Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vegan Curried Chicken Salad

Vegan chicken salad ---  now, this sounds like an oxymoron, but the idea for this salad is inspired by a chicken salad recipe, but I wanted a vegan version. The flavors and textures is like a chicken salad, but the main ingredients are roasted cauliflower florets and chickpeas instead. This ‘chicken’ salad tastes wonderful, very crunchy, and it is very satisfying and also filling thanks to the vegan mayonaise. It travels well to picnics, and keeps in the fridge for a few days. A summer staple!

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Vegan “Chicken” Salad

  • 1/2 cup fat-reduced veganaise
  • 1/3 cup mirin (or sushi vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup mango chutney (out of a jar)
  • 2 TB curry powder
  • 1 ts salt

Mix all these ingredients in a food processor until really smooth. Scrap every last bit out with a silicon spatula and place in a large mixing bowl.

  • 2 bags of frozen cauliflower (unthawed) or 1 fresh head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 long stalks of celery, cut into small dice
  • 1/4 cup of cashews, chopped
  • Optional: 1/4 cup raisins or fresh grapes, halved

Preheat oven to 350F, and place the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Roast for about 20-30 min until tender and slightly roasted.

Meanwhile, cut the celery and mix the remaining ingredients with the curry salad sauce.

Add the cauliflower, and mix.

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Serve a room temperature or chilled. Sprinkle with cilantro or leafy parts of celery.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Moroccan Lemonade

In the summer, it is great to get together for an afternoon in the garden or on the deck, at a picnic or a garden party. Often, this calls for festive drinks --- home-made iced coffee with vanilla gelato, limoncello with prosecco, or a sophisticated non-alcoholic lemonade.

This lemonade is a beautifully aromatic with a subtle Moroccan flavor with cinnamon and a gorgeous deep pink color.

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Moroccan Lemonade

  • for the syrup:
  • 4 inch slice of organic orange rind
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tablespoon of dried rose pedals  (available in natural living stores)
  • 2 tablespoon of dried hibiscus flower (available in natural living stores)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar

for the lemonade:

  • 3/4 cup of fresh pressed lemon juice
  • half gallon of water

I got the orange rind of the one orange I grew over the last year…

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These are the dry ingredients for the syrup.

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Add to water and sugar in a sauce pan, and bring to a boil for 1 min. Dissolve the sugar and turn off the heat. Let steep for about 30min.

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Meanwhile, juice about 5 lemons to get 3/4 cup of lemon juice.

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Pour the lemon juice in a large container. Pour the syrup through a sieve and add to the container. Fill with water, and chill the lemonade. Serve with ice cubes.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Cozy spaces for summer

Ah, summer ! I could spend all my time outside, with an open patio door, flowing between inside and outside, inhabitable space with fresh air, sunshine, a breeze, to eat meals, read a book, work, meet with friends. Even small spaces can offer this cozy outdoor ‘living room’. Here are a few inspirations that I found (and immediately would book in an AirBnB in a foreign city. Paris? Lisbon?)

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Where my salad comes from

One of the themes of this blog is ‘eat seasonal, local food’. In Maine, this is not an elitist idea but something most of the people of Maine pursue, and the local farmers, farm land and farmers markets are plentiful. Afterall, Maine does feel sometimes like stuck in the 50s, in a good way. In the summer (i.e. now) I get most of my produce from the Farmers Market and the rest from my garden. There are always the same farmers, and familiar banter develops over the years. Here is one of my favorite farmers, Mark. His arugula and mesclun salad mix is divine; it is crunch fresh and does not wilt for over a week. …… and here is where it really comes from.

Farm to table.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dreaming of Palm Springs

It is dreary outside, dark, gray, cold, windy, raining, and I feel like the weather is now really getting to me. Normally, I am such an optimistic trooper, even in the longest winter, but this endless array of weather that wants me to be cuddled up indoors when I see people with Magnolia trees on the west coast makes me want to cry. I can’t take it anymore. It is these moments when I want to uproot and move back to a drought stricken California, like here in Palm springs, and yes, after 10 years in Maine, it does look a bit dry and not green at all. Nothing much seems to grow, naturally, while there is an abundance of green, trees and lushes lawns and coastal waters and lakes in Maine without anyone having to do anything. If…. you can cope with the winter.

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But the light, the wide horizons, the freedom, of Palm Springs and the desert, get me every time.

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Maybe, just a vacation, for a few weeks, to recharge those depleted happy hormone reservoirs.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Boston Strong

It is a bit eerie and sad to walk around the Boston Marathon finish in 2015. The sidelines and audience benches are all up, it is another 2 days, the runners’ expo tents are busy, the tourists pouring into town, many people obviously runners, the European ones clad in adidas gear, and there is a great excitement in the air. I never knew what a big deal the Boston marathon for Boston really is. Still, the nerves are raw from 2 years ago, the memories too vivid. Special, make-shift memorials are erected where the bomb exploded, but in true Boston strong fashion (similar to the NYC tenacity), the show (and life) does go on.

Each store along Newbury Street and Boylston Street had these Boston Strong potted Daffodils.

Good luck for the runners! Unfortunately, it looks like it will rain on Monday.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Light and warmth infused humans

Sometimes I feel humans are not much different from plants. When do the plants in the garden know that it is time and safe to grow those leaves and flowers? They don’t have a calendar. It is sensing based --- sensing that it is warm and that there is plenty of sunshine. Humans are similar --- as soon as we ‘feel’ (sense) that the temperatures rise to a certain degree, the sun shines long hours and it is warm consistently for a few days it seems like we are infused by some life nectar, too, which provides energy to run long distances and go places.

At least that is what happens to me and what brought me to Boston.

In Boston, a lot more people seem to feel it.

While the nature here at Boston Commons is on the cusp of blooming, the people are more than ready to get in the streets and eat outside again.

The city gets ready for more long distance runners…

The finish of the Boston marathon.

It feels a bit eery,sad and raw to walk by all those stores and places where just 2 years ago this terrible tragedy happened. But then, Boston is boston strong, and everyone does their best to put it behind them.

The Apple watches are in store, but not ready for sale yet. I am not sure about the Apple watch; it seems to be able to connect to an Iphone via bluetooth to get messages?! Or do they have wifi? That would make them interesting.

Spring is here, at least for a few days because we get spring showers. But the snow seems to be done for the season. Halleluja!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Goddess Green Kale Hummus

Waking up this morning, the light coming in through the bedroom window was so low that I knew I would need to keep the lights on all day. In an effort to make the best out of this rainy, snowy, dark Easter Saturday, I designated it to be a ‘pajamas day’, an in-house day, cozy in front of the tv with endless netflix movies, never needing to wear any ‘real’ clothes and no need for make-up either, getting some work done, and otherwise just lingering. Sounded great.

Recently, I figured out that a neuro-fuzzy logic rice cooker is the perfect device to cook dried chickpeas without having to plan ahead and soaking them first. A slow cooker takes about 12h without soaking, a pressure cooker 45min but I feel compelled to watch the dangerous device; electric pressure cookers are about $100 but all of them are really big (6-12 cup) and I do not need another gadget. So, I tried the rice cooker last week and in one normal rice cooking cycle it also cooked dry chickpeas to perfection.

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These are channa masala (black chickpeas) which I picked up in an Indian store. About 1 cup of dried chickpeas, plenty of water (I filled about half the pot), 2 bay leaves and putting it on basmati rice cooking.

With my second batch of chickpeas, I made hummus for the week, but not just any hummus, a goddess green hummus with kale. So simple, and so good!

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Green Goddess Kale Hummus (makes ca. 2 cups)

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved, otherwise some water 
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (or kosher salt), or to taste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini  (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • 3 large handfuls of chopped lacinato kale
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
Place all ingredients into a food processor (except the salt) and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Add water as needed to make the hummus come together and get the right consistency. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a good quality olive oil.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hello April

The spring is slowly forthcoming this year. The days are longer, sunnier, but there are still 2 feet of ugly snow on the ground almost everywhere. Not in the south of Maine, though. They are snow-free, mostly.  It is April and I have hopes that by the end of the month it might actually feel like spring. I try not to be one to complain, because, afterall, this is life, and every day wasted with looking at the negative and wanting something else, is never coming back. So, why not make it a day to remember.

With the lack of blog posts, you probably have realized that I have been less than inspired to cook lately. A real inspiration slump. I do not care to bring lunch and I do not even care to grab lunch, and then I eat a candy bar I have in the office. My excitement went on spring break and never came back. Maybe, I just need a major change, but I don’t know what this could/should be. Summer?

So, I leave you with things I found on the internets in the hope they might inspire me (or you);

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Eats in April. And meals.

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Ready for Austrian Royal sweets? These are crepes, the Austrian version. The dough is sweeter than the dough of crepes, but otherwise they are quite similar. Always filled with some apricot or strawberry or raspberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. (Original name: Palatschinken, for instruction check this post). (Equally fabulous: Kaiserschmarrn, Nocken and Viennese Apple Strudle. This one deserves a photo of its own. )

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Easter is on its way. Please only buy chocolate bunnies for the kids. Not real ones.

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And now I will enjoy the sunny day and a half, because the weatherman says, the Easter weekend will be a big natural make-over, with plenty of rain and then a new layer of immaculate snow. Old man winter is still refreshing his make-up. His real name seems to be Dorian Gray.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Baked Ziti

It was a get-together with plenty of good friends and good food, and a surprise birthday girl. I decided to contribute something Italian, since it is hard to compete with all the authentic Indian, Bengali and Sri Lanka cooks. – Lasagna was first on my mind, but I switched to Baked Ziti since it is easier to serve buffet-style. It came out great, but next time I will add more sauce and cook it less long, since it starts to dry out during reheating. Tasty, nevertheless.

Baked ziti consists of precooked pasta, a meaty tomato sauce and a ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan mixture, ultimately all mixed, layered and baked until bubbly.

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I cooked a mixture of pasta, and added 2 bay leaves to give them extra flavor.

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The meat sauce with tomatoes.

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The mixture of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, parmesan and 1 egg, all mixed. Then add the pasta.

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Add most of the meat tomato sauce (but leave 4 cups for layering)>

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Prepare the dish.

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Bake until bubbly.

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Baked Ziti

  • 1 package of pasta (typically 1 pound)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 dash of sweet vermouth (optional)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 ts dried thyme
  • 1 ts dried basil
  • 1 ts chili flakes (and a dash of cayenne if you like it hotter)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce
  • 1 15oz container of part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 packages of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • fresh mint or parsley or basil

Cook pasta with salted water for about 9min (slightly undercook).

In a large pan, sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened add in the meat, and break it up with a large spatula. Brown it from all sides. Then add in the tomatoes and tomato sauce and the herbs and spices. Simmer for about 20min.

In a separate large bowl, mix up the ricotta cheese, 1 pouch of mozzarella and parmesan with the egg with a fork. Just mash it up. Add in the pasta, and mix through.

Once the sauce is done, reserve about 4 cups, and mix in the rest of the sauce to the pasta.

Layer half of the pasta mix in an 9x13 inch oven safe baking dish. Even out, and then layer half of the sauce on top, and half of the mozzarella from the second bag. Add the second half of pasta, even out and finish with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

Preheat oven to 375F, and bake dish for about 25min. To get a brown crust, turn on the broiler for 1.5min at the end of baking. Sprinkle with fresh mint before serving.

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