what’s-in-your-fridge asian salad

September. It’s that time of year again. I’m back to work and have started classes for my MS Nutrition program. So, as will be the case with many nights to come (apologies in advance for the serious decline in blog posts), I pulled myself away from my Biochem textbook and wondered what I could make for dinner that was fast and wouldn’t involve going to the store. I call this the What’s-In-Your-Fridge Asian Salad. This is what I did, but you can really substitute anything here for anything else, as long as it tastes good to you.

Boil vermicelli (rice noodles) for three minutes and then run under cold water. Using a mandolin (or just slice very thinly), slice cucumber, scallion, and red onion, and grate carrot. Arrange the rice noodles atop boston lettuce and baby spinach, and then pile the other veggies on top. Add dressing (1 tbs smooth peanut butter, 1 tbs rice vinegar, 1/2 tbs sesame oil, 1 tbs mirin, 2 tbs soy sauce, and red pepper flakes to taste) and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

It would be great with some grilled shrimp or chicken on top. And crumbled peanuts. But then it wouldn’t be a what’s-in-your-fridge salad, it would be a walk-to-the-grocery-store-and-buy-stuff salad. Try it! What’s in your fridge?

What’s-in-your-fridge Asian Salad

cous cous with grilled summer squash, beets, and goat cheese

Yesterday we picked up our second free share of farm vegetables (see last post for the how and why!) which included beets, two kinds of summer squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, boston lettuce, and cantaloupe. I started searching for recipe ideas that would include as many of the vegetables as possible, but believe it or not there’s not a single recipe out there apparently that includes beets, squash, and eggplant. But I found a recipe on epicurious that I was able to improvise on. Here’s my version:

Summer squash & eggplant; Cous cous with veggies, beets, and goat cheese

Boil or steam beets until cooked (20-40 minutes depending on size), peel, and chop into slices or matchsticks. Whisk together 1 tbs sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss with beets in a bowl. Bring 2 cups water (or vegetable stock), a little salt, and 1 tbs olive oil to a boil. Stir in 1 cup couscous, then cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat 1 tbs oil in a skillet and cook a diced red onion for a few minutes. Then add a chopped bell pepper (I used red), and the kernels cut from a fresh ear of corn and cook, stirring about 3 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and stir into vegetables, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice summer squash and eggplant into thin slices, toss with olive oil and grill in batches or oven bake (I used my cast iron stovetop grill skillet), then add to cous cous/veggie bowl. Serve cous cous and veggies on plates topped with a helping of beets and a slice of herb-coated goat cheese.

It was a delicious combo! (And if you want to make it vegan, just leave out the goat cheese – although I think it’s what ties the whole dish together. And if you want to go not vegetarian, you can add prosciutto, as suggested in the original recipe). We also had a salad of boston lettuce and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette with a touch of honey and sesame seeds. We still have the beet greens to use though… any good suggestions?

farm shares and purple produce

Due to some generosity and the good fortune of our friends’ vacation, Chris and I inherited two weeks worth of farm-fresh produce. Our friends are members of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the Dumbo/Vinegar Hill neighborhood. For those of you not familiar, CSA’s are a way for people to buy produce directly from local farms. Before the harvest season, members pre-pay to buy fresh, locally grown organic vegetables which they pick up one evening a week. The farm for this CSA is Sang Lee Farm on Long Island, and this week our share included red romaine, red bulb onions, a bunch of ong choy, purple basil, cherry tomatoes, orange heirloom tomatoes, and watermelon. The night we picked up the share, we made a big pot of mussels with white wine and crusty bread, sauteed the ong choy (which I had never heard of but it tasted kind of like spinach) with garlic and olive oil, made a salad of the red romaine and cherry tomatoes, and had some watermelon for dessert. I was in fresh veggie heaven, and we still had the onions, purple basil, orange tomato, and lots of watermelon left over.

Fairytale eggplant, purple basil, swiss chard, and olive bread


Cinnamon basil

On to the leftovers. Our friends whose CSA share it was had gotten some purple basil the week before (another thing I didn’t know existed until now!) and said it made a good pesto, so on Saturday I started preparing to make a purple pesto sauce for dinner. I found an interesting recipe which is lower in fat than most pesto sauces and uses tomatoes, which is really unusual. However, I quickly realized I didn’t have enough purple basil to make pesto, so I headed to the farmers market to look for more. I couldn’t find any purple basil, but as I wandered around past regular basil, thai basil, and lemon basil, I spotted huge bunches of flowery leaves labeled “cinnamon basil” at one of the stands. As soon as I got it home my whole apartment smelled incredible – like spicy, pungent cinnamony basil goodness. I even kept the flowers in a glass of water after I pulled all the leaves off because they were so pretty. At the market, I also picked up a loaf of black olive semolina bread, these tiny bright purple eggplants called “fairytale eggplant” and a beautiful bundle of swiss chard. With the CSA leftovers plus the farmers market additions, the dinner menu came together: orange heirloom tomatoes with watermelon & feta, black olive semolina bruschetta with purple/cinnamon basil pesto & grilled fairytale eggplant (idea found here), sauteed swiss chard with red onions, white wine, lemon & parmesan, and the rest of the pesto tossed with some whole wheat penne. Truly a feast. And I used more of the leftover pesto mixed with scrambled eggs for brunch this morning. Is there anything basil can’t make better?


Eggplant bruschetta & sauteed swiss chard

raw food night

So I thought vegan week was a challenge but last night I tackled a three course 100% vegan RAW meal. My friend Rosi is doing a raw food diet cleanse for a week and I was very excited to have her over as my willing guinea pig. First of all, I’ll explain for those wondering “what’s the deal with raw foodism?” The raw food diet is based on the belief that the most nutritious food is uncooked, or heated to less than 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking can denature enzymes (which help us digest food, absorb nutrients, and slow the aging process), kill vital disease-fighting nutrients, and form potentially harmful compounds. Some people find it really beneficial and cleansing to eat raw for a week or two, though it can be harmful if done incorrectly for long periods of time.
Ok, now that you have the “why,” here comes the “what.” A thorough internet search for raw food recipes left me initially discouraged, as it seemed like 80% of them required using a food dehydrator for 10 to 12 hours. So I found this recipe for Raw Spinach Manicotti, which didn’t require any dehydrating, but still had some extensive commitment involved, as I had to soak sunflower seeds and sun dried tomatoes for 4-6 hours. Thank god for my awesome Cuisinart food processor (thanks mom!), which I used for almost every component of this meal! The sunflower seed “cheese” would not have fooled me in a blind taste test, but it was pretty good (I think lots of garlic did the trick) and the tomato sauce was great and I would even make that again for a regular pasta.

Raw spinach manicotti

I also made a side salad of jicama, cucumber, and mango tossed with lime juice, cayenne pepper, and sea salt… pretty much just because I was craving mango. Simple, fresh, summery.

Mango jicama salad

Chocolate avocado pudding

For dessert, I stole an idea from my friend Christy, Personal Trainer/Registered Dietitian/cook extraordinaire! Last fall she made this chocolate pudding using avocado and agave syrup and brought it to a potluck dinner. I know it sounds weird, but you can’t really taste the avocado and it’s the creamiest most delicious stuff ever. In a food processor, just throw in one ripe avocado, 1/4 cup agave nectar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 cup water, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp sea salt. When Christy made it she added shredded coconut on top – I opted for fresh strawberries since I had them left over from the other night’s grilled strawberry shortcake.

So I could totally eat raw food recipes (not all the time) if they didn’t take all day to make. Maybe a raw food week is in my future… one day. A great experiment, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Rosi is feeling after a whole week of this!

a simple summer pizza & salad

Even though the thought of turning my oven up to 500 in the summer makes me want to take an ice bath, I really wanted to make a simple summer pizza for dinner. I found this recipe for Caramelized Onion & Artichoke Pizza from Eating Well, and paired it with a salad of heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, avocado, and basil, dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and ground coriander. Actually I used one yellow heirloom tomato, and a bunch of really fresh organic sliced grape tomatoes. I also bought pre-cut watermelon (if you think I’m buying a whole watermelon to tackle in a kitchen without counter space, you’re crazy). You could also add feta, or any sort of similar cheese, to this if you wanted.

Heirloom tomato & watermelon salad

For the pizza, I didn’t use the dough recipe they suggested. I wanted to use whole wheat dough, and intended to make it myself (you can just google whole wheat pizza dough recipes and find one you like), until I realized I was running out of time and ended up cheating and buying a round of pre-made whole wheat dough from one of my favorite stores, Union Market. Despite a few frustrations rolling out the dough (again, counter space… and the fact that my rolling pin is used to hold the window open), and the oven filling my apartment with smoke, it was a success! Really delicious. (And note: without the sprinkling of parmesan cheese, it would be totally vegan).

Caramelized onion & artichoke pizza