Charred Chipotle Broccoli Tacos

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The Swanky household unfortunately has two extremes for weeknight dinner options. 1) Scour the internet for a perfect recipe, buy every ingredient from the market down the street, and make a big mess in the kitchen. This almost always ends in delicious meals, but isn’t the most practical for everyday eating. The 2) option is, without fail, take-out Thai food.

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I’m very aware I need to incorporate more 1.5s into my life. You know, meals from neither extreme. Dinner you can throw together from whatever is in the fridge, without spending time searching for a recipe or doing a million dishes — ideally, food good enough to encourage others to make too. (And when we get down to it, I have other 1.5s I should incorporate into my life more: just doing yoga on my own without needing to go to a class or following a podcast, or being content to mosey on down the street behind a hand-in-hand couple without internally blasting them for taking up SO MUCH SIDEWALK.)

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I mean, that’s basically why I started this blog in the first place. I needed a space to consolidate recipes, experiments, and ideas from bookmarks on multiple devices, forever-opened tabs on my computer, and recipes torn from magazines. (And, uh, not to rant about slow moving pedestrians.) This is my little online corner of 1.5s and memory joggers and inspiration, regardless of what foodgawker thinks.

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Tacos fill that “1.5” category pretty darn well, and as Daniel craves gringo tacos like his mom made in the ‘80s at least once a month, they make a frequent appearance. He refuses to stray from his beloved ground beef and taco seasoning packet (although the meat this time was locally raised and purchased at the farmers market – small win?). I’ve become pretty good at the art of the non-meat taco. This chipotle broccoli is one of my favorite fillings, with a smoky spicy kicky punch. Also it’s dummy-proof easy: a cutting board, one roasting pan, and 20 minutes later, you’ve got yourself seriously delicious homemade dinner (and don’t have to bat an eyelash over the embarrassing amount of plastic take-out dishes in your recycling this week).

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other swanky veggie tacos: roasted sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and grilled pineapple and baked bean tacos

Charred Chipotle Broccoli Tacos

a swanky original
Serves two (or one dinner and adequate leftovers*)

For the filling:
1 head broccoli
2 small sweet yellow or red peppers, sliced into rings (or 1/2 a red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into bite sized pieces)
1 scallion, finely sliced
2 chiles in adobo (from a can*)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice from half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
s&p

Non-negotiables:
Tortillas (I prefer flour but your call)
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes

Optional Toppings:
Cilantro
Lime
Sliced black olives
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sour cream
Salsa or hot sauce
Avocado (if that’s your kinda thang)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prep broccoli: Cut florets into bite-sized pieces. Peel the stalk to remove toughest part. Cut stalk into thin slices.

Make filling: Combine all ingredients on roasting tray and mix well. Roast for 18 minutes, stirring once, until florets are charred and stalks are tender. Let cool a bit.

Prepare tortillas by placing them directly on the open flame of a gas burner, about 5 seconds per side. (Or char in a hot dry pan.) Pile on broccoli, cheese, tomatoes, and whatever else your heart desires. Serve with rice and beans.

*two notes:

  • If you want to mix it up the next day, the filling was pretty dreamy stir-fried with leftover quinoa and spicy BBQ sauce, with a fried egg on top.
  • I love chiles in adobo sauce. They’re smoky and spicy and add a burst of flavor to just about anything. Once you open a jar, you can keep the rest in a sealed container in the fridge for a very long time and use one pepper at a time as necessary.
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Daniel’s Plate Number 1 (of, uh, 3?). Boy likes his tacos. 

Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

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This post sort of reminds me of those Italian cookies, “brutti ma buoni,” which translates to “ugly but good”. Not like I’ve ever tasted them, as they’re made entirely of ground nuts, but I’ve always liked saying the name to myself when my photography sloppily gets sacrificed and yet I still want to share a recipe. At the end of the day, you’re eating food, not gazing at it, right? And if those foodie Italians can do it, perche non io? (Also, these potatoes themselves are not brutti, it’s just my impatience with a camera makes them appear such. We’re not discussing split pea soup or anything today.)

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True story: We ate these sweet potatoes standing up at our countertop in roughly 2 minutes. We had tickets for a show starting at 7:30; the sweet potatoes came out of the oven at probably 7:20. Luckily, the theater is literally two blocks from our house. We threw all the toppings on, poured on excessive amounts of tahini sauce, took some harried pictures which mostly turned out blurry, and quite literally stuffed these in our faces. We arrived at 7:29, a bit breathless and with tickets extended to prove yes we did indeed belong here too. Despite the totally full house, they hadn’t given our seats away yet. Whew.

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Some words to the wise: a) put your sweet potatoes in the oven at least an hour before you want to eat, and b) when buying tickets online months in advance, it’s always a good idea to double check what time it actually starts sometime during said day. Also c) don’t expect to take beautiful photos when you have approximately 9 minutes to assemble food, document food, consume said food, and sprint two blocks.

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So although I suggest you sit down and enjoy these lovely, healthy taters&toppings as a proper meal, they can be consumed quite quickly, if that’s what is necessary. I make (and adore) each element of this recipe separately; it was only a matter of time before they all got combined into the perfect mouthful. Er, series of mouthfuls, if you have the time. #dontbelikeme. #bruttimabuoni:sweetpotatoedition

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one year ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza and tomatoes << one of my most-read posts!

Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

a swanky original
Serves 3

3 sweet potatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed well, and dried off
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
some drizzles olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 big clove garlic, minced
2 cups kale, rinsed and in bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini
juice from half a lemon
parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt

Additional optional toppings: za’atar, hot sauce, Greek yogurt, pomegranate seeds

Sweet Potatoes: Preheat oven to 400F. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place directly on oven rack. Bake until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size. Let cool slightly.

Chickpeas: On a rimmed baking tray, toss chickpeas with cumin, smoked paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Add to oven when there’s about 20 minutes left on the sweet potatoes. Chickpeas will be brown and satisfyingly crunchy when done.

Kale: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a big sauté pan. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add kale, a pinch of salt, and white wine vinegar. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until kale has turned bright green and wilted a bit. Remove from heat.

Tahini Sauce: Combine tahini, 2 tablespoons water, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt. Mix until smooth.

To serve, cut sweet potatoes in half. Mash the flesh a bit. Spoon on kale, chickpeas, and tahini sauce. Top with parsley and any additional toppings as desired.

 

As “brutti” as it gets: #UglyFoodPics

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Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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It’s always the small things you miss most when traveling. Mealtime independence (and people always respond “poor you, having to eat out three times a day”. But REALLY people, I like scrambling my own eggs and eating cold leftovers for breakfast sometimes!). Having reliable wifi in the bathroom so I can check Facebook while…brushing my teeth. Being able to flush toilet paper directly down the pipes instead of depositing it in the trashcan next to you. Cheese.

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I came home craving every trendy healthy thing in New York, aka things in bowls. Healthy grain bowls, veggie soup bowls, fruit-adorned breakfasts in bowls, tahini-y mushy eggplant in a bowl, lots of brown rice and Asian flavors and roasted veggies and toasted seeds and crunchy raw vegetables and pickled things, preferably in bowls. I am a walking stereotype of instagrammable food culture. #sorrynotsorry.

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Since my NYC return, I’ve met up with many friends who have greeted me with, “Looks like you ate so well on your trip!” I look at them, confused, wondering where they gleaned this information. Because, yes, I literally don’t know how to Not eat well (and by well right now I really just mean plentifully), but I wouldn’t say my time in Guatemala was the epitome of this. They respond that my Instagram food pictures looked amazing (which I just attribute to the beautiful woven tablecloths that adorned every table), what great vegetarian options there were, etc. What they don’t know is that Every Meal I Didn’t Post on Instagram consisted of corn tortillas, overscrambled eggs, mayo-y boiled vegetables, and bean mush. Hence my excitement in returning to the world of Extreme Bowl Culture.

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And hence this very simple lunch I’ve been dreaming about since approximately one week into my trip, or you know, since before Thanksgiving. This meal riffs on a snack I used to assemble for lunch during long shifts at Bakeri, comprised of easy ingredients we always had prepped. I bought my kasha at a Polish deli for very cheap, but I’m sure you can find it in the bulk section at any health store. Kasha is a fancy name for toasted buckwheat, which it’s a bit nuttier than the untoasted variety. Kasha is brown; if it hasn’t been toasted yet it will be green. You can assemble everything beforehand; the salad is just as good warm as it is at room temp. Feel free to add parmesan or feta to de-veganize this. A handful of baby salad greens would also be a nice addition.

one year ago: hot honey pizza with roasted broccoli and red onion and bengali egg curry 

Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

a Swanky original
serves 1 hungry person at lunch

scant 1 c kasha, uncooked (this will make more than you need; cooked kasha keeps well when covered in the fridge)
2 cups water
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3ish tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 onion, sliced thin
handful of kalamata olives
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
hot sauce if you’re feeling it
s&p

To make buckwheat: Bring water to a boil. Add kasha. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Strain.

To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes on a baking pan and cover with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, plus s&p. Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. Tomatoes will be crinkly, puckered, juicy, and blistered when done. Mmm.

To “caramelize” onion: I am no expert on this, as I always get impatient and try to turn up the heat. But do as I say, not as I do: Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook on medium-low at the highest, stirring occasionally, for EVER, or until tender and sweet. Or don’t, turn the heat up, and embrace the charred onion bits, just like me. 🙂

To assemble: Mix together about ½ cup cooked kasha (or more) (or less), cooked tomatoes, caramelized onions, and olives in a BOWL (or a platter first cause it’s pretty). Mix together about 1 tablespoon olive oil and the balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad. Add hot sauce if you want a kick. Commence eating.

 

Guatemalan Rellenitos de Plátano

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…aka mashed plantains stuffed with slightly sweetened black bean paste, deep fried until caramelized and satisfyingly crunchy. The jury is out on when you’re supposed to eat this delicacy–I was served it at dinner with scrambled eggs and black beans, but felt it may be more appropriate for dessert.

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For those of you who have, in a passing moment, considered the swanky sweet potato and contemplated the absence of recipes lately, I supposed it’s only polite to let you know — I’m in Guatemala! Two months sans kitchen, reliable internet, or good showers. (My apologies if the third part is of no importance to you.) I’ll have five weeks of intensive Spanish lessons and living in a home with an incredibly lovely family but where I’m not exactly welcomed in the kitchen. As decadent as it is to be given three meals a day without needing to wash a single dish, I miss autonomy. I love mornings experimenting with the perfect scrambled eggs, or daydreaming about what to make for dinner during the late afternoon stretch. I miss being inspired by whatever appears in my CSA, at the farmers’ market, or perusing my favorite blogs for ideas. It’s a funny feeling never knowing what to expect at a meal — when is the last time you had so little say in what you ate? For me, it was probably early high school at summer camp. Strange. (Don’t get me wrong, dear reader, I am Loving my time here! Every day presents a new aspect of the regional culture or the immense natural beauty or the fraught political atmosphere. My Spanish gets stronger daily, and I’m meeting curious new minds, both local and the traveler-variety.)

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However when the opportunity presented itself to take a cooking class last Friday, I jumped at the chance! Turns out “cooking class” was a subtle ploy to have students help make the traditional dinner we were to be served that night at the weekly graduation festivities, but I jumped on board just the same. The above-mentioned rellenitos were a great hands-on, tactile project. I definitely recommend making these with kids—you treat the plantains like play-do! All four of us attending the “class” certainly took some frustrations out on these fried pillows of plantain-goodness. There isn’t much of a recipe for these love bundles, so feel free to adapt as you see fit. Please forgive this bare bones recipes. It is not sophisticated (and in fact I use the word “mush”), but it combines two important Guatemalan staples and is worth the effort.

 

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The first batch of the little buggers… this is me patiently waiting the requisite minute so I don’t completely burn my face off.

Note: Guatemalans are super into pre-cooked refried black beans. You can get them at every grocery store and cornerside tienda in an astonishing variety of package shapes and cooking-methods (boil in a bag! microwave! grill!). The consistency is very paste-like — I believe the beans have already been cooked with spices and oil and then blended. I’d try this recipe with refried beans out of a can, or make your own bean mush with a some cooked black beans, savory spices, and a blender. You don’t need so much for the recipe though, so make sure you choose something where you can use the leftovers.

Additional Note: In the spirit of “seize the day” and trying to soak in my Guatemalan environment, these photos are unedited and straight from my phone. Apologies to anyone who may be offended by this.

Just a smattering of the pre-cooked bean options available at your local Guatemalan supermarket… Mmm mmm, look at those silky black beauties.

one year ago: honey and cinnamon apples, cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli, and Indian-spiced cabbage and onions

Rellenitos de Plátano

as remembered from my PLQ cooking class

medium-ripe plantains (no black spots but not green)
black bean mush of choice (see note)
ground cinnamon
sugar
flour to coat
oil to fry
powdered sugar (optional)

Peel plantains and boil in a big vat of water. When they’re very soft, scoop out with a slotted spoon onto plates. Use forks to mash the plantains into a paste like consistency. Set aside.

Place bean mush in a bowl. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste. You want a slightly sweet final product, not an approximation of Asian-style red bean paste. For the giant vat of plantains we used, we probably added about 1 t cinnamon and a bit more sugar. Taste as you go.

Take a small handful of plantain “dough” and flatten it into a patty or pancake a bit bigger than the palm of your hand. The patty should be about a centimeter thick, maybe a bit less. Scoop 1/2 tablespoon or so of bean mixture into the center of plantain patty. Fold sides up and around bean paste and fold ends in, forming a cylinder-esque bundle about two inches long. Coat generously in flour by rolling on a plate with a shallow layer of flour and using your hands to pat it gently in. Wash your hands throughout the process as necessary.

In a deep frying pan, bring about a half-inch of oil to a simmer. Gently add rellenitos and fry until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan. I would try about 10 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. I ate these as part of a dinner, but if you want them for dessert, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

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From yesterday’s hike up Volcan Santa Maria. We started climbing in the dark at 1 am and made it to the top (above the clouds!) for a chilly and incredible sunrise.

 

Butternut and Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos with Pepita Crema

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Every morning Daniel asks the same questions — “How’d you sleep?”, followed by “any dreams?” If I say yes, the next question is “exciting dreams or Ilanna dreams?”

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“Ilanna dreams” meaning those completely mundane dreams you confuse with real life upon waking up — “Oh I got three emails from my college lab partner about throwing a party for…wait…that was a dream.” or “I went to our usual coffee place but the waitress from the Thai place was the barist…. hm, nope, dream.” They’re always Really boring. I feel like I’ve failed my creative theater brethren with my dreamlife.

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The night after I made these peppers, I had the most vivid dreams I’ve had in months. One involved me walking around a pool in an Aladdin-esque Saudi Arabia in a bikini while everyone around me was fully covered. It felt like the set of Mad Men, complete with 60s music and the surreal sensation that no one was paying attention to me but everyone was surreptitiously following my every move. There may have been a green screen involved? After my lap around the pool I was given an ice cold lemonade and pile of skirts and scarves by my friend Nina and her boyfriend, who were very concerned for my modesty.

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I also dreamt my intern lived in a lavish Victorian mansion with high ceilings near Washington Square, and overnight crafted gigantic wings to be worn in the Halloween parade. Which is sorta what she’s supposed to be doing right now honestly, but in the dream everything was bigger and glitzier and momentous. And I doubt her dorm room resembles a mansion. ….but now that I’m writing this down it sounds quite dull. A true Ilanna dream after all. Damn, thought I had reached new dreamheights.

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Someone should try these peppers and let me know if the dreams (fine, one dream) were (was?) a fluke. Also because this pepita crema is so creamy, despite not having any actual cream! That alone is worth a try. And don’t overlook that these peppers contain all my favorite parts of bastardized Mexican food (see also: gringa-Yankee-vegetarian tacos): spice, cheese, roasted orange vegetables, etc. Mmm.

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one year ago: sweet sesame cauliflower, snow pea, and kale salad 

Butternut and Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos with Pepita Crema

adapted from simply healthy family and the bojon gourmet

Don’t want to make pepita crema? a) you’re crazy but b) try instead with a hot-ish sauce like my new favorite or perhaps whip up a batch of tomatillo peach salsa 

4 poblano peppers (or 3 poblanos and 1 normal green pepper if your CSA provided an odd number…)
½ T olive oil
½ an onion, diced
1 heaping cup butternut squash, in small cubes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup cooked quinoa
1 T creamy goat cheese
1 c Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded
cilantro, roughly chopped
pepita crema** (recipe below)
**to make crema, you must soak your pepitas in advance! Anywhere from 4-12 hours. Do it in the morning when you want to make this for dinner!

Turn on your broiler as high as it will go. Place poblanos in a cast iron skillet and stick under broiler. Roast for 8 minutes. Take them out of the oven and carefully flip peppers over with tongs. Roast them for another 8 minutes. At this point, skin should be slightly blackened and puckering. Stick back under broiler if more time is needed, and don’t worry if skin gets pretty darn charred. It just adds flavor! (If you’re using regular green peppers, this will take at least twice as long.) Place directly into an ice bath, and turn oven to 450 degrees.

In the meantime, make your filling. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook onion and squash for 7-9 minutes, until onions are translucent and squash has begun to soften. Add corn, beans, and quinoa. Mix and take off heat. Add goat cheese and mix until just combined. (This recipe makes way more filling than necessary — feel free to make more poblanos or just cook the filling a bit longer and eat as a salad, or fried egg accompaniment, or inside a quesadilla, etc…)

Remove skin from peppers carefully. Cut a small slit in each and remove seeds, either by shaking them gently in the ice bath or carefully cutting the inner core out. Don’t worry if you accidentally puncture the peppers as long as they’re mostly in tact. Scoop filling into peppers, reshaping as necessary. Place them in a baking dish or back into the cast iron. Cook at 450 for 10-12 minutes, or until squash are tender. Cover with Monterey Jack and return to oven. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until cheese is totally melted.

To plate, make a pool of crema on a plate. Place poblano atop crema and sprinkle with cilantro.

To make Pepita Crema:

(makes more than you’ll need…)

½ c pepitas (pumpkin seeds), soaked for 4-12 hrs
1 scant t cumin seeds, toasted
1 lime, juiced
½ clove garlic, roughly chopped
¼ t fine sea salt
⅓ c water

Combine everything in blender. Blend for 3-5 minutes, scraping down sides as needed, until crema thickens. Don’t doubt it; just keep blending! It really works!

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two-in-one! Extra filling makes a great egg accompaniment the next day.

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carnivore adds slow-cooked shredded chicken to his (but it’s totally unnecessary!)

Tomatillo and Peach Salsa (& a wedding cake!)

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The past two weeks have been filled with a whole lotta love. I had the joyous fortune to witness the marriages of two sets of friends over the past two weeks, and am full to the brim with good feelings and joie de vivre. Not only am I overjoyed at the unions of all these lovely people who I am lucky to have in my life, I am refreshed and renewed by people of all kinds. So often, I go through my day with a stern countenance, wary of strangers, stingy with my smiles. In the past two weeks, I have had my mind expanded and my life momentarily affected by new no-longer strangers from around the world. My friends have the best friends.

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I love that I was able to rehearse and perform a Bollywood dance at Nandita and Alex’s wedding with 20 other recruited newbie dancers. (Also, turns out Daniel has some mad Bollywood skillz…) I can say pretty confidently we Rocked that dance, and the brides beamed and I felt instantaneous camaraderie with my “Zor Ka Jhatka” team. And then, when the reception was over, we held a little after party at our apartment with the 85 beers gifted to us by the caterers and three cabs-full of new friends.

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And then this weekend, after months of planning and taste tests and one bad dream involving emergency outsourced avocado curd (ew), my friend Leah and I made a wedding cake!!!! It was a giant labor of love, and by giant I mean pretty freaking giant — I think the whole thing used at least 40 sticks of butter, multiple bags of sugar, 75 eggs, and two big bags of lemons. The final monster was a vanilla cake from Rose’s The Cake Bible, with Ina’s lemon curd, Martha’s raspberry curd, Sweetapolita’s vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, and hand-holding from Deb. (It takes a village…) The thing itself was transported in many boxes with the help of a kind boyfriend and amused cab driver, and then hastily stacked and decorated amidst ladders and lanterns being hung up, and caterers running around, and someone forgetting their pants and needing to run home half an hour before the wedding started. And yet, it came together beautifully and tastily too. So many strangers wanted to talk about the cake — to say how lovely it was (oh shucks), or about their own baking experiences, or to chat about my (nonexistent) professional baking career.

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Weddings are fun. I love being surrounded by people who have traveled far and wide to share in love. To celebrate togetherness. I like that these weddings happened with the change of the season — a gentle farewell to what was and an excited eye cast towards the future.

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In that light, perhaps you want to make salsa? With roasted tomatillos and the last of summer peaches? This salsa is a great picnic accompaniment and really, much easier than a wedding cake. But it’ll go fast and make people in awe of you anyway because most people just don’t understand how easy it is to make your own dang salsa.

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Daniel’s spicy spicy red pepper salsa recipe to come some day… we’ll wait for me to build my heat tolerance just a bit more.

one year ago: roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Tomatillo and Peach Salsa

This is a more straightforward vessel for chips than my previously-posted mango black bean “salad-alsa”. Might be harder to eat this with a spoon, but don’t let me stop you from trying. Adapted from macheesmo.com. 

1 lb tomatillos
2  big peaches
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
1 big clove garlic, minced
½ c cilantro, chopped
1-2 T onion, finely chopped
1 lime
s&p

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove husks from tomatillos and cut in half. Place on a baking tray, cut-side up. Roast for 20 minutes.

Set a small pan on medium-high heat. Add serrano pepper, turning every minute or so until lightly charred on all sides. Set aside.

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. With a small sharp knife, score the bottom of each peach with a small “x”. Boil peaches for one minute. Drain and let cool. Peel peaches with your fingers, starting from the “x”. You will get juicy and messy! Lick your fingers (and then wash your hands). Cut peaches into small bite-sized pieces and place into a medium-sized bowl. Discard (or eat) skins.

In a food processor, combine tomatillos and the serrano pepper. Pulse until there are no pieces remaining, and mixture is homogeneous and slightly syrupy. Add tomatillos to peach bowl, along with the garlic, cilantro, onion, and juice of a lime. Season to taste with s&p.

So Proud!!

So Proud!!

Maple Blueberry Beets with Balsamic and Mint

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Nothing says summer like a packed, 97 degree, 100% humidity subway platform as an announcement says the next L train will arrive in 18 minutes. A collective groan ensues, complete with sticky thighs and cursing yourself for not getting the large iced mint tea.

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It’s hard to imagine there was once another way to experience summer. A decade or two that had no automated voices announcing delayed trains but instead the sweet suburban sounds of lawnmowers, cicadas, and a chorus of complaints of “the car is too hot!” after an afternoon at the local pool. In those decades, a breath of summer air included that freshly cut grass, chlorinated hair, and melted lime popsicle juice on my fingers (and thighs, the car seat, my hair, etc).

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We complained about having to help shuck corn but looked forward to family dinners on the porch. Corn with grilled chicken and zucchini for days. We ate tomatoes grown in the garden and ice cream sandwiches by the pool (when Mom was in a good mood).

thanks, Laura!

Although my summers nowadays tend to smell a bit more like pee on the sidewalk, trash left out during a heat wave, and overworked ACs, summer meals, thankfully, retain their allure.

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This means fresh herbs and late outdoor dinners. It means seafood during my yearly weekend-long Cape Cod sojourn (and, really, only seafood) and CSA vegetables and sidewalk seating at other times. This beet creation came from a frantic trying-to-clean-out-the-fridge-before-vacation night. It makes your house smell lovely, and is a surprising way to combine these summer staples.

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This is more like a suggestion than a recipe — you can make as much or as little as you’d like. But, as I think you’re going to like it, err on the “as much of it” side. Also, once you make the blueberry syrup, it can stay in the fridge for the foreseeable future.. we’re two or three weeks in and it still looks great to me…

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one year ago:
beet reuben sandwiches (beets! must be mid-to-late summer!), mustardy potato&kale&green bean salad, and mmm BBQ sweet potato nachos

Maple Blueberry Beets with Balsamic and Mint

a swanky original (syrup from Dad with a Pan)

Whole beets, scrubbed (I used 2)
olive oil
s&p
1 cup blueberries
⅓ cup maple syrup
balsamic vinegar
fresh mint

To make beets:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Two options for beet roasting. a) Drizzle beets with olive oil and sprinkle with s&p. Wrap beets individually in tin foil. Stick in oven until fork tender, about an hour, depending on size. When cool, peel skin off easily by hand or paper towel, and cut into bite-sized chunks. b) Peel beets and cut into quarters or larger chunks. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with s&p. Bake for about 35 minutes or until fork tender. This option is a bit faster but beets aren’t quite as juicy. I think it works just fine for this recipe.

Meanwhile, make the blueberry syrup. Combine blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer mixture for three minutes. Then, smash blueberries with the back of a fork and simmer for an additional three minutes or so. Pour into a jar to cool. This recipe makes way more than you need! Use over pancakes, with yogurt, over ice cream, etc.

Combine beets and a big drizzle each of balsamic vinegar and the blueberry maple syrup. Mix to combine. Sprinkle with torn fresh mint and enjoy! Maybe add feta or toasted sunflower seeds to give it more bulk but as is it made a prettttty good dinner with some bread and olive oil and leftover roasted chickpeas.

 

Black Bean, Mango, and Corn Salad-alsa

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Guys, it became summer.

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My shoulders are slightly rosy from sunny bike rides, my face freckles are fighting to the surface, and I’m trying really really hard to remember to water my tomato plants every day.

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Although I have no official adventure on my calendar for this summer — you know, the ones complete with passports and pre-planning and time off — summer in New York feels like an always-adventure. Here, street festivals break into the streets with African drums and grilled meats galore without a moment’s notice, and turn bank errands into an international in-your-face joyous celebration. Here, a quick bike ride turns into running into a long-lost friend on a street corner and spending the next half hour catching up while continuing to your destination. And that “small Memorial Day BBQ” is a well-timed pounce on one of the elusive grills and picnic tables in Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, feasting on the view of lower Manhattan and being sandwiched between a bougie children’s birthday party and a huge Dominican BBQ (where I was just a little bit jealous of their plantains and a vat of rice and beans trucked in from somewhere). Rooftops, parks, backyards, (edible) schoolyards — the whole city becomes the adventure. I’m okay with that.

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This salad, thrown together in a “make sure the vegetarian has something with protein at the BBQ” moment, can be taken to any and every gathering that may arise, or spooned into your mouth in front of the AC for dinner. Part salad, part condiment — it’s summer, don’t overthink it. Also it has mango in it, so, you’re welcome.

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Black Bean, Mango, and Corn Salad-alsa

adapted from eat live run and the cooking channel

Salad:

¼ red onion, finely chopped
1 ear of fresh corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 yellow pepper, in bite-sized pieces
1 ripe mango, skin removed, in bite-sized chunks
1 red chili, in very thin slices
½ c cilantro, chopped

Dressing:

2 T apple cider vinegar
juice of a lime
1 t cumin
1 t honey
scant ¼ t chipotle powder (or 1 t chili powder)
2 T olive oil
s&p

Prep salad ingredients:

Soak red onion in cold water for 10-20 minutes to remove some of the bite. Carefully cut kernels off corn cob. Mix onion, corn kernels, and rest of salad ingredients together in a big bowl.

For dressing:

Whisk everything together except olive oil. Drizzle oil oil in slowly while whisking constantly.

Pour atop salad, give a good stir, and enjoy fruity tangy blissful summertime vibes.

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Gingery Coconut Rice + One Week Homemade Challenge

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Last week Daniel and I tried this nifty thing called…making all our food all week.

Simple as it sounds, you must remember the plethora of distractions that make this quite a challenge. Just, for example, think about:

-our Friday morning bagel sandwich ritual
-Tuesday evening post-salsa beers and pretzels at the German place down the road
-a night of Thai take-out and Kimmy Schmidt binging after working two jobs in a day
-grabbing a slice of pizza or deli sandwich in between said two jobs
-that hunger that arrives around 7 pm, when you’re already out with friends and contemplating a movie. To see a movie and arrive home starving hours later? Or not to see the movie? Or just break the deal all together?

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But we did some major grocery shoppings and conquered the odds and made it the whole week! And had some really freaking delicious food. Some real meals and leftovers (coconut rice (recipe below!) and sweet potato chickpea curry, homemade pizza) and some small thingers that can easily be turned into a meal (big batch of granola, not-quite-big-enough batch of hummus).

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That is, until Friday evening, when somebody had one beer too many (…that means 2 total, ps) and decided the only thing they could possibly eat that night was tofu pad see yu. (That person was me.) Oh well, close enough.

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We really meant to continue through the weekend but then the weekend EXPLODED. On Saturday I worked at the bakery in the morning, then stilt walked at the Tribeca Film Festival Children’s Street Fair for 2 ½ hours, and then had a salsa performance. And Sunday was more bakery work, a trip to the NYC Hot sauce expo, reconnecting with old friends and visiting the Brooklyn Morbid Anatomy Museum and then greedily and excitedly downing a mediocre but fully deserved and stupendously salty mushroom burrito.

Weekends aren’t for practical decisions.

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Gingery Coconut Rice

from Plenty by Ottolenghi

Previously pictured on the blog with sambal-y okra in this post, with recipe for caramelized fennel with goat cheese!
Also would be super-delicious with Bengali egg curry

1 ⅔ c white basmati rice
¾ c full-fat coconut milk (use the other half of the can for curry!)
1 ½ c water
½ t salt
6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger

Rinse rice with lots of (cold) water and drain well. Put in a medium-small saucepan and toast rice over medium heat for a minute or two–just until it starts to smell nutty. Add all other ingredients, stir a bit, and bring to a boil. Cove, turn down heat, and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat but keep pot covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately!

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Hard at work at the office, eating leftovers and organizing costumes for the weekend’s stilt-walking activities 😉

Grilled Pineapple and (Homemade) Baked Bean Tacos

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The best thing that came out of my seder a couple weeks ago was not, amazingly, the secret to make gefilte fish taste palatable or the revelation that my hyper-logical-atheist boyfriend would embrace old Jewish customs “just because that’s how they are,” but something much more seemingly mundane.

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I’m talking, of course, about grilled pineapples (a natural seder conversation topic). After our requisite glasses of wine and long-winded discussions about The Prince of Egypt vs. the Rugrats Passover episode, the conversation led to lunches, and specifically grilled pineapple lunches. The idea took hold and led to this magnificent taco-burrito-wrap-meatless-Hawaiian-pizza hybrid that would disappoint Mexicans and Texans and Hawaiians of all sorts but makes this Jew oh so happy.

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This was my first foray into homemade baked beans! Despite using the wrong kind of bean, the flavor in these [beanie] babies was out of control delicious. And mixed with the pineapple? ohmygod make it now!!~*!!!^!! Even if it’s sorta ugly.

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(And let it be known Daniel added grilled ham-steak (is that a thing?) to his and then ate three, so… if that’s your sorta thing, go [hog] wild.) 

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Grilled Pineapple and (Homemade) Baked Bean Tacos

a Swanky original

1 batch baked beans (recipe below) or cheat and use a can
smallish flour tortillas (or corn if GF)
cilantro, chopped
½ a pineapple
smoked sea salt, chili powder, olive oil
OR
brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter
(depends on your mood) 

Cook/warm up baked beans according to how much time you’re willing to invest tonight. (MAKE the ones below. PEER PRESSURE! THEY’RE SO GOOD!)

Heat a grill pan so it’s nice and smoky (or, ya know, a grill, if you have that sorta thing). Cut top and bottom off pineapple, and then carefully slice off the skin. Cut into ½-inch slices, careful to avoid the core. Then, you have a choice! For smoky-spicy pineapple (which I thought went better with the beans), rub both sides with olive oil, smoked sea salt, and chili powder. Or, for brown sugar caramelized pineapple, mix together about ¼ c brown sugar with 1 t cinnamon and a sprinkle of salt, and rub it on both sides. For either version, grill about 2-4 minutes on each side, until you see nice grill marks and the pineapple has darkened on the outside and softened in the inside. (For sweet version, you can mix the leftover sugar/cinnamon mixture with a bit of melted butter and baste pineapple as it grills for some added zing.)

The make your tacos! Char your tortilla if desired, and fill with grilled pineapple slices, baked beans, and plenty of fresh cilantro. Repeat. Go into food coma.

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Quick Vegetarian Baked Beans

adapted from picklesnhoney 

1 medium onion, chopped small
½ green pepper, chopped small
1.5 T olive oil
2 cans of navy beans (I didn’t have those and instead used 1 can each pinto and pink beans; it was fine but not the completely right texture)
¼ c + 2 T BBQ sauce
2 T molasses (I used pomegranate molasses and it was great!)
¼ c apple cider vinegar
3 T maple syrup
2 T spicy brown mustard
2 T ketchup
2 t worcesteshire sauce
1 t smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In an oven-safe Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, sauté for about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and continue sautéing until onion is translucent and peppers are soft, about 4 more minutes.

Add everything else! Bring pot to a simmer; then cover and stick in oven. Cook for as long as you feel like it (more time = more flavor), but I would go for at least 45 minutes (I think I did mine for an hour).

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