Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Truth About Stovetop Grill Pans - Grilled Veggies with Herb Balsamic Vinaigrette

  The truth about stovetop grill pans is...they're awesome. For anyone who loves to spend time in their kitchen, its a must. Its not just that the heavy pans themselves are kinda beautiful - I find they look fantastic on a stovetop - they've also got so much personality for a cooking aparatus, always begging to be used. Although yesterday was the official inauguration of my new cherry Le Creuset square grill pan, I imagine we will have a very long and happy life together. I see things like grilled garliky tempeh or tofu, mushroom and roasted tomato bruschetta and Tex-Mex fajitas in our future.
  It's certainly a creative practice and process running a veg-ified kitchen when both your dog and husband are omnivorous.  But it just happens to be a bonus that they are both very easy to please...
  Last night for dinner we shared a platter of every possible grilled veggie I had on hand with a roasted red pepper and onion bulgur wheat pilaf [inspired by Itamar's Bulgur Pilaf from Ottolenghis' Plenty]. About 2 minutes into the meal, my old man exclaimed "you know babe, it almost feels like I'm having a steak alongside these veggies and bulgur." Now it's certainly that charred, backyard-BBQ-poolside kinda tastebud feeling he had that prompted such a comment, but I'll take it..."To your health, babe," I replied.
  So, lets be honest...grilled veggies definitely need some jazz and zing to amp up the intrinsic flavors of the vegetables themselves, which can be bland in vegetables like eggplant and zucchini. So for this recipe, I put together a Herb Balsamic vinaigrette to drizzle on top of the warm veggies, each of which have different grilling times - so the veggies need to be grilled in batches:

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1.5 tbsp, chopped rosemary
1.5 tbsp, chopped italian parsley
1.5 tbsp, chopped fresh basil
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
4 tbsp. olive oil
Salt + Pepper to taste

Whisk olive oil with the other ingredients and set aside.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow Day Stuffed Acorn Squash

I'm just not one of those New Yorkers who enjoys the snow...even from indoors. Its beautiful, agreed. And don't get me wrong, that pristine few inches that just perch on the branches outside the window or on the ledge of the balcony, the flakes that accumulate on our dachshunds' long snout and tail on a quiet snowy walk...there's something fulfilling and elegant about it. But that Robert Frost warm n' fuzzy feeling inside doesn't really happen for me. Unless...I am behind my kitchen counter, over the stove, on top of the cutting board and in front of the oven...

Growing up, acorn squash was normally relegated to late fall/early winter during the autumnal holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving; when my mother invites family and friends for a Moroccan Feast - une fete marocaine - the aperitifs of oil cured black olives and fried ful (fava beans) greet the the dinner table the first course of harira, a traditional tomato-based soup of chickpeas, onions, cilantro, and saffron is served with warm bread or egg-less challah...the soup is always followed by a spread of the classic salads: carrot, beet, aubergine, and swiss chard and then of course the piece de resistance: an enormous platter of twice-steamed couscous tossed with crispy sweet onions is adorned by sliced, cinnamon-roasted acorn squash and sweet potatoes and served alongside crispy cayenne baked chickpeas and shallots. Eventually, everyone retreats to the living room for nana tea (fresh mint and gunpowder tea sweetened with sugar) served in my great grandmothers' original tea glasses from Meknes (the kind that ABC carpet knocks off and charges an arm and a leg for). 
With all that being said, this post is not a throwback to the food of my childhood that is so heavily influenced and fueled by my families' Moroccan origin...

Enter Roasted & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Although this acorn squash recipe has almost nothing to do with a moroccan feast, it is quite festive and a lovely winter dish. Depending on the size of the squash one could be enough for a cozy dinner for two. Served alongside a bitter greens salad just hits the spot. 

What you'll need:

1 medium acorn squash - halved and seeded 
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

For stuffing:

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice [1 cup brown rice boiled toasted with olive oil and a few saffron threads and then boiled with 2 cups of [homemade] vegetable broth for 35-40minutes]
12-14 cremini or button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 trimmed leek, sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, removed from stem
a few tablespoons of olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper\
nutritional yeast, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle the olive oil on the acorn squash and season with salt and pepper. 
Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and cover with foil.
Bake for 40 minutes until crispy and the flesh softened.

In a large pan, heat olive oil and add onions. Once the onions become fragrant add the thyme, leeks and mushrooms. Allow for the mushrooms to break down a bit and release some liquid, about 5 minutes and then add garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to stir until all the ingredients have become incorporated and cooked down, about 8-10 minutes. Add prepared brown rice and stir to mix. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Remove squash from the oven and turn on the broiler. Carefully scoop out 2-3 tablespoons of flesh from each half and stir into the mushroom rice mixture. Again, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. 

Divide the rice mixture among the squash halves and don't be afraid to pile it in (the stuffing with keep its mound shape) and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

Broil until crispy and mmmm! enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cabbage Palm Cakes New Year Comeback

So...I am fully aware that it has been almost a YEAR since my last post. The truth is, I have no idea how this happened. 2013 was a great year. A full year. Lots of teaching and practicing yoga, plenty of travel; my little family moved out to Long Island City and planted a small herb garden on the balcony [basil, mint, oregano, rosemary]; we spent many afternoons and weekends down by the river at the dog run [where the Pepsi Cola sign lives]; the new ceramic mandolin and stainless steel slow cooker have both inexpressively influenced the culinary happenings of my warm lovely kitchen; I've fallen deeply in love with gastronomy goddesses like Ina and Martha (i mean, how great are they?), and vegan-izing their farm-to-table, simple-is-better, less-is-more East Hamptonesque style...(a nod to my talented and beautiful friend Chef Alexa Weitzman - And I must mention, thanks to the Weitzmans', we made it to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for our anniversary. There are no words.
And London-based Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, although on the other side of the spectrum and the world for that matter, has also very much inspired me - warm zesty tangy spicy hearty tart sweet piquant pungent smokey clean Mediterranean food. Reminds me of family's roots being in North Africa and Israel.
And all the while, I've been cooking, instagram-ing and not blogging. Well, here's to a new years resolution in action: more blog posts, many many more posts...
cabbage palm cakes served with sriracha veganaise sauce, bitter greens and cashew pesto penne
bottom right, homemade babaganoush - recipe to come!

Cabbage Palm Cakes

Hearts of palm are the edible inner part of the stem of the cabbage palm tree...their flavor is a cross between an artichoke and asparagus yet they have this miraculous texture similar to lump crab meat and they are common in central American cuisine.

What you'll need:

1 [glass] jar of hearts of palm
1.5 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1-2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup frozen organic roasted corn kernels
1/2 roasted red, yellow or green pepper [prepared pepper from a jar works too], minced and squeezed of liquid

1/2 cup of corn flour
canola oil for pan frying

Pulse the hearts of palm just a couple of times so they break up and resemble lump crab.
Toss with Old Bar, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Add the dill, panko, scallions, corn, red pepper and dijon.
Cover and let set in fridge for at least an hour.
After an hour, remove mixture and form into little cake patties and place on a cutting board...larger or smaller...this part is personal.
Cover and put back into the fridge for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place the corn flour on a rimmed plate and heat your oil in a cast iron pan, preferably.
Coat each cake with the corn oil and pan fry 2-3minutes on each side.

Garnish with chives and serve with lemon or lime quarters, cholua or sriracha...Enjoy!