Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roasted Veggie Salad

We were invited to dinner at our friends' house this summer, and she made a really yummy salad. She combined pan-roasted vegetables and raw vegetables to make a nice mix of colors, textures, and flavors.

My CSA box a few weeks ago had small garnet sweet potatoes, zucchini, green lettuce, and apples (among other delicious things!). I wanted to make a hearty salad to accompany some pan-grilled catfish for a healthy dinner. Then I remembered Erin's salad! I love these veggies when they are roasted because the sugars get carmelized and bring out such good flavor. I thought it would go great with the fresh, crisp apples.

I cut the zucchini and peeled sweet potatoes in rounds, lay them on a baking sheet, drizzled on olive oil, and sprinkled salt and pepper to cover them lightly. I roasted them at 425F for about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, I washed the green lettuce, diced a couple of apples, and whipped up a quick sweet vinaigrette:
Peach Balsamic Vinaigrette
2T peach balsamic vinegar (or any fruit-infused balsamic)
1T dijon mustard
4T extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt & pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and dress your salad!
When the veggies were done in the oven, I let them sit and cool for just 10 minutes or so. Then I combined the lettuce, apples, zucchini, and sweet potatoes with the vinaigrette.
Served beside a simple pan-grilled catfish filet (seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika), we had a light and healthy dinner during a busy weeknight. And I didn't even have to go to the store! Think outside the box, and you could end up with a new favorite!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My First Try at Indian Cooking: Aloo Gobi

My husband and I love Indian food. We have a couple of favorite restaurants in the LA area. One is Jaipur in West Los Angeles and the other is called Al-Noor in Lawndale. The food is so fragrant and flavorful, it's something we crave quite often. But until this month, I'd never attempted to make it at home...despite the frequent requests I get from my man.

I took baby steps to get there. About 5-6 months ago, I ventured into the spice aisle at the grocery store and found turmeric, cumin seeds, and even bought a Garam Masala mix at a specialty spice store, Penzey's. So that, you know, I would have the spices on hand whenever I was ready.

Months passed, and then a couple of weeks ago, my cousin invited us over for a BBQ and asked me to make a vegetarian potato dish. I thought to myself, "well, here's my chance!" There are lots of Indian dishes with potatoes. I found an easy {recipe} on from Aarti Sequeira for a cauliflower and potato dish called Aloo Gobi.
I needed to double the recipe for the small crowd I was feeding, so I used one large head of cauliflower and 3 good-sized russet potatoes. I cut them all up in similar sized pieces so that they cooked evenly in the pot.
I used two serrano peppers, split in half, but joined at the stem. These little babies released quite a bit of heat, but it mellowed out after it sat for a while. I also made some of Aarti's signature ginger-garlic paste. I used about 1/2 cup of both fresh ginger (stored in my freezer) and garlic (stored in my fridge), and about 1/4 cup of canola oil. I blended in the Magic Bullet blender, and it came out perfect. I had more than enough to keep for later use too.
The veggies were the vehicle for the incredible spices to shine. The scent of the masala mix of turmeric, coriander, ginger-garlic paste and water, added to the cumin seeds that popped away in the oil filled my whole house! It was wonderful!

I added the veggies with 1/2 cup of water to let it all cook without burning and about 1-2 teaspoons of salt to bring out all of the flavors. I gave it a good toss, and let it soften up and cook for about 20 minutes.

Before serving, I removed the serrano peppers. the mixture turns a nice golden yellow color because of the turmeric. It tasted so good - warm spices and soft potatoes and made for a hearty side dish that everyone enjoyed!

I was shocked at how easy this dish really was to make. I think it can be intimidating to cook with spices and ingredients that are unfamiliar, but if you have them all, the technique is actually really simple for any cook.

It's good to try new things! I hope this inspires you to try something you've never tried before. :) Happy cookin'!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gluten-Free Fruit Crumble

More and more people in my life have switched to gluten-free diets, after finding out that gluten was the culprit in making them feel awful or just plain sick.

Before last month, I had never baked anything gluten-free. Honestly, I've looked at recipes and they often require ingredients that I don't have in my pantry, like xanthum gum. Yeah, I haven't expanded my staples to include that...yet.

So, I was pleased when I finally found a recipe from the NY Times for a dessert that only called for things I already had in my pantry shelves (minus one thing!). We were having our neighborhood BBQ, and I wanted to make some options for our next-door neighbors who are gluten-free peeps.

While I was at the store for the gluten-free rolled oats, I picked out some ripe nectarines and blueberries.

I prepped the fruit right in the glass dish that I was going to bake it in. So, I greased the edges on the pan and added the sliced nectarines and blueberries. To that, I added agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. The recipe calls for cinnamon, but I think I left it out on accident. The recipe has you bake the fruit mixture before adding the topping. I baked the fruit for 20 minutes while I worked on the crumble topping mixture.

The topping actually takes two steps as well. You also have to bake it on its own before adding it to the fruit and baking it a second time.

The topping is made from gluten-free oats, quinoa flour, turbinado or raw sugar, nutmeg, salt, and unsalted butter. The recipe can be found {here}.To make the quinoa flour, you grind up quinoa in a blender or spice grinder. I used my handy Magic Bullet. It worked quite well!

Then you blend all the dry ingredients in a food processor. Then you add the butter and pulse it until it's well-combined. I doubled the recipe because my dish is slightly bigger than your standard 9 x 13. I had plenty left over, so I froze it and kept it for future crumbles!

In a 350 preheated oven, you bake the mixture on parchment paper (or foil) on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, rotating the pan if needed at the halfway point.
Here's the before (top picture) and after (bottom picture). You can see how the quinoa and oats brown and crisp up in the oven.

By the time the topping was ready, the fruit had been sitting for about 30 minutes, and the juice from the fruit had collected in the dish. It seemed a bit watery without any thickener, so I added mixed a little bit of water with about a tablespoon of corn starch and tossed it in with the fruit before sprinkling on the oat topping. I then baked the whole dish at 350 for another 20-25 minutes until it was bubbling at the bottom.

The crumble was a hit! Our neighbors loved it and kept all the leftovers (it was one of four desserts that night). I've since made another crumble with pluots, apples, and cherries, which was equally as yummy. It's definitely a healthy dessert, low in added sugar, and high in fiber and protein!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pink's Hot Dogs, Hollywood

There are quite a few historical food landmarks in Los Angeles. The number of celebrities that frequent a place, whether high-end or hole-in-the-wall, just might determine its legendary status. And, restaurants that name menu items after famous people, well, they always seem to make it big.

There's Sue (pointing at the sign), Pam, and Aaron holding our place in line. We waited for 40 minutes to order! Can you tell she's happy to be there?
Pink's is one of those landmarks. It's just a shack on La Brea Avenue heading into Hollywood that's been around since the 1940's. It's a grease pit serving hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and onion rings. It's a heart-stopper. Cholesterol and calories are served there. And yet, in this west coast town of vegans and organic-fanatics, the line is most usually 20-50+ people long. And, they have hot dogs named after Martha Stewart and Ozzy Osborne, just to name a couple.

After living here for close to 7 years, I still hadn't been. But when my mother-in-law and friends came to visit before our Vegas trip, Pink's was our lunch destination before a day of shopping at the Grove. Needless to say, we really didn't need to eat for the rest of the day...

Here is our lineup of hot dogs...sauerkraut, anyone?

...and the burgers...Yes, that's a polish dog and bacon on top of the chili cheeseburger on the left. Wow. It was a bit much!

It was a good experience, though I wouldn't eat here very often, just for my body's sake. It's pretty tasty grub and it's fun to enjoy with friends, but...just looking at it puts you in danger of gaining 2 pounds. My favorite thing was probably the chili. So, a chili dog or chili cheeseburger or chili cheese fries are probably the best things to order.

Not sure if we'll be back, but at least I can check this one off my LA bucket list!