Roasted Summer Vegetables with Tomatoes, Basil and Pasta

Zucchini or summer squash, sweet corn, bell peppers and red onion

I scooped up a piece of zucchini with my fork. “I feel like a lot has changed.”

Roo looked up from his plate. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw a child today; thirteen, maybe fifteen-”

“So you saw a teenager.”

“A child,” I reiterated, setting down my fork, “who was walking in front of me at Fenway and I could see her butt.  Hanging out of her shorts.”

“Like her pants were falling down?”

“Like they were so short, that I wanted to hug her and give her my yoga pants.”

“You do realize you sound about eighty five right now.”

I picked up my water glass and took a sip. “That’s kind of my point. I mean, when did I become so conservative?”

“You’re really asking me this.”

“I know! But I can’t remember caring about how short a girl’s shorts were when I was in my twenties. I don’t think I even noticed what children were wearing.”

“Well, we all change. It’s part of growing up.”

“I guess.” I said, fumbling with my napkin. “Like, when I was in college I didn’t eat carbs.”

“What?”

“I know. This,” I said, tilting my pasta dish towards Roo, “is delicious. Why would I give that up?”

“But I thought you drank Natty Ice in school.”

“Correction, The Beast.”

“So you didn’t eat carbs, but you drank beer?”

“I know, totally logical, right?”

Roo laughed, “I am so glad we all change.”

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Quinoa Salad with Lemon Pepper Tahini Dressing

With tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, yellow peppers and cilantro.

I looked up from my laptop. “Sometimes I really hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“Couples.”

“Expressing their undying love for one another?”

“I wish that was it,” I said, spinning my laptop around and pointing at my Newsfeed. “Another couple, going at it with passive-aggressive status updates.”

Roo glanced at the screen. “They know people can see this, right?”

“Maybe that’s it? Maybe they’re looking for some kind of justification from friends? Although…” I paused, turning the laptop back around, “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would comment on this.”

“It could be worse.”

“How?”

“Your mom could have finally decided to join Facebook.”

I sighed. “For once I’m thankful my mother is self-proclaimed luddite.”  I said, closing my laptop. “I just don’t understand why couples use Facebook to communicate. Whatever happened to talking?”

Roo shrugged his shoulders and picked up his iPad.  “What’s for lunch?”

“None of your business,” I joked, as I uncrossed my legs and stretched my arms over my head.  I stood up and walked towards the kitchen, mentally going through what we had in the fridge and the cupboard.

I crouched in front of the crisper drawer, pulling out peppers and cilantro when I heard my iPhone vibrate on the kitchen table. “Who’s calling me on a Sunday?” I wondered out loud, picking it up to see Facebook: Roo mentioned you in a comment just before the screen turned off.  “You wrote on my Facebook wall?” I asked, and unlocked my phone to look at my profile page.

You know what I hate? Not knowing what’s for lunch. – with Lys.  Roo wrote.

I laughed and typed back, It’s quinoa salad. Asshole.

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Quick Pickled Vegetables: Marinated Peppers and Pickled Red Onions

“That book bored me,” my mother said, as she handed me a bowl of peppers from the refrigerator.

I paused, trying to figure out if we were talking about the same book. “Fifty Shades of Grey. Really?”

“The writing was terrible. And there are only so many times -”

“Before getting hit by a riding crop repeatedly becomes hilarious?” I joked.

My mother turned her back to me and stood on her tip-toes to open the top cupboard. “Yes,” she replied, retrieving a parcel of tightly wrapped flatbread.  She set it down on the island and started to unravel the packaging.

Impatient from hunger, I grabbed it from her. “I haven’t read it myself, but I can’t believe you thought it was boring,” I said, ripping off the layers of seemingly never ending plastic wrap. “It’s basically porn for bored suburban housewives.”

My mother folded her arms. “Well I’m not one. Your father and I -”

“Jesus, Ma, I really don’t want to talk about your sex life,” I snapped, finally freeing the flatbread.

“Jesus has nothing to do with it!” my father called from the living room.

My mother smirked as she tore off a piece of flatbread and dipped it into the hummus.

I yelled back, “Dad, are you really eavesdropping on a conversation about Fifty Shades of Grey?”

“Your mother said it was boring!”

“Let’s just go back to where I’m adopted,” I muttered, horrified about what the conversation between the two could have entailed.  They did say it was boring after all.

“You’re not adopted!” my mother protested, “You were a product of love.”

“Will you stop!” I said, stabbing a pepper with a fork.  The vinegar marinade splashed onto the granite countertop.

My mother glanced at the spill but didn’t move to clean it up. “We love you very much.”

I folded my piece of flatbread over the pepper, “I know, but that doesn’t mean you need to pull out the easel from the basement and illustrate ‘How You Were Made,’ again.”

“I wasn’t going to do that.”

I sighed.

My mother tore off another piece of flatbread.  She handed it to me and pushed over a different bowl she had taken out of the fridge. “Try it with the pickled onions.  And I promise I won’t bring out the easel.”

I moved my hand towards the bowl.

“Unless you want me to of course.”

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Falafel Nachos Made With Homemade Pita Chips

With NFL playoffs in full swing, I can’t help but think of nachos.

It’s practically tradition.  A six pack of Sam Adams out on the porch, friends sitting on couches and nachos being scooped up; most of the time to motion at the television with, when an offensive play goes astray.

But with NFL playoffs are also New Year’s resolutions.

Not being one to tempt you to fall off the wagon, I bring a side dish that’s not a compromise, but something better.

Seriously.

Yes, nachos are a “classic,” with cheese and tortilla chip nestled into one another, but these my friend, have different textures and incredibly bold flavors; a welcomed brightness to a dark-by-4 winter’s day.

Crisp, cumin pita chips with dollops of garlicky hummus, and crunchy, creamy cilantro infused falafel, drizzled with a bit tahini, broken through with bold flavors of spicy sriracha and bite of red onion.

It’s good.  It’s really good.

And when you scoop it up all together, it’s like magic.  Like Tom Brady magic.  Not that I’m biased or anything.

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Wheatberry, Corn, Red Onion, Tomato and Arugula Salad

If you’re like me, this may be one of the first times you’ve heard of wheatberries.

It’s ok.  It’s not your fault.

If I repeat that ten more times will we have a moment?

I just don’t want to be Robin Williams.  The body hair alone will give me a complex.

Body hair aside (gross), I’ve never heard of wheatberries until I started perusing creeping the aisles of Whole Foods.

It’s becoming an odd hobby of mine, looking at items in a store that I can afford little in.  And when I got to the “whole grains,” section I learned that I also didn’t know about the majority of what they had in stock.

Spelt. (That just sounds wrong.)

Kamut. (What?)

Millet. (Isn’t that for birds?)

Teff. (No seriously, this one sounds the worst of them all)

You get the point.

I honestly have never seen some of the items, nor knew how to use them in dishes.  I’ve dabbled with quinoa, and I love white whole wheat flour, but actual, “ancient grains?” Clueless.

So I got brave. I grabbed the most innocent sounding of them all: wheatberries.

What, that doesn’t sound innocent to you?

Perv.

I kid, I kid.

What I was actually going to do with the wheatberries, kind of threw me for a loop.

I thought about it on the drive home.  Nothing.

I thought about it while I brushed our cats. Again, nothing. And, I got clawed.

I thought about it while prepping for an experiment, and realized, I shouldn’t be doing that.

So last night, I decided I should just go for it.

I made a salad.  (How anti-climactic.)

The wheatberries soaked up the lovely lime and balsamic dressing, and added an interesting, but welcomed chewy texture.  Raw, fresh picked corn, sweet red onion and juicy, almost bursting with ripeness, tomatoes are some of my favorite components of a “summer salad.”  And with it still being summer (although lately it hasn’t felt like it), I figured why not celebrate these flavors before winter comes with its sad sad warehouse veg that makes me wonder why supermarkets even supply produce that tastes like that.  Paired with a peppery bite from arugula, this dish made me incredibly happy to welcome Roo back from 8th Grade Parent/Teacher night with something refreshing and somewhat hearty.

Serves Two Generously

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients

For the salad

Half cup wheatberries, cooked according to package’s instructions

One ear of raw fresh sweet corn, with the kernels cut off (you can use grilled, or boiled corn, if the corn in your area isn’t very sweet)

One large beefsteak tomato, cut in half, then into quarter slices (or whatever fresh tomatoes you have on hand)

Half a large red onion, sliced thinly

Two to three big handfuls of arugula, washed and dried well

For the Dressing

Juice from 2 limes

2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon agave (or maple syrup)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons good olive oil (I used extra virgin)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A salad spinner (if you have it)

A sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (to whisk your dressing)

A whisk (or a fork will do)

Two plates (to plate your salad with)

Cook your wheatberries according to directions on the package.

While they’re cooking, take your washed and dried arugula and create the first layer of your salad on the two plates.  Scatter the tomatoes, slices of red onion and kernels of corn about on top.

When the wheatberries have finished cooking, drain them, and allow them to cool.

While they cool, add all the ingredients of the dressing in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk them together until combined.

By now your wheatberries have hopefully cooled.  Add a quarter to one third of a cup of wheatberries on top of the arugula, per person.

Dress the salad and serve.

Marinated Chickpea and Red Onion Salad

The heat has been pretty unbearable this week. Our cats have been found in the tub, sprawled out against the white tile, trying to tell us that the air conditioning in our uninsulated apartment is insufficient. The fact that Roo and I can’t even sit on the same couch together without sweating, with the a/c on 60 degrees and the fan blowing full speed is kind of ridiculous.  Then again, living on the third floor of a triple decker that hasn’t had any work done to it since the beginning of time is also pretty ridiculous.

I felt especially bad when Monkey laid down on a Target bag that previously held a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The cool condensation trapped against a plastic bag was just too much temptation for our furry little ferret.

I was totally snarfing down ice cream as I took this photo. Bad owner.

Despite my previous protest of not making salad after salad this summer, I caved. I’ve been making salads for the past couple of days and Roo hasn’t said a word. He actually commented, “this is really good,” on several occasions, and my paranoia of him leaving me over lettuce has actually subsided. He’s even mentioned that he would definitely eat some of them again; this salad being one of them.

The key to this dish is the marinade and the almost pickling effect it has on the ingredients. Another positive is that this salad contains loads of protein, and many, many delicious components (don’t worry, it’s still simple, and easy to adjust what you want in it), that aren’t the usual horror show that’s the American salad seen in chain restaurantsIceberg lettuce, unripe, mealy tomatoes and cucumber slices that taste like raw wet cardboard?  No thanks.

Again, this was a ploy to use up a lot of what I received from my CSA.  But you know what?  It worked.  I really do love it when the stir-fry approach to dumping everything into a wok works when applied to chopping everything up and throwing it onto a plate for a salad.

Adapted from Saveur

Serves two to three generously

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

half teaspoon of dried oregano

half teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (I like things spicy, if you don’t start with a quarter teaspoon)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained or 1 can (12 – 15 ounces) of chickpeas drained, rinsed and drained again

1 cube of sharp cheddar cheese, two inches by two inches, cut into even smaller cubes *this is your salad, if you hate cheddar, go with something else, like provolone, and cut the pieces into what you’d like to have speared onto your fork along with the other veg*

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into half, then cut into even smaller pieces (save the other half for a caprese salad or whatever your fancy)

1 red onion, sliced thinly (we love red onion and love lots and lots of it on our salad)

Half a head of lettuce, leaves torn into easily edible pieces (be sure to make your lettuce leaves as dry as possible!)

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn into easily edible pieces *you MUST use fresh basil! It really makes the salad special*

1 ear of cooked corn (either from the night before, or that day), cooled, and kernels cut off the cob

1 cucumber, about the length of your hand (from tip of middle finger to wrist), chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into easily edible pieces (I prefer stick form)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (if you have a set of three for mixing bowls, I use the smallest one for this recipe)

A whisk

A spatula

*Maybe a small pot (for chickpeas that have soaked overnight)

Whisk in your small mixing bowl the oil, vinegar, dried thyme and oregano, dijon mustard, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.

If you are using chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, make sure they’re soft enough.  If they’re not, throw the chickpeas in a small pot with water over a burner set on medium heat.  Bring the chickpeas to a boil, then back down to a simmer.  Sometimes I have to cook them for 30 minutes, sometimes an hour.  Check them periodically, and when they’re soft enough, drain the chickpeas, rinse them with cold water to cool them down a bit, and throw into your dressing bowl.

If you are using chickpeas from the can (or your overnight chickpeas are soft enough), after they have been rinsed and drained, throw them in your dressing bowl.  Add the mozzarella, sharp cheddar and onions.  Stir to combine everything so that it’s all coated with the dressing, with a spatula.  Let the mixture marinate at room temperature for about an hour, stirring once or twice in the meantime.

While you’re waiting, plate the (please be dry) lettuce, basil, cucumber, red pepper, carrots and corn on two (or three) plates for your meal.  I like the lettuce to be at the very bottom, topped with the basil, and then the other veg just thrown about on top.

When it’s time to eat (!) top the plates with the chickpea mixture.  I love to add cracked pepper on top, I can’t say why, but it just makes it so much better.

Try to pick up everything with your fork, or at least some basil, chickpea, cheese and <insert other veg here>.  Devour.  Like a lady of course.

Salsa with Avocado, Red Onion and Cilantro

Last weekend I attended a memorial mass and dinner at Roo’s hometown.

There were couple things about the mass that did make me twitch a little:

– The hymms posted on the placards for us to follow were completely different from those that they went over.

– I had a flash of jealously when I saw three teenagers leave the mass thirty seconds earlier than they should have.

– I was also extremely jealous when everyone went up to get their “Jesus cracker,” because I was starved at that point.

Mass ended after an hour, and the majority of the church people walked across the lawn over to Roo’s house.

I immediately ran to the beer bin, thinking it would be the fastest way to “eat” something.  As I fumbled with the bottle opener, I heard cupboards opening.  It was as if on cue, all of the suburban mothers started whipping out their appetizers from various hiding places within the house.  It was a bit strange. It was also intimidating.

My appetizer was probably the ugliest salsa I’ve made or seen.  Ever.  Woeful that I hadn’t listened to Roo’s mother’s suggestion of making hummus, I kept sampling other people’s dishes, hoping Roo would forget about what I had brought.

As the party went on, and the appetizers dwindled, Roo remembered about the salsa we had stashed away in the basement fridge.

“Hey, what about your salsa?  You should bring it out.”

“No. It’s ugly.”

“But it’s delicious, c’mon.”

Roo grabbed me by the hand, and he dragged me we went downstairs to go get it.

I looked at it again, horrified.  We don’t own any serving bowls in our apartment, so I had thrown it all together in my go-to mustard colored mixing bowl.  The colors of the creamy avocado mixed with the salsa, against the mustard background made me nauseous.

“It’s HIDEOUS!”

“No, no it’s not.”

I stomped back upstairs with Roo, and hid behind him as he asked his mother for a “more appropriate” serving bowl.  She looked completely overwhelmed, but stood on her tip-toes and dug one out from the back of the cupboard for me anyway.

It still looked hideous.

We placed it in the center of the appetizer table, and I waited, not daring to look at it.

People walked by, some questioned what it was, but all actually tried it.  And then, exclaimed it was delicious.

There isn’t a photo of the salsa, but here’s a photo of Stinky in a box instead.

Ingredients

1 jar of an acceptable salsa (I used Trader Joe’s chunky) and yes, tomatoes are best, but hey, it’s April

2 avocados, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1/2 jalepeno, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 limes, juiced

1 tablespoon minced cilantro (optional)

Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium-sized bowl

Throw contents of the jar of salsa, chunks of avocados, diced jalepeno and onion to the bowl.  If you would like to add the cilantro, do so.  Add the freshly squeezed lime juice.  There should be enough sodium in the store-bought salsa to season the rest of the ingredients, but after mixing the components together, have a taste and decide.  If it needs more, add salt to taste.

It’s going to look ugly as sin.  But, be brave.  Many have attested to it being delicious; including a bunch of judgmental housewives.

Mango Salsa

Yesterday I posted about cornmeal crusted catfish.  The second half of that dish was a mango salsa. I absolutely love the heat from the jalepeño, the slight sweetness from the mango, and the creaminess of the avocado that make up this brightly flavored side.

And! It’s comprised of only five ingredients.  For someone who loves to be lazy, this is where it’s at.

Ingredients

One very ripe mango, sliced into chunks

1/2 red pepper, diced

1/2 jalepeño, deseeded and diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 tablespoon minced cilantro (optional)

1 avocado, diced

2 limes, juiced by hand (squeeeeze!)

Coarse sea salt to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium-sized bowl

Throw the mango, red pepper, jalepeno, red onion, and avocado together into a medium sized bowl.  If you wish to add cilantro, do so.  Add freshly squeezed lime juice.  Start with a pinch of coarse sea salt to mix into the salsa.  Taste.  Add more salt if necessary.