• roasted cauliflower with lentils and tahini sauce

    Roasted cauliflower with lentils and tahini sauce >> avocadobravado.net

    Roasted cauliflower is an old standby from my early days of learning how to cook. I was in college at the time and had a job at a book store. The store would receive advanced copies of books the staff could keep. FOR FREE. As a student working part-time for minimum wage, free books were a dream come true. One of the books I snagged at the end of a shift was Olives & Oranges by Sara Jenkins. The book store has gone the way of the dodo and the my copy of Olives & Oranges was donated long ago, but I still have fond memories of procrastinating homework to pore over recipes, making lists of how I should stock my humble pantry, and dog-earing just about every other page or so for recipes to try on my own or to make for Cory when we moved in together.

    The main dish I took away from the book was cauliflower with tahini sauce. I don’t remember the exact recipe from the book, so I’m sure mine deviates a bit. The cauliflower is roasted which brings out its natural sugars, then drizzled with a creamy lemon and garlic tahini sauce. It’s perfect as is, but also great served over lentils like I did here, or with bulghur or couscous, or stuffed in a pita or wrap.

    Oh! I have a backlog of recipes to post here! That hasn’t happened in uh… 3 1/2 years. After a particularly miserable winter, I want to devour every vegetable in sight. That’s a good thing, right?

    Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Lentils
    (adapted from Olives & Oranges by Sara Jenkins)

    Cauliflower:
    1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
    enough olive oil to coat the cauliflower
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1/3 cup parsley, chopped

    Tahini sauce:
    2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
    2/3 cup tahini
    2-4 tablespoons water (depending on
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
    1/4 teaspoon coriander
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Lentils:
    2 cups lentils
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    salt & pepper, to taste

    Garnishing (optional):
    Chopped parsley
    Lemon wedges

    Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

    Wash cauliflower and cut into florets. Pat dry with a towel and place the cauliflower in a large foil-lined roasting pan. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil over the cauliflower and use your hands to make sure the cauliflower is thoroughly coated in oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the cauliflower and place the roasting pan in the oven. Set your timer for 20 minutes.

    Fill up a large pot with water. When boiling, add lentils and cook according to package directions. Once done, drain, transfer back to the large pot, and set aside.

    After the 20 minutes are up, remove the cauliflower from the oven and turn the pieces over. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes.

    Now, prepare the sauce. Chop up garlic cloves, toss in a large bowl, add tahini, water, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and mix thoroughly. Give the sauce a taste test and adjust salt, spices, and lemon, if necessary. Add more water for a thicker sauce. Add about 2 tablespoons of both the tahini sauce and olive oil to your pot full of lentils and mix. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

    Check on the cauliflower and if most pieces are a dark golden color, they’re ready. If not, check on them again in another 5 minutes. When ready, remove from oven, toss in the chopped parsley. Serve the cauliflower over a bed of lentils. Top the cauliflower with tahini sauce and drizzle a little olive oil over the dish just before serving. Garnish with lemon wedges and more parsley.

    Serves 4-6 as a main or side

  • karkady / egyptian hibiscus tea / كركديه

    karkady egyptian hibiscus tea karkade

    The first time I had karkady was in Cairo in 2006. Ramadan was in full swing and the October heat was relentless. My roommate and I were in a taxi on our way to al-Husayn Mosque, which we would visit a few times a week. She would go to the mosque to pray, then we’d hit up nearby Khan al-Khalili to shop for giant gaudy earrings and eat tameyya sandwiches. On the last stretch of the trip, the call to prayer rippled through the city. It was iftar — time to break the day’s fast. Drivers had a new sense of urgency, most pedestrians vanished from the street to fill their bellies, and our cab driver broke his fast with a cigarette.

    As our taxi inched forward in bumper to bumper traffic, I noticed a man going from car to car and handing people bags with some sort of deep red liquid. When he got to our taxi, he handed me a bag and said something I didn’t understand. I had just enough time to thank him, but not enough to ask him what it was before he went on his merry way. I asked the cab driver if he knew what the drink was and he said, “karkady”. Well, OK! I didn’t know what that was but when a jovial toothless man hands you mystery drink in a plastic bag, what do you do? My roommate wasn’t interested, so I drank it in the most graceful way one can drink from a plastic bag (which is not at all).

    As a fan of all things sour, it was love at first sip. Sweet but not overly so, with a tart flavor reminiscent of cranberry juice. After doing some investigating later on (aka googling), I learned karkady was made from made an infusion of hibiscus flowers. Serve it cold in the hot months and hot when fighting off those winter shivers. It wasn’t for another few years after leaving Egypt that I would revisit karkady, but now you’ll find a pitcher (or bottle) of it in my fridge about once a month.

    To make karkady, you need dried red hibiscus flowers, which can be found at Middle Eastern and Latin American groceries (look for Flor de Jamaica), tea shops, and the bustling spice markets of Cairo. If none are available in your neck of the woods, there’s always Amazon, the Wal*Mart of the internet.

    Unrelated, but here are some things I’ve been cooking lately:

    Pulled Pork – I made about 5 pounds of pulled pork for Father’s Day. It had been so long since I cooked several pounds of pork that and I overcooked it a little bit, sadly. Dad came down for a visit and we feasted on pulled pork sandwiches and potato salad. I sent dad home with a big container of meat, then Cory and I used the remaining pork for sandwiches and tacos.

    Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad – When we ran out of pulled pork, we still had several corn tortillas. I made a mango and black bean salad based off an apricot and black bean salad from the taste space. The recipe has been a regular in our kitchen for about 3 years now.

    Quick Pickled Onions – from the Kitchn. I’ve quick pickled (and consumed) 4 jars of carrots in the last month and now I’m onto onions for salads and sandwiches.

    Falafels – The last of my chickpeas are currently soaking as I type this. Falafels served over a bed of lettuce will be tomorrow’s dinner. Maybe I’ll buy more chickpeas before we move, but first I have to go through a pound of pinto beans, cranberry beans, and great northern beans. Anyone have any ideas what to do with those?

    Tahini – ok, I haven’t made this yet. But I’m making it tomorrow! Again, from The Kitchn. I’ve never made tahini from scratch before, but I have a lot of sesame seeds I’ve been meaning to use up. I’m knee deep in Operation: Clear Out the Pantry.

    Zucchini – zucchini everything. Chopped up raw and in salads, zucchini noodles, zucchini soups, and mastering mom’s zucchini bread.

    Corn – with everything. Mostly corn on the cob, sometimes soup, and I made a corn, basil, and pesto pizza on Friday.

    Popsicles – currently, mango lassi popsicles. But I’m really craving Vietnamese iced coffee and I think they’d make for some delicious popsicles.

    Now, on with the show.

    Karkady / Egyptian Hibiscus Drink

    3/4 cup hibiscus petals
    8 cups water
    sugar, to taste (I recommend starting with 1/4 cup and taste testing from there)

    Optional:
    dried orange peel
    grated ginger
    a few squeezes of lime or lemon
    a cinnamon stick

    In a large pot, add hibiscus petals and water (add orange peel, ginger, and/or cinnamon stick, if using) and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in sugar and give the drink a taste test and add more sugar, if necessary. You can skip this part, but I usually cover the pot and let it steep for another 1-3 hours. If adding lime or lemon, squeeze a bit of juice in and stir. Strain the mixture into a pitcher, discard the petals, and refrigerate the drink for several hours.

    Serves 8-10

  • green salad

    greens salad with avocado and egg

    It was just one of those days where nothing sounds as good as a big plate of greens. Handfuls of greens, fresh herbs, chunks of avocado, crisp cucumbers, crunchy pistachios, a hard boiled egg on the side because why not, and just enough of the simplest of dressings to lightly coat it all. This is exactly what I was missing all winter. My kitchen is looking a lot like this these days:

    IMG_4192
    Green things! And a mess of other stuff.

    Welcome to my life without a salad spinner. I discovered how great salad spinners were last summer when we were living with my dad. I’d pick some kale, arugula, or romaine from the garden, wash, spin, and eat. It was glorious. I’m holding out until we move though, so there will be one less thing to pack. In the meantime, I’ll keep eating salads like this and my kitchen will remain a battlefield of greens.

    Green Salad

    For the salad:
    a few handful of greens (I used baby kale and a “spicy salad” mix)
    2 tablespoons chopped herbs (I used basil and parsley)
    half of an avocado, cubed
    1/2 cucumber, chopped (or 1 Persian cucumber)
    2 tablespoons of pistachios, chopped
    hard boiled egg

    For the dressing:
    a squeeze of lemon
    a teaspoon of olive oil
    salt & pepper, to taste
    red pepper flakes, to taste

    In a small bowl, mix together the dressing. Give it a taste and adjust lemon and salt, if needed. In a large bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together and mix in the dressing until everything is thoroughly coated. If you’re feeling lazy (like I was!), layer all the ingredients in a bowl or plate. Drizzle the dressing on top and crack some more pepper. Serve with a hard boiled egg on the side.

    Serves 1

  • date balls & detroit eastern market

    I get cranky when I’m hungry. In an embarrassing “I’m a grown woman and I know I shouldn’t be acting like this” kind of way. I’m not proud of it and I try to prevent it. When friends invited us to Eastern Market in Detroit this weekend, I jumped on board and immediately shouted “YES, OF COURSE!” but I knew to pack a snack in case we had a late lunch (and we did! 3 PM, but it was soo worth it). I wanted to make a snack that was small, easy to transport, and that could be shared with my gluten intolerant friend.

    Date balls! They’re a simple no fuss sort of snack. No freezing, no baking, no complicated instructions. Just blend, roll into balls, and eat. Since they’re made with just nuts and dates, it’s not like you’re spoiling you’re next meal, right?

    With 4 date balls carefully stored away in my purse, off to Detroit we went!

    eastern market - 01

    Eastern Market is the largest historic public market in the country. Something I didn’t know before visiting, and once I got there I was completely overwhelmed. I anticipated doing all of our weekly produce shopping there, but I was so overwhelmed I ended up forgetting lots of staples. Oops. I also got distracted by all the beautiful dogs.

    eastern market - 03

    Look at that giant dog!

    eastern market - 02

    Lots of pretty flowers, too. But they’re not as good as dogs. Adopting a dog just isn’t something that’s going to happen for a very long time, so I tend to go a little overboard when I see any dog.

    IMG_4191

    Today’s lunch, made with lots of fresh bounty from Eastern Market. Pasta with pesto, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Toast with mayonnaise and pesto, chopped up radishes, scallions, pickled carrots, and tossed in pesto. Sauteed dandelion greens.

    Oh, right. Date balls! This is a very forgiving and customizable recipe.

    before after medjool date balls

    Have an assortment of different types of nuts in the pantry? Just throw a hodgepodge of them in the food processor. You don’t need 2 cups of a certain type of nut, just use what you have. Don’t have 2 cups of nuts? Use as much as you have and replace the rest with oats. Don’t have ground cardamom? Try cinnamon. Feel free to experiment with coconut flakes, vanilla extract, or unsweetened cocoa. Don’t have dates? Well, go get some! They’re date balls, after all. Let the dates act as a base for any ingredient in your pantry that you think sounds good for date balls.

    medjool date balls

    Date Balls

    2 cups nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, whatever you have on hand. For this batch, I used 1 cup walnuts and 1 cup pistachios)
    2 cups medjool dates, pitted
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

    Add ingredients to food processor and blend for about a minute and test for stickiness. If the mixture sticks together when you pinch it, it’s ready. If not, blend for another 30 seconds. Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time, forming it into balls. Repeat until mixture is gone. Can be eaten right away or refrigerated.

    Makes about 20 date balls

  • 29th birthday

    I recently had a birthday. A 29th one, at that. It’s a little weird to think I am now the age I thought my mom was until I was 7 or 8, because you know, I believed every thing my mama told me (hi mom, love you). Cory and I celebrated the day of my birth with an overnight trip to Detroit, to spend hours and hours at the Detroit Institute of Arts and in typical Sponseller fashion, to stuff our faces with food. An overnight trip was much needed, since I’ve been feeling a bit burned out in the work department. Balancing my time and knowing when to say “no” to taking on additional projects is still something I’m clumsily fumbling my way through. There are certainly worse problems to have, but a brain break was much needed.

    First stop in Deh-twa was Motor City Brewing Works. Here’s Cory’s sausage pizza and beer because it was way more handsome than my artichoke pizza and cherry soda:

    motorcity brewing works

    Motor City Brewing Works is next to Nest and City Bird. I’m a sucker for cutesy home decor shops.

    You know, staying the night at someone else’s place always gets me excited about decorating my own apartment. Our move is only less than 2 months away now! Eep. We don’t have a new apartment lined up yet, but I’m totally gonna steal some ideas from this cute little studio. First up, definitely going to order a set of these Kikkerland maze coasters. And that floral chair too, if I can ever find it!

    detroit apartment

    Breakfast was at Midtown Zef’s, a new-ish coney island next to the historic Majestic Theater. I have a soft spot for coney islands because for most of my life, going to a restaurant meant going to a coney island. It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned that they’re primarily a Michigan thing. Coney islands serve up typical American fare like burgers and fries, but are usually owned by Greeks and Arabs so you’ll often find things like gyros (or pita sandwiches), spanakopita, baklava, and rice pudding on menus. Of course, they also serve coney dogs. Hot dogs topped with beanless chili, mustard, chopped onions, served in a bun. Anyway! As far as Midtown Zef’s goes, super cheap and tasty breakfast fare that serves up ridiculously huge portions.

    midtown zef's detroit

    We also stopped at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, which involved me making a fool of myself by spilling my coffee several times. I am not a graceful human. I also made a quick stop at The Peacock Room and picked up a new dress and jewelry. San Francisco’s Haight street used to be my go-to for shopping destination for clothing (I miss you, Ambiance!!) and Peacock Room hit the spot.

    Did a bit more walking around. Oh hello, Danish consulate. You’re somethin’ else. And for sale, too. Anyone wanna buy a mansion??

    detroit 2

    Then, finally! To the Detroit Institute of Arts.

    detroit 4

    Camel leg bones! Well, replicas of them. And a Portuguese man feeding a puppy, painted by Reza Abbasi in 1634, the last great master of the Persian miniature.

    bones and reza abbasi

    Officer of the Hussars by Kehinde Wiley. I want this on my wall.

    detroit 3

    In fleeting moments, I want to live in Detroit. No, not to buy a $1,000 dilapidated house and spend all my savings rehabbing it while fending off squatters. A downtown loft and a rooftop garden is more my style. There is a lot of beauty in Detroit and reminders of its former glory are everywhere. Then I walk down block after block, without ever passing another soul or cross the 6 lane Woodward Avenue and I realize that the Motor City is not an ideal place to live if you’re not interested in owning a car… and it doesn’t have the kind of population density I look for in a city. Oh well. Detroit is unlikely to ever be a place I call home, but I’ll always be excited to visit.

    detroit

    Our visit was short, about 24 hours. By the end of of the trip, I was really missing my little booger. I think I’m strong enough to go a blog post without posting a photo of my cat. You’re spared this time.