Green Bean Salad with Spicy Thai Dressing

I made a modified version of this thai green bean salad as a side to tofu larb. I omitted the dried shrimp and used cashews instead of peanuts since I didn’t have peanuts on hand. I enjoyed the salad. It was quick to make and very tasty. The only thing is it really needed to marinate for two days before the flavor fully soaked into the green beans.

Stewed Black Eyed Peas

I wanted to make something really simple to enjoy my last black eyed pea harvest of the season. I looked at a recipe for stewed black eyed peas on the New York Times and, using this recipe as my inspiration, made this recipe for stewed black eyed peas:

2 cups Fresh Black Eyed Peas

6 cups water

2 Leek Tops (Green Part Only)

1 onion, cut in quarters

Tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled

I put everything in my small slow cooker and cooked on high for 5 hours. The result was delicious. Flavorful, soothing, and with surprising depth of flavor. This is my favorite black eyed pea recipe I made all summer.

There was enough broth to use in another recipe. I used it in this one, and I suspect that’s the reason that the recipe was so flavorful.

Green Bean and Sesame Salad

I chose this recipe, from page 200 of The Ethnic Vegetarian, to accompany Samp and Cowpeas. It calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil. That seemed absurd to me. I cut it down to 2 tbsp. Honestly, I think I could have cut it down to 1.5 and been fine. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sesame seeds but a lot of them just ended up in the bottom of the bowl. I think next time I’d try a rounded 1/8 cup.

I liked the texture of the green beans. Crisp and fresh. The sesame flavor was interesting. But it was a little to spicy for my taste. I think I would cut it down to 1/2 tsp of black pepper and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.

This recipe makes A LOT of salad. 2 lbs of green beans was too much for me. I got tired of them and had a hard time finishing them. Next time I think I’d try making .5 the recipe. But it would be good if you’re feeding a big family. To be fair, I does say it calls for 8 servings.

Ratatouille with Fennel

Have I mentioned that I love fennel? Or that all summer my garden was overflowing with zucchini? Well in my constant search for fennel recipes and for recipes that would allow me to use zucchini, this unusual ratatouille recipe caught my eye. Well I have to say, it looked better than it tasted. It was fine, but I wouldn’t make it again. The zucchini and fennel were just strange combination along with all the other veggies. Ah well…back to the search.


Like many of the cookbooks in my house, I acquired Nonna’s Italian Kitchen from the discard shelf of one of my family members. I brought it home to try out the vegan cheese recipes, but hadn’t gotten it together to make them. I was looking for a novel recipe to use up some late summer veggies, and found this recipe for southern Italian vegetable stew. I liked that it sounded kind of like ratatouille but with potatoes. The result was good not great. The flavors of the mixed veggies was very very good. I was really surprised by how flavorful it was considering it was basically just basil, tomatoes, and salt. But the recipe did need some tinkering. I think the potato chunks were too big. The size prevented them from really absorbing the flavor of the stew. Next time I’d cut them smaller and cook them for less time. The zucchini was undercooked. I think next time I’d add them 12 minutes in instead of 15. The peppers were perfectly crunchy though, so I’d still add those at minute 15. Finally, I thought the recipe would really benefit from some kalamata olives. I tried adding a few and indeed I really liked the result. I’m on the fence about whether I’ll make this again. It was super easy to make. But I finished it in a couple days. Not up to my standards of week-long meals. If I make it again I need to 1.5 the recipe.

Homestyle Tofu

When I get Chinese takeout, homestyle tofu is my go to order. The thing that makes it so amazing is the flavor packed multi layered flaky triangles of deep-fried tofu. I’ve been craving it so much lately that I’ve begun to think about learning how to cook it. I’d never thought about it before because I don’t deep fry at home. But I figured if I was going to be eating it I might as well get over my deep frying aversion.

I’ve been eating tofu my entire life and cooking it for as long as I’ve been cooking, but I’ve never tried to deep fry it. For this recipe I ventured into the unknown, pouring a cup of canola oil into my cast iron pan. I don’t know if the issue was that I was deep frying in a cast iron pan instead of a wok or deep fryer, but the tofu basically came out like an extra oily version of my standard pan-fried tofu. Definitely not work the extra calories. Next time I make this I might experiment with baking the tofu, which I’ve found to create a better texture for a healthy alternative to fried tofu than pan frying. I still really want to learn to make restaurant style fried tofu at home, but I guess I’m going back to the drawing board.

Other than the fried tofu issue, this recipe was pretty good. It didn’t taste exactly like restaurant homestyle tofu, but it was very good. I think with some tweaking I can get there. The sauce was a little more vinegary than I’m used to. I also doubled the sauce since when I eat this at restaurants I always want more sauce. I think this was excessive. Next time I might do 1.5x or the standard sauce amount. Even though I doubled the sauce, I left the cornstarch slurry at the normal amount. I think the sauce wasn’t as thick as it should have been as a result.

I completely ignored the vegetable recommendations and just added what I wanted. I put in 1.5 heads of broccoli. A bell pepper. 5 mushrooms. 10 oz bamboo shoots. 16 oz baby corn. And a head of bok choy.

Update: I made this a second time with some tweaks. Instead of frying the tofu I baked it. I sprayed the triangles one both sides with canola oil and cooked them on a cookie sheet on 425 (ish, my oven is broken) for 50 minutes (ish, once again, my oven is broken), flipping halfway through. I really enjoyed the baked tofu. Although it wasn’t at all the same as the fried tofu, it was very good. The texture of the tofu was satisfying and I didn’t miss the fried tofu really.

I also adjusted the sauce. I multiplied the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water by 1.5 and left the other sauce ingredients as written in the recipe. But the resulting sauce was too salty. I ended up adding an extra teaspoon of vinegar and sugar at the end, which seemed just right. I think I’ll use these ratios in the future. Except I might add a little extra doubanjiang to up the flavor and spice factor. Maybe an extra teaspoon.

Spiced Eggplant and Tomatoes with Runny Eggs

The first time I had Shakshuka was at a Dr. Shakshuka, a famous shakshuka restaurant in Tel Aviv where pots and pans hang from the ceiling and shakshuka is served in cast iron pans accompanied by whole loaves of fluffy white bread. I’d never heard of the dish and the Israeli who took me was very excited to share it. I wasn’t immediately sold by the simple flavor and unusual texture. But in the years since it’s become a standby dish for me. Something I make often when I’m short on ingredients and want a satisfying meal. I rarely use a recipe and often add various spices and vegetables to suit my mood.

I generally enjoy the recipes in the New York Times. When I saw this twist on shakshuka with eggplant, I was intrigued, particularly since I’m getting an eggplant an week from my garden right now and am looking for recipes to keep up. I decided to make it without reading it too closely. Once I dove in, I realized it was going to need some adaptation. The baharat blend it requires is based on measurements of whole spices. I don’t have a spice grinder so I had to convert the measurements to ground spices. The recipe also calls for an absurd amount of oil. I cut down a lot on that (I probably ended up using 1 1/2 -2 tbsp).

I made the vegetable mixture ahead of time and then returned it to the pan one egg at a time when I wanted to eat. The recipe calls for cooking the eggs 8-10 minutes. I cooked for 9 and my egg was pure liquid. I suspect 10-12 is probably more accurate.

The result was good, not great. The dish is really pretty. And the velvety texture of the eggplant and tomatoes worked really well. The pine nuts added a very interesting layer to the dish. But it was too salty and the spice mixture wasn’t quite right. She has you put one tsp of salt on the raw eggplant and then a half tsp to the dish. Next time I’d only add 1/2 tsp to the raw eggplant and ad any additional needed salt at the end. I want to play around a bit with the spice mixture. I think I might leave out the cinnamon next time. That’s just a guess thought. I will be trying this again. Right now this recipe gets a B. But I suspect it will be upgraded to a B+ once I play with it a bit.

Here are the measurements I used for the Baharat Blend:

1/2 tbsp cumin
1/4 tbsp coriander
1/3 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp allspice
1/3 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg (I left this out since I didn’t have any)

Black Bean Tostadas with Cherry Tomato Salsa

This recipe is from page 162 of Fresh Food Fast. I don’t actually make this recipe as intended, as tostadas. But the black bean seitan mixture is an all time favorite for me. About as meaty, fulfilling, and indulgent as vegetarian recipes get. I skip the tostada shells and just make the filling with cherry tomato salsa on the side. I make it with homemade seitan and dried black beans. You’re welcome. You’ll be eating this all week.

Warm Green Beans and New Potatoes with Sliced Eggs and Grilled Onion

I was looking or a recipe to highlight my homegrown summer green beans. This recipe from page 102 of Fresh Food Fast fit the bill. I don’t love mustard, so I wasn’t sure how it would come out. But I have to say, I really liked it. It was fresh, filling, and wholesome, with a little bit of surprising flavor to boot. The new potatoes really added a level of indulgence that the average summer salad doesn’t have. It’s intended to be served warm, but I think I liked it even more cold. I’ll be making this again.

Update: I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe:

I use 1 tbsp of oil instead of 3

I prefer to put the green beans in a bowl with the salt and then pour boiling water over them. The green beans remain crisper this way than by cooking them for 3 minutes as the recipe calls for.

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint

This recipe from page 87 of Fresh Food Fast is a rare complete miss for Peter Berley. It was, and I hate to say this, terrible. I love cucumber soup. I’m constantly in search of new wonderful cucumber soup recipes. This was a huge disappointment. It was extremely bland and lacked any textural interest since everything gets blended.