Apr 262014
 

Oh hey, Spring! So nice to see you again. I wasn’t even sure you’d ever come back after that miserable winter, but alas, here you are. So I thought I’d celebrate your return with a dish that screams spring–Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto. PS, never leave me again.
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Roasted carrots are one of my recent obsessions. Even just on their own with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, they are amazing. To be completely honest, this rainbow mixture I got doesn’t really taste any different, but it sure looks cool and rustic, right? So hip.
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I could have just stopped there, but the return of spring deserves something special. I decided to up the dish with a fresh arugula and walnut pesto to add a savory bite to the sweet carrots. It was a super quick pesto, made with arugula, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and parmesan. The combination was pretty flawless.
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And just when you think a dish can’t get any better, put a poached egg on top. It almost never fails. Runny yolks are magical. This is great if you want the carrots/pesto to stand on their own as a meal rather than a side dish.
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Nutritional Highlights: It’s hard to beat carrots in terms of nutrition. They give you about 200% of your daily vitamin A needs (via beta carotene), plus fiber, biotin, and and vitamin K to name a few. Carrots may help maintain eye health, and may prevent against cancer and heart disease. Also, if you buy organic carrots, you don’t even have to peel them, just wash and scrub off any stringy parts, which is awesome for the lazy chef like I am these days. Argugula is the other big nutritional star here. It is super low cal like most greens, but has a delicious peppery flavor and is packed with phytochemicals and folate. Walnuts in the pesto add healthy fat and a delicious nutty flavor.
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Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto
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For the Roasted Carrots:
2 pounds organic rainbow carrots (or the regular orange guys)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pesto:
3 cups packed arugula leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, a few reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, plus a little extra for garnish
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Wash and scrub carrots but no need to peel if they are organic. Dry them off and lay out onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2T olive oil and rub so all the carrots are coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
3. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your carrots are, until slightly soft and browned.
4. While carrots are roasting, make your pesto. Combine the first 6 ingredients and pulse to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil and water, adding a litte extra if you think it is too thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. When carrots have finished roasting, lay them on on a serving dish and top with a scoop of the pesto across the center. Garnish with additional toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Enjoy this amazing side and the return of Spring (finally!!).

**You’ll probably have extra pesto. I assure you this is a great thing. You can spread it on toast, top fish or chicken with it, toss pasta in it, or eat it with a spoon. Trust me, you’ll find a way to use it!

Apr 182014
 

Eastover is here again! For those of you that don’t know, it’s an official holiday that happens when you are half Jewish/half Catholic and Passover and Easter overlap. During Eastover, it is essential that you create hybrid Passover-Easter foods (think pastel-egg shaped matzo balls, etcetera). I decided to combine my favorite passover dessert with my favorite Easter dessert, and thus the Carrot-Cake Macaroon Nest was born. OK, I know it’s probably holiday hybrid overkill, but pretty cute, right?
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Macaroons are crazy easy to make—just mix some coconut into whipped egg whites. To make the “carrot cake” version, I added shredded carrots, chopped toasted pecans, raisins, and warm spices (cinnamon/nutmeg). Instead of the usual ball shaped macaroons, I pushed my thumb into the middle to make it nest like, and then added a tiny bit of creamcheese frosting and a few “eggs” which can be jelly beans, Jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, or any other egglike candy.
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Nutritional highlights: I’ll keep it short and sweet, since you know that when it comes to holidays I don’t think we need to be counting every calorie. But, as compared to other cookies, I would say these are a definite improvement. They have shredded carrots for beta carotene, pecans and coconut for protein, and no additional sweeteners beyond the coconut and raisins. Egg whites are the binder which are very low in fat and calories.  Plus, macaroons are a great gluten free dessert for the glutards of the world.
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Carrot Cake Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 16 cookies
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What’s in them:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted (walnuts or pecans are great)
  • Optional: ¼ cup raisins (if you like raisins in your carrot cake)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Notes: if you are keeping passover, double check that your ingredients are OK (vanilla extract is often made with grain alcohol).
Also, these macaroons are not super sweet—many other recipes add additional granulated sugar, but I left it out. Feel free to add a bit if you want a sweeter macaroon.

For nests:
Cream cheese frosting, optional (I mixed 4 oz cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar to create the glue to hold the “eggs” in place)
Something to serve as eggs—jelly beans, jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, etc

How to make them:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat with a whisk until mixture turns becomes frothy and begins to stiffen. Fold in remaining ingredients (coconut, carrots, nuts, raisins).  Try not stir too aggressively or the egg whites will lose their stiffness.
  3. With wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the coconut mixture into small balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Space them an inch or so apart on the baking sheet. I made balls first, then went back and pressed an indentation in to the center to make it a nest.
  4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (insides should be soft but outsides should be just firm). Cool completely before removing from cookie sheets.
  5. While macaroons are cooling, in medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese and powdered sugar with whisk until no longer lumpy, adding more powdered sugar or milk to reach drizzling consistency. If desired, pour glaze into decorating bag.
  6. Once completely cool, spoon a teaspoon of the frosting into the center of the nest and top with 3 jelly bean eggs. Enjoy this festive Eastover treat!

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I hope everyone has a healthy, happy Passover, Easter, or Eastover!
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Apr 072014
 

Even though I’m not getting married for a little while (aka 14 months), obviously I am already starting to dream about honeymoon destinations. One of the top contenders right now is Southeast Asia–something like Thailand or Vietnam. Then, of course, I got distracted from the honeymoon planning, and started thinking about Thai and Vietanamese food (this is typical, as most trains of thought end in food for me). So I decided on a whim yesterday to make a veggie version of an amazing Vietnamese Sandwich- Banh Mi. If you’ve never tried it or even heard of it before, you’re welcome.
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I love this sandwich for a few reasons. One, it’s a sandwich, what’s not to love? Two, it has the best mix of flavors and textures–spicy jalapeno, herbal cilantro, crisp pickled veggies, refreshing cucumber, and a creamy (and hopefully spicy) sauce. OK I went a little overboard on the adjectives there, but this sandwich deserves it. Although the sandwich most typically is made with pork, I use a lemongrass marinated tofu. Like any recipe that has several components, it does take a little bit of time, organization, and multitasking to make it happen.
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Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is totally vegan but I would be shocked if meat eaters didn’t love it too. Tofu is a great source of protein and calcium and is a tasty way to make a meatless sandwich feel hearty. The toppings here are super healthy- cucumber, pickled carrots/onions/radish, cilantro, and jalapeno are the ones I used. Two of the healthiest swaps I made here are instead of using mayo, I made a quick avocado-sriracha sauce which was so much tastier. As for bread, go with a multigrain baguette or bread, or even make it a banh mi bowl if you’re not into the bread.
Still looks pretty good, huh?
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Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi with Avocado-Sriracha “Mayo” and lotsa toppings
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 sandwiches
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What’s in it…
For the tofu:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemongrass (1 stalk with outer layer peeled off and finely minced)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the pickled veggies:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut peeled daikon radish (these look like big white carrots if you are like me and have never seen one!)
  • optional: 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion –  this is not traditionally in banh mi but I had one in the fridge so why not

For the avocado-sriracha “mayo”

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (or more)

Toppings/Bread:

  • 1 thinly sliced english cucumber
  • 2 thinly sliced jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Multigrain Baguette, toasted (or a bed of lettuce if you’re going the salad route)

How to make it…
1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut tofu crosswise into 8 thin slices. Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 15 minutes. Remove tofu from paper towels.

2. Combine lemongrass, water, soy sauce, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Let stand for 15 minutes or longer, turning once.

3. While tofu marinates, make the pickle.  Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, radish, and red onion; toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Drain excess liquid. You can make these a day in advance if you’d like.

4. Spray a small baking sheet well with oil spray (be sure to do this or tofu may stick). Lay tofu in even layer–don’t worry if some of the marinade/lemongrass is left in your marinading dish. Roast tofu for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Tofu should be brown and crisp–if you think they need a little more browning, you can turn on your broiler for a few minutes to finish it off.

5. While tofu is roasting and pickles are pickling, prepare the avocado-sriracha “mayo” by mashing the avocado well and mixing all the ingredients.

6. Get your bread and toppings ready by toasting bread, slicing cucumber, jalapeno, and picking off cilantro leaves.

7.  Now make the magic happen–slather baguette with avocado-sriracha mayo, top with cucumber slices, roasted lemongrass tofu, pickled veggies, and a few jalapeno slices and cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

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Meet my new favorite sandwich.
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