Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

 

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Fair warning: this post brought to you by “Blogging and hunger don’t go well together”. Welp, unfortunately that’s the only time I’m ever blogging, as trial runs and free mornings with unlimited light aren’t really part of my vocabulary right now.

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Oh well. Don’t look at the pictures, consider this instead: Super healthy! Vegan! Gluten free! And somehow… really really tasty. Like wolf down 4 in a row without coming up for air. Daniel attacked them it like it was a plate of cheeseburgers (remember, vegan, gluten free!)! After your first bite you’ll glance down at the rest of the pan and wonder if you can polish it off without judgement and then realize YES! I CAN! Vegan! Gluten free! Really really tasty!

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The impetus for this recipe was a) the spaghetti squash I totally impulse-bought last week (why oh why can’t I have normal impulse buys like fancy cheese or chocolate??) and b) the influx of lettuce from our CSA(!!!). I love cooking me up some greens and eating them with toast and eggs for breakfast, with rice and beans for lunch, and mixed with pasta for dinner, but lettuce is another beast altogether. Lettuce-based salads just don’t give me the same amount of joy (*usually). Hence, lettuce wraps. Yum. The filling can be flexible, but this had the perfect texture and umami combination, so deviate at your own risk. This is a bit spicy, but goes so well with the sweet chili sauce! (I have this one and it’s great for marinating or stir-fry!)

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one year ago: …crickets…
two years ago: 
roasted beets and their greens with yogurt and simple rhubarb cake AND tofu banh mi

Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

a swanky original

1 spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra for drizzling
½ an onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, some seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
5 white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ red pepper, in thin strips
3 oz baked teriyaki tofu, in matchsticks
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Half a lime
Lettuce leaves of choice (I used romaine and it was tasty but messy!)
s&p
Cilantro, lightly chopped
Peanuts, lightly chopped
Sweet chili dipping sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, drizzle with olive oil and s&p, and place cut-side down on roasting pan. Roast for 35-45 minutes. When done, scrape squash with a fork to create noodle-like squash segments.

Meanwhile, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add garlic, serrano chile, and ginger. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, peppers, s&p and cook for 3 more minutes. Add tofu and squash strands and cook for another 2 minutes. Add sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and big spritz of lime juice.

Wash lettuce leaves well. Spoon squash-tofu-mushroom filling into leaves, and top with cilantro and peanuts. Dip into sweet chili sauce (or make a fancy-shmancy sauce on your own.)

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Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

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In the past month I’ve done more writing than I have in years. Since college, or maybe even before. When I press CMD+N, my 16th Word document opens and I’m reminded how much I am stressing out my computer (sorry!). Each of these 16 documents have headings like “Lidia interview” or “Stu monologue” or “the underwear scene”.

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These pieces of writing are all based on stories and interviews I’ve conducted at two different Upper West Side senior centers over the past three months, and are leading to two original plays, which both happen to be about New York City. The seniors are grateful we are listening to their stories and crafting these scenes of their lives, but I also am so excited and grateful that I’m actually getting paid to listen, to learn, to create, to encourage. I’ve heard handfuls of stories about coming to America, old and new traditions, standing up to sexism, the importance of family, and the most adorable love stories. It’s fun to write scenes in each individual’s voice (although that’s a whole lot harder in Spanish!), have them read them, and make edits and suggestions. A truly collaborative process. (Until it’s not fun anymore, like when they keep changing the details of a story, or insist you put in that one line that doesn’t move the story along and is actually quite confusing…)

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These words come easily enough to me, as I feel I am just a mouthpiece through which others can see their experiences. Harder, sometimes, to write as meaningfully about the stuff I consume. I mean, eating happens multiple times a day, how often do you get to write scenes about a marriage proposal over a slice of pizza or about finding worms while shelling peas in Panama?? Here we go — this eggplant was bonkers good. Delicious, nutritious, and super easy. Filling, leftoverable, good warm or cold! Adjectives! I got this! Sorry about the super long title! (but you were intrigued, right? Adjectives!)

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one year ago: tatsoi and tofu stir-fry with soba noodles and kale caesar salad
two!! years ago: rhubarb, chickpea, and spinach stew with cilantro-lemon yogurt sauce (guess it’s a yogurt sauce time of year!)

Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

adapted from food network 

1 big eggplant, in bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, in bite-sized pieces
2 shallots, unpeeled
5-8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Generous ¼ cup olive oil + extra to drizzle
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup dill, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Big drizzle pomegranate molasses (optional)
½ cup cilantro leaves
s&p

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On 1 big or 2 smaller roasting sheets, mix together eggplant, peppers, shallots, and garlic cloves. Toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with s&p. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring once, until the vegetables are browned and tender, and the shallots and garlic are soft and smooshy. (#technicalterm) Once they’ve cooled a bit, peel shallots and slice into thin rings.

Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. This should take about 3 minutes. Set aside. To make dressing, mix together Greek yogurt, chopped dill, a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses, if using. Smoosh roasted garlic cloves into the yogurt dressing.

In a big bowl, combine eggplant, pepper, shallot rings, most of the pine nuts, and cilantro leaves. Mix in yogurt dressing. Sprinkle remaining pine nuts on individual portions. I recommend serving with couscous for the full deconstructed stuffed eggplant dealio.

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Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

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Let’s go on a little cause-and-effect journey here. I went to Guatemala last fall to feel confident enough with my Spanish so I could lead theater classes in Spanish. (PS Guatemalan food here and here!)

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I got my current job teaching theater at senior centers because someone decided I knew what I was doing in Spanish, never having heard me speak, at least enough to facilitate theater-related conversations. (They weren’t wrong, but that was a pretty lucky leap of faith on both of our parts.)

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And so this is how I’ve come to spend the last couple Fridays at a mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican senior center, listening to salsa music and getting down with the seniors. Who all think I look like their 17-year-old granddaughters. Ay dios mio.

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And this is how I get pretty tired on Friday evenings, and end up wanting easy and filling dinners made of stuff I already have in my fridge. Especially when they combine into something more than the sum of their parts, creating an exciting and uber-fresh quick spring meal. This want is true of pretty much every week night, but it, uh, leads pretty nicely into my fabricated segway, which is…

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…and so going to Guatemala last November is basically responsible for this recipe.

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…obviously. 🙂 Rice noodles bulk up everyone’s favorite salad dressing recipe, you know, the ubiquitous orange carrot-ginger situation that always causes a serious headache, cause HOW DO YOU CHOOSE between it and miso soup??! Let’s be honest, you could dip literally anything in your fridge into this dressing and be happy about it. Even radishes. Blech, I so dislike radishes. Thanks, Guatemala! 

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Served with this awesome hot&sour soup for a better-than-takeout feast!

one year ago: black bean, mango, and corn salad-alsa

Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Dressing adapted from pure wow

For salad
4 oz rice noodles
Toasted sesame oil
2 cups lettuce, shredded (I’ve used iceberg and green leaf)
½ a cucumber, thinly sliced (or mandolined)
1 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
Handful cilantro leaves

Dressing
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ of an onion, roughly chopped
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
¾ cup neutral oil (like vegetable or canola)
Salt

Dressing

In a food processor, pulse carrots, ginger, and onion until they become tiny, uniform pieces. Add sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, and a dash of salt and process until smooth. Taste to see if you need more salt. Set aside. Dressing will last at least a week in the fridge, and likely longer.

Salad

Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and toss with toasted sesame oil to keep noodles from sticking to each other.

Using tongs, mix together noodles, shredded lettuce, and a 3-4 big spoonfuls of dressing in a big bowl. Top with cucumber and tomato slices, cilantro leaves, and extra dollops of dressing.

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Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

wpid598-DimurJhol-21.jpgwpid594-DimurJhol-19.jpgThis meal came about, as some of the best ones do, by a neutral reminiscence about an ex. Unfortunately for Daniel, my vegetarian Jewish New England upbringing does not hold a candle cuisine-wise to a particular carnivorous Bengali, shall we say, companion of the past.

But tradition, schtradition, I say (or, as my fiddling ancestors say, tradition, TRADITION!)! This lady can make dimer jhol as well as the next Brooklyn transplant!

And away we went!

wpid558-DimurJhol-1.jpgwpid562-DimurJhol-3.jpgIt turned out…good. Delicious, even! Sneak-out-of-the-fridge before breakfast delicious! Tasty enough to share with you, vast blog readership, and to implore you to attempt!

wpid566-DimurJhol-5.jpgwpid588-DimurJhol-16.jpgwpid582-DimurJhol-13.jpgBut, alas, it wasn’t the egg curry of his past. Wrong consistency, slightly different flavors, not as spicy. I’ll blame the peppers but I won’t be defeated! To a future of delicious and inauthentic egg curries! Hurrah!

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Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

from Foodolicious Pictured

canola oil
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 medium potatoes, cut into big chunks
½ an eggplant, cut into big chunks (an unnecessary but delicious and addition)
1 onion, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 green cardamom pods
¼ t whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 inches cinnamon stick
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tomatoes, food processed to a paste
1 t chili powder
½ t cumin powder
¼ t turmeric powder
cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat ½-inch of canola oil in a medium pot. Fry potatoes for about 15 minutes, until beginning to turn golden but not totally cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider onto paper towels. Add eggplant to oil and fry for about 6 minutes. Remove to paper towels. Cut slits on hard boiled eggs and fry for 5ish minutes, until blistered all over and turning colors. Remove to paper towels.

Meanwhile, saute onion in a big pot for 7-8 minutes on medium low heat. When slightly browned, take off heat. Put in food processor with garlic and ginger. Process until it forms a smooth paste.

Then, heat 2 t oil in that same big pot over medium high heat and add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Toast for about 30 seconds. When fragrant, add the chopped jalapeno and onion/garlic/ginger paste from blender. Cook for about a minute, then add tomato puree. Cook for 3 minutes, or until oil starts to separate.

Next, add chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. Stir to coat. Add 1 cup of water, a healthy sprinkle of salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and garam masala. Turn heat to low, and cook for 10-12 minutes more. Top with cilantro and serve with rice (this recipe was amazing!).

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BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos + Upscale Bar Food Dinner Party

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Imagine: You invite two friends over for dinner. You may have previously bragged a bit about how much you love cooking and recipe planning etc. You chat about blogs, Bon Appetite, restaurants, food trends. You promise to go all out.

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Flash forward to two weeks later, the morning of said pre-planned dinner. You have some frozen corn in the freezer from last week’s CSA. That’s it. You realize that you have roughly nine hours to create a beautiful and memorable meal. You have a minor freak out.

But then coffee was consumed and magazines and blogs were consulted. And so a theme was deliberated over: Bar food? No, Mediterranean. No, fancy bar food. Bourgeois bar food! The barista thinks its a good idea.

Commence brainstorming: some sort of soup, but on toast? something like dip, but in salad form? how much fried stuff is too much? do we need dessert?

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And so, four grocery stores, one bike ride, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, and many hours later, this is what we came up with.

“Spinach Artichoke Dip” Salad

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not pictured: a very healthy dose of parmesan and feta, and lots of lemony vinaigrette

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” 

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Daniel says, “yeah those tasted great but dang were they ugly. I’m not taking no pictures.” And I said “oh okay YOU=CAULIFLOWER.” And its my blog so here’s his picture.

Sesame-Soy (actual) wings

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“Stuffed jalapeno” individual polenta cakes (leftovers amazing with scrambled eggs!)

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a healthy dose of bacon to please the carnivores

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chip nachos, vegetarian and meaty versions

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With beer and whisky. No need for dessert.

We mostly just followed other recipes, tweaking as we went. But, in honor of the blog name, here’s the recipe for those awesome nachos.

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Vegetarian (or not) BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos

adapted from the Food Network

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices with a mandoline
vegetable oil for frying
¼ c salt
⅛ c ground pepper
⅛ c garlic powder
healthy dash cayenne
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, one diced and two cut into thin rounds
1 T tomato paste
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb ground beef, optional
2 cups shredded cheese; we did half smoked gouda and half monterey jack
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped, optional
sour cream to serve, optional

Make sweet potato chips:

First make seasoning mixture by combining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. (Keep in mind this makes a ton! Keep leftovers for future chip batches.) Break out a large heavy pot (5 quart if you have it), fill it up to roughly ⅓ with vegetable oil (I’d say about 4 inches depth. You’re going to use a lot of oil here), and heat it until it reaches about 360º (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer). Place enough sliced sweet potatoes in to create a fairly dense surface layer and start actively patting them down under the oil with a slotted spatula. The temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, but if it stays above 180º you’ll be fine. Keep stirring and turning and drowning for 5 to 7 minutes, and just when you start seeing the hearts of your sweet potato chips going brown, start removing them and place them on a thick bed of paper towels. Sprinkle your seasoning mixture and coat to taste. As soon as the oil temperature reaches 360º, repeat. Once your crispy batch cools enough, toss them into a bowl, but keep the same paper towels on the plate for reuse with all cooked batches. As you repeat this process, more and more of the seasoning will rest on the paper towels, so keep that in mind as you’ll need to coat each new batch a little less. Also, feel free to eat as many of these chips as necessary to “test” that you’re doing it right, as well as to revel in how amazing it is that you’re making chips all by yourself.

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Make BBQ beans/meat:

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and garlic smells wonderful, about 5-6 minutes. Add diced jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the air smells spicy. Add tomato paste, black beans, and s&p. Mix so tomato paste coats everything. Add BBQ sauce and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until mixture thickens and smells amazing. Add extra BBQ sauce if mixture becomes too thick. If you want a non-vegetarian version as well, heat another medium skillet. Add a small splash of oil and add ground beef, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and cooked through. Add half of bean mixture to beef and simmer together for another five minutes or so.

To make nachos:

On a rimmed cookie sheet, or any other large platter, layer sweet potato chips, bean/beef mixture, jalapeno rounds, and cheese. Repeat. Place in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets melty, about 5-7 minutes. Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream and serve while hot!

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Cilantro Quinoa Soup with Spicy Pan Seared Shrimp and Corn

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One summer when I was in college, my sister and I went to Ecuador. Highlights of the trip included an Amazonian tour guide singing “My Heart Will Go On” in Spanish as he rowed the two us back to civilization, playing barefoot volleyball on a deserted stretch of beach and needing to continually run into the sharp “pica pica” plants to fetch the ball, and peeing from a composting toilet in the Andes, where the mountains and fields literally sprawled out from the bathroom’s edge.

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a pee with a view!

The trip was all roses until the last night, when our evil hostel-mate in Quito stole Rachel’s cell phone. After Rachel had continuously berated me the whole trip for misplacing passports, money, cameras, bus tickets, etc. I would like to state for the record that even though my things get disorganized, I don’t lose them. Preach it.

The culinary high point of the trip for me was consuming the world’s most perfect scrambled eggs in a rundown roadside inn outside Papallacta. This is not a knock at the food I ate in Ecuador, it’s just that those eggs were SO GOOD. I would give anything to know the secret (probably minutes-old eggs and more butter than I want to think about.) I also fondly remember dinner from the night we stayed at the hostel connected to the World’s Most Beautiful Bathroom. It was a simple brothy quinoa stew, probably made with vegetables from the yard and quinoa from the neighboring hilly farm patches.

This version is similarly simple and delicious. We used spicy pan-fried shrimp and corn from the cob, but you could easily add stewed chicken, avocado, little potatoes, cotija cheese. Etc.

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Quinoa Cilantro Soup with Corn and Spicy Pan-Seared Shrimp
from palate/palette/plate

olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 box (4 cups) veggie broth
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves (1 big bunch, or 1.5 smaller bunches)
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t ground Ancho chili powder
s&p
1 lime
3 ears of corn
1/2 pound of raw jumbo shrimp (about 10)
1 t dried chili pepper flakes
1 t smoked paprika

In a medium large pot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add onions and garlic and cook on medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and everything smells good, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir constantly for a minute, until the quinoa is incorporated, toasty, and evenly coated. Next add broth, cilantro, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is cooked. Keep an eye on it, and add water or extra broth if too much liquid evaporates.

Meanwhile, cook corn in desired methods. We simply husked the ears and boiled them, and then cut kernels off the cob and it was delicious. Feel free to roast or grill instead.

Five minutes before soup is ready, prepare shrimp. Heat a large pan til it’s super steamy hot. Meanwhile, shell shrimp and rinse. Coat with olive oil, pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Pour into pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until just pink and cooked throughout. (Perhaps a wise idea to disconnect your fire alarm before attempting.)

Before serving, add chili powder, coriander, and juice from a lime. Spoon into bowls and top with extra chopped cilantro, shrimp, and corn!

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SIDENOTE: This is the artichoke we ate as an appetizer. It’s just so darn cute.

Also it was only $1. Somehow, I’ve never made myself artichokes before and had to call my Mom to ask a) how to cook them, and b) her amazing sauce recipe from my childhood. Turns out it’s just mayo + lemon juice. But ya know what tasted great as a 10 year old also tastes great as a 24 year old. Thank goodness.

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LIKE, OMG, DON’T YOU WANT TO EAT THIS?! cooking quinoa ain’t a pretty task but someone’s gotta do it

Sourdough Tofu Banh Mi

This was tonight’s dinner. Tonight’s dinner made me very happy. That is an understatement. Here, look at what I ate! Mega sandwich!

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This is Daniel’s version. It has steak:

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This is our messy prepping:

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This is sorta how we made it:

Pile atop sourdough (or any other bread you love):

  • very thinly sliced carrots (1 or 2) which sat for 20 minutes in 3/4 c white vinegar, 1 T sugar, and half a lime’s juice
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • cilantro
  • grated pickled ginger
  • sriracha mayo: 1/3ish cup mayo with 3 big squirts sriracha and half a lime of juice
  • tofu marinated in splashes of rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, sriracha, lime juice and then lightly pan-fried

or steak. He cooked it on the stove AND the oven. That’s the extent to which I know how to talk about cooking steak.