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

Quick Cuban Black Beans

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If you peruse our blog, you’ll notice that we try to minimize our usage of prepackaged or canned foods. I think that if you showed Selim a can of cream of <fill-in-the-blank> soup, he’d shrivel up like a vampire exposed to garlic and sunlight. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and sometimes the convenience outweighs all other factors, but we do try to err on the side of fresh ingredients. With that being said, I’m not going to lie. Soaking beans overnight in preparation for cooking them the next day just is not my cup of tea. I know there are many people out there who consider canned beans an anathema, but honestly I don’t think they taste much different and they’re SO convenient and time-saving. So we definitely use them.

Hence our quick version of Cuban black beans here. Certainly, they probably would be better (and certainly more authentic) if we used dried beans, soaked them overnight, and cooked them longer with the herbs and spices. But this quick version provides for a superior flavor to time ratio, in my opinion. You get to jazz up your black beans with just a few additions and barely any active time in the kitchen, allowing you to focus your energy (culinary or otherwise!) elsewhere.

Quick Cuban Black Beans

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1/4 cup of stock (your preference)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once warm, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Top with a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, approximately 6 minutes.
  2. Add the black beans, stock, and spices. Stir together.
  3. Lower heat to low-medium. Partially cover and cook for at least 10 minutes. With the heat turned quite low, you can cook long and allow the flavors to blend more!

Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

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Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eating are all parts of the traditional celebration.

This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!

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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes (or a 15oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp (+) sumac
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: yogurt, feta cheese, lime wedges
Instructions:
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, chop quarter them and blitz them in a food processor. Then add the tomatoes, along with the stock, herbs, and spices (except for the fresh parsley).
  3. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes.
  4. Now add the lentils and return to a simmer for another 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add the chopped parsley and cook for just another few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Serve with additional sumac, parsley, or a squeeze of lime on top if you like. A dollop of yogurt or a few chunks of feta would also be delicious!
Serves 4 as an entree; ~6-8 as a starter or side

Chermoula Carrots

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One of the best things about writing this blog is the introduction to foods and dishes that I didn’t know about beforehand. Today, I learned about chermoula! (Or charmoula – like so many words translated from the original Arabic, this one has more than one spelling.) When we decided to make our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs yesterday, I wanted to stick with the flavors of Morocco for the entire dinner. This lead us to this recipe, from a lovely site that I think I’ll visit again – Taste of Maroc.

Chermoula itself is a condiment in the pesto family in terms of texture or consistency. It is traditional to North African countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, although the Moroccans claim original ownership. It’s one of those things where there is no one single recipe – there are regional variations, as well as changes from neighbor to neighbor. The basics include fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), olive oil, and lemon juice. The other ingredients can range from basic spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander to harissa paste to onions or even pureed grapes (Tunisian tradition)! The paprika and cumin additions we used tonight seem to be fairly common in Morocco, at least as my internet perusing has informed me.

These carrots are basically just a vessel for the chermoula. It makes them (and anything else you might feel so inclined to cover with chermoula) into a bright and herbaceous dish. These are a perfect side dish to any meat, especially something that’s heavier or spicy. Furthermore, the flavor and lovely presentation belies the fact that it really takes you no time to prepare the dish. As I was eating (and enjoying!) this last night, I also thought that it probably would be equally as delicious and maybe a little fresher tasting if we’d cooked the carrots and just topped them with the chermoula without cooking the condiment at all. Note to self for next time.

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Chermoula Carrots

(Adapted from Taste of Maroc)
Ingredients: 
  • 6 large carrots
  • Water
  • ~1 cup chermoula
    • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Slice the carrots on the bias, cutting pieces roughly the size of a baby carrot.
  2. Steam the carrots in a pan. Depending on the size of your pan, add just enough water create a thin layer of water coating the bottom and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and cover with a lid to steam.
  3. Cook the carrots for ~ 8-10 minutes, until they are al dente.
  4. Meanwhile (or make ahead!), make the chermoula by combining all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or, if you’re cooler than we are and have a mortar & pestle, crush them that way!). Pulse briefly until you have a well-combined, but not obliterated sauce.
  5. Pour the chermoula into the pan with the carrots. Cook, with the lid on, over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.
Serves 2-4

Muhammara

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We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.

I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.

Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy New Year!! 🎉🎇🥂🖤

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Muhammara

(Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi)
Ingredients: 
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces
  • Salt to taste
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
  3. Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
  4. Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
  5. By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.