Sour Beets

Since having our baby girl, we realized that having friends and family over for dinner is a little more difficult than it once was. We love cooking and hosting, but given that she goes to bed in the 6 o’clock hour and lets be honest, most people are coming over to see her and not us anyway, dinners just weren’t that convenient. Instead of giving up, we decided to start having people over for brunch! Everyone loves brunch ,and the baby is super friendly and cute in the mornings! We call our brunches “Hedgehog Brunch,” because the baby’s nickname is Hedgehog. (Side note, I think that’s how we’ll start referring to her on here, since “the baby” is a little generic. We’re not comfortable sharing her name and face with the wild, wild west of the whole internet.)

And no, these Sour Beets are not on our brunch menu. That usually consists of Selim’s biscuits (recipe forthcoming…), fruit, sausage and/or bacon, and eggs. But because we eat such a big brunch in the late morning, we’re frequently not that hungry at dinnertime on those nights. We usually just want something lighter and frequently just eat some vegetables for dinner. Hence our dinner tonight of this beet dish! This recipe comes from February’s Cookbook Club selection – Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, by Toni Tipton-Martin. This book is beautiful and educates the reader about African American culinary influence, a legacy that is often overlooked. I thought this particular recipe would be a great place to start because Selim loves beets, but only tolerates vinegar, while I love vinegar and only tolerate beets! Perfect right? As we were eating, Selim deemed this “hot beet slaw,” which is exactly what it is! He didn’t love it (too vinegary), but I really enjoyed it! We also thought next time we might add some carrots too.

Sour Beets

(Adapted from Jubilee, by Toni Tipton-Martin)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large beet or 2 medium beets, cut into matchsticks (~3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, sliced to similar thickness as the beets
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Season with a few turns of black pepper.
  2. Add the beets to the pan, stirring to combine with other ingredients. Cook for just another 1 minute.
  3. Then add the water, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then cover and lower the heat to so the liquid is simmering. Cook like this for 15 minutes. (If you like your beets a little softer, go for 20 minutes.)
  4. Remove the lid, add the apples, and cook at a vigorous simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until a lot of the liquid has evaporated and the beets are your desired texture!
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and juice prior to serving. Adjust salt and pepper if need be.
Serves 4 as a side

Potatoes Vindaloo

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Tonight’s recipe is our second effort from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Our first attempt was the super unique Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles, which we loved! I love all things carbs, so a dish of not one, but two types of potatoes is right up my ally. We enjoyed cooking with curry leaves for the first time – so fresh and almost citrus-y! We got to explore a nearby Indian grocery a little more for some of these ingredients too, so that was fun! I expected this dish to be a little spicier (that’s what I think when I hear “vinadloo”), but it only has a mild spice to it. It is very spicED, but not spicY. So this lead me to research vindaloo a little bit. Turns out that ‘vindaloo’ comes from the Portuguese ‘carne de vinha d’alhos,’ which translates to ‘meat in garlic wine.’ This was a dish eaten by Portuguese sailors on the voyage to India because the meat was preserved. In India, the wine was replaced with vinegar, spices were added, and the name evolved to ‘vindaloo.’ So cool! I love the history of food!

We enjoyed this as a side dish (with scallops, so probably not a super common pairing 😂), but certainly it is meant to be a vegetarian main dish.

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Potatoes Vindaloo

(Adapted from Plenty by Ottolenghi)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or chopped
  • 25 fresh curry leaves
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large Russet potato, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • Fresh cilantro
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy pan or a dutch oven. Cook the shallots, mustard seeds, and fenugreek over medium-high heat, for 4-5 minutes, until shallots are browned and seeds are popping.
  2. Add the next nine ingredients (spices through curry leaves) and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. While those are cooking, blitz the tomatoes in a food processor. Next, add the tomatoes, along with the vinegar, stock, sugar, and salt to the dish. Bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and peppers and continue cooking at a simmer, covered, for 45 minutes (or more, until potatoes are tender).
  5. Once the potatoes are tender, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes so the sauce thickens.
  6. Remove the chili pepper and cinnamon sticks. Serve topped with fresh cilantro.
Serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a side

Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles

For Cookbook Club this month, we’re cooking Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I love Ottolenghi… he’s one of my favorite chefs to follow on social media and I find his recipes universally delicious! I was introduced to him several years back when my sister gave me the cookbook Jerusalem that he co-authored with Sami Tamimi. It remains one of my favorite cookbooks. The pictures are gorgeous and the recipes are wonderful. While most of Ottolenghi recipes fall squarely into my comfort zone (mmmm… Middle Eastern food!), Plenty is a little bit outside it. The entire cookbook is vegetable-based! We love veggies here, but it’s rare that we eat truly vegetarian – especially our main dishes. I’m looking forward to embracing the challenge!

This first recipe caught my eye right off the bat, because the combination of ingredients seemed so unique to me. Who ever heard of combining mango and eggplant?? But as a thought about it, I figured it would probably be delicious. So here we are. And I was right – it IS a delicious combo. The dressing and the mango are sweet & sour, the eggplant is earthy, and the pepper and onions give it just a little bite! It’s also very easy to make – definitely doable on a weeknight or for a lunch.


Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles

(Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi)
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, zested & juiced
  • 1 cup oil (for frying)
  • 1/2 of a large eggplant, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 oz soba noodles
  • 1 mango, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Instructions:
  1. Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot, just for a minute or two, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the Aleppo pepper, garlic, and sesame oil.
  2. Once cool, add the onions, lime zest, and juice from about 1/2 the lime. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a tall-sided pan. Shallow fry the eggplant pieces in batches, removing when golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and allow them to drain off excess oil and water.
  4. Meanwhile cook the soba noodles in a pot of salted water, for 6-8 minutes, until al dente. Once cooked, rinse under cold running water.
  5. Once all the ingredients are cooled and dried, combine everything (dressing, eggplant, noodles, mango, and herbs) in a large bowl. Toss well. Serve cool.
Serves 2

Dill & Goat Cheese Risotto

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I’ve had this idea for a risotto with dill and goat cheese to yield a dish with a rich and creamy texture like a normal risotto, but with a tangy, less heavy flavor. This is one of the best things about risotto in my opinion – it’s one of those kitchen sink dishes that can be modified in pretty much any way. A blank canvas! We’ve gone several different ways with risotto on the blog before – Risotto Recipes! This is the most in depth dish I’ve made since the baby was born. Baby-wearing is life-saving, let me tell you! Makes chopping a little awkward, but we’re getting it done! I personally think this recipe is better as a side dish than an entree. The flavors are pretty bold to eat a heaping serving and there’s also the lack of vegetables or protein in the dish. Side note, the color of my risotto is due to the richly colored vegetable stock that we use, not an additional secret ingredient it looks like we might have left off the ingredient list.

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Dill & Goat Cheese Risotto

Ingredients: 
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4+ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6oz goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place 2 tbsp butter in a large pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the onions to the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Stir to coat in the butter and then cover and sweat for 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid and add the garlic. Cook another 6-8 minutes. Garlic and onions should be soft and fragrant.
  3. Pour the arborio rice in with the onions and garlic. Toast for just 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t burn.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the stock. You can either keep the stock in a small pot on low on an adjacent burner or microwave it.
  5. Now add the wine. Lower heat of the burner to medium-low
  6. . Cook stirring almost continuously, until all of the wine has been absorbed by the rice.
  7. Now add the warm stock, one ladle-full at a time. Continue stirring until all the stock is absorbed. Repeat this pattern until the rice is softened, but still slightly al dente. [This will take at least 30-45 minutes.]
  8. Add the goat cheese and stir in thoroughly.
  9. Continue adding ladles of stock until rice is fully cooked. With the last ladle-full, add the dill and remaining tablespoon of butter. Remove from heat and stir until well-combined.
  10. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
Serves 6-8.

Dinner Salad with a Poached Egg

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In my mid-to-late 20s, there was this salad I used to make myself all the time. I’m talking maybe two or three times a week for months to years. (Katie & Terry probably remember this phase of my life well 😂🤣). I saw it originally in a magazine somewhere I think, though I can’t remember where. I got away from making it when Selim and I started dating, probably for two reasons. One, I stopped cooking for just one person and this is the perfect dinner for one. And two, Selim is morally opposed to anything trendy, and for awhile there everyone was putting an egg on top of everything! Happily, the thought popped into my head to make it for my dinner tonight, and now we have the recipe to share here. It’s really easy to throw together, easily modified, and simultaneously healthy and filling. The salad portion itself can be whatever you want it to be – I generally use mixed greens as the base, with carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers for additional veggies. The consistent components are a poached egg, balsamic vinegar, and lots of fresh pepper. When you break the poached egg open, the runny yolk combines with the balsamic vinegar to essentially create an eggy vinaigrette. The thick fat of the egg yolk replaces the oil of a normal vinaigrette.

As I was writing this post, I figured out that the original recipe inspiration for this salad is likely the Salade Lyonnaise – which is a classic French bistro salad with a bed of frisée, bacon, a poached egg, and a vinaigrette. Sounds familiar… I like my salad just how it is, though I’m sure many people would happily take the additional bacon.

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Dinner Salad with a Poached Egg 

Ingredients: 
  • ~3 cups mixed greens
  • Assorted raw crunchy vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, broccoli, radishes, whatever!), chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ~2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Poach the egg. [Many people have different tips and tricks on how this can best be accomplished. This is what I do: bring a small saucepan of water to a light simmer, not a boil; crack the egg into a small ramekin; swirl the water with a spoon to create a vortex in the center of the water; gently pour the egg into the vortex and immediately stop stirring; watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t start simmering and let the egg bathe in the water for about 4 minutes. I do not use vinegar or salt or anything else in the water, but you do you.]
  2. Assemble the salad – greens spread out on the plate, topped with the chopped veggies.
  3. Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to dry briefly. Then place it on top of the salad.
  4. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top. Crack a lot of fresh black pepper over that. Then break open the egg and toss the salad together!
Serves 1

 

Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

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After making Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad last week, we had some leftover mint.  By “some leftover mint,” I really mean, “Did this package of mint grow exponentially more mint?” I feel like it’s pretty much impossible to use all the mint in a package and even more impossible to use all the mint that most people grow. We didn’t want to waste any of the fresh herbs, so I was exploring Pinterest this weekend for a dish that would put these ingredients to good use. After awhile I found this recipe that not only required minimal shopping, using up the mint and feta, but also a mostly hands-off and healthy dinner for tonight! We were really happy with how this turned out. It’s light, but filling and flavorful! Thanks Pinterest (and Live Eat Learn) 🙂

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Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

(Adapted from Live Eat Learn blog)
Ingredients:
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 heaping tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half. Slice through the flesh on the diagonal, creating a cross-hatch pattern. Don’t slice all the way through; stop before reaching the skin.
  3. Brush the eggplant with 1 tbsp of olive oil and top with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Roast for 35 minutes in the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining olive oil, mint, garlic, and lemon juice.
  5. After the 35 minutes, slide out the eggplant and brush the mint mixture on top. Return to the oven for just another minute or two to warm.
  6. Serve topped with the chopped feta and sprinkled with Aleppo pepper.
Serves 2

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

Most people out there enjoy a good snack, but on Ally’s mom’s side of her extended family, they really embrace the snacking thing. When they’re together for a holiday or any sort of large gathering, they don’t just have three meals in a day. They add a fourth, solely devoted to snacks. Somewhere along the way, someone named this fourth meal “Dip Thirty.” (The alternate, but less popular name is “Dip O’Clock.”) Dip Thirty occurs between lunch and dinner, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. This allows dinner to be pushed back well into the evening, originally so no one had to waste the last hours of summer sunshine on preparing dinner or listen to whines of “I’m staaaaaaaarving!” Dip Thirty is so successful because with such a large family, everyone feels the need to bring something to contribute… which leads to counter-tops and picnic tables covered with a variety of snacks to sample!

Today we had a just-for-fun family gathering at Ally’s aunt & uncle’s home along the banks of the Potomac River, in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now, Dip Thirty really isn’t the time to be calorie-counting, but we decided to bring a snack that leaned towards the healthier side of the spectrum, knowing there would be plenty of delicious cheese-packed dips from other family members.

This dish, sabse borani, is an Afghan spread which is more commonly eaten on flatbread. We decided to use it in more of a dip fashion with pita chips. It’s actually quite simple to make, with only a few ingredients, but your result is a lovely and flavorful yogurt-based dip/spread. I see why it’s used as a spread, but it definitely works as a dip too! We made a larger amount to share, but this recipe is easily halved.

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

(Adapted from one of my faves – Global Table Adventure, with tips from the rest of the Internet in general)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or any yogurt, strained)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 heaping cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 20+ minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown, soft, and nearly caramelized. Stir frequently.
  2. In the last few minutes of the onions cooking, add the garlic so it can soften
  3. Remove the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
  4. Lower the heat to a low-medium and then add the spinach to the same pan. Cover and wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. This only takes a minute or two.
  5. Allow the spinach and onions to cool and then stir them in with the yogurt.
  6. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Adjust salt if needed.
Yields ~ 3 1/2 cups