Falafel-Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Tomato Relish

photo(2)

While your Instagram feed may be blowing up with everything pumpkin spice, it’s still summer in my kitchen. Last winter, I signed up for my first CSA share. CSA stands for ‘Community Supported Agriculture’, and essentially it’s an investment into a farm. In exchange, you have the fortune of (in my case) 22 weeks of outstanding organic vegetables. Each Wednesday night, I walk about about 15 minutes to the pick-up site. I choose and weigh my vegetables and load them into my granny cart (glamorous, I know). A sample share from July:

  • fennel: 1 piece
  • peppers: 3 pieces
  • eggplant: 1 piece
  • fava beans: 1 pound
  • beets: 1 pound
  • garlic scapes: 0.25 pound
  • cucumbers: 2 pounds
  • greens: 1 pound
  • lettuce: 2 pieces
  • squash: 3 pieces

As you can see, you have to be cool with eating tons of veggies throughout the week. I’ve made countless batches of ratatouille, hot and cold soups and all manner of salads. My grocery shopping these days usually consists of breakfast staples, proteins/meat and fruit. I opted out of the fruit share, but I now wish I did (one week they got 5 lbs. of sour cherries…jealous!) Aside from a packed fridge to work through, it’s actually simplified the cooking I do at home.

I’ve been receiving a steady stream of eggplant all summer. Long, skinny eggplant, baby ‘fairy tale’ eggplant, even white ones. To prevent eggplant burnout (it’s a thing), I try to vary how I use it week to week. One week, it’s pasta alla norma, a recipe my Aunt Lee introduced me to. Another week, it might be miso-glazed eggplant over rice. This falafel-stuffed eggplant has got to be one of my favorites. I made it late last summer and dreamed of making it again ever since. What’s cool is you actually get two recipes in one – save the inside of the eggplant for baba ganoush.  This is your chance to use the last of the season’s tomatoes – get them before they’re gone! And if you’re not a member of a CSA, check out your local farmer’s market for most of the ingredients.

Falafel-Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Green Tomato Relish

Recipe from Cooking Light

Tahini sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Eggplant:

  • 2 eggplants (about 12 ounces each)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper (I used Piment D’Ville)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas ( or 1 15-ounce can)

Relish:

  • 1 cup chopped seeded tomato  (I used a green tomato, use what you have)
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Ground sumac, for serving (optional)

Heat oven to 475°.

To prepare eggplant, slice the eggplants in half lengthwise; score cut sides with a crosshatch pattern. Place the eggplant halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet coated with olive oil. Bake at 475° for 7 minutes or until slightly tender and browned. Remove from oven; carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a 3/4-inch shell. Reserve pulp for another use (such as babaganoush). Season cut sides with about 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Combine about 1/2 teaspoon salt, onion, and next 11 ingredients (through chickpeas) in a food processor; process until smooth. Spoon 1/2 cup chickpea mixture into each eggplant shell. Bake at 475° for 25 minutes or until eggplant halves are tender and chickpea mixture is lightly browned.

To prepare sauce, combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Set aside.

To prepare relish, combine the tomato and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir to combine.

Top eggplant with relish and sauce. Sprinkle with sumac before serving.

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Pickled Red Onion

photo

Full disclosure: this is not a post about tacos. Yes, these tacos are the bomb-dot-com (does anyone say that anymore?) They happen to be vegan, gluten free and yes, really, really delicious for carb-eating carnivores as well. They take about 30 minutes start to finish. They are also cheap economical and are satisfying enough that you *may* forgo that after-dinner trip back to the kitchen for a brownie. But again, this is not about the tacos.

In an effort to create some balance in my life, I’ve signed up for my fifth (count ’em) half marathon. On May 17th I will be making the 13.1 trip from The Brooklyn Public Library to Coney Island. I can’t help but get nostalgic for my first borough. Jogging in Prospect Park, trekking to the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket – I’ll be running through my past, literally. In the next couple months, I’ll be sharing with you a bit about my training, more specifically what’s fueling me. While I’ve made a career out of cooking for and teaching others, my everyday eating is a lot more pared down and purposeful. Get ready for hearty salads, soups, oatmeal-y breakfasts and lots and lots of green things. Yes, there will be kale (obviously), but also chocolate, more protein-heavy recipes than I’ve shared before and simple snacks I like to keep around.

Let’s do this thing!

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Pickled Red Onion

Makes 8 tacos

Tacos:

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • Sliced avocado, cilantro and lime, for serving
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Pickled Red Onions:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

For the tacos: place the poblano pepper under the broiler in your oven and turn occasionally, charring on all sides, about 5 minutes. Alternately, char the poblano directly over a gas flame on your stove. Place the pepper in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam for about 20 minutes. Using a paper towel, wipe off the charred skin, take out the seeds and roughly chop the flesh. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until transluscent. Season with salt. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more, stirring constantly (careful not to burn the garlic). Add the chopped poblano, sweet potatoes and spices. Season with salt and give it a stir. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, checking periodically and adding a little water if the mixture is sticking to the pan. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft. Taste and season.

While the sweet potato mixture cooks, make the pickled onions. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt, stirring over medium heat to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a boil, add onions and turn off heat. Allow the onions to ‘steep’ in the vinegar mixture until softened.

Add black beans and stir well. Cover and cook 5 minutes more until warmed through. Heat tortillas over and open flame to char the edges a bit or wrapped in foil in the oven until warm.

To assemble tacos, fill each tortilla with a spoonful of filling, cilantro, avocado, a few pickled onions and a squeeze of lime. These have a good kick, but add more hot sauce if you like things really spicy.

The pickled onions may be made in advance and can be stored in the fridge for about a month.

Millet Fritters with Cojita and Spicy Lime Crema

1006131416

While I teach others how to make dinner, I rarely sit down for the meal myself. See, when you are in the business of food, you’re usually working during most usual mealtimes. I grew up sitting down to a square, hot meal at 6pm each night, but nowadays, it’s leftovers from the fridge at 9. This is real life.

Last week I found myself home at dinnertime, hungry and with a bit of time to tinker around in the kitchen. Going back out into the world to food shop was just not going to happen. A pantry meal it was.

I recently taught an Ancient Grains class at SLT and everyone was obsessed with the Quinoa Fritters, a recipe riffed from the wonderful Ancient Grains for Modern Mealsl by Maria Speck. Topped with tangy lime mayo and smoked salmon, they were altogether satisfying, the perfect balance of crispy/gooey/cheesy/salty/creamy. I swapped the quinoa for millet, a couscous-like whole grain popular in parts of Asia. You cook it the same way, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water. It has a mild flavor and a pleasant softness that’s unusual for whole grains. It’s also gluten-free, a nice bonus in this day and age. I’m kind of obsessed.

A plate of these millet fritters with a bowl of spicy, creamy dip was just the thing for my night-in supper. The new square meal.

Millet Fritters with Cojita and Spicy Lime Crema

Inspired by Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

Fritters:

1 cup millet*
2 cups water, vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup crumbled cojita cheese (or feta)
1/2 cup flour*
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
2 green onions, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Olive or grapeseed oil, for cooking

In a medium saucepan, combine the millet and water or stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, combined the cooled millet, cheese, flour, chile powder, paprika, green onions and eggs. Fold to combine. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few swirls of olive or grapeseed oil.  Form the millet mixture into patties (I used an ice cream scoop). If the mixture is not sticking together, chill for a bit longer or press the mixture into a ball with your hands. They will be delicate, but will firm up when cooked.

Fry the fritters in the skillet for a few minutes on each side or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel. Serve with a dollop (or three) of Spicy Lime Crema.

Spicy Lime Crema

1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream, plain yogurt or mayo
Zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Chipotle hot sauce, to taste

Combine all ingredients, adding more of everything to taste.

Notes:

*Where do you buy millet? Check the bulk area or ethnic section. Bob’s Red Mill is another brand worth seeking out.

*I’ve made these with white all-purpose flour and also millet flour (I had some lying around, definitely not necessary to go out and buy it). I suspect almond flour may work, but the mixture may be a little more crumbly. Stick to a somewhat neutral, light flour here – this is not the place for nutty buckwheat or whole wheat flour.

Spinach + Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes

Image

Growing up, twice-baked potatoes made an appearance at just about every holiday. With beef and horseradish at Christmas, alongside ham at Easter, they were quite perfect for a crowd of 20+.

Nowadays, I wouldn’t consider myself a meat and potatoes person. I like potatoes, and I enjoy meat every now and then, but together? Major food coma. I need a little something green as a buffer for all that heartiness.

These spinach-flecked potatoes are just the thing for the other 363 days a year. Buttermilk is surprisingly low in fat and adds a welcome tanginess. A touch of butter, a bit of cheese and just a sprinkle of smoky bacon keeps things from going too far off course. I think you’ll enjoy these for dinner or lunch with a salad or on their own.

Spinach & Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes

Makes 4 potato halves

2 large russet potatoes
1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach*
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary
1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
Pinch nutmeg
2 strips bacon, cooked and chopped, divided
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Directions

Prick potatoes with a fork a few times. Bake at 450F for about 45-60 minutes until a knife is easily inserted. Allow to cool slightly, then slice in half lengthwise and scrape out flesh, leaving a bit in the skin.

Place potato flesh in a large bowl. Add the garlic, scallions, buttermilk, butter or olive oil, Parmesan, nutmeg and half the bacon. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Add a bit more buttermilk if it looks dry. You want it a bit chunky – no need for it to be completely smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide potato mixture between the 4 potato skins. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan. Broil in the oven for a few minutes, until tops are just lightly brown (be careful not to burn!) Sprinkle with the remaining bacon.

*I used frozen defrosted chopped spinach. You can also saute raw baby or regular spinach in a bit of olive oil, cool and chop.

Miso-Lime Noodle Bowl with Shiitakes and Bok Choy

noodles

Isn’t it weird how you get in certain habits with food? You find yourself eating the same breakfast, going to the same coffee shop or reaching for chocolate at the same time each day (I don’t know about you, but it happens at around 3pm for me.) While I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater and cook, I have my old standbys. I will never turn down a trip to Westville. I eat Greek yogurt almost every day. And kale? I still can’t get enough of it. I’m a creature of {healthy} habits.

Sometimes, I feel the urge to break out of  my comfort zone. Why not start with dinner? Pasta is a major go-to for me and many of my personal chef clients. After a long day of work, it’s just the thing. While I love an Italian pasta carbonara, Asian noodle dishes are becoming a new habit for me these days. The trick? I keep a few key staples around. Scallions, ginger and garlic are the starting point for countless noodle variations. Invest in a container of good miso, a bottle of tamari or soy sauce and some type of hot sauce or chile paste. Chances are you’ve made a stir fry before. See? You’re already halfway outside the box.

Miso-Lime Noodle Bowl with Shiitakes and Bok Choy

Serves 1-2

1 nest instant rice vermicelli or soba noodles*
1 teaspoon vegetable or coconut oil
2 scallions, finely sliced, white and green parts separated
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
5 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 heads baby bok choy, chopped
Miso-Lime Sauce
2 teaspoons white miso
1 teaspoon tamari
1/2 lime, juiced
Gochujang* to taste (or another hot sauce/paste)
Sesame seeds and Korean chile flakes, for garnish (optional)

If you are using instant rice noodles, place a nest/bundle of noodles in a bowl, cover with boiling water and a plate or lid and set aside. If you are using soba or another type of noodle, boil according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add white part of scallion, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant (be careful not to burn the garlic.) Add the shiitakes and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the bok choy and cook until wilted, another few minutes. Add a couple drops of water or stock if the veggies start to stick. In a small bowl, combine the miso, tamari, lime juice and hot sauce/paste of choice, to taste. Drain your noodles and add them to the veggie mixture, along with the sauce. Toss to combine. Serve with green scallions, sesame seeds, Korean chile flakes or hot sauce and a squeeze of lime juice.

*Look for rice vermicelli noodles in the Asian section of the grocery store. You can sub in any type of noodle you prefer (I use buckwheat soba a lot).

*Gochujang is a fermented Korean chile paste . It has a nice balance of heat and a bit of sweetness.

Coconut-Spinach Fried Rice

fried rice

For the exception of baking, I rarely cook from recipes. In culinary school, we would tediously copy the day’s curriculum on index cards. We quickly learned that the assignment was more about the act of remembering the recipes than for us to follow them word-for-word. I’m not discrediting recipes – I subscribe to just about every food magazine and own my fair share of cookbooks. They’re excellent inspiration and a great tool for getting more comfortable with technique. But learning how to cook, really cook, requires some gumption. It definitely includes mistakes. And improvisation, creativity and, well, common sense.

I always say that anyone who eats can be a good cook. Think about it: you already know what foods and flavors you like together. Once you learn a technique, like this simple fried rice, you can vary it depending on what you have in the fridge or what looks good at the market. Not a fan of coconut oil? Grapeseed oil is a neutral substitute. Ran out of spinach? Sub in leftover broccoli or frozen veggies. The rest is just a dip in the pantry or fridge: rice, oil, vinegar, eggs, hot sauce. I challenge you to read this recipe and be bold with your variations. Let me know how it goes.

Coconut-Spinach Fried Rice

Serves 2

1 T. coconut oil, plus more if necessary

2 scallions, finely sliced, white and green parts divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger

1 cup cooked brown rice (I used leftover brown basmati)

2 T. low-sodium tamari

2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped

1 cup kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Lime juice or rice vinegar

Chile-garlic sauce or Sriracha

Sesame oil

  1. Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add white parts of scallion, ginger and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning.
  2. Add the brown rice and cook for a few minutes to heat through. Add a bit more coconut oil if it starts to stick to the pan. Add tamari, spinach and/or kale and cook for a few more minutes until wilted. Increase heat and add the egg, stirring constantly, until egg is scrambled in the rice mixture. Add a bit more coconut oil if it sticks.
  3. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice or rice vinegar, hot sauce and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. Sprinkle with green scallions before serving.

Winter Vegetable Hash with Poached Egg and Crispy Shallot

2013-01-06 11.06.19 (1)

From what I’ve observed, people in NYC really like brunch. I’ve always been a little ‘meh’ about the meal. There’s often a long wait for a table, you feel rushed the entire meal and to be honest, I’m just not big on drinking mimosas at 1pm.

Yet, the other weekend I found myself at Freemans, a tucked away Colonial cottage-turned-restaurant located in an alley (!) in the Lower East Side. As I caught up with a friend over poached eggs and cheddar grits, I suddenly understood the hype about brunch. Weeknight plans often get in the way of our best intentions for a leisurely dinner. But we can all set aside an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday.

Here’s my take on the veg-heavy hashes popping up at some of the ‘cool kid’ brunch spots. Daytime mimosa optional.

Winter Vegetable Hash with Poached Egg and Crispy Shallot

Serves 1-2

Olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
Handful or two Tuscan (lacinato/dinosaur) kale, ribbed removed and thinly sliced
3-4 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tsp (eyeball) fresh thyme leaves (or another herb, like rosemary)
Pinch smoked paprika (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Eggs
White vinegar

  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add shallot and cook until lightly golden brown and crisp (be careful not to burn!) Remove crispy shallots (leaving oil in the pan) and transfer to a paper towel to drain.
  3. Add kale and brussels sprouts to the skillet and saute about 5 minutes, until kale is tender and Brussels are a bit crisp. Add thyme, paprika and salt & pepper to taste. Set aside while you prep the eggs.
  4. Use this method to poach your eggs. It’s the best way I’ve found for beginners (or anyone, for that matter).
  5. Rewarm kale mixture. Serve eggs on top of veggies with the reserved crispy shallot.