When I lived on the island of Java in Indonesia, I ate this basic fried rice for breakfast many mornings a week. My Ibu (or mother) would heat the wok on her on of the two burners powered by a large blue propane tank, swirl a glug of peanut oil into the pan, and toss in large spoonful of the sambal she had hand ground that morning from chillis, shallots, and garlic. The sambal fried in the oil, releasing a thick cloud of spice that wafted over to me, sitting at the table in our open courtyard. Once the sambal and fried, she toss on spoons of yesterdays rice – cold and perfect for frying. A swift toss of the wok, and rice was crisping. Meanwhile, on the other burner, a shallow wok of oil bubbled away. Ibu broke eggs directly into the oil, and pulled them out barely a minute later, fried crispy. A bowl of fried rice, topped with an egg, sprinkled with fried shallots, and some lightly salted cucumber on the side, and it was the perfect breakfast. Still is. After indulging in some Sunday evening take-out, I used the leftover white rice Tuesday morning and made myself a bowl of Indonesian fried rice breakfast. I didn’t grind my own sambal in a mortar and pestle, but a shopped shallot and a healthy tablespoon of sambal olek (gold label, with both crushed chillis and garlic) worked just fine. And I didn’t deep fry my egg, so the edges could never be as crispy and perfect, but I loved my little breakfast, and wasn’t hungry until lunch.
With the exception of our recent humid weather, it’s been a pretty cool, wet summer. Cool enough to turn on the stove, and even to make soup! I just couldn’t get tortilla soup out of my mind, but I wanted to use my fresh local vegetables. This soup was born, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. It has a very rich flavor, but it full of good-for-you vegetables. As soon as we get another cool evening, give it a try. Replacing the traditional fried tortilla strips with low-fat corn chips makes the recipe healthier. Add good-fat avocado and goat cheese for added creaminess.
Summer Tortilla Soup
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cardamom
1 small zucchini
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
2 heirloom tomatoes
3 sundried tomatoes
1 red habenero pepper, thinly sliced.
6 cups of vegetable broth
garnish with avocado, goat cheese, and corn chips
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot of saucepan. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the onions soften and garlic becomes golden. Add the spices and stir to coat. Add the zucchini and corn and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the sliced habenero pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove the vegetables from the heat. In a large blender or food processor, combine the vegetables with 2 cups of the broth. Blend until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the remaining 4 cups of broth, stirring well. Cover and heat through. Ladle in large bowls and garnish with slices of fresh avocado, crumbled goat cheese, and corn chips or fried tortilla strips.
I was testing some red pepper recipes last week for the September issue of Grid, and felt like I really wanted to take advantage of some more wonderful summer vegetables. I had three puffy pitas in the freezer, a basket full of produce, and a hankering for olives and feta. I quick stop off at Makkah, my favorite local middle eastern market, filled in the cracks in my recipe plan, and this summer bread salad was born. The key to a bread salad is toasting the pita (or stale loaf) first, and tossing the bread with the dressing and vegetables just before you serve it so that it doesn’t have chance to get soggy. I think that the flavors in this salad are best warm, but it also travels well and would also be a welcome picnic addition. If you’re having a bar-b-q, the vegetables for this salad good be easily cooked on the grill, alongside the pitas.
Summer Bread Salad
serves 4 as a main dish
2 Tbs. of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
1 small eggplant, small diced
1 small zucchini, small diced
3 greek style pitas (not pocket pitas)
2 red peppers, diced
2 small hot peppers (such as “rat turd”), thinly sliced
1 large heirloom tomato, diced
1/3 cup sliced kalamata olives
4 oz. low-fat feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
In a wok or large saucepan, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Add the garlic and onion, stirring to coat, and cook over medium-high heat until the garlic is golden. Add the eggplant and stir. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the diced zucchini and red pepper, cooking until both vegetable just begin to soften. Meanwhile, brush the pitas and grill on a stovetop grill pan or outdoor grill. After grilling, diced the pitas. Place cooked vegetables in a large bowl. Add the fresh tomato, diced, the olives, feta and salt and pepper. Toss. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil (if desired) and the balsamic, tossing the vegetables to coat. Add the grilled bread and give the salad one more toss before serving.
Originally, I planned to make this pizza because I had piles of beets and a bag of Trader Joes whole wheat pizza dough in the fridge. But the dough had expired (two weeks ago, yikes!) so I pulled some fluffy pitas out of the fridge and used those instead, and they worked just fine.
Roasted Beet Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Garlic, and Feta
makes one large pizza, or four pita pizzas
1 recipe whole-wheat pizza dough, or 4 whole wheat greek-style pitas
one bunch fresh beets (about 5 med.) clean, trimmed, and diced
beet greens, leaves sliced and stems diced
5 cloves of fresh garlic
1 med. candy or yellow onion
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 oz. low-fat feta, crumbled in large chunks
3 Tbs. olive oil
Place the diced beets along with the whole garlic cloves on a cookie sheet or the tray of your large toaster oven. Add 1 Tbs. of olive oil, and toss well to combine. Roast at 450 degrees for about 40 min., or until the beets are just soft. Meanwhile, thinly slice the onions and place in a heated iron skillet with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Stir well, and cook on low eat, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, diced beet stems and rosemary. Stir and raise the heat slightly, and cook the onions until they are very soft and brown. Add the beet leaves, stir and cook until the greens just begin to wilt, then remove the onion mixture from the heat. Remove the beet mixture from the oven, and raise the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Squeeze the soft garlic cloves from their papers and with your hands, mix the beets with the garlic pulp. Salt and pepper to taste. If using, roll out the pizza dough into a large circle. Oil a cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal. Place the dough or pitas on the cookie sheet and brush the top/s with oil. Place in the oven and toast for 4 minutes to prevent sogginess. Remove dough from the oven and top with the caramelized onions, spreading to evenly coat. Top with the beet mixture and the feta cheese. Place in the oven on a medium rack and bake until the cheese softens and the crust in brown and crispy on the edges, about 8 minutes.
West Philly Dining Days has begun! If you’re a little over the Center City fiasco of poor service and unmet expectations that often accompanies Restaurant Week, why not hop over to West Philly and enjoy some of my favorite, unpretentious, tasty classics?
In the $15 range, I recommend Desi Village, Vientiane, and Vietnam Cafe – all BYOBs that I visit with regularity and am never dissapointed. I’d skip the middle zone, but on the upper level (come on, only $30 people!) Marigold and Distrito are great, RX can be some good locally-grown fun, and Pod has an amazing mushroom fried rice. While Zolcolo can be a bit pricey for Mexican food (I’ve preached about it here before) the food is good, and for $30, why not give it a try? I haven’t been to the White Dog since they got a new owner, so I can’t recommend it, but feel free to try it out and report back!
I’ve been a bad blogger, I know. I know. But I spent the last week eating from the YMCA of the Rockies cafeteria, and let me tell you, there was not a lot of exciting and photogenic vegetarian food to share with you. And I could of taken photos of the gas station dill pickle and jalepeno Combos I ate during the road trip, but really?
That said, I’m back! I picked up my CSA last night and celebrated with a great work salad today. This salad is much like my Mexican Chopped Salad, except it’s made with what I already had in my fridge – sprouted black beans, corn I actually cut off the cob myself and lightly fried with the beans, a baby red onion, and some garlic and cumin. It’s also got green CSA lettuce instead of romaine, avocado (yum!) and I skipped the fried tortilla strips. I dressed the salad with a simple vinaigrette I made with half a habenero pepper, a dash of olive oil, and some white wine vinegar. Delicious, but choose a milder pepper unless you’re serious about spice!
I’ve been a bad blogger. In the last week I’ve been transitioning from my old PC to a spiffy new Mac, and since I’m not the most computer-literate person I know, document and photo transfers took longer than expected. But I’m back! And promise to do better in the future.
I’m kind of obsessed with canning, and you may have also noticed that I’m more than a little obsessed with hot sauces and spiciness of all kinds. Not much of a sweet-tooth, the entire condiment section of my refrigerator (all those shelves on the side of the fridge door, and then some) are filled with mustards, hot sauces, pickles, and olives. It’s a natural, then, that I’d gravitate towards savory jellies, and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at them ever since experiencing my first jar of jalepeno jelly dumped over a cube of cream cheese and served with crackers (don’t judge, just try it).
Since it’s not quite time for tomato sauce/salsa canning or pickling, I’ve been going a bit crazy with the savory jellies. Pictured above is a red pepper and garlic jelly. If you’re making your own and want to avoid all the “chunks” rising to the top, after removing jars from their water bath, gently turn them upside down and then right-side-up every half-hour or so as they cool. The above jelly representing my first attempt, I had yet to learn this skill.
The jelly that started a (personal) taste revolution. I got a recipe from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving and was fairly faithful to it, though I added extra peppers and refused to remove the seeds, as they suggested. While some of my friends think this is the best of all my attempts, I’d like it with a little less sugar. It also has twice the pectin that most jellies call for, which makes it quite stiff, which can be a little disconcerting, depending on how you would like to use it. I’m going to keep tweaking this one.
This lovely little jelly is based on a recipe for Habenero Gold jelly that uses dried apricots soaked in vinegar as its base. I used scotch bonnet peppers instead of the habenero, added jalepenos, diced red peppers, and red onions. I love this one, and purposefully lowered the sugar content by about 1/3.
More jellies, and summer treats, to come!