Indonesian Rice Bowl

indonesian-rice-bowl

Back to school. Back to work. Back to quick, easy bowl foods for dinner. This one makes great leftovers for lunch, too. I don’t think I’m the only one who looks at a bowl of red (or brown) rice, assorted veggies, some nuts, tofu and sauce and gets excited for dinner.

This one is special to me. I don’t normally make a dish more than once, but this has been in regular rotation for years. I think it’s the coconut milk, chilies, ginger and macadamia nuts that make it really sparkle. If you can’t find (or afford) red rice for this, it tastes just as good with brown rice. And I’ve made it with all manner of vegetables to match the seasons: asparagus in the spring, green beans for summer, brussels sprouts in the fall…

Don’t be scared away by the list of ingredients, it actually comes together fairly quickly.

rice-and-nutsIndonesian Rice Bowl

1 c. red (or brown) rice
8 oz. firm tofu (my belly likes the sprouted kind the best), cubed
1/3 c. macadamia nuts, chopped
1 T. coconut oil (or any other oil you like)
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 in. piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chili, seeded, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
a couple carrots, sliced on the bias
1 head of broccoli florets, sliced thin
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 T. shoyu
juice of one lime
chopped cilantro, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. Start the rice in a heavy bottomed pot with 2 c. water. Bring to a boil then cover, turn down to low and simmer until tender. Depending on the type of rice, that could take anywhere from 30-50 minutes. When it’s done, the water will be gone, then let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until browned and fragrant.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu in a singer layer and let it sit until it forms a crust and doesn’t stick to the pan, it may take up to 5 minutes. Flip the cubes and let at least 2 sides get brown, maybe more. It took me about 15 minutes altogether. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat more oil in the same pan if you need to and add the shallot, garlic, ginger, chili and coriander. Fry for about a minute, then add carrot and broccoli. Cook them until they are tender, or “crisp-tender” if you prefer. Add the tofu back in the pan.

Pour the coconut milk, shoyu and lime juice into the pan. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes, then stir the whole thing into the cooked rice.

Serve topped with the macadamia nuts and cilantro.

serves 4

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Perfect Guacamole

perfect-guacamole

I usually prefer to purchase my produce from the local farmer’s market. However, avocados don’t grow in these parts, and a girl can’t live without a little avocado on occasion.

So, for a treat, I made myself some guacamole for New Year’s Eve, to go alongside a few Grapefruit Margaritas. I know you may disagree with me on this, but in my humble opinion, the perfect guacamole needs just 5 ingredients: avocado, lime, cilantro, garlic and salt. No crunchy raw onions for my tongue to stumble upon, and definitely no hard, watery greenhouse tomatoes to chew on. And even though many Latin foods are spicy – my perfect guac is a cooling refreshment, to balance the rest of the meal.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact ratios of all these ingredients. Avocados are different sizes, some limes are juicier than others, and salt is definitely not just salt. So, you’ll have to taste as you go. Start with the least amount of lime, garlic and salt, then taste and add – taste and add – until the flavor just explodes in your mouth.

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Perfect Guacamole

2 avocados
juice of 1/2 a lime (give or take)
a small handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, or part of a big one (to start out with, then taste and add more as needed)
fine grain sea salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half, take out the seed, then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl. Pour in some lime juice and add the cilantro. Mash it a bit with a fork, leaving plenty of big chunks.

Finely mince the garlic, then sprinkle the salt on top. Using the side of your chef’s knife, mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Add the paste to the avocado mixture and stir well. Taste. If it needs a little tang, add more lime. If it needs to bite a bit more, add some garlic. And if it just tastes watery and flat, you need more salt. Keep adding and tasting until you get the perfect guacamole.

serves 2

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

 

Homemade Curry Powder

Curry-Powder

This year I celebrated an early, low-key Christmas, with beaches, pizza and presents. While the rest of the world went crazy worrying about what to wear and take to another fancy party, rushing around for last minute presents, or making sure the holidays go smoothly for their family – I was relaxing in my Dad’s hot tub, in his small, Southwest Florida town. I highly recommend it.

During the gift-giving festivities, I realized that I was more excited to see if everyone liked the presents I got them than seeing what was under the tree for me. I’m pretty sure that makes me an official adult now. That being said, I did receive a few pretty things for this space – as you can see from the photos. The enamelware measuring spoons are so classy, and this small handmade wooden spoon from a woodworker in Brooklyn just melts in your hand. I wish you could feel it. Lovely. There are a few more gems that will be popping up here in the next few weeks, I’m very excited to share (again – how adult of me).

I’ve always wanted to make my own curry powder – it just seemed like a lot of work from something you can buy in a jar. Why buy 8 spices and spend time mixing them together when you can just buy the one jar? Well, I finally found out. Freshly toasting and grinding your curry makes all the difference in the world. The taste is extraordinary. So bright and flavorful I may never go back to buying my curry powder again.

Many of these spices are easy to find in bulk at a health food store – which is what I recommend. You can purchase a small amount of each, guaranteeing that they remain fresh, and saving some cash. Just make sure you shop somewhere with a high turnover. Stored in a jar with your spices, this curry powder will stay at the height of freshness for a few weeks, after that it may lose some of it’s zing. You’re still welcome to use it – it won’t kill ya – it’ll just taste like the stuff you buy at the grocery store.

spices

Homemade Curry Powder

1 scant T. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more for extra spicy)

Combine the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast for a few minutes, until fragrant and just starting to pop. Careful not to burn them.

Transfer to a spice grinder and add the peppercorns, tumeric, ginger and red pepper flakes and grind into a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed jar.

makes 1/4 cup

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Saag Dal

If I’m gonna cover a song, I want to put my own spin on it, and not play it exactly the same as someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a time and place for traditionalists, and a reason to preserve  things. It’s just that I’m not very good at following directions, or doing what everybody else is doing.

The definition of creativity, according to Dictionary.com, is “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create some meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.”. In other words, thinking about, or doing, something in a way that no one else has thought of before. Even though most of us tend to associate creativity with artists, many people not in the art world are very creative. So whether or not you are artistic, I encourage you to embrace your creativity and start thinking outside the box. And just as importantly, supporting and respecting others for doing the same.

If you are a traditionalist when it comes to Indian food, I hope you can respect my creativity with this recipe. I call this Saag dal, even though it contains neither saag (spinach) or dal (lentils). What it does contain is any green leafy vegetable I happen to have purchased too much of this week, and usually some yellow split peas (or occasionally chana (chickpeas). I have been cooking and tweaking and cooking this dish again and again and even though it’s not very traditional, I think it’s more than delicious.

I used collard greens in this incarnation, but I’ve used all types of kale, chard, spinach, turnip greens, etc. Whatever you like, or have, feel free to use here. Also, I like my split peas/lentils soft, so I soak them overnight, if I remember to. If you don’t have time, or forget, don’t worry about it. The peas may be a bit hard, depending on their age, but should be fine. Or feel free to use any kind of lentil here. None really need to be soaked, but it can help with digestibility if you have a problem with that kind of thing. And I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it really comes together pretty easily.

Saag Dal

1 c. yellow split peas, or lentils, soaked for a few hours, drained and rinsed
1 big bunch (or 2 small bunches) of any leafy green
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. brown or black mustard seeds
3 cloves
1 cardamom pod
1-2 T. ghee, butter or coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1″ piece of ginger, minced
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 – 1 1/2 c. coconut milk (full or low fat)

basmati rice or naan, for serving*

Place the split peas in a large, heavy bottomed pot with 3-4 cups of water. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer until tender, anywhere from 35-50 minutes, depending on how fresh your peas are. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine all the whole spices (cumin through cardamom) in a small skillet over medium heat, and toast until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a powder. Set aside.

Also, while you’re waiting for the peas to cook, you can prep the greens. Cut out the large middle stem, then, using either a knife or a food processor, chop the greens into fine, confetti-size pieces.

When the split peas are done, melt the ghee/oil in the same pot (or a new one if you like doing dishes), over medium heat. Add the onions and let them cook until translucent, then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper flakes, salt and the spice mix from earlier. After about a minute it will smell like heaven, then you can add the greens and stir to coat them in the oil and spices. Once the greens have begun to wilt, stir in a cup of coconut milk. Finally, add the split peas and stir again to combine. As the mixture continues to cook, the greens will release more liquid. At some point some liquid will begin to evaporate, that’s when you know it’s done. You’re looking for a sauce-y consistency. If it’s too dry, add another splash of coconut milk, if it’s soup-y, keep simmering until it dries out a touch.

Serve with naan or basmati rice

* for the basmati – combine 1 c. rinsed rice with 1 1/2 c. water. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff.

serves 4.

Double Tomato Soup

Is it Winter yet? Not officially, I guess, but I’d argue that as soon as we get into the “Holiday Season”, it’s unofficially Wintertime. I’m not a big fan of cold weather, but I do love me some soup. You may have guessed, if we’ve been acquainted for long, that I eat soup pretty much all year round. This is my current favorite.

In the Chinese medicine point of view, Winter is associated with the element (or phase) of Water. And the kidneys are ruled by water. This is why you may have problems this time of year with things relating to your kidneys (and bladder), your lady or man parts, and your lower back (cause that’s where the kidneys hang out).  It’s important for everyone to stay warm, but if you tend towards any of these issues, you want to take extra care to keep your lower back covered all the time (tuck in that shirt!). Along these lines, the Kidney channel begins on the soles of your feet, so to keep your back from going out, I suggest buying a pair of warm slippers and never letting your feet get cold, because that cold travels straight up to your kidneys.

Another way to keep warm on the inside is eating warm things. This soup is great because you don’t need any super-perishable ingredients. You can keep everything around for weeks or even months most of it, and when you find yourself without and fresh veggies, you know you’ve got that can of tomatoes stashed away, just waiting to become tomato soup. The “double” tomato comes from sun-dried tomatoes, which you’ll want to keep packaged tightly so they don’t dry out. I also used some (optional) dried chilies, because they add another layer of depth to the flavor. You may find it strange to add bread to a soup, but I love the creaminess it adds without resorting to actual cream. I’ve been heating up the leftovers, and this is even better the next day. The dried tomatoes and chilies really give it a special earthy richness. It’s a keeper.

Double Tomato Soup

2-3 T, olive oil
1 onion, sliced
fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
2 slices of bread (any bread works, especially stale)
1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes (not the oil packed kind)
1 dried chili (optional – I used a large mild Aji chili, for more heat use a smaller, hotter chili like chipotle or chili de arbol)
3-4 c. vegetable stock
to garnish choose from: creme fraiche or sour cream, toasted almonds, olive oil drizzle, smoked paprika, cubed avocado, chopped basil or cilantro.

Heat the oil in a big pot over medium low. Add the onion, a pinch or two of salt and the sugar and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the bread, sundried tomatoes, chili, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sun dried tomatoes are soft.

Remove from heat and puree, either with an immersion blender (my fave, fast and easy way) or in batches in a blender or food processor.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with whatever your heart desires. I used creme fraishe, toasted almonds, smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

serves 4-6

Vanilla Coconut Popcorn

So, did you survive the biggest cooking day of the year? Anyone scald their arm or slice their finger wide open? I’ve been there – done that, but this Thanksgiving I remained safe and whole. And for that I am thankful.

If you’ve had your fill of cooking for the week, I won’t judge if you decide to just pop up some sweet and salty popcorn and call it lunch like I did (shh, don’t tell my mother…) In this super quick snack (meal?) I tossed stovetop popped corn with toasted coconut flakes and a honey/butter/vanilla drizzle. Vegans, I bet coconut oil and agave would be just as magnificent.

Vanilla Coconut Popcorn

1 T. coconut oil (or olive)
1/4 c. corn kernels
1/4 c. large flake coconut (if you can only find the finely flaked stuff, just use a little less)
2 T. butter (or more coconut oil)
2 T. honey (or agave)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
sea salt to taste

Heat the oil and 2 or 3 of the corn kernels in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium or medium high heat. When the kernels pop, add the rest of them to the pot and cover. Let them sit and they’ll begin to pop. Shake the pot every now and again and wait until you don’t hear any popping for about 10 seconds. Turn off the heat and let it sit and finish popping if it wants to.

Meanwhile, place the coconut in a small skillet over medium low. Toast the flakes until they turn a bit brown and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Don’t let them burn! Set them aside.

In the same skillet, heat the butter until melted. Add the honey and vanilla and stir to combine. When it starts to bubble, turn off the heat.

To serve, combine the popcorn and coconut in a bowl, and pour the butter mixture over. Salt to taste. Feel free to double the recipe for a family movie night.

serves 2 for a snack (or one if it’s lunch…)

Thanksgiving Ideas

As a kid, my Thanksgivings consisted of a long drive to and from Grandma’s house, canned green bean and cream of mushroom soup casserole, and a large, rambunctious Italian family yelling at the Cleveland Browns on TV. And two bowls of cereal. One before we left and one after we got home at the end of the day, so that I didn’t starve.

Boy, I do love being an adult, because now I can cook some delicious meals for myself, family and friends. If your Thanksgiving meal plan hasn’t yet been set in stone, here are a few more ideas from around the web.

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes - from 101 Cookbooks

Mini Apple Galettes - from Naturally Ella

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash - from Love and Lemons

Roasted Butternut and Coconut Soup - from Green Kitchen Stories

Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower – from My New Roots

Garnet Pilaf – from Sprouted Kitchen

Fall Vegetable Slaw with Hot + Sweet Ginger Dressing – from The First Mess

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad – from Happyolks

Cider Punch – from Not Without Salt

Truffled Delicata and Wheatberry Salad - from Me!

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

Happy Halloween! Anyone going as Hurricane Sandy for Trick-or-Treat?

Here in Brooklyn, we survived the Frankenstorm. Spent all day Monday locked up in the apartment, listening to the wind howl and the rain beat our windows. We watched from our third story window as a few cars drove past, and people walked into the bar across the street. The power stayed on, and I made soup and apple cake. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that we realized the extent of the damage.

In our neighborhood, trees have been uprooted:

and a crosswalk signal hangs delicately from it’s pole.

But through it all, the beer hall next door stayed open.
 I realize how lucky we are, and my heart goes out to everyone who’s lives have been effected by this storm.

Now, on to the food. My mom told me (so it MUST be true) that if you try any food ten times, by the tenth time you will like it. I’ve always been a broccoli hater, so I’ve been experimenting with her theory. Every year (sometimes even twice) I buy a little broccoli and make some fancy meal with it. I’ve discovered over the years that there are two ways to make it that really taste grand. Puree it into some kind of broccoli pesto or sauce – or roast it. Really, I can devour any vegetable that has been roasted. Especially when it has been doused in a thai-scented coconut and cilantro sauce.

I used a bright yellow cauliflower in here, but of course any cauliflower, or even brussels sprouts, will do. And I bet a homemade curry paste would be just fantastic in this, but with my only current method of transportation being walking – there was no way to get to any kind of shop that stocks lemongrass, galangal or kaffir lime leaves. Next time.

Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 oz. tempeh, cubed
2-3 T. coconut oil
sea salt
6-8 oz. soba or udon noodles
1 bunch of cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 T. green curry paste
1 tsp. agave syrup/sugar/honey
toasted large flake coconut for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Place the broccoli and cauliflower either in a bowl or right onto the baking sheet and drizzle with the oil and some salt. Toss to coat. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer. This is where a good food blogger would tell you to roast the tempeh on a separate baking sheet so you can take them our as they are ready. However, I’m kinda lazy and I threw the tempeh cubes onto the same sheet as the broccoli. It all got done at the same time, and I had one less dish to wash. So, making sure your tempeh is also coated in oil and salted, place however many baking sheets you’ve decided to use into the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, flipping once halfway. You’re looking for browning all across the board.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and add the noodles. Cook for the amount of time specified on the package (mine said 4-6 minutes) then drain. Set aside.

To make the sauce, combine most of the cilantro (reserving a little for garnish) the lime juice, coconut milk, curry, sweetener and 1/4 – 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in a food processor or blender and puree until smoothish. You’ll probably still have little bits of cilantro, and that’s quite alright.

In a serving bowl combine the noodles with the contents of your roasting pans. Pour the sauce over top and toss gently to coat everything evenly. Serve topped with the extra cilantro and coconut flakes, if you’re using them.

serves 3-4

Chai Spiced Apple Crisps

5 Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Each element has 2 corresponding organs and a whole host of other characteristics associated with it. Today, this week, in fact, for the next few years for me, it’s all about the Earth element. It’s organs are the Spleen and the Stomach. It’s in charge of things like nourishment, sowing and reaping. It’s associated with the sweet taste, a fragrant smell and all intellectual pursuits.

So, what does all this have to do with me? (and you?) As a student, I’m pretty much always engaged in some intellectual pursuits as of late. Overthinking, according to Oriental medicine, can lead to weak Spleen qi. To counteract that, while studying, people tend to crave something sweet. (See how these are all riffing off the list of Earth-y things). This is why, so my teacher informs us, many students gain weight. Too much sugar. I’m working on counteracting that with these apple crisps. Just a touch of sugar and spice, but most of the sweetness comes from the apples. They are great to grab as a quick snack while studying, or doing most anything else. And if you want your house to smell like Fall, I recommend baking up a bunch.

The idea for these came from Kimberly’s Cocoa Pear Crisps. I had to make many adjustments as I went along. Maybe because my mandoline doesn’t say 1/8 inch (just thin), maybe the temperature of my oven is off, maybe apples are different than pears…who knows. In the recipe I gave a range of options, just to be on the safe side. So keep your eyes and nose open so you don’t burn anything!

Chai Spiced Apple Crisps

3 apples (I used honeycrisp)
2 T. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 275. Slice apples to 1/8 of an inch thickness with a mandoline and pull out any seeds. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or 4, with either a cooling rack or parchment paper set inside. I had to do this in a few batches since I only have a half size stove and 2 baking sheets.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl and sprinkle over the apple slices. Slide them into the oven. Check up on them after about 15 minutes. If you are using parchment, flip them once they are shrunken. Keep a close eye out, and remove them as they start to pull away from the pan. It could take 30 minutes, or up to an hour. If you get them too early they’ll be more like fruit leather and not crisp, and if you wait too long you get charcoal.

Let them sit and cool to crisp up.