chickpea salad with curry + lemon.

It’s my grandmother’s 87th birthday today! We’re having a potluck dinner to celebrate the fact that she’s, in her own words, “still upright.”

My Grandma inspires me because she works hard every day to maintain her wellness. She walks, does crossword puzzles, reads avidly, and keeps herself up-to-date on international news. I’m in awe of her sharp mind, wit, and adventuresome spirit. Just this winter she traveled to Panama and took a boat down the Panama River. I can only hope to be like her when I’m older.

{My grandma rocking an awesome bathing suit}

And what better way to celebrate her adventuresome, healthy spirit than by bringing a healthful and unusual dish to her birthday dinner. I decided on a Pan-Fried Chickpea Salad from Heidi Swanson but altered it to accommodate the large crowd, and I upped the curry flavor a bit because I love really flavorful salads. Additionally, I added toasted, sliced almonds for a little crunch and an extra punch of protein.

My version serves 10-12 as a side dish and would be an excellent thing to bring to a potluck or picnic, as it’s best served at room temperature. Happy birthday, Grandma! I love you! Molly

Pan-fried Chickpea Salad with Curry + Lemon

For the salad:
2 Tbl olive or coconut oil
3 cans chickpeas, patted completely dry with clean dish towel
1 leek, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of 2 lemons
1 C loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 C sliced almonds, toasted in a skillet

For the dressing:
2/3 cup plain yogurt (I prefer low-fat Greek)
3-4 tsp Indian-style curry powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1 or 2 tablespoons warm water

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the chickpeas. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and allow them to get golden brown on all sides– roughly 10 minutes. Stir in the leeks and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until soft and somewhat translucent. When done, stir in the garlic, lemon zest, and toasted almonds; remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
While the chickpeas cool, make the yogurt dressing by whisking together the yogurt, curry powder, and salt in a small bowl. If you need to thin it out a bit, particularly if you are using Greek yogurt, whisk in warm water a tablespoon at a time. Taste, adjust, and set aside.
When it’s time to serve, toss the chickpea mixture with most of the cilantro and most of the chopped red onion. Add about 1/2 of the yogurt dressing and toss again. If you like more dressing, keep adding ’til your heart’s content. Serve on a large platter or in a pretty bowl; sprinkle with remaining cilantro and red onion.

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another mac and cheese recipe.

…This time inspired by the celebrity cookbook author I disparaged yesterday. Conclusion 2: It turns out she really can cook. I just made this, tasted a bite, and smiled. Yum.

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food; it reminds me of childhood and cozy winter nights. I had an irksome morning with lots of school work and some unpleasant news, and I knew it was time to get to the kitchen to make food for people I like. Some people paint or write when they’re upset. I search the fridge and cupboards for ingredients I can mix together to make something delicious. Then I adorn an apron, put on some loud music, mix and whisk and saute, and often end up with flour on my face.

I altered the recipe slightly because I’ve never really liked nutmeg in macaroni and cheese dishes. (If you like it, add a pinch to the cheeses as they melt.) Instead, I prefer the very subtle taste of dijon mustard, which has been the secret ingredient in the best macaroni and cheeses I’ve ever tried. I also used whole wheat pasta and low-fat cheeses to up the health ante just a tad.

I’ve never tried mascarpone in mac ‘n cheese before, and it’s delicious! Creamy without being overly rich. Plus, this recipe takes less time than others because it doesn’t call for making a roux (butter + flour + milk + lots of whisking) for the base of the sauce. I think this will delight kids and adults alike. Enjoy! lv, molly

Macaroni + Cheese w/ Mascarpone + Parmesan

3/4 pound elbow macaroni (you can sub whole wheat)
8 ounces mascarpone (low-fat if you can find it)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 C tightly packed grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 C low-fat milk
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C plain bread crumbs
2 Tbl unsalted butter (or a few spritzes of canola spray)

For variation add one of the following:
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup taleggio cheese,broken into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and turn it on to convection if that’s a possibility. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package.
Meanwhile, stir together the mascarpone and 1 cup of Parmesan in a small saucepan over a medium flame until the cheeses melt together, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm over a low flame.
Drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the bread crumbs.
Put the macaroni in a large baking dish; scatter the bread crumb topping over it; dot it with the butter; and bake it for 15 minutes. Serve with a simple green salad.

Image via here. Not my own but representative of how this dish looks!

a knock your socks off dinner.

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MAKE THIS!

I posted this recipe a few months back, and I’m re-posting because I made it last night and was quite taken by how unbelievably delicious this is. How could I have forgotten? (Am I being immodest?)

This dish is sweet and spicy, and it’s made its way into my list of favorite dinners, hell (!), foods. The soy sauce, butter, and pinch of sugar create a rich sauce that’s flavored with shallots, ginger, and eight cloves of garlic.

It’s slightly more labor-intensive than most dinners I make, but it’s totally worth it. (Buy a garlic press if you don’t have one. It’ll save you some trouble; plus, I think they’re fun to use.)

My boyfriend said this is the best tofu dish he’s ever had, and I think I may agree, save for Tamarind Tree’s Lemongrass Tofu. I just checked the fridge hoping for leftovers but none in sight! Enjoy!!

lv, molly

Black Pepper Tofu

Serves 3 generously

Adapted (AKA “healthified) from Lottie + Doof

600 grams extra firm tofu, pressed
All purpose flour
Vegetable or olive oil
3″ piece ginger, chopped finely
1 serano chili, seeds removed, sliced thinly
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large)
8 large garlic cloves, minced
3-4 Tbl unsalted butter
2 Tbl peppercorns, coarsely crushed
3 Tbl tamari (strongly flavored soy sauce)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)
10 thin scallions, chopped into 1/2″ segments
Jasmine or brown rice, for serving

Cut the tofu into 1/2″ blocks and toss them in flour, shaking off the excess. Pour enough oil into a nonstick frying pan to create a shallow coat, and bring up to frying heat. Cook the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel to drain excess oil.
Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, and add the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft. While you wait, crush the peppercorns, using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. They should be quite coarse.
When the shallots and chillies are soft, add the soy sauces and the sugar, stir; then stir in the crushed pepper. Warm the tofu in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through. Serve hot with steamed rice and a side of vegetables.

Black Pepper Tofu

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bye, bittman.

I’m sad that Mark Bittman’s New York Times’ column “The Minimalist” is coming to an end. I’ll miss his quirky instructional videos and elegantly simple (… dare I say “minimal”?) vegetarian recipes.

Here are a few of my favorite Bittman recipes. I make these regularly and am grateful to Bittman for years of wonderful recipes and commentary on health and sustainability. His column is one of the reasons I love to cook.

Often the simplest combinations of whole foods are the most delicious, elegant, and comforting. Thanks to Mark Bittman for teaching me that. lv, molly

Pasta with Fried Eggs

Soccas

Papaya Salsa

Various Dals

No-Knead Bread

Broccoli Rabe with Toasted Garlic & Breadcumbs

Proper Scones

101 Easy Appetizers

101 Simple Meals