Eggplant and Barley Salad

Summer has been very hot in New Jersey this year. I don’t think it’s usually quite this hot, although I don’t know for certain as it’s only our second summer here. When the heat rivals summer in the Midwest, meals for us usually consist of whatever Alex has grilled that day, leftovers from when Alex grilled, pancakes (because I use an electric griddle), or BLTs, which are really cooling if you (perhaps heretically) microwave your bacon and don’t heat up your oven or a frying pan.

This Eggplant and Barley Salad from Smitten Kitchen is really very nice in the summer, once you get past the steps of roasting vegetables. I first made this salad a few years ago, and I really liked it. Alex doesn’t like eggplant, but he enjoys this salad. Roasting the eggplant makes it a little less eggplanty and more delicious. The barley is tender yet chewy, flavored with cumin and coriander. The grain is surprisingly good cold. I usually don’t like salads because dressing is too vinegary or assertive, but this salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, all of which I like. Tomatoes and roasted zucchini (and olives, if those are your thing) give the dish extra flavor. I love the balanced flavors in this dish.

This is a delicious, flavorful summer salad. It works great as a make-ahead vegetarian/vegan meal and is perfect as leftovers on a lot summer day. We had 4 dinner-sized servings plus some for a toddler, but it would yield more as a side dish.

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One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes is one of my favorite new dishes. I’ve made it several times already since I first tried it. It involves minimal prep – maybe about 10 minutes while you cut everything up and heat the pot. It’s easy enough to do with a toddler playing at your feet, or sitting on the counter watching you. It’s ready after 30 minutes of hands-off cooking. It smells amazing by the time it’s done, more amazing than you think anything with this few ingredients can be.

This will serve two and a toddler as a vegetarian meal, or more as a side dish.

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Turkey Kofta and Curried Couscous with Zucchini

Several months ago I made turkey kofta and curried couscous with zucchini, but never got around to telling you about it. The recipes were tasty, though, so I didn’t forget about them. I finally got around to making both dishes again this week.

Both the kofta and the couscous are very easy to make. I liked the couscous recipe because it tells me how to spruce up one of the easiest and fastest cooking side dishes possible. Kofta are basically Middle Eastern meatballs. One of my close friends in college was Egyptian-American, and we made kofta for dinner when she visited me after we graduated. Those were made with hamburger, and I don’t remember much about them except that I enjoyed them. Since she introduced me to kofta, I thought of her both times I made this dish.

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Quinoa with Latin Flavors

I found the recipe for Quinoa with Latin Flavors a while ago, and after making it tonight, I’m sad that I waited this long to try it.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a South American grain; it’s gluten-free and a great source of protein. I’ve had some in my pantry for a while now (they sell it at Trader Joe’s), but I’ve generally been at a loss of what to do with it. I know that I could cook it just like I would rice or couscous, but honestly, brainstorming side dishes isn’t a strong point of mine.

This quinoa recipe was easy to make. First, you toast a cup of quinoa in a skillet for about 5 minutes. Next, you saute chopped onion in a tiny bit of oil for a few minutes; add garlic and a small can of green chiles, and then add broth and the toasted quinoa. (They call for a 14oz can of chicken broth; I used 14oz water and 1.5 cubes of vegetable bouillon.) Simmer until the quinoa has soaked up all the liquid; the recipe says this will take 20-25 minutes, but mine took less time since I had my gas range turned higher. Remove the quinoa from heat, and toss with lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I had plenty of time while the quinoa cooked to chop up the cilantro and scallions. I used squash seeds that I roasted a few days ago in place of pepitas.

Quinoa with Latin Flavors

Alex and I really enjoyed this dish. It was bright from the lime, but not too bright. I enjoyed tasting the cilantro and scallions distinctly as well. The roasted seeds really added a nutty flavor to the dish; however, they were a little stale and chewy after two days so I would (re)toast them if you’ve got fresh seeds you’re using. This dish had green chiles in it, but it wasn’t spicy. You could serve the quinoa with chicken or fish, but we served it with… nothing, since I made a dessert for later.

This recipe was fast, easy to make, and delicious. It’s definitely a keeper. I wouldn’t do anything different except to make sure I toast my pumpkin/squash seeds right before making the dish (or buying some that were already toasted). If you want to experiment with quinoa, I recommend you give this recipe a try.