Archive | appetizer RSS feed for this section

3 Bean Summer Salad With Corn, Tomato, Avocado, & Lime

28 May

A colorful healthy salad to ring in the summer. This salad was inspired by Cooking Light’s Summer Salad  slide show. I don’t own a grill, so I adapted the recipe to accommodate my NYC apartment lifestyle.

A delight on its own with some fresh ground pepper.

Perfect with feta (or cotija) stuffed into lightly fried corn tortilla tacos. Or simply pair the salad with tortilla chips for a crunchy appetizer or snack.

This also makes a nice little side dish to accompany some heart-healthy salmon (I purchased my salmon already grilled and cooked at Whole Foods).

3 Bean Summer Salad With Corn, Tomato, Avocado, & Lime

from CookingLight

makes 12 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

If you have a grill, you can grill your onion, corn, and jalepeno (click on the link to the Cooking Light recipe). If you do not have a grill, follow my directions below

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 jalapeno, minced

1/2 of a large onion

3 ears of corn, shucked from the cob

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/3 cup lime juice

1 can pinto beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed

1 can kidney beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed

2 avocados, peeled and diced

olive oil, for sauteeing

Place the sliced tomato halves in a large bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mix, and let this sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil. Add the onion and saute for about 5-7 minutes. Add the jalapeno and corn and saute for another 5-7 minutes.

Add  the corn mixture to the bowl of tomatoes and toss with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the beans, cilantro, lime juice, and avocado. Grind some fresh pepper over the top and enjoy.

Green Split Pea Soup With Curry Brown Butter Drizzle

22 May

I have a week and a half left until I go from being a full time pastry cook to a full time nutrition graduate student.

A week and a half left of lifting a gigantic hobart mixer, hauling muffin batters in and out of  low-boy refrigerators, running up and down the stairs to access the various walk-in freezers and refrigerators, getting blasted by the oven fans.

A week and a half left of standing on my feet for 9+ hours straight, scooping ice cream until my wrist hurts, slicing through 20 pound wheels of cheese, folding whipped egg whites into a cake batter.

A week and a half left of nibbling at the corners and edges of brownie scraps, sitting with the servers during the 4:30pm “family meal” before the restaurant opens, sporting my checkered pants and chef coat and clogs.

What a whirlwind year. I have gotten very strong, physically and emotionally.

Here’s to all of the amazing folks who make a restaurant run smoothly, both in the front and the back of the house.

Pretty soon I will be back to cooking dinner most nights (as supposed to my 1 night right now). This green split pea soup is healthy, filling, and gets fancy with a brown butter curry drizzle. So fragrant and comforting.

I quickly toasted some whole wheat bread croutons to accompany my soup. Snipped chives and paneer cubes as per Heidi’s recommendations sound lovely as well.

Green Split Pea Soup With Curry Brown Butter Drizzle

from Heidi’s Super Natural Everyday (you can also find the recipe on her blog, 101 cookbooks)

serves 4-6

Green split peas (and green lentils) are cholesterol-free, low in fat, high in fiber and protein, and provide potassium, iron, and thiamin

Note that leftovers thicken up in the refrigerator; just add a splash of water, broth, or coconut milk to thin out the soup as you reheat it.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

5 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz or 300 g) green split peas (or green lentils), picked over and rinsed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Indian curry powder

1/2 cup coconut milk

salt

optional:

1 bunch fresh chives, minced

                   2 slices of whole wheat bread, cubed and baked into croutons**

                   paneer cubes, lightly pan-fried

Combine the 2 tablespoons coconut oil, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onions soften, a couple minutes. Add the water and lentils and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. This could take 20-30 minutes, or as long as an hour (my green split peas took about an hour to fully cook).

In the meantime, warm the 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and let it brown. When it starts to smell nutty and fragrant, stir in the curry powder and saute until the spices are fragrant, less than a minute.

When the lentils are finished cooking, remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and puree with an immersion blender (I don’t have an immersion blender, so I dumped my soup into my blender…it all fit in one swoop). You can leave the soup a bit chunky if you like, or puree until it is perfectly smooth (I chose the latter). Stir in half of the spiced butter, taste, and add more salt, if needed (I added a few more teaspoons worth of salt because I used water instead of broth).

Serve the soup drizzled with the remaining spice butter and sprinkled with chives and/or whole wheat croutons.

**To make whole wheat croutons, cube some bread. Toss the cubes with about 1 teaspoon of the curry brown butter and 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper then place into a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Spanakopita with Harissa/Bengali-5-Spice Roasted Cauliflower

17 Apr

Spanakopita. Spinach Pie. Feta + Spinach wrapped up in flaky filo. Served up with some harissa and bengali-5-spice roasted cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower pairs swimmingly with any dinner. Easy and healthy. I had leftover harissa from when I made a variation of Heidi’s Harissa Noodles. I had leftover bengali-5-spice from when I roasted these nuts. Bam! to using leftover spices and sauces.

I’m totally into spanakopita. These tasted so savory and lovely. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I made a darn good meal.

Making spanakopita would be a great dinner party idea or date night activity, and even a way to involve the kiddos with making dinner. While I was perfectly capable of doing everything myself, it would have been nice to have an extra pair of hands to help pass the filo sheets, brush with butter, and fill and roll. Filo dough dries out quick, so just remember to be efficient when time comes to fill and roll. And you can always patch things up or just discard a sheet of filo if it rips.

Feta and spinach are the stars here. Onion adds a deeper flavor. Nutmeg gives it that cozy comfort hint. The egg makes it all stay rich and together. Butter for brushing. Lemon for squeezing. Salt and pepper for good measure.

Above you see the filling all mixed together and ready to go.

Filling gets placed on the bottom center of the rectangle of filo (2 sheets).

Edges get folded in (“hot dog” style as some call it).

Folding upward in an attempt to make a triangle. I had issues with this because I’m not great with geometry. Let’s see how you fare.

I wholly approve of round-shaped spanikopita. Any shape you make them, these darlings taste so friggin’ dang good!

Spanakopita

adapted from David Lebovitz

makes 8-10 triangles (I got 10)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed in the fridge overnight and then drained (you could use fresh, too, if you prefer)

1 8-oz block feta cheese

big pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

fresh ground pepper

1/2 of a lemon, juiced

1 egg

2 oz butter, melted

1/2 of a 16 oz box (1 package) of filo dough, thawed in the fridge overnight

Before beginning, make sure that the spinach is defrosted and drained (I broke the spinach up with my hands, set it in a strainer, and pushed down with paper towel to ensure that it was fully drained). Also, melt the 2 oz of butter either in a little pan or in the microwave and set aside while you prepare everything else.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute more. Add the spinach and stir until everything is mixed together and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool down a bit.

In a bowl, crumble the feta and add grated nutmeg, fresh pepper, lemon, and a tiny pinch of salt (remember, feta is already quite salty). Stir together. Add the spinach and onions and stir everything together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the egg until everything is mixed together.

Now comes the tricky part. Take a dish towel and get it damp with water. Unroll the filo dough and cover it with the damp dish towel.

Working quickly, take one layer of filo out, brush it lightly but thoroughly with melted butter. Lay another sheet of filo on top and brush it with butter as well. Spoon about 1/4 cup of filling onto the bottom center, about 1-inch from the edge. Roll the two edges over the filling (lengthwise) to encase the filling. It should look like a long rectangle with the filling at the far end. Brush the exposed surface of the filo with butter and fold one corner diagonally over the filling, then continue folding keeping the triangle shape and brushing the exposed surfaces of the filo with butter, until you have a neat triangle (I did not get neat triangles, but I had nice shapes that encased my filling anyway). Brush the top with butter and set on a baking sheet in the freezer.

Continue making more spanakopitas with the remaining filling. Once all the spanakopitas are frozen, store them in a freezer bag until ready to bake. If well-wrapped, they’ll keep for a couple of months.

To bake the frozen spanakopita, preheat the oven to 350F and put the frozen triangles on a baking sheet, then brush each with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply-golden brown. If you’re baking them without freezing them first, they’ll take less time to bake, so check them before the recommended baking time.

Harissa & Bengali-5-Spice Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, chopped

1 tablespoon harissa (I bought mine at Whole Foods)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon bengali-5-spice (see my recipe here)

few pinches of salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together cauliflower with harissa, olive oil, bengali-5-spice, and salt. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 35-45 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking.

Charoset: A Passover Delight

9 Apr

Happy Passover everyone. Have you made Matzo Lasagna yet this year? There are still 5 more days left of the holiday, so get your cheese on! And if you have a hankering for dessert, try my Kiss n’ Swirl meringues (just use Kosher for Passover vanilla, or omit it altogether).

I love Passover because the food is so unique and holds so much meaning and tradition. Charoset comes from the Hebrew word for clay, and is meant to symbolize the mud which the Israelite’s used to hold the bricks together when they were enslaved in ancient Egypt. You can read more about the story of Passover here.

Charoset is made from grated apples, nuts, dried fruit, and sweet wine…all whizzed up in the food processor or blender (or by hand if you are feeling rustic). I find Charoset utterly delicious, so sweet and full of my favorite ingredients. I like to use dried figs and raisins, but in the past I have also used dried apricots/dates/prunes. Fuji apples are my go-to because they are so crisp and sweet. And the wine has to be Manischewitz Concord Grape. People either love Manischewitz wine or they hate it. I can’t seem to get enough of the sweet stuff.

Charoset

Makes about 5 cups

*Note: you do not have to follow these measurements exactly. I just add ingredients to my liking, using these ratios as a guide. You can use whatever nuts/dried fruit/apples/wine/spices you like. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup dried figs, I like to use Turkish figs

1/2 cup raisins

3 fuji apples

1 cup Manischewitz wine (you can use grape juice or another sweet red wine)

2-3 tablespoons cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

pinch of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Method:

In a blender or food processor (I used a blender because that is all I have), pulse the nuts until roughly chopped. Empty the nuts into a large bowl. Now place the dried fruit in the blender. Pulse until chopped and add to the bowl with the nuts.

Chop the apples by hand, halve them, quarter them, and chop each quarter into about 4 or 5 small chunks. Add the apples (you may have to add one at a time if using a blender) and wine to the blender and pulse just until roughly chopped into small pieces. Add the apples to the bowl with the nuts and dried fruit. Add the spices and stir everything together by hand. Taste and add more wine or spices as needed.

Let the charoset sit for a few hours in the fridge to let the flavors develop. Enjoy with matzo and horseradish, or mix it into yogurt.

Bengali 5-Spice Roasted Nuts

13 Sep

Roasted, toasted, salted, sugared, and spiced. Pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts. Ajowain, cumin, mustard seed, kalunji, and methy. A 5-spice blend of 5 different types of nuts. Oh heavens, what have I done?!

I walked into a specialty food store and spice shop in New York City called Kalustyan’s and I walked out with bags of special seeds that I toasted in the oven and ground up in my coffee grinder to create my very own Bengali 5-spice blend. Oh, and if you get confused like I did, “methy” is another name for fenugreek and “kalunji” is another name for caraway.

Buying all of these great spices and seeds inspired me to semi-organize my spices. Well, it really started with A Cozy Kitchen. She did a great job organizing her spices and took the time to be creative with her labeling. I decided to put my new seeds and spices into labeled air-tight containers. Then I decided to move all of my spices from the cupboard up high to a pull-out drawer in the kitchen. Ok, so everything is still kind of a mess, but an organized mess nonetheless. At least I can see everything now. Short little me was having a tough time getting on my tip toes trying to see which spice was behind the last in the high shelves.

I really like the little blurb on the ajowain seeds:

Oh gee…

To toast your spices, heat the oven to about 350 degrees F, throw your spices onto a baking sheet, and toast for about 3-5 minutes. It goes very quickly. Remove them from the oven and immediately put them into a room temperature bowl. They will continue to toast slightly once they come out of the oven just because of all the heat.

Bengali 5-Spice Blend

recipe from Print Restaurant, makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of spice blend

2/3 cup cumin seeds

1/3 cup ajowain

1/4 cup mustard seeds

3 tablespoons kalunji seeds (I used black caraway)

2 tablespoons methy seeds (aka fenugreek)

Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees F. Place all of you seeds onto a baking sheet. Toast in the hot oven for about 3-5 minutes. Immediately remove and pour the seeds into a room temperature bowl and let them cool.

Once cool, grind the seeds in your coffee grinder.

(To clean your coffee grinder, throw some plain rice into it, grind, dump out the rice, and wipe with a paper towel)

Bengali 5-Spice Roasted Nuts

also from Print Restaurant

1 or 2 egg whites

5 cups of mixed UNSALTED nuts

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (I used smoked paprika)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon Bengali 5-spice

Preheat oven to about 350 degrees F.

Whisk your egg whites so they are just getting foamy but are still clear. Add the nuts and make sure they are coated.

Combine all of your spices, salt, and sugar. Add to the nuts and stir or use your  hands to make sure everything is coated.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, lay out your nuts in a single even layer. Bake for about 5-7 minutes, take the nuts out and stir/separate them with a spatula (the egg whites and sugar tend to make the nuts want to stick together). Put the nuts back in for another 5-7 minutes until toasty and fragrant. Stir again and then let cool. Once cool, the nuts will regain their hardness.