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.

 

Italian Egg Drop Soup

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I haven’t posted here since 45’s inauguration. It has felt… inappropriate, I guess. Like, don’t I have something better to do with myself than take photos of food, obsess over editing them, and write these ditties? There are environments to protect, women to march with, immigrants and Muslims to use my voice to shout with. There are politicians to be called, postcards to be written, articles to read and discuss, news briefings to shake my head to and hold back tears. There are “resistance” book clubs to organize and political arts events to attend. There are science and arts budgets and Planned Parenthood to defend. It just seemed like documenting my most recent grain-and-roasted-beet-bowl would seem … inappropriate.

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And then — someone (not sure who) found the Swanky Sweet Potato Instagram account I started well over a year ago but never followed through with. (I thought that shit was private, oops.) And although it’s silly — like, the silliest ever — these continuing notifications about people who have started following the Instagram account for this little blog are convincing me to get my butt back at it. Peer pressure — it works. So you, you out there… you like these rambles? These photos and recipes? You’re okay being distracted from the headlines and the John Oliver monologues and the protests to read a little ditty about soup? Well, okay, you’re right. Sometimes we do just need to think about soup. I will keep the soup coming.

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This soup says spring is on its way, loud and clear. Fresh spring onion, tender greens, parsley, and egg — it is bright, clean, and wholesome. (Also, curiously, has a lot of overlap with what you’d find at a Passover seder. Coincidental, I swear.) Eat it and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself than after you eat the gloopy, flavorless, plastic-packaged variety from your local take-out joint, promise. And hopefully also more equipped and ready to handle the unending sea of stupidity and devastation that 45 is serving up daily (though this part I can’t promise). 

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one year ago: roasted chickpea and kale stuffed sweet potatoes with tahini sauce and charred chipotle broccoli tacos
two years ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza cheese and tomatoes

Italian Egg Drop Soup

adapted from Serious Eats

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 spring onion (or regular), bulb and light green parts, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
7-8 Swiss chard leaves, stems minced and leaves chiffonaded (see here for how-to!)
4 cups broth + 2-3 cups water (or use broth cubes)
Dash of (freshly grated) nutmeg
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small uncooked pasta (I used orecchiette)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs
Juice from ½ a lemon
Big handful chopped parsley
Cheese to sprinkle, optional (parmesan is typical, I’ve used both swiss and cheddar)
s&p

In a big soup pot, heat up the olive oil. Add onion (bulb + light green part), garlic, and pepper flakes and sauté on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the chard stems and a big sprinkle of salt (not leaves yet!) and cook for another 3 minutes.

Next, add broth and/or water, nutmeg, chickpeas, and pasta. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, uncover and cook at a rollicking boil for another 3 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for another 2 minutes. Next add Swiss chard greens, return to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes.

Beat eggs together in a spouted measuring cup. Turn down to a simmer and pour eggs into soup while stirring continuously. Cook for another two minutes. Just before serving add a big grind of black pepper, lemon juice, and parsley. Top individual portions with cheese if desired.

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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

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

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.

Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

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The day before New Year’s Eve, my co-worker told me she had so much prep cooking to do that night. Not someone I had pegged to be a big cook, I asked what all she needed to do. She told me that every year she has a tradition of making black-eyed peas, greens, and noodles (from her Southern and Chinese heritage) for the new year. I love this idea of canonized end of the year traditions, but the furthest I ever get is rereading last year’s list of goals and usually rewriting many of the same ones. (“Restring guitar”, “get better at yoga”, and “think about grad school” have all graced each list from the past three years…) Inspired by her lead, I decided to play around with these simple ingredients.

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I’d heard of the black-eyed pea tradition before; supposedly it is lucky to eat them on New Year’s Day because the spotted peas look like coins (and who wouldn’t want a little more of that in the coming year). According to this article, looks like the Jews started this tradition over 1500 years ago, eating the peas on Rosh Hashanah. (Don’t know if I buy that, though.) It may have come to America in the early 1700s with the Sephardic Jews or (seemingly more likely) as part of the slave route; regardless, it has evolved into a classic Southern soul food tradition.

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I’ve also heard of noodles being lucky — I’ve repeatedly been tempted by the “longevity noodle” dish at Biang! that looks like a whole platter of noodles but is in fact just one very long one that comes with a pair of scissors. Long noodles represent a long life, as long as you slurp them up in one mouthful and don’t chop them off partway. Makes sense to start a new year with an ode to long life.

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And the greens I’m a little confused about. I think they also represent wealth (greens=the color of money?), but for me, they will represent a pledge to eat healthfully in the coming year. Combine these three together, and I give you… quick and simple black-eyed pea stew! Perfect for New Year’s, or really any time you need a quick meal. The peas are traditionally cooked with some sort of pig product; I added smoked paprika and liquid smoke to replicate some of that flavor. (Although Daniel did put bacon on top of his bowl and was pretty happy about it.) To be honest, we both enjoyed this more with rice, but if you want the lucky triple whammy, spaghetti away! Nothing like a symbolic meal to start this uncertain year off on the right foot.

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one year ago: …I was in Guatemala and didn’t update the blog, BUT let me take this moment to let you know I JUST updated my Recipes page! check it out! 
two years ago: Bengali egg curry 

Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

a Swanky original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 bell pepper (preferably red but other colors work fine), chopped same size as onion
1 rib of celery, chopped same size as onion
1 jalapeño, some seeds removed, minced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup veggie broth
1 can black-eyed peas (don’t toss the liquid!)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, but adds nice smokiness)
2-4 cups kale, ribs moved and torn into bite sized pieces
Fresh parsley
s&p

Heat olive oil in a medium large pot over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, celery, and jalapeño and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until veggies have softened and onion has become translucent. Add garlic, smoked paprika, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and veggies are evenly coated in spice mixture.

Next, add in the chopped tomatoes and their juices, broth, black-eyed peas and the liquid in the can, and the liquid smoke, if using. Add a bunch of salt here too. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until peas soften and most of the liquid evaporates.

Right before serving, still with pot on medium, add in your kale and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes. Serve with rice or spaghetti and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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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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Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

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One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is strolling the streets, iced tea in hand, scanning new restaurant menus, popping into little stores, and debating if I should actually buy something this time around. I especially love little delis and specialty grocery stores that cater to another country’s staples. Every time I’m around St. Marks Place in Alphabet City, I have to pick up a bag of my beloved Bamba (peanut butter cheetoh-like snacks!) at the Israeli store Holyland Market (and then force whoever I’m with to share). And when on 1st Ave, I without-fail pick up a bag of the deep-fried curly-q cumin seed crackers I fell in love with in Delhi at the little store underneath the two competing Christmas light Indian restaurants (y’all New Yorkers know what I’m talking about, right?).

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Another favorite is a stroll thru Sunrise Mart, although I don’t yet have a go-to snack in this Japanese wonderland. Usually I get cheap noodles, a rice ball, or something mochi-related. This time around, I was curious about the instant dashi soup mixes. Dashi is soup base, made from simmering kombu (a thick kind of seaweed) with bonito fish flakes. I’ve never made my own, but I’ve long thought it a great option for my pescatarian lifestyle.

So I bought this!

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A google search once I was home told me I got the no MSG brand (sweet!) and that everyone disagreed about how much soup powder you’re supposed to use per cup of boiling water. I ended up using almost one of the pouches, which was about a  teaspoon and a half, with my two cups of boiling water. The powder, or really it was more like tiny pellets, dissolved immediately. A little fishy but fairly subtle. I deem this a nice (and cheap!) flavorful base for soups or simmered veggies like this.

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Also, I am obviously no expert on Japanese food — my recipe was based on reading about 12 similar ones online. My squash definitely fell apart more than I had hoped for but we loved the flavor and scarfed it down regardless. It can be served warm or cold, but I greatly prefer the warmed up version. (And I’ll update you all in a couple months about what this dish is really like in Japan after my trip in November!)

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one year ago (okay fine, last August): maple blueberry beets with balsamic and mint
two years ago: 
roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

Adapted primarily from pickled plum 

½ a kabocha squash (abt 1.25 lbs)
2 c dashi (2 cups water plus 1 packet seasoning) (or sub veg broth)
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (though I believe you can substitute sake)

First, prep your squash. Peel some of the skin off (with a paring knife or powerful peeler). It’s fine to eat it, but peeling just some gives a nice texture change. Cut squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (more or less bite-sized).

Next, get out a heavy saucepan you have a lid for. If making dashi, bring water to a boil; add seasoning packet and stir to dissolve. Add squash pieces and return to a boil. If not making dashi, bring veg broth and squash to a boil.  Turn temperature to a slow simmer and cover pan halfway. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, soy sauce, and mirin and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, uncovered. At this point, squash should be very tender, but hopefully not falling apart. If you’d like a more syrupy sauce, remove squash pieces and continue simmering dashi mixture until it thickens, 3-5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or as a side to any Japanese-style dish. (We ate it with an udon-miso-tofu-mushroom soupy situation. Yum!)

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Chopped Summer Salad with Feta, Mint, and Lime

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Obviously not the salad of which we speak; just keep scrolling… (But doesn’t that look goooood?)

Well, if lack of posting on here means that my professional life is busy and flourishing, I guess that’s a pretty good sign. I’m embarrassed that my last post was over two months ago… but it has been a two months full of performing, directing, project investigating, grant writing, travel booking, curriculum planning, and creative endeavors. So, perhaps a gap here but my heart is full and my brain is active and my calendar is full of scribbles (and my bank account is … feeling its new role as belonging to a creative freelancer).

But I didn’t go hungry! This was the summer of chopped salads, usually involving corn and radishes and whatever else the CSA bequeathed to us. See end of post for a loose recipe for my go-t0 salad of the season, repeated in many variations during the summer. Also if anyone else has a better way to use up CSA corn, please enlighten me. Who eats this much corn on the cob?!

In the spirit of summer wrap-ups and my absence, here are 10 more-memorable food moments from the past months. Complete with profesh iPhone photography (ha) — fitting for a busy summer, weeks of an over-stuffed backpack, and late-night dinnertimes.

1. Oh, strawberry shortcake. Cloud-like, slightly sweet, and convince-yourself healthy-ish. (If you didn’t make the pound cake and beat together all that butter, that is.) Potentially the most summery of summery foods. Definitely made this past July 4th more legit.img_5945

2. Labor Day weekend was spent motoring around the Northern coast of Long Island, where we found sailboats, mansions, and a pretty darn good brewery complete with varied flights. Also I taught Daniel mancala. And we ate oyyyysters.img_6232

3. Heddy and I celebrated our opening show of “Amelia and her Paper Tigers” with airplane cupcakes! I’m so proud of our little show and the responses we received from audiences at the Fringe Festival. (Thanks, Darrill!)cupcakes

4. These little mushrooms could be my favorite thing I ate this summer, though they were covered in butter and garlic and lemon juice, so its sorta unfair to their competition. But more importantly, they made Daniel change his mind about mushrooms! Victory!img_6227

5. Got TWO amazing off-menu dinners from chef-babe Nichole at Runner & Stone. Spoiled me good, missy. Also, loooook at all that foooood…. (this was just one course of three!!!)
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6. Lots of Texas- (okay, Mexico- but don’t tell Daniel) — inspired breakfasts, like these huevos rancheros that I ate for a week straight. Also I now make pretty perfect soft scrambled eggs, if I do say so myself. (The secret? Uh, it’s butter. Surprise.)img_6051

7. A New Hampshire pilgrimage with friends, dogs, hiking, grilling, and this fun game — catch the cheez ball in your mouth. Hilarity ensued. Top quality eatz of the summer.cheez-ball

8. First time making tater tots! If you’re going to big, GO BIG and stuff those babies with cheddar cheese before frying. Uh, yum. img_6123

9. I love our tradition of making each other birthday cakes 🙂 This year Daniel followed my chocolate-peppermint wishes to a T. And it was perfect.img_6158

10. And behold, it’s not much to look at it, but tada! …don’t be too overwhelmed. Here’s the base of the Chopped Summer Salad with Mint, Feta, and Lime! Make, eat, repeat = Summer. (Also, maybe just click on the link to see Deb’s beautiful photos. Since she, you know, planned to blog this salad someday and I super didn’t.)img_6169

one year ago: roasted green pepper and smoked gouda pasta
two years ago: caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese

Chopped Summer Salad with Mint, Feta, and Lime

Not really adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Dressing
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon chile powder
s&p

Other Stuff
1 cup or so quinoa, Israeli couscous, or other grain, cooked and cooled
⅓ cup toasted sunflower seeds
Big handful fresh mint, chopped
At least ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
About 1 cup lettuce ribbons
2 scallions, chopped or 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
3 cups crunchy veggies: corn, radishes, cucumber, peppers, snap peas, tomatoes all good options
1 cup chickpeas, if desired (though unnecessary!)

Stir all dressing ingredients together with a fork in a small bowl. Put all other ingredients in a big old bowl, pour in the dressing, toss it around a couple times, and try to save some for tomorrow.

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…dessert?!

Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

 

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

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

a swanky original

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

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

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

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

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Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

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

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

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

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

Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

adapted from food network 

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

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

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

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

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Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Dressing adapted from pure wow

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

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

Dressing

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

Salad

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

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

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