Tag Archives: feta

Bon Appetit’s Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

17 Jul

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My pantry is filled with grains. Grains in various packages–bags, quart containers, boxes, tupperware, and random bulk-bin bags. Grains in various amounts–a nearly full container, half empty, one or two servings left, and a serving that requires more math to calculate liquid-to-grain ratios than I would like to think about.

In my pantry I have: amaranth (I’ve been checking this post out for how to use my amaranth. I want to try popping it), bulgur (that one is in the fridge for some reason), three different kinds of oats, about two servings-worth of farina, polenta, grits, barley, a cupful of arborio rice, couscous, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, farro, roasted buckwheat grouts (aka kasha), a handful of egg noodles, angel hair, and spaghetti. I recently polished off the quinoa and the millet, and I am exercising serious restraint not to buy more before I finish off some of my other grain odds and ends. Those darn odds and ends. At least grains have a long shelf life.

Looks like Amanda Hesser and I are on the same wavelength, though. She recently prepared lunch for her kids by using up the “various inconvenient amounts” of grains lying around. She boiled them one at a time in the same pot and, like magic, lunch was packed and pantry space was created and only one pot was dirty.

The upshot of all of this pantry overload is that overtime I built myself a arsenal of healthy, quick (and not-so-quick) pantry grains for that perfect throw-together meal. I just need a better system for storing, organizing, and keeping track of all the grains.

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One of the many grains in my pantry is barley. I bought the barley in the winter when I made this creamy chicken soup, and it’s about time that I use it again. Let’s take barley’s “heft and chew” from winter stew to summer salad.

I enjoyed a big bowl of Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad for dinner with a little sautéed pesto zucchini and a cold cherry balsamic shrub with a squeeze of lemon juice. Hit. The. Spot.

Leftover grain salads make a great lunch the next day, too.

Barley tip: I soaked the pearled barley in water overnight to speed up the cooking time. Soaking is also thought to enhance the nutrient absorption of the grain by decreasing phytic acid. Nutrition Stripped has a handy guide on soaking and sprouting as a quick reference.

Soaking changes the color of the barley to a slightly gray-color vs. a toasty beige, but the taste is essentially the same. Check out this Serious Eats post about soaking. Up to you if you want to soak, but I recommend it, if anything to save you some time.

Don’t have barely on hand? Feel free to use brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheatberries, pasta, or really any other grain you have in your pantry!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes about 4 servings

NOTE: I didn’t use all of the barley that I cooked. That was my personal preference. Using all of the barley for this recipe seemed like A LOT of barley, and I liked having more even amounts of grains, beans, and veggies in my salad. I saved some of my leftover barley in the fridge and ate it later in the week with different accoutrement. You can also eat leftover barley as a sweet or savory breakfast. 

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise

1 cup pearled barley, soaked overnight and drained

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

handful of fresh spinach, leaves torn

juice of half a lemon

optional: fresh ground pepper, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano…), a pinch of your favorite spices 

  • Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  • Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing, mine only took about 10 minutes since I soaked it overnight); drain. Let cool slightly.
  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook pumpkin seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool.
  • Toss green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, feta, spinach, lemon juice, and optional herbs and spices in a large bowl. Enjoy!
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Spring Quinoa Salad with edible flowers

25 May

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Spring has sprung in New York City, and there is so much to eat!

Yesterday was my last “composting and healthy snacks” session for seniors with mild memory loss, in conjunction with The Memory Tree Program, Teachers College, and the Morningside Gardens Co-op. Read more about our first session and our Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote here.

The Memory Tree is New York City’s first program devoted to people with mild memory loss, and their family and caregivers.

This was the end (for now!) of a series of “Going Greener” workshops, continuing a previous project about nutrition, cooking, and farmer’s markets. The “Going Greener” project came about as a way to learn how to keep the world healthy, focusing specifically on composting and easy snacks. 

The series comprised 5 sessions, with each session consisting of a compost component, a media workshop, and a healthy snack and drink. Each week, we gave the seniors digital cameras to use so that they could document the colorful snacks and activities. We also made little youtube videos with the photographs. Check out some of the fun videos on our channel.

My main role was to find and/or develop our recipes, purchase the ingredients, and gather the necessary kitchen tools and gadgets . In other words, I was the official “Recipe Consultant.”

These were the 5 snacks and drinks:

1. Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote with Lemony Water

2. Carrot and Hummus “Sushi Sandwiches” with Cucumber “Spa Water”

3. Peanut Butter Oat Snack Bites with Minted Ice Cubes and Earl Grey Ice Tea

4. Mud Pudding aka Chocolate Tofu Pudding with Strawberries and Seltzer

5. Spring Quinoa Salad with Edible Flowers, Hummus Feta Toasts with Pansies, Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Bites, and Sparkling Cider

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Edible flowers are fun to eat and beautiful to photograph, so we planted nasturtium seeds with the intention of eating them at the final session. I took a few seeds home to plant, too! If you have never tasted an edible flower, the flavor and texture are similar to a slightly peppery lettuce leaf.

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The final snack (it was more of a meal this time) was a Spring Quinoa Salad. All of the veggies were from the greenmarket: radishes (did you know radishes have about as much or more potassium as a banana?!), ramps, asparagus, and baby lettuces. We also found an assortment of edible flowers: broccoli rabe flowers, radish flowers, and arugula flowers.

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We chopped the radishes and ramps, and shaved the asparagus into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Then we tossed everything together with the quinoa, added crumbled feta cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. We scooped the quinoa onto a nice bed of lettuces and delicately topped everything with nasturtium.

We also sliced into a baguette, spread the bread rounds with hummus, and sprinkled feta and edible pansies over the top. The pansies were from a plant we bought at the greenmarket.Who knew you could eat pansies?

Before every snack or meal, we all would set the table and clink our glasses together, toasting to good food and good company. Cheers! And don’t forget to compost the food scraps.

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I didn’t get a picture of our blueberry frozen yogurt bites, but they were so easy and so good. I got inspired after seeing this recipe.

Also, if you are looking for more fun, spring veggie talk, check out this episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Spilled Milk Podcast. They talk about ramps, fiddleheads, pea shoots, and nettles.

And for more spring quinoa inspiration, check out Megan’s post on Elevating Lunch.

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Spring Salad with Edible Flowers

Quinoa is full of good-for-you protein and fiber, and it cooks in just minutes. Throw in some seasonal veggies and creamy cheese, and delicately dot with fresh herbs and nasturtium for a picture perfect spring salad! 

*This recipe is very much to your own taste. Once you have your quinoa base, throw in the suggested add-ins as you like! 

serves 4

1 cup quinoa

Seasonal veggies i.e. asparagus (shaved into ribbons), ramps or spring onions, radishes, baby lettuces…

Feta or soft goat cheese (about 2 oz. or so)

Edible flowers i.e. nasturtium, pansies, or broccoli rabe flowers/arugula flowers/radish flowers

Lemon, zest and juice

  • Rinse the quinoa and drain it. Cook the quinoa in a saucepan (2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa) for about 15 minutes or until cooked and fluffy. Put aside.
  • Chop the seasonal veggies into small pieces. If using, shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler (that way you can enjoy it raw).
  • Crumble the cheese.
  • Zest the lemon.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, the chopped veggies, the crumbled cheese, and the lemon zest. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and toss to combine.
  • Delicately place the edible flowers on top and serve!

Ellie Krieger’s Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

3 Feb

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Even though I enjoy cooking, life is busy and sometimes, I just want a big (healthy!) plate of food in front me me without having to work too hard for it.

I’ve talked about grain-based salads before, but I always come back to them because they are an everything-in-one meal. More on them later…

Last week, I went to a book talk for Ellie Krieger’s latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. Krieger, who is very much a pragmatist, focuses on quick meals that can be prepared from chopping to eating in less than 30 minutes. During the recipe development process for the book, she even purposefully cut the onion slowly to be sure that the recipes would be within her time limit.

In the book, instead of listing “1 onion, chopped” in the ingredient list, she lists “1 onion,” and then later in the methods section, she gives directions to chop the onion. Things get prepared in the little pockets of time during the course of the recipes because that is how most people cook.

Krieger is a nutrition educator at heart, and that is what drives her personally and professionally. She sees a recipe as the perfect nutrition education tool. People want food that tastes good, and tasty food is a powerful motivator. Recipes can also bridge cultural gaps because everyone eats, and often times many cultures have similar foods prepared only slightly different (i.e. we all have some kind of taco-like dish…). Furthermore, recipes can create self-efficacy, or confidence in people when they try the recipe, they feel they can do it and they share it with friends.

It’s true! Sometimes, I am afraid to try a new recipe because it looks intimidating on the surface or I fear the new. Once I try it, though, I often like it, and then I share it with all of YOU.

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Besides being full of ideas and knowledge, Krieger is so down-to-earth and personable, and she truly loves food.

After the way she described this Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta at the book talk, I knew I had to make it right away. The warm grain delicately wilts the spinach, and the burst of sweet grapes complement the slightly melted and salty feta cheese. What a lovely, simple salad.

Bulgur is a quick-cooking whole wheat that is often the basis for a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Did you know that bulgur has twice the fiber of brown rice?! We reap different benefits and flavor profiles from different grains, so keep mixing it up! But as I always say, if you want to use another grain that you have on-hand, go for it.

Note that you can buy pre-washed spinach for this recipe. I used to think that I needed to do most of the work in the kitchen from scratch (which is I nice ideal), but sometimes “healthy shortcuts” like pre-washed greens, quick-cooking whole grains, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can make the difference between preparing dinner at home versus ordering in.

Krieger says, combining grain and vegetable in this dish does double duty as a side that pairs well with simply grilled or roasted meat or poultry. Or tossed with some walnuts, this would be a great vegetarian entree.

I know what I’m eating for lunch the next few days!

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Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders

makes 6 servings

1 cup quick-cooking or fine bulgur wheat

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves

1 shallot (or 1/4 large red onion)

a few sprigs of fennel fronds or dill fronds (I used fresh fennel fronds and dried dill)

1 cup seedless red grapes

3 ounces feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bulgur according to the directions on the package.

While the bulgur is cooking, chop the spinach, finely dice the shallot, and chop the fennel fronds. Place them into a large bowl. Cut the grapes into quarters, and crumble the feta cheese.

When the bulgur is done, fluff it with a fork, then add it to the bowl with the spinach and herbs. Toss well until combined, then let sit until the spinach is slightly wilted and the grain is no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, lemon juice, and the salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Add the grapes and feta and toss to combine.

Shutterbean’s (and Ina’s) Greek Panzanella

27 Jun

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My gal Michelle and I are both avid followers of Tracy Shutterbean and her food, family, and boozy adventures. The day Tracy posted about this Grilled Greek Panzanella, Michelle and I went nuts! Within 1 day, we were at my place, chopping away in anticipation of enjoying a cool crunch on a hot summer day.

Intense New York City summer weather means salad for dinner. A big honking salad with lots of bread cubes and raw veggies, salty feta, and “evoo”.

Store-bought hummus and tzatziki add an easy Mediterranean touch with a bit of protein. It makes a huge difference (aesthetically) to scoop the dips into ramekins or little bowls and embellish with your own spices i.e. adding extra paprika on top of the hummus.

Giant salad. Bread. Dips. A chilled bottle of white. And a small scoop of Steve’s Blackberry Honey (vegan) ice cream to finish.

Catch the recipe over at Tracy’s blog. We used a whole wheat French Bread, but you should use whatever bread strikes you (I imagine a white seeded bread would be nice!). We lightly toasted the bread on the stove top. And we used fresh basil instead of oregano.

Tracy served her salad with lamb meatballs and grilled eggplant. YUM!

Now get chopping and eat a giant bowl of this deliciousness! Makes great lunch leftovers, too.

 

Stuffed Peppers With Quinoa, Feta & Summer Veggies

17 Jul

This weekend was filled with chicken sausages and potato salad.

This weekend was filled with a shared lunch at the Spotted Pig-the gargantuan burger with Roquefort cheese and shoestring fries, and the poached eggs with corned beef hash.

There was a cappuccino to be had at the new cafe around the corner from me, Kuro Kuma.

I wanted to squeeze in a meal at the new ramen joint nearby, Jin Ramen, but my belly just could not budge any further.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and indulge yourself. Hey, at least I was eating healthy breakfasts all weekend: I had oatmeal one day and a banana almond smoothie the next. With some plums and nectarines to fill in the gaps. So sweet and ripe, they tasted like honey!

I’m balancing things out today with loads of summer vegetables and a healthy bean and grain combo.

Holy smokes, people, do you know how good red bell peppers are for you?

Red bell peppers rank very high in Vitamin C content, with 140 mg of Vitamin C per 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper. That’s higher than orange juice (75mg per 3/4 cup), broccoli (50mg per 1/2 cup), and strawberries (50mg per 1/2 cup).

The red color in bell peppers comes from natural plant pigments in the carotenoid family (specifically lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin). Lycopene is a carotenoid and an antioxidant that helps the body reduce the risk for certain types of cancer, and heart disease, in addition to helping lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. It is also great for protecting the tissues in your body and strengthening your immune system.

I won’t get into any more technical terms, but red bell peppers and red tomatoes pack quite the punch. Not to mention how good zucchini and corn and onion are for you. And you can be sure that the ever touted holy grail of grains, quinoa, is a steal when it comes to your health.

Once upon a time I lived in a big cooperative-living house. 2 people would cook dinner five or six nights a week for the whole house (~60 people). Stuffed peppers was an ever popular dish that was guaranteed to please a hungry household. So versatile, you could fill these gems with any kind of grain/veg./protein combo and never get bored. I was drifting down memory lane tonight while enjoying my pepper, prepared my favorite way…

The feta cheese holds its shape nicely under the oven heat, but once you pop a cube in your mouth, it just melts on the tongue into salty savory bliss. And I love how the quinoa gets slightly crunchy on top after being in the oven. Ugh, so good.

Stuffed Peppers with quinoa, feta & summer veggies

adapted from SmittenKitchen

1 cup dry quinoa

bell peppers (I used 3 peppers, but still had some quinoa salad left over, which I was happy about)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 of a large onion, chopped

2 ears of corn, shaved off the cob

1-2 medium zucchini or summer squash

3 tablespoons tomato paste*** see note

1 cup halved cherry/grape tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz of feta, chopped

seasonings: salt, pepper, dry oregano (maybe 1/2 teaspoon), fresh basil (to taste)

1. Rinse the quinoa. Add the quinoa and 2 cups of water to a small pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it go for about 12-15 minutes, until the quinoa is cooked (should be light and fluffy with all of the water absorbed). Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Halve the bell peppers and take out the seeds and membrane (I like to keep the green stem for aesthetics). Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the pepper halves face up on the sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the peppers start to soften slightly. Take the peppers out of the oven and let them sit while you prepare the filling.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, corn, and zucchini. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until the veggies start to soften slightly. Add some seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs) to taste.

4. Turn off the heat and add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and tomato paste to the veggie mixture. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa to the mix (save the remaining quinoa for another use i.e. muffins?!). Toss in the feta cheese.

5. Fill the pepper halves with heaping amounts of the quinoa mixture. It is ok to have some leftover mixture for nibbling on later in the week. Bake the filled peppers for another 15  minutes. Enjoy!

***Note: Don’t you just hate opening up a can of tomato paste only to use a mere few tablespoons worth? Me, too. A great tip from registered dietitian Jackie Newgent is to freeze leftover tomato paste (wrap it in a cylinder in saran) and slice it off as needed. Preventing waste in the kitchen. Love it!


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.