process with the remaining raw fennel.
  3. Once all the fennel is done and removed from the pan, reduce the heat, then add the sugar, fennel seeds, and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, adding a little more oil or butter if needed, until the sugar is dissolved, then return all the fennel to the pan and caramelize them gently. Once the fennel is caramelized, coated with sauce and tender (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat and add the garlic. Stir again to incorporate it.
  4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the dill and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate, or serve on toast as an appetizer (you may want to cut them into slightly smaller pieces). Dot with spoonfuls of goat’s cheese and garnish with fennel fronds.

Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah ~ Syrian Bean Stew with Cinnamon & Tomato

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About a year ago I had the pleasure of having cookbook author and cooking instructor Jennifer Abadi come to home to learn how to make the Afghani Pilau. If you want the recipe, then you’ll just have to buy my book! Jennifer is writing a Sephardi Passover cookbook and she, herself travels all over the tri-state area to people’s homes to learn how to cook their traditional Passover recipes. Here is a photo from that tutorial I gave to Jennifer, who also interviewed me extensively on the history of the dishes for Passover of Afghanistan and Bukhara. We went to the Persian supermarket called A to Z near me and got a full history of the ingredients used in Central Asian cuisine.

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Jennifer, is the author of A Fistful of Lentils, a cookbook memoir about her Syrian Jewish family roots. Obviously, we have something in common. We cook to connect to our past and want the world to learn and taste of these ancient cuisines. Syrian cooking, which is considered Mediterranean and a bit off the beaten track from the Silk Road has certain characteristics that speak Syrian. That is…. beans, tomatoes and cinnamon. Arabs have had a long history with trading spices along the Spice Route. When ever I think of the fall season, for some reason I think of cinnamon. There is something very earthy and warm to cinnamon that just makes me feel grounded and home. Perhaps that is why I ventured out to make this bean stew that oozes cinnamon. The stew falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. It’s completely vegetarian, very satisfying, and–best of all–you may already have all of the ingredients in your pantry!

Ingredients

1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried cannelini or navy beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups cold water or broth
1 tablespoon lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
cooked rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Cover the beans with cold water and remove any rocks, dirt, or other debris from the surface of the water. Let soak for 12 hours. Drain water and transfer to a 4-quart saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer vigorously until beans are just cooked but not soft, about 45 minutes. Drain water and reserve beans.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute; do not burn. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until beans are very soft and liquid has thickened considerably, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  3. Serve in bowls over basmati rice.

Jewish Book Council reviews Silk Road Vegetarian

Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook by Dahlia Abraham- Klein | Jewish Book Council.