Chickpeas with Spinach

This recipe, Chickpeas with Spinach, has been one of my favorite quick meals to make recently.

Originally an appetizer, I decided it looked substantial enough for a meal. I felt the same way about the version of it I made several years ago, too. That version had more liquid than this, and took more time to make. Smitten Kitchen’s version as well had a few extra steps that I didn’t feel like doing. So I simplified it so it’s a one-pot dish, that involves no cutting (unless you slice your bread), that takes no more than 20 minutes to make from the time you begin to measure your ingredients to the time you place it on the table. This adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s version omits the bread that you blend into it, uses tomato paste instead of sauce (which the bread used to soak up), and wilts the spinach in the pot at the end instead of cooking it first. (I tried frozen cooked spinach, but it wasn’t as good.) Oh, and this version uses much less olive oil.

The sauce is balanced with a dash of vinegar (I’ve used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar since that’s what I have), and there’s not so much sauce that it turns your toast to mush, which I can’t stand. It has negligible heat from the dash of red pepper, though you could boost that if you wanted to. You could probably omit the smoked paprika in a pinch, and the dish would come out fine. And you’re eating chickpeas and spinach, on toast – very healthy. This likely isn’t as rich as the tapas-version of Chickpeas with Spinach should be, but it’s very satisfying as a meal.

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Roast Beef Hash

I’m incredibly excited about this recipe for beef hash.

I like beef hash, and I don’t always find it when I’m out for breakfast; when I do, so often it’s corned beef hash from a can. I like that sometimes, but it’s so salty! Hash seemed like it should be simple to make, but I never tried to make it until recently when I had a leftover roast that I really couldn’t figure out what else to do with. It was perfect!

I used this recipe as a jumping board. Other recipes added liquid, including milk or cream (I guess to make it more of a gravy?). I resisted initially, but found that adding a little liquid at the end added moisture to the beef and allowed me to scrape up browned bits from the pan. Leftover liquid from your roast is perfect as it should already be seasoned to your liking. I’d need to salt lightly if using broth since it’s often salty (and the liquid cooks off), and I’d need to add some extra salt, pepper, and other seasonings like thyme or garlic if I used water. Mushrooms are optional; they didn’t add much to the dish for me. I wouldn’t forgo the red bell pepper, though – it adds a little more flavor and oomph to the dish. Another thing I like about this recipe – from start to finish, it only took 30 minutes, which is about as much time as I want to spend on a single meal.

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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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Fajitas

I finally have a favorite recipe for fajitas. It’s delicious, fast, and incredibly easy to make. Previously, I made fajitas before using a recipe from a cookbook I’d had for years; they were always tasty, but I recall the recipe being a little involved, though I can’t remember how. But leave it to Smitten Kitchen to again give a delicious, streamlined recipe that I can count on.

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What do I love about this recipe? Little things. You cook the vegetables before the meat, then add it back – I can’t recall ever seeing that in a recipe like this (which is essentially a stir-fry). The marinade for the meat has little liquid, so you don’t have to drain it. You just dump the meat into the skillet, and there’s no mess and no waste! I’ve made this with beef and with chicken, and they were equally delicious, but I favor using beef mainly because I can buy precut stir-fry beef.

The marinade was flavorful but not spicy. The meat and vegetables cooked perfectly in my cast iron skillet. It was quick for me to combine the spices and lime juice (I use bottled) to marinate the meat and to cut the vegetables (while Amelia had her afternoon snack), and that could easily be done the night before. The fajitas took very little time to cook, and were great as leftovers too.

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Carrot Soup with Sesame and Chickpeas

One of the soups that I’ve made a few times recently(ish) is the Carrot Soup with Tahini and Chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen. It’s a healthy and delicious soup, and is pretty quick and easy to make.

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The soup itself is lightly spiced. Do not skip the sesame-lemon drizzle! It provides a definite punch of flavor, making the soup anything but boring.  The addition of chickpeas also makes this more interesting than your usual blended veggie soup. In some ways, it’s like eating a soup version of hummus. As a meal, this soup is light but filling. It’s also vegetarian and vegan!

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Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews

I started buying a CSA box this year. I really like getting a variety of veggies, but it can be a struggle to figure out what to do with them, particularly when the farm has a bumper crop of the same vegetable each week. I did a good job of eating everything in the early spring, but when work got busy in June, I basically decided I didn’t want to cook any more. I’m sure you noticed the slowing down of recipe posts over the past few months, and it wasn’t just fun bread and dessert recipes that I neglected. I neglected dinner, too.

I found a recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews when I finally got around to reading a previous issue of Eating Well. I was excited because I had everything to make it. It would help me use up the scallions and squash I’d stashed in the fridge but forgotten about, and would let me use some of the fresh basil that I keep feeling guilty about not using.

I generally enjoy Eating Well recipes, but I always double the sauce recipe since they never include enough sauce with their stir fries. The original recipe called for fish sauce, which I really don’t like the smell of. I refuse to keep it in the house, but I always substitute soy sauce with great, although perhaps not identical, results.

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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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Miso-Carrot Soup

I don’t make single-vegetable soups very often. I’ve eaten enough boring ones to be indifferent. I like a little more texture in my soup than you usually get from a pureed or cream soup. I like my soup to be hearty; I don’t want a light appetizer soup at home. However, I can always come up with counterexamples of tasty or hearty ones.

I’ve made this Miso-Carrot Soup twice now, so it’s clearly one of the good ones. It’s simple and uncomplicated to make, and you feel healthy once you’re finished eating. Plus, this soup is hearty enough that you don’t feel like you still need dinner when you’re done eating it.

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Cauliflower Curry

I hated cauliflower as a kid. My mom forced me to eat broccoli and I tolerated it, and even grew to like it once I began cooking it as an adult. But I drew the line at cauliflower. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. As an adult, though, I tried it in curries at Indian buffets and realized that it wasn’t bad if treated properly.

So nowadays, I enjoy cauliflower in Indian food, and that’s still about it. I wish I could like the vegetable more, because I know it’s good for me. I just find it difficult to care.

This curry has a short ingredient list and is easy to make. Honestly, the most unusual ingredient to me is the cauliflower! I particularly like that I don’t have to have my ingredients ready before I start cooking. While I saute onions, I can blend the spices with the remaining onion. While the pureed onion cooks, I can chop up the cauliflower. And I can set my timer and go downstairs to bike for a short time while dinner finishes up.

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