Israeli Couscous White Bean Salad

In my quest to pack my lunch, and pack things that A) can be eaten in a car, B) do no require a microwave or refrigerator, and C) will fill me up I’ve started eating more beans than I ever had before. I’m still not crazy about the texture of beans, but I’m getting there.

This salad I found in the NY Times Cooking section and have to say, I kind of love it. It holds for a while and has both protein from the feta and beans and grains from the couscous to fill me up. Add in some heirloom tomatoes and basic from the garden and what is not to like. Admittedly I can’t eat this while driving, but it can be eaten in a parking lot and it holds up well with an ice pack in my lunch bag. We had this for dinner one day as is, then I added some celery and yellow pepper to the leftovers to stretch it for lunch for a few days. The only real change I made to the original salad was using cannellini beans instead of pinto and adding a little more garlic (I think 2 large cloves instead of one).

Homemade Margherita Pizza

The ten year old in me sometimes (ok often) likes basic food and one classic kid-friendly food is pizza. You can justify it by saying it contains several food groups including vegetables (tomato sauce), dairy (cheese) and grains (the crust) but really, it isn’t the healthiest of foods. However, you really can’t beat a good pizza.

The best thing about a basic sauce and cheese pizza is that it is fast and takes almost no brainpower – perfect after a long day at work. I cheated on the crust on this and bought the dough at the grocery, and used leftover sauce and cheese. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes and basil from the garden and you have a near perfect pizza.

 

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

I love salads for lunch, but the issue is always the dressing. With lettuce based salads the issue tends to be either finding a container to put the dressing in and hoping it doesn’t spill, or pre-dressing the salad and hoping the lettuce holds up. Some salads also leave my hungry a few hours later so I want something that will hold me until dinner. This week’s option – chickpea quinoa salad.

This recipe is based on a recipe from the New York Times. I’ve changed a few things, but I’ve also made this as written before and it is still fabulous. This dish comes together very quickly, especially if you keep cooked chickpeas and quinoa in your freezer. If you don’t, go with canned chickpeas and just make the quinoa as you chop the celery and make the dressing. Sumac (I generally sub Zatar) can be hard to find, but if you have a spice shop, they should carry it – if not, try Amazon. Really, you can find just about anything on Amazon. The recipe is best with the dill and chives in it, but if I don’t have them on hand, I just leave them out and it is still delicious. I also never include the mint. I’m just not a fan of mint in my salads.

 

Crustless leftovers quiche

So I have a new job! Yay! This new job is back in public schools and at a district level which means I am not in one school all day. I’m not even in one place all day or the same place two days in a row. It’s exciting, but it makes lunch a little more complicated. I decided to take a page from a former colleague and try to make lunches for the week on Sunday. I don’t know how long this will last, but if I can get in the habit of doing it, it could work out well.

One thing I need to keep in mind is that I don’t know if I will have access to a microwave on any given day. Lunch, therefore, need to be a not heat required lunch. If I can make it “eat on the go” friendly, all the better. Up first – mini quiches.

The weekend I made these I had not been to the farmers market or the store. I was sick Saturday and just lazy Sunday morning (if lazy includes walking the dog, feeding the pets, litter boxes, dishes and laundry that is). I had to come up with something that would not require me to go to the store, and would not use what I had on hand for dinner for Sunday or Monday. The result – mini crustless quiche filled with tomato, sweet pepper and scallion.

I started with roasting the vegetables. I did this mainly to soften them and eliminate some of the excess moisture. I didn’t want my quiches to leak or get soggy. I also added pre-shredded cheddar cheese. Yes, I know I could have gone for better cheese, but I kind of like the low moisture stuff for cooking. The result – cute and tasty quiches. I packed them two together and that should satisfy for lunch – maybe with grapes and a granola bar if I ever get around to making granola.

Recipe:

  • ~1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ~1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 bunch scallions, whites and light green parts only
  • ~1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (can substitute yogurt – I generally do but didn’t have any on hand)
  • oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375. Chop tomatoes, scallions and peppers and place on large baking sheet. Coat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread on sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Mix 5 eggs and 1/2 cup cream together. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and roasted vegetables and mix well. Use an ice cream scoop to put into prepared (greased or lined) muffin tins, filling each tin about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool in tins, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack, unless eating right away. Makes 12 mini quiche.

img_20180812_103642

Sun-dried tomato Focaccia

I like making bread, although I’m not fantastic at it. I tend to over-proof and under knead my dough, which makes for weird textures in the bread. But … with the stand mixer, I decided to give it another try.

I went with the recipe from Veganomicon, the great vegan cook book by Isa Chandra
Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I love the baked goods in this book, and the basic Rosemary Focaccia is one of my favorites. But, because I can’t just follow a recipe, I decided to add in sun-dried tomatoes early in the mixing process. I thought about adding them at the end, but decided to go in early and let the flavor really permeate the dough.

*Recipe:

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
  • 3 – 4 cups flour**
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, dry packed, chopped
  • oil and finishing salt for baking

Mix the yeast and water together in a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes to proof. Add 1/2 cup flour, olive oil and mix. Add 1/2 cup flour, rosemary and salt and mix again to form a soft dough. Add 2 more cups of flour and mix lightly. Add sun-dried tomatoes and the, using a stand mixer and dough hook, knead dough on medium speed for about 6 minutes. Check the texture of the dough and if it is too wet, add more flour, 1/3 cup at a time, to achieve a soft, yet not sticky dough. Remove dough from bowl, coat in oil, return to bowl and let rise about an hour (should double in size).

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a pan (I used an 8 x 11 glass dish). Punch down dough and knead a few times. Stretch or roll dough to fit in pan and then sprinkle more oil on top, especially at the edges. Let rise a little as the oven heats up, then add course salt to the top and bake for 30-40 minutes.

This was one of my better breads and it went really well with cheese, oil and vinegar, and with pesto for a kind of flatbread. Mom thought the flavor was too strong, so she made croutons out of the piece I gave her, but both bob and I really loved this.

*Recipe adapted from Veganomicon

**Everyone says baking is exact, but I’ve found the amount of flour I need varies on other factors. Very dry days, I need less. Hot/humid and rainy days, I need a little more.

Leftovers Pizza

When I made this I referred to it as “garbage” pizza because it was made with the things from the fridge that were on the verge of going bad and would need to be tossed in the garbage in a day or two. But since I had the time, I decided to make pizza. The nice thing about pizza is that is really does lend itself to what you have on hand. Very little does not taste good on pizza crust.

I based the dough on my favorite pizza dough recipe from Rick Bayless. I didn’t want to use any of Bob’s really good beer, and I didn’t have my usual cooking beer on hand so I tried a Corona and while it didn’t do a lot of the dough, it wasn’t bad. I do prefer a lager or wheat beer for this crust, but it is a case of use what is on hand.

For the toppings, I had 1 yellow squash, 1 ear of corn, 2 tomatoes (1 Cherokee purple tomato and 1 yellow tomato) and a handful of asparagus and 1 clove of garlic (seriously, I only had 1 clove of garlic in the house, which is pretty amazing since I almost always have garlic on hand.. The asparagus was looking pretty rough and I had put the tomatoes in the fridge two days before because they were going soft before I could use them. I know – never put tomatoes in the fridge as it ruins the flavor, but a sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

The dough is great – mix together and then let sit all day.

For the pizza, I started with chopping the vegetables and tossing them in olive oil. I kept the separated on a baking sheet as I baked them at 400 for about 20 minutes. Once the vegetables were done, I baked the dough for about ten minutes, then topped with the tomatoes and baked another five minutes. For the “sauce” I mashed the garlic clove with the tomatoes, added salt and a pinch of sugar to the roasted tomatoes/garlic before spreading it over the dough. I wanted to cut the acid just a tiny bit, but I didn’t want it to be sweet. Then the vegetables and cheese (mozzarella and pecorino mixed together) were added and baked for about seven minutes, until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly.

The best part of this was I got to clean out my fridge and had a tasty dinner for Bob and I.

img_20180629_170142

Summer Risotto

Quick – think of the flavors of summer. What foods do you identify with summer? For me it will always be tomato, corn and peach and I would guess most people have at least one of those, if not all three in their mind. So what better way to celebrate summer than have a risotto (cause it is actually easy to make and very filling and generally has leftover) with the flavors of summer. Okay, there are no peaches in this, but a nice peach salad would not be out of place here.

Recipe*:

  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • ~ 4 cups vegetable broth (you may not need it all)
  • 1 ear fresh sweet corn
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup hard grating cheese (I like pecorino)
  • 1 stalk basil
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

In a small to medium pot, heat vegetable broth. While the broth heats, cut the corn kernels from the cob, then cut the cob to fit into the pot. Simmer the vegetable broth and corn cobs.

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Pick the basil leaves and cut into small ribbons. Grate the cheese. Using the same grater, grate the tomatoes.

In a large pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until the are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook about one minute. Add rice and toss to coat. Cook about 1-2 minutes until rice is toasty. Add tomatoes and mix well. If using, add wine and cook over medium heat until evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove corn cobs from broth. Add 1/2 – 2/3 cup broth and mix with rice/tomato mixture. Cook, stirring often, until broth is absorbed. Add broth ~1/2 cup at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stir with each addition. Continue adding broth until rice is cooked – it should take between three and four cups of broth. As you add the last 1/2 cup of broth, add the corn. When rice is cooked and corn is heated through, remove from heat and add 1/2 of the basil and about 1/3 cup of cheese. Mix everything together well and adjust seasoning as needed.

Plate and top with more cheese and the remaining basil.

img_20180625_170809.jpg

This is an Alinea (the cat) approved dish. She even joined us at the table in hopes of getting a bit for herself.

*This was adapted from a New York Times Cooking recipe.