INCREDIBLY SIMPLE: CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS

For a few years I’ve been blogging on recipes that are almost too simple to call as such (see them all here), but tasty enough to sit side by side in a blog with more elaborate concoctions. Normally I like to wait until I have several “incredibly simple” items to share in a single post, but spring is almost here, asparagus season is knocking at the door, and this recipe was too good to keep it a secret for much longer. I made it three times in two weeks. The delicate crunch on these babies? I am seriously in love.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/3 cup almond meal

Heat oven to 425 F.

Mix enough olive oil and lemon juice (half and half) to give enough liquid to coat the asparagus well.  Add salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence to the mixture, eye-balling is totally fine.

Place the asparagus on a tray, pour the seasoned olive oil mixture over them, and move to coat well.

Place the almond meal in a separate tray, drop the asparagus coated in olive oil over it, move gently to make the almond meal stick to the surface.

Arrange them on a single layer on a baking dish covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Roast for 12 minutes, shaking them a bit halfway through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Really hard to imagine a simpler recipe. Well, of course, you can omit the almond meal coating and still get excellent roasted asparagus that way. But this very minor additional step sends this side dish to a whole other level of deliciousness.

Change things around by using other spices, although you risk masking the flavor of the veggie itself. Still, if you are in the mood for it, add cayenne, smoked paprika, sumac (oh, that would be great), play with the whole concept and make it yours. Whatever you do, do not omit the lemon juice.

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UTTAPAM, WHITE LENTIL AND RICE FLATBREAD


I am back with another recipe using ivory lentils (in case you’ve missed the first one, click here). I had never heard of uttapam, but learned about it in the website of the very company I got the lentils from. They are described as flatbreads, but I suppose little pancakes (or fritters) could work equally well if not better. After all, it is more a batter than a dough, that is poured instead of rolled, and cooked over a griddle, not an oven. In my mind, that gravitates to pancake territory. But flatbread, pancake, fritters… it’s irrelevant. They are delicious. Dangerously so, I should add.

UTTAPAM
(slightly modified from Woodland Foods)

(makes 8 little pancakes)

1 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup Ivory lentils
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
vegetable oil (I used grape seed)

Thoroughly rinse rice and lentils separately. Place each in large bowl of fresh water and soak for 2 hours.

Drain rice and lentils, and place in blender. Add salt, sugar and baking soda and grind mixture into paste. Add about 1/2 cup water, and continue blending to create thick batter. Transfer mixture to bowl, and set aside to ferment at room temperature for at least 4 to 12 hours.

Combine peas, Jalapenos and cilantro in a small bowl. Heat griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush with oil. Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons batter and spread out with back of spoon to create circle 4 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some of pea mixture evenly on top. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface, then flip and cook other side until crisp and golden.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I always feel a bit insecure making ethnic recipes I have zero experience with, but I must say this one turned out excellent, no problems, every step seemed to happen exactly as expected. Plus we both loved the texture and the taste of the little pancakes, that were served with a turkey chili. Sally again takes a ton of liberties with her dinner preparations. Chili made with turkey. Served with little flatbreads from India.  All enjoyed with no remorse whatsoever!

 

Pin me, pin me!

 

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IVORY LENTILS, MY NEWFOUND LOVE

In May last  year I read a very interesting blog post by Mimi, in which she shared a Mediterranean salad recipe using Ivory Lentils. Are they white lentils? Well, not really. They are the center of a black bean found in India and known as “urad dal.” I was intrigued, and knew that at some point I had to amazon-it. Because, obviously, the chances of finding ivory lentils in our neck of the woods are essentially zero. Finally I can share my first adventure with this product. I absolutely loved them, but must warn you they do not taste anything like lentils. Or beans. They are quite unique and remind me more of a grain such as barley. Which is pure gastronomic joy in my book.

IVORY LENTILS WITH CHICKPEAS AND BLACK OLIVES
(inspired by Chef Mimi)

1 cup ivory lentils, soaked for 4 hours

for the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

for the veggies:
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
olive oil to coat chickpeas
salt and smoked paprika to taste
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts marinated in oil
1/3 cup black kalamata olives, pitted
a few sundried tomatoes, sliced thin

After soaking the ivory lentils, cook them in a large volume of salted boiling water for about 20 minutes, until tender. Skim the surface every few minutes. Drain, and reserve to cool (if serving as a salad).

Roast or air-fry the chickpeas coated in olive oil and seasoned with salt and paprika.  Reserve.

Make a dressing whisking all the ingredients together. If the sundried tomatoes are too hard, let them soak in the dressing for a few minutes. If they are soft, simply mix them with the cooked lentils and all other ingredients.  Place in a serving bowl, and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Some recipes do not call for soaking ivory lentils, but I decided to follow Mimi’s advice. I am glad I did, because they foamed a lot even after soaking for hours and changing the water for cooking. Maybe they cook fast enough without the soaking step, but if you have the time, do it.

This exact preparation would work very well warm, so consider skipping the cooling time and just mixing everything together as soon as the lentils are drained. Leftovers are equally tasty at room temperature or briefly warmed in the microwave.

I get so excited when I find a new ingredient to play with! I already have another recipe to try using these beautiful “lentils”, one that takes them in the direction of a flatbread… Intrigued? Stick around…

You can order and read more about ivory lentils with a click here.

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SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

As some of you might know, I don’t like to apply the word “healthy” to a recipe. Just a pet peeve of mine. But it is hard to resist using it in this case. Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients that are good for you, and in this preparation they get the right amount of luscious that makes them almost festive. Cutting them into wedges makes them cook faster, so no problem considering this side dish for a weeknight meal.

SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in wedges
olive oil to coat potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sesame oil
water to thin sauce (adjust to your liking)
toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle over sauce

Heat oven to 400 F.

Coat the potatoes with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Try to massage the oil around them, so they are well coated. Spread them in a single layer over a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. Roast them for 15 minutes, move them around and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until fully cooked and starting to get golden brown at the edges.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all ingredients together and whisking very well.  The sauce will thicken as it sits, so don’t make it too thick to start with.

Place the potatoes on a serving dish, spoon the sauce over, and finish with toasted sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I think tahini and sweet potatoes are another example of a match made in Nirvana. Save any sauce leftover and use it over other veggies like broccoli, or drizzled over roasted salmon (yes, another a bit unusual but nice move for tahini).

I visualize this recipe again, with some pomegranate seeds added to this party. Color and freshness never hurt.

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PEARLED FARRO WITH ASPARAGUS COINS

A few years ago I posted a pasta recipe using tiny little asparagus coins as a component of the sauce. The other day I decided to roast them and ended up with a side dish that won me over. Added bonus: it is super fast to prepare. Pearled farro cooks a lot faster than the regular grain, and I did not detect any loss in flavor or texture. If you find it in your grocery store, stock on a few bags.

PEARLED FARRO WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS COINS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup pearled farro
asparagus stalks, cut in very small rounds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence
squirt of lemon juice

Heat oven to 420F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the farro, cook for 15 to 20 minutes. If you like it with a bit more bite, check at 15 minutes and if it’s done to your liking, drain and reserve.

Meanwhile coat the asparagus coins with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence, amounts are flexible, just go with your intuition. For a regular size asparagus bundle I used 1/4 tsp Herbes de Provence.

Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil to facilitate clean-up. Roast for about 15 minutes moving it around the baking sheet.  When they are done, squirt some lemon juice, adjust seasoning and mix with the warm farro.  Serve right away. Leftovers are great also. Even cold as a salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Many variations are possible here. If you don’t want to roast the asparagus coins, simply sautee them quickly in olive oil plus all the spices. Because the coins are so tiny, they cook very fast, so doing the top of the stove method, they can be ready in 5 minutes for sure. The roasted version has slightly more intense flavor. The second picture shows a similar approach (top of the stove), but using zucchini. Also very delicious.

I use farro a lot, but was a bit unsure about trying the pearled version, thinking it would not be nearly as good. I was wrong. It is a way to make farro a suitable option for a fast side dish after a busy day in the lab.

I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

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CHICKPEAS AND ZUCCHINI WITH TAHINI SAUCE

This side dish was the marriage of two regular appearances in our kitchen: quickly sauteed zucchini and air-fried chickpeas. The union was celebrated with a nice amount of tahini sauce.  I tell you, this worked very very well. If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast the chickpeas in a 400-420F oven. It takes longer and the texture won’t be quite as crunchy, but it will work just fine.  I intended to sprinkle pomegranate seeds right before serving for a little extra bling, but of course that day the grocery store had ran out of them. Best laid plans.

LEMONY ZUCCHINI AND CHICKPEAS WITH TAHINI-SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tahini-sauce:
1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/8 cup tahini paste
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
salt to taste
water if needed
for the veggies:

3 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chickpeas, well drained and dried
olive oil to coat chickpeas
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
fresh parsley
(pomegranate seeds if you have them)

Make the tahini sauce: whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Make the air-fried chickpeas.  Coat them lightly with olive oil, add the spices and place them in the air-frier set at the highest temperature (usually 390F) for about 12 minutes. They should be crunchy and golden brown.  Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet, add the zucchini covering the whole surface, season with salt and pepper. Let the slices cook undisturbed until the side in contact with the pan is well seared. Move the slices around and cook until done. Sprinkle lemon juice all over, cover the pan for a minute, remove the lid, add the chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I was a child, teenager or even young adult, you could not bribe me to eat chickpeas, which in Portuguese have the non-appealing name of “grão-de-bico”. It translates – loosely – as “the grain of the beak”. They can also be called “ervilha-de-galinha”, which ends up as “chicken’s green peas”. Yeah, very sexy. How could anyone consider that a delicacy? Anyway, now I crave it. Go figure.

Leftovers were delicious a couple of days later. In fact, I found out that air-fried chickpeas, when microwaved just enough to make them warm, get a nice texture, a bit more creamy inside. My lunch coupled this tasty concoction with a fried egg on top.  I was smiling the whole afternoon.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS

We are back from a month-long trip to England, where I had the pleasure of eating twice at Ottolenghi and once at Dishoom.  Both restaurants focus on Middle Eastern food, and both serve dishes absolutely packed with flavor. No matter what you order, it will feel like an explosion of flavors: hot, bright, lemony, spicy, with contrasting textures to make it all even more appealing. I came back home with the goals of being a bit less timid with how I season our food, and also of expanding my horizons as far as veggie side dishes are concerned. It’s not a secret that I have a weak spot for hummus and all things chickpeas. Hummus is great as a dip, but it is quite amazing when coupled with roasted veggies such as cauliflower. This recipe will prove it to you…

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Simple)

for the salad component:
florets from 1 large cauliflower
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
olive oil to coat cauliflower
salt and pepper
⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
½ cup chopped green olives
parsley leaves to taste, chopped
juice and zest of on large lemon

for the hummus:
14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil  to taste (less than 1/2 cup)
lemon juice to taste
water if needed to adjust consistency

Heat oven to 400°F.  Coat the cauliflower florets with olive oil, add all spices and mix well. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Toast the walnuts on a dry, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Reserve.

Make the hummus by processing the chickpeas with the tahini, cumin and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and with the processor running add the olive oil until it gets a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning. If needed, add cold water to thin the hummus. Reserve.

Assemble the dish: in a large bowl, mix the roasted cauliflower florets with the walnuts, green olives, parsley and lemon juice.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil right before serving over hummus.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was absolutely scrumptious! You could conceivably omit the hummus, but it adds a lot to the dish. It would stand as a full vegetarian meal if coupled with items such as farro, couscous, or bulgur wheat. We enjoyed it with boneless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt & smoked paprika, with a bit of plain rice. It was our first dinner after coming back home, jet-lagged, tired, but looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, with three very happy pups nearby. I missed them so much…


Dinner is served!

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