Roasted Squash with Tahini


I love combining different  elements from different regions into one dish. I suppose this is an amalgamation of moi. Born in New York, raised as a globe trotter, dotting all across Asia and Europe. How do I make sense of my whirlwind of a childhood?? By gravitating to dishes that are just that. Pulling ingredients and vegetables from polarized places in the world to create one cohesive dish. The acorn squash, which looks just like it’s namesake is indigenous to North America whereas tahini is Mediterranean. What you get is a symphony in it’s subtlety. Bursts of a creamy lemon sauce on browned edged squash, which caramelizes the flavor.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the squash which is so quintessentially Fall! Really any squash can be substituted for this dish and in fact, you can use a variety of squashes. I think the trick is peeling and cutting these tough skins. First, get a long serrated knife. Cut along the center on the squash. Remove all the seeds, in that way you can get your hand in there to cup it, while the other hands peels. Then you can chop to your preference.

Roasted Squash With Tahini



2 large acorn squash (2 pounds), scrubbed, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges, seeded
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
Red pepper flakes, to taste


  1. Preheat to 425°. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Divide 3 tablespoons oil and 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin between sheets. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon oil, and scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Scatter scallion mixture over squash, dividing evenly between sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).
  3. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, tahini, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer squash to a platter. Drizzle tahini sauce over and sprinkle with red pepper.

Cucumber Soup with Mint


A while ago I was at the New York Vegetarian Festival. It takes place once a year and the objective is for branded vegetarian food items to get showcased. So you can find anything and everything related to vegetarian cooking. It was at that expo where I discovered the VITAMIX. That machine can do it all. It makes smoothies, soups, ice cream, nut butters…. you name it. I was sold.

Since then, every opportunity I get to pulverize down the proliferation from my CSA, I pull out my Vitamix and hit, pulse. One week this passed summer, I received 6 giant cucumbers. (Sorry for the late post, just found these photos in my camera) While cucumbers are a welcome respite from the hot summer months, it was just too much of a good thing. That’s when I decided to stir up this cucumber mint soup. I grow mint in my garden and use it regularly when I want to freshen up a dish and it especially pairs nicely with yogurt. What I love about this soup is its simplicity and yet its layers. The ginger and cumin seeds form the undertone in the soup, with just the right amount of bite, while the yogurt cools you down with its creamy tang. As in all soups, it’s best slurped the day after, when the flavors have had a chance to marry.

From the Silk Road, I present this chilled cucumber mint soup.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
3/4 cup scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 medium sized cucumbers
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Freshly grounded black pepper, to garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the scallions and grated ginger and saute for about 5 minutes or until the scallions have turned a dark green color and wilted.
  2. In a blender, like a Vitamix, combine the cucumbers, yogurt, fresh mint and salt. Slowly stir in the scallion mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. Chill the mixture for a least 2 hours in the fridge and serve with freshly ground black pepper and a few sprigs of mint.

Grilled Zucchini with Yoghurt Cumin-Lemon Sauce


When you belong to a CSA, especially in the Northeast, at some point the CSA goes into overdrive with certain vegetables. In other words… it’s too much of a good thing.

In the beginning of the season, we get so much lettuce that I am thinking to get a rabbit to consume all these leafy greens. Then the next bout of vegetables that come in plentifully are zucchinis. It’s not like we get 2 or three zucchinis, we get 6 HUGE zucchinis at a time. This is the time you may want to fire up the grill and char those greens. That is the simplest thing to do, and when you combine it with a super uber cooling cumin yoghurt sauce, you’ll consume those green squashes in just one sitting. Zucchini has a tendency to be all water. So when you grill it, it shrinks. This is the case where size means nothing. So bring it on zukes and enjoy this deceptively easy dish that speaks volumes in flavor.

Grilled Zucchini with Yogurt Lemon-Cumin Sauce

Serves about 6


1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove finely minced
About 6 (each) zucchini, sliced lengthwise
4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Sea salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
¼ cup chopped mint


  1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients along with a pinch of salt and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside while making the vegetables.
  2. Heat broiler. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, cut side up on two baking sheets. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. OR arrange coated vegetables on grill rack (over medium-high heat); grill vegetables 8 minutes or until just tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Place vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped mint and dollop of sauce on top.

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.


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.


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.


California Barley Bowl

Serves 6

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

  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


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

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

  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


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


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


  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


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.


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


  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


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


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


  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


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)

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

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


  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


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


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


  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.