Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans, Cranberries, and Orange Zest

This holiday season has been one of the most productive I have had in a while in terms of my baking ambitions – I’ve been meaning to make lots of complicated desserts that I otherwise would never get enough time to bake, and I finally got around to making a lemon meringue pie, a lemon cheesecake on a graham cracker crust, drizzled with raspberry syrup, and finally, some chocolate, lemon, vanilla, anise, and lavender macarons! And while I am excited to blog about all these baking adventures, I have to admit I am getting a little tired reading about desserts. Since these were not the most straightforward desserts, I spent a fair bit of time reading on how to avoid common mistakes that can occur with each of them. So for now, I will be writing about something savory, and return to writing about baking once I am over my sugar hiatus.

Maple roasted brussels sprouts with toasted pecans and cranberries

I never really ate brussels sprouts in India, and I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of them when I first tasted them in the US. But they have grown on me over time, especially as I have realized that pancetta and bacon does really elevate their flavor once they’ve been roasted. These ones are slightly healthier than using pork products, as it mostly uses the nuttiness of pecans, the tartness of cranberries and oranges to complement the roasted brussels sprouts. Roasting them in maple syrup also evens out the extreme tartness from the cranberries. Depending on your taste, you can decrease the maple syrup or decrease the amount of cranberries you put in this dish, so that you do not feel like it either too sweet or too tart. Plus, this dish looks so festive!

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Cranberries

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds/1 kg brussel sprouts, washed
  • 5.3 oz/150 g fresh cranberries
  • 3.5 oz/ 100 g pecans
  • Zest of an orange
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • A little freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Pre heat the oven to 350 F.
  • Place the sprouts on a large baking tray, add the orange zest, olive oil and maple syrup, stir it, and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. At that point, stir it to ensure even browning and bake for another 10. After these 20 minutes, stir again, and then bake for another 10 minutes. (30 minutes in total)
  • Now toast the pecans in a small pan for about 5 minutes, stirring them frequently
  • After cooking the sprouts for 30-35 minutes, add the cranberries and pecans and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • Serve hot with a little sea salt, black pepper and a squeeze of orange if you like.
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Scallop Crudo

Being vegetarian for the first 22 years of my life, my move towards developing positive feelings for seafood has been slow – the first time I ever had seafood that I loved was in New Orleans, but since then, the movement towards it had been rather stalled, except for trips to Seattle which have always provided me more opportunity to try different kinds of fresh seafood. Watching a kid on Masterchef Junior cook with scallops, and being in Seattle again for Christmas last month, I decided that it was high time that I learnt to make a few seafood dishes.

With most holiday dishes being quite heavy, coupled with my enthusiasm for holiday baking (coming soon!), we decided to have scallop crudo as the appetizer for our Christmas dinner. Compared to other kinds of shellfish, scallops are quite easy to clean, requiring nothing more than a rinse, patting them dry and removing the side-muscle if you find any attached. Light and refreshing, the acidity from the orange juice compliments the heat from the Thai chile in this dish really well, giving it the extra kick that it needs – a dish that would actually be perfect during summer.

Scallop Crudo

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • A dollop of white miso
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced (if unavailable, use red jalapeno)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 pound large sea scallops, side muscle removed, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Sea salt

Directions

  • Whisk orange juice, lemon juice, white miso, oil, ginger, chile, and vinegar in a small bowl.
  • Pour dressing onto 4 large rimmed plates. Arrange scallops over.
  • Garnish with mint and chives. Season lightly with salt.

 

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.

 

 

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!

Shakshuka

I’ve been meaning to try cooking Shakshuka ever since I saw it on Smitten Kitchen – and a few weeks ago, when I placed an order for groceries while almost falling asleep, thus ending up purchasing 36 instead of 6 eggs, I decided it was time to try this egg-heavy dish. Of Tunisian origin, this dish consists of poaching eggs in a fiery tomato sauce, often loaded with a lot of spices. Though it seemed like a perfect dish to bring for a potluck brunch, a friend and I decided to cook it for dinner. As you might notice from the recipe, I threw in some predominantly Indian spices as well (such as garam masala) – the yolks turned out nice and runny, and paired with spiciness of the sauce, the saltiness of the feta and the freshness of the parsley atop freshly baked and toasted bread, this turned out to be quite the filling and delicious meal. It’s also an excellent post-workout snack, as it has a lot of protein and not much fat (except from the feta).

shakshuka

 

Serves 3-4. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1  yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onions, chopped
  • Warm pitas or toasted bread, for serving

Directions

  • Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
  • Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
  • Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

shakshuka

Senegalese Peanut Tofu Soup

One of my favorite lunch places in Charlottesville is Revolutionary Soup – located both at the Corner and in the Downtown Mall, this little place offers some of my favorite soups that are absolutely irresistible during the winter. My favorite one  is their Spicy Senegalese Peanut Tofu Soup – as someone who does not even like tofu, I was amazed by how much the tofu had taken on the taste of the tomato and peanut broth in which it had been cooked. So a few weeks ago, we decided to try replicating it, thanks to the recipe I found at It’s Not About the Recipe. We were away for a mini-vacation and this soup, along with some guacamole grilled cheese seemed like the perfect dinner for a chilly evening in a cabin. Though the final version was not spicy like that in Rev.Soup, the rest of the flavor profile was the same and the next time I’ll definitely add jalapenos to the soup as well. This recipe gives enough servings for 5-6 people.

Senegalese Peanut Tofu Soup with a Guacamole Grilled Cheese

Senegalese Peanut Tofu Soup with a Guacamole Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 tsp, chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne or red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups chicken stock or water
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 lb tofu, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. Heat oil over high heat in a large heavy pot.  Add onions, ginger, and sweet potato and saute about 8 minutes until the onion starts to brown.
  2. Add garlic after five minutes.  Add 1 tsp of salt, some ground pepper, and the cayenne pepper.  Cook for two more minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and use the juice to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetable stock or water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter and stir until dissolved.
  5. Puree the soup until smooth using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (since we did not have a blender at that point, we ended up just mashing the mix, and it turned out pretty delicious even when it was a little chunky!).
  6. Add the tofu and cook until tofu is heated through.  Serve hot. Top with scallions and cilantro.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I ate Muhammara for the first time 2 years ago, and I’ve thinking of trying out the recipe ever since then. It’s a Syrian red pepper dip that has a nice, nutty flavor to it from walnuts and is really versatile and can be used as a smear or a dip. Unfortunately, that thought totally skipped my mind while roasting some red peppers and I decided to go with roasted red pepper hummus. This recipe is perfect for eating with pita chips, or what I did – stuffed into some cucumbers. These make for some amazing party appetizers, look good and taste great. Plus, they’re gluten-free, which is good for those who can’t dip pita bread or crackers into this hummus. This recipe can be easily adjusted depending on your preference, so go ahead and experiment with the amount of salt, paprika and cumin you want in your hummus.

Cucumber rolls stuffed with roasted red pepper hummus

Cucumber rolls stuffed with roasted red pepper hummus

Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath

Ingredients

  • 3 large red bell peppers or 1 jar roasted bell peppers
  • 1 15 oz. canned/rinsed/drained garbanzo beans
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Directions

1. If you have fresh bell peppers, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Cut your peppers in half, removing the pith and seeds, and place skin side up on a roasting tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until nice and charred. Allow the peppers to become cool enough to handle, then simple peel away the skin and roughly chop the peppers so that they will all fit in your food processor.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

 

2. Add the chopped roasted red peppers, garbanzo beans, tahini, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, cumin and salt to your food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. This keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.