Thursday, February 27, 2014

the mother of invention

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Sorry for the back to back sweet potatoes, but as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention” and seeing as a) I am on a tight budget until tomorrow; b) I don’t feel like going to the store; and c) I had a bunch of sweet potatoes, well, necessity: meet your mother. She’s a sweet potato disguised as a fried chickpea fritter and she’s fortunately not as deceptive and sinister as that sounds.

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I pinned this recipe months ago. It is from the blog 101 Cookbooks, which in addition to being visually stunning, is packed with healthy- yet mouthwatering recipes that I always find myself drooling over. These little toasty nuggets of bright orange sweet potato are NOT like your regular falafel. They are not super crunchy and they have that little bit of chew that sweet potato fries often have. So if you’re not into that, I won’t be offended, you can leave now. BUT, if you’re a big fan of sweet potatoes (and I obviously am) these will really hit the spot.

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Now, obviously, you could use these interchangeably with regular falafel. Let’s say in a warm pita combined with tahini sauce, hummus and veggies. Since I don’t have any pita bread and I don’t see any materializing in my future (see reasons a-c above), I am thinking that tonight for dinner, we’ll have these in a bowl, of sorts. Alongside some whole wheat cous cous, garlicky roasted kale and broccoli topped with a scoop of hummus. Then I’m going to garnish the whole thing with some hot sauce and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over. Aaanddd…now I want dinner.

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From 101 Cookbooks

1 large sweet potato
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 small clove garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Scant ½ cup chickpea flour*
Olive oil
Sesame seeds
Salt and pepper

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Preheat oven to 425. Stab potato a few times with a fork and let roast until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let potato cool, then peel and transfer to a large bowl.

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Add cumin, coriander, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and chickpea flour to bowl. Mash together well with a fork, until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle in a tiny splash of olive oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for one hour.

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Heat oven to 400. Using two spoons, scoop falafel mix out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I also found the ‘dough’ was pliable enough to just be scooped and rounded with my hands, but it probably depends on how cool it is. I halved the original recipe and ended up with about one dozen falafel. Generously sprinkle the tops of your falafel with sesame seeds and a pinch of salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until browned on the bottoms. Serve warm.

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*what with the whole gluten free thing going strong, alternative flours are in conventional grocery stores more and more these days; but I’m fairly certain I bought my chickpea flour at the health food store. If you can’t find it in your local grocer, try there, or hit up Bob’s Red Mill online. That’s the brand I use.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

side to side

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When Paul and I lived with my aunt and uncle this summer while we were waiting to close on our house, we quickly adapted to their household lifestyle. We realized after nights one, two and three that these folks ate dinner. A proper dinner, seated together, with conversation (and usually wine) every single night. Even if we didn’t get to the table until 9 p.m. As you can imagine, we were super into it. I mean, you know, a nice well rounded meal every evening along with some good conversation can really hit the reset button on your day. It was a recalibration of sorts, with side dishes (and usually rolls!)

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My favorite thing about Eric and Linda’s dinner ritual was this: the Kluz family meal time did not stray from the protein/vegetable/starch trifecta. Not once. Coming from our house where we often have say, a pizza and a handful of wasabi peas, or 8 varieties of vegetables folded into taco shells, this return to the classic meal format was seriously a real treat. I also realized that it just works. It’s easy and it’s GOOD. Not that I don’t like adventurous meal planning. We all know that. I mean you’re talking to a woman who spent all of my afternoon yesterday mentally composing what kind of tacos I would make for dinner. Some days you just don’t have time for that. Bake some chicken thighs, slowly wilt a green vegetable and mash the crap out of a starch. Don’t over think it. Because at the end of it all, the most important thing is sitting down together and enjoying the meal. These two side dishes are my absolute favorite right now. They’re both so easy it hurts, very healthy and all you have to do is add a protein of your choice. How easy is that?

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1 bunch kale
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock (approx.)
Juice from ½ lemon ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ golden raisins
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

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Let's just address the fact that kale is really having a moment right now. It's also, in my opinion, kind of gross raw. I love, love, love it braised or gently roasted, though. It feels less like a punishment and more like a nourishment. This recipe serves 2, if you're cooking for a crowd keep in mind kale wilts down substantially, you want to purchase about one bunch per 2 people. To prep the kale: tear leaves off of their thick stems by holding it at the root end and ripping up, with gentle force. Then, rip the leaves into smaller pieces and wash thoroughly by soaking in cold water, draining once, soaking again and either giving it a spin in a salad spinner or towel drying a bit.

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In a braising pan or Dutch oven (i.e., something that works on the stove top, with a lid that fits) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a half a minute, until fragrant. Add kale and stir together, then pour in the chicken stock until it comes just about an inch up the side of the pan. Clamp the lid on and let the kale braise for about 12-15 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring about once or twice. While the kale braises, toast the pine nuts over low heat in a non-stick pan, squeeze and strain your lemon juice and measure out the raisins.

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Raise the lid and add lemon juice and golden raisins. Return the lid and let cook another 2-3 minutes, until the kale is quite wilted and cooked down. Remove the lid and let cook another minute or two to allow most of the residual cooking liquid to evaporate. Remove from pan and scatter pine nuts over, then use a vegetable peeler to shave parmesan on top. Serve immediately.

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1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
½ tsp. coconut oil
½ tsp. butter
Kosher salt
Black pepper

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In a stock pot or sauce pan, cover potato completely with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove lid and let cook until potatoes are completely tender when pricked with a knife. Remove from heat, strain off water and return potatoes to pot. Add coconut oil, butter, a generous pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Equal parts butter and coconut oil, plus the right amount of salt make these potatoes taste creamy, a bit tropical and sweetly decadent. I am legitimately obsessed. I want to turn these into pancakes and falafels and pretty much anything else where they might fit.

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Use a potato masher or pulse with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve immediately with another small sprinkle of salt and pepper.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

more than words

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If you have been here before and you’re paying attention, it should come as no surprise that I’m moderately obsessed with lentils. This winter, the obsession has been elevated to something worth being concerned about thanks, in whole, to this lentil salad. I had this salad for the first time at a baby shower/brunch for one of my main ladies back in early November. I then spent the entire ride back from New York to Boston and the next three subsequent conversations with my boss trying to reverse engineer its exact components. It was that good.

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The brunch was held at Public on Elizabeth Street and we had a choice from a fixed menu of French toast, a few tasty egg dishes, or this lentil salad. I chose the lentil salad without much hesitation since I don’t mess with sweet breakfast foods and the egg dishes weren’t jumping out at me. Later, seeing plate after plate of savory eggs being laid down in front of my dining companions I was momentarily seized with regret: “what was I thinking! Lentil salad for breakfast?!” Thankfully this cloud of doubt was eradicated the moment I scooped a forkful into my mouth. My friend Sandra and I took a pause in our conversation, locked eyes and murmured through full mouths something along the lines of “WHOA- good salad” and "mmm srsslyreallygoodsalad" Now, it takes a special kind of salad to get two college girlfriends that don’t see each other often to shut their yaps and stop talking for a moment. This is particularly that kind of salad.

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1 cup French lentils, cooked til al dente and drained
Small bunch green beans, trimmed and blanched
½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts
½ avocado, peeled and diced
5-6 chives, finely minced
Leaves from one sprig tarragon, minced


½ cup avocado oil*
1 tbs. pomegranate molasses*
½ shallot, minced
Juice from ½ lemon
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper

*avocado oil can be tough to find, but it makes this dressing out-of-control good, so seek it out if you can (you can sub extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil). You can find it at most health food stores and probably Whole Foods; it's usually about $6 and is great for dressings and roasting vegetables. As for pomegranate molasses, most well stocked grocery stores will carry this (near the regular molasses) as well as any Middle Eastern food markets.

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Bring lentils to simmer in a medium-sized sauce pan (You can use water or vegetable stock to cook them, both work equally well). Let simmer about 15 minutes and then begin checking the lentils for doneness. They should be cooked, not crunchy, but still have just a touch of bite to them. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside. Blanch green beans for approximately 2-3 minutes in boiling water, and then drop them into a bowl filled with ice water in order to stop the cooking and retain a nice bright green color.

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Combine lentils, green beans, avocado, herbs and nuts in a bowl. If you have an immersion blender, use it to make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a wide mouthed mug or jar and then pulsing until completely combined. If you do not have an immersion blender, combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine completely. Taste the dressing and adjust if it needs more seasoning. Pomegranate molasses is super tangy, so it may benefit from a touch more sugar or honey and a little more salt and pepper. Dress the salad with a drizzle of dressing and serve warm or at room temperature.

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This is a delicious, hearty side dish with poached fish, or grilled chicken breasts. You will have extra dressing, try using it on mixed greens with roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash- it works perfectly.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.