Quinoa Pasta with Broccoli, Snow Peas, and Chorizo Sausage

Quinoa Pasta with Broccoli, Snow Peas, and Chorizo Sausage 2

Why don’t we address the giant elephant in the room: I’ve been AWOL for over a year, and I apologize for that, I really do.  However, I’m returning with cool cooking experiences under my belt and some even better ones about to start (including a foray into a two Michelin-starred kitchen!).  Now here’s a picture of a cute baby elephant.  Please don’t go to the circus.

Baby-Elephant-HD-Photos

Source: hdwallpaperstop.com

Today I’m presenting you a pasta with a twist if you will, the base of which is a gluten-free quinoa pasta.  I purchased quinoa elbows from the Whole Foods in Venice, CA, where customers can buy as much or as little of the pasta as they want.  If you do indeed want to make this dish with quinoa pasta, I suggest using the Ancient Harvest brand.  The main difference I’ve noticed between quinoa pasta and “regular” pasta is that there is, as you might guess, no starch or gluten to provide a thick consistency and hearty bite.  With that said, I enjoyed the lightness of these elbows and wouldn’t mind cooking with them again.  Quinoa in general is a great source of calcium, phosphorous, and iron.

To provide a salty and flavor-packed component, I bought one pork chorizo sausage link, which came out to about 3 ounces.  You might opt for other sausage varieties: spicy chicken, lamb merguez, or something without a kick if you’re so inclined.  If you can’t find snow peas, you can easily omit them, or substitute another crunchy vegetable. Lastly, while I tried to keep this dish at one serving size, I found that it was almost impossible given the quantity of broccoli and sausage. So, I hope you won’t mind having leftovers for the next day or later in the week!
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Lentil Salad with Arugula and Feta (And a Warm Honey Vinaigrette to Make Your Heart Melt)

Just a few things I’d like to say to you.  Firstly, thank you so much for actually trying these recipes.  While I try to take myself seriously as much as possible, I’m always surprised when other people do, so thank you.

Secondly, as you may have surmised sometimes it’s hard for me to know if these recipes are worth your time, because the only palate I have to rely on is my own.  And while I am constantly aiming for improvements in said palate, it’s always comforting when there are others to confirm the deliciousness (or lack thereof) of the food I make.  So when I made this salad for my family, I was doing secret self-high fives when it turned into an “ooh” “yum” “I can’t stop sticking my fork straight in the plate” kind of moment.  I’m especially flattered when these moments come from my sister, whose opinion I value immensely. My dad made roast chicken, and I served this up along with some grilled fennel.

A few notes on the salad. If you’re wondering why I ask you to chop the arugula, it’s because I’d rather the lettuce be reduced to more manageable pieces which will fit onto a fork nicely with the lentils.

The dressing: it’s a big deal for me.  I’ve recently come to the conclusion that warm dressings are to salads what iPhones are to adults: in no way necessary but a whole lot of fun. Please play around with all of the ingredient quantities – I know what I like, but perhaps you like things a touch sweeter or a tad more acidic.  Change accordingly. It might taste bad at one point (mine did) but keep playing around and I guarantee it will turn into something outrageous.

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Blackened Salmon with Feta-Yogurt Sauce and Golden Couscous

This recipe was particularly fun to make, and especially fun to photograph.  For some reason I ended up putting it on my floor, taking a photo of it there, and then sitting in the same spot and eating the whole dish.  There is a small window of time, usually around 2pm, when sun manages to find a small crevice between all of the tall New York City buildings and floods into my second floor apartment, and therefore onto me.  I love sitting and eating under the sunshine during this brief moment, which is what I was able to do today.

The truth is that I just got back from a relaxing and much-appreciated vacation with my mom and sister in Barbados, and I’ve got fish on my mind in a major way.  Almost every meal we ate there featured grilled fish – usually mahi mahi, snapper, or dorado – lightly seasoned and served with plenty of Scotch bonnet hot sauce (my new favorite hot and slightly sweet sauce, in case you’re wondering).  For this reason the only recipe ideas that were swimming in my mind were fish, spicy, and sweet.  Thus was born this recipe which I am delighted to share with you!

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Fennel and Cod in Soy Lime Sauce

Only five ingredients in this beauty!

Like I said, this recipe only uses five ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).  So if you’re thinking that this is a fancy, experience-required recipe, you can guess again!

Before we get to the recipe I would like to show you how I cut my fennel, in case there are some of you at home (or at work now) who are not familiar with cutting this flavorful, licorice-tinged vegetable.  Some of my friends are interested in cooking (here’s looking at you, Olivia!) and have become quite good at it.  Other good friends of mine are either too busy, don’t see the point, or are intimidated by getting started in the kitchen.  I used to fall into the latter category.

But I think you have to ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen?  You will fail miserably – that is almost inevitable in your early cooking career.  But you will also pick yourself up and try it again, and once you get the hang of it you’ll find that you’re not only good at it, but that it’s also more rewarding than you ever imagined.

Anyways, to properly cut fennel, first start with a full stalk, which you can buy at most grocery stores.  Smell the fennel – perhaps it will remind you of those black licorice-flavored Twizzlers you never liked?  Don’t worry, that flavor is very mild once mixed with the soy sauce, lime, and honey.

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Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes

I’ve been missing for the past two weeks or so, but I promise I can explain!

You see, I ended up getting a job that I adore (I almost didn’t write about it here for fear of jinxing it), where I help talented chefs teach classes and purvey their knowledge upon interested epicures. It’s an amazing place that’s run by even more amazing women, and I feel pretty darn lucky to be a part of it.

Haven’s Kitchen is a cooking school, specialty food/coffee shop, and event space that just opened on west 17th street in Manhattan (check out this great writeup on it by the New York Times).  If you live in the area, please come in and say hello -  based on the fact that you’re reading this blog I know you’d love it there, and if I’m around assisting classes I’d love to say hi to you!

So I’ve been spending a fair amount of time at Haven’s Kitchen recently (even when I’m not working, I like to hang out there – every one’s just so nice!), but I had today (Friday) off and I decided to treat myself to a first class, over the top, lazy morning.  As I think you can agree with me, lazy mornings are perfected only when pancakes are involved.

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My Go-To Salad – Arugula with White Beans and Parm

Happy holidays to you!

Do you like the red bowl I used as seasonal embellishment? Ok ok, it’s actually a popcorn bowl :)

This is the salad I make when I don’t want to think about what to make. I first made a similar version of this about 5 years ago, based on a recipe from Boston chef Michael Schlow’s cookbook It’s About Time. My mom and sister liked it a lot too, so we’ve kept it around, even though we’ve altered a bit over the years.

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Winter Wild Rice with Cranberries, Pecans, and Sweet Potatoes

Sometimes the weekends are crazy.

They can be crazy fun with your friends, nuts because of the holidays, or intense because it’s New York and I think this city is a madhouse.  My weekend was crazy for all of the above reasons, but also because of how much meat I ended up eating.  I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but  sometimes weekends become unavoidably protein-packed.

Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome Sunday: 1pm dim sum feast with my friend Joanna at Jing Fong (if you live in New York, please try this amazing, inexpensive restaurant – the food is unreal and the decor will undoubtedly entertain you), followed by a nice little Sunday chicken roast while watching Anne Hathaway’s One Day (so girly, I know, but so necessary).  Add to that mix a great steak from Saturday night, and I’m officially meated out.  So now it’s Monday, and I want healthy, and I want vegetarian.

I love this rice dish because it’s the perfect type of meal to make in 2 or more portions.  Make it for dinner one night, and save the rest for lunch the next day, or for dinner another night later in the week.  My favorite wild rice brand is Lundberg, which costs about $2.99 for a 1-pound bag.

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Pistachio-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have to thank my friend Kelly for introducing me to this amazingly easy yet flavorful recipe.  Last Saturday night we were celebrating a friend’s birthday (the big 2-6 what what), and Kelly mentioned that she’s starting to cook more for herself at home- yay, one more for the good guys!

She told me that she came across a great recipe by the Barefoot Contessa , a simply delightful human whom I believe every one adores.  Ina’s recipe was a little more straightforward than mine, however, because I couldn’t resist slathering the salmon in Dijon mustard and coating it with ground pistachios and breadcrumbs.  If you’re looking to keep this recipe simple, check out Martha Stewart’s version, which only needs 4 ingredients!

Perhaps I should remind you now of my love for breadcrumbs.  They are cheap, easy to store for a long time, and they pack flavor into anything they touch.  Mix them with some mustard (also a kitchen staple of mine) and pistachios, and I think we’re all going to have a great dinner boys and girls.  Now let’s hold hands!

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In Defense of Cooking for One (Plus 6 tips for doing it cheaply)

Perhaps you feel the same way I do when you look at anything with the term “for one” – you immediately tag it as depressing.  I feel this way often, and it is still a big concern of mine with the title and purpose this blog.  The thought of shopping for yourself, coming home and preparing food alone, just to sit down with….yourself for dinner is far from enticing or appealing.

I would like to say that I feel lonely or sad when I eat alone, but I always derive pleasure out of it, and the fact is a lot of people find themselves eating for one at some point or another, for a number of reasons.  I live alone in New York City, and four of my closest friends do too.  A lot of other friends and acquaintances live with roommates, and find themselves needing to fly solo at last two or three days a week.  I have gotten quite a few emails as well from widows, married people who travel often, and bachelors with roommates who want to make healthy and simple meals.   And for any single cooks out there, you can use your newly acquired cooking skills to invite over another adorable person and seduce him/her with your amazing culinary skills!

So I write these posts not from a need to deprecate myself and throw every one into a state of depression at the thought of eating solo, but to remind you that making food for yourself is a fantastic indulgence and that it is also quite rewarding once you get the hang of it.  True, you don’t get the pleasure and satisfaction of making a meal for someone else (which is something I love to do), but there are some major advantages to cooking for yourself.  You can eat whatever you want, and even if it’s weird, strange-looking, or just plain gross, no one is there to judge you.  So dig in!

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Breaded Sage Chicken with Easy Roast Vegetables

I got the idea to make this recipe from my sister Yasmin who isn’t a big fan of using breadcrumbs.  Fortunately for me, she bought a great quality bag from Eataly to use for her chicken parmigiana recipe, and she happily gave me what was leftover (which was most of the bag).  I think breadcrumbs are a fantastic thing to have on hand for anyone looking to pull a quick and easy meal together.

Breadcrumbs add loads of flavor to anything they coat, and they are delightfully simple to work with.  Just toss whatever you’re eating – porckhops, chicken thighs, fish fillets – with a little bit of egg or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with breadcrumbs and cook in an oiled skillet until done.  Breadcrumbs go particularly well with lemon juice.  For another suggestion on how to use them check out my recipe for breaded hake with peppery lemons.

This recipe was an automatic winner for me also because it includes one of my favorite foods to cook in the winter,  the sweet potato.  Can I just say, my sweet potato only cost .69 cents from the expensive “gourmet” grocery store down the street, which kind of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone when I eat it.  Inexpensive, packed with flavor, AND really good for you?  Impossible!

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