Green Things, Roasted

The best thing about being back at school, other than my brilliant Creative Writing Workshop, is that I finally have an oven. I am (most certainly) making my way in life: first going from an oven-less kitchen with a less-than-desirable electric stove top, then to an kitchen with an oven and a more desirable electric stove top. Next stop: commercial-grade eight burner gas stove. I kid, but I do dream.

During one of my sweeps of the internet for recipes and food photos, I decided to google: recipes for one person. I was surprised to find that there are very few sites with somewhat appealing recipes for one person. Of course, there is the recipe for a dozen cookies that could easily be mistaken for one serving.

Disappointed and with few ingredients available, I opted for a green, filling, and perfectly-sized meal: couscous and roasted broccoli. Why had I never thought to roast broccoli before? It is by far one of the best ways I have ever eaten broccoli.

Roasted Broccoli

2 florets of broccoli

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp olive olive

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss broccoli with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Place broccoli on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the broccoli starts to brown and is tender when pierced. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

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Peanut Noodle Bowl

I left the United States for Australia with the presumption that I wouldn’t see peanut butter, and instead only Vegemite for five months. And so, I stuffed my face with creamy Jif in preparation for peanut butter withdrawal. Peanut butter on rice cakes, peanut butter with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter by the spoonful. You name it.

Much to my surprise, I found the supermarkets stocked with peanut butter (even crunchy!). I bought a jar and at the end of a long day, I prepared this super fast, filling and delicious meal. It could have used more vegetables or sources of protein, but some nights I just want a bowl of carbohydrates. I also forgot to buy peanuts to garnish the dish. A little crunch would be looked favorably upon. Did I mention it doesn’t require an oven or a stove?

Peanut Noodle Bowl

2 servings of rice noodles (cooked as directed on package)

2 tbs Peanut Butter (plus more if you’re a PB aficionado like me)

zest and juice 1 lime

2 tbs hot water

2 tsp soy sauce

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

 

Whisk peanut butter, hot water, soy sauce, scallions and half of the lime juice and zest. Add cooked noodles to mixture. Toss well. Garnish with more scallions and spritz with remaining lime juice.

 

 

 

 

Simplicity, thanks to my grandmother

I remember when I was little and my grandmother was cooking kielbasa in my kitchen. I ran outside as if the house were on fire, screaming that the smell was disgusting. (Further proof that I never ate much meat prior to my meatless days.) But aside from this moment of intense aroma, my grandmother has some culinary habits that have been passed down to me.

My grandmother likes to compartmentalize her food. She doesn’t eat rice mixed with her protein and veggies, but rather she likes to enjoy the different tastes of the meal by having her protein, veggies, carbohydrates separated. I suppose this isn’t such a strange concept, but I have realized that I enjoy my food in the same way. Don’t hand me a bowl of rice covered in satay sauce and veggies. I’d rather enjoy everything on its own, savor the tastes in the amounts that I would like.

Despite that she doesn’t eat very spicy foods or onions (whereas I will eat raw onions on command, particularly if there is ketchup around), she makes simple and delicious food. My mom’s greek salad is my grandmother’s recipe, with just a lemon and oil dressing over lettuce, tomatoes, feta, cucumbers and green onions.

My grandmother told me that when she was growing up in Egypt, she would just slice a cucumber, drizzle some lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and pepper. And to this day, this is my favorite snack or side salad. There is something to be said about the simplicity of food.

 

Why My Stove Sucks, Part I (and a Tomato Bean Salad Recipe)

My mess of a dinner began with a skillet that hadn’t been touched since last semester. A past roommate must have done a poor washing job, as suddenly the bottom of the pan started sizzling and burning. Hot oil+soap residue=not so good. Acting upon instinct, I rushed to put the pan in the sink which led to me getting sprayed with hot oil.

Following this fiasco, I searched for a new pan to use. I found one–without a handle. I figured I could use it just for sautéing some garlic in olive oil. Which I successfully did, until my electric stove decided to act up and overheat the garlic, causing it to brown and fry. This was not exactly how I intended my garlic to cook. Out of madness, I threw the garlic in the bean dish I was making, and it turned out not as planned.

The bad news? My dinner had crunchy pieces of distinctly fried garlic. The good news? If I were not so stupid or more aware of the irregularities of the apartment’s stove, this dish would be so delicious.

Serve it with bread, or as a side dish, and you’ve got yourself a protein and veggie packed dish.

Tomato and Cannellini Bean Salad

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or cherry tomatoes)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tsp salt

ground pepper

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

Combine beans, tomato, onion and salt in medium sized bowl. Season with pepper. Heat oil in a skillet on low heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant but not browned (like I did). This takes two-three minutes (but evidently timing is unreliable for my silly stove). Mix garlic and oil with bean mixture. Let the beans sit for at least half an hour before serving.

Smoked Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Ravioli

I have an unreasonable obsession with farmers’ markets. I enjoy the good food, colorful produce, free samples, people-watching, and knowledge that is spread. The past few days of rain wiped out the strawberry crops. And while that is unfortunate, it provides a good lesson of following mother nature and determining what you eat based on what is in the garden. So I bought some tomatoes.

And some Sundried Tomato and Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli from Nella Pasta. Made in Jamaica Plain, MA, this pasta was phenomenal. The two women owners suggest serving the pasta with just a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil. The pasta cooks up in mere minutes, so this is the perfect solution for a scrumptious, quick meal. I ended up making a small side of Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto. My dad had a baked chicken breast as well, and I served a simple cucumber, tomato, onion salad with vinegar.

I made half of the recipe for Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto because I only needed a small amount to serve next to the pasta. Pesto without pine nuts is a different taste, with more emphasis on the basil flavor. This was garlicky and full of basil, a perfect complement to the pasta. I suppose a store bought pesto would be tasty next to the pasta, but fresh basil is just so satisfying.

When I volunteered at the farmers’ market, I learned about the oxidation of basil leaves in pesto. If your pesto looks dark, as mine did, it can be attributed to both the tomatoes and also oxidation. Over time as the pesto sits in your refrigerator, the color will deepen. With a good stir, you should see more green appear. This is a good sign of how fresh your pesto is: if your store bought pesto takes a while to darken, there may be additives.

1/2 cup fresh basil, well-packed

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of salt

1/8-1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

In a small processor, blend all ingredients including the cheese, which can be added to your preference. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

Nicaraguan Staple

There is a reason why rice and beans are staples of many diets: they are satiating and the cost-benefit is great. My time in Nicaragua was filled (no pun intended) with rice and beans, and the occasional scrambled egg or piece of fish. And each time was delicious.

I spent today at the beach, enjoying the longest day of the year and simultaneously getting sunburnt. I biked to the farmers’ market after the beach, where I purchased greenhouse tomatoes and a quart of strawberries. Money well spent.

You know that feeling after you spend a day at the beach? Tired, happy, sandy, even dazed? I needed an easy and filling dinner. What better opportunity to make simple rice and beans.

This may not be the most “local” meal, particularly because I used a mango which must have traveled some extraordinary amount of miles. But with just a few (and inexpensive) ingredients, this meal was perfect after a day spent in the sun. To add some spice, I made a simple mango salsa and served the dish with guacamole that I found in my fridge.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (add seeds for more heat)

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/3 cup diced red onion

Several sprigs of cilantro

Pinch salt

Place all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined but retain a chopped texture. Serve with black beans and rice. Garnish with cilantro, lime juice, guacamole, cheese or other toppings.