Cooking Without Recipes: Chickpea-Tomato Soup, Several Ways


chickpeasoupWhen I consider about what I enjoy about cooking, it always comes down to the pleasure of  becoming familiar with spice and flavor, the ability to cook without recipes yet to achieve what you want in the end.

The first time I set out to make pasta sauce, in a college dorm kitchen nonetheless, I remember vividly dumping the cheapest can of tomatoes into a shallow pan on the stove and thinking: just how do I make this taste the way I want it toI had no idea at the time of course, no familiarity with garlic, with the browning of  onions, or the debate about the many ways to cut acidity in tomatoes with something sweet, with something fatty. I owned no cookbooks. I didn’t yet know that I loved food blogs and journalism, or the personal empowerment of cooking well for myself.  At that moment, stirring cans tomatoes with no direction, all I could muster was add in a few pinches of dried herbs.  It was just me alone with unseasoned tomatoes, masquerading as sauce. Yet I ate those warmed up tomatoes on basic boiled pasta, as a college girl is want to do, all the while with the question of how does one actually cook already circulating in my brain. 

It wasn’t until a few years later that I began tasting with purpose, in the search of what makes dishes  exactly as how you want them to. I started asking all the right questions when I cooked: What is the relationship of depth of flavor by the process at which you add to a dish? How do you spice according to the final meal’s flavor profile to get the perfectly matched meal?

That absolutely basic idea–how do I make this taste the way I expect it tois what keeps me interested in learning to cook ever since I tried to make that can of tomatoes into something glorious but failed. 

So in the spirit of cooking without recipes and with the accumulated knowledge of spice and flavor, one of my favorite free dishes is a simple chickpea-tomato soup. It’s a favorite because you can style the basic recipe any which way but simply changing the flavor profile of the spices used. Below I feature the rough basics of the recipe. You can easily adjust and change the portions of the ingredients. Following the instructions are outlines for suggestions in changing the flavor profile to be inspired by the varied cuisines I cook the most from. Nothing is meant to approximate so-called authenticity in cooking–a debate for another time whether food is ever authentic–but meant as a guideline to discovering how a set of spices evoke different tastes and food practices.

 

Chickpea-Tomato Soup with Greens, Several Ways 
Serves 4-6

The Basic Ingredients:

A 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (drained)
One can of chickpeas (or the equivalent in cooked chickpeas.)
A diced onion, carrot, and celery stalk (you’re at home, no one cares but you if it’s finely diced or not, let’s get real.)
a few tablespoons of olive oil
a clove of garlic, mashed or minced or cut to your heart’s desires
around 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (secret, add water if you need more, I always cheat and do this.)
a few handfuls of greens, roughly chopped or ripped by hand and rinsed/dried a few slices

The Basic Process:

1. In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil and brown the onion, celery, carrot. Add in any additions.  Then add the garlic.

2. Add in spices.

3. Stir until brown.

4. Add in the drained tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Bring to a boil. Add in the greens until wilted. Add in any additions. Reduce to a simmer and cook a few more minutes more to meld the flavors. Adjust cooking time if you are adding in any additions that require more cooking.

5. Eat with garnishes. Also salt and pepper to taste.

The Several Ways:

Feel free to pick and choose from the suggestions to tailor this soup to each flavor profile.

North African Inspired: Spices–add in a tablespoon of cumin, a few teaspoons of cinnamon, a pinch of ground ginger, some heat from cayenne if you’re daring, and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Additions– add in a grain like couscous or rice with the broth, cooking until done if grain is uncooked, or roasted cubes of eggplant at the broth stage. Garnishes–pickled vegetables, raisins, olives, plain yogurt, and  parsley/cilantro. Try with toasted pitas or flat breads.

Mediterranean Inspired: Spices– add in a teaspoon of dried rosemary, oregano, thyme each, and a bay leaf, plus a pinch of red pepper flakes. Additions– try with more cloves of garlic, three or four, browned with the onions. Add in slices of  fennel,  in the step when you brown the onions, or rice or pasta when you add the broth, cooking until done if grain is uncooked. Try adding a Parmesan rind for a richer broth too. Garnishes–fresh grated Parmesan cheese or feta, stir in pesto or kalamata tapenade into each bowl. Try with toasted pitas, Italian bread, or seasoned croutons.

Spanish Inspired: Spices– add a tablespoon or two of a good smoked paprika, a pinch of saffron threads, a few pinches of cayenne. Additions– add browned chorizo sausage when browning the onions and garlic with spices or frying extra chickpeas at this stage with more olive oil.  Try with cubed potatoes at the broth stage, adjust liquid quantity and cooking time to ensure doneness. Garnishes–extra olive oil, toasted bread, fried garlic, slivered almonds, large Spanish olives stuffed with garlic.

Indian Inspired: Spices– add a half tablespoon of cumin, either a curry powder or garam masala, plus a few pinches of coriander and ginger and add a bit of fresh lemon juice. Additions– You can add a cup of coconut milk as well as a cup of cut up potatoes or cauliflower when you add the broth, cooking longer to ensure doneness. Garnishes–top with cilantro and yogurt mixed with mint and cucumber. Try with a flat bread or pita.

Mexican and Southwestern Inspired: Spices– add a tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon to tablespoon of chili powder depending on your liking of heat. Additions– add a cup or two of cubed sweet potatoes, cooked or uncooked quinoa when you add the broth, adjusting cooking time for doneness of the grain,  beer or brewed coffee with some of the coffee in replace of some of the broth or in addition to. Garnishes– top with shredded cheese, avocado slices, sour cream/yogurt, with scallions or cilantro. Try with tortilla chips. 

 

 

 

(eat it) Boston: Bon Me Inspired Tofu Soba Noodle Bowls

Bon Me serves Vietnamese inspired bahn mi sandwiches and rice and noodle bowls out of a food truck in and around Boston. I simply can’t get enough of their ode to one of my favorite Vietnamese fast foods, the bahn mi sandwich of pickled veggies, meat, and crispy french baguette.  Though I came for the bahn mi, I am now equally smitten with their noodle bowls that feature the same bright and flavorful goodies that they stuff into the crusty baguette sandwiches. The whole menu takes advantage of great Vietnamese flavors and the easy option to mix and match to your own taste. Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike can find something to satisfy, too. They also stock spicy and sweet teas and lemonade that are not to be missed.

In honor of my love of Bon Me, I’ve reconstructed a version of the soba noodle bowl for the home cook. Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop craving the tried and true original served from the friendly folks in the roving  blue and yellow  Bon Me trucks. I take this recipe as symbol of my love of Bon Me, a reminder of how the food around me also changes how I eat and cook at home.

For my version of the noodle bowls I roasted tofu in chinese five spice as the main ingredient.  I’ve found that roasting tofu gives just the right chewy texture with crispy edges to otherwise rubbery tofu. For the final meal, I tossed the tofu chunks with soba noodles, greens, quick pickled veggies, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage, and a Hoisin dressing. Of course I drenched it all in sriracha, the most important ingredient.

So please do visit Bon Me around the city as well as get inspired to try a version of their Vietnamese inspired noodle bowls at home. Find their locations and my recipe below.

Bon Me
various locations around Boston/Cambridge
$/budget/meat eater and vegetarian friendly

www.bonmetruck.com

https://twitter.com/bonme

(locations from www.bonmetruck.com)

Monday:
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3
Blue: Dewey on the Greenway 11-3, Cleveland Circle 4:30-8
Tuesday:
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3
Blue: Rings Fountain 11:30-2:30 (every other week, starting 6/26), Cleveland Circle 4:30-8
Wednesday:
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3, Boston University East 3:30-7
Blue: Dewey on the Greenway 11-3
Thursday:
Blue: City Hall Plaza 11-3, JP 4:30-8
Friday:
Yellow: Milk St. 11-3
Blue: Dewey 11-6
Saturday:
Yellow: Peter’s Park in the South End 11:30-3, Clarendon Street 3-7
Blue: Greenway Open Market 11-5
Sunday:
Yellow: Clarendon Street 12-7
Blue: SOWA Open Market 10-4

 

Bon Me Inspired Tofu Soba Noodle Bowls 

servings vary depending on how much you make, I give lose instructions on size but the idea is to create to taste.

Ingredients:

a few bundles of soba noodles, cooked, drained, set aside.
a few cups of shredded red cabbage
a few cups of shredded carrots
Quick Pickled Salad (recipe below)
Chinese Five Spice Roasted Tofu ( recipe below)
Ginger-Hoisin Marinade  (recipe below)
a handful of greens like: arugula, spring mix, anything you like
a handful of cilantro springs, roughly chopped
2 sliced scallions
sriracha to taste

Quick Pickled Salad:

1 cup cucumber slices
1 cup radish slices
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
the juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon mirin
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss everything together. If possible, refridgerate for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle!

Chinese Five Spice Roasted Tofu:

1 package of firm tofu
1 tablespoon of chinese five spice power
1-2 tablespoons of a neutral oil, like canola
salt and pepper to taste

1. Press tofu for an hour with paper towels and a heavy plate.

2. Cut into cubes. Toss with spice and oil.

3. In a preheated oven to 400 degrees, roast for 25-30 minutes. Check/toss often until tofu cubes are crispy and brown.

Ginger Hoisin Marinade:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
a tsp sesame oil

1. Whisk together.

 

Directions:

1. To make one serving, toss a cup or so of soba noodles with desire amount of shredded cabbage and carrots.

2. Add around a 1/4 cup of pickled vegetables and a 1/2 cup of roasted tofu chunks.

3. Toss with a tablespoon or so of dressing. Add to taste  greens, sliced scallions and sriracha.

4. Serve and enjoy!

eat it (Boston): Clover Food Lab

 

I’ve decided to start reviewing local eats in and around the Boston area. The blog will not become dedicated to reviews though; I’m still interested in cooking, thinking, and writing about food in a recipe sharing kind of way. And no, I will not be reviewing anything that is given to me free. It’s just not my style (not to mention why would someone give me anything for free?)

What lead me to writing reviews here is that I’ve been thinking about how the way I like to cook and think about food  is so influenced by all the changing, contradictory tastes of Boston: I’m talking the traditional white fish, old-school New England meets the complicated new Boston of  yuppies, hipsters, food trucks, immigrants, and cooks with grand schemes of saving the world (to name a few.) Not to mention it’s just plain fun to recommend the things I seriously enjoy.

The first review had to be Clover Food Lab because it was the first food truck I tried, back before they’d expanded into a brick and mortar Harvard Square restaurant and before the city’s food truck initiative brought more Clover trucks to the street. When I first tried Clover they were just starting to cause a lot of buzz as a popular lunch spot in the M.I.T. area that did healthy-ish fast food. Since I was working in the suburbs at the time it meant I could never make it to the area before they closed up though. But one Friday, when I’d skipped out of work early, I made it my only goal of the day to race home in my twelve year old Ford Taurus (a car of glory) to get to there. When I finally got to the truck, sandwiched in between the modern architecture of Cambridge’s Kendall Square area, I was a giddy fan girl effusively telling the staff how long I’d been waiting to try it all. I ordered what has become my staple: a chickpea fritter sandwich, rosemary fries, and a homemade soda/Italian soda.

I probably ate it on a bench, or on the curb, in a fit of messy one-handed hunger but I know I was delighted because I’ve been going back ever since. Not soon after that first bite the food truck buzz starting getting louder and louder in Boston; I was clearly late to the party but glad I made it all. Then Clover opened in Harvard Square into a modern, light-filled, futuristic fast food restaurant that features no register, ordering by iPhone, all white decor, and plants growing up the back wall.

Clover is a wonderfully strange place that is full of contradictions: it’s a hugely popular but totally meat-free, it was started by a socially-minded entrepreneurial M.I.T. grad but also fueled by an experienced chef, it’s an expanding chain but it’s dedicated to sustainability (everything is composted in the restaurants). Clover has also been called ambivalent to praise from the local media and yet it’s using social media to its fullest. Clover’s menu is a work in-progress, never overly polished or  inaccessible but also based on a wide range of world cuisine that brings a healthy version of fast food to the masses (of Boston and Cambridge that is.) All these contradictions make it one of the most interesting, popular food spots in the changing Boston culinary scene.

My love of the Clover chickpea fritter has not waned. I do branch out often–my second favorite is the chickpea fritter plate which is like a deconstructed version of the sandwich, or the soy BLT, or the seasonal salads/sides like this one fabulous salad of roasted carrots/pistachios/mint–but I’m still just in love with idea of a bright and creative version of a falafel packed with sweet pickled vegetables, a cucumber-tomato salad, with hummus AND tahini. You must have both present to achieve that level of chickpea fritter perfection. Don’t be afraid to ask for more tahini, either.

Bottom line? Get the chickpea fritter in any incarnation for the first time (and the 40th time too), do not pass up the rosemary fries which are freshly made and tossed with sprigs of rosemary that I eat one by one even after the fries are gone. If you are in the Harvard Square location try the local beers on tap which are usually 3 or 4 dollars. Oh and Friday is Whoopie pie friday! Not to be missed, trust me.

 

Clover Food Lab
various locations around Boston/Cambridge
$/budget/vegetarian

http://www.cloverfoodlab.com/
https://twitter.com/#!/cloverfoodtruck
http://www.cloverpos.com/locations/

(locations from http://www.cloverfoodlab.com/ )

Clover HSQ
7 Holyoke St., Cambridge (Near Harvard Square T stop)
7 Days, 7am – Midnight (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Clover MIT
20 Carleton St., Cambridge (Near Kendall T stop)
Weekdays 8am – 8pm (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Clover DWY
Summer St. & Atlantic Ave, Boston (Near South Station T stop)
Weekdays 7:30am – 5pm (breakfast, lunch)

Clover BUB (NEW HOURS)
BU Bridge, Westbound side of Commonwealth Ave (St. Paul T stop)
Wednesdays and Thursdays 8am-7pm, Friday, 8am – 3pm.

BU East (in front of Morse Auditorium)
Mondays and Tuesdays, 8am – 3pm

Clover LMA
Longwood Medical Area, on Blackfan St. near Merck
Weekdays, 8am – 7pm (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Clover HUB
1075 Cambridge St., just outside of Inman Square
7 days, 7am – 9pm

Clover SWA
SoWa Market, 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA
Sundays, 8am – 4pm

Clover GOV
City Hall Plaza
Fridays, 8am-4pm

Clover CLV
Beacon St and Chestnut Hill Ave
Fridays and Saturdays 4pm-9pm

 

 

 

White Bean, Butternut Squash and Kale Soup

Clearly I haven’t been blogging much lately. I have been still creating a lot good eats–like fig and cashew granola and apple-squash curry soup–but the blog has become a wee bit dusty in the meantime. Sometimes you just need a break from things though.

I learned something fundamental last night that inspired me to post: freshly grated Parmesan makes all vegetable soups better. See, I had the creative bug last night, urging me to make a gigantic mess in the kitchen. I wanted soup. I wanted to clean out tons of vegetables from the crisper bin to make a huge cast iron pot full of it. My second soup of the season. Since I didn’t have ham, bacon, or sausage to deepen the  flavor I turned to the Parmesan wedge. It did just the trick.

This is just the kind of no-frills soup that I can see transitioning from fall to winter. It is hearty with butternut squash roasted beforehand in olive oil and creamy white beans. The standard vegetable broth is heightened with Parmesan and dried herbs. Kale, usually a bitter green, is softened by all the other flavors.

I had a second dinner of soup last night. I could get used to ten o’clock bowls of soup, topped with cheese.

White Bean, Butternut Squash and Kale Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 cups of butternut squash, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 celery stick
1 carrot stick
1/2 white onion
4 cups vegetable stock and 2 cups water
1 can of white beans, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups of packed, chopped kale
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan, (more for serving)
1 tablespoon of pesto (more for serving)

Directions:

1. Toss butternut squash chunks with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast on 350 for 18-20 minutes, tossing a few times to ensure even cooking/browning.

2. While squash is roasting, mince the celery, carrot, and onion. Prepare other ingredients to have ready.

3. Near end of roasting add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to big soup pot. Heat to medium high. Add in celery, carrot, onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until soft.

4. Add in white beans. Season with salt and pepper. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

5. Add roasted butternut squash, broth, water and bring to a boil. Slowly add in cups of kale, wilting each in the boiling soup before adding the next. Squeeze lemon juice over pot.

6. Bring down to a low simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes, to let the flavors combine.

7. Remove bay leaf. Add parmesan and pesto after finishing simmering, swirling them into the soup. Salt and pepper now if more is needed. Serve with more parm and pesto with each bowl.The flavors of this soup improve after a day in the fridge!

Carrot & Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Mint Yogurt Sauce


I’ve had chickpea flour in a reused peanut butter jar stuck in the back of my cabinet forever. I wanted chickpea flour to make socca or farinata, a savory chickpea flour pancake, but after going through that phase I forgot about flour.  The last cup or so of the just hung around with the rest of my collection of almost gone ingredients living in washed out jars.

A few days ago I had an idea for a quick recipe of shredded carrot pancakes fried in oil and served with a yogurt dipping sauce. Assuming this kind of delicious thing existed elsewhere I found Zucchini and Carrots Fritters as a jumping off point.  I also happened to browse through The Modern Vegetarian at a local bookstore to find a recipe for carrot pancakes with chickpea flour instead of regular flour. Genius! Not only did it give me a purpose for that leftover chickpea flour, but that small change sounded better suited to my tastes. Chickpea flour is used widely in Indian cuisine, so I thought of an Indian spiced version of a carrot pancake, something reminiscent of those wonderful Indian fritters pakoras.

I adapted the New York Times recipe quite loosely. I took only the inspiration to add chickpea flour from The Modern Vegetarian but not the ingredient list.  I used carrots and left out the zucchini. I added a spice combination of coriander, cumin and ancho with a pinch of cayenne to achieve a subtle Indian inspired flavor. Shallots replaced scallions. Chickpea flour replaced the regular flour, of course. I opted for pan frying rather than deep frying, creating a pancakes rather than a fritter. The yogurt sauce stayed the same though: a mix of whole milk plain yogurt with mint, garlic, and salt.

The result was a crisp, slightly fried, savory pancake of shredded carrots and chickpea flour that I served alongside my chickpea hash. Dipped in a mint yogurt sauce, the pancakes were deliciously reminiscent of Indian cuisine with a sweet subtly spicy blend of flavors. The cool and minty yogurt sauce adds a welcome balance.

 

Carrot & Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Mint Yogurt Sauce 

Makes about 10 pancakes which serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients for Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ancho pepper
a pinch of cayenne
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
4 carrots, shredded
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
a pinch of salt and pepper
olive oil

Ingredients for Mint Yogurt Sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, minced
1/2 cup yogurt (preferably whole milk)
salt to taste

Directions:

1. Sift the dry ingredients & spices.

2. Beat the egg into the milk in a separate bowl.

3. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients a little at a time. Mix until almost smooth, keeping a few lumps. Stir in the shredded carrots, shallot, and parsley. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper.

4. In a frying pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil to cook 2 pancakes. Use a 1/4 cup to measure out the pancakes. Cook 5 minutes on each side, or until brown and crisp. Repeat.

5. Blot the fried pancakes with paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature with the yogurt sauce.

6. For the yogurt sauce: combine the minced garlic clover, mint leaves, and yogurt. Salt to taste.

 

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

Making pancakes on a weekend morning always feels fancy and lazy. It means taking out the flour and spilling it all over the red tiled flour without noticing for longer than a while. It means lingering with coffee that goes from hot to cold because I’m not getting up off the couch. It means watching Disney Channel TV shows on ABC because we don’t have cable. It means not taking a shower for a long, long time. Pancakes are a rebellion against the nine to five life. At least I think so.

For the longest time now I have been using the Mark Bittman everyday pancake recipe exactly–why mess with something that works? After sampling some oatmeal waffles, though, I began making a few changes to the standard recipe. Just adding some oatmeal, a little vanilla extract, and brown sugar turned the regular everyday pancake into something reminiscent of a baked good.

Now that the farmer’s market is full of pretty, colorful things I couldn’t resist blueberries for breakfast. I plopped around eight blueberries into each pancake as it bubbled on the skillet. They sizzled and exploded with color. The cinnamon and brown sugar make theses pancakes like muffins. The end result is a chewier pancake with bursting blueberries.

 

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal pulsed in a food processor to become flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons  baking power
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of washed blueberries
butter for a skillet

Directions:

1.  Combine all purpose flour, the oatmeal flour (created by processing old fashioned oats in a food processor), the old fashioned oats, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Sift.

2. In another bowl combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.

3. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until almost smooth.

4. Heat a skillet on medium. Add some butter.  Add 1/4 cup of batter.  Drop around 8-10 blueberries into each pancake. Flip once lots of little bubbles appear. Cook until browned on both sides. Repeat. Add extra butter after each pancake if needed.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto

 

Garlic scapes are the cool kids at the farmers market in between late spring and early summer. Those alien-like spiral tendrils are part of the culinary in crowd. I finger their weird shapes in perplexity when they make their brief celebrity appearance at the market stalls—what do you exactly do with garlic scapes? And why does everyone love them?

I bought around ten scapes recently. I brought them home, placed them on the counter, and I stared at them while I ate the more approachable items from the market. In a moment of boredom I bit into a raw garlic scape.  Despite proving that they did in fact live up to the garlic part of their name, I would not recommend that approach to testing the flavor.

Worst. Garlic. Breath. Ever.

I lost hope for the scapes then. I stuck them in the crisper having heard they kept a long time. A kind of dare, because if the scapes stayed, I could probably make something out of them. If not, I’d be out ten scapes. No big deal.

Yesterday in the 4th of July long weekend laziness I craved potato salad but not the mayo kind. Purple fingerling potatoes caught my eye in the grocery store. Pesto potato salad with thinly sliced fingerlings I thought, nothing more.

I remembered the scapes too. Hadn’t I been told they are best in pesto? The scapes were still green and crisp despite my lack of effort. I cut the tendrils thinly, added walnuts, olive oil, basil, and salt and pepper to the food processor bowl. I kept the Parmesan out as freezing pesto is better without the cheese in my experience.

I boiled around two pounds of tiny fingerling potatoes, tossed with a heaping spoonful of garlic scape pesto, and a little more salt and pepper. Overnight in the fridge the potato salad mixed for that perfect cold potato salad taste. I ate it for lunch on top of a mix of greens—a green colored lunch but full of flavor.

The verdict on scapes, then? Surprisingly, I think I get their cult following in pesto form. While the pesto was garlicky, I think scapes have a less edgy garlic taste than a few cloves of raw garlic. Sometimes I make a pesto just with 1 clove of raw garlic but it is too much. Cutting the flavor of the scapes with basil made them mellower but still pleasantly garlicky. I’m definitely freezing some of this pesto to use in other dishes—pasta, risotto, maybe pizza?

Garlic Scape Pesto

Makes around 1 cup

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of washed and sliced scapes (about 10 scapes)
3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted or not.
1/2 (or more) cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup loosely packed+ torn basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Pulse the sliced scapes in the food processor first until minced.

2. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. Pulse until mixed. Add in extra olive oil to achieve the right consistency.

3. If you are using all of the pesto now, mix in the cheese. If you aren’t into cheese, leave it out. The pesto, believe it or not, works without cheese. If you plan to freeze some of the pesto only add cheese for the portion you are using as pesto freezes better without cheese.

Sweet Potato & Avocado Sandwich

Sweet potatoes go well with everything, seriously. Those orange roots go from the standard thanksgiving fair all the way to sweet potato curry, sweet potato fries, black bean and sweet potato chili, sweet potato gratin, sweet potato and black bean chipotle burgers, sweet potato, chickpea, and collard green soup, and so on.

I’ve also learned sweet potatoes are also a sandwich filling. Weird, right?  I thought so at first, but sweet potatoes are sandwich worthy and made for pairing with avocados. I think it is the hearty/smooth balance that makes it work.

This isn’t really a sandwich you need guidelines for though; it is more of a recipe you just make up as you go. I decided to microwave and then quickly broil the sweet potato slices to give a roasted flavor without turning the oven on for too long. It is summer after all. I tossed the slices with olive oil, kosher salt, and ancho pepper powder (a mild but sweet pepper) before broiling.  The end sandwich consisted of toasted bread spread with hummus, shredded carrots, lettuce, and 1/2 of an avocado.

Other sweet potato variations I’ve brainstormed:  sweet potato, cheddar, red onion, greens, and tomato chutney OR sweet potato, spinach, turkey, and chipotle aoili. A goat cheese/sweet potato combo could be awesome too.

As with many of the recipes I share, I consider this a loose construction of a sandwich so just try your own variation.

Sweet Potato and Avocado Sandwich with Carrots + Hummus

Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 medium sized sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon ancho powder (or another spice like cumin or chili powder)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt
4 slices of bread
4 tablespoons of hummus
1 avocado
1 large carrot, shredded
a handful of greens such as lettuce or spinach

Directions:

1. Peel the sweet potato, cut into about 4 large chunks, and microwave for 1 minute. If the chunks aren’t cooked, microwave for another 30 seconds.

2. Slice the sweet potato into thin slices, toss with the ancho powder, olive oil, and salt. Broil on a cook sheet for 5 minutes, tossing once if you want to.

3. Toast the bread. Spread each slice with about a tablespoon of hummus. Assemble by dividing the sweet potato, avocado, carrots, and greens between both sandwiches.

4. Eat.

Pasta with Fried Eggs, Arugula & Lemon

Summer doesn’t officially start until June 22nd. That is silly because It feels like summer now. It is humid. We have a rickety fan in the window so that we can deny it is time to haul the air conditioner up from the basement. Weird half mosquitos-half flies found their way into our bedroom.

But I’ve become close with two old friends though: fried eggs and pasta. My summer best friends.

the ingredients

This recipe for fried eggs + pasta is inspired by a recipe in reliable cookbook in my collection: Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. The recipes here are bare bones and organized only by season. No measurements are even given, just general instructions that work with for time pressed but discerning cook. Pasta with fried eggs stuck out immediately as a spring recipe well suited to become a summer dish too.

The process is second nature now that I’ve made the dish a few times: Boil pasta in salted water. Right before the pasta is ready quickly fry eggs just until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny. Toss the egg on the pasta with a dash of pasta cooking liquid and generous amounts of grated Parmesan cheese, cutting the fried egg with a knife and fork so that it is mixed into the pasta. Salt and pepper finish it off.

I decided to add peppery arugula and lemon juice to add some color and fresh flavor. The result is a refreshing take on pasta without tomatoes, lots of garlic, or olive oil.  The lemon, arugula, the richness of the yolk melding with the Parmesan is all pasta really needs in the summer in my opinion.

recipe note:

I’m providing approximate ingredients to serve four. Realistically, I make this dish for one or two most of the time, just feeling out the ingredients as I go. So in the spirit of Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express take this recipe as a guide. To make for one just scale back to 1-2 eggs and using less of everything else.

Pasta with Fried Eggs and Arugula
Adapted from Kitchen Express

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pound pasta
4 eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 cups arugula
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Boil pasta in salted water.

2. Right before the pasta is ready, quickly fry the eggs until the whites are set but the egg yolks are still runny. Set aside.

3.  Drain pasta reserving a bit of the cooking liquid. Toss the eggs into the pasta. Cover with Parmesan and cooking liquid. Cut the egg, releasing the runny yolk, with a fork and knife. The eggs with be evenly distributed in the pasta and the yolk will make a sauce of sorts.

4. Toss in arugula and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

 

 

Black Bean Tacos & Slaw

I love non-recipe recipes. The great thing about knowing what flavors and ingredients you like is that it makes creating fast, good meals without recipes easy. Black bean tacos are just that kind of thing. So while I’m sharing a recipe here technically, you don’t really need one. My recipe for black bean tacos & slaw really means mashed + seasoned black beans, tortillas, and whatever I can find to top the tacos with, which is usually a slaw of some variety.

The black bean part of these tacos is so easy you are free to laugh at the simplicity: two cans of black beans, drained and washed, quickly fried and mashed with a little onion,  garlic, olive oil, and a mix of salt/chili/cayenne/cumin in a skillet. Packaged coleslaw (yup, packaged, I’m not ashamed) is opened. I toss the coleslaw with fresh lime & lemon juice, a little bit of canola oil, a whole seeded and chopped jalapeño, and scallions. If you like cilantro like I do,  toss in a handful of the roughly chopped leaves. I usually let this slaw hang out in the fridge for a bit if possible as the flavors blend over time.

Avocado chunks and thin slices of red onion tossed in lime juice and salt are insanely addictive (to me), so they become a topping of sorts. Corn or flour tortillas are fried crisp on a skillet or warmed in the oven. On the side goes chunks of cheese if you are into that (like cheddar, feta, farm cheese, queso blanco, etc), a salsa of choice, and naturally hot sauce.

The tacos go like this: take warmed tortilla, add a scoop of mashed-seasoned black beans, top with slaw and avocado-red onion salsa. Add the extras.  Eat with the pleasure of a quick, cheap, good meal.

Black Beans Tacos & Slaw

serves at least 4

ingredients:

2 cans of drained, rinsed black beans

seasonings for the beans, like:

1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder,
salt & pepper to tast
a squeeze of lime juice

slaw of any kind, like this one:
1 package of packaged coleslaw mix
2 tablespoons of canola oil
the juice of 1 lime & 1 lemon
1 jalapeno, seeded, and minced
2 scallions, sliced
handful of roughly chopped cilantro or even parsley
salt and pepper

extras like, Avocado-Onion Salsa:
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
the juice from one lime
salt and pepper

sides:
corn or flour tortilla
hot sauce
salsa
cheese (like cheddar, feta, farm cheese, queso blanco)

Directions:

1. In a skillet add the beans and seasonings. Cook, mashing a bit with a spatula, until the beans are warmed and fragrant. Mash everything a few more times with the back of a spoon. Keep the beans warm while you prepare the rest.

2. Add all ingredients of the slaw together.Let mingle for a while. If using the extras, like avocado-onion salsa mix the avocado-onion-juice-salt  together and set aside.

3. Warm tortillas in the oven or fry them until crisp.

4. Make tacos: beans, slaw, toppings. Eat with glee.