Arroz con Garvonsos al Horno (Sephardic Oven-Cooked Rice with Chickpeas)

I made this dish from page 345 of Olive Trees and Honey for our Passover Seder. The dish hails from the Jewish communities of Spain. This is a ridiculously simple dish of rice, chickpeas, onions, oil, fresh parsley, and broth. The author describes the dish a risotto-like, but since it cooks in the oven it’s much easier to make. It took almost no time to prepare and the cooked for 40 minutes in the oven. Because there are so few added flavorings, it’s essential that the broth you use is very flavorful.

This was a huge hit at the Seder. Everyone loved it, especially Ian. We had leftovers too and we both happily ate it for days afterwards. I’m definitely keeping this one in my back pocket, especially when I have few things in the fridge and need to throw together dinner. This would also make a great potluck dish.


Quinoa Puttanesca

Capers and olives are two of my favorite things. So, naturally I’m a fan of pasta puttanesca. Last week I was looking for a super fast recipe I could pull together for Ian and I to eat for dinner. I found this recipe on Post Punk Kitchen for a gluten free version of pasta puttanesca that uses quinoa in place of pasta. Other than canned tomatoes, there are no veggies in the recipe, which seemed boring and not super healthy. I added broccoli and spinach. The recipe calls for A LOT of capers (1/2 cup!). We only had 1/4 cup so that’s what I added. Even with the added veggies, the dish was way too salty. There’s no added salt in the sauce, but with the olives and capers, plus the salt in the canned tomatoes, it was too much. I ended up adding chickpeas to tone down the salt, which helped a lot. Ian said the dish was better once he added unsalted fried egg. We also ran out of sauce long before we ran out of quinoa.

This a super fast weeknight, clean out the fridge kind of dish. It’s so fat and easy, that I’d try making my own version of it again, with a lot of modifications. I increase the sauce to account for the quinoa/sauce ratio, add veggies and fresh herbs, and omit the wine (I’m not convinced it did anything). Here’s the recipe I’ll try next time. I’ll report back once I do. If you try it before me, let me know how it goes!

1 cup dry quinoa (3 cups cooked)

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil (1 1/2 if making low fodmap)

3 cloves garlic, chopped (or sliced if you’re making low fodmap)

2 sprigs fresh thyme (use 1 tsp dry if you don’t have fresh)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary (use 1 tsp dry if you don’t have fresh)

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

generous pinch each tarragon and marjoram (optional)

1/3 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped (sliced in half is great)

1/4 cup capers

38 (ish) ounces canned UNSALTED crushed tomatoes

2 cups broccoli florets (or other veggies like zucchini, bell pepper, or mushroom)

3 cups spinach (or other leafy green such as kale)

fresh black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Combine quinoa and two cups water in a saucepan, bring to a boil.
  2. Turn quinoa down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat a deep pan or mid sized pot over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic and stir for about a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic (if making low fodmap, cook garlic for 5-10 minutes on low and remove garlic)
  4. Add olives, capers, chickpeas, herbs, spices, and tomatoes. Cook for about 9 minutes.
  5. Add broccoli. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add spinach. Cook for 4 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat. Add pepper and parsley.
  8. Serve sauce over quinoa.

Crispy Tofu with Spring Onions

I borrowed The Veggie Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan from one of my family members when I was back in Texas last August. By March, I still hadn’t made a single recipe. I decided to buckle down and find some dishes to make. I chose this recipe for Crispy Tofu with Spring Onions on page 65, along with Chinese Broccoli in Garlic and Ginger Sauce. I used true spring onions from my yard and to make it low fodmap, I fried the white parts in oil ahead of making the dish and then included just the green parts in the finished dish. The recipe calls for 2 tsp of chile bean paste. I used 1/4 tsp of Gochujang. The spice didn’t really come through. Next time I’d use 1/2 tsp. I also used vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, since I don’t keep peanut oil around.

This is an easy, fast weeknight dish. The longest part was cleaning and cutting the spring onions, which would have been way faster if I hadn’t used the onions from my yard, which are very diverse in size and much smaller overall than what you’d get at the store. Be warned, this recipe calls for 10 ounces of spring onion, which is A LOT. It doesn’t sound like so much until you consider how light these veggies truly are.

Overall, I liked this dish. It was easy to make and was a great dish to use all the spring onions in my yard when I’m short on other veggies in the house. I’m sure it would have been better with the white par of the onion included, but I still enjoyed it just with the green parts. I’ll keep this in my back pocket for when I’m in a dinner pinch and in the mood for Chinese.

Vegan Caldo Verde

I’ve had caldo verde on my list of dishes to try for a while. I recently found myself with extra collards during an especially cold March week. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try this recipe for Caldo Verde from the New York Times. The recipe is not vegan, but was easily made so by swapping the sausage for my favorite vegan sausage and the chicken broth for homemade veggie broth.

The ingredient list is short and the recipe was easy and quick to make. It would make a great weeknight dish. The whole thing was done in 30 minutes. The recipe said to cook the potatoes for 25 minutes, but mine were done in 15.

Even with the list of flavorings pretty limited (garlic, onion, broth), the soup was plenty flavorful. I made the soup by using onion and garlic oil instead of whole garlic and onion. I’m sure the dish would have been even better with the onion and garlic left in. I do think the dish would have benefited from a little more liquid. Next time I’d add an extra cup of broth. The recipe said to use 3-5 ounces of sausage. I used five and it was too much. Next time I’d use 3-4. Also, the vegan sausage became a bit water logged after I added it to the soup. Next time I’d keep it separate and just add the pieces each time I ate it.

Sesame Tofu with Coconut Lime Dressing and Spinach

Spinach and tofu aren’t ingredients I frequently put together, so I was intrigued when I found this recipe for sesame-crusted tofu over a bed of cooked spinach. The recipe was pretty easy to make, and didn’t take too long. The coconut dressing and cooked spinach were delicious. I used doubanjiang instead of sambal olek. The recipe called for 2 tbsp sambal olek. I used about 1/3 tsp of doubanjiang and thought that was just right. I’m pretty sure I cut the oil in the dressing and I’m sure I cut the oil in the frying, but I’m not sure by how much.

There were major issues with the tofu portion of the recipe. There was at least double the sesame-panko mixture as was actually needed. The recipe makes a whole cup to coat 1 block of tofu!! There was also at least double the egg yolk mixture as well. Since the tofu is dipped in egg yolk instead of soy sauce (as with my mother’s baked tofu recipe), the inside of the tofu is very bland. I’m not sure if the egg yolk is necessary to make the mixture stick (which it did very well). I might experiment with a soy sauce water mixture and see if that worked. The other major issue with the recipe is that there was way too much sesame on the tofu to my taste (1/2 a cup!!!!). If I made this again (which I might) I’d cut the sesame in half and leave the panko the same. I suspect that would still make way too much of the mixture, but I’d start with that.

All of the tofu issues aside, I really liked the tofu, spinach, dressing mixture. I served it over rice noodles. I did wish there was more spinach. Next time I’d make 1.5 the spinach part of the dish.

Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies

Several years ago someone gave me Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor for my birthday. At first glance, I wasn’t very inspired by the recipes, which seemed pretty basic for a lifelong vegetarian. I made one underwhelming recipe and put it on the shelf, where it sat for the last few years. But lately, I’ve been trying to revisit old forgotten cookbooks instead of turning to the internet every time I want to find a new recipe. So I rescued Love Real Food from the bottom of the pile and started looking through it with a more receptive spirit. I was able to find several recipe I could try making, even if none of them seemed particularly original. This recipe for carrot cake breakfast cookies was my first attempt at a dessert recipe from the cookbook, but my second attempt at a carrot cake cookie. I embarked hoping this try would be more successful than my first disappointing version.

I was a bit skeptical of this recipe, since it contained neither eggs nor an ingredient that I consider an egg substitute (like apple sauce). Despite my misgivings, I followed the recipe to the letter (except for leaving out the raisins). This was a super simple recipe. I wasn’t sure whether to melt the coconut oil or not, but I followed my instincts I used it in its solid form. The recipe says to use a hand mixer to cream it with the maple syrup, which worked well. Using the solid coconut oil ended up working well, but the first batch of cookies didn’t spread out at all. For the second batch I smooshed down the dough balls and they came out perfect.

I was super impressed with these. The mixture of spices, maple syrup, and coconut oil made for a sweet and savory effect that leaves a great taste in your mouth. Without the raisins I wasn’t sure the cookies would be sweet enough; they only have 1/2 cup of sweetener. But the sweetness level was just right for me. Plus they’re pretty low calorie (less than 70 calories each by my calculation!). My only complain with these cookies was that they’re a bit crumbly (they’re basically carrot granola clumps). They came apart a bit when I took them off the baking sheet. With the second batch I let them cool for a minute or two before moving them off the sheet, which helped with the crumbling. I might try adding a single egg to these to help them stick together better, but otherwise I thought they were perfect.

Marinated Tofu Cabbage Salad

On a day when my feet were hurting too much to go to the store or spend much time in the kitchen, I found this simple recipe for marinated tofu cabbage salad in my old copy of Diet for a New World. Except for the celery seed, everything in the recipe, which has a very limited list of ingredients, was a already in my kitchen. It came together super fast. The tofu is just marinated and added to the salad uncooked. I was a bit skeptical of this, but it came out really tasty. The soft texture of the tofu actually works really well in the coleslaw like salad. Instead of using all sunflower seeds, I used half sunflower seeds and half pumpkin seeds, which I think added some extra interest to the dish. I halved the oil called for in the recipe and thought there was definitely enough oil in it. Even Ian who adds extra oil to a lot of things I make ate it without any amendment. This is a fantastic weeknight dish. Easy, satisfying, and surprisingly tasty for something so simple.

Spinach Raita

Raita is one of my all time favorite foods. As a kid my parents used to take me to an Indian buffet, where I would proceed to only eat raita and naan. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the other dishes, but why eat other things when that would just take up precious raita storage space. As an adult I rarely (but not never) eat raita only meals. But adulthood hasn’t dampened my love of the dish at all. Sadly, eating seasonally means no cucumber raita in the winter. So I was intrigued when I found this recipe for spinach raita in Indian Vegetarian Cooking at Your House.

The recipe is described as a seasoned salad with yogurt and spinach, which is accurate. The veggie to yogurt ratio is much heavier on the veggie side than traditional raita. This recipe has about 3/4 cup of liquid to 1 cup of spinach plus extra veggies. I looked up other Palak Raita recipes and found they usually had a one to one ratio of raita to spinach with no extra veggies.

I really enjoyed the spices and the spinach went well with the yogurt. However, I thought the chopped carrots took away from the blended flavor of the dish. Next time I’d leave them out. I might also add an extra 2-3 tbsp of yogurt. Not as good as cucumber raita, but intriguing, healthy, and easy to make. I might make this again with a few tweaks. I’d like to try a different Palak Raita recipe first though.

Rice Cakes with Peanut Sauce and Hoison

I bought a large bag of Asian rice cakes for another recipe, but I only ended up using a third of the bag. While looking for something to do with the remainder, I found this New York times recipe for pan fried rice cakes and bok choy. The recipe is written for cylindrical rice sticks, but says you can slide rice cakes instead. Slicing these rice cakes was awful and took forever. I ended up resorting to a pizza roller after trying a few different knives.

I’m not sure if the rice cake/rice stick swap was the problem, but my dish did not look like the one in the picture. Instead of nicely browned individual rice sticks, the rice sticks kind of merged together and stuck both to each other and the pan. A cast iron pan or nonstick pan is a must for this dish. Instead of making the peanut sauce in the recipe, I just used leftover peanut sauce from gado gado that I had in the freezer.

The recipe had a great flavor and even though the rice cakes turned into a rice cake clump, I enjoyed their chewy texture. I thought the bok choy needed to be cooked for a minute or two longer. I also found the recipe really benefited from chopped peanuts on top to add a bit of crunch. This was unusual, but oddly good. And it seemed to get better with time. I’d make it again, but would try the rice sticks next time.

Chickpea, Cabbage, and Dill Soup

I’ve recently reintroduced canned chickpeas into my diet. I’ve been so excited to be eating beans again, even in this limited form. I needed to use up cabbage and dill from my garden that I picked before the cold front. I found this recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea, Cabbage, and Dill Soup on page 313 Madhur Jefrey’s World of East Vegetarian Cooking. The recipe is super simple and I further simplified by using canned goods.

I made quite a few adjustments. I used canned chickpeas and canned tomatoes. The original recipe calls for you to cook pre-soaked chickpeas for 1 hour and then cook all the veggies with the chickpeas for another hour and a half. Instead, I just cooked everything together for 45 minutes. I thought the potatoes were a little too soft. Next time I’d cook for 30 minutes. I left out the onion. Since I didn’t have flavor from the onion, I used vegetable broth instead of water. Instead of a whole tomato and 2 tsp of tomato paste, I used about a can of chopped stewed tomatoes. Here’s my version:

2 can chickpeas

4 cups vegetable broth

1-2 medium sized boiling potato, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 can stewed chopped tomatoes

3/4 cup chopped fresh dill, firmly packed

2 cups cabbage, cut into 1 inch squares

1.5 -2 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

  1. Put all the ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, then turn to low and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes
  3. Adjust salt and add pepper to taste

For something so simple, this was really flavorful and yummy, this was super easy. A really good weeknight recipe on a cold night. Ian liked it a lot too. The dill didn’t really stand out the way I thought it would though. I think next time I’d reserve 1/3 of the dill and add at the end, to see how that affects the flavor.