Posts Tagged ‘Side Dishes’

Happy Nowruz, everybody! 🙂 Well, technically the big day of the Persian New Year is the spring equinox, which is tomorrow, but I figured now’s as good a time to spread the happiness. The weather here in New York is as fresh and spring-like as can be. Birds singing, tons of sun, and gorgeous blue skies. The flowers and trees haven’t quite caught up, but they soon will.

At the moment, I’m in a bit of Spring Cleaning Mode. As for Spring Cooking:

Here I am cooking kuku sabzi on live TV for Nowruz. This was on Good Day New York a.k.a Fox 5:

Hope you enjoyed the clip. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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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)


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

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


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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Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes with a Persian flair. The secret? Saffron and a dash of cumin. Topped with raw apple and mint salsa, it's autumn on a plate.

I love fall. Love it! The beautiful colors, the cooler temperatures, the gorgeous bounty at the produce stand. The season inspired today’s recipe (pictured above): Sweet potatoes with a Persian flair! They’re topped with a fresh raw apple-mint salsa.

One of the farmers at the market told me that this year’s apples in New York and the surrounding region are particularly good. The heavy rainfall we experienced in these parts this year made them grow big, juicy, and tasty. Yum!

apple on a tree

This year has been a banner year for New York State apples. I can confirm--they're even tastier than usual this year. I'm hooked!

The sweet potatoes also seem to taste quite delicous this year as well. I wonder if that has anything to do with the increased rainfall? I’m no farmer, and certainly not a good gardener (much to my chagrin), so maybe I’m wrong. Sweet potatoes grow in the ground and not on a tree. Hmmmm, I wonder.

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not just for pie.

Anyways, my favorite way to cook sweet potatoes lately is in the slow cooker. It’s so easy. Fast, it isn’t, but they can cook as you go about your day. The gentle heat gets them really tender and sweet. So the crockpot method is the one we’ll use for the benefit of this recipe, but you can use other cooking techniques as well.

Note: this recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

Saffron Sweet Potatoes with Raw Apple Mint Salsa

4 medium sweet potatoes

2/3  cup of filtered water

Pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sweet potatoes: Clean tubers thoroughly. Make sure all traces of dirt and grit are removed. Pat potatoes dry and place in slow cooker. Pour in filtered water and cook for 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low. (Note: If not using crockpot, prick the sweet potatoes’ surfaces with a fork, wrap them in foil, and roast them in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a fork through the sweet potato. You might have to cook them longer.)

Once cooked, remove sweet potatoes from slow cooker or oven and let cool a few minutes until you can handle them safely. Peel the skins from the sweet potatoes. Don’t worry if they fall to pieces; this is fine. Place sweet potatoes back in the slow cooker or baking dish and smash with a fork or potato masher. Then mix in the spices and a bit of water if needed. Cook  on high for ten minutes to integrate the flavors. If using oven, ten minutes will suffice, also at 375.

Raw Apple Mint Salsa

2 apples

1 small onion

2 tablespoons of dried cherries or dried cranberries

2 tablespoons of fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons of roasted chestnuts (you can buy these bagged!)

1 tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds, or any other seeds you like.

Sprinkling of pickled beets

For the dressing

1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of olive oil

For the salsa: Dice the apples and onions. In a roomy bowl, mix together with mint, cherries, chestnuts, seeds, and beets. Push aside the chopped mixture and use the bottom of the bowl to make the dressing by mixing the apple cider vinegar, honey, and olive oil vigorously with a fork to emulsify. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To put the two together:

Scoop out a portion of the sweet potatoes and top them with the apple salsa.

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