Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lentil and Potato Salad with Shallots

This lentil and potato salad from smitten kitchen was lovely. Like this one, or this one, or this one, you can't go wrong when you combine perfectly cooked potatoes with something sour. WHY IS SOMETHING SO SIMPLE SO DELICIOUS. The lentils in this recipe make this a hearty dish that's easy to take with you for lunch. The only thing I'd change is I would cut the potatoes smaller so that they stay mixed with lentils.

Lentil and Potato Salad with Shallots

2 large shallots, 1 halved, 1 finely diced
4 sprigs of thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 cup dry small green lentils (I used little mung beans)
Salt and pepper
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced or smashed to a paste (I use less)
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/4 cup of your favorite olive oil
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed if salted, drained if brined, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cornichons or other sour gherkins, roughly chopped
1 to 2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Cook lentils: Pick over and rinse lentils. Place them in a small/medium saucepan with the halved shallot, thyme branches, bay leaf, some salt and 4 cups of water. Simmer the lentils over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until firm-tender. Drain (discarding shallot, thyme and bay leaf) and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes: In a separate saucepan, cover potatoes with 1 to 2 inches cold water. Set timer for 15 minutes, then bring potatoes to a simmer. When the timer rings, they should be easily pierced with a toothpick or knife. Drain and keep warm.

Make the dressing: Place the chopped shallot and red wine vinegar in the bottom of a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in minced garlic, dijon, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and olive oil. Stir in chopped capers, cornichon and scallions.

Assemble salad: Slice potatoes into 1/2-inch segments (note: I would make them smaller) and place in serving bowl. Add lentils, dressing and all but 1 tablespoon parsley and combine. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed. Scatter salad with remaining parsley.

Eat cold or warm.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cashew Chipotle Queso

Creamy nut-based things seem to have gone rather mainstream recently. After ogling these recipes on NPR's site, I decided to make a simpler version of this smoked cashew salsa. I didn't smoke my cashews, I didn't seed the chipotles, and it still turned out great. I ate this as a dip for chips, and then I mixed the rest in with some pasta for a quick mac and cheese. 

Cashew Chipotle Queso 
(adapted from bon appetit)

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, plus sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt

Blend everything until creamy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas and Kidney Beans

I'm not sure when I got so obsessed with okra (though this may have been the beginning). I've been pan-frying it, pickling it, and now this. Holy crap this gumbo was amazing. It checks every box for me in terms of flavors and textures, and it's a perfect convenient one-dish meal.

I followed Isa's recipe to the letter, with two important additions: because I think gumbo is often made with seasoned meat, I added 2 tsp sausage spice with the sauteeing onions, and because I had it and it's delicious, I added 1 TB Bajan seasoning with the simmering tomatoes. This meant that there were little meaty hints of allspice and fennel lurking below the main flavor profile.

Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas and Kidney Beans
(from the post punk kitchen, with additions)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 medium sized onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp sausage spice (optional)
1 heaping cup sweet red peppers, diced large (I used roasted red peppers from a jar)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (I used canned diced tomatoes)
1 TB Bajan seasoning (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8 springs fresh thyme (plus extra for garnish)
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth at room temperature
2 cups okra (about 10 oz) sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
rice for serving 


First we’re going to make a roux, but it has a little less fat than a traditional roux, which means it doesn’t get as goopy. If you’d like a more traditional roux, just add 3 more tablespoons of vegetable oil. Okay, so, let’s proceed.

Preheat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat. The wider the pot the better, so that you have lots of surface area to make your roux.

Add the oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a wooden spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.

Add the onion and salt, and toss to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. As the onions release moisture, they will coat more and more. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and sausage spice mix and stir for 30 seconds or so.

Add the peppers, tomatoes, and Bajan seasoning and cook down for about 10 more minutes. If using cherry tomatoes, place a cover on the pot to get them to cook faster and release moisture. As the tomatoes break down, the mixture should become thick and pasty.

Season with fresh black pepper, add bay leaves, smoked paprika and thyme and mix well.

Stream in the 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Add the okra and beans, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with up to 1/2 cup vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer.

Add the lemon juice, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems (if you can see them) then serve in a big, wide bowl, topped with a scoop of rice and garnished with fresh thyme. Serves 6.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mahlab, breakfast potatoes

I finally got my hands on some mahlab! It smells and tastes heavenly, somewhere on the cherry-amaretto-almond-nutmeg spectrum. I made this baklava again and added 1.5 tsp mahlab. The flavor wasn't overwhelming, but I think it was a nice addition to the cinnamon and walnuts.

Also. I think I may have finally mastered the art of the breakfast potato. I did so by following the instructions in vegan brunch to the letter. Also, I avoided heating up the apartment by making them in my toaster oven, which worked like a charm. I think for other things (like baking) the toaster oven isn't reliable enough on temperature, but this turned out perfect.

Methi Matar Malai

I know the photo leaves something to be desired, but this dish was marvelous. Instead of heavy cream, you use a cream made out of soaked almond, which makes this dish way healthier but still quite rich. Because I only had dried fenugreek leaves, I substituted collard greens for the fresh fenugreek and added 1/4 c dried fenugreek leaves to still get that awesome aromatic flavor I raved about when I made this dal.

Methi Matar Malai
(from holy cow!)

1 big bunch spinach (or other mild green), chopped
¼ cup almonds soaked in ½ cup hot water for 30 minutes
1 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 green chillies, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1-inch knob of ginger, julienned
2 cloves
1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tsp peppercorns
1 large tomato, diced
½ tsp cayenne or paprika, if you prefer less heat
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 dried fenugreek leaves
2 cups frozen green peas
salt to taste

  1. Soak the chopped greens in a big bowl of warm, salted water for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
  2. Blend the almonds with the soaking water into a smooth paste. Set aside.
  3. Heat half the oil and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, green chillies, onions, garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Saute everything until the onions turn translucent and just start to brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes along with the cayenne and turmeric. Saute until the tomatoes are quite broken down and pulpy.
  5. Remove the mixture to a blender and cool if necessary before blending into a smooth paste. Add water or vegetable stock if needed.
  6. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and add the drained greens. Add a pinch of salt and saute until the methi starts to express water.
  7. Cover with a lid and let the methi cook on medium heat for another 10-15 minutes until tender. Add a tablespoon or two of water if necessary to prevent the methi from sticking to the pan.
  8. Add the tomato-onion paste, garam masala, fenugreek leaves, and the green peas and continue cooking on an open flame, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.
  9. Add the almond cream and mix well. Turn off the heat once the curry begins to simmer. Check salt and add more if needed.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Savory Chocolate-Olive Shortbread Cookies

When I visited my mom in Asheville some weeks ago, we made Hannah's savory chocolate-olive shortbread cookies, because it was the weirdest thing I could think of.

But when your chocolate is realllly dark, and when your olives are oil-cured, the distance between them isn't actually so vast (though it does mean they end up being rather expensive cookies). The end product was deliciously interesting, and rich without being too heavy. Excellent with wine and pretty good with an amber ale as well. We did, however, struggle with keeping the dough from crumbling when we sliced it, no matter how finely we chopped the chocolate and the olives. Next time I might look at this other recipe for savory freezer cookies I once made and see if there are any adjustments I might import to the chocolate-olive recipe. You could also definitely play around with the herbs and spices. Maybe cinnamon or nutmeg? Or maybe sesame seeds? Or cayenne?

(we also experimented with nut-based vegan caesar dressings, and I can't decide between this walnut one and this tahini one)

Savory Chocolate-Olive Cookies
(from bittersweet)

1/2 c earth balance
1/4 c sugar
2 c flour
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (we used a few tsps fresh)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
2.5 oz 90% cacao dark chocolate, chopped
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil


Cream together the margarine and sugar, until the mixture is homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, tarragon, pepper, and salt, making sure that all of the dry goods are evenly distributed throughout. Add in the chopped olives and chocolate, tossing gently to coat all of the pieces with flour. Break up any clumps of olives that may remain sticking together so that they’re equally blended throughout each finished cookie. Starting the mixer back up on the lowest setting, slowly incorporate the dry goods in two additions, alternating with the olive oil, until all the remaining ingredients are used.

The dough should be just moist enough to stick together in a coherent ball when pressed; don’t be tempted to incorporate extra liquid! Gather it all up and form it into a log about 6 – 8 inches long (note: we had enough dough for several 6-in logs). You can choose to either keep your cookies rounded or square off the edges by gently dropping the log on the counter at regular intervals. It’s merely a stylistic choice, so feel free to play around with it. Once shaped as desired, wrap the dough log in plastic and place it in your freezer. Allow at least 2 hours for it to chill, or store for up to 3 months before baking.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or pieces of parchment paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough, handling it as little as possible to prevent it from warming up, and use a very sharp knife to cut it into slices approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. Lay the cookies out with about 1/2 inch in between them on your prepared sheets, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until lightly golden brown.

Let cool completely on the sheets before enjoying or storing in an air-tight container. Makes 18-24 cookies.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Purple Cabbage Salad w/Three Sauces

Last in the "neon sauces" series: this is where my new banner photo came from!

I made a version of this pressed purple cabbage salad (with some kale) and decorated it with the neon sauces I recently posted about, as well as Trader Joe's red pepper spread.

orange: roasted orange pepper-sesame sauce, green: chimichurri sauce, red: red pepper spread