Category Archives: Recipes

I came, I saw, I failed, I failed again, I conquered.

Since the semester began, it’s been difficult to find the time to eat, let alone cook, let alone blog.  It also gets dark at 5 pm, while I’m still in class, and my mid-range camera prefers natural light for photos.  So I apologize for the long silence, and while there are no “in process” pictures tonight, I promise that this recipe will not disappoint.

This is not the first post I’ve written about these beans, but I expect it to be the last – because I’ve won.  I have conquered the bean salad.  All it took was some patience.  And 3 tries.  And some wine (though you’ll notice there’s none in the recipe).  I’ve changed up the ingredients a bit since my first attempt, but I kept the original name, as it was too delightfully ridiculous to part with.  The end result is pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.

Three Bean Fiesta Salad

2 cups each navy beans, red beans, and black eyed peas (cooked)

¾ cup raw corn (I’d usually advise you to use fresh, but in almost-December, frozen corn is nearly as good anyway)

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced small

3 fresh limes

3 fresh jalapenos

1 large clove of garlic, minced

Salt to taste (the amount will vary widely based on whether you use dried beans and cook them yourself or buy them already cooked and canned)

Directions:

Put the beans, corn, garlic, and tomatoes in a bowl.  Cut off the tops of the jalapenos and slice them in half.*  Scrape the seeds and pith into a bowl and cut the jalapenos, small dice.  Slice the limes in half width-wise and juice them into the bowl with the jalapeno seeds.  Pour the jalapeno-lime mix through a strainer and into the bowl with the other ingredients.  Add salt and toss.**

*There are a couple of ways to go about this.  If you have some latex/vinyl gloves you can wear while you handle the peppers, do so.  If not, you can pour about 2 teaspoons of oil into your palm and rub it all over your hands before you begin.  The capsaicin from the peppers will wash off with the oil when you’ve finished slicing and dicing.

**If you absolutely must, you may add things like cumin or chili powder or chipotle to this salad.  However, I found it so wonderfully bright and fresh just as it is that I didn’t dare risk dulling it with heavy spices.  The choice is yours.

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Much Better than Cold Leftovers from the Indian Place.

I derive lots of pleasure from cooking on my days off. I feel that the lack of exhaustion from other factors really opens up my creativity. Plus, I’m usually home alone, so I can pretend to be an expert. While I cook, I give instructions to an imaginary audience, artfully chopping and stirring, pretending that the pot-watching is time-lapsed and all of the spills, hunting for things in the fridge, and other snafus are edited out.

Yeah, whatever. Like you’ve never done it.

Couple my love of experimentation with the fact that it’s July in Maine and I live in an attic, and you will find today’s experiment: Chilled Lentil Salad with Homemade Paneer (no oven necessary!).

The experimental part of this dish was the paneer. In case you’ve never had the extreme pleasure of eating paneer, it is a simple cheese common in Indian cuisine. It is often called “Indian cottage cheese” or some such, but if you hate cottage cheese, don’t be put off by that description as it is nothing like the cottage cheese you will find at the grocery store here in the U.S. I had never made paneer before today, and it turned out wonderfully. Please do not be intimidated by the prospect of making cheese in one afternoon.

I started off by making the paneer, using the fabulously detailed video and written instructions I found at Manjula’s Kitchen, a blog by (who else) Manjula (direct link to the paneer recipe at bottom of post). Manjula’s Kitchen is a fantastic blog that can teach you all sorts of things about cooking Indian food. One of my favorite things about Manjula is that her kitchen is very modest but always incredibly tidy. I find this truly inspiring and I have been working hard to be as neat and clean as Manjula while I cook. In addition, Manjula, like me, has to work with an electric range, and I feel for her.

When the active portion of paneer-making was through, I simmered some lentils in water with 3 smashed cloves of garlic and some salt, turmeric and dried ginger. I think I should have used Puy (French) lentils, because they are rumored to be better at holding their shape when cooked. But I made do with the green lentils I had on hand, and the resulting dish was nonetheless delicious.

While my cheese pressed and my lentils cooled, I whipped up a nice, zingy dressing. The recipe and measurements for this experiment in Indian-Tree hugger fusion cuisine follow below. If you read this recipe through, you will notice that it seems incredibly long. It’s not, so don’t be scared! Everything is super easy to do. I just thought I would lay it out in the same steps I used for completing it, so it takes up a little extra space.

Chilled Lentil Salad with Homemade Paneer

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Paneer:

Follow the recipe and instructions from Manjula’s Kitchen. I used a local, organic milk because I figured it would make a nice cheese. I was right, so consider it.

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I was very excited when my paneer began to look like Manjula’s:

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I strained it as directed and weighted it with a cast iron skillet.

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I used approximately 3/4 of the resulting paneer for the salad.  I gently crumbled it into large chunks.

Lentils:

3 Cups water

1 ½ Cups lentils

1 tsp. Kosher salt

½ tsp. Turmeric

½ tsp. Dried, powdered ginger

3 cloves garlic, smashed

Bring to a boil over high heat, then drop down to medium-low heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still just a bit toothsome. Drain and chill. Remove garlic cloves.  I spread my lentils on a plate to help them cool faster.

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Dressing:

Juice of 1 ½ limes*

½ tsp. Freshly ground cumin

½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp. Fresh ginger**

2 tsp. Kosher salt

½ tsp. Red chile flakes (I used a teaspoon, but I love all things spicy. If you love all things spicy, follow my lead!)

2 small cloves garlic, minced

Additional fresh ingredients, chopped to approximate size of lentils:

1 tomato, seeded

1 cup red onion

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Directions:

Stir it all together and chill for 30 minutes minimum. Eat!  I ate mine with a bit of pita, which is not Indian but quite delicious.

* I know that the fancy chefs on the television squeeze citrus halves upturned, using their fingers to keep seeds out of the food. I always feel like I’m wasting all kinds of juice on my hands when I do that, so I usually juice citrus halves cut side down, over a small mesh strainer. If you want to use the finger-filter method, go right ahead, but you might have to adjust the lime juice.

** I recommend using a Microplane grater for the ginger, because that is the simplest way to mince it. However, as a frequent Rambo cook with a limited selection of kitchen tools, I fully understand that not everyone owns a Microplane. If you do not, you have two options. 1. Use any grater intended to finely shred things. 2. Peel the ginger, then slice thinly against the grain, using a large knife. Chop slices until ginger is minced.

Recipe for paneer


The Very Beginning, plus Tostadas.

There are two reasons why I decided to start a blog.  First of all, I always feel like I have all sorts of clever things to say, but never the chance to say them.  Secondly, I love food, and I like to cook for others, but I’m a very busy woman with little time to entertain.

So this is where I plan to share my clever thoughts and love for cooking.  You can take my original recipes and prepare them at home.  You’ll be full and happy, with more expendable cash, and I’ll feel almost like I got to make them for you.  It’s a win-win.

Here are some parameters: I am vegetarian, I eat vegan frequently, I am on a budget, and I shop at specialty stores only occasionally.  So the food you will find here is generally made of simple, affordable and quick-to-prepare ingredients.  On top of that, I also try very hard to eat healthy, so you’ll find a lot of low-carb/fat/sugar recipes here (though I rarely skimp on all three at once – it’s important to live a little!).  Finally, I don’t measure very much.  I mostly eyeball things and taste them until it’s right.  I’m going to work to overcome this for your sake, but please forgive me if I’m off by a tablespoon or a pinch here and there in the meantime.

I don’t really have anything clever to say tonight, but stay tuned, because I am generally a font of pithy prose and quotable witticisms.  And humility.

Also, I wanted to start off with something eye-catching and high-gloss, but I was so hungry I forgot to take pictures.  So here is a photo-free recipe for what I made for dinner this evening.  You should try it, because it’s pretty damn delicious and it’s an original child of my creative brain.

Completely Inauthentic Spinach and Black Bean Tostadas

Serves 4-6, depending on how ravenous the eaters are.

Ingredients:

6 6-inch flour tortillas

2 Tbsp + 3/4 c. enchilada sauce

1.5 cups cooked black beans

3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup yellow onion, diced

4 oz Neufchatel cheese (generally advertised as 1/3 less fat than cream cheese)

3 Tbsp. sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated

1/2 c. pepper jack cheese, grated

3/4 c. water

1/4 cube Knorr vegetable bullion (or enough of any vegetable bullion for 1/2 cup of broth)

2 Tbsp. extra light tasting olive oil or vegetable oil

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. chili powder

Salt to taste

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine black beans, water, bullion, 1/2 tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. chili powder.  Simmer on medium-low heat until thick and reduced, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, roughly chop spinach.  Add oil to a large saute pan and, when hot, stir in onions and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add remaining cumin and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute before adding spinach.  Allow spinach to cook down for 3 minutes and then remove from heat, leaving spinach mixture in pan.

In a small bowl, mix 4 oz. neufchatel with the cheddar cheese and 2 Tbsp. of enchilada sauce until well combined.  Set aside.

When black beans are reduced and tender, mash slightly with a spoon to create a thick but chunky mixture, then combine with spinach.

To build tostadas:  Spread each tortilla with a mounded Tbsp. of cream cheese mixture.  Top each one with 1/3 cup black bean-spinach filling, then sprinkle pepper jack evenly on the tortillas and drizzle with enchilada sauce.

Broil for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortilla edges are golden brown.

Note: I will frequently cut out the bread/starch parts of recipes, because I think it’s entirely too easy to eat entirely too many refined carbs.  You can do this, also.  If you decide to skip the tortillas and layer this in an oven-safe dish instead, it’s still wonderful.  Just put the beans on the bottom and the cream cheese on top, then sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with enchilada sauce.  Broil it for 15 minutes if you’re doing the whole batch in one big dish.