Eggs and Avocados – Part II

The most popular post on my blog till date has been fried egg in an avocado – a simple and quick breakfast that involves baking or frying an egg in an avocado, using the avocado as a vessel, which can be topped with bacon for a salty and crunchy texture atop the nutritional mush that lies beneath. I have to admit that I am surprised that is the most popular recipe, but it got me thinking about the combination of eggs and avocados when I was trying to empty my refrigerator last week and whip up a meal without buying any new groceries. End result – a jalapeno-cheddar toast with a guacamole spread, topped with a fried egg with feta and cilantro.

The crunchiness and heat from the jalapeno-cheddar toast goes really well with the soft texture of the egg and the acidity of the guacamole. Topped off with some salty, crumbly feta and some fresh cilantro, this turned out to be a pretty filling meal. You can fry the egg to your personal preference – I personally like the yolk a little firm, but you can also choose to have the yolk ooze out on to the toast (though it may get soggy faster that way).

Eggs and Avocados

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, to season
  • Black pepper, to season
  • Jalapeno-Cheddar bread, sliced (This is my preferred choice of bread since it goes so well with the guacamole, but if you don’t have this, any kind of bread can be used)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Crack two eggs in the pan and let them fry.
  • While the eggs are frying, toast the two slices of the bread.
  • Put some guacamole on the toasted slices.
  • When the eggs are fried, put them over the sliced bread and guacamole.
  • Add some crumbled feta and chopped cilantro over the fried eggs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately so that the toasted bread is still crisp and does not get soggy.

 

Aperol Spritz

A semester of living in Charlottesville is complete and I am looking forward to slowing down from dissertation mode and sitting back and relaxing a bit. I am also thankful to Nora Benedict for introducing me to Aperol, an Italian orange-red liquor often used as an aperitif – it is slightly bitter and has a citrusy flavor.

Though this Aperol Spritz (a spritz is technically a wine-based cocktail made with bitter liquor and a splash of soda) is more of a summer drink, the bright color is perfect for perking up a chilly fall or winter evening as well. It also includes my favorite, Prosecco, which gives it a nice kick of acidity. And for those who prefer more traditional holiday drinks, check out this Eggnog!

Aperol Spritz

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces Prosecco
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Orange slice
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  • Fill a glass with ice cubes
  • Add Prosecco, followed by Aperol and club soda. Stir.
  • Serve garnished with an orange slice.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Stew

The only silver lining in using up all your kitchen utensils, pots, pans and gadgets to whip up a Thanksgiving meal is discovering kitchen things that you forgot you owned. While putting away some of the bakeware that we used, I came across our slow cooker, not being able to remember the last time we used it. Not wanting to cook again for a few days after Thanksgiving also meant that this slow cooker would provide us an easy, flavorful meal. But looking for inspiration at other food blogs didn’t seem to do the trick – Thanksgiving leftover recipes seem to be the most predominant topic across food blogs for the last week. But for those of who neither have any more leftovers, or are just looking to eat something leaner between Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, this is a flavorful and healthy recipe that does the trick. It can work both with white and brown rice, or with your bread preparation of choice, and takes cares of your lunch for the week. The prep takes around 15 minutes, and then around 8 hours later, you’re all set! I use brown lentils in this recipe, which are little firmer than other kinds of lentils and can thus, withstand 8 hours in the slow cookers without getting mushy. Adjust the time accordingly depending on the kind of lentils you decide to use.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken, cut into small cubes
  • 1 pound brown lentils
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
  • 1/2 tsp chana masala
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lemon juice (of 1/2 a lemon)

Directions

  1. Add all of the ingredients, minus the lemon juice and cilantro to your slow cooker. Mix well, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (If your slow cooker runs hot, you will not need to cook for the full 8-10 hours. If your slow cooker does not run hot, you will probably need to cook for the full 8-10 hours)
  2. Once the soup is done cooking, mix in the fresh lemon juice. Ladle into bowls or serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

 

Now that I’ve rediscovered our slow cooker, I can’t wait to try cooking more things in it! What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?

Pumpkin & Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Pie

As someone who gets annoyed with food trends really fast, I’m surprised at how much my obsession with pumpkins has continued for the third consecutive fall now. Of course, I’m not dropping to the level of adopting this Pumpkin Spice Diet, but I do look forward to the smell of pumpkin wafting through my food and drink – with some of my favorites being pumpkin bread, pumpkin beer and this pumpkin pie (sadly though, pumpkin pies were found to account for only 3% of all orders out of all dishes featuring pumpkin). This is also the third Thanksgiving in a row that I’ve made this pie – the first year I made it with pumpkin and candied yams, the second time around with pumpkin and regular canned yams, and this year, finally, my favorite combination, pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potatoes.

I got the idea of using maple-glazed sweet potatoes when I was walking through Whole Foods. I normally dislike the sickly sweet taste of corn syrup (which is present in candied yams), so the idea of using maple-glazed products appealed to me, especially given that this recipe already uses some maple syrup. So I decided to substitute yams with these maple-glazed sweet potatoes this time around. Before I had even put this pie in the oven, the scent of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup and sweet potatoes was floating through my kitchen, cut through with the sharp taste of ginger. I baked it on a graham cracker crust, and let it set overnight in the refrigerator and we were good to go for Thanksgiving next day!

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

Filling – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 and 1/2 cup maple-glazed mashed sweet potatoes*
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Click here for directions for Graham Cracker Crust

  1. This recipe needs a 10 inch pie plate. Pre-bake the graham cracker crust for 5-7 minutes at 350 F. Once done, let it cool at room temperature.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  3. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl.
  4. Combine pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. (Make sure that the filling is not too hot, otherwise your eggs may get scrambled as you are whisking in the cream mixture)
  7. Run mixture through a blender if it does not have a smooth consistency and then transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell.
  8. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes.
  9. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer.
  10. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with resident heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)

* – Bought from Whole Foods

Besides this pie, it was also my second year of making this spiced pecan pie! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving desserts?

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)

The two words that come to my mind when I think about lunch in New Haven are Ethiopian and Mexican. For most of these past three years that I was in New Haven, my favorite places to have lunch were a Mexican food cart and an Ethiopian food cart, located just outside the ice hockey rink, a few hundred feet from my department. The Ethiopian cart, Lalibela, in particular, has a special place in my heart both because it offered a variety of vegetarian options, and some of the dishes reminded me a lot about Indian food. And even though I’m not that big a fan of injera, or the bread that is eaten in Ethiopian cuisine, I still miss that cart when I moved to Charlottesville. When I further found out that there was literally no place serving Ethiopian food in Charlottesville, I decided it was time to experiment and try making some on my own.

So I started with one of my favorites – mesir wat. Its main ingredient is red lentils, also sold in Indian stores as masoor dal. The stew has a kick to it, which comes from berbere, a chili-spice blend. The main heat in berbere comes from paprika, which is not a particularly hot spice (like cayenne), and can therefore be used in large amounts without fear of making the dish too hot. Though I purchased a pre-made blend of berbere, you can also make it on your own – here’s a recipe for berbere by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, whom I had the luck of talking to for a few minutes at his restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster! As someone who is fascinated by his Ethiopian and Swedish influences in his food (besides his good lucks which make me swoon!), I highly recommend reading his autobiography, which details his journey from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem. He also frequently uses berbere in many of the dishes at his restaurant, including one of my favorites, the Fried Yard Bird.

Mesir Wat takes less than an hour to make, and is quite healthy, with red lentils being high in protein and iron.

Mesir Wat

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 and 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 tbsp berbere spice
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt, to taste (Most berbere seasonings already contain some salt, so be wary of adding any salt to the dish before tasting it)

Directions

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add onions, cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and ginger paste and cook for 1 minute. Next add tomato puree and berbere spice, cardamon, paprika and cumin, cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out. Add salt, if needed, and cayenne, if an additional kick is required.
  • Serve with injera or rice.

 

Cajun Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

As someone who one day aspires to carve Yoda’s face on a pumpkin, I’m always fascinated by all the different things people carve on their pumpkins (even though this year I settled for a cat, surprise!)

IMG_20141025_232105

 

But the foodie in me is always lamenting about how the insides of a pumpkin during this season often goes to waste. One of the ways to salvage the inside is by roasting the pumpkin seeds. Healthy and nutritious, filling, delicious – these make for a great snack, especially a snack to take with you while you’re on-the-go. The seeds themselves, barely take more than 10 or 15 minutes to roast, but they need to be cleaned thoroughly, with all the pumpkin fibers taken off them before we put them in the oven to roast.

Cajun Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 2 cup raw whole pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh,  rinse thoroughly in a colander, using your hand to rub off any tenacious pumpkin fibers.  Spread out on paper towels to dry (I let them sit out overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  3. Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil, paprika, Cajun seasoning, and salt until coated thoroughly.
  4. Spread out the seeds on a baking sheet evenly and roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring half way through or until the seeds turn a nice golden brown.
  5. Eat immediately or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where they will last for at least a month.

 

 

Strawberry Basil Margarita

Having just moved to Virginia a while back, I’m lucky enough to still be experiencing some lovely summer weather instead of getting ready for a chilly fall and winter like in the north-east. The farmer’s markets are still selling the last of the summer produce with some plump, bright, juicy berries, yellow peaches, and some large and sweet tomatoes. So for my housewarming party, I decided to use some of my favorite summer ingredients in our drinks – strawberry and basil. This is a lovely make-ahead drink (it definitely needs to be made-ahead to let the drink soak up the flavors), and is really quick to throw together as well. The sweetness of the strawberries really complements the citric notes in triple sec and the limeade, and the basil adds a lovely aroma. You can throw in a little less or more water depending on your taste.

Strawberry Basil Margarita

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 3/4 can (12 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate
  • 10 – 12 strawberries
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 1/2 cup triple sec

Directions

  1. Empty the limeade concentrate into a pitcher. Add 3 and 1/2 cups of water along with the tequila and triple sec in the pitcher.
  2. Hull the strawberries, slice lengthwise, and add to the pitcher. Crumple the basil a little in your hands (this will help the basil flavor release into the drink) and add it to the pitcher, too. Place the pitcher in the and refrigerate it for at least four hours.
  3. When you remove the pitcher from the fridge, your margaritas will be a lovely pale pink color.

Enjoy!

Roasted Sweet Potato Poblano Salad

As someone who ordinarily detests MBA students, or at the very least, Yale MBA students, I was very happy when their building relocated from right next to our political science department to about 5-7 minutes away. Two weeks ago, my friends and I were even more pleased to discover that the Yale School of Management cafeteria was having its trial week, where it was handing out different kinds of food – for free! Being conditioned to seek out free food as graduate students, we headed there for lunch all week until the free food week was, alas, over. One of my favorite things that I had there was this sweet potato and poblano salad – this salad single-handedly changed my opinion about sweet potatoes. When combined with fresh, roasted ingredients that pack a ton of flavor, this salad by itself seemed like a meal and I couldn’t wait to replicate it at home. I finally got around to doing so this weekend, but I made a slight modification to the meal we had – to make it have more protein and be more hearty, I replaced the roasted red peppers with some black beans. I also crushed some baked tortilla chips on top of the final salad to give it some texture and crunch. If you’re a big fan of roasted red peppers, you can go ahead and add those as well. My main suggestion while preparing this dish would be to use the freshest ingredients possible – fresh peppers and fresh corn that you roast at home, as it really enhances the flavor, instead of giving a bland or salty flavor that might come with bottled or frozen ingredients.

Roasted Sweet Potato Poblano Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin (I used 3 because I love a little extra)
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 14 ounces of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 corn cobs
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt (to season)
  • Paprika (to season)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.  Line the baking sheet with foil.  Spray peppers with non-stick spray. Place on baking sheet 4 inches below broiler.  Roast peppers until skins are blistered and black, about 15 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side.  Remove peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool. Alternatively, store the peppers in a paper bag and let them cool.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch cubes and boil them for 10-15 minutes
  3. Set oven to bake at 375 degrees F.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, onions, olive oil, cumin, salt and half of the cilantro.  Mix well.  Spread sweet potatoes onto baking sheet; roast in oven until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  5. Now, roast your corn. You can choose to do it whichever way you are familiar with – I just put the entire cob with the husks in the oven for about 20-30 minute or until about the corn is soft and you can smell it. You can also choose to grill it. Once the corn is roasted, wait for it to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, peel peppers, cut off their stems and remove seeds. Since the seeds of poblano peppers are extremely spicy, the level of heat you want in this dish should correlate with how careful you are in ensuring whether you want any seeds in your seeds.  Cut flesh into 1/2 inch squares.
  7. Remove sweet potatoes from oven, set aside until cool, about 10-20 minutes.
  8. Take the cooled corn cobs and remove the husks. Now remove the corn from the cob and toss it with some salt, lemon juice and paprika.
  9. In a bowl, combine roasted sweet potatoes, roasted onions, roasted poblano peppers, beans, the seasoned corn, lime juice, and remaining cilantro and season it with salt.  Toss gently.  Serve cold. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Sables

Having had a really busy summer, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from this blog. One of the things that makes a busy summer easier is food that does not take much time to cook, and I was fortunate to discover some pre-made cookie dough that I had made earlier this summer in my freezer! After having lugged my furniture and belongings down three flights of stairs as I moved apartments this summer, these cookies, among others, turned out to be perfect 10 minute desserts that I literally had to take out of the freezer and bake – both to reinvigorate me and whichever friends were helping!

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Sables

With a hint of sea salt, these dark chocolate sables are a light and delicate dessert, perfect for both an after-dinner snack or a pick-me-up during dreary afternoons. Like all cookie dough, I stored this one in the freezer in the form of two logs, making it really easy to bake a few at a time, so that you always have soft, warm cookies straight from the oven. In case the dough is too hard, defrost it for 10 minutes, which should make it much easier to cut away cookies of the desired thickness.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutched cocoa powder (ordinary cocoa powder will do if you do not have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking sod
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt + extra to sprinkle on top of cookie
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar)

Directions

  1. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
  3. Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is  1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some extra sea salt on top of cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
  5. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Alternatively, you can store the logs of unbaked cookie dough for months in the freezer, cutting away chunks to quickly bake some as and when you need them.

And in case you’re in the mood for similar flavors and happen to be visiting/living in New Haven, don’t forget to try out Ordinary’s dark chocolate cookies with sea salt served with some warm milk! Priced at $7, these 2 huge cookies are more than enough to feed at least a few people!

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

 

To 3 Years of Blogging – French Martini

As I was browsing one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn, today, I came across this post 3 Things Cooking Has Taught Me. Reading through it, I just realized this blog just turned 3 years old today, and I am surprised and thankful that it has survived three years of graduate school! I started taking an interest in cooking and especially, baking, at a time when I was not particularly happy with my life. Over time, it really has become my favorite activity to destress, both in cooking with someone, and particularly so by myself. The smell of warm bread in the oven filling your kitchen, the berries with their sweet and tart flavors infusing pies and breads, the melted chocolate chips that ooze out of a warm cookie fresh from the oven, the taste of fresh basil with some great, ripe summer tomatoes in focaccia – these are just some of the few sensations that I have grown to love as I have continued baking over the last few years. But enough about baking, to celebrate the three year birthday of the blog, below is one of my favorite drinks – a french martini. With the fresh and cool pineapple juice combining with the taste and smell of raspberry liquer, this is perfect for both a quiet night or an evening of entertaining.

french martini_opt

 

Ingredients

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz chambord (raspberry liquer)
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • Ice

Directions

  1. Place all 3 ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously
  2. Strain the mixture into a martini glass and serve