Friday, August 1, 2014

Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara

Move over immersion blender, step aside olive oil spritzer: there's a new kitchen gadget in town! Front and center in my kitchen cabinet, I proudly introduce to you "The Spiralizer"; paramount to today's Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara recipe.


Obsessed with the idea of zucchini noodles—I love any dish that replaces a well-known ingredient with a healthier, more calorie-conscious counterpart—I made my first batch of zucchini noodles (affectionately named zoodles) with a vegetable peeler. Two band-aids and a hand cramp later, I decided there would be no more faking my zoodles. Perfection was principal. I didn't want peeler slivers, I wanted spaghetti. Right then and there I decided (insert rap video slow entrance music into Bed Bath and Beyond here) that it was time to invest in a spiralizer.

I was deciding between the Paderno Tri-Blade Spiral Vegetable Slicer and my Gefu Spirelli Spiral Slicer, but ultimately, the latter won out because it was small—an essential for any cramped NYC apartment kitchen. The Gefu may not spiralize firmer vegetables like carrots (thats ok, coodles sounds weird) and is a bit of a pain to clean, but for $29.99 (minus 20% if you bring a BB&B coupon!) it totally gets the job done. My zoodles are as spaghetti'd as can be. (A larger blade gives you the option of linguini-ing your zucchini too.) And you really get bang for your buck: estimating one zucchini for each serving, it really makes—yes I am going to say it—oodles of zoodles!!

So, have you noticed the variety of squash overflowing the farmers market right now? The Spiralizer is your way to try them all! From golden yellow squash to evergreen zucchini to the sage-colored tints in between, there's no denying the copious quantities of summertime courgettes. I usually sauté them up with onions until they sweat, but to most closely mimic the texture of an al-dente pasta, you only need to flash-cook these bad boys. The firmer texture is a really enjoyable and refreshing departure from their regular preparation.

At first, I envisioned a rich ground turkey bolognese to top my zucchini noodles, but decided to stick with the food-fooling theme, achieving "meatiness" and protein instead with lentils. (This recipe is 100% vegan.) The lentils blend wonderfully with the sweet, acidic tomatoes; a hearty, chewy enrichment to the sauce. To really beef it up, I think I'll try adding mushrooms and carrots to the sauce next time as well, or maybe sun-dried tomatoes.

Another great thing about this recipe is its extremely adaptable to your schedule: As the zoodles themselves take about 8 minutes total to prepare—less time than it takes to boil and cook a pot of pasta—you also have the option of buying cooked, refrigerated lentils and prepared marina sauce, for a meal that will truly be ready in minutes.


Twisting each strand of "spaghetti" around my fork in classic Lady and the Tramp style, I decided I was in love with this recipe. In the way that only comfort food can make you feel—satiated in appetite and spirit—I was so excited to realize that this dish was probably as healthy a bowl of noodles as could ever be. So, are you ready to zoodle your noodles? I'm eager to hear what you think!

Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara (adapted from In Sonnet's Kitchen)
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried French lentils (or 3/4 cup precooked lentils)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or 1 15 oz can tomato sauce)*
1 teaspoon sugar*
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar*
1 teaspoon dried basil*
1 teaspoon dried oregano*
½ teaspoon dried thyme*
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 large or 3 medium zucchini, spiralized into pasta
salt and black pepper to taste
Parsley, for garnish

*Omit if using premade marinara sauce. (I prefer Antica Cucina or Rao’s Homemade)

Directions: 
1. In a medium pot, bring lentils and 1 cup of water to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until lentils are tender and liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes. (It’s ok if they aren’t cooked through—they will cook more later on.)
2. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for an additional minute, until fragrant.
3. Add the tomatoes (drained, if not using sauce), sugar, vinegar, basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
4. When lentils have absorbed the water (but are still slightly firm), add them to the sauce and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
5. In a separate pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the zucchini pasta for 2- 5 minutes. Err on the side of underdone—you don’t want to overcook them, because they may become liquidy. 

6. Divide the pasta into two portions and top with lentil marinara.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Did you know that we get 20% of our total water intake from food? Fruits and vegetables are naturally waterlogged —some contain more than 90% water by weight! In the height of summer, when I am perpetually thirsty, I find myself gravitating towards the produce with the most water retention: watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, grapefruit, cantaloupe. While nothing beats a cold glass of H20, this Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas certainly helps in the hydration department, keeping you as cool as, well, a cucumber.

Cucumbers, along with iceberg lettuce, contain more water per serving than any other vegetable: 96%! Swimming alongside crisp red onion, red peppers, and ample cilantro in an invigorating rice wine vinegar and sesame oil dressing, the cucumbers in this salad truly seem almost drinkable. You could stop right here—a perfectly cool summer side—but combining with roasted spiced chickpeas elevates the dish to a filling, protein-packed main. The juxtaposition of the bronzed, savory chickpeas—superbly crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside—against the brisk cucumber salad is really spectacular. The chickpeas have a fun, snacking feel: I popped handful after handful into my mouth with the same addictive fervor as if they were Doritos, minus the guilt.

This salad only gets better with age. I made two batches and ate the latter half two days later, finding that the Asian flavors had really seeped into the veggies, enhancing them substantially. If you can, try to make the salad the day before eating it. In keeping with a Thai theme, I definitely recommend topping the whole bowl with a healthy serving of chopped honey-roasted peanuts (I am partial to Planter's); playing up the sweet vs spicy theme. If you want to bulk up your salad with more "hydrating" vegetables, try adding chopped mango, radishes, or watermelon to the mix.

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas (adapted from Oh She Glows)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Dressing:
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1.5-2 tablespoons natural cane sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash of Sriracha sauce, more if you like spice
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Salad:
2 medium field cucumbers
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish (optional)

Chickpeas:
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a medium baking sheet with tin foil.
2. Rinse, drain, and dry the chickpeas. (This process can be expedited by rolling them around in a paper towel a few times.)
3. When chickpeas are completely dry, transfer to the baking sheet along with the oil, salt, and rest of the spices. Mix thoroughly.
4. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast for another 20 minutes, until golden brown and lightly charred.
5. While the chickpeas cook, prepare the salad. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside.
6. Peel cucumbers and chop into "half moons": slice cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and chop halves into 1/8 inch pieces. Dice the red pepper and onion. Place cucumber, pepper and onion in a large bowl. 
7. Add dressing and cilantro to large bowl, toss thoroughly. Let the salad sit for minimum 30 minutes; but preferably overnight. (Note: this only applies to the salad. Chickpeas are best [aka most crunchy] when eaten immediately after roasting. They do last a few days, but lose their crunch.) Before serving, add roasted chickpeas and sprinkle chopped honey-roasted peanuts atop salad if desired. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Watermelon Radish, Tofu, and Snap Pea Salad


This Watermelon Radish, Tofu, and Snap Pea Salad defines summer to a T. Featuring farmers market fresh ingredients, crisp, cool raw vegetables, and a peppery crunch with every bite; this salad will satiate your appetite while keeping your body temp in check on even the hottest days. You know those +90 degree days where the heat is so oppressive, your appetite basically disappears? (Aka today?) This is the type of meal you want.



I stumbled across the recipe after purchasing radishes and fresh snap peas from the Greenmarket on a whim. Wanting something new and different, I googled both veggies for some recipe inspiration, and came upon a similar recipe from Saveur that swapped my tofu for Ahi tuna. (Both proteins are excellent options, I just had the more wallet-friendly tofu on hand.) After adjusting the recipe for a healthier take by eliminating most of the oil, I set to work. I was so pleased with the result: aesthetically enchanting was a given with the magenta hue of the radishes* against the emerald green snap peas, but the taste was just as amiable. The Asian inspired dressing is flavorful yet light, evoking a Japanese style ginger dressing that packs a bit more of a peppery punch.  When plating the tofu, make sure to layer each piece slightly on-top of one another, like a carefully cut fillet sliced to display the inside flesh: it yields quite the impressive plate.

*As evidenced by the photos, I did not use watermelon radishes. If you can though you should—they are beautiful! Fun fact: Watermelon radishes are technically heirloom Chinese Daikon radishes. A member of the mustard family along with arugula, broccoli and turnips, and generally larger than a regular radish, their exterior is creamy white with greenish hues—only the interior flesh is radiantly pink.

Watermelon Radish, Tofu, and Snap Pea Salad (adapted from Saveur)
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1½ tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp. white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 (2”) piece ginger, peeled, grated and minced
1 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
7 oz extra firm tofu
8 oz. sugar snap peas
3 tbsp fresh mint leaves
1 tsp. black sesame seeds, lightly toasted (optional)
2 watermelon or 3 large regular red radishes
Shredded green cabbage (optional)

Directions:
1. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, honey, mustard, sesame oil, ½ tsp of white sesame seeds, the garlic, ginger, pepper, and 1 tbsp canola oil in a small bowl. (For a smooth consistency, puree in a blender.)

2. Drain tofu, and then further remove excess water by microwaving tofu block, wrapped loosely in a paper towel, for 1 minute. Cut into 1 x 2 inch pieces, and set aside in a large shallow bowl.

3. Pour 2 tbsp of dressing over the tofu. Let marinate, turning once, while you assemble the rest of the salad.

4. Chop the vegetables: Cut snap peas crosswise into 1” pieces, removing stems first; halve and thinly slice the radishes; roughly chop the mint. Place chopped veggies in a large bowl. Pour reserved dressing over veggies, mix thoroughly.

5. Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place tofu squares in pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turn, and cook on other side for another 2-3 minutes. (To prevent burning, add the remaining marinade to the pan before flipping over). Remove from heat when tofu is golden brown.

6. Plate salad: on a bed of shredded green cabbage (optional) place a generous portion of radish and snap pea mixture. Top with tofu squares. Sprinkle plate with remaining sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Moroccan Yam Veggie Burgers with Cilantro-Lime Tahini Sauce


A good veggie burger is one of my absolute favorite meals. Unfortunately, the plant-based patty is easily prone to a bad rap due to three common shortcomings: bland, cardboard-like taste (blah), rubbery, processed consistency (ew), or loose ingredients that crumble upon touch (grr.) These inferior qualities can turn burger-lovers against the veggified version for good, and if you're one of the haters, I beg you to here me out. A solid veggie burger is fantastic, and this Moroccan Yam Veggie Burger with Cilantro-Lime Tahini Sauce proves my point.
A base of shredded yams and crushed chickpeas hold these burgers together in both texture and substance, and a range of rich spices like cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and coriander add distinctive Moroccan flavor. Flour made from rolled oats and flax seed adds a nutty, wholesome nuance, and using sesame oil instead of traditional olive oil adds another unexpected but well-received flavor to the mix. 
Now lets talk about the sauce, which I am going to suggest right now to double in quantity because its equally important as to why this veggie burger rocks. Tangy and herby with ample cilantro and lime, the tahini almost gives it a green goddess-like quality (so obviously I'm obsessed.)  Because the burger itself is pretty earthy, the tangy dressing really makes it pop. 
Baking the burger yields a perfectly crisp exterior and appropriately soft, chewy inside; no weird consistency issues here! The yam and oats mean the batter is pretty starchy, so feel free to skip the "bun" here and serve with a big helping of shepherd's salad chockfull of tomato, cucumber, and onion instead. 
Moroccan Yam Veggie Burgers with Cilantro-Lime Tahini Sauce (from Oh She Glows)
Makes 6-8 patties
Prep time: 25 minutes, cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
For the burgers:
1.5 cups grated yam or sweet potato 
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 small piece of fresh ginger (1 cm cube), peeled
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
2 tablespoons ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour (use gluten-free if necessary)
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/2-3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

For the cilantro-lime tahini sauce (makes 1/2 cup):
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Make the burgers: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Peel the yam/sweet potato. Grate (by hand or in a food processor) until you have 1 1/2 lightly packed cups. Place into large bowl.
3. In the same food processor (no need to wash), mince the garlic, cilantro, and ginger until finely chopped.
4. Add drained chickpeas and process again until finely chopped, but leave some texture. Scoop this mixture into a large bowl.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the flax and water. Add to large bowl.
6. Grind the oats into flour using a blender or the food processor. Add flour to large bowl.
7. Stir in the oil, soy sauce, salt/pepper, and spices to batter until thoroughly combined. Adjust to taste if desired.
8. Shape 6-8 patties, packing the mixture firmly together. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip, and bake for another 18-23 minutes until golden and firm. Cool on pan.
Make the cilantro sauce: 

1. Mince garlic in a food processor, followed by the cilantro. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and process until smooth and creamy.