Grapefruit Margarita

grapefruit-margaritaNew Year’s Eve in New York City. That’s just one too many “new’s” for me. Instead of going out  to a packed Manhattan bar or party, drinking ’til 3 a.m., then waiting an hour for the subway to take me home, I’m spending this new year’s at a small friendly gathering – whipping up a few grapefruit margaritas and some perfect guacamole (recipe to come). I’ll (hopefully) have only a few drinks, make it home at a reasonable hour, and be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to start the year 2013.

The days of making all sorts of resolutions has passed me by. I figure that if I really want to change something, I don’t have to wait for the new year to do it. Every day is equally ripe for transformation. That being said, I’m really hoping to work on being more mindful, living in the now, from now on. Wish me luck.

These margaritas are very simple to put together, not too sweet and not too full of liquor. I’m a bit of a lightweight (but don’t go telling all the cute boys what a cheap drunk I am!). Feel free to add a bit more tequila (or triple sec or Cointreau) if you prefer a boozier drink.

grapefruit-margarita-2

Grapefruit Margarita

1 juicy grapefruit
3 limes
agave nectar to taste
3 oz. tequila (about 1/3 c.)
to serve: a few tablespoons of sugar (coconut sugar’s great if you have it), or salt, and some ice cubes

Juice the grapefruit and two of the limes (it’s ok if some pulp gets in, just avoid the seeds). Add a little agave to make it as sweet as you like. I like mine fairly tart, I used about a teaspoon. Cut the third lime into wedges.

Pour a little sugar on a small plate. Take a lime wedge and run it along the rim of your serving glass. Dip the rim into the sugar. Place the ice cubes in the glass, then pour in half the tequila. Top with half the juice. Repeat the process for the second drink.

serves 2

p.s. – here’s a little preview of the next post

perfect-guacamole-2

 

Avocado Pasta

Ever had one of those days when you’re just too tired to cook, but you’re sick of take out? Or maybe you can’t afford to go out to eat, and you’re way too busy for that stuff anyways? Enter – the psudo recipe. We all need a few super quick and easy recipes under our belts. The type you can put together with just a few ingredients, and alter to whatever’s about to go bad in the fridge. Something that takes about as much time as boiling water, and probably less than waiting for the take-out guy to arrive.

That’s what this recipe is to me. There’s always pasta. I love me some avocado. And garlic, well, we can’t live without it can we? (Well, I suppose technically we could – but why would anyone want to?) Other than that, this meal has contained everything from leftover black beans and some corn, to shoyu and toasted sesame oil. Many times it has a sprinkling of fresh herbs, or maybe a handful of greens. And the seasonings change depending on my mood.

So think of this more as an idea than a recipe. Have fun with it, play around with it, and make it snappy!

Avocado Pasta

enough pasta for 1 (this time around I used gluten-free corn-quinoa shells)
a few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
a glug of olive oil – or be decadent and use avocado oil
a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
a few pinches of sea salt
a few pinches of chile powder
half an avocado, cubed
a little grated cheddar (optional, but do yourself a favor and buy a block of good quality stuff and grate it yourself)

Boil water in a pot. Add the pasta and cook according to the box instructions. When using gluten-free pasta, it’s sooo important not to overcook it. I know it says that right on the box, but I’ve experienced first hand what happens when you don’t, so please, believe them. Drain the pasta when it’s done and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until just fragrant and starting to pop. Remove from skillet and set aside. Now heat the oil in the same skillet. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute or two, until just barely starting to release liquid. Then add the garlic, salt and chile powder and stir to combine. When the tomatoes are starting to lose their shape, they are done.

I use my pasta-making pot to mix everything together. But whatever you use, mix the pasta with the tomato mixture, then add the avocado and gently fold it in. Garnish with the cheese and pumpkin seeds.

serves 1

Un-stuffed Peppers

Some days are full of new experiences. But other times it’s all about nostalgia. Today’s a nostalgia day.

When I was a junior in college I decided that I REALLY wanted to pierce my belly button. So I convinced a friend to drive down to the best piercing parlor in the area. When we got there, the nice man at the front desk informed me that I didn’t have enough fat to pierce (don’t hate me, I’ve since gained the fat…) and he was afraid he might pierce an organ. So, no belly button ring for me.

And, along the nostalgia lines, this un-stuffed pepper recipe is one of the first things I started making when I became vegetarian, all those years ago. I wish I could remember the cookbook it came out of and give credit where it’s due, but alas, the actual recipe is  long gone and all that remains is the idea: slice bell peppers in half, lay them close together and pour and sprinkle lots of yummy stuff over them. Served alongside some rice or quinoa, they employ all the ingredients of stuffed peppers, but without the hassle of actually stuffing them.

So, back to those belly buttons. For those who aren’t familiar with acupuncture, it is based on a series of meridians that run along the surface of the body. One of the meridians is called the Conception Vessel, and it runs along the middle of the abdomen and chest. And yes, it is linked to, among other things,fertility (in men and women). So, if you have any concern about fertility, or any other matters below the belt, best to take out that belly button ring!

Un-stuffed Peppers

2 large bell peppers (any color, but I obviously used red)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T. capers, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella, or other melty cheese
1/4 c. breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat panko)
2 T. olive oil
1 c. quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the peppers in half, take out the stems and seeds, and lay, cut side down, in a baking dish that they just fit into in a single layer. Sprinkle the garlic, capers, thyme, pepper flakes and salt evenly over the peppers, then the cheese, then the breadcrumbs. Pour the olive oil over the whole thing. Slide the dish into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. The cheese and breadcrumbs should be browned, and the peppers soft, but still retain some structure.

While the peppers cook, combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and the water is gone.

Spread some quinoa on a plate and top with a pepper slice or two.

serves 2-3

 

Grilled Eggplant Pizza with Sesame Crust

The other night my boy Darren and I were talking about where to get the best pizza in the neighborhood when he mentioned an old pizza joint that he loved that put sesame seeds in the crust. I’m not sure what else he said, because by that time my brain had already come up with a handful of toppings for said sesame crust. Asian-inspired? Mediterranean? How about Middle Eastern? I ended up combining a few and came up with this gem.

I used Joy the Baker’s version of Jim Lahey’s no knead pizza dough, subbing spelt flour for the whole wheat, and of course adding sesame seeds. Then I grilled some eggplant slices on my grill pan (it’s gotten a bit cold to grill outside – not that I have anywhere to grill outside…), added feta cheese and thin garlic slices. Straight out of the  oven I added fresh cilantro and a dukkah-like seed/spice blend. If you’ve never had dukkah, you’re really missing out! Two of my favorite food bloggers have recipes for it here and here. I totally dig it with a hunk of crusty artisan bread dunked in olive oil, then into the dukkah. With this recipe, though, I simplified – and made a not-quite-traditional version to sprinkle over the pizza for extra flavor. Don’t leave it off or you’ll be sorry!

Also, this crust recipe uses a decent amount of yeast which makes it rise during cooking. Keep this in mind, and if you’re not a huge fan of thick doughy crust, roll it out really thin. And sine it makes enough for two pizzas, you can freeze or refrigerate the extra dough and make a super quick easy dinner later on.

Grilled Eggplant Pizza with Sesame Crust

2 3/4 c. bread flour
1 c. spelt flour
2 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
3/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
3/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1 1/2 c. warm water

1 small eggplant, sliced in 1/4″ to 1/2 ” slices
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
olive oil
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced as thinly as you can get ‘em

2 T. pine nuts
1 T.sesame seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. sea salt

a big handful of cilantro, chopped

Combine the flours, yeast, salt, sugar and 1/4 c. seeds in a large bowl. Pour the water over and stir until it all comes together into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 2 hours.

Lay the eggplant slices out in a colander and sprinkle 1 tsp. salt over them. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to drain the excess water.

At least 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 and place a baking stone, or an upside down baking sheet in there to heat up.

Pat the eggplant pieces dry and coat them in a thin layer of olive oil. Lay them out on a grill pan (or in a skillet if you don’t have a grill pan) and cook them for 10 minutes until they get nice brown marks. Set aside.

Lay a piece of parchment out on your work surface, and with wet hands, transfer the dough onto it.  Divide the dough in half and wrap the half you’re not using in plastic wrap. Put it in a plastic bag and into the fridge or freezer, depending on how long you need it to keep. Take the other half and roll it out using a flour dusted rolling pin. Remember, keep it extra thin because it will rise more in the oven.

Top the pizza with more olive oil, the eggplant slices, garlic slices, and the crumbled feta. Transfer the pizza, parchment and all, to the baking stone/sheet in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set.

While the pizza’s in the oven, toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet for about 1 minute, then add the sesame seeds and all the rest of the seeds. Toast for another 2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and lightly crush.

Slide the pizza out of the oven and slice. Top with the cilantro and the crushed seeds and serve.

serves 2-3

Smoky Tempeh & Peppers

As the cold weather creeps in, bit by bit, our bodies start to crave more build-up foods. More protein and fat to keep the heat in and prepare for the Winter (what? already? I think we’ve got a while, but it never hurts to plan ahead). This dish fit the bill for me. Hearty tempeh and the last of the summer’s sweet peppers simmered in a paprika-chipolte-maple marinade and served with light but protein-rich quinoa. Quinoa, small as it is, is pretty mighty in this respect. The highest amount of protein of all the grains resides in this little guy (though he’s technically a seed…).

I used some cute little sweet peppers I found at the farmers market, but bell peppers will work just as well. And you won’t normally see me stirring delicate fresh herbs into a dish that is still cooking. The oils in the leaves that make them so fragrant and delicious dissipate quickly when cooked, so I almost always use them raw. However, in this dish I used the cilantro as more of a vegetable than an herb, and since I used a ton, I figured it was ok if a little of the flavor escaped. There’s still plenty to go around.

Smokey Tempeh & Peppers

2-3 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. tempeh
1 lb. sweet or bell peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. shoyu
2 T. maple syrup
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more if you’re feeling brave)
1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and  cook for 10 minutes, flipping once, to brown on a few sides. Stir in the peppers and cook for a few minutes while you prepare the marinade.

Combine the garlic, shoyu, maple syrup, lime juice, the other tablespoon of oil, paprika and chipotle in a liquid measuring cup that holds at least 1 cup. Quickly whisk together with a fork. Add water to make 1 c of marinade. Pour the marinade over the tempeh mixture. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, until everything is tender and most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Meanwhile, place the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until tender and all the water is gone. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve the tempeh mixture over the quinoa, and top with some extra cilantro.

serves 4

Lentil & Pepper Salad

Today I walked outside and the air smelled crisp and clean. It was still warm, and the breeze felt good on my bare arms. It’s the first day that really feels like Fall. Gone are the salads of light, crisp greens and bright lemony dressings, and in it’s place stand brightly colored harvest vegetables, hearty grains and beans, and creamy dressings.

Enter this salad. Actually, I’m not sure that it can be defined that way, as pretty much everything is cooked, and it is still warm – but it includes a dressing, so I’m sticking to my guns here. Diced sweet bell peppers, which you can use raw or cooked to your liking, peppery french lentils, some toasted nuts and seeds, all tossed with an orange-y creme fraiche dressing and topped with lots of fresh basil. I’m gonna go ahead and say you can use any type of lentil you’ve got, except for red, but I just happen to adore the grassy, peppery bite of frenchie here, especially with the sweetness of the peppers and orange, and the creaminess of the dressing.

Lentil & Pepper Salad

2/3 c. french lentils, rinsed and picked over for rocks and such
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 bell peppers, diced

2 T. creme fraiche
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
salt and pepper to taste
a big handful of basil, chopped

Add the lentils to a large pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn to low, and simmer, covered, until tender but still with a little bite, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the almonds and seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing every once and a while, until toasty, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet, and add the peppers. Cook until they are the texture you like them, 3-5 minutes for a firm, crispy pepper, up to 10 minutes for a softer, sweeter pepper.

Now make the dressing. Combine the creme fraiche, orange juice, and the rest of the oil (2 T.) in a small bowl and whisk. Add salt and pepper until you’ve got a strong tasting dressing – the flavor will disperse when it’s mixed with the salad.

Combine the lentils, peppers and half the nuts/seeds in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with basil and the rest of the almonds and sunflower seeds.

serves 4

Summer Squash Mini Flatbread

My plans for Labor Day involved a frittata, some “Mars” grapes, a big loaf of fresh baked bread, and a picnic near the water. Unfortunately my picnic companion didn’t get home until after sunset, and I wasted 5 cups of beautiful local spelt flour trying to rescue a wad of dough and make it into bread. We ended up with a late, intimate dinner of room temperature eggs and some biscuits, at the dining table. Still good, but not quite what we had in mind.

After that bread fiasco I decided that the “pizza crust” for this recipe had to be easy, no rise, and flatbread-y. I used a recipe Jeanine posted a while back  to make some yogurt flatbread. Of course, I had no more spelt flour, so I had to use the whole grain pastry flour I had on hand. Between that and the 110% humidity we’ve got right now, I ended up using almost double the amount of flour called for. Still, it ended up turning out ok {phew!} so I’m thinking it might be time to go back to the drawing board on that bread loaf. Be on the lookout for the recipe. Eventually.

This recipe may look a bit time consuming, but a lot of the time is waiting around, checking email (or taking pictures) and it’s not too difficult. Plus, you end up with a no-fail, mini pizza kind of deal, with homemade crust. I used the pesto I had leftover from this, but you can use your favorite pesto here.

Summer Squash Mini Flatbread

Dough:
1/2 – 1 c. flour (spelt or whole wheat would be best, but I used whold wheat pastry)
1/2 c. yogurt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Toppings:
1/2 c. pesto
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash or zucchini, sliced paper thin
a few oz. goat cheese (optional)
chopped fresh basil, for garnish

Combine all the dough ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until smooth. Start with 1/2 of flour, then add more as needed to get rid of any stickiness. Wrap in plastic wrap and slip into the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.

While you’re waiting, slice those onions. Heat the oil in a skillet over low heat and cook the onions until brown and sweet, this could take up to 30 minutes, but don’t skimp, you’ll love that caramelized flavor. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once the dough is ready, unwrap it and place it on that floured surface again. Divide in half, then in half again to form 4 hunks of dough. Roll each piece out with a floured rolling pin and place them on the baking sheet. Spread some pesto on each piece, then top with the caramelized onions, squash and goat cheese. Slide into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust gets the faintest hint of brown.

Sprinkle each piece with some of the basil, slice and serve.

serves 2 as a main, 4 as an appetizer

Tomato & Coconut Rice

A number of years ago, before that big economic downturn, I took a trip to Dubai. In mid August. It was hot. Really hot. Like, 40 degrees Celsius hot. I saw a lot of pretty amazing things, but the thing that sticks out in my mind the most is a restaurant. It was an “Indian-inspired” place, like nothing I’d ever heard of before, or have seen since. They didn’t have your typical Saag Dal, or Chana Masala, or whatever it is that you always order when you get Indian. Instead, the chef took inspiration from the spice blends and flavors of India, and created a menu of unique, inspired dishes. They didn’t have many vegetarian things on the menu, and I honestly don’t even remember what I got, but the idea has stuck with me.

You’d think living in the biggest foodie city in the country I’d have stumbled upon a similar place here in the states. Unfortunately I have yet to find one. But if you know of a place, please let me know.

This is the kind of dish I imagine would be on the menu at a restaurant like this, especially if I was the one who ran it. A great mix of spices, juicy summer tomatoes, and brown basmati rice. It may not be authentic Indian food, but that’s not the point. Taking fresh, local, healthy food and giving a spicy twist – IS the point.

Tomato & Coconut Rice

1 T. ghee or coconut oil
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1″ knob of ginger, minced
1 chili pepper, minced (I used a chili d’arbol, serrano or jalepeno would be fine, too)
1 tsp. tumeric
3 big juicy red beeftsteak tomatoes, diced
scant 1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 c. coconut milk
3/4 c. water
1 c. brown basmati rice
1/2 c. large flake coconut, for garnish
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (all’s I had was basil, cilantro would have been my first choice, though – remind me to plant an herb garden next spring!)

Heat ghee or oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and saute 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and chili and give it another minute or two before adding the tumeric, salt and tomatoes and all their juices you can save. Once it is well combined and the tomatoes have started to release liquid, pour in the coconut milk, water and rice. Stir, cover and bring to a boil.

Turn it down to low and let it simmer for 50-60 minutes. While you wait you can toast the coconut flakes in a dry skillet for a few minutes, and chop up your herbs. If you’re making something else to go with the rice, now’s a good time to do that, too!

When the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is done. Serve with coconut flakes and herbs sprinkled on top.

serves 4

 

Roasted Tomatillo Pasta

Happy September! I’m not quite sure where Summer went, but with the temperature in the 90′s here in NYC it sure feels like it’s still with us. But by this time next week it will have been more than a month since I almost cut my finger off, I will have started school, and it will officially feel like Fall. At least, I think it will.

However, in this last weekend of freedom I simply sliced a few vegetables in half, doused them in oil and salt, roasted, pureed, and ended up with this super simple pasta dish. It may involve turning on the oven, but I promise you won’t be in the kitchen for long. More time to enjoy your Labor Day festivities. Hey, what are you doing for Labor Day, anyways?

Roasted Tomatillo Pasta

8 oz. spaghetti
10-12 tomatillos, halved
2 poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded and halved
2 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
juice of one lime
1 tsp. honey
crumbly cheese for garnish (feta, goat cheese, cojita, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 450.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook spaghetti according to the package directions (usually 10 minutes or so). Drain, reserving about 1/2 c. water, and set aside.

Meanwhile combine tomatillos, poblanos, oil and a few pinches of salt, and spread it out on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and just starting to brown. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium for a few minutes, until they start to pop.

Transfer the vegetables to the food processor along with half the toasted seeds (1/4 c.) lime juice and honey. Process for a minute or two then taste. I added about 1/2 tsp. more salt, but add a little at a time until the flavor pops.

Pour the pasta into a serving dish and stir in the tomatillo mixture. Add pasta water, a little at a time until a creamy sauce forms. Top with the cheese and the rest of the pepitas and serve.

serves 4

Fresh Corn Polenta with Seared Seitan

Just today someone asked what my favorite way to eat corn is. If I was back in Ohio, I would say, “Steam, butter, salt and eat.” Right off the cob, typewriter style. And, I might add, make sure the corn was picked that day.

But alas, the corn we get here just isn’t fresh enough to eat this way. At least not to this Midwestern corn snob. Yet, there is hope for the last corn cobs of the season. Fresh corn polenta. If you like polenta, you’ll love this. And if you’re not a big fan, try this anyways. It’s a very different beast than polenta made from ground, dried cornmeal. In this easy version, you just grate the kernels right off the cob and throw them into a pot with a splash of olive oil and some salt. In a few minutes you are rewarded with a pot of sweet, milky and very “corn-y” polenta, ready to be topped with whatever your lovely creative mind can conjure. In this version I added some crispy seared seitan, and swirled an arugula/walnut pesto inside.

Something about the creaminess of the corn, the crispy bite of the seitan (feel free to use your protein of choice here), with the peppery bite of arugula cutting through – makes this one of the best things to come out of my kitchen for a long while. Thank you to Emily at 5 & Spice for the grand notion of grating the kernels of corn for the polenta. Genius.

Fresh Corn Polenta with Seared Seitan

14/ c + 3 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. seitan strips, or protein of choice
8 corn cobs, husked and grated
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 bunch arugula
1/4 c. walnuts, toasted*
1 small garlic clove, chopped

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Lay the seitan strips down and let them brown. Once browned, flip them over to brown on the other side. It should take about 10 minutes in all. Set aside.

Heat another tablespoon of oil in a small pot or saucepan over medium. Pour in the grated corn kernels and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens a little, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, into the food processor goes the arugula, walnuts, garlic and the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Puree into a paste, then drizzle in the last 1/4 cup of the olive oil. It will now be a very moist paste, so I like to drizzle in about a 1/4 c. water to thin it out and make it extra creamy.

To serve, ladle the corn into shallow bowls then stir in a bit of the arugula mixture. Lay some seitan strips on, and top with a dollop more of the pesto.

serves 4

* to toast the walnuts, heat them in a dry skillet over medium low for about 4-6 minutes, until brown and fragrant.