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Archive for the ‘Road food’ Category

This fast, fresh, and delicous avocado tabouli salad is a snap to make on the go. Take the avocado with you and mix the tabouli salad and avo together.

Hey Guys! I’ve been totally MIA, I’m well aware of this. For me, so-called “Summer Hours” involve working two jobs, so it’s not like I’ve been living a life of leisure in, say, the Caribbean. I WISH.

A random snap of morning glories in Harlem. Hmm, "Morning Glories in Harlem" sounds like the name of a play or something. Pic snapped this past weekend on a long walk.

So for days when I’m on the go, this avocado tabouli salad is a quick solution. It’s so simple, I’m not gonna even write out a full recipe. I just pack the avocado with me, keep the tabouli salad in an airtight container (after I’ve bought if from my fave Middle Eastern deli/falafel shack). When it’s time to eat, I bust out a butter knife, cut and slice the avocado, scoop it out, and mix the tabouli and avocado together. Sometimes I sprinkle with all or some of the following:

  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice

That’s it! A fast, fresh, and mostly raw meal. I’ll be posting my own tabouli recipe at some point down the line–full of parsley, mint, and a surprise secret ingredient or two, but first, let me get to the point where I can actually make tabouli again. Not gonna lie–it’s a bit of a process, and I don’t have time at the moment.

In the meantime, enjoy this energizing and filling recipe, and I’ll see you all around again soon. Xoxo!

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As the seasons shift, so do my eating and cooking habits. Some days I don’t cook at all–relying on smoothies, salads, and chilled soups for sustenance. The “Big Oven” gets the summer off, unless there’s a cake or cookie or entree I just can’t force bake in the toaster oven. With the summer equinox fast approaching, I’d begin to notice the reappearance of gorgeous yellow squashes at the farmer’s markets. Last week, I grabbed a couple, figuring I’d grill them or eat them raw (I like to dip them in hummus). But they sat there for a day or so, beautiful yet uninspiring. Until I read a post on zucchini kuku by my amiga over at My Persian Kitchen.

A closer look!

Kuku, you ask? Why yes, it’s an Iranian omelette that’s a perfect marriage of veggies, spices, and convenience. It’s sort of a cross between a frittata and a souffle. Without, of course, the souffle drama. Because you know that in the kitchen, I do not do drama. Well, at least not deliberately 😉  I figure there’s enough inherent drama and suspense in cooking and baking as it is.

As for kuku, it’s the perfect summer dish, because it travels well and tastes great hot, warm, or even cold. It’s filling but not heavy.  You can bake it in the oven, or cook it on the stovetop. This time, I used my toaster oven, which worked perfectly and kept the Big Oven out of play, and from heating the house.

So I decided to base my efforts on the recipe from My Persian Kitchen, but with my yellow squash rather than zucchini. And as I was tinkering around in the kitchen, I noticed a lone sweet potato, left over from the colder months, sitting there kind of looking sad. “I wonder if that grating that sweet potato and using it in this kuku would taste good. I bet it would.”

So that’s exactly what I did, and in the process, found a new dish to love. A dish that perfectly straddles the shift between spring and summer, and could easily straddle the shift between summer and fall, for that matter.

Kuku (Iranian Omelette) with Summer Squash and Sweet Potato

2 teaspoons cooking fat of choice (netural oil, ghee, butter, butter substitute, etc)

1 onion, medium dice

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 large garlic cloves, finely grated

2 summer squash, grated (no more than a pound of squash before grating)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated

salt and pepper to taste

5 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Add cooking fat to a cold skillet (skillet I used was an 8-inch cast iron skillet by Lodge). Heat over medium low.

3. Add in the onions and saute, stirring often, until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add turmeric and garlic to onions and saute for another minute or so.

4. Add in the grated squash and sweet potato. Add salt and pepper and mix.  Cook until softened and the moisture is absorbed.

5.  As the vegetables are cooking, whisk the eggs and baking soda together with either a hand whisk or a fork. If you desire a more yellow color for the egg mixture, add another pinch of turmeric and stir well.

6. Allow the veggie mixture to drain and cool (I used a colander and a bowl to catch the drips underneath, plus patted the mixture several times with a kitchen towel to further push out excess moisture).

7.  Clean out the skillet, regrease with cooking fat or cooking spray of choice. In a large bowl, mix together veggie mixture and eggs, then pour it all into the skillet. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes (my kuku was done at 25 minutes, but your mileage may vary due to variation in the moisture of the mix). You’ll know it’s done when a knife or fork inserted into the center comes out clean.

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My portable spinach pies are easy to make, healthy, and travel quite well.Yep, not the best picture. Took it with my BBerry on an overcast day. I'll try to swap it out with a beauty shot of the pies very soon.

Sometimes recipes come together in the oddest ways. And so it goes with my Portable Spinach Pies. I’ve made spinach pies before, but never really committed to making them a staple of my cooking repertoire. I have no idea why, now that I’ve made them again. They’re delicious, nutritious, and highly portable. Bonus: They taste great at any temperature: hot, warm, and even cold.

Maybe it was the Phyllo Factor that kept me away so long? Or the simple fear of the unknown? Before we get into the recipe itself, here’s a quick slide show of a recent day trip I took to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. What does this have to do with spinach pies? Well, spinach pies were my lunch that day. In fact, the very spinach pie recipe I’m sharing with you. Please forgive the fact that some of the pics have captions and others don’t. I’m still learning how to work this cool new WordPress slideshow feature.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Those scenes were lovely, weren’t they? Ok, now back to cooking:

So I made and odd and wonderful time-saving discovery when making this pie. The first time I made the filling, I was going out of my way to saute plenty of onions and the perfect amount of garlic, to spice it “just” so, adding fresh lemon zest, and so on. I kept having to taste and adjust the seasoning. Was it good? Yes, it actually was, but it wasn’t quite perfect.

The second time I made the pies, I was super short on time–needed to leave within the hour. By this point, I had a pretty good idea of what the pie needed to have inside to taste good. But I didn’t have time to zest a lemon, to snip sun-dried tomatoes into bits, or to play around with getting the spices just right. In other words, this is what everyday life is like for a lot of us.

All of a sudden, I remembered that I had some fresh homemade salsa in the fridge that I’d made earlier in the week.  I thought, “I wonder if it would work? After all, it has onions, garlic, cumin, lemon, and even tomato. Yeah, there’s some cilantro in there, but not that much. Uhhhh, what time is it? Uh ok, wow, I gotta get outta here. Let’s just do this and pray.” So that’s exactly what happened.

I threw in a few spoonfuls of the salsa, along with some Arabic Spice Mixture, a few bits of chopped black olives, and sauteed it all together, adjusting the salt and pepper as it cooked. Bingo! It was perfect and took less than five minutes. The tomatoes added a richness to the pie, but you’d never know they’re in there unless you made them yourselves. The cilantro didn’t overpower. And the beautiful flavors of the onion and garlic were liberated the second they hit the hot olive oil. Luckily I’d made the salsa mild, so the jalapeno pepper taste didn’t even register. Amazing stuff!

Sometimes stumbled-upon shortcuts are just okay. I can honestly say this shortcut improved the recipe significantly.

So while it might seem tedious to make a fresh salsa just to use a few spoons of it in a spinach pie, please flip that script and think of it in a more positive light. The salsa is so excellent in many other contexts: as a snack, as topped for veggies and/or meats, mixed into beans as they simmer. Basically it’s magic, because it boosts and rounds out the flavor of pretty much anything it touches.  So we’ll start with that salsa recipe, then move on to the pie.


Magical Mild Homemade Salsa

1 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes and juice

1 medium onion, cut into large chunks

4-6 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed

1/2 cup cilantro leaves (or parsley leaves if you have the “I hate cilantro” gene)

Juice of one lime or lemon

Dash of cumin (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse once. (Resist the urge to just let it rip and whip all of the ingredients together at once). Pulse one or two more times (or more if preferred) to get desired consistency. I like my salsas to have quite a bit of chunkiness to them, but you may prefer a smoother blend. Either way works.

Highly Portable Spinach Pies

Ingredients:

Olive oil

1 pound bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water

1 tablespoon of Arabic Spice Blend ( or a few dashes of whatever spices you like, such as cumin, coriander, etc)

1/2 tablespoon fenugreek powder

1/4 cup fresh homemade salsa (recipe above)

3-4 Tablespoons of black olives cut into chunks (optional)

2-3 sundried tomatoes, snipped into bits (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275 F. Then start with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil. Heat it over medium heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Once the oil is shimmery and a drop of water skitters across its surface easily, add the spinach. (If you feel you need more oil, add it as needed).

2. As spinach sautes, keep it moving with your cooking tongs or a wooden spoon. Add the spices to the spinach. Stir and cook for 30 seconds to one minute, until spices’ aroma begins to bloom. Then add in the salsa, sundried tomato piece, and the olive chunks. Cook for one minute more.

3. Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool as you prep the phyllo dough.

4. Wrap 2-3 tablespoons of spinach mixture  in 2-3 sheets of phyllo dough. I like to wrap mine like burritos–I place the filling in the middle, fold the short edges upwards on each side, then wrap the rest of the dough around the pie. Click here for some visuals.

5. Place pies, seam side down,  in a well-oiled baking sheet. Slather the top of pies with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, flipping once. Pies should be light golden brown when removed from the pan. The low heat is a key element of this recipe, so please don’t blast that oven to save time. It doesn’t work. I know; I’ve tried.

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Marinated olives! Easy, quick, and tasty. Photo by Stacey Young.

Once, many moons ago, I didn’t like olives. Yes, I know, hard to believe, right, especially seeing as I pretty much live for them now! I think my dislike stemmed in part from the fact that up until a few years ago, most olives available in the United States were mainly canned or jarred and not so high quality. Too salty, to briney, sometimes too mushy. Plus, it didn’t help that the only olives I’d ever really seen were in martini glasses (chic, but not an everyday drink–at least not for me  😉 ) or embedded in bologna (ick).

A beautiful olive tree. To me, olive trees look like a cross between a shrub and a tree. Either way, they're gorgeous. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com.

At a long-ago dinner party, though, all of that changed. My friend Amy brought some marinated olives to the gathering, and I decided to take a chance and try them. Boy am I glad I did. They were so fresh, and the herbs (rosemary and parsley, I think) and that extra dousing of olive oil really made their flavors sing.

Look at their silvery leaves! I think those leaves are so beautiful, not to mention the olives themselves.

During my trips to Syria and Spain, I fell a bit deeper in love with the humble yet mighty olive. Their trees are almost more like a cross between a shrub and a tree. They look so non-descript at first, with their cute little silvery leaves. Yet they’re so powerful. One might even say mythical. The amazing olive (and its branch) has played a role in history since ancient times. Even the Koran namechecks the olive, mentioning it six times.

Today’s recipe couldn’t be simpler.  Pick the most gorgeous olives you can find. Drizzle them with the highest quality olive oil you have on hand. Bits of garlic and herbs add color and punch. These marinated olives make a great dinner party appetizer! Remember to put them in the fridge if you don’t gobble them in one sitting.

Levant Style Marinated Olives

1 cup of olives of choice

Olive oil for drizzling

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Herbs of choice (I like parsley best)

Directions:

1. Toss olives gently in a few glugs of the olive oil. Add in herbs and garlic, and toss again.

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Double Cabbage Salad travels well and is so satisfyingly crunchy! This pic shows the salad naked, but it travels well when dressed. Love that.

I love salads. Yes, I’m quite aware that some people might not believe me when I say this. That’s understandable. In too many instances, salads are a lame side dish or something to be “gotten through” en route to the main meal.

Let’s take a moment, though, to open our minds to the possibilities. Salads can be so creative, so colorful, and satisfying enough to serve as a meal. Plus, they’re so energizing–full of vegetables and whatever other goodies your imagination can invite to the party. I eat a large salad for lunch several times a week. I do this for many reasons–it’s healthy, filling, and, assuming it’s the right kind of salad, the meal can be made ahead and travel well.

Yes, salads can travel well. Today’s salad, for instance, travels like a real champ. With the right kind of container, you can take the Double Cabbage Salad on the road already dressed. In fact, the cabbages are so sturdy that they hold up well to dressing, and even taste better after having soaked in the dressing for awhile. It’s like a bit of marination on-the-go.

Get creative with the ingredients and toppings for this salad. I love to chop up an avocado right before serving and top the salad with it.

My Yoga amiga Renee inspired this dish. She brought her own cabbage salad to a raw food dinner party some mutual friends threw recently. We all raved at the crunch and amazing taste. Once home, I created my own spin on this salad.

Today’s recipe is deliberately imprecise. Feel free to get creative with the ingredients. I sure do! Every time I make this salad, it’s a bit different. Today, for instance, I was out of celery, so I left it out. But I did have red bell pepper on hand, so I tossed in a few pieces for a sweet flavor and gorgeous color. Ok, here we go with a basic template for a Double Cabbage Salad. Feel free, by the way, to post your ideas on what  you’d add in the comments section.

Double Cabbage Salad With Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:
For the Salad:

Equal parts chopped savoy and purple cabbage

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup walnuts (toasting optional)

Few tablespoons chopped herbs of choice (the salad pictured uses cilantro, parsley)

Optional topping ideas: Avocado chunks (right before serving!), tempeh, fava beans or chickpeas.

Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Dress with dressing of choice. Cover tightly to store.


For the Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

1/4 cup tahini sauce (if you don’t have, try a nut butter like almond butter)

Juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

Filtered water to thin dressing if needed.

Directions: Blend all ingredients together in a blender, adding filtered water as needed to thin dressing to desired consistency.  Store dressing or use immediately on top of salad of choice.

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I was in California recently, enjoying the company of friends, a warm climate, beautiful scenery, and of course, wonderful food. My first few days were in L.A., catching up with friends and the grazing on the many amazing Middle Eastern food options in that part of the state. Persian food in particular rocks in SoCal. Yet many cups of tea and many rich meals into my trip, I began to crave lighter fare.

Sunny Tea

Sunny L.A. tea time (That's her--Sunny), on the left. We're sipping strong mint tea at "The Spot," a popluar Middle Eastern cafe and hookah bar in Los Angeles.

Light in a literal sense and also lighter on my wallet. My SoCal friends Sunny (above) and Nikki thoroughly spoiled me during that leg of my trip. I plan to post some of the recipes they fixed for me eventually, but suffice it to say, every meal we had together was lovely. Not just because the food was exquisite, but because their company was a blast.

By the time my first night in San Francisco rolled around, I was so used to being spoiled that I splurged on a nice dinner. Then I resolved to try to live a bit more off of the land, foodwise. Some people spend money on shoes and clothes. As a rule, that’s not me. When I travel, I’d rather hit a local food market than a boutique. That’s just how I roll.

Bria plays shameless tourist.

Playing absolutely shameless tourist atop the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was perfect for bridge crossing: clear, mild, and sunny.

So anyways, well before dinner rolled around that night, I had a plan, and an appetite from having spent hours exploring the city on foot. I knew Chinatown would be full of wonderful produce at bargain prices. My hunch was right. I stocked up on a few items.

Chinatown produce, San Francisco.

Gorgeous Chinatown produce. Not sure what that fruit is on the left, but it's beautiful, isn't it?

While in Chinatown,  I took a peek inside a tiny fortune cookie factory, snapped a picture (below) and grabbed a sample. Dessert before dinner. Free!

Fortune cookie factory, San Francisco.

A tiny fortune cookie factory tucked away in an alleyway in Chinatown, San Francisco. A sample is free, but snapping a pic will set you back 50 cents.

Later, it was my good fortune to run into a farmer’s market near Yerba Buena park. There, a vendor of Afghani style breads and sauces hooked me up with loads of samples.  Heck, I could’ve had dinner just off of the generous samples on offer from the numerous vendors. But I had other plans. By the way, here’s a pic of the lentil flatbread that later became the base of my dinner:

California 2009 139

Lentil bolani. Bolani is an Afghan bread, stuffed with yummy fillings like spinach, pumpkin, or lentil. Check out BolaniandSauce.com for more info on this specific brand. It was delicious, healthy, and it traveled well.

I bought one of the bolanis that East and West Gourmet Afghan Foods sells at the Yerba Buena market. The lentil-stuffed wheat bread wasn’t heavy, but still filling. Bonus–I love lentils, and they’re high in filling protein and fiber.

Bolani can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, or even leeks. My friend Kat makes a mean bolani. Hmmm, that reminds me to ask  if I can get her to whip some up for the benefit of this blog.

Once back at the hotel, I sliced an avocado from Chinatown and added a few baby spinach leaves , tomatoes, and pine nuts procured from a small side salad I’d bought at a nearby deli. I topped all of this with a sprinkle of the homemade harissa sauce my friend Nicole had given me back in L.A.  A squeeze of fresh juice from a  lime picked fresh off of a local tree in L.A. and a bit of salt finished the sandwich beautifully. The result was an amazing foldover sandwich with local ingredients, a Middle Eastern flair and a comforting feel.

A bite of road food.

A tiny bite of my bolani-avocado-spinach-harissa sandwich.

Total cost? Around $10. That might now sound like a bargain for a sandwich, but I actually got TWO meals out of this, so the real cost for dinner was a measly $5!

You see,  I had another avocado on tap, plus enough bolani, lime, and harissa to make the sandwich (minus the spinach) for lunch the next day. I enjoyed it in a cute neighborhood park with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This was a beautiful lunch on so many levels. Here’s the view I had:

California 2009 158

View from the park bench where I had my lunch. Look carefully--the Golden Gate Bridge is in the background.

Sometimes when traveling, I come to miss preparing my own food. I think doing so is very healing and nurturing. Don’t get me wrong, no one loves the thrill of a new restaurant quite the way that I do, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics.

Stay tuned for more posts inspired by my California travels and friends.

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