Garlic Bread Chilaquiles (ish)

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Ah, the hungry, tipsy grocery store trip. Living in Brooklyn makes this too easy, as there’s a walkable grocery store on every corner, and at least 4 bars in between. A grocery shopping pub crawl is all too easy to accidentally happen. 

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What are the things you buy when not in sound judgment? This particular day in recent history, my overloaded basket contained:

  • These seedy everything crackers that I could eat for every meal. (Ignoring the fact that we currently have at least 4 open things of crackers. Oh well, book club is approaching, crackers will be eaten. If they make it til then.)
  • Fancy granola. I’m always happier making my granola, but I apparently do get pleasure from staring at the giant wall of prepackaged varieties and choosing one. This grocery shop was over a week ago and have I opened the granola? No. Do I know where it is? Uh, no. Can you return granola?
  • the Expensive Cheddar. I literally always buy cheese at the grocery store, but usually I opt for a sensible one, one that will complement the other misshapen blocks and wedges taking up significant fridge space. This time, we already had at least 3 kinds of cheddar. WHY, self, WHY MORE CHEDDAR?
  • Frozen Garlic Bread. Oy, this is just the least me-y ingredient. First of all, it’s frozen and weird, and second of all, I KNOW I can make garlic bread from stuff I already have at home. And it would’ve been great. But on this day, I just had to have the frozen variety. Daniel didn’t even realize you could buy frozen garlic bread, which I hope opens a world of opportunities for him on ski trips in the future. 
  • (speaking of Daniel, he bought a bag of pork rinds. Packaged fried pork rinds. Did you know that’s a thing you could buy from a grocery store?! They are still unopened and forgotten in the pantry. 🤢)

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Okay so, we got home, we made Alison Roman’s trendy caramelized shallot pasta, a big salad, and baked off this random loaf of garlic bread. Then both of us ate a giant bowl of pasta (yum), a giant bowl of salad (delish), and … one little piece of garlic bread (meh). Leftover pasta makes a great work lunch. Leftover salad doesn’t exist. Leftover garlic bread, the giant pile of it, from the entire loaf, because we are only two people and you can’t not bake the whole loaf and because it’s really not that good, took over the fridge.

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Leftovers are the mother of invention. Since that night, I’ve used them as croutons in my favorite kale caesar salad. I’ve melted cheese and tomato on them and sprinkled them with chaat masala a la Priya in her book Indian-ish. And I made this for breakfast!

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Chilaquiles is usually made with old tortillas, which are cut into strips, fried, and coated in a spicy salsa before being covered with eggs, cheese, herbs, etc. You get to eat a pile of chips for breakfast, basically breakfast nachos, so obviously it’s one of my favorite things ever. This version does not have chips or salsa or anything particularly Mexican, but it does use up a carb I had lying around. Inspiration, not authenticity! This came out way better than it had any right to. So, if you too have leftover garlic bread as the result of an ill-advised shopping trip, join me on the inauthentic dark side.  

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Ah, our first hand view of the construction process, starting every morning promptly at 7am

Some notes – you don’t need garlic bread for this, you could easily use any other bread you need to use up. It just adds extra flavor! This version isn’t particularly saucy, but you could continue cooking the tomatoes until they burst if you prefer it that way. Alternatively, if you too made the NYTimes’ shallot pasta, adding some leftover caramelized shallot paste would add extra sauciness and umami-ness, never bad things.

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last year: kale, sumac, and crispy rice salad
roughly three years ago: black eyed pea stew
roughly five years ago: butternut tahini mash

Leftover Garlic Bread “Chilaquiles” for One 

a Swanky original

glugs and drizzles of olive oil
1 very large garlic clove
big handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
glug of balsamic vinegar
day old garlic bread, cut into bite sized pieces (I dunno, 4, 5ish slices? Really, however much you want to eat for breakfast)
1 egg
small handful shredded mozzarella cheese
lots of chopped fresh parsley
s+p

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Smash and peel your garlic clove, and add to the pan. When it smells good but hopefully before it starts to brown,  add cherry tomatoes and turn heat up a bit. Add a glug of balsamic vinegar, and shower with salt and pepper. Cook til charred, stirring frequently. This will only take a couple minutes. Remove to a small bowl.

Return skillet to heat, add a bit more olive oil, and toast your garlic bread til beginning to crisp. 

Return tomatoes to pan; stir to combine. (This would be when I’d add the shallot paste.) Make a well in the center and crack an egg into it. Sprinkle s+p on egg, and sprinkle mozzarella cheese all over the pan. Cover (I used the top of a dutch oven) and cook for a couple minutes, or until egg is at your desired doneness and cheese has melted. Remove from heat and sprinkle liberally with parsley. Eat with fork and knife and get your butt to work. 

 

Birthday Paella – 26/67

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This recipe, the one you are about to read about and hopefully make, is the dinner I’d request on my birthday growing up. It had all the umami, a blanket of carbs, and my favorite psuedo-vegetables: artichokes hearts and olives. It was warm and comforting — perfect for late August! (I joke.) My “favorite food” as I was growing up always shifted with the day and age, but I know for a while there I said paella. 

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Daniel and I went to Barcelona together last week for an impromptu adventure. And! we did not try! any! paella! Gasp! My middle school self would be disappointed. (One reason we didn’t have paella was that as we looked at menus, many had the symbol for “contains tree nuts”. I got nervous and decided perhaps we should just avoid it. My guess is that many use romesco sauce as a base, which contains almonds? Happy that menus used that notation, not happy that it kept me away from trying this. Oh well, I am alive and didn’t need to find a hospital in Spain. Who gets travelers insurance anyway.) However! We did have fideua, which is a coastal paella variation that uses small broken toasted spaghetti instead of the traditional rice.

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It was covered with fresh seafood, served with a side of aioli, and hella good. I do not regret our paella-esque choices in Barcelona.

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I think I’ve had real paella exactly one time, at Boqueria in NYC. Which is, not coincidentally, where we got engaged, but this was a different evening. We had just eaten our weight in amazing tapas when they brought out our paella. It was… okay. They took the whole crispy-bottom thing to a next level, and it was kinda dry and almost charred. Disappointing. 

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This is a long way to say, we made my mom’s birthday-requested paella for dinner recently. I was skeptical of its short ingredient list (no saffron, just turmeric for seasoning, no hours-long cooked sofrito, no acid). And yet! A really delicious, balanced, well-seasoned dinner. The rice on the bottom gets sticky and a little charred and so flavorful. The whole thing is incredibly flexible and adaptable.  Perhaps I’ve just been on team inauthentic paella this whole time. 

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Some notes on the ingredients, namely vegan sausage: I hate it. The brand we got was just… very hard to swallow. I’d try with a different kind next time, or just add a little smoked paprika and forego the sausage all together. Growing up we used a weird kosher sausage that I would also pick around. But I do remember chicken sausage being a good thing, so maybe that’s the way to go here. Sausage as you will. Also, I didn’t see sausage in any of the paellas in Spain. Most had seafood, or maybe rabbit or another gamey meat. Some had veggies, most didn’t seem to. So, if you like cooking with mussels and venison, try it out, why not. Also, there is no need to use the chicken here. Could definitely do more sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, and peas and make this totally vegan. 

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some recipes to revisit from the blog from autumns of years past:
garlicky eggplant and cubanelle pepper stir-fry
winter squash and quinoa stuffed poblano peppers
blueberry lemon ginger celebration cake
warm apples over ice cream
kabocha, caramelized onion, and ricotta toasts <– this is on my must make again soon list

Birthday Paella 

adapted from my mom!

olive oil
3 bone-in chicken thighs (original recipe called for 6, but we added extra veggies instead)
2 sausages, vegan or otherwise, thick slices
2ish small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and in big chunks (optional)
1 onion, chopped small
1 bell pepper (green or red), chopped small
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup rice (we used Arborio)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Bouillion powder
handful baby carrots (or regular carrots cut into batons)
2 cups hot water (or broth) (a little more if more rice)
half a bag frozen peas
small jar artichoke hearts
½ can black olives
½ can roasted piquillo peppers, sliced
small handful cherries tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, to serve

In a big skillet for which you have a lid, heat up a bit of olive oil. Brown the chicken and sausage for a few minutes, then remove to a plate and set aside. 

If using sweet potato, put chunks in a microwavable bowl with a bit of water. Microwave for two minutes, or until potatoes are starting to soften. Drain and set aside. 

Return skillet to heat and add a bit more oil if it’s looking dry. Cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for 5ish minutes, or until all start to brown and soften. Add the raw rice, turmeric, and bouillon powder and cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently. 

Level the rice out. Put carrots and sweet potatoes atop rice. Then arrange chicken and sausage on top. Cover with hot water and bring to a boil. Don’t stir! Cover with a lid, turn heat to low, and simmer for twenty minutes.

Sprinkle peas evenly around the skillet. Arrange artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers, and tomatoes over the top. Cover with lid and simmer for another twenty minutes. Serve with lemon slices.  

 

Israeli Salad – 23/67

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This salad encompasses many of my favorite things. 

1. My CSA. Yes yes, I know, I have waxed not-so-eloquently on here before about the joy I get from receiving a local fruit and veggie haul each week. This year’s CSA, in our new neighborhood, is even more bountiful than previous versions. We have been loving their tomato varieties, pepper assortments, greens, corn, beans, squashes, herbs, melons, and more all summer. This salad, though this time around not fully comprised of CSA goodies, is indicative of the type of salads I’ve been loving all summer. (team #nolettuceinsalads) If you let me ramble about vegetables, I will.

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2. My obsession with Yotam Ottolenghi. I have also droned on on here ad nauseam about my adoration of celebrity chef Ottolenghi. I have 3 of his cookbooks, which I regularly look through and which often end up open in the middle of our living room. I follow him and his hashtag on Instagram. We saw him talk a year ago-ish, which was a highlight of the year. He has a basic chopped tomato salad recipe in Simple, where he says “The addition of tahini paste to a familiar tomato and cucumber salad is a revelation.” Okay, hyperbolic much, Mr. Ottolenghi? But, uh, he’s right. It’s so good. I added tahini to this one and don’t regret a thing.

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3. New shiny technology. This if my first post written on my shiny new computer! I haven’t had my own new computer since at least 2012, and that one unfortunately met a quick demise a year or so later by cup of water 😦 Since then, I’ve been cycling through Daniel’s hand-me-downs. It feels so nice to have my own, brand new computer to set up and get to know. Hopefully it lasts for a good long while because apple has enough money. (I also just got a new phone, so I’m enjoying fast internet connection and RAM speeds (am I using that word right?) all over the place.)

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4. My grandma! Love you! Truly one of my favorite cooks, who always knows how to bring community together through food and care. I have had this salad, or a variation, at a hundred casual dinners and gatherings. It’s so homey, yet the dressing is bracing and assertive. I wouldn’t have expected it’s a mixture of lemon juice and regular old white vinegar. But it’s going to be a go-to from here on out. Glad to have this version in my repertoire. 

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one and two years ago: nothing of note, but I made this cheesy zucchini orzo from half baked harvest for dinner the other night and dang that was a great dinner
three years ago:
chopped summer salad with feta, mint, and lime (made this for dinner a couple nights ago)
four years ago: roasted green pepper and smoked gouda pasta
five years ago: roasted radish and pepper pizza and caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese (another Ottolenghi-inspired dish!) 

Israeli Salad

A la my grandma, plus Ottolenghi 

Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered the long way, some seeds removed, and chopped small
3 tomatoes, chopped (I added extra baby tomatoes because yum they’re my favorite)
1 red onion, diced (Vidalia would also be good)
1 bell pepper, chopped (red is sweeter than green, and looks pretty!)

Dressing
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup white vinegar
juice from 1½ lemons (¼ cup)
generous portions of salt and pepper and dried oregano
Small handful freshly chopped parsley,
1 ground up large garlic clove (or garlic powder)

Put all salad veggies in a big bowl.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine all dressing ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. Taste and adjust as needed.

Add dressing to salad veggies and toss toss toss. Now this is a perfect side dish! To bulk it up a bit:

To make it extra
Add feta. Top with za’atar and a swirl of tahini.
OR boil up about a cup of orzo. Add to veggies. Lemony Israeli Pasta Salad!
OR both! 

Cornbread Salad – 18/67

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I have a deep appreciation for a cheeky salad. You know, the kind that consists of no veggies, only pretzels, jello, and dairy products. Never mind the fact I’ve never actually tried one of these cold casserole competitors, I just love the audacity of it. Like, sure, call it a salad, that makes it dinner-appropriate! We don’t need to add any other nasty nutrient bombs! For a celebratory meal, what a genius workaround. 

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This salad is not that. There are no chunks of squishy jello masquerading as the health component, no sad pretzels approaching unfortunately soggy. And there is a whole bell pepper! A tomato and celery stalk! Vegetables aplenty. 

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There is also a whole tray of freshly baked salty sweet cornbread, crumbled up and ready to be doctored. And oh my, is it good.

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This is the kind of dish that I have to remind myself is mostly-carb, not mostly-veggie, because I would easily fill ¾ of a picnic plate with it. I would never remove the salad part from the name, because a) it accompanies other things so well and b) it really does taste fresh. All those small-chopped veggies mean it feels like you’re eating a mouthful of salad, just the sweetest and saltiest mouthful ever. Not a mouthful of cornbread, which is what you’re actually doing. Audacious, bold salad, accompaniment to the stars. 

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Anyway, I’m eternally grateful to Linda, Daniel’s mom, for introducing this one to my repertoire. However it has made its way to you, through CT and Texas and back, I’m happy to proliferate it in Brooklyn. 

one year ago: spanish-ish baked eggs with spinach
two years ago: tapado (caribbean coconut fish stew)
three years ago: spaghetti squash lettuce wraps, asian style
four years ago: mustard greens with oyster sauce and garlic oil
five years ago: tofu banh mi sandwiches

Cornbread Salad

from Daniel’s mom Linda

1 9-inch pan of cornbread, cooled (from 2 boxes of Jiffy mix)
1 red bell pepper, chopped small
½ a red onion, chopped small
1-2 celery ribs, chopped small (optional, but I recommend!)
3-4 jalapenos, partially seeded, chopped small
1 cup mayo
1 big tomato, chopped small

Crumble cornbread into a very big bowl. Add bell pepper, onion, celery, and jalapenos. Stiry to combine. Add mayo until just moist — you may not need full cup, or may need a bit extra. Stir in tomatoes last, so as to minimize mush. Refrigerate and serve cold. I added some chopped parsley at the end just to make it look pretty, but ended up liking what it added! 

Leftovers great as is, or pan fried in a little olive oil in little “cakes” with a fried egg on top. 

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Tortellini, Spinach, & “Sausage” Soup – 1/67

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Dear blog followers, all 7 of you, what would you say if I changed this up a little bit?

This past weekend, I was delighted to be surrounded by the wonderful women in my life at my bridal shower. It still seems sorta surreal, the feeling of 35 women from all moments of my life answering Ilanna-related trivia questions and getting to know each other over silly games. There were cousins (flying in from Michigan!), aunts (Vermont!), grandmas (well, they’re local…), generations-old family friends (Toronto!), Daniel’s amazingly supportive family (Texas!), and a smattering of my friends from middle school, college, and life in New York City. The only word I can use to describe the weekend is faklempt — overwhelmed by love and kindness and good wishes. Thanks, mom and sister, for putting this all together.

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The brunch will live on by the recipe book these women put together for me, filled with holiday favorites, easy dinners, and lots of desserts. I’m so lucky to have this collection of recipes (and new kitchen implements and ingredients) to cook from for the next forever. (Although it’s not exactly like I’m a little country Pollyanna who’s never cooked a meal and is now forced to make dinner every night for her new husband, who then scolds her for overcooking the chicken. Actually, to be honest, I probably would overcook chicken if I tried to make it since I have no idea how. Well then.)

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All this to say, Daniel and I want to cook every recipe from this new binder by our first anniversary. By March 16, 2020, we will have made all 67(ish) dishes so lovingly bestowed on us. I’ll try to blog them. We’ll see how quickly this fails (please don’t hold it against me if this is the only one.)

To start, tortellini “sausage” spinach soup! Easy and perfect for this day, the first day I had to break out my giant winter jacket. I took a couple liberties with it. Reminds me of the meals we’d make in college in my senior year apartment 🙂 

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one year ago: tapado (coconut fish stew) (also this totally wasn’t a year ago, but… it was in 2017?)
two years ago: mizuna miso soup (soup theme!!)
three years ago: butternut and black bean stuffed poblano peppers
four years ago: cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli and tomatoes 

Tortellini, Spinach, and “Sausage” Soup

4-6 servings

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a big pot until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 or 2 chopped carrots, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, some smoked paprika, and some veggie sausage, cut into small chunks. (I did two “sausages”, though the recipe called for a pound, and it was enough.) Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until sausage is browned and carrots have softened.

Add: 32 ounces broth, a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, a bunch of chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add a 9-oz package of refrigerated tortellini and two big handfuls of baby spinach. Cook for 7 minutes, uncovered, until tortellini is soft. Serve each portion with extra basil and grated parmesan.

Thanks to Daniel’s cousins Michele and Robin for the base recipe and the bowls! 1 down. 66 to go.

 

Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

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I once overheard someone I admired in college say that she would never be with someone who doesn’t like onions, since she just loved them so much and never wanted to be made to feel bad because of her persistent onion-breath.

At the time, I thought my correlation was that I would need to be with someone who would take me and my ice cream habit at face value and not try to change me.

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Luckily for my heart (uh, both the one that pumps blood and the Daniel I live with), the past six years have seen a decrease in the ice cream habit, and a new rise in savory cravings. (#aging #secondpuberty?). I’m not quite as obsessive as that onion girl back in the day who got the lead in every play, but I get her now. If Daniel had a problem with garlic breath, we may not have made it this far. Luckily, he’s on my wavelength, and we both believe the garlickier, the better.

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Garlic is the star in this suuuuuper easy zoodle bowl. I have jumped on board the zoodle train, and I am not ashamed. They’re just so cute and make you feel so dang healthy.

However, to negate the whole no-pasta thing here, I did add a whole lotta goat cheese and some toasted (garlicky) panko crumbs, and by some I mean an indecent handful. So this isn’t completely virtuous.

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I am not one of those people who will tell you “you won’t even tell it’s not spaghetti!”. Because, uh, you can tell. This doesn’t taste like spaghetti. But it is a bowl of twirlable and slurpable noodle-like strands, in a delicious (garlicky) tomato sauce you might expect to find with spaghetti.

This feeds one, and one person only. It’s been my go-to meal when I’m on my own for dinner these days — it’s incredibly fast and uses one(!) pan. I’m not sure if this recipe is particularly unique in the blogosphere, but it represents an average weeknight meal for me, and maybe this is something you’re curious about, potential internet friends.

So! Use all four garlic cloves and love it. Your house will smell amazing, your breath will frighten away all but the most loyal, and it will taste fantastic.

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one year ago: pomegranate molasses and za’atar granola 
two years ago: nothing of note, but I made this Indian chickpea and cabbage for dinner last week and it was great.

Super Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

a Swanky original

1.5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Big pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juices (I used red + yellow)
1 teaspoon tomato paste, if you have some lying around
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 zucchini, spiralized (this is the spiralizer I use — it’s fine, not great; works well for a small apartment)
1-2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soft goat cheese (perhaps you too have extra lying around from last week’s eggplant sandwiches?)
s&p

Garlic Panko Crumbs (recipe below) (Optional)

Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 2 minutes, until garlic is beginning to brown. Heat is NOT your friend here — you don’t want the garlic to burn! Err on the side of too low and cook for longer.

Turn heat up to medium and add the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste (if using), and s&p. Cook until tomatoes begin to disintegrate and bubble, stirring frequently. For me this took 3 minutes. Add your zoodles and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 2 minutes or so, or until zucchini has reduced in size and is cooked through but retains some crunch.

Turn heat to medium-low, add goat cheese, and stir until cheese is dissolved and sauce has thickened. Spoon into a bowl and eat as is, or top with garlic panko crumbs.

Garlic Panko Crumbs

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup panko
salt

Wipe out pan you made zoodles in. Over medium-low heat, add olive oil and garlic and cook for just one minute, or until garlic loses its raw smell. Add panko and a healthy dose of salt; toss so panko is thoroughly coated with garlic olive oil. Continue toasting for another minute or so. Sprinkle on top of zoodles, or keep in a little bowl and pour onto every bite. 🙂

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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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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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.

 

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

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You know that video that went viral a couple months back, “Too many cooks”?

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If you haven’t watched it yet, today’s the day! Come on, you know you want to. You’re welcome. Also, you’re welcome for having it stuck in your head for the rest of your life. And butting its repetitive head in where it isn’t welcome ALL THE TIME. Such as:

Going to pick up CSA veggies. For the nth week in a row, we leave with a giganto bag of collards, kale, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, you name it. (Sometimes a couple beets or beans but pretty much only greens.) All I can think (and hum and sing) as we walk home, “Too many greens, too many greens.

Or when on the train and no one is aware of how much space they take up and people want to come ON before you have a chance to get off: “too many dummies, too many dummies

Or (the generic version) when you’re at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order: “too many things, too many things”!

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Did you watch it yet?? Good. It really works for a plethora of occasions. Give it a try! You’ll soon be singing it everywhere and will become immediately annoyed with yourself!

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But really, so many greens. We’ve made soups, 1/2 kale 1/2 sausage lasagna, pasta dishes, stir fries aplenty, and an amazing number of dinners (and breakfasts) of salads or cooked greens plus rice. Brooklyn Beet CSA, come through! I’m ready for a pepper or cuke!

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Until then I will continue to attempt innovation. Earlier this week innovation came in the form of pasta sauce, with a whole tangle of collard greens braised into it. This sauce was delicious — eaten on spaghetti, mixed with leftover brown rice the next day, or just slurped with a spoon. I’m going to recommend the spaghetti route, covered with parmesan and backyard basil. Perhaps served with a side salad? “So many greens, so many greens!

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As I said earlier, you’re welcome. 😉

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one year ago: sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and cilantro quinoa soup with spicy shrimp and corn

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

by moi and Daniel too

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 t dried oregano
2 t tomato paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
small handful fresh basil, divided
1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and chiffonaded
s&p
parmesan, freshly grated (optional, I guess)
spaghetti (or rice for a gluten-free option)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep saucepan. Add onions and a big pinch of salt and cook until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Next, add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and all their juices, sugar, and vinegar. Add tap water to the empty tomato can until it’s ¼ full. Add water to pan. Tear up half the basil leaves and add. Cook for 10 minutes on a slow simmer.

Add your collards. Stir well to totally immerse them.  Cover pan and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until greens are soft and have lost their plasticky appearance. Add s&p as necessary.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Once drained, add a bit of sauce (whatever stage it’s in) to keep pasta from sticking together. When ready to eat, top pasta with lots of sauce, torn fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan for the best experience.

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