Salads for Every Meal

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Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore, there is a salad here for you. Every Shabbat I make at least four salads and dips, several of which we will enjoy throughout the week. It’s a delicious habit that I adopted after spending time in Israel where salads are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Aside from being delicious, they add so much color to any meal. And don’t we eat with all of our senses?

There are fresh salads, roasted vegetable salads and salads with a profusion of herbs and grains. Some of the salads are made with beans which add protein and heartiness. Almost any veg and many fruits, legumes and grains can be made into cold or warm salads. And when I want to make a light meal of salads I simply add some feta cheese or a piquant provolone and delicious bread, like the flaky flatbread or focaccia. The more I make these flatbreads the better I get at it. My last batch were nice and poufy and round! I simply refrigerate leftover breads and warm them in the toaster. They also freeze well. Yummmmmmmmmm!

Over the years, I have posted a number of salads and will link to some of them below. But here are three new ones (for me) that hopefully you will enjoy as well. They are guaranteed to brighten up just about any meal. The inspiration for this post comes from Sonya’s Prep. She is lovely young Orthodox Jewish vlogger that I have recently begun following. Her energy, charm and creativity make watching her a delight. And if anyone is looking to be more organized, she is someone to watch.

The three new salads are: Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad; Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad; and Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

When you are feeding a crowd these salads can be doubled or tripled. And most people will enjoy these salads so much that you can go easy on the meat, if serving. Better for us and better for the planet.

I will give suggested measurements, but please don’t get too bogged down with being exact. When preparing these, I almost never truly measure, especially when it comes to adding fresh herbs. Taste as you go along, especially with the salt and dried spices. You can always add more but it is difficult to impossible to remove them once added.

For those interested in other delicious salad ideas here are just some of the ones available through my blog:

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Green Fattoush Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Farro Salad

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Red Cabbage, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad

Armenian Lentil Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Sunshine Kale Salad

Roasted Tomato and Olive Pearl Couscous Salad

Lentil Salad with Raisins, Tomatoes and Tarragon

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Horta Salata: Fancy Salad

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Herbed Farro Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Recipes

Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad

1 medium eggplant – about 1.25 pounds

2 smallish bell peppers in different colors

1 medium red onion

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup EVOO

About 1/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced including dark green stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Chop the eggplant, onions and peppers into a large dice of approximately equal size. Place on a baking sheet and toss together with the EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the veggies across the baking sheet in a single layer. (If you want to use foil for easier clean-up, go ahead. But it does end up in a landfill….)

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, turning the pan once. They should be golden and tender but not mushy. Ovens vary so check after 25 minutes or it could go as along as 35.

When cool enough to handle, transfer everything to a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

About 6 ounces pre-packaged shredded carrots OR about 4 cups carrots that are trimmed and julienned

About 1 cup of shredded red cabbage

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into pieces about the size of the carrot shreds

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1.5 teaspoons granulated or Demerara sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 to 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1.5 Tablespoons dried dill

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place everything in bowl large enough to comfortably hold the ingredients. Mix everything well, preferably with your hands. You want to massage the carrots to soften them a bit. Taste to adjust seasonings. Yup, that’s it!

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked hard winter wheatberries (You could use farro or barley if wheatberry isn’t available; however, they will not have that unique chewy nuttiness that a properly cooked wheatberry has.)

1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and chopped

4 to 5 thinly sliced red radishes

2 Persian cucumbers cut in to quarters and diced

1/2 cup dried barberries (You could use currants instead but they won’t be as flavorful.)

2 generous cups, finely chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, cilantro and parsley, but mint would also be good)

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon or more to taste

1 teaspoon of kosher salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 to 3 Tablespoons flavorful EVOO

Directions

Soak the wheatberries for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring 3 cups of water or broth with a glug of olive oil to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. If using water or unsalted broth, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Drained the wheatberries and add to the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. This can be done a few days ahead. Just refrigerate the cooked wheatberries in their liquid.

You want the wheatberries to be cold or no warmer than room temperature. Place them, drained of any accumulated liquid, in a bowl and add all of the other ingredients. Gently but thoroughly toss well. Now enjoy!

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas are a weeknight meal sure to please. With protein from rich, dark kidney beans, these satisfying quesadillas can be on the table in less than an hour. Served up with a quick, fresh guacamole, it’s the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

This is casual dining in the best tradition. Just as a great falafel sandwich will ooze down your hand as you eat all of its yummy goodness, so too do these quesadillas. Do NOT eat this wearing your favorite silk blouse or shirt!

I came across this recipe while watching a lovely Australian vlogger living in Tuscany. While we may not have been able to travel during the pandemic, I get my “fix” watching this lyrical vlog. As soon as I saw Kylie Flavell make these Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas, I knew that I had to try them. And because most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it didn’t require a major excursion to the market. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe so if you need to swap out one ingredient for another, your results will likely still be delicious.

This recipe easily would feed four people, but it could also be doubled or halved. While I did use cheese, making my quesadillas vegetarian, it is vegan-friendly. Just leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese as an alternative. The cheese does act as a kind of binder, holding everything together, so I personally recommend it. I have successfully made this with goat cheese and with a “Mexican” blend of cheeses.

And though you could use any kind of tortilla, by choosing a whole-grain option, you are increasing the nutrition quotient, while adding some additional flavor. My tortillas were 7.5-inches in diameter, but smaller or bigger ones can be used. Simply adjust how much filling you put inside. While tempting to overstuff these – don’t. The final quesadilla is surprisingly filling and too much filling will completely ooze out.

Now you could use a different bean, but dark red kidney beans are readily available, very nutritious, flavorful, inexpensive and have just the right amount of heft to give these a great mouthfeel.

Almost any cheese would work as long as it is one that gets melty. And while I used a sweet potato for added color, flavor, heft and nutrition, you could easily use butternut or other winter squash in its place. So the next time you are looking for something quick, delicious and nutritious to make in about 45 minutes or less, consider these great quesadillas.

Recipe

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 teaspoon each: salt, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika)

Generous pinch of ground cinnamon

About 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Canola

1 large bell pepper – red, orange or yellow, diced (You could use green – I just am not partial to them)

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

15 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with their liquid, preferably fire roasted

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

About 4 to 6 ounces of shredded or cut up cheese or to taste, if using

For fresh guacamole or avocado smush

2 large ripe avocados, with the flesh placed in a bowl and mashed with a fork

Juice of 1/2 to 1 fresh lime, depending on taste

kosher or sea salt to taste

freshly cracked black pepper

8 whole wheat or other type of tortillas

Directions

Heat the oven to 420 degrees F. and place the oven rack about 6 inches from the top. Drizzle about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of oil across the bottom of a sheet pan. (I only needed a quarter sheet pan this time. It should be large enough to hold all of the diced sweet potato in a single layer without crowding.)

Place the diced sweet potato on the pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the cinnamon and using your clean hands, mix together the sweet potato, oil and seasonings. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. The sweet potato should be cooked, with some browning, but not dried out.

Meanwhile, place 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until the onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add the remaining spices and mix through, blooming the spices, for about 30 seconds.

While the onion cooks, lightly mash the drained kidney beans. You don’t want a puree. Some beans can even be left whole. Add the beans, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, diced bell pepper and about 3/4 cup of water to the onion mixture. Stir well and allow to cook on simmer while the sweet potato roasts. This can be done ahead if you wish. Just gently heat it through when you are ready to assemble the quesadillas.

When you are ready to assemble, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a clean frying pan, place either a little neutral oil like Canola or spray with a cooking spray. Heat the pan and add the tortillas one at a time. Heat until both sides have become warm and speckled with brown spots. Turn once. Place the tortilla onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spoon 1/4 of the bean mixture over one tortilla. Then place 1/4 of the sweet potato chunks on top of that and add your desired cheese. I tend to use a light hand with the cheese, but it’s personal preference. Place a second tortilla on the top of everything and gently press down with the flat of your hand. Drizzle lightly with EVOO.

After you make all of the tortillas, place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Carefully remove the tortilla to a cutting board and using a large knife, cut each tortilla into 4 pieces. Don’t worry if a little filling oozes out. Just shove it back in!

Serve with the guacamole and have a napkin on hand! Enjoy!

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup is the cure for the autumn drears that I need NOW! Easy comfort food in a single pot. Fall can be the most beautiful season. The trees are sporting their colorful adornment before the leaves dance off until the spring. The days can be beautifully crisp and clear, making walks in forest preserves a delight. OR, it can be grey, dreary and damp like it has been this whole week, making getting out of bed a major achievement.

These are the days that make me hunker down, burying my head in a good book with a pot of delicious soup bubbling on the stove. This easy Lasagna Soup gives me everything I need to conquer the drears. And it can be vegan or beefy and cheesy or something in between, made with ground turkey. With just a few swaps (included below) this comforting soup can make anyone happy. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lasagna – in a fraction of the time?!

I love a good lasagna and my mother made one of the best. But even with the no-boil lasagna pasta now available, it’s still a bit of a production. This soup won’t replace lasagna when I have the time and inclination to make it, but it definitely gives me a lot of that satisfaction in a much easier, quicker format.

When deciding to make this soup, I checked out a bunch of different recipes. It’s one of those things that wasn’t there a week ago and now is EVERYWHERE. Since most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it’s the kind of thing that can be made without a run to the grocery store. And thanks to the pandemic, don’t most of us have great pantries and a few things like ground beef, turkey or vegan crumbles in our freezers?

So if you are ready to rise above the autumn drears or simply just want a bowl of warming comfort, give this a try.

Recipe

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Lasagna Soup

1 Tablespoon of EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium diced

2 to 4 garlic cloves (I use 4), peeled and minced

4 cups of broth (Vegan, chicken or beef)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

24-ish ounces of marinara sauce OR 24 to 28 ounces of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1.5 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil, onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

13 ounces (390 g) soy veggie crumbles or vegan ground “meat” or 1 pound of ground beef or turkey

About 3 cups of roughly diced fresh mushrooms (button, baby bellas or cremini (They lend umami and great mouthfeel, especially if you are going with the vegan version.)

8 to 10 ounces of dried lasagna or Gigli pasta

About 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (Optional but recommended) or thawed frozen spinach with extra liquid squeezed out

Lasagna Soup

Optional Garnishes

If you are not making this vegan, you can add a dollop of ricotta cheese or parmigiana before serving.

Ribbons or torn fresh basil leaves or chopped flat-leaf parsley

A few chili flakes if you want this spicier

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just becoming golden, about 7 minutes. If the onion seems to be sticking you can add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze.

Once the onion is golden, add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (If using, you could also add the chili flakes here instead of as a garnish.)

Next add the ground meat or meat substitute along with the mushrooms, if using and cook for about 5 minutes or until much of the mushroom moisture evaporates. The mushrooms add a “meatiness” of their own. My mushrooms were very fresh and actually had almost no additional moisture, so I cooked them down enough to just begin to soften.

Lasagna Soup

Add the marinara sauce or canned tomatoes, vinegar and the broth. Bring everything to a boil and then add the noodles. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Stir in the spinach until wilted, if using. Remove from the heat, garnish and enjoy! A great crusty garlic bread or focaccia and some nice red wine wouldn’t go amiss.

NOTES:

This recipe will produce a wonderful cross between a thick soup and a saucy pasta. If you have left-overs, you likely will need to add some liquid when you go to reheat it. We are not vegan so I did serve the soup with some real cheese. However, I have been googling and there are a number of pretty simple recipes for all kinds of vegan cheeses should you wish to go that route and they are not readily available in your local stores. Some are made with cashews and others with soy milk. Some day, simply out of curiosity, I may try one or two.

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

I used to live right above a Le Pain Quotidien and as it was one of the few restaurants in my neighborhood where I could just sit with my newspaper and eat my favorite soft boiled eggs.  They also had some light, rustic French fare that included this tasty quinoa salad.

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We try to pack our lunches during the week, and lately I’ve been making a lot of quinoa salads, but it felt time to mix up the type of quinoa salad.  I suddenly remembered this one, and it ended up also being a delicious brunch when set over some lightly dressed arugula and a side of avocado toast.

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Add some eggs and then you truly have a healthy but elaborate brunch. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium beet, chopped (I like to buy the precooked, prepeeled beets and just dice them)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas

If you’re serving this over an arugula salad… then also:

  • 2 cups arugula per serving

And if you want to add eggs…

  • 3-4 eggs/person

Directions

  1. Begin by preparing the Quinoa salad. In a medium bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, beet, parsley, and chickpeas. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until fully incorporated.
  2. If you’re serving over arugula, add arugula to your serving plates, and then add about a cup of the quinoa salad.
  3. If you also want to add eggs, heat olive oil on a medium sized skilled, crack your eggs into the skillet and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the whites are not runny anymore.  Serve on top of everything else!

Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien, Quinoa Taboule Salad Recipe.

 

Shrimp and Arugula Avocado Pesto Pasta

We don’t tend to eat pastas that often, but when we do, we try to go for interesting flavors.  I’m always also looking for easy recipes that I can throw together in the evenings after work, and this concept was recommended to me by a friend at work.

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I came home to assemble it and it tasted like one of the healthiest pastas I’ve ever had!  Plus it helped that it had one of my favorite ingredients, shrimp!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil for cooking shrimp
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 2 avocados

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to box instructions (usually about 13 minutes).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the shrimp with the paprika, about 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large skillet, spread some olive oil and when hot, add the shrimp.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the shrimp has lost the translucent color.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the arugula, avocado, and olive oil and pulse and puree until creamy.  Feel free to add more olive oil if you want a thinner sauce.
  5. Once the pasta has been cooked, drain and return to pot.  Add in the sauce and stir all together.  Add the parmesan cheese here, as well and stir.
  6. Serve onto shallow pasta bowls and place shrimp on top.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Light salads often feature as a first course in our more elaborate dinners on the weekends.  Oftentimes I know I want to make a green salad but am never sure what to throw into them.  The best salads, though, are often when you discover leftover bits and pieces in  your fridge, that when assembled look picture perfect.  This was one of those.

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I happened to have a bunch of roasted tomatoes leftover from a previous brunch, and so decided to throw them into this light salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 block of feta cheese
  • 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 lb arugula
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your tomatoes in half and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with foil with the flesh sides up.   Season with salt and pepper and oregano.  Bake for about 35 minutes or until the tomatoes look slightly browned.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. Cut the block of feta cheese into 2″ squares and set aside.
  4. Once the tomatoes are done, let them cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. Assemble the salad by placing the arugula in a shallow bowl, followed by an arrangement of feta and tomatoes to your taste.
  6. Serve immediately!

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

I wasn’t planning on making any special desserts for Valentine’s Day, mainly because I had just made a week’s worth of post-dinner desserts in the form of pot de creme.  However, when Lisa sent me this round-up of recipes, I knew that I had to make the Nutella cake.  The thought of  basically taking a tub of Nutella and then not having to bake anything to create a dessert was too tempting to pass up.
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This cake vanished in a matter of days, and was wonderfully dense and like eating blocks of fudge on top of a graham cracker like crust.  I would probably make it with a graham cracker crust next time. Thanks to this recipe, I also learned what Digestives are.  True to their name, apparently they were originally used to help with digestion!  (A product name that describes exactly what it does? Brilliant.)

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While I could have added Hazelnuts, I couldn’t seem to find them in my grocery store and had not thought to add them to my nuts.com order, and as it turns out – I think it was much better without the extra nuts!
Ingredients
  • one 8.8-ounce package of Digestive cookies, or substitute graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies
  • 75grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) soft unsalted butter
  • 400grams (one 371-gram jar is fine) Nutella, at room temperature, divided
  • 100grams (2/3 cup) hazelnuts, well-toasted and chopped (see note), divided
  • 500grams (two 8-ounce packages is fine) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 60grams (1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Directions
  1. Break the digestives into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15-milliliter/1 tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump.
  2. Tip into a 23-centimeter/9-inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
  3. Beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined.
  4. Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.

Tuscan Potato, Sausage and Kale Soup

zuppa toscana1I am afraid to jinx things, but mostly Chicago has been insanely lucky this winter. We have had very little snow and it hasn’t even truly been that cold – certainly nothing that lasted for days on end. As a result, I have been slightly less moved to make all of the soups and stews that I normally relish as soon as the temperature drops. The last few days have been a bit colder and the next few are expected to be as well so I went searching for new soups I could try out. I checked out about five different versions of Zuppa Toscana and ended up with my adaptation of a few. Some used 1:1 ratio of whole milk to chicken broth and that just seemed like way too much. And because I used chicken Italian sausage, instead of pork, there was virtually no added fat. Don’t get scared off by the heavy cream; it’s only one cup for a big pot of soup. The soup is actually ridiculously easy to make and you can have it ready in under an hour. Just have some crusty bread on hand and a salad if you are feeling ambitious. There is lots of kale in here so you are getting your greens.

Zuppa Toscana adapted from Tuscan Recipes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound fresh Italian sausage (hot or sweet) that has been removed from its casings

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 Tablespoon EVOO

3 large leeks, cleaned well and thinly sliced (white and light green part only)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

10 cups of chicken stock, preferably no salt

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

1 cup heavy cream

1 large bunch kale (I just used regular curly kale, but you can use Tuscan kale if you prefer)

Fresh cracked black pepper and more Kosher salt to taste

Parmesan or Pecorino cheese for serving

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy soup pot of Dutch Oven, saute the Italian sausage and paprika, breaking it up while it cooks. Cook until just browned. If you are using pork sausage you will need to drain off the fat. Otherwise just set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pot, add the EVOO and saute the leeks and garlic until softened and beginning to brown. I sprinkle them with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt at this point.
  3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Now addthe sliced potatoes, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream, kale and add back the cooked sausage and cook until heated through. You want to serve this hot! Garnish with freshly grated cheese and crispy bread.

 

Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey

Ma Po Tofu

Okay, this may not sound wonderful, but it’s really quite good and simple to make. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite food websites is Food52. I have found several very good recipes though the site as well as some fun – and useful – kitchen items to purchase. I love Asian food, especially as an antidote to the occasional over-indulgence in some rich foods. I haven’t located a delivery Chinese restaurant that ever seems worth the expense to me and frankly, what could be fresher than homemade.

This recipe is known as Ma Po Tofu in restaurants and is usually made with ground pork. I chose ground turkey, but feel free to substitute ground pork if you prefer. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a recipe that was originally published in Food & Wine.

Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey) – adapted from Robin Diane

Yield: 4 portions unless served with other dishes

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 bunch minced scallions or more to taste

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

About 1 teaspoon sesame oil (regular or “hot”)

About 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Peanut oil)

3/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup chicken stock, preferably unsalted

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce

1 pound fresh firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (see my instructions on pressing tofu)

Directions

  1. Press tofu according to instructions, cut into large dice and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ground turkey, egg, 1 Tablespoon of the cornstarch, the five-spice powder, about 1 Tablespoon of the scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar. 1/2 teaspoon of the seasme oil and the salt. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1.5 Tablespoons of the oil over high heat until it is shimmering. Then add the turkey mixture and break it up with a wooden utensil until it browns. Stir-fry until it is cooked through – about 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer over a bowl to drain any excess fat.
  3. Lower the heat to moderate and add about 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until it is hot. Stir in alll of the remaining scallions (except for about 1 Tablespoon that you have set aside for garnish), the red and jalapeno peppers, garlic and giner. Stir-fry until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Add back the cooked turkey and the remaining sugar and mix well. Increase the heat to high, stir in the chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of cold water. When well mixed, add the mixture to the center of the pan, stirring as you do it. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes more until heated through. Serve over steamed or boiled rice and sprinkle with the remaining chopped scallions and drizzle with a bit more sesame oil.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

Most of my cooking adventures are well planned, with a timeline that goes backwards to gauge when I should start said adventure.  Unfortunately, there are a few times that the adventures are unfolding just fine until I discover that step 2 takes an hour instead of 15 minutes, or I forgot that something else was in the oven and so I can’t swap it out.  At these times, a little snack is all we need to get from “oh my goodness I am so hungry that I’m only seeing spinning wheels” to “oh hey, I’m feeling just fine, you take as long as you want to get dinner ready!”

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This snack was inspired from a starter at a restaurant that we recently discovered near Lincoln Center that seemed oh so fancy, and then I realized that I could easily make it at home since I seem to always have tomatoes and goat cheese (thanks to an amazing goat cheese sale at the grocery store) and a couple of delectable, tasty olive oils.

It can be used for dinner party starters, cocktail parties, or just that lazy Saturday afternoon around 3 when brunch has worn off but dinner is far off.  The best is that you can play with the ingredients and add any kind of herbs or differently flavored olive oils and still get good results, so experiment!

Ingredients

French baguette, cut in 1/2″ slices
2-3 tomatoes (any will work, I like the Roma ones for this)
Goat cheese
Olive oil
salt and pepper for taste
basil (optional – I didn’t use it in the photo, but it would be a perfect touch)

Directions

Preheat your oven 200 degrees F.  Line a tray with foil and place your bread on the tray and stick it in the oven even as it is warming up.  Depending on how toasty you like your bread, leave it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Once the bread looks toasty, take the tray out of the oven, and drizzle olive oil on the bread slices.  Take about a tablespoon of goat cheese (I like to be generous and use large chunks of it) and spread on the bread.  Slice the tomatoes and press slices into the goat cheese.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you wish, and sprinkle some pepper on all the arrangements.  Serve immediately!