Roasted Squash with Tahini

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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

SERVES 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

  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.

Grilled Zucchini with Yoghurt Cumin-Lemon Sauce

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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

Ingredients

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

Directions

  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.

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.

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.

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.

Spicy Indian Green Peas ~ Matar Bhaji

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I’m back from the mayhem of my Silk Road Vegetarian book launch. It was so much fun and humbling that there was such a nice turnout. Probably nothing worse than coming to your own party and being the only one there! So now that it’s done, I can move on with posting some new recipes.

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I love fresh from the pod green peas, although when I can’t get them I go for a bag of frozen peas. Now when you slather these peas in coconut oil, ginger and some red pepper heat, you have got an outer world experience with green peas. I kid you not. The combination of the three ingredients brings out the sweetness in the peas, coupled with the peppery ginger and coconut – it’s a dance on your tongue. This is a lovely side dish with a bowl of lentils and a side of some of your favorite rice.

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup 100% organic coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons grated gingerroot
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon unrefined whole cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons minced fresh red chili pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh green chili pepper
2 ½ cups fresh peas (shelled) or frozen peas (defrosted)
Directions

1. Pour oil into large skillet or deep frying pan and heat over medium-high heat, about 1 minute, until hot.
2. Add oregano and cumin seeds and fry over medium heat for about 1 minute.
3. Add gingerroot and turmeric and fry an additional minute, mixing well.
4. Stir in sugar, salt, minced chili peppers and peas. Mix well, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove lid, and stir again. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the peas become a dull green-brown color and are very tender, about 13 to 15 more minutes.
6. Serve hot with your favorite rice.

Pan Roasted Cinnamon Spiced Chickpeas

IMG_1777 There are few things tastier than golden, crusty, pan-fried chickpeas – and this is where I start. In a pan, I drop two dollops of coconut oil, which withstands high cooking temperatures and  nicely adds a subtle, sweet nuttiness that pairs beautifully with the pronounced cinnamon coated chickpeas. I can happily snack on this alone or have this as a side with some veggies, to turn this into a full fledged meal. I prefer to use fresh chickpeas, as it’s much more economical and it’s less mushy. I like the hardness. I suggest skinning the chickpeas, as it’s the skin that also makes it a harder legume and removing it makes for a smoother glide down the gullet.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried chickpeas
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2
teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon agave

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water. The following day, drain the water and rinse again. Place in a large saucepan, and cover the chickpeas with cold water, one inch above the chickpeas. Bring to boil and simmer, skimming off any foam, for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and rinse and skin the chickpeas, preferable but optional.
  2. Mix together the spice mixture with agave until it’s evenly coated.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Toss the cooked chickpeas into the heated pan, stirring and shaking until the chickpeas shrink a bit and let out a delicious fragrance, about 7 minutes.
  4. Serve with some chopped salad with a lemon dressing for a complete meal.

Sephardi Sabbath Eggs

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Typical for a Sephardi Shabbat (the Sabbath) lunch is a type of Cholent or Hamin which is a traditional Jewish stew. This Jewish stew was developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. The pot is brought to boil on Friday before the Sabbath begins, and kept on a blech or hotplate, or placed in a slow oven or electric slow cooker until the following day.

There are many variations of the dish, and the one I grew up on is called Osh Sovo, which is a a rice based dish cooked with potatoes, carrots, beans and dried fruits. Reference to my Silk Road Vegetarian cookbook, to be released on May 20th which has the Osh Sovo recipe. In all variations of the Shabbat lunch, Central Asian Jews and Sephardi Jews adorned the Jewish stew with a side of whole eggs in the shell, which turn brown overnight. Some Sephardi communities cooked the eggs with the stew. My mother always made the eggs separate from the Osh Sovo with the addition of whole potatoes. The result is the egg whites become a rich brown color and the eggs develop a nutty, roasted taste. Here, I present my family recipe for Shabbat Eggs.

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 eggs with shells
3 medium sized potatoes, such as yukon
1 black tea bag in a sachet
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Place the eggs, potatoes and tea bag in a medium size sauce pot. Fill with water, an inch above the potatoes.Add the oil and the salt.
  2. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, move the sauce pot to a hot plate or a blech. It should cook through the night, up to 8 hours and no longer than 12 hours.
  3. Remove from water, peel the eggs and slice the potatoes. Serve in a bowl or platter. You may want to season with salt and pepper if that’s your preference, while I don’t.

Quinoa and Broccoli with Japanese Carrot-Ginger Dressing

I was in an epicurean culture shock when I first arrived in Tokyo at the age of nine to visit my grandfather, who had lived there for some twenty years as a rare pearl dealer. My parents wanted to expose me to Japanese culture, which included sushi, but I was not a fan of raw fish wrapped in lettuce of the ocean. I still remember looking down the street at rows and rows of restaurants in the Roppongi neighborhood, the epicenter of Tokyo nightlife, and spying not one Western eatery. Finally I succumbed to a Japanese restaurant and we ordered a carrot ginger salad. That was my first introduction to this delightful Japanese condiment. Years later, I discovered from Good Housekeeping magazine that this dressing, typically served on lettuce greens, fuses well with the South America grain, quinoa.

To save on time and pots, you can steam the broccoli in a steamer basket on top of the bubbling quinoa in a rice cooker. While you wait for those two to cook, a food processor or blender makes quick work for the warm orange colored dressing that clings so well to the quinoa. The sharp flavor of the ginger is rounded out by the toasted nutty sesame oil and soy sauce, and mellowed by the sweet ground carrot. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets

Dressing
2 carrots, chopped
2inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
3-tablespoons vegetable oil
3-tablespoons rice vinegar
4-teaspoons gluten-free or regular soy sauce
3-teaspoons sesame oil
Directions
      1      Pour the quinoa into a sieve and rinse it under cold running water. In a saucepan, combine the quinoa, 3 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce the heat to low; cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl.
     2     Meanwhile, fill a medium-sized saucepan with enough water to come 2 inches from the bottom and set over medium-high heat.  Place the broccoli in a steamer basket, and when the water boils, set the steamer on top of the saucepan. Alternatively, place the broccoli directly into the nearly boiling water. Cook, covered, until the broccoli turns bright green and is crisp-tender. Add the broccoli to the quinoa.
      3      In a food processor, combine the carrot, ginger, oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil and process until puréed. Add to the quinoa and broccoli and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Cook’s Note – Another alternative is to combine the quinoa with water and salt in a rice cooker and use the steam basket that comes with the rice cooker for the broccoli.