A hot summer afternoon, do not feel like turning on the stove, yet craving for a hearty lunch…..I bet many of you feel the same way sometimes. Well, today was definitely one of those lazy days. I knew I had a cup of cooked barley and some veggies. Barley, two little eggplants, one red bell pepper, some scallions, cilantro, fresh garlic and ginger….I knew I could come up with lunch, but yes, the stove must be turned on. And, this is how the colorful barley salad became lunch with leftovers for another day!I find it easier to write an unscripted recipe, because that is how I cook most of the time. A little of this, a pinch of that, some broth, etc. etc. Here I chopped some scallions and tossed into a hot pan with olive oil, followed by minced ginger and garlic. A couple of minutes later in went the diced red bell pepper followed by the diced eggplant. Sprinkled some salt and red pepper flakes. When the veggies were softened, I added some curry powder and gave it all a good stir. I let the curry do its magic and when the aroma had wafted all over the kitchen, added the cooked barley and heated it through.Garnished the salad with some chopped cilantro and toasted cashews. It was delicious at room temperature. The cashews were an afterthought — but absolutely worth it.
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I’m not a big fan of creamy pasta salads – in fact, pasta salads are something I rarely make. However, pasta salads save me a lot of trouble when I haven’t really planned on something to take over to a friend’s summer barbecue, or as in this case, for a barbecue in my backyard. Some time ago I posted another pasta salad recipe using tiny bow-tie pasta and everyone seemed to love it.
Last weekend, NYC had some gorgeous weather and a few friends decided to drop by. Hmmm….I was looking for inspiration on what to dish up with stuff from the pantry and fridge. I didn’t spend a lot of time deciding on two salads, a chickpea salad and a pasta salad, and of course, some chicken on the grill. Some fresh corn and peppers found place on the grill too. My favorite, the pasta salad with the tiniest little pasta, cute little stars. I’ve no idea what it is called, but recollect buying it because it was so pretty.
A bunch of fresh asparagus went in along with onions, fresh garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Finished it off with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. No cheese or mayo. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But believe me, there were no leftovers and the pasta remaining in the bag was grabbed up by a friend for her barbecue the next day (now I have to go find some more of this cute pasta!)
You don’t need a recipe for this, do you? Just in case you need it, here is what I did. Boiled a huge pot of water, added salt, and the pasta. The pasta was done in about 5 minutes. In another pan, heated some olive oil and tossed in finely diced onions, sliced garlic, parsley, and chopped asparagus. I cut the asparagus diagonally into tiny bits to match the size of the pasta. A huge pinch of red pepper flakes (I know, it is not used in traditional pasta salads), but I’ve rarely done anything traditionally. Tossed the warm pasta right in with a couple of tablespoons of pasta water. Easy and simple, yet delicious. I hope you try it out.
You can do a lot with a bag of colorful sweet mini peppers, isn’t it? Stuff them with anything you like – browsing for ideas I came across sweet cream cheese stuffed peppers too! Who knew? Well, I wasn’t going with anything sweet, nor was I in a mood to spend too much time in the kitchen as today is a beautiful sunny day in NYC. So, I decided to just 3 main ingredients – chorizo, potatoes, and parsley – that’s it. Since the chorizo was salty enough, I skipped salt altogether but sprinkled some freshly ground black pepper on the potatoes and mashed them.
Are you tempted to bite into one of these tiny parcels of chorizo-potato…..these are addictive and delicious. Sometimes simple everyday pantry items can transform a recipe, and this one is a keeper. The pictures below tell you what I used and what I did – no recipe measurements.
One bag of sweet mini peppers….
Pick any one you like and dig in….Perfect as an appetizer or side or whatever you want to call it. Vegetarians and vegans can substitute tempeh or firm tofu for the chorizo and add any other seasonings of your choice.
I couldn’t come up with a suitable title for this post – should I go about saying that I’m featured in the Fine Cooking magazine. My recipe made it to the magazine. You might recognize this magazine if you love to cook and buy or subscribe to some cooking magazine (s). I don’t subscribe to Fine Cooking – and this is not an advertisement for the publishers – I’m not getting any rewards or prizes for posting this here, but received a complimentary copy of this issue, and you bet that I’m holding on to that for a long time to come 🙂
This issue of Fine Cooking is special. Yes, the editors did think I was passionate about cooking and very graciously chose my recipe for the December 2012/January 2013 issue. Was it some fancy recipe that required a trip to the grocery store for ingredients? No, in fact you’ll be surprised (if you get to the bottom of this post) that most of the ingredients might be in your pantry right now. I say that because Thanksgiving is just days away and Sweet Potatoes – the star of the recipe – might be in many kitchens already waiting to be whipped up in casseroles and pies, breads and more.
So, I guess the picture tells you what I dished up – Sweet Potato Curry. Curry? Not a favorite for Thanksgiving I guess, but for those people who are always looking for a tweak on some recipe – here is a very simple and easy recipe. If you are a vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. If you like your curry spicy, use more than a pinch of cayenne or chili powder. You could add cubed potatoes to the mix or any other vegetable – but for me this is divine. The color is so vibrant, it just looks so gorgeous and tempting, and can be used with rice, couscous, or with flatbread or pita bread. The sauce is delicious and perfect for dipping a piece of bread. It would also be delicious with idlis and dosas.
Here is the rest of the story….
I am always on the lookout for easy recipes that I can rely on a day when I don’t feel like cooking or if I do have to cook it should be something that needs minimal use of the stove. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is a simple salad….simple = a no-fuss simply dressed green salad and some leftovers. Well, today was one of those days when the Sunday mood wasn’t one for cooking. The refrigerator yielded some leftover veggies – the only good thing was that the leftover veggies were all brilliantly colored which set me on the track for this delicious lentil salad. The purple cabbage was the leftover from the last week’s farmers market purchase, and I posted the image for the Weekly Photo Challenge Purple.
Maybe I am crazy, but I like the veggies all diced up to a similar size, the smaller the better in this case to match the size of the lentils. Salad dressings enhance the flavor of the salad, and I like a simple dressing that would let the flavor of the fresh veggies come through instead of being masked in a creamy, mustardy dressing. Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar with a pinch of salt and black pepper work wonders on a salad. So, my recipe is just a simple one and you can use your creativity in creating this salad. It is delicious, pretty, and makes you want to dig your fork right in.
Here is what I used for the salad:
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups of diced mixed veggies (I used purple cabbage, red pepper, cucumber, radish, tomatoes, scallions)
1 thai chilli – finely diced (optional or according to your taste)
¼ cup finely minced fresh herbs (I used parsley and mint)
Mix together 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves – finely crushed, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Optional – Olives, capers, feta cheese, grilled veggies or chicken.
How I made the lentil salad:
1. I soaked the lentils for about two hours, then drained and rinsed it. Boiled the lentils for about 20 minutes until done – do not overcook the lentils.
2. Drained and rinsed the lentils with cold water.
3. Add the vegetables, chilli, and herbs to the lentils and gently stirred it to blend. While the lentils were cooking, I made the dressing.
4. Then added the dressing to the lentil/vegetable mixture and tossed it altogether.
5. I added some olives and capers to the salad.
6. Tasted for salt and pepper, and just added a pinch of salt and pepper. Because I had added the olives, the salad needed very little salt.
7. Drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil and tossed again.
8. The salad was delicious at room temperature, and the leftovers will make a delicious weekday lunch.