Laarb-inspired Summer Salad

This…this makes my heart sing. The color, the different textures, even the fun shapes! I eat salad every day, but there is something particularly exciting about summer salads. Cool, refreshing, wholesome, and extra tasty with all the super fresh produce, I’ll munch my way through salads all summer long.

For the past month or so, I’ve been making a variation on the Laarb gai salad over at Low Amine Recipes. Bright and fresh, I love the balance of tangy lime and mellow mint. If you need something more substantial (here’s lookin’ at you, Mar), you can add ground chicken, sliced pork, or whatever protein floats your boat. This salad is a great vehicle for overcooked meat – I’ve been known to overdue a few things on the grill – as it absorbs the dressing and flavors to create a satisfying complement to the vegetables. Continue reading

Traveler’s Chicken

It’s my dream to wind my way through North Africa and the Middle East – Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, maybe Afghanistan – and stuff myself. That’s right – an eating adventure. I rave about any sort of food from that region, tagines with lemony chicken and olives, lamb and rich, tomato-y vegetables, (gluten-free) couscous with dried apricots, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghannouj, foul mudammes, and every single amazing vegetable dish that highlights the most glorious food group in the land. And hummus, my god hummus! I could sing it’s praises for an entire week straight.
One of the reasons I want to travel to the Middle East is to experience a new culture of food – one that emphasizes sharing, hospitality, and time spent with loved ones. Not that we don’t do that in America and the West, but entire cultures and societies are built around giving plenty of time and space for meals, something that is not as prioritized in America. I not only want to eat but also learn from home cooks wherever I travel. Learning new tricks in the kitchen is what binds us together as humans. We’ve been cooking and sharing together for thousands of years – passing tips, secret family recipes, and simply sharing our knowledge with the next generation. Cooking with another person makes everything more enjoyable – the work seems easier, the food tastes better, and the cleanup is by far much more pleasantly spent in the company of others.

After a weekend of cooking – but don’t worry, this chicken only dirties one pan!!!

Until the day when I can fulfill my tabe-travel dreams (taberu is the verb for eat in Japanese), I’ll contently stuff myself with this roast chicken. One of the benefits of living alone is that sometimes you don’t have to share! A whole chicken will last me about a week – shredded into tacos or stir-frys, stirred into soups, a balanced way to complete a salad, etc. You can find me many a weekend gnawing on a leg like a shameless prize-eater because 1. I love chicken and 2. I have no one to impress at my breakfast table. Continue reading

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta & Spring Vegetables + Our first giveaway!

Last night my friend asked me what my favorite thing was in my fridge at that time. I couldn’t come up with a good response until today. Leftovers. Leftovers are glorious. My usual strategy is to cook two big meals on the weekend: turkey & vegetable soup, maybe a Thai, Nepalese or Indian curry, or roast chicken, and enjoy quality meals with limited prep time throughout a busy week. The work is already done, and I’m eating food so good it makes me close my eyes and do a happy chair wiggle. You know what I mean.

But there are many people in my family who liken leftovers to dog food. I can understand that. Who wants to microwave something and end up with dry meat or fish, crunchy rice, or my ultimate nightmare -soggy vegetables? First off, I don’t use a microwave. I don’t like what it does to my food texturally and I think using a microwave is just plain bad for you. I gently reheat meat or fish in a saucepan over medium low or low heat. Same goes for curries or soups – into a pot and not nuked. I don’t eat a lot of rice, but if there are leftovers you can make yaki-onigiri (grilled rice cakes) or add it to soup. Anything braised, made into a chili, or prepared via slow cooker actually tastes better as leftovers.

The main reason I love leftovers, however, is because they have the potential to be not the pallid version of yesterday but the start, no halfway finish, to a new meal. Leftovers are great because most of the work is already done for you. Meat and veggies can go in omelets or tacos. Bits and pieces left on a roasted chicken can go in for soup stock along with bones and vegetable peelings.

No one illustrates this more beautifully than Tamar E. Adler in her new book, An Everlasting Meal. She makes me want to cook things I would never previously dream of enjoying, such as homemade mayonnaise or things containing anchovies. And her ideas on leftovers are a revelation. I’ve enjoyed this book so much, I’m going to give you the chance to win a copy! See details at the end of this recipe.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of breaking any sort of copyright laws, and you should just go straight to the source. Tamar Adler says it so much more beautifully and convincingly than I can. She encourages us to think of meals not in a linear way, dutifully plowing through dry or soggy leftovers in order to move on to better meals, but rather like a big circle. The best way I can illustrate this is to show you with a recipe I came up with last night after a long day out and little desire to make a big production for dinner. I still managed to feed two people, have leftovers, and start preparing some parts of my lunch today.

Breakfast: Roasted Kabocha

Wash the skin with fruit & veggie spray. Cut kabocha into quarters. Scoop out seeds and set aside to roast later for a snack. Spread 1 T coconut oil onto each pumpkin piece, and roast in a 400 degree oven until flesh is caramelized and easily pierced with a fork (or dull chopstick if you’re like me). This takes about 45 – 70 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Set one of the pieces aside for dinner.

simultaneous roasting of sweet potato optional

Dinner: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Makes 3 servings

4oz gluten-free noodles. I used Ancient Quinoa Harvest corn-quinoa blend.

2 tsp Herbamare salt, divided

1 large bunch of spring asparagus, no thicker than a pencil and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly on a mandolin

¼ roasted kabocha squash, flesh scooped out and mashed (I ended up with 2/3 c)

1/3 c pasta cooking water, reserved

¼ tsp thyme

In a large saucepan, bring water and 1 tsp of Herbamare to a boil. Add the gluten-free noodles once the water has reached a rolling boil. Cook according to package directions, but do not overcook. My instructions said 6-8 minutes, so I made sure only to cook for 6 minutes total. In the last two minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus and zucchini. Turn off the heat. This is why you want the vegetables to be thin so they cook quickly.

In a wide skillet, mash the kabocha with 1/3 c pasta water until it is smooth. Use tongs to transfer the pasta and vegetables into a wide skillet. Gently toss to combine, adding the thyme and remaining teaspoon of Herbamare. If the sauce looks too watery, simmer the pasta over low heat until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Of course if the sauce is too thick, add some more pasta water one tablespoon at a time.  Serve as is for a light meal or with a side of roasted chicken if you have hungrier dinner guests.

for Lunch Save the remaining pasta water. Bring to a boil and add shelled fava beans (you could also add green beans or any other veggie you want to flash boil). Cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans are tender. Strain, saving the pasta water for stock. Cool the beans overnight and add them to your usual lunch salad.

Another breakfast I plan on eating the pasta leftovers tomorrow! I’m also going to make chicken stock with the leftover pasta water and chicken bones.

Please please please buy a copy of An Everlasting Meal. It will make you love your kitchen, love your cooking mistakes, and love leftovers! If you can’t afford it – try your local library. If you want to win a copy, follow the instructions below!

Please leave a comment (and not anonymously) and share your favorite kitchen memory. Next time you are afraid to cook or don’t feel like it after a long day, remember that memory and try to recreate a good feeling rather than a perfect dish. Giveaway will be open until Sunday at midnight, Central Time in the US. I’ll announce the winner Monday.

Breakdown of Links

Turkey & Vegetable Soup from eatrecyclerepeat

Brown Rice Yaki Onigiri with Bacon & Avocado from La Fuji Mama

Stone Soup from 222 million tons

About Tamar E. Adler and her book, An Everlasting Meal

Roasted Delicata Squash Seeds from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations

Excerpt from “How to Live Well”, a chapter about cooking beans from An Everlasting Meal

Anatomy of a Salad from eatrecyclerepeat

“cooking mistakes” aka Kitchen Failures from eatrecyclerepeat

Part of Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend May 17 – 21.

Many thanks to Joy the Baker for introducing me to this fabulous book.

Anatomy of a Salad

I was trying to decide what recipe to post this week. I wanted to share something that I eat often, and finally it dawned on me: salad. I eat it every day, sometimes twice a day as lunch and part of dinner. And I NEVER, ever get tired of it. When I travel for a few days and don’t get my daily salad fix, I find myself longing desperately for a giant bowl of crunchy green.

thinly sliced raw radish, steamed cod, okra, avocado, and lettuce salad with mustard vinaigrette

I know what some of you may be thinking. Salad? Really? That’s so…mundane and boring. Who truly enjoys eating salad? And when I think of the typical restaurant salad – limp, white lettuce, a few paltry out of season tomatoes, and the occasional shredded carrot – I wouldn’t be excited either. However, the key is variety! I eat salad every day, but not the same one. I love monster salads packed full of interesting ingredients and combinations.  Here are a few tips for building a stellar salad:

Continue reading

Chicken Update + Breakfast Lettuce Wraps

Do you know what this is?

Factory farm food! From this slightly controversial, rather brazen blog, “Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what all fast-food chicken is made [of] – things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve — bones, eyes, guts, and all. [I]t comes out looking like this.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

But, hey, at least it tastes good, right?

I don’t think I would have put it any other way. Those chicken nuggets, or any fast food, may seem inexpensive now, but you are going to be paying much more – in terms of both money and health – later on in life if you keep eating fake, ridiculously over-processed food. This is why I always want to know where my food comes from or how it is made, and why I focus on eating whole, REAL, foods!

Luckily you can still enjoy chicken, and food in general, in its true form in a number of ways. Not only do I love chicken, but I love leftovers! I never get bored with them, and they make things so much easier in cooking because half the work is already done. One of my strategies is to cook several meals or ingredients during the weekend so I have things pre-prepped for a busier week: chopped veggies go in the freezer, chicken or turkey baked or cooked to add to salads for work, or maybe a big pot of soup to use up the rest of the previous week’s produce. On the rare occasion I do tire of something, I freeze it in individual portions so in a few weeks I can have a home-cooked meal in a fraction of the time. It saves me from resorting to take-out or the drive-thru. My last recipe gave me an ample amount of leftovers, which I turned into the most delicious lettuce wrap of all time. I want to eat it for breakfast every day! Continue reading

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Salad + Simple Lime Vinaigrette

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Next to turkey, which is sadly not so popular and readily available in Japan, chicken is my go-to meat source, a favorite since childhood. I love it in soups, stews, stir-frys, broiled, grilled, pounded flat and stuffed, wrapped in (clean) bacon…it is so versatile I haven’t tired of it or the numerous ways to prepare it. I’m not the only one; chicken is extremely popular in the U.S. and throughout the world. But recently, with the growth of industrial farming or “factory farms”, the chickens being raised and sold today live and die in an intensive, cruel, profit-not-quality driven atmosphere, which is fueled by public desire for cheap protein sources and allowed to flourish due to ignorance of the damaging affects of commercial farming, both to human, animal, and environmental health.

There are two types of chicken farms, one for eggs and one for meat. Chickens raised for meat are referred to as “broiler” chickens. Worldwatch Institute states that 74% of the world’s poultry meat and 68% of the world’s egg supply are raised in “intensive” (read: factory farm) conditions. Egg-laying hens are kept in tight mesh cages and broilers are crammed into indoor warehouses with appalling lack of space and hygiene conditions. And by lack of space, I mean that the chickens are unable to move, effectively imprisoned and left to suffer, leading to abnormal behavior. Organic labels may provide slightly higher welfare than the standard conditions, but the safest bet for selecting eggs or meat is finding chickens that are locally-raised (reducing transport and environmental impact) and free-range. This means birds are allowed to wander outside freely, but protected at night from predators and weather in a more traditional, iconic “coop”. Continue reading