Friday, July 29, 2011

Black Bean and Cucumber Salad

Black Bean and Cucumber Salad
I don't know how this summer's been for you but, here in New York, it's been hot, hot, hot! Last week there were several days over 100F and, while I know that's mild for some it certainly isn't for us. I'm not terribly heat sensitive but, while our air conditioners made a valiant effort, it was still far too hot in the apartment to cook.

Cucumbers, Peeled, Seeded and Diced
During this heat wave, I found that I was craving different foods than usual. For example, I usually prefer cooked vegetables to raw but cucumbers (a vegetable I usually dislike) actually sounded quite appealing. See, when I'm really warm, I crave foods with a high water content in a constant effort to keep myself hydrated. I also crave spicy foods, probably because they make me drink more. So I started looking for cucumber recipes. I first stumbled upon a Shrimp and Cucumber Salad but that certainly wouldn't feed the vegetarian. And just leaving the out the shrimps would turn it into a side dish.

So then I found a Black Bean Cucumber Salad. That convinced me to use black beans so I went back to my original shrimp idea and was delighted to find Kalyn's Spicy Shrimp and Cucumber Salad with Mint, Lemon, and Cumin. With some substitutions and a little imagination, we were all set. Enjoy!

Black Bean and Cucumber Salad
inspired by SparkRecipes and Kalyn's Kitchen
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Make it a Meal: To celebrate summer and keep the meal light, rather than making a traditional grain, go for
Cucumbers, Corn and Wine
some corn, simmered for 10 minutes (if you can bear to keep the stove on for that long). A great wine we recently discovered is Beach House. Mostly Sauvignon Blanc, it's very easy to drink and perfect for a hot summer's night (and, I'm sure, even nicer if you're lucky enough to be by the beach!). For dessert, chocolate (or vanilla or almond) milk! Bon appetit!

Links to other cucumber salad noshes:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Summer Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup with Phyllo Dumplings
 Like everyone else in the food world, my favorite part of summer (aside from not having to wear a jacket outside) is the produce. Trips to the greenmarket become wonderful discoveries of fresh summer bounty and I have to force myself not to come home with everything I see.

Lately, the vegetarian and I have been traveling a lot so we haven't had time to enjoy the greenmarket as much as we'd like. Our travels took us to Hancock, NY, where we were costarring in a new play that about the founding of Laramie, WY. While this was a lot of fun, culinarily it left something to be desired (aside from an amazing restaurant we discovered on the way home, in Ellenville, NY).

The other thing that's been going on is that, do to some lingering behavioral problems, we had to send Ozzy to boot camp for 2 weeks. Now he's home and we're training him pretty hardcore. It's taxing but, ultimately, will be worth it.

So on our trip to the greenmarket yesterday, we wanted something fresh, non labor-intensive and that we could make into comfort food. There were beautiful baby eggplants at the greenmarket and we picked up several (white and purple). To stick with my theme of miniature produce, I grabbed two pints of cherry tomatoes as well. And, because our basil plant had died while we were away, a bunch of lemon basil came home with us as well.

My favorite way to prepare eggplant is to roast it. This concentrates the flavors without leeching out too much moisture. A quick internet search found a recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Feta. I loved the flavors but wanted something more comforting than a warm salad. A quick cookbook search found me a recipe for Summer Roasted Tomato Soup. I put on my thinking cap, combined both recipes, and -- poof! Summer Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup was born. Enjoy!

Summer Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup
Freshly Pureed Soup
adapted from A Slob in the Kitchen and Green Lite Bites

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss eggplants, tomatoes, olive oil (at least 1 teaspoon), garlic, salt, basil, chickpeas and feta together.on an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast 45 minutes, stirring halfway through and adding more olive oil if eggplant has dried out. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat 1-2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cooking, stirring, 5-10 minutes, until onion has turned translucent. Add roasted mixture and stock. Cover, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Remove cover, lower heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Season with additional salt and, if desired, black pepper, to taste. Serve warm.

Phyllo, hot out of the oven
Make it a Meal: While you can serve this as an appetizer in a multi-course meal, it is also heavy enough to be a wonderful main dish. While everything roasts, make some phyllo dumplings (a wonderful stand-in for croutons) by wrapping basil and/or feta cheese in phyllo packages. While soup cooks, bake phyllo 15 minutes in a 375 F oven. Serve in soup or alongside. To drink, I'd recommend a rose, specifically a 2010 Biohof Pratsch. A sauvignon blanc would be nice as well. And for dessert? Pomegranate seeds. Bon appetit! 

Leftovers: Make a pound of pasta and pour over as much soup as you want instead of a prepared sauce. Yum!

Links to other roasted eggplant noshes:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Falafel and Baba Ghanoush

Pita with Falafel and Baba Ghanoush

How often do you cook dinner? Lately I've been finding cooking an entire meal more and more daunting. It's summer and far too nice out to spend unnecessary amounts of time in the kitchen. I also don't have the time to put extra energy into meal planning these days. And never mind trying to make more than one meal if I want non-vegetarian fare. However, much as I'd often like to, we can't have pasta every night!

So I've started, slowly, moving out of my comfort zone and explore foods from other cultures -- cultures that are naturally more bent towards vegetarian-friendly foods than Jewish and French cuisines (where the majority of my cooking experience lies). My first stop on this voyage is Middle Eastern, a cuisine the vegetarian and I frequently indulge in when eating out but, other than a few examples, one I never cook at home. But no more!

Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Onions 
First up was falafel, a ball or patty traditionally made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. We opted for chickpeas and, rather than relying on various hot sauces for flavoring, we added lots of spices right in with the beans. The flavor was delicious. The texture, unfortunately, left something to be desired. The falafel patties never quite stayed together so we ended up with fried crumbles more than we did patties. Inside a pita, all was soon forgiven. But any suggestions to improve the texture are much appreciated!

Falafel is traditionally served with tahini, a paste of ground sesame seeds, but, always looking for an excuse to sneak extra vegetables into our diet, I took that a step further and served it with baba ghanoush, a spread made of roasted eggplant with tahini. Enjoy! 

adapted from How to Cook Everything and One Perfect Bite

Put chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 24 hours. They will double/triple in volume. Drain the beans well and transfer to a food processor along with all other ingredients through the lemon juice. Pulse until very finely minced but not pureed. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high flame and pour in safflower oil until it coats the pan by at least 2 inches. Heat oil until it flows like water in the pan and a pinch of batter sizzles immediately. Take heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into small patties, using a spoon to shape them as tightly as possible to give them the greatest chance of staying together. Fry in oil, until nicely browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Stuff pita with lettuce, falafel, tomatoes, onion and cucumbers. Drizzle with baba ghanoush. Serve immediately.

Baba Ghanoush
Baba Ghanoush
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and One Perfect Bite
Preheat oven to 425F. Slash eggplant in several places so it won't explode in the
oven. Place on a baking pan and bake 40 minutes. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel off eggplant skin and discard. Squeeze flesh a bit if very watery. Transfer to food processor and puree with rocambole, sesame paste and water. With motor running, drizzle in lemon juice. Add salt. Transfer puree to a bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top and garnish with parsley.

The Whole Spread
Make It a Meal: This is really a meal in itself. I'd recommend it with a rose or sauvignon blanc. Perhaps some yogurt for dessert. Bon appetit!

Leftovers: Make some big couscous and mix in the baba ghanoush and falafel. Yum!

Links to other falafel noshes: