Yeah, no one is going to look at this and call it “food porn”.
There is an Egyptian dish called kushari, which consists of lentils, rice, macaroni, spaghetti, chickpeas, tomatoes and fried onions. It’s cheap, filling, and the serving sizes are preposterous. Whenever I’d order it, I’d be full by the fifth or sixth bite. That’s not a humblebrag about eating small portion sizes, no pizza is safe around me. Even though I liked kushari, eating it always felt like a punch in the gut. I love me some carbs like nothing else, but it was just too heavy for me.
While this dish bears basically no resemblance to kushari, it was made in the same spirit. Cheap, filling, made primarily with pantry and freezer essentials, but most definitely not a punch in the gut. The dressing is sharp and tangy, thanks to the mustard, garlic, and vinegar. Use dried dill if you don’t have fresh dill on hand. Even though I didn’t add this to the recipe, when I make this again, I think I’ll add a handful of almonds or hazelnuts for a nice crunch.
Lentils and Potatoes with Mustard Dressing
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup edamame
1 pound of new potatoes
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill or or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried dill
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
Prepare lentils according to package directions. A few minutes before the lentils are ready, toss in the edamame. Drain and side aside. In a large pot of water, boil the potatoes, once ready, drain in a colander and set aside while they cool down. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Chop the onion, garlic and dill (if using fresh), then set aside. Prepare the dressing by mixing together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper. By now, the potatoes should be cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl or pot, mix together until the dressing is coated thoroughly. Season to taste and add more salt, pepper, or cayenne if necessary.
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 & Orangesby 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)
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
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
2 cups lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
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.
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:
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.
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.
I was going through old photos recently and found this:
It’s probably the first dish Cory and I ever made together. During my first trip to San Francisco, we had a picnic at Golden Gate Park. It was a typical San Francisco summer day — 60 degrees, windy, and the sun was nowhere to be seen, but that made no difference to us. Cory had only been living in the city for about three weeks, so everything was new and exciting. We spotted an eagle in a nearby tree, sipped on pomegranate juice, noshed on scones from Trader Joe’s, and shared a delicious couscous and vegetable dish that we prepared together earlier that day. Cory asked me to marry him. In EverQuest (as a joke, of course). It was all very romantic, obviously.
Once I saw the photo, I had a sudden urge to recreate the dish. Our local market sells pearl couscous on the cheap and I’ve been buying it up to use as a base for easy lunches. The key to ensure this dish is a success is to not cook all the vegetables at once. If you do, you’ll end up with sad soggy zucchini. We’ve had a lot of picnic friendly days lately, but have resorted to eating lunch on the deck so this little California girl can join enjoy the sun too:
I don’t remember where we originally found the recipe. AllRecipes, maybe? Just from glancing at the old photo, I think I reproduced the dish fairly accurately, although I would’ve used more curry powder if I hadn’t run out. This is a delicious lunch, perfect for sunny springtime picnics and packed lunches.
Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas and Vegetables
8 ounces of pearl/Israeli couscous, cooked according to package directions
2 cans of 15-oz chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 zucchinis, chopped into bite sized pieces, about 1/3″ thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon curry powder (I only used about 2 teaspoons before running out)
salt & pepper, to tastes
1/2 cup parsley and/or cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cook pearl couscous according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. In a large stockpot, cook oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and jalapeno, then cook until translucent or about 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the carrots and stir frequently, for about 3-5 minutes. Then add the red bell pepper. Repeat the same process as before, cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the zucchini and stir frequently for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and raisins let it cook for about 30 seconds. Now thoroughly mix the curry powder, salt, and pepper into the mix. Incorporate the chickpeas, couscous, herbs, and olive oil into the pot, stir until mixed. You may want to cook the mixture for a few more minutes, to make sure everything is heated through. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I received The Meat Free Monday cookbook from Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler. The cookbook was edited by Stella, Paul, and Mary McCartney. I knew that Paul McCartney was a vegetarian, which of course I learned from The Simpsons. Although I’ve seen mention of meat free Mondays/meatless Mondays on food blogs over the years, I had no idea that they were the ones who launched the campaign back in 2009. Even though I’ll chant “you don’t win friends with salad” until the end of my days, that’s really only because it’s catchy and doesn’t necessarily reflect the way I eat. I was excited to dive into the cookbook.
Bonus Izzy shot
I grew up in a typical steak and potatoes American household, where a meal without meat is not a meal at all. To this day, my dad’s preferred dinner includes a giant slab of meat, with a side of potatoes or rice, and some vegetables. I was such a picky eater as a kid and hated most meat. My mom bought chicken nuggets for me over and over again until I learned to like them, since she was worried I didn’t eat enough meat. I’m still a picky meat eater, I only buy about 5-6 pounds of meat a month for the two of us, mostly ground beef and lamb. I prefer meat as an enhancement to a dish rather taking center stage, like slipping ground meat into sauces, sprinkling a little bit of sausage over a pizza, and adding chicken stock to a soup. If you serve me a giant slab of chicken breast, I’ll take a couple bites and dump it onto Cory’s plate when he’s not looking. Or when he’s looking. It just ain’t my thing, so many of the recipes in the Meat Free Monday cookbook are right up my alley. The cookbook is divided into 52 chapters, with meal plans for every Monday of the year — meatless breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts.
One recipe in particular that caught my eye was a pearl couscous and sweet potato dish. Surprise, I found a recipe with a Middle Eastern-inspired slant and had to make it. You start off by sauteing the pearl couscous until lightly browned. I hadn’t prepared couscous that way before and was delighted to discover that it gave the couscous a slightly nutty taste. Pistachios give this dish a nice crunch and raisins are added for a pleasant burst of sweetness. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix that consists of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Sumac can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery, but if you don’t want to run out and buy some just for one recipe, just add a little more lemon to this dish, since sumac is sour. Cory and I have been eating this for lunch and loving it. If you love leftovers as much as I do, double the recipe and lunch is covered for the week. Thanks for the sweet new cookbook, Cher!
– Happy birthday, mom! I can’t believe you’re 39 again!
– Big batch of new save the dates are available in the shop, with more coming this weekend. Since you read the blog, feel free to use the coupon code BLOGLOVE10 to receive 10% off your order.
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 tablespoons olive oil (2 for the sweet potatoes, 2 for sauteing the couscous, and 2 for just before serving)
1 1 3/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon za’atar (1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 400F.
Add the sweet potatoes to a roasting pan, coat them with olive oil, a little bit of salt and pepper, and maple syrup. Mix thoroughly. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, check on the sweet potatoes to see if they’re cooked through. Once the potatoes are tender and caramelized around the edges, they’re ready. If they need more time, put them back in the oven for another 7-10 minutes.
While the sweet potatoes are roasting, get the couscous ready. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan or stock pot over low-medium heat. When hot, add the couscous and stir frequently. Keep the couscous cooking until it begins to brown, or about 5-7 minutes. Add half of the stock or water and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding the liquid until absorbed, stirring frequently. Taste test the couscous for doneness. When cooked through, lower the heat to very low and stir in the raisins, chopped up pistachios, za’atar, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice, mix, and give a taste test. Add more lemon juice, if necessary. Mix in the parsley and cilantro.
By now, the sweet potatoes should be ready. Mix them into the pot. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Want to see more from the Food Blogger Cookbook swap? Here is the list of all the participants. Yay, food!