Raise your hand if you’re from the Northeast and have officially turned into a human prune!!! *both hands up*
Did YOU know it was possible to feel both dehydrated AND saturated at the same time? Heat and humidity are the latest power couple, and it is getting rough out there. I just got back from an incredible week in Connecticut at the Amherst Early Music Baroque Academy, but it wasn’t always fun and games for my fiddle… Let’s just say when working with a period instrument with gut strings in 95% humidity, the name of the game is “What The F#*! Just Came Out of My Instrument?!” 5 points every time a string goes a whole step out of tune. 10 points when two consecutive strings go out of tune in opposite directions. 15 points when you play a note and nothing comes out… You don’t really want to win.
In this heat, my second love (cooking) also becomes not-so-lovely. When the mere thought of turning on an oven drowns me in my own sweat, I often resort to “un-cooking.” Luckily, the summer season offers us a huge selection of delicious produce, so filling up on raw fruits and veggies is hardly boring. And, not to diss salad, but there are plenty of creative ways to enjoy your raw produce, which was precisely our challenge at The Recipe ReDux this month.
This month’s theme, “Get Your Fruits and Veggies in Shape,” challenged us to transform summer produce using creative cuts. My spiralizer is one of my FAVORITE tools in the kitchen for this, and summer rolls are a go-to meal for me during the warmer months – oven-free, fresh, crunchy, light, healthy, and filling! What could be better than combining the two?!
While making this recipe, I was pleased with how quick and SAFE spiralizing was as an alternative. Julienning veggies with a knife or special peeler is fine, but it takes forever… Plus, I will take any chance I can get to keep my fingers away from blades.
To “wrap up” this delicious dish (hehe) I made an easy miso sesame ginger dipping sauce. Miso is a relatively recent addition to my repertoire of ingredients, but I am in love with it. It automatically lends an explosion of flavor to whatever it’s in, and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate it. This was a home run as far as I’m concerned – miso obsessed with this recipe, and I hope you will be too 😉
- 12-24 sheets rice paper
- Warm water
- 1 large carrot
- 2 large (or 3 medium) cucumbers
- 1/2 purple cabbage
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- 1 mango, thickly sliced
- 1 cup cilantro or Thai basil leaves
- 3 Tbs. light miso
- 4 Tbs. seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 1/2-inch knob ginger, grated (about 1/2 tsp)
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil
- Spiralize carrots using the "spaghetti" blade, or thinnest blade possible. Set aside.
- Spiralize cucumbers using the "spaghetti" blade. I like to drain my cucumber noodles after spiralizing by squeezing them through a cheesecloth or a stack of paper towels. Set aside.
- Spiralize purple cabbage on the "ribbon" blade, or thickest blade possible. Set aside.
- Prepare your avocado, mango, and cilantro and arrange them alongside your other prepared veggies for easy assembly.
- Submerge a sheet of rice paper in a bowl of warm water for 5 seconds. Immediately lay the wet sheet on a cutting board or large plate.
- Fill your roll (careful not to overfill!) with veggies. I like to start with cilantro so you can see the leaves laying flat through the roll, and then add the veggies from thinnest to thickest. I also like to add more cilantro on top before rolling.
- Roll each summer roll delicately while keeping it as compact as possible.
- Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.
- Work as quickly as possible to prevent your rice paper from sticking to your surface!
- If necessary after rolling, double up with another sheet of rice paper.
I’m pretty sure I’ve loved Chinese takeout ever since I could eat solids. Sure, I was fed from day one by the best of the best – my mom has always been super creative in the kitchen, and my grandma made a legendary pot roast. But you and I both know how it is when you’re eating food out of a white box.
My aunt used to come watch me when I was a wee one, and whenever we ordered Chinese food she would always get us bean curd with steamed vegetables. I LOVED the stuff, and to this day, it’s still my go-to healthy takeout order. Of course, it wasn’t until the fifth grade that I found out “bean curd” was actually a fancy way of saying “tofu.” I was, of course, legitimately upset, because this meant I could no longer try to act cool by telling all my friends I hated tofu.
But I also grew up completely in love with sesame noodles. Carby, creamy, peanutty, salty, saucy, slightly crunchy sesame noodles. GAHHHH. So good.
As much as I love sesame noodles, though, they don’t truly love me back. Carbs on fat on carbs is delish (it’s my favorite, let’s be honest), but doesn’t look so good when you have a slinky recital dress to fit into. So, I decided to make my own version of this amazing dish using an ingredient that is brand new for me:
Well, hey there. Long time no blog.
I hope you’ll forgive my absence. It has been THE craziest two weeks since returning from a month in Texas, but at least it was worth it, since I just took over the lease for my New York City apartment! One of its many amazing attributes is a redone kitchen with LOADS of counter space, and new, FULL SIZED appliances. Such a find is only slightly unheard of, and I’m more than slightly in love. I’ve been told that it’s not possible or legal to marry a kitchen, but together, I truly believe our love can conquer.
Now, BEFORE meeting the kitchen of my dreams, I spent the month of June making music day in and day out. I mean that literally, because I was in rehearsal or practicing every day from when I woke up until I climbed into bed. And I also mean “climbing” literally, because my bed frame was set too high, so getting into bed required climbing onto my desk first. (Short people problems…) In my limited spare time, I was feeding my foodie soul, and feeding it well. Sure, my usual meals consisted of salad or oatmeal in the dining hall (which did, if you’re wondering, get old horribly quickly), but the rest of my meals resulted from convincing my oh-so-patient car-owning friend to drive me to some the best food joints in Houston.
I miss being at the festival and making great music with friends (I also miss the Mexican/Tex-Mex food in Houston – it’s kiiiind of the best – I’m talking to you, Torchy’s Tacos), but it’s quite nice to be back where the temperature is consistently below 100˚F. I REALLY have a whole new appreciation for summer on the East Coast. I got to relive the Texan weather a bit last week while running all around NYC in humid 95˚ heat, but otherwise, it’s quite luxurious to be able to walk from place to place outdoors without fear of melting. It’s also great to be back in the kitchen – not having one readily available is the slowest form of torture for me.
So, naturally, I filled the void by dreaming up a boatload of new summer recipes just for you. And this is the first of (hopefully) many.
I haven’t had many empanadas in my lifetime, but for some reason, the idea of dipping a flaky, doughy pocket of seasoned beef into a summery, fruity salsa just seemed very appealing the other day. Also, grilled fruit is one of my favorite summer foods, and I can guarantee you that this won’t be my only recipe this summer featuring it.
This recipe is probably one of my absolute favorites to date, and I will definitely be bringing it back. My parents and brother are my best taste testers (and also the most honest), so in accordance with their approval, I’m sure this would be a hit as an appetizer at the big, fancy dinner parties that I never have. But who knows, living in New York with a dining table that can sit six (generously) might change things for me.
This recipe is labor intensive, I cannot lie. But, the fruits of your labor will be well worth it at the end, I promise! And to me, food just tastes better when a little sweat went into it. Not literally.
- 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 and 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbs. cold water
- 1/3 cup + 4 tbs. olive oil
- 1 egg, beaten (to brush onto pastries before cooking)
- 1.5 lbs organic ground sirloin
- 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2-1 tsp. dried chipotle powder (depending on spice preference)
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 yellow peaches
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 1/4 white onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450˚F.
- In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternate adding cold water and olive oil slowly, pulsing the food processor until a solid ball of dough is formed.
- Chill dough just until firm and ready to use, about 30 minutes-1 hour.
- While dough is chilling, brown the beef in a pan over low-medium heat. Break up the meat with a spoon until it's crumbly and browned on all sides.
- Add the chopped onion and cover until the onions are translucent.
- Add the lime, cilantro, and chipotle powder and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat.
- Separate chilled dough into 12 equal balls. Roll out each ball of dough into a thin, flat circle about 4.5 inches in diameter. Fill each circle with 2-4 tablespoons of filling. Fold dough over the filling to create a half moon. Pinch the edges with a fork, or fold over the dough from the corner to create a "twisted" edge.
- Arrange on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
- Quarter both peaches and remove the pits.
- Place peach slices onto a hot grill or grill pan, and cook until soft and the skins are easily peeled off. Remove from heat. Once cool enough to touch, remove the skins.
- Remove the tomatillos from their husks and rinse, and then cut each into quarters.
- Sauté the tomatillos until they become very soft and form a "jam." Let cool.
- In a food processor, combine grilled peaches, tomatillos, and remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper). Pulse until the salsa is at your desired consistency.
- For smaller, snack-sized empanadas, create smaller balls of dough and use less filling per each.
- For a spicier salsa, leave the ribs of the jalapeño pepper intact.
Happy Hump-Day everyone! As I write, I am back home on my sunny porch in New York enjoying a relaxing few days with my family. It has been quite the whirlwind GRADUATING and saying goodbye to my close friends as I prepare to start my transition from Philly to NYC, and next Friday, I head to Houston to participate in an month-long orchestra festival. And in a sort of related incident, I finally put a Manhattan School of Music sticker on my instrument case, so things are getting kind of real. It is beyond immensely exciting, but also a leeeeeetle bit terrifying. It’s all part of the bigger picture as this new chapter begins, so I’m trying to get in as much time as I can with all the people I will miss over the next month!
The good news about having all this time to myself (and a nice, homey kitchen with natural light AND OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY SPACE!) is that I can concoct enough recipe posts to hold you all over while I’m in Texas without a kitchen. This recipe is just one of several I’ve been developing, and I’m kind of stoked, because today’s post also has a big “first” attached to it: This is my first contribution to The Recipe Re-Dux, a wonderful healthy food blogging network and monthly challenge that was brought to my attention a few months ago. I applied to be a part of it, and was offered membership starting this month. YAY! I was also excited when I heard that this month’s theme (there is a special theme or ingredient for each month’s challenge) was cooking with tea. And I LOVE TEA.
I have cooked with tea before, and in fact I have a post on the blog already with a tasty recipe for Chocolate Chai Mousse Cake, in which I also discuss my love affair with tea. But aside from that, my experience with using tea outside of my addiction to drinking it is minimal. At first, I thought maybe I’d create some kind of popsicle, or that a mixed beverage of sorts might be a good idea for the challenge. But, they don’t call this a “challenge” for nothing, so I wanted to explore and venture into the unknown world of savory tea dishes. One of the first ideas that came to me was a green tea pesto. I had never heard of or tasted such a thing, although upon Googling, I found that it had been done before (someday, I’ll get to be a bit more original). I was a little skimpy on the amount of tea I put into the pesto, but for a reason – because I also cooked the homemade gnocchi in green tea. Be. Still. My. Heart.
I was admittedly really nervous being so adventurous in the kitchen for this recipe – gnocchi can be a temperamental dish that requires both patience and lots of manual labor, and since I swapped out all-purpose flour in favor of whole wheat pastry flour, I was really unsure of how the texture would come out. I was half expecting the gnocchi to fall apart in the water, and that I would end up wasting pounds of unusable gnocchi dough. But miraculously, they came out deliciously delicate and fluffy. They could have had a bit more bite, but I personally really liked the lightness. Plus, boiling the dumplings in green tea gave them even more of an herbal punch.
- 2 lbs. (about 3-4 large) yukon gold potatoes
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus some for handling the dough (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1-2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tsp. salt
- 7-10 sachets of green tea, paper tabs cut off + water for boiling
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/4 cup raw pine nuts
- 3 tbs. hemp hearts
- 1-2 tablespoons green tea leaves, ground with a mortal and pestle or spice grinder
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbs. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1-2 tsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Prepare potatoes by washing, peeling thoroughly, cutting into chunks, and making sure to remove any eyes.
- Place potatoes into a large pot, and add water to cover. Bring water and potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat slightly just to keep the water rolling. Boil potatoes until very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, and run through a food processor or mash thoroughly until smooth while still warm. Be sure that there are little to no chunks of potato remaining. Let cool – I stuck the bowl of mashed potatoes in the fridge and prepared the pesto while waiting.
- Add the cheese, flour, egg, thyme, and salt to the potatoes. Mix with your hands until the batter forms a sticky, pliable dough.
- Roll out dough into balls about the size of your palm.
- On a floured surface, roll out dough into snakes about 1/2 inch wide.
- Cut dough into small rectangles, and roll each dumpling onto the back of a fork (or a gnocchi board, if you have one) to create ridges.
- Bring about 5 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, add 6 sachets of green tea. Let steep for 2-3 minutes and remove.
- Add the gnocchi in small batches to ensure that they do not stick together, and remove the dumplings as they begin to float. (Tips: Test the cooking time out on two or three of your gnocchi dumplings first until you get a consistency that you like. Generally, they should be ready when or soon after they float to the top of the water. A handy tool for this is a frying strainer!) If the boiling water starts to run low, add in a cup at a time to replenish, but be sure to also steep an extra bag of green tea for 2-3 minutes for each cup of water you add.
- Combine ingredients (except oil and lemon juice) in a food processor and pulse until blended thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. Blend with the oil and lemon juice, and serve.
This recipe is one that I’m kinda sorta maybe really proud of, because it’s freaking DELICIOUS, and also super easy to make. Over my spring break, I first made this for my family to put over baked stuffed shells. The sauce was so tasty that I was using the shells that fell apart mid-boil to dip into the leftover sauce while the final product was baking.* My family also loved the sauce, which was very encouraging since they’re always the first to be honest about how my food actually tastes.
I’ve also noticed that it’s incredibly difficult to find a decent tomato sauce in the grocery store that’s also made without refined sugar. I found a pretty good all-natural pizza sauce once, but in general, none have lived up to my expectations. If you’re anything like me, you would much rather take the time to make something from scratch and be sure that it will turn out exactly how you want it. Thus, this tomato sauce was born. Plus, this is a fairly simple recipe and it makes 6 heaping cups of rich, sweet, flavorful tomato sauce, and probably costs less in total than it would to buy the same amount jarred. My version does contain 2-4 oz. dry red wine, (plus about 4 oz. to drink while cooking 😉 ) but you could easily omit that if you prefer not to cook with alcohol.
I collected inspiration from a few different recipes, but in the end tried to keep the ingredient list as small as possible. This was mostly so that I could have a go-to recipe that was both inexpensive and easy to make. The one recommendation I would make is that you buy crushed tomatoes WITHOUT basil for the sauce. For whatever reason, I just don’t think that tomatoes that have been canned with basil taste as good, and they have sort of a metallic aftertaste to me. Plus, when they’re available, using fresh herbs is always best anyway. The photo above features purple basil, which is the only thing I could find fresh in my grocery store, but it worked just as well. I used canned tomatoes to save time because I’m a college student with things to do (and because San Marzano tomatoes are amazzzzzzing), so if you’re a purist, unfortunately I can’t really help you. Tharry.
*I maintain zero shame over this.
- 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 med-large red bell pepper
- 1 med-large yellow onion
- 28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (without basil)
- 2-4 oz. dry red wine
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil and garlic on medium heat, distributing the garlic occasionally.
- Add the onion and red bell pepper and cover, stirring occasionally until very soft.
- Add the red wine and stir. Once wine has cooked off (evaporated), add the crushed tomatoes and basil, and stir. When the mixture starts to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer ingredients to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and purée until smooth or at your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.