Spaghetti with Spinach and Walnut Sauce


So Zoeya, like a three year old does, has rebelled against the lentils she used to love. It's really messing up my Monday night dinners. Of course I still give them to her, but tonight I wanted to make something I didn't have to coax her to eat. Also something that I would love, something pretty decadent for a Monday...almost as decadent as eating most of a box of Girl Scout cookies (what?).

This is simple but delicious.

Spaghetti with Spinach and Walnut Sauce

1/2 lb spaghetti, preferably whole wheat although I had semolina from somewhere.
Cook to al dente in water salty like the sea

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
3/4 cup walnuts
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c warm water
1 bunch spinach, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Saute onion and garlic until very soft. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz walnuts and lemon juice. Add onion and garlic (don’t wash the pan it was in), with tahini, olive oil, and water, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. and puree to a sauce (if very thick, add a little more water, and adjust seasoning if necessary). Toss spinach in the pan with a sprinkle of salt, and as it starts to wilt add the walnut mixture to heat back through.

Add pasta to pan and toss to coat. Serve.

Zoeya loved it (after she ascertained it wasn’t made with red sauce which she also arbitrarily decided she dislikes), but since there is a kid in her class with a nut allergy I get the yummy lunch leftovers all to my self.

Prelude to Valentine’s Day with Red Food: Harissa; and Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate


This Saturday, the weekend before the much loved/dreaded Valentine’s Day, my sister had a potluck with her work friends. As she is aware of my enthusiasm for potlucks, she invited Zoeya and me. The theme was Red Food. (Sidenote: this was not my first Red Food potluck). She made a delicious baked spaghetti and one of her friends brought an amazing red velvet, white chocolate and raspberry trifle – no beef, we asked. My contribution was a harissa-esque dip served over hummus, and a quinoa salad.

I tried to shape the harissa into a heart!

Here’s something spicy you can make for your lovah: harissa. I use the term “harissa” loosely – this was more of a dip than a sauce or paste, and I made it not-too-spicy lest there be wimpy tongues at the party, but honestly the heat could have been to be turned up a notch (next time!). The other silly thing I did was that after I blitzed it the first time I decided that in color it wasn’t red enough for a red food party so I added some tandoori masala thinking that spices were spices. Mistake! Although it still tasted good, it starting smelling distinctly Indian instead of a North African…so next time, paprika.

This is very versatile! Use as a dip, condiment on salads or sandwiches, or as a wet rub or part of a marinade. I served it over hummus.

Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Harissa

3 red peppers
heaping tsp each cumin and coriander seeds
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes (minus the several I ate)
heaping tsp paprika
salt & pepper
1/2 – 2 tbsp red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you want it (maybe a little less for a dip and more for a condiment or wet rub)
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oven to 450° Roast the red peppers by placing them directly on the oven rack and roast until blacked, turning once. Remove to a glass bowl and cover to sweat them (so it will be easier to take the skins off). Once cool, remove stems, seeds, and skins.

In the meantime, in a dry skillet toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cloves. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

I also made:

I had my Persephone Salad in mind, but was in the mood to make something with quinoa. I found this recipe for Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad online, which looked delicious, but I still wanted to make pomegranate vinaigrette so I combined the two!

Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate

For the quinoa
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed (red if possible! I couldn’t find it so used tricolored)
olive oil
2 bulbs fennel, sliced (reserve fronds)
4 cloves garlic
tsp cumin seeds
tsp chili powder
handful fennel fronds (removed from stalk), chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
handful mint, chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, heat olive oil to medium high and saute fennel and garlic with salt & pepper until fennel is very tender. Add cumin seeds and chili powder and saute for another minute.

Toss warm quinoa with fennel, herbs, and lettuce (I just love tossing warm things with lettuce because it makes it super green and wilts it just slightly).

For the vinaigrette
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
6 tbsp olive oil

Whisk all together.

Toss quinoa and vinaigrette together, and top the whole thing with 1/4 cup or so pomegranate seeds

Someone enjoyed dinner (although she was more a fan of the spaghetti than the salad).

Zoeya’s favorite thing to say to me nowadays is “I am waiting patiently, but you are taking TOO LONG!”

Red Thai Curry Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Kale


Once again I saw a delicious-looking soup recipe on BrokeAss Gourmet that inspired me to make my own variation based on what I had in my pantry. This time it was Coconut Soup with Sweet Potato and Lime. I had red Thai curry paste so I made kind of a Thai curry soup, and threw in some kale because what don’t I throw kale in nowadays?

By the way, eat more kale! It’s good for you!

Red Thai Curry Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Kale

olive oil (not authentic, I don’t care)
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
salt & pepper
some ginger if you have it but I was out
5 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp red Thai curry paste
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 inch cubes
1 bunch kale, destemmed and chopped
juice of half a lime

Heat olive oil and add onion, garlic and salt, sauteing until onion is translucent. Add ginger (if you are lucky enough to not be out) and curry paste, and cook, stirring for a minute. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, simmering until sweet potato is easily smashed, but not falling apart (about 20 min). Add kale and lime juice, cooking for just a minute until kale wilts, then serve hot with lime slices and hot sauce.

I ate bowl after bowl, and started stirring in a little sambal oelek for some heat – so yummy! Zoeya liked it too once I convinced her that is was sweet potato (which she likes), not squash (which she doesn’t).

Super Menu for the Commercial Bowl 2012


Are you ready for some corn chips!

Yesterday we had some friends over for the Commercial Bowl and Madonna Show. There was some boring football in between. I prepped a cook-out menu and cruelly made poor Shan go out in cold to grill it. No mercy in our house.

This menu turned out great because it felt like you were eating junk food (chips and dip, burgers) but it was actually really good for you – although I was definitely going for yummy first, healthy second. There are some things in the world like avocados and sun dried tomatoes that are on my desert island list, of which I could eat copious amounts. Copious! Seriously, it’s amazing how any recipe involving sun dried tomatoes gets made because I sneak so many from the jar.

Dinner, except for the burgers…

Commercial Bowl Menu

Roasted Tomato and Artichoke Guacamole
I told you I was going to make it again

Black Bean Dip
Freshened up my leftover black beans in the food processor with some cilantro and lime

(Both served with blue and white corn chips).

For the boys: Burgers Provençales
Fancy grass fed beef with red onions, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, oregano, thyme and lavender, grilled to perfection by a handsome gentleman

For the girls: Portabello Burgers
Portabello caps marinated with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, oregano, thyme and lavender, also grilled by handsome gentleman

Whole wheat toasted buns with:
Almond pesto
Basil, parsley, a little kale, garlic, lemon juice, almonds and toasted almond oil

Sun dried tomato tapenade
Tapenade with lots of chopped sun dried tomatoes

And on the side:
Beet and Cucumber Salad with Tahini Dressing
Green leaf lettuce, roasted beets, cucumber, and tahini dressing (tahini, dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil)

Champagne and orange juice kindly brought to us by our friends

This just cracks me up, Zoeya made herself a burger with two bun bottoms, lots of ketchup, and scarfed it down before everyone else had even served themselves.

Excellent company. Plus Meg who made it over later.

Shan’s Patriots lost, but Zoeya was cheering for the Giants. She used to play with an imaginary friend named Giant, so I guess she felt a connection.

Leftover Remix: Coconut Squash Soup and Artichoke Guacamole


I love having leftovers (shortens food prep on busy evenings) but hate eating the same thing over and over. Here’s how this week’s fare got reinvented:

Leftover Salty Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash got pureed with vegetable broth and coconut milk, warmed through and topped with toasted coconut flakes. I should note I drank it in a mug from bed (this was kind of a stressful week and I was even more worn out than usual in the evening).

And the rest of the awesome Roasted Tomato Salsa got chopped and smashed with half a jar of marinated artichoke hearts and an avocado. Zoeya and I scooped it up with plantain chips (store-bought) for a Friday afternoon treat. With wine. (Again, stressful week).

This would be fantastic for the Super Bowl. Shan is a Patriots fan, and I am excited for commercials and snacks.

Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Tomato Salsa


The beans didn’t finish cooking in time for dinner, so Zoeya and I took them for lunch!

Two things threatened to ruin this meal, but I am happy to report that I persevered, and it all worked out ok.

The first was that when I bothered to read the label of the chipotles in adobo sauce that I love so much (in things like chili and the eggs I used to eat), I found out they have HFCS in them. Mother expletive! I yelled – in my head of course – in the middle of the grocery store aisle. So obviously I didn’t buy them. I made my own smokey chili flavor with dried California chiles and molasses.

The second was that these beans took forever (forever!) to cook. I mean, I knew they’d take a long time, but this was multiple evenings, including overnight crockpot.

I did not soak them beforehand and I did add salt at the beginning, because Spilled Milk told me it was a myth that these things would make them take longer…but now I’m not so sure, I may have been led astray. As you can see, I am not as expert in dried beans as I am in dried lentils. Next time I’ll do this on a weekend and maybe freeze some to save myself a headache. Or just use a can.

The roasted tomato salsa/tarka came together gorgeously and without hassle, and was so delicious I think it could saved just about anything.

Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Tomato Salsa

For the beans:
1 cup dried black beans – mine were pretty big, it probably wouldn’t have taken as long with the tiny black beans. You can also use canned beans, just don’t cook as long.
2 dried California chiles, stems removed (these are smokey, not spicy)
2 tbsp molasses
4 carrots, diced
juice of half a lime

Add everything to a large pot with water to cover by several inches, and boil, adding water when needed, until the beans are soft. This will take several years hours. You can also do this in a crock pot. Reduce liquid to a stoup. (Oh yes I said it!) Adjust seasoning, beans take a lot of salt.

For the roasted tomato salsa:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili powder
small handful cilantro, chopped
juice of half a lime

Toss tomatoes with generous sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a little olive oil, and roast at 400° until blistered. Meanwhile, heat a couple tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic cloves, cumin, and chili powder. Remove from heat and toss together with tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.

To serve:

Serve over rice (I used leftover basmati, but if I were making it fresh I’d use a medium grain), make a layer of beans, and top with tomatoes, sliced avocado, and a spritz of lime juice and hot sauce.