Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

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How I Know It’s Almost Summer:

  • I want to buy an ice cold can of ginger ale at every bodega I pass. (So cold! So bubbly! So delightful!)
  • People on other blogs are somehow still non-ironically talking about “getting bikini bodies ready” and other bullshit like that. I mean, really? Do peoples’ bodies really fluctuate that much? Mine is the same literally all the time. Also I’ve had burritos for dinner twice this week. Go me. But, good news, I’ll probably look exactly the same in my bikini as I did last year!
  • (Is that the wrong attitude towards fitness?)
  • I need to find my tire pump. So I can use my bicycle. And get nervous every time I use it that it will get stolen again. Meh, I’ll just walk.
  • What do professional people even wear in summer? Do people who wear panty hose need to wear them in July also? How about people who run a theater summer camp in Midtown? What do they wear? Asking for a friend.
  • Our oven is only getting turned on for Daniel’s every few day need to re-season his cast iron pans. Easy dinner, please, present yourself.
  • Oh, fancy that! Look at this here recipe! Easy dinner personified (no oven needed). It starts with a lazy eggplant salad, like caponata but I feel like that’s something people argue about on the internet so I’m keeping this non-partisan with “salad”. Also my Grandma makes the best caponata and someday I hope to post her recipe here :).  Pile that salad on some soft bread spread indecently with goat cheese, topped with a kerfluffle of fresh herbs, call it a day. 
  • Also, ice cubes (to go back to that original heading). I refill our dumb ice trays so much more when it becomes pleasant in the world! (We’re talking temperature here, not general atmosphere of living in the world right now.)
  • Damnit I should go out on a positive note. SUNDRESSES!

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one year ago: herby sunchoke gorgonzola salad 
two years ago: grilled pineapple and homemade baked bean tacos and ginger coconut rice

Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

A Swanky Original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, cut in chunks (don’t get rid of juices!)
½ tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
Squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
s&p

Bread – I used an Italian focaccia-like loaf, cut into big squares
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
Goat cheese, at room temp
Fresh parsley

Heat a big skillet (for which you have a lid) and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until they’re beginning to brown. Increase heat to medium and add eggplant, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 12 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until eggplant has started to brown and become jam-like. Partially cover the pan for short increments to speed this along.

Next, add garlic and cook for two more minutes. Then add tomatoes, their juices, and the tomato paste. Cook for 3 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down. Next add the sugar, red wine vinegar, and basil. Give it all a good stir and cook for another 2 minutes, until flavors have combined. Squeeze in lemon juice, and hit with another dose of salt and pepper. Taste it and flavor to your liking.

Take eggplant salad off heat while you prep other ingredients. Cut bread and toast if desired (my bread was super fresh, but on day two it will certainly help!). Chop up your parsley and thinly slice the tomatoes. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one slice. Follow with tomatoes, eggplant salad, and parsley. Yum!

**Extra eggplant salad is delicious mixed with spaghetti and olive oil for a quick dinner. Or with crackers for snack the next day…

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Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

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Turns out starting a new job isn’t easy. I mean first of all, you have to figure out how to do that thing you’ve been hired to do. In this case for me that includes getting to know 20 different artists on our Outreach play and workshop roster, our 4 main booking contacts throughout the various NYC library systems, and learn everyone’s unique way of working. It also means visiting as many of New York City’s libraries as I can, as how are you supposed to figure out what programs you want to book if you haven’t met who’s in your audience? (Also in this case it includes learning how to run a summer camp, but that’s June-Ilanna’s problem. And if you happen to be any of my camper’s parents… just kidding… your children are in adept and capable hands and I’ll stop writing now.)

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And there’s all that other stuff too, like interpersonal stuff (Is Coworker X laughing at me or with me? How much should I acknowledge Colleague Y’s rambly, rhetorical-but-not-really questions?), or who do you ask about business cards (Turns out no one — I have to design, order them, and get reimbursed (not normal, right?)), or what to do when the person before you made a mistake that it’s up to you to fix (Don’t worry, if you need any magicians in NYC I have compiled a whole list of them after a stressful and last-minute booking mix-up last week). Every day poses its own series of challenges.

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Today I went to go see my recently obtained magician do his show at a small library branch in Staten Island. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go — it’s far, you have to take the ferry, it was a beautiful Saturday, I had to take three modes of transportation, etc, etc. I could’ve come up with any number of excuses but I just did it and ya know? It wasn’t actually that far, the ferry was delightful on this sunny day, and the library was easy to find. The branch was welcoming, colorful, and packed with kids. The magician was wonderfully entertaining, bringing a huge smile to my face as I watched both him and his eager fans. The shock and awe on their faces as he made a quarter fly or made a bottle of ketchup disappear was the highlight of my week. I think this job is going to be okay.

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Oh god, and here I am again with no transition to be found. This snack or brunch has nothing to do with magicians, or a new job, or being happily surprised by a ferry ride. It’s just good.  Apple and cheddar are a favorite combination around here, if by “around here” we mean with me, because everyone else I surround myself with seems turned off by this underappreciated pairing. Don’t be like them. Fry yourself up some of these simple sweet&savory bites, eat them on the plate you brought back from Japan which makes you happy, and don’t listen to the naysayers. (At work OR at home. Boom. A tidy, relevant wrap-up.)

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one year ago(ish): Kung Pao Brussel sprouts and tofu 
two years ago: roasted pepper and eggplant soup with orzo

Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

a Swanky original
(makes 9ish small cakes, good for two for brunch with salad)

It’s best to use the mixture the day you make it. I put some in the fridge and fried the cakes a day or two later — still tasted delicious but they didn’t hold together as well. Also a note on sauce — I tried them with a quick chipotle mayo but it was too overpowering, and I wouldn’t recommend the hot sauce route. A drizzle of honey was nice, as was a dollop of honey mustard. Maybe Greek yogurt would be a nice touch? Let me know if you try it.

½ a red apple (I use Fuji)
1 cup cooked quinoa
⅓ cup cheddar, shredded
⅓ cup panko
1 egg
1 scallion, minced
s&p to taste
Olive oil
Honey to serve (or see note, above)

First, grate your apple. Skin-on is fine. Use the biggest holes on your box grater. Lots of liquid will be pressed out — get rid of this excess liquid but no need to squeeze apple strands; some liquid is okay. Combine apples and all other ingredients except olive oil in a big bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a healthy drizzle of olive oil — enough to coat the bottom of the pan but no extra (we’re not making latkes here). Spread oil around with a flexible spatula to ensure it covers the whole surface.

Using your hands, scoop up quinoa-apple mixture. I like a big cookie-sized amount — about 1/4 cup. Press quinoa mixture into a fat disk, and carefully put into the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned, on each side. Quinoa will become crunchy, cheese pockets will ooze, and apple will intermingle.

Serve with a side salad and a drizzle of honey for a peeerfect brunch.

 

Miso Ginger Kale Salad

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Ode to Kale Salad

We eat you because we’re supposed to:
Your health benefits are vast, your calories few.
Your leaves, magical,
In their massaged wiltedness.
I tend to hate you raw,
But
(honestly)
do appreciate how well you hold up to a hearty, unapologetic dressing.

Every restaurant claims a version of you, but
I’ve never been that impressed.
Also, I’d rather pay $13 for a couple sushi rolls,
No offense.

The best way I know how to vouch for you, particular kale salad version,
With your salty miso base, spicy ginger accent, crisp sweet apples, and nutty peanutty finish,
Is this:
I looked forward to lunch leftovers today.
Like, counted down the minutes until I could inhale you again,
Kept checking if it was close enough to lunchtime yet,
And wouldn’t even share with Daniel.

Oh kale salad,
It is cliche to talk about you in January, and yet
Here I am.

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…and with that, perhaps I will stick to cooking and leave poetry to other folks. I wrote this “poem” while consuming said leftovers with abandon. Just glanced into my bowl and saw the last few leaves and cucumber slices and got sort of sad. Bye, salad. Until we meet again.

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kale salad, previously: kale caesar salad and mustardy kale, potato, and green bean salad
one year ago:
nothing of note, but this tofu and rice bowl is what I’m making for dinner and the marinade is amazing and I’m getting pretty pumped
two years ago:
 butternut tahini mash

Miso Ginger Kale Salad

dressing adapted from pumpkinandpeanutbutter

Dressing
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
At least 1 teaspoon honey
2 sparse tablespoons miso (I used white)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 big squirt sriracha
Splash of warm water
Black pepper (but no salt! it’s salty enough from miso/soy!)
¼ cup olive oil

Salad
3-4 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup thinly sliced red apple triangles
Big handful chopped peanuts

Mix together all dressing ingredients, except olive oil, in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until well combined. Slowly add olive oil, mixing with a fork, until well combined. Take a taste and add more honey, soy, sriracha, water as you see fit. 

Put kale leaves in a big bowl and pour in dressing (most or all, depending on how much kale). Massage with your fingers until kale shrinks and turns slightly greener, about a minute or two. Add cucumber and apple slices, mix together, and top with peanuts. 

Note: If making in advance, and in fact the salad is delicious after 24 hours in the fridge, combine kale leaves and dressing and refrigerate. Add apple, cucumber, and peanuts the next day, when ready to serve.

Mizuna Miso Soup

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I made this soup while listening to the 2003 All American Reject’s self-titled album (“Swing, Swing“, anyone?). Man, if there were ever an album to bring me back to a specific time, this is it. I remember choosing it for myself at a CD store, not knowing who they were but wanting to find an “indie” band that none of my friends liked yet so I could be cool. (Was indie a word in 2003?) My 8th grade bestie sat next to me on our field trip to Montreal, me listening to my beloved All American Rejects and her listening to Simple Plan. We both thought ours was the way better option. I was devastated when their next album came out, a total pop-y cop-out in my mind; why oh why did beautiful Oklahoman blue-eyed bassist/lead singer Ty have to get so mainstream? Ugh.

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The album popped into my head today because of a wily connect-the-dot narrative. Last night some friends and I went to see the brilliant ‘70s movie Dune (please read: not-so-brilliant) at the actually brilliant bar Syndicated in Bushwick, where they show old movies in a beautiful space for just $3 and you can order food and drinks while you watch) (this time I do actually mean brilliant). And “syndicated” rhymes with “vindicated” which leads me to that Dashboard Confessional song, which was a pretty big deal during freshman year student council, so obviously I had to listen to it to remind myself of the words (all I could remember was “I am, vindicated, I am la di da di dahhhhh,” which Daniel got fairly tired of hearing on repeat), and so one thing led to the next and voila, All American Rejects-underscored soup-making.

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Which is all a way to say, this soup is easy. Really easy. You can make it while floating down memory lane and singing song lyrics you haven’t encountered in over a decade (shudder). This sort of soup been a go-to around here lately, with me throwing in any veggie odds and ends that I find in the fridge. The only necessary bits are the miso, something green, and some sort of noodles (although I think the tofu really makes it and would never miss an opportunity to add toasted sesame oil to my food).

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one year ago: that time I made a wedding cake (also) tomatillo peach salsa
two years ago: spicy micheladas

Mizuna Miso Soup

Inspired by justhungry
Makes a very hearty lunch for 2, but probably should be closer to 3-4 servings.

5 cups water
2 packets dashi stock  (or try with a simple veggie broth)
1 carrot, peeled and ribboned with your peeler
1 scallion, minced
¼ c firm or extra firm tofu in small cubes
80 g soba noodles (one bundle)
½ bunch mizuna, chopped into thirds, abt 2-3 cups, divided (or another tender green)
2 tablespoons miso
Soy sauce, a drizzle

Optional toppings
½ a sheet of nori, torn into strips
Lime wedges
Sesame seeds
Toasted sesame oil
Sriracha

Bring water to a boil in a medium-large soup pot. Add dashi stock powder and stir until it dissolves. Lower heat to medium-high. Add carrot and scallion. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add tofu and soba noodles and cook for another 4 minutes. Add most of your mizuna and immediately bring heat to low.

Put miso in a small bowl and add about a tablespoon of broth from the soup pot. Mix with a spoon or chopsticks until an even paste forms (no clumps!). Pour miso into soup pot and stir to disperse. Heat for another 2 minutes on medium-low heat. Don’t let soup come to a boil once you add miso or it will kill all its beautiful health qualities. Give soup a try — depending on your miso it may be plenty salty. If not, pour in a healthy glug of soy sauce.

Spoon soup into a bowl and top with nori, lime, sesame seeds, and reserved mizuna, chopped small. If you’d like, drizzle in sriracha or a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil.

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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.

 

Caramelized Fennel with Dill and Goat Cheese

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Yes I know I’m roughly four years late to the party but…OTTOLENGHI’S “PLENTY”!!!

In the past, I’ve wistfully flipped through the beautiful, vegetable-and-spice laden pages, whispering “someday, I’ll have you” and getting creepy looks from very nice bookstore people. And then last week, due to a fortunate series of events we will from here on out refer to as birthday + boyfriend’s parents, I received my very own copy. No more awkward cell phone pictures of recipes (as the lovely book people look the other way) for me! Hoorah!

Onward to oil-splotched pages, handwritten notes in margins, and vegetarian nirvana!

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To start, Daniel chose two recipes at random. They absolutely didn’t go with each other but no worries, we made a delicious meal of it AND I cooked two new vegetables! Neither fennel nor okra have ever made an appearance in my kitchen until yesterday. I have now officially found my favorite fennel preparation–Ottolenghi’s version tempers the “licorice”-ness, not by hiding it, but by adding a spicy caramel kick and and a fruity dill and lemon zest finish. And THEN you add goat cheese.

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And the okra? Drenched in a homemade fiery sambal sauce and paired with gingery coconut rice, fried shallots, and cilantro (and roasted shredded chicken for the carnivore), it totally stole the show.

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Please refer to book for exact instructions (Fennel on page 172 and Coconut Rice with sambal and okra on page 230) but here’s roughly how I made the fennel. So far, so good, Ottolengz. Two outta two.

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Caramelized Fennel with Dill and Goat Cheese
from Plenty

2 large fennel bulbs, fronds removed, cut into ½-inch thick slices
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T sugar
scant 1 t whole fennel seeds
s&p
big handful of dill, stems and leaves, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped
3-4 oz creamy goat cheese

Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over high head. When butter starts to sizzle, add a single layer of sliced fennel. Cook without moving for about 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned. Carefully flip over, using tongs, and brown on the other side (1-2 more minutes). Do this in batches, until all the fennel is cooked. Set fennel aside.

In the same pan, add sugar, fennel seeds, and s&p. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, or until fennel seeds smell good. Add all the fennel back into the pan and cook for just another 1-2 minutes, stirring to evenly coat with caramel mixture. Return fennel to plate to cool.

In a big bowl, mix chopped dill and garlic. Stir to combine. Add cooled fennel slices, and mix delicately to coat. To serve, put all fennel slices in a single layer on a plate. Place spoonfuls of goat cheese on top. Finish with lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

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