My Father’s Favorite Salad ~ Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Mint

tomato salad

 

My dad was a funny, generous and kind man. He was my best friend and my caretaker.  An accountant by trade, he could do long division in his head.  I didn’t inherit his talent for numbers. But I share his love of cooking and nurturing people with good food. I have many fond memories of the delicious meals he prepared for us.  He was famous for his Christmas feasts which included festive punch and lots of fancy desserts.

When I was a kid, I remember him coming home from work, dressed in a jacket and tie with a bunch of tomatoes in one hand, a loaf of Italian bread in the other. He often brought us fresh mozzarella too. He’d prepare this salad with the tomatoes. We’d eat it with pillow-soft fresh mozzarella and crusty bread.  It was his favorite go-to dinner on busy weeknights.

He was Lebanese.  This was his favorite salad.  Adding fresh or dried mint to chopped salads always will be popular with Middle Easterners. Fresh mint adds sparkle. It pairs well with with cucumbers, enhancing their flavor.  If you use dried mint, it’s important to use spearmint, not peppermint.
If you love tabbouleh, chances are you’ll love this one too.  It makes its own light dressing .  It’s high in vitamin C, lycopene and monounsaturated fats. If you’re a tomato lover then this salad is for you.
Eat it like my dad did with crusty bread and mozzarella.  Alternately, sprinkle it with crumbled feta or stuff it into a pita with my creamy restaurant style hummus. It’s a good summertime salad to keep in your recipe box.
You can even add some rinsed and drained canned chickpeas to it for protein.

 

tomato and cucumber

Lebanese Tomato Salad Recipe

Some notes: 

Make this salad with any variety of ripe tomatoes. Use one pound of small plum tomatoes, tiny grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or whatever kind of tomato that floats your boat. Summer heirloom tomatoes are wonderful too.

Persian cucumbers are sweet, crunchy and seedless. There’s no need to peel them as their skins are soft. If all you can find are regular cucumbers then peel them before adding them to the salad.

I find scallions to be easier to work with and much milder than red onions, so that’s what I go for here.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, chopped or quartered depending on the kind and the size. I used quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • 3 scallions, green and pale-green parts diced
  • 6 Persian cucumbers, chopped into small pieces (see notes)
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves torn or chopped or a pinch or two of dried spearmint, rubbed between your fingers to release its flavor.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice. Don’t overdo it with the lemon juice, unless you really love lemony salads.
  • Sea salt to taste. Fleur de sel or Celtic gray salt is great.
  • Serving Suggestions: crumbled feta,  chickpeas, crusty bread or pita, sliced mozzarella, black olives, drizzle of good olive oil

 

Instructions:   Place everything in a bowl and toss to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve at room temperature with some feta crumbled on top. If you don’t love feta then the other serving suggestions are lovely too. Enjoy!

 

Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Tomatoes & Warm Spices

moroccan

 

Moroccan tagines are savory stews made with spices and vegetables. A bit of a departure from the usual fare,  these stews provide you with welcoming warmth and intoxicating aromas. They  make for good eating.

Chickpeas are simmered in a light tomato sauce infused with several spices. This is no ordinary beans and rice dish. Smoked paprika and a blend of Moroccan spices make it exotic and special. The paprika infuses the stew with a mild smokiness, a pinch of nutmeg offers a subtle sweetness and a Moroccan spice blend lends uniquely North African flavors.
Comforting and hearty, the tagine forms a complete protein when served with rice. It’s good on a chilly evening or for a meatless Monday meal. It’s a wholesome dinner to prepare at the end of the workweek when you’re tired and in need of some healthy, home cooking. For a simple Moroccan dessert, serve Medjool dates and mint tea. Something minty and sweet at the end of the meal is refreshing.

 

There might seem like a lot of ingredients, but the stew is a one pot dish. If you can make vegetarian chili, you can make a Moroccan tagine. You could swap out the chickpeas for chicken or use a combo of chickpeas and chicken.

 

The idea here is not to get caught up in searching for different spices, unless you feel like it. Otherwise, use what you can easily find. Think of me as your gentle spice guide. I’m here to suggest things. No pressure. But I believe if you’re making vegetarian/vegan meals on a daily or weekly basis, it’s nice to taste different flavors with the vegetables. It keeps things interesting and exciting. It prevents brown rice and boring broccoli syndrome.  Penzeys Spices is a wonderful source for fresh, fragrant spices.
It’s delicious finished with a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek yogurt, fresh chopped parsley and toasted almonds for crunch.  Serve over couscous, quinoa, basmati or brown rice.
A side of pita bread, olives and feta is never a bad idea either.

The stew reheats well for workday lunches. Keep some steamed rice and the tagine in separate containers. They can be stored in the fridge for two days. Like most stews, it gets better as it sits. If you’re like me, you may want to keep your pantry stocked with a couple of cans of chickpeas, some spices, tomatoes and rice.  Then you can whip this up whenever you get a craving.

This recipe is featured on Healthy Aperture

 

 

morccan stew

 

Moroccan Chickpea Stew Recipe

Makes a pot full
Some notes: 

Paprika and cumin are the only spices essential to this recipe, the rest of the spices are optional but ohhh sooo good.

A Moroccan spice known as ras el hanout is unquestionably North African. It’s actually a blend of over a dozen spices. Zamouri Spices had a good one.  I also love the ras el hanout sold by Soluna Garden Farm.  Ras el hanout lends soft, spicy notes to this stew, giving it much more depth of flavor.
Saffron is also optional. Not everyone likes saffron. If you use it, add just a few strands, maybe 4 tops. It’s very easy to overpower a dish with too much saffron. Saffron is used in many Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
I learned to add a  pinch of grated nutmeg to my African stews from my Ghanaian friend who just happens to be a wonderful cook. You don’t detect that it’s nutmeg, you just know that the stew tastes savory and flavorful. I include turmeric for its health benefits and pretty color.

I use Pomi Tomatoes in this recipe and most of my recipes now. The company sent me some samples and I was impressed by their taste and texture. They’re 100 percent Italian tomatoes with no added salt or mysterious ingredients.  They come in 26.46 ounce boxes instead of cans. I find them at Whole Foods and in my regular grocery store. You can also buy them online. If you can’t find them, use almost all of a 28 ounce can of best quality chopped tomatoes.

Garbanzo Bean Flour is a wonderful thickener for soups and stews. I highly recommend it here. Mix the flour with equal parts cold water to thicken this tagine. Viola! Instant thickener, which is never a bad thing in vegetarian stews. They often need more body, richness and voluptuousness. The stew can also be thickened by mashing a few of the beans with the back of your spoon too, but it won’t give the same luxurious results. I usually like to thicken all my vegetarian bean stews with either a garbanzo flour/water solution or a potato starch and water solution. Bob’s Red Mill sells both garbanzo bean flour and potato starch online. Bob’s Red Mill also has a gluten free version of the garbanzo bean flour. But I find both at Whole Foods and even in my regular market.

Ingredients:
  • 2 16 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
  • 1 26.46 ounce box of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes or almost all of one 28 ounce can of best quality canned chopped tomatoes. (see notes)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced. You pick the color. I used green.
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and diced or a pinch of ground red pepper (optional)
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced. I used a microplane zester to mince it.
  • 2 dried bay leaves, torn, remember to remove them before serving.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
  • A drizzle or two of honey or a few pinches of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • A few saffron threads, crushed between your fingers to release the flavor. (optional)
  • A teeny pinch of nutmeg. I use a microplane zester to grate it from a whole nutmeg.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Moroccan ras el hannout spice (optional, see notes)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • To thicken the tagine: mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon and/or mix some garbanzo bean flour with cold water (see notes)
  • Serving Suggestions: Greek yogurt, sour cream, chopped flat leaf parsley, slivered almonds, flaky sea salt or grey celtic salt, lemon wedges


Instructions:


Cook a grain of your choice according to the package directions. Couscous, rice and quinoa are lovely with this dish.

Meanwhile, add some olive oil to a large nonstick skillet or pot and saute the onions, bell pepper and chili pepper (if using) with some salt on medium to medium high heat until soft.

When the vegetables are soft, add the bay leaves, spices, rinsed and drained chickpeas tomatoes, minced garlic, honey and the saffron threads (if using). Adjust the salt and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for about 20-30 minutes or until the flavors meld and mellow. Remove the bay leaves. Thicken the stew with  the garbanzo flour and water solution. Start with one tablespoon of garbanzo bean flour mixed with one tablespoon of cold water. If you’d like it thicker, add more of this mixture. Mash some of the garbanzo beans with the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. Serve with accompaniments. Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Hummus with Smoked Paprika-Chili Drizzle

hummus 43

Growing up in a Lebanese family, I’ve eaten a lot of hummus. And still, I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it.  This hummus is unexpectedly thick and rich. It hits the spot.

Hummus is health food for some. It’s comfort food to me.  It reminds me of spending fun summers with my grandmother in Brooklyn. She’d make her hummus the old fashioned way, soaking the dried chickpeas overnight. Then she’d cook them before blending them into a creamy dip. She’d always serve her hummus with fresh pita, scallions and radishes.

One night after having dinner with my husband at a little Indian restaurant on the outskirts of Boston, I declared that I had to stop at the closest supermarket for lemons and limes. Heaven forbid I don’t have any fresh lemons in the fridge! My patient husband has learned to just roll with my food-obsessed ways. We ended up at an old supermarket that looked like it hadn’t seen a remodel since the 1970′s. While waiting in the checkout line, I grabbed an issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The recipe for restaurant-style hummus caught my eye. I knew I had to try it.

 

hummus 2

 

This creamy hummus is topped with a complex-chili infused oil. This oil is also good on eggs and grilled chicken or fish.  You can omit the red chili pepper in the oil if you don’t want the spicy heat.

Aleppo pepper is a pleasantly tart ground pepper with mild cumin undertones. It’s sold in most Middle Eastern markets and online at Penzeys Spices.

The best paprika comes from Spain. They slowly smoke the peppers and grind them into a velvety powder. I like Safinter Smoked Spanish Paprika which I find at Whole Foods.

Store the hummus in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days. Serve it with pita and olives and you’ve got a fresh, healthy snack or a light lunch. Add it to your favorite vegetarian wrap. Dip grilled chicken or veggies into it.  The sky’s the limit.

Once you’ve made hummus a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect. Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Hummus with Smoked Paprika Chili Drizzle Recipe

serves 4

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s recipe for restaurant style hummus. http://www.food.com/recipe/cooks-illustrated-restaurant-style-hummus-380146

Some notes: 

I keep a couple of cans of chickpeas, a jar of tahini and some pita in my kitchen, so I can whip up this beloved Middle Eastern dip whenever the craving strikes.
My favorite brand of tahini sesame paste is from Beirut. I love this one because it pours/stirs so easily even after being refrigerated.  I find it at Middle Eastern grocery stores. Here’s the amazon link for it: http://www.amazon.com/Beirut-Tahini-Sesame-Paste-32oz/dp/B0074D3B9S   Use whatever brand you like.
Depending on my mood, I either add ground cumin to the hummus or I leave it out.
Sometimes I pick up another can of chickpeas and scatter whole chickpeas on top of the creamy hummus for additional texture. Have fun and add your own inspired toppings.
Ingredients:
  • 1 16-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 lemons, I like my hummus lemony.
  • Generous 1/3 cup of tahini, well stirred. (see notes for information and my favorite brand)
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin (optional)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Serving Suggestions: some whole chickpeas scattered on top, smoked paprika chili drizzle (recipe below), 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds,  a handful of toasted pine nuts, everything bagel blend,  finely diced or thinly sliced jalapeno peppers


Instructions:

  1. Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into the bowl of a food processor along with the chickpeas, tahini paste, salt, cumin and 1/8 cup of olive oil. Pulse to combine. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time while mixing in the food processor, until you reach your desired consistency. You want it to be thick and creamy, not watery or thin. Stop often. Taste often. Adjust salt, scrape down sides of the bowl and add more lemon juice if desired. I used the juice of one whole lemon in this recipe. Then I dowsed it with lots more lemon juice upon serving. Adjust the lemon juice according to your personal taste.
  2.  Serve it with my smoked paprika chilli drizzle (recipe below).
  3. Another option instead of the chili drizzle  is to  toast some sesame seeds or pine nuts or everything bagel blend in a small dry fry pan on medium low heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Serve the hummus with a drizzle of best quality olive oil and  a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds or pine nuts or everything bagel blend and very thinly sliced or finely diced green chili pepper.

 

Smoked Paprika Chili Drizzle 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground red chili pepper or Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika (I used Safinter brand)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste

 

Instructions:
Warm the olive oil on medium low heat with the red chili pepper or Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika and a dash of salt. Once warmed, set a side. The longer it sits the better it will be. Drizzle it over the restaurant style hummus and serve.

 

hummus 55

 

Addictive Black Bean Salsa

black bean salsa 2

Every time my husband makes a business trip to San Diego, he comes home raving about the delicious salsas and tacos he has eaten there. I don’t blame him. California Mexican is so fresh and flavorful.

 Believe it or not, just outside of Boston sits a great little taco joint too. Taqueria El Amigo is the size of a large walk-in closet. It has about 6 tables, tops. It’s always crowded. We go there every so often to get our taco-fix and ice-cold agua de Jamaicas (refreshing, jewel-toned hibiscus drinks). Californians who have eaten there say the food reminds them of home.

 

blacl bean 33

 

In the spirit of fresh Mexican cuisine, I’m sharing this light but satisfying meal with you today.  The salsa is smoky and spicy, thanks to a charred jalapeno pepper, smoked paprika, a pinch of ground cumin and a wee little bit of liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is sold in my regular market and on Amazon. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Colgin-Natural-Hickory-Liquid-Smoke/dp/B0005Z8NCM  It lends a nice smoky flavor to meatless vegetarian chili too. Only use a tiny drop or two. You can leave it out with good results too.

The heat in the salsa is balanced by creamy black beans, sweet corn and a snappy red bell pepper. It’s finished with tangy lime juice and fresh cilantro or parsley. Simple cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream and sliced avocado lend welcome creaminess and round out this vegetarian, gluten-free meal.

 

black bean 3

Black Bean Salsa Recipe 

Serves 4 with quesadillas

Some Notes: 

You could also toss the salsa into cooked rice for a complete protein.

This meal is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
  2. 6 scallions, diced
  3. 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn. I use frozen corn and defrost it a bit in the microwave.
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 jalapeno pepper, charred and diced. Remove the seeds and veins if you don’t want it too spicy.
  6. A generous handful of chopped cilantro or parsley
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  8. A tiny drop or two of liquid smoke, see blog post for explanation. (optional)
  9. 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
  10. A drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar
  11. Sea salt to taste
  12. A drizzle of olive oil or corn oil
  13. A couple shakes of Green Tabasco sauce (optional, but I love it!)
  14. 2-3 limes, zest one and reserve the zest. I use a microplane zester.
  15. Serve suggestions: sour cream, cheese quesadillas (recipe below) lime wedges and/or sliced avocado.

 

Instructions:


Char the jalapeno pepper on gas flame or under the broiler, adding some black blistering to the outside of the jalapeno.  Dice it up. This step is optional, but does produce mild, pleasant, smoky notes in the salsa. If you don’t want to char it, then just mince it finely.

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the lime zest, a couple of  good squeezes of lime juice a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Stir in a drizzle of honey to balance the acid in the lime juice. Add a little bit of green Tabasco sauce if you’d like.  Toss to combine. Taste. Adjust salt.

Serve with cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream, lime wedges and/or avocado slices. Enjoy!

 

cheese q

 

Simple Cheese Quesadillas Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Cheese of your choice. I used an aged cheddar.
  • Corn tortillas. I am usually able to find these in the refrigerated section of my grocery store.
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

Spray tortillas with a little cooking spray. Put 1-2 slices of cheese of your choice between to two corn tortillas. Don’t over do it with the cheese. I tried this with light cheddar and it didn’t work too well. It made a mess in my panini press. The cheese oozed everywhere. So I suggest using full-fat cheese. I like aged cheddar or jack cheese or a Mexican shredded blend. Cook the tortillas in a panini press until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are somewhat crisp and browned. Alternatively, you can make them in a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan. Cut into wedges and serve with the black bean salsa, sour cream, avocado slices and limes.

Juicy Turkey or Chicken Meatballs ~ Middle Eastern Style

 

Middle Eastern Meatballs

 

For some time now people have been asking me to share my juicy turkey meatball recipe.  I’ve been making them for years.

These meatballs are my husband’s  absolute favorite.  He’s been asking for them for as long as we’ve been  married. He even learned to cook them when I was working long  hours.  They’re light, bouncy and flavorful.  A chili pepper gives a spicy kick.  Honey helps to caramelize and brown the outside.  Herbs lend freshness.  Grated onion adds moisture to the mix, helping to keep them from drying out.  They’re  just delicious with the lime-whipped yogurt and fresh lime wedges on the  side.
There are a few tricks to keeping turkey or chicken meatballs moist. Remember to….relax…let all the nightmares of dry meatballs leave your mind.  Be patient when rolling the meat into balls …and last but not least….with all your will and might, resist, resist, resist the urge to overcook them into something that resembles sawdust marbles. This is going to be hard at first, but trust me, it gets easier with practice.  Even if you overcook them a little (this happens from time to time) they’ll still be full of flavor.
Moroccan Meatballs

Middle Eastern Meatball Recipe With Lime-Whipped Yogurt

serves 6-8 with salad and couscous or rice

Some Notes:
The small size of these meatballs gives you more control and less of a chance to overcook them. Remember, they’ll continue to cook once they’re out of the pan. They should be juicy but not raw inside. Test one. Some will cook faster than others. Take them out of the pan as they’re done and place on a plate.
I like to serve them with my Persian Salad or My Father’s Favorite Salad and my  Orange Almond Couscous.
Ingredients: 
  • 2 lbs of ground turkey or ground chicken
  • 1 small medium red or white onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves minced. I use a microplane or a garlic press.
  • 1-2 tiny green or red Thai peppers, minced (optional). A small minced jalapeno pepper, a dash of sriracha or some ground red pepper or chili pepper flakes will work too.
  • A generous handful of fresh mint or basil, chopped. Any herb of your choice will likely work including dill and parsley.
  • 2 limes, zest one of them and reserve the zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2/3 cup of plain bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts (optional but good)
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Sea salt  to taste
  • To Serve: Lime wedges and lime-whipped yogurt or plain Greek yogurt

 

Instructions For The Meatballs:

Using the small holes of a box grater, grate the onion directly into a large bowl. Add the ground turkey or ground chicken, the eggs, the breadcrumbs, the minced garlic,  chili peppers (if using),  fresh mint,  pine nuts  (if using), drizzle of honey, dried oregano and salt to taste. Mix to combine all the ingredients. Wet your hands with cold water and form the mixture into small balls the size of large marbles or walnuts.
Heat a large nonstick pan on medium high heat with some olive oil. Drop the meatballs in the pan and saute until they’re golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if you have to. Be careful not to burn them as the honey will help to caramelize the outside of the meatballs, helping them brown and crisp. You can cover the pan occasionally to cook them. But, keep a close eye on them and remove the cover when almost done. They cook rather quickly. Try not to overcook or they’ll become dry. Remove them from the pan as they’re done cooking. Serve with lime wedges and lime-whipped yogurt. Enjoy!
To make the lime-whipped yogurt:  Mix into 2 cups of thick Greek yogurt with the lime zest, adding a pinch of salt.  Serve the meatballs with the lime whipped yogurt for dipping and fresh lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!
cous cous thurs night

Orange Almond Couscous 

Ingredients:
  • 1 box of Original Plain Near East Couscous, cooked according to package directions.
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted.
  • 2 oranges, zest one and reserve the zest. Cut one orange into segments and chop the segments into small pieces.
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • A handful of both fresh parsley and dill, chopped.  Any herb of your choice would work here like basil or chives or cilantro.
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Serving suggestions: A scattering of  quickly defrosted frozen peas, a drizzle of olive oil

 

Instructions:
Toast almonds in a small fry pan until golden brown, be careful not to burn them.
Add the cooked couscous, toasted almonds, orange zest, orange segments, scallions, parsley and dill into a bowl. Add the juice of one orange, drizzle of olive oil and season with salt to taste. Stir and fluff with a fork to combine. Serve with the meatballs and lime whipped yogurt. Enjoy!

Lemony Roasted Potatoes with Aleppo Pepper & Herbs

roasted potatoes55

 

I love using lemon to add sparkle and zip to almost any recipe, especially in summer. Here, they dress up golden brown fingerling potatoes. Roasted potatoes with a creamy center and a splash of energizing citrus are good eating.  The potatoes are substantial. The lemon and mint give them vitality and excitement, suitable for hot weather meals.   Any fresh tasting herb or small size potato will work here. I used parsley and mint because mint says summertime to me and because these herbs are used a lot in Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. But basil or chives would be great too.

This dish is good warm, at room temperature or hot from the oven, making it a nice recipe for summer gatherings. Potatoes are a familiar sidekick for grilled fish, chicken or steak, but they’re equally welcome on a vegetarian/vegan table too.

Fingerling potatoes always grab my attention at my local Italian grocery store. I even bypass the fancy purple potatoes for their taste and texture. My Italian market also has reasonably-priced fresh produce, handmade pasta and beautiful flowers. I usually come home with freshly made, delicate angel hair pasta or stuffed ravioli, crusty bread, artisan cheese, fresh veggies and bouquets of pink roses. Living close to such a wonderful market is a cooks dream. 

 

 

 

roasted fingerlings 2

 

Lemony Roasted Potato Recipe

Serves 4-6

Some Notes:

I use coarse Mediterranean sea salt here, but kosher salt is fine too. Good salt can enliven any recipe. I like Celtic gray salt too. 

Aleppo pepper comes from northern Syria. It’s moderately spicy with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones.  I find it online or in Middle Eastern markets.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of fingerling potatoes or other small potatoes
  • 1-2 lemons, zest one and reserve the zest
  • Generous handfuls of fresh mint and parsley, chopped.
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • A sprinkling of Aleppo chili pepper (see notes) or red chili flakes
  • For Serving: sprinkling of fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt or celtic gray salt,  lemon wedges
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375

In a large baking pan, toss the potatoes with olive oil, some coarse sea salt,  Aleppo pepper and the lemon zest. Roast for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven. The salt will have dissolved a little in the pan. Toss again. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for 15 more minutes or until  the potatoes are tender and done. Before serving, add the fresh herbs, a couple of good squeezes of lemon juice. Serve and enjoy!

 

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Thai Style Broccoli with Coconut Cream & Lime

Thai broccoli

 

The flavor profile of this dish is reminiscent of Thai coconut curries, only it’s lighter and fresher tasting with lots of texture.

Broccoli is diced and quickly cooked. It’s given a hit of perky ginger and chili powder or sriracha sauce for some mild heat. Just a touch of warm cumin and coriander, along with a little creamy coconut milk and a few squeezes of lime make it exciting. Trader Joe’s Extra Thick and Rich Coconut Cream is delicious in this recipe because it adds just the right amount of creamy tropical notes and mild coconut flavor. It’s easy to store the rest in a tupperware in the fridge for use in other recipes.

The usual steamed-broccoli-side-dish can be rather boring. This dish wakes up the palate.

Sometimes I add some frozen corn to bump up the sweetness and add another layer of flavor.

Great with chicken, steak or fish. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and omega 3′s.

Serves two hungry people for lunch with a sprinkling of unsweetened shredded coconut, steamed jasmine rice and a drizzle of shoyu or tamari. Some toasted chopped cashews would be delicious on top, adding protein and crunch. Thai basil would also be a fresh finishing touch.

 

broc 2

 

 Thai Style Broccoli with Coconut Cream and Lime Recipe

serves 2 with steamed rice on the side

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of broccoli diced into very small pieces. My heads of broccoli were on the small side.
  • 2 limes, zest one and reserve the zest. Juice half of one and reserve the juice.
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced, I use a microplane zester or a garlic press
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced. I use a microplane zester
  • 4 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s Extra Thick and Rich Coconut Cream or 4 tablespoons of the coconut cream from the top of a can of full fat coconut milk.
  • 1-2 teaspoons of neutral tasting oil or coconut oil for cooking
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of  ground coriander
  • A dash of ground red pepper or sriracha sauce
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Serving options: shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted chopped cashews, steamed jasmine rice, shoyu, Tamari , Thai basil or regular basil, lime wedges


Instructions:

Dice the broccoli into very small pieces. Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat with the oil. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and some salt. Stir fry the broccoli until it starts to get tender. You may need to add a little water to help it soften. Stir in the scallions, lime juice, lime zest, minced garlic, ginger, spices and coconut cream. Add a pinch more salt. Toss to combine everything. The broccoli should be tender-crisp when done. Serve with lime wedges and any of the garnishes you like. Enjoy!

 

Potato, Pea & Leek Cakes

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I’m half Lebanese and half Lithuanian. I grew up eating stuffed grape leaves and hummus from my father’s side of the family and potato cakes with sour cream from my mother’s side.  My mother was from a small town in Pennsylvania which had a large Lithuanian population. During the summer, people eagerly awaited the church picnics. These bazaars would serve ice cold beer out of kegs and hot potato pancakes straight out of the fryers.  Huge fryers cranked out endless orders of  potato pancakes to hungry customers. The cakes were always served with sour cream on the side.

I find myself craving those church picnic potato cakes of my childhood with a passion.  Alas, I don’t have the time or the patience to shred potatoes and deep fry them. In fact, I’ve never deep fried anything in my life, even though I love to cook and write recipes.

 

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I do, however, love to pan fry lots of vegetable fritters and cakes.  I make endless varieties. Some have broccoli and quinoa. Some are made with black beans and corn. I even have a corn fritter recipe using Thai ingredients. If you type fritter in the search located on the upper right of the blog, you’ll see all my recipes.

I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for my fritter and cake recipes. They pop up on food and fashion blogs, The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed food.

This recipe is a big  departure from the traditional potato pancakes of my childhood.  I wanted to make potato cakes that were lighter and fresher. Crisp exteriors with pillow-soft centers, these cakes are also studded with peas and leeks and lots of fresh dill.  It’s a classic, winning combo. They also rely on frozen shredded potatoes for convenience.  No deep fryer is necessary.

My neighbor and husband loved them. They urged me to share the recipe with you.

 

leek cake

 

Leek, Potato and Pea Cakes Recipe

Makes 18 cakes

Some notes:

For a gluten free choice, swap the self rising flour for Pamela’s Gluten Free Mix.

Leeks are usually full of sand, so make sure you rinse them well.

 

Ingredients:

4 large leeks, chopped and rinsed well to remove all sand

A generous handful of fresh dill, chopped

1-1/2 cups of frozen peas

4 cups of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

4 eggs

4 tablespoons of milk

1 cup of self rising flour or Pamela’s Gluten Free Mix

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Olive oil for cooking

Serving Suggestions: Lemon wedges and sour cream or Greek yogurt, Sriracha

Instructions:

In a large non-stick fry pan, saute the leeks in olive oil, with some salt and pepper, until soft. Put 2 cups of the cooked leeks into a large bowl.  Add the frozen peas and stir.

Meanwhile, put the frozen shredded hash brown potatoes in the microwave. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Add them to the bowl with the leeks and peas. Let the mixture cool slightly. Then add the  dill, eggs, milk, flour,  salt and plenty of  black pepper. Stir to combine everything. The mixture will be on the thick side.

Heat a large nonstick fry pan with some olive oil. Using a tablespoon drop the batter onto the hot pan, forming fritters about 2-3 inches in diameter. Cook until golden brown on one side. Flip over using two forks or a spatula and cook until golden brown on the other side. Do not use use a spatula to press the fritters. You want them to puff up slightly while cooking. The centers should be cooked through when done. Serve with lemon wedges and sour cream.  Sriracha sauce also pairs nicely with them.

 

Thai Style Strawberry Cucumber Salsa

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One summer, Tom and I were lucky enough to vacation on a remote part of Martha’s Vineyard with my sister and her husband.  I’d been planning this trip for most of my life, since I’ve always wanted to stay there. It seemed like a distant, dream-like place of golden-amber light and emerald-blue water. It was everything I imagined it to be.

Our little beagle-mix, Ellie, came with us to this magical island of soaring cliffs, sea and sky. We rode bikes, took long walks, visited lighthouses, collected scallop shells, sat on lonely beaches with crabs and sea birds as our only companions, soaking up the untouched beauty of this unique place.

 

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For dinner, we visited the local fish market to find the catch of the day.  I’d hunt around the tiny general store for fresh produce. A few cartons of sweet strawberries, garden cucumbers, Thai basil, fiery green chili peppers were always available.
One island night, I served this light salsa over grilled sea bass. Cool cucumbers and sweet strawberries balance the fiery chili.  A flurry of fragrant Thai basil and zesty lime juice lend a bright and sassy finish. The meals on Martha’s Vineyard will always be remembered as some of the freshest I’ve had in my life.
This salsa is great with tortilla chips or over grilled chicken too!
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Strawberry Cucumber Salsa Recipe

Some Notes: 
I love small, Persian cucumbers. If you can find them, grab them. If using Persian cucumbers, you don’t have to peel or seed them. If all you can find is regular cucumbers then peel and seed them.
Depending on my mood, I add a diced avocado to this salsa.
Ingredients:
  • 16 ounces of strawberries, chopped
  • 1-2 medium to large cucumber peeled, seeds removed and diced or use a few mini Persian cucumbers. (see notes)
  • 1 jalapeno chili pepper or one Thai bird’s eye chili pepper, diced. Leave out the seeds and veins if you want it to be less spicy.
  • 1 lime, zest half of it and reserve.
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Handful of Thai basil, chopped or torn. Fresh garden mint or regular basil would be great too.
  • Drizzle of light olive oil or other neutral tasting oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Optional: A diced ripe avocado

Instructions:

Place the strawberries, cucumbers and chili pepper in a bowl.  Add the honey, oil, lime zest and a couple of good squeezes of lime juice. Add the salt and toss to combine. Taste.  Adjust salt. Stir in the basil.  Serve immediately with fish, chicken, shrimp, scallops and/or tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

 

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Thai Pasta Toss ~ It’ll Get You Out of a Boring Broccoli Rut

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Here, I toss green veggies, chili, Thai basil and lime with elbow shaped pasta. The dish can be finished with a flurry of grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Salt, chili and lime are a classic combo. They work well in this recipe, creating a  feisty, healthy and unexpected weeknight pasta toss. It’ll help you get out of a boring broccoli rut.

There’s an old, honest saying that goes, “Most of the world eats to live, but Italians live to eat”  The thing that I like most about Italian cooking is how simple and fast it is. With only a few, quality ingredients you can create fabulous dinners. This recipe uses the Italian principles of keeping things fresh and basic, but with a a little twist on the traditional basil and lemon.

Any kind of pasta will work here. If you’re gluten free, corn pasta is a particularly good choice.

If you don’t like zucchini then replace it with more broccoli.

It’s good hot, cold and at room temperature.

My coworkers tell me they make this recipe all the time. They particularly like the fresh, lively taste. The recipe is also featured on Healthy Aperture.

 

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pasta toss

Thai Pasta Toss Recipe

serves 4

Some Notes:

This dish is delicious with strong, peppery Thai basil. But regular basil, chives or scallions are also welcome.

Thai bird’s eye chili peppers are very spicy. I adore them! They have faint tropical notes. They come in red and green. I find them in Asian markets and even my regular supermarket. Use whatever hot chili pepper floats your boat.

Ingredients:

  • 16-ounces or one box of medium sized pasta. Penne, shells or spirals are all good choices.
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 3 medium size zucchini, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper or two-three tiny Thai bird’s-eye green chili peppers, diced. Remove the seeds and veins if you don’t want it too spicy.
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (optional). I use a microplane grater for this or use a garlic press.
  • 2 limes. Zest them and reserve the zest.
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking, plus more for drizzling
  • To Serve: Thai basil or regular basil, lime wedges, Parmesan, flaky sea salt or grey celtic sea salt

Instructions:

Put the peas in the same colander that will be used to drain the pasta.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Toward the end of cooking throw in the broccoli and cook it with the pasta until the pasta is done. You can chop the broccoli before you add it to the pasta pot, but I find it works better to leave it whole and chop it later. You can also steam the broccoli in a separate pot.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a nonstick saute or frying pan. I use my wonderful, eco-friendly nonstick Scanpan for this. Add the jalapeno or Thai peppers and cook until soft. Add the zucchini, some salt and half the lime zest. Saute the zucchini until tender crisp. Stir in the minced garlic (if using) and toss it with the zucchini to warm it through.

Drain the pasta and broccoli over the peas in the colander. Remove broccoli and chop into small pieces. Toss all the ingredients together, adding the remaining lime zest, a drizzle of more olive oil and some squeezes of fresh lime juice. Serve with lime wedges on the side a, sprinkle on the Parmesan (if using) sea salt and basil. Enjoy!