Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-Ups – 7/67

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How to combat the 6 Weeks Til The Wedding nervous energy:

  • Wine. Wine helps.
  • Be nicer to Daniel. We’re both doing lots of things. I am better at some and he is better at others. Good to remind myself of that.
  • Now would be a really good time to find that “my personal fitness routine” that I hear other people talk about but … it’s just so cold outside. All I want to do is eat cheesy things and cuddle. My body is my body and my body likes cheese and this is what my cheese-loving body will look like at my wedding.
  • See and connect with married friends to see how to make this easier for myself, and see what ideas and decorations we can stealimean borrow.
  • Continue to see friends for dinner, meet my fiance for randomly fancy cocktails just because it’s Wednesday, go to salsa classes, cook healthy things, don’t eat a whole wheel of brie. You know, keep life going.

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What not to do:

  • Spend hours on Pinterest. Boo Pinterest.
  • Spend hours on Etsy. Boo Etsy.
  • Keep procrastinating booking a makeup person.
  • Plan a giant month-long work trip the week after the wedding. Whoops, can’t help that one.

I’m  going to keep reminding myself that however this day turns out, I will be surrounded by my favorite people in the world, in my favorite city in the world, and will probably get to dance a lot, eat a bit, and hug a whole lotta people.

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So, back to one of those tips I gave myself — cooking! Here’s what we made for dinner last night, straight outta my bridal binder cookbook. This was really delicious! Might simplify it next time, doing more a lasagna style bake than the roll-ups. A little fussy but still doable on a week night (plus, leftovers for days!). Here’s how I did it.

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one year ago: nothing of note but I made this chickpea curry this week for a quick pantry meal and it was soooo good 
two years ago: erm, nothing, how about a mango mezcal margarita? (this would be a great wedding cocktail!)
three years ago: roasted tomato and kasha bowl
four years ago: butternut-tahini mash

Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-ups

thanks to my friend Rachel

¾ cup golden raisins
2 eggplants
Tablespoon or two olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ cup basil leaves, torn
24 oz jar prepared arrabbiata sauce (I used most of the jar)
3.5 oz jar prepared basil pesto (I used most of the jar, probably about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Soak golden raisins in warm water. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, then drain.

Slice eggplants the long way, so you have 8ish long slabs per eggplant. Brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill on a flat pan until tender, about 2 minutes/side.

Preheat oven to 400F. Spoon about ⅓ cup arrabiata sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish.

Set aside about two-thirds of your eggplant slices (the longer, most supple ones). Finely chop the remaining slices and put in a big bowl. Add to this bowl: a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mozzarella (about ⅓ of your mozz log), olives, basil leaves, most of the raisins, red wine vinegar, ½ cup arrabbiata sauce, some salt and pepper.

Lay eggplant slices out on your cutting board. Spread a dollop of basil pesto over each slice. Put a spoonful of filling on the larger end of each eggplant slice, then roll up. Place rolls in prepared dish, seam-side down.

Spoon more sauce over the rolls, then cover with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and any remaining basil.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbling and melty. Remove from oven and top with lots of fresh parsley and pine nuts.

I served it with pasta but it likely could stand on its own as a meal. Yum!

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heh, I seem to be an expert at taking up how ever much space is available. Thanks hairy-arm Daniel for this shot 😉

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Whole Orange Dressing Bulgur Salad – 5/67

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At the beginning of this week, Daniel and I made a gigantic to-do list that encompassed moving tasks, wedding tasks, cooking tasks, New Years Eve planning tasks, and general life errands tasks. I am happy to report that we have been gleefully and regularly checking things off the list all week. It’s amazing what can get done when we don’t have to go to an office. And how good checklists can make me feel. So, so good.

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We’ve finalized a rehearsal dinner venue and schedule, bought Daniel a wedding suit, started packing, did laundry, planned a NYE menu, and here I go now, checking off “blog salad recipe”. Progress!

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This is such a smart way to make salad dressing. Just peel an orange (next time I would zest it first to add even more punch) and stick in the blender with the other usual dressing suspects. Loud noise for a moment, and ta-da, an aromatic, sweet elixir to punch up any salad ingredients you have around. I’ll be sure to keep this one on rotation as we approach that time-of-year-when-all-things-healthy happen. 

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The original recipe was called Moroccan Spinach Salad, but I’m not sure I have enough authority to call this Moroccan. It also called for pistachios instead of pepitas — maybe that’s what pushed it towards Moroccan? Anyway, Moroccan or not, this is a delicious combination of flavors. Happy eating in 2019!!

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one year ago: gochujang pasta salad
two years ago: buffalo caramel popcorn
three years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
four years ago: hot honey pizza with roasted broccoli

Whole Orange Dressing Bulgur Salad

from my Aunt Ingrid, thanks!

Salad
1 cup cooked bulgur
½ cup dried dates (I didn’t have quite enough dates so added some raisins too)
½ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 or 2 peeled and shaved carrots (I added this on Day 2, hence no pics, but it added a lot!)
Baby spinach

Dressing
1 peeled orange (next time would add a bit of zest too!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh cilantro stems and leaves, roughly chopped

To make dressing: Combine first four ingredients in a blender (or food processor). Once dressing is smooth, add cilantro and pulse a couple times until broken up. Taste and adjust seasoning.

How I would make salad next time: combine all salad ingredients, besides spinach, with dressing. Mix in spinach leaves when ready to eat (maybe with a bit extra olive oil/vinegar/sprinkle of honey). (I ate this for lunch for three days and wished I added fresh spinach each time.)

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Zoodle Latkes

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Look, I agree. Latkes don’t need to be anything more than shredded potatoes fried til crispy, sprinkled with flaky salt and eaten as is. Applesauce dollop highly suggested.

IMG_7846 IMG_7847So…zucchini? And… spiralized? Yeah, I know, it’s unnecessary. But look! how! fun! it is!

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This is a perfect breakfast for one, while your fiance goes to a motorcycle show with his buddies and you pray to whoever that he doesn’t buy anything. With one butt you can only be in one place at a time, according to old family saying, soooo we can extrapolate to… with one butt you can only have one motorcycle per decade? That sounds like as good an adage as any.

IMG_7852 IMG_7857Update: He didn’t buy a motorcycle. Phew. He did, at a later date, buy multiple fancy music-making synthy devises, because apparently with one butt you can indeed play more than one of those at one time. My analogy has failed me. 

Happy Hanukkah, however you decide to latke this year!

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I did revisit this kale caesar last night and am still quite in love with it
two years ago: key lime pie with saltine crust
three years ago: rellenitos de plátano (stuffed and fried mashed plantains!)
four years ago: messy and delicious buttermints 

Zoodle Latkes

a swanky original

1 zucchini, spiralized
½ onion, thinly sliced/shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour
Neutral oil to fry
Salt and pepper

Fried egg to top, highly suggested

Squeeze liquid out of your zucchini over a sink. Place zucchini strands in a mixing bowl, and add onion, egg, flour, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Add ¼ inch of oil to a big skillet, and heat over medium-high heat. When it seems hot hot hot, add dollops of your zoodle batter to the pan, and slightly flatten. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until crispy. (I made this into two big latkes, but wished I had done 4 small ones instead. The edges were nice and crispy and the insides were cooked, but too thick to be the perfect texture throughout. Oh well, the more you know.)

Take latkes out of pan and place on paper towel-covered plate. Sprinkle with a bit of salt immediately. Let rest for a moment.

Top with a fried egg and hot sauce for a perfect breakfast.

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Hot Artichoke Dip – 3/67

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I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. I mean, we all know I love food. And a whole day (or letsbehonest, a whole! weekend!) devoted to food?? I’m down.

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We always have two celebrations, one with each side of the family, and then since we’re all together anyway, add a gift-exchange component to the day. On one side that means a Yankee swap, on the other it means socks. Both sides do fairly traditional Thanksgiving meals (although one turkey is always better than the other, not saying which). One side does cherry pie, the other does pumpkin. One leans into the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, the other tries to get rid of them every year. And one side has artichoke dip.

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Artichoke dip at Thanksgiving is, I concede, gratuitous. But even though something is unnecessary does not mean it is unwelcome. I Love artichoke dip. Well, I love all things artichoke (oh wow, only one other recipe with them on the site!), so it’s no surprise that when mixed with roughly 6 kinds of dairy products and then baked until golden and bubbling and filling the house with incredible smells, I’d be a fan.

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This is my first Texas Thanksgiving, and when faced with the thought of missing my family’s traditions for a year, artichoke dip rose to the top of the list. How else would I ruin my appetite before the turkey meal?? Turns out, there are endless ways to do this, including decadent quiche for Thanksgiving brunch, cheesy salty Tex Mex the night before, and the Williams’ family own impressive appetizer spread, including deviled eggs, bruschetta, shrimp on cucumbers, and various pickled things. Texas always provides. And now I can provide Texas with artichoke dip! Family mushing in action. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I also made this cauliflower tart for the Big Meal. So good, so rich.
two years ago: nothing of note, but I also made this mushroom farro stuffing yesterday. This had lots of fans!
three years ago: blueberry lemon cake with ginger cream cheese frosting
four years ago: sweet sesame cauliflower, snow pea, and kale salad 

Hot Artichoke Dip

From Aunt Beth B – I one-and-a-halved Beth’s recipe, with some extra artichokes. The following is how I made it.

12 ounces cream cheese (one and a half bricks)
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded mozzarella
¾ cup grated parmesan
2 14-oz cans artichokes in water, drained and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Using electric beaters, mix together cream cheese and mayo until combined. Add cheese and mix until just combined. Fold in artichokes, and a dash each of salt and pepper, with a spatula.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. (Original recipe called for a pie pan, but I ended up using a small-ish casserole dish and a little square pan for the extra. I think I prefer it in a thinner layer because more surface area = more browning.) Bake until golden and bubbling — original recipe said 20 minutes but mine took closer to 40.

Serve with crackers and veggies, to kid yourself about any health value.

 

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.

 

Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

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Reasons I should be eating cake for breakfast today instead of greens:

  • I survived this week.
  • A week which consisted of dress rehearsal and final performance for my, shall we say, incredibly stubborn current group of senior citizen actors I devised a play with. Hoo boy this was a tough one. Cake deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of rehearsals every day for the show I’m directing for Bond Street Theatre — our production of The Law of the Jungle — originally created in Afghanistan and currently restaged with teens from our weekend workshop series. Friday was opening night, and they killed it! Cake definitely deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of visiting the final senior center theater program I oversaw, wayyy out in East Elmhurst, Queens.
  • Monday is the first day of Urban Stages Summer Camp, for which I’m the director. The staff is trained, the theater is set up, the campers (more than we’ve ever had!) are ready to descend. And this administrator is feeling confident. (Cake!)
  • Other things accomplished this week to celebrate: we submitted visas for our upcoming China trip(!), got a good start on our wedding website, ordered a test save the date, and I found time to make muffins.
  • Also this country is going to shit and it’s terrifying, so I think cake for breakfast is the least of our concerns.

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Reasons I should be eating greens for breakfast instead of cake:

  • My fridge has been taken over by CSA greens. Like SERIOUSLY taken over. Send help.
  • (Also, I definitely ate this with half a leftover raspberry lime muffin I made for my teens, so I ended up with the best of both worlds.)

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Practicality, psh — these eggs also taste great. I say “Spanish-ish” because this recipe contains two of my favorite Spanish ingredients — smoked paprika and manchego cheese — but I don’t actually know if this is consumed in Spain. But I do know it’s delicious and that now I have one less bundle of greens to deal with in the fridge.

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four years ago: easy rhubarb cake 
three years ago: mustard greens with oyster sauce and garlic oil 
two years ago: Lebanese un-stuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
one year ago: tapado (Caribbean fish, coconut, and plantain soup)

Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

a swanky original

½ pound spinach (about 3 big handful)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 giant garlic clove, minced
big pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
a couple splashes hot sauce (this is my favorite and adds even more smokiness)
Non-stick spray
2 eggs
shredded manchego (or cheese of choice)
fresh oregano, minced (optional)
s&p

Preheat oven to 375F.

If starting with farm-fresh spinach, remove stems and rinse. (My favorite way to do this is in a big bowl — fill with greens and cold water, hold greens to one side and drain, and repeat three times. Takes a little while but is quite effective.) Dry on clean kitchen towels, or a salad spinner if you didn’t break yours last week (oops). Give a rough chop.

Heat a big saute pan over medium heat. Warm olive oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for about a minute, until your kitchen smells great. Add spinach all in one go, and sprinkle with generous pinches of salt, pepper, and the smoked paprika. Then mix together. As spinach cooks down, add vinegar and hot sauce. Turn off heat when spinach is dark green and totally shriveled. For me this took about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Get out two oven-safe ramekins and spray with Pam or other non-stick spray. Arrange half of spinach in each. Make a little divet in the middle and crack one egg into each divet. Sprinkle eggs with salt, pepper, and manchego cheese.

Put ramekins on a rimmed baking tray (for easy maneuverability) and bake until whites are set but the yolk is still a bit runny. (In my notoriously slow oven this happened around minute 21, but I began checking around 15 minutes.) Sprinkle with oregano and extra hot sauce if you’d like. Let it sit for a moment before eating — everything will be hot!

Other things I’ve made with CSA ingredients this week:

  • a salad to use up lettuce, fresh oregano, and radishes
  • a Callaloo soup that I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of (I blame the okra)
  • raspberry lime muffins
  • lettuce wraps with hummus and curry roasted cauliflower

5 Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Dinners + zippy crunchy cheesy BEST KALE SALAD

…for when you’re a single lady (just for the week while your fiancé is at a coding convention (I’m marrying a lovely nerd) or a longer stretch, no shame either way). Easy dinners with extras for lunch.

The original point of this site was for me to document what I make, to save recipes to return to, and hopefully inspire a couple other folks out there in the void to cook an extra vegetarian meal each week. To that end, let’s deem this an appropriate post, totally on theme, and just give an understanding wave to a) the fact none of these are original recipes and b) the photo quality. I mean, we’re talking about easy, quick dinners. If that’s your goal, you probably don’t have time to set up lighting equipment, sufficiently move aside the cooking implements on your one usable surface (iloveyounewyorkcity but damn am I ready for a larger kitchen), and style things.

An update about kale salad: I’ve said some mean things about it on this blog before. But I’ve totally become a convert. For a variety of reasons: it’s so much more filling than lettuce, keeps so much longer in the fridge, you can keep the assembled salad already dressed in the fridge for lunch the next day, and it’s just as good raw or cooked. This dressing is from the smitten kitchen cookbook (her first). For me, the non-negotiable ingredients are dried cherries, goat cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. And then I add whatever else is hanging around.

So here we are — a week of single lady eating in the swanky sweet potato kitchen:

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Simply Recipe’s Red Lentil Dal: One of my favorite recipes, on a constant rotation around here. It’s healthy, uses things I have lying around, is super inexpensive, and makes a ton. Highly recommend you keep red lentils around for this purpose. I never boil and peel the tomatoes, just add them earlier than suggested. Served here with brown rice and these Brussels sprouts that were good enough to make again. One batch = lunch all week.

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No recipe on this one — just a bastardized fattoush-ish salad that’s basically my “last meal” meal. Broken za’atar pita chips and stuffed grape leaves from Sahadi’s (heaven on earth), plus chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, and a very quick tahini dressing (big spoonful tahini, some fresh lemon juice, a splash of water, a little minced garlic if I’m feeling fancy, plus salt and pepper). Some feta if I find it hiding in the fridge. I could eat this everyday.

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Spaghetti Squash Sesame Noodles: I really want to like spaghetti squash. This was a decent attempt at achieving this quest. Some can’t-go-wrong flavors — sesame oil, sriracha, soy sauce, rice vinegar. Alas, it still tastes like those things over squash. Meh. Also I was hungry 15 minutes later (yay popcorn!) but maybe that’s just me…

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Spanish-Influenced One Pot Quinoa: I loved this dinner. I basically love any excuse to buy marinated artichokes because I eat half of them before dinner, but this would’ve been good even without that splurge. Super easy, and I like the leftovers both cold and reheated. Plus this is a very adaptable recipe that would be good with whatever veggies you have lying around.

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Ah yes, the smitten kitchen salad I raved about before. Here’s my version. It makes frequent appearances around here.

omg four years ago: rhubarb and chickpea stew with herb-lemon yogurt sauce
three years ago: tatsoi and tofu stir-fry with soba noodles
two years ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing 
one year ago: eggplant salad and goat cheese sandwiches (mmm I could go for this right now)

zippy crunchy cheesy kale salad (aka BEST KALE SALAD)

dressing and ingredients suggestions from the smitten kitchen cookbook

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar or light balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard (I’ve used whole grain and spicy smooth)
1.5 teaspoons honey
s&p

Salad Ingredients
1 bunch kale (lacinato/dinosaur if possible)
1/2 a small log of goat cheese
small handful dried sour cherries, cut in half
about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
another crunchy vegetable — finely chopped radishes, red bell pepper, or celery would all work well here
toasted garlic panko (totally unnecessary but makes a plain old salad feel positively daring)

To make dressing, simply mix all ingredients with a fork in a small bowl until combined.

Wash and dry kale leaves. Remove and discard ribs. Create stacks of leaves, roll them up, and cut into thin strips. Put in a big bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some s&p. Massage for at least one full minute, until leaves shrink and turn a darker green.

Let greens sit while you prep the rest of the salad ingredients. Add them to the bowl (minus panko), add most of the dressing, and mix with tongs to combine.  You may want to add goat cheese later so it doesn’t totally disintegrate into salad, forcing you to add extra. Sprinkle individual portions with toasted panko.

Leftover dressing made spaghetti squash surprisingly delicious. Especially with a 6-minute egg atop.

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

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Some things that have happened since July 3rd (the last time I posted here… yikes!)

  • I saw the total eclipse on my birthday on a ranch in Idaho, after two days of amazing hikes with my family. Can’t think of a better way to ring in my 28th year. Also, Hanna made me an amazing red wine chocolate cake that I might need every year from here on out…

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  • I made another wedding cake! (Although this one not of the tiered, and therefore uber-impressive, variety.) Despite its’ singular level, it was a giant success and work of love, and I couldn’t be happier to bestow it upon dear friends. Congrats, Michael and Joanna!

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  • And while we’re on this wedding tangent, Daniel and I got engaged! I am the luckiest lady in the whole world. After 4½ years together, he’s not ready to call it quits yet! Thankfully it happened right before the Texan pig roast and not at it, as I can’t believe that would be the most auspicious way to start the next chapter of my life. (But hey, I tried the pig! And didn’t hate it. But no need for any more pig for another 5 years or so.)

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  • Daniel, my adorable fiance, started a new job. He went out to California for three weeks, leaving me by my lonesome. I kept busier than I meant to, but did make some great dinner + leftovers for myself. One week was a giant batch of sweet potato curry, one week featured cauliflower potato soup, but the third week had this salad on repeat: Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad. Let’s just say it was a week of exciting lunch times. California shmalifornia.

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  • Daniel and I embarked on a gnocchi-making project, a homemade pho adventure, introduced friends to NYC’s best deep dish pizza, had a “battle of the city” (NYC vs SF) pupusa contest (NYCs are cheaper and bigger), discovered the cutest onigiri restaurant near my work, and ate a good many heirloom tomato and white bread sandwiches. I think this is the part of married life I’m looking forward to — the little discoveries we keep finding together, the nightly ritual of sharing a meal, and working side-by-side on projects, big and small. This is how you measure, measure a 5-month-gap. 😉
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Proud of our veggie pho! From Bowl by Lucas Volger

Honestly, when I was making that Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad I wasn’t really concerned with documenting or taking pictures. But after I ate it for lunch a couple days in a row, I figured it was worth sharing with the world. If you’re looking for something easy, healthy, filling, and cheap, look no further. As such, please allow me a slide for the photos, and use your judgements when following this loose recipe, you talented cooks, you. 

one year ago: key lime pie with salty cracker crust
two years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
three years ago: buttermints and mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

(squash recipe from Bon Appetit)

1 smallish butternut squash
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used black this time but either works)
1 big tablespoon gochujang (Korean pepper paste — could try with sriracha or sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, veg)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cucumber (unpeeled is fine)
1 red bell pepper
Some big handfuls baby spinach, torn
2 scallions, minced
Bow-tie pasta (I boiled up about a ¼ of a box)

Dressing Ingredients:
Honestly I didn’t measure anything here. I’d start with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½-1 teaspooon toasted sesame oil, a big squeeze of honey, and some splashes rice vinegar or lime juice.

Step 1: Squash. Preheat oven to 425. Make squash marinade by combining sesame seeds, gochujang, oil, and soy sauce in a big bowl. Peel squash and slice into small disks. Add to marinade bowl and mix so squash is evenly covered. Transfer to a single layer on baking sheets. Roast up for about 25-30 minutes, or until caramelized and soft and nutty and perfect.

Step 2: Salady things. Cut bell pepper into thin matchstrips. And do the same with the cucumber, getting rid of some seeds. Rinse out that bowl you made the squash marinade in and use it to assemble salad ingredients: spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, cooked pasta.

Step 3: Dressing. Make some dressing! You don’t need much, since squash is already very flavorful. You just want a little something to add some flavor to the greens and pasta. Start with the dressing recipe above and adjust to your liking. (Don’t try adding tahini, it was a total mistake.)

Step 4: Finish and eat! Add cooked, warm squash to salad bowl (it will wilt the spinach a bit). Add dressing. Taste and doctor until you reach your personal Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad nirvana.

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Uh, right, not squash pasta salad, you’ve seen enough of that. I wanted to end on a pupusa note. Yum. 

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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