Sunday, May 24, 2015

Green lentil, sweet potato, butternut squash and goat cheese salad

This is an extremely hearty main course vegetarian salad. Go carb free and eat just this for dinner. We had it with the cream of asparagus soup and garlic bread. The lentils and the salad leaves are dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil - the tang of the red wine vinegar pairs well with the sweetness from the sweet potato and butternut squash. Placed on a bed of peppery arugula and topped with creamy goat cheese, this salad is very satisfying.

Green lentil, sweet potato, butternut squash and goat cheese salad
1/2 cup french green lentils
2 cups water
1 clove of garlic peeled
a few sprigs of parsley
half a small onion
1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato or jewel yam (1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup peeled, deseeded and chopped squash (kuri, kabocha or butternut) (1/2 inch pieces)
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
Three large handfuls of mixed salad greens (Arugula and kale are great for this salad)
4 oz soft goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Toss the chopped sweet potatoes and butternut squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, dried chili flakes salt and pepper and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Flip and cook for another 15 minutes till the vegetables are browned and beautifully caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. In the meantime, rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted water, the onion, garlic and parsley. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender; be careful not to overcook them. If there is any water left, drain the lentils. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoon olive oil, and salt to taste. Mix carefully so as not to break up the lentils.
  5. Dress the greens with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. The greens do not need any more oil unlike a standard dressing of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. There is enough oil in the lentils as well as the roasted vegetables.
  6. To assemble the salad, lay the greens on a serving platter, topped with the dressed lentils. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables on top of the lentils and top with the crumbled goat cheese. The salad is now ready to dig in!
Serves 3

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quinoa, sweet potato and mushroom burger

My teenager's new favorite is quinoa. I have been giving her quinoa salads in her school lunch and she has enjoyed it. I thought these neat little burgers might be a good change with similar ingredients, both in a bun or without. Sweet potato provides a great binder and the burger does not need the help of bread crumbs or eggs or flax seeds. The mushrooms sauteed with shallots and garlic and spiked with chili flakes, complement the sweet potato and quinoa mixture and provide a little punch. Serve them in a bun with your fix-ins or like I serve them with a salad. This time I served them a arugula, fennel and parmesan salad dressed with a simple lemon, dijon vinaigrette.

Quinoa, sweet potato and mushroom burger

1/2 cup quinoa
1 large oriental sweet potato ( a little more than a lb) or small ones of the same weight
6 large cremini mushrooms (4 oz), minced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4th - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sweet potato on a baking sheet and cook for 45 to 75 minutes depending on the size of the potato. Smaller ones will cook faster. Poke with a knife to check doneness after 45 minutes
  2. While the potato is cooking, cook the quinoa. In a small saucepan, add quinoa, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff with a fork and keep aside to cool.
  3. Heat a 10" saute pan over medium heat and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the minced shallots and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes till the shallots are translucent. Add the minced mushrooms and red chili flakes and continue to saute for about 4 more minutes.Keep aside to cool.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle - scoop out the flesh and mash with the cooked and cooled quinoa and the mushroom shallot mixture. I like to use my hands for this process as it works the best (use disposable gloves if you are uncomfortable using your bare hands). Adjust the salt based on your taste.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  6. While the oven preheats, shape the dough into 2 1/2 inch round and 1/2 inch thick patties. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place the patties in a single layer. Now spray the patties. Place the tray in the middle rack of the preheated oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then flip to the other side. Cook for 15 more minutes. The patties should be golden brown and the outside should be crisp like in the picture. If not, please bake for a little longer to develop the crust.
  7. Serve within a bun with your favorite fix-ins or by themselves with a salad.
Makes 6 patties

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lettuce wraps with tofu and water chestnuts a.k.a. P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps

P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps are famous all over the US. We love eating them whenever we chance upon a P.F. Chang during our travels. Since they don't have a branch in New York, I decided to make a version of those which are really good. The missing element is the fried bean thread noodles. I am not a big fan of frying - if you are, please make them - they add another level of crunch to the wraps. My lettuce wraps are filled with tofu, mushrooms and water chestnuts topped with a tangy chili sauce.

Lettuce wraps with tofu and water chestnuts

One 14 ox box of firm organic tofu
One 8 oz can of water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
6 large cremini mushrooms, wiped and chopped
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Chopped peanuts or chopped cashew for topping
Fried bean thread noodles (optional)
One head of iceberg lettuce

Sauce:
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese chili garlic sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. In the meantime, drain the liquid from the tofu and weight it down on a plate with a rim to extract as much liquid as possible.
  3. Chop the tofu into 1/4 inch cubes and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. When the oven is hot, place the baking sheet in the middle rack. Let it cook for 15 minutes. Remove and flip the tofu pieces to get even color on both sides. Cook for another 15 minutes.
  5. During the last 15 minutes, heat a large non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the minced garlic and onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes till the onion looks translucent. 
  6. Add the chopped mushrooms - mix and raise the heat to high. Cook the mixture for around 2 to 3 minutes till the mushrooms are starting to soften. Add the chopped water chestnuts and cook tossing occasionally till the mushroom is brown. Switch off the heat and wait for the tofu.
  7. Once the tofu is ready, add it to the mushroom and water chestnut mixture. Add the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and the soy sauce and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes till the tofu and vegetables absorb the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish.
  8. For the lettuce, cut off the bottom of the head of lettuce and carefully separate the leaves to keep them whole.
  9. For the sauce, mix the three ingredients to make this tangy chili sauce.
  10. Serve the lettuce wraps filled with a tablespoon or two of the filling depending on the size of the leaf, topped with chopped peanuts or cashew and a drizzle of the sauce. 
Serves 4 as an appetizer.