Friday, May 28, 2010

Baked Eggplant with Mint

The eggplant is native to the region along the Silk Route.... India, Pakistan, and Nepal which reaches all the way to Turkey. I am sure you have seen several varieties of eggplants, long and skinny, purple and big, pink and white and the one I will be cooking today is a small oblong one perfect for stuffing. That is the one on the top middle in the photo.

The actual name for this dish is Imam Bayaldi, which is a Turkish eggplant dish stuffed with tomatoes, onions and garlic. Turkish cuisine is a polyglot of many different cultures... Persian, Central Asian, Mediterranean and Balkan. Along the Mediterranean is where you will find dishes abundant in vegetables, garlic and olive oil. What I love about Mediterranean cooking is that the ingredients are so simple to the staple Mediterranean diet and yet so flavorful. The addition of mint to this dish is an unexpected freshness that creates a symphony of delightful surprise. 

Serves 6


6 Italian eggplants, peeled with stems intact

1 cup olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced

                       1      Make a slit, lengthwise, in each eggplant without opening the ends. Soak the eggplants in a container of cold water with 2 tablespoons salt for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, pat dry and set aside.
Slit the eggplant
Salt the eggplant in a colander
                       2      In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat and slightly brown the eggplants on both sides.
                       3      Preheat oven to 350°F.
                      4      Arrange the eggplants side by side on an oiled baking dish.
                      5      In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add the mint, salt, sugar, ground cumin and tomatoes for the filling and sauté for another minute longer. Remove from heat.
                      6      Open up the slits in the eggplants with your hands and stuff each eggplant with the onion mixture. Drizzle the remaining oil and ¼ cup water over them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until soft.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sautéed Vegetables & Chickpeas in Balsamic Stew (Vegan, Gluten Free)

This dish has a Mediterranean flair with the heavy hand of olive oil and vegetables tossed with chickpeas and lentils in a balsamic vinaigrette. 

A simple dish to prepare that just requires cutting and tossing for a tangy meal. What's more is that the eggplant and mushrooms add a meaty texture to the meal, so is perfectly suited for your carnivorous guests making it a hearty meal. This dish  yields a lot of servings, so if you have a big crowd, this is the dish to prepare. As a side dish, you can serve it with warm Tuscan bread on a salad plate or can even be served as a light lunch. This recipe is an adaption of Suzie Fishbein’s Kosher By Design: Short on Time.

A Note about the Beans:

If you don't have a can of lentil you can always use 1 cup dried lentils in 3 cups of water in already boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Drain and use.

If you don't have a can of chickpeas, prepare ¾ cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight or boil them for an hour for shortcut version. Remove outer layer; drain and rinse.

Serves 8-10


½ cup olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 eggplant, unpeeled and cubed
1 medium yellow squash, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 zucchini, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
3 portabella mushroom caps, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 (15 ounce) can lentils, washed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, washed and drained
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika

                       1      Soak the eggplants in a container of cold water with 2 tablespoons salt for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, pat dry and set aside.
                      2      In large saucepot, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté onion until it turns into a pinkish hue.
                      3      Add all ingredients; eggplant, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, red pepper, lentils, and chickpeas. Stir, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
                      4      Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika; stirring to combine with all the ingredients. Check for doneness if vegetables are tender, if not then cook simmered for another 10 minutes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grilled Haloumi Salad with Citrus Dressing (Gluten Free)

Haloumi, originating from Cyprus, Greece is one of the few cheeses that can be heated over fire and not lose its shape. It is a salty cheese, which would explain why it can be kept for up to a year in the fridge, sealed and unopened. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea. This is a cheese that is too irresistible not to eat over a crunchy green salad with a citrusy dressing.

Like mozzarella, it has the same type of rubbery and layered texture that should be kept in its water  to preserve its freshness. However, haloumi can be fried or grilled, which is really the way this cheese should be eaten as it's the tastiest that way. What makes this cheese so appealing when grilled or fried, is that it becomes crunchy on the outside, yet smooth and soft on the inside.

This is for ONE serving, so modify as you see fit.


Haloumi cheese, sliced into 2 inch rectangles
Large handful of fresh spinach or any other lettuce greens
1/2 cucumber, unpeeled and cubed
1 small carrot, slivered
1/2 avocado, pitted, and cubed
3 strawberries, stems removed and sliced thin
1 teaspoon sunflower seeds (for garnish)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

2 tablespoons Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice*
Salt to taste

* For this dressing, I used Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, which is a sweet citrusy vinegar made with muscat grapes and oranges.

  1. Layer the salad into the bowl as I have listed it in the ingredient list, starting with the spinach and topping off with the seeds. 
  2. In a medium size skillet, over high heat, spray olive oil. Place Haloumi cheese into skillet, and let brown for a few minutes on each side.
  3. Arrange the Haloumi cheese around the salad.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Healthy Afternoon Snack

A little over three years ago, I was 30 pounds heavier. I was working as a Junior High School teacher, not too happy in a homogenized and bureaucratic system... it went completely against my creative free spirited side. In any event, although I was very grateful to teach Science to 34 students with 5 teaching periods a day, nonetheless it came with stress. The stress of dealing with hundreds of kids simultaneously with their needs and learning behaviours. On top of that, there were my Supervisors... that were virtually useless, but they needed to make sure I was teaching in a prescriptive manner. No imagination, whatsoever.

To make a long story short, this all made my digestive system a little too overactive, and over the years I gained weight. Interestingly enough... many teachers that were in the "system" for years gained a lot of weight. I suppose the noshing, nervousness, time constraints of the day and rushed food intake all did not help.

I lost the weight when I left my job and pursued "green movements" which has culminated now into this recipe type blog. Taking the time to prepare my food and sit down properly and do what I love to do all helped me to get trim.

Of course, I still love to nosh, but I nosh on much more healthful things. So today's posting is an afternoon snack that is both healthful, tasty and satisfying.

When it's about 3pm and you are feeling that you need a "pick me up" here is a great snack.
Rice crackers.... virtually no calories with RAW Almond butter (available at Trader Joes for $4.99, as opposed to WF at $6.99) with a light coating of a fruit preserve. In this way you are getting the crunch that many of us need to feel satisfied with some sweetness. Then to top it off... I have a Chai Latte that I brew from "Celestial Seasonings" called BENGAL SPICE with frothed milk. This is by far a much better version available at Starbucks that is made with syrup, and is the closest thing to a chai latte that I have tasted.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cucumber Salad (vegan, gluten free)

Nothing like cooling off on a hot day with a cool refreshing cucumber salad. These variation of cucumbers are the long ones... almost a foot long and longer and it yields so much for this salad. You can prepare this ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use. The easiest way to slice the cucumbers so your hands don't tire from all that chopping, is with a food processor fitted with a metal blade. This is a perfect ornamental salad when you have guests to be placed into a clear tall glass vase.

Serves 8-10

4 English cucumbers, sliced very thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup chopped parsley

    1   Sprinkle salt over cucumbers. Mix and let stand for 1 hour.
    2   In a small bowl, mix and combine vinegar, sugar and garlic. Set aside.
    3   Place cucumbers into strainer and squeeze gently to discard any liquid.
    4   Mix cucumbers with red pepper. Pour dressing into bowl and combine with parsley.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spiced Dried Fruit Quinoa (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Interestingly quinoa is in the family of beets and spinach and originated in South America. It was a staple dish in the Andes, secondary to potatoes. Quinoa is a wonderful grain for vegetarians since it is high in protein and essential amino acids, unlike rice. A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it.

This dish is a Middle Eastern delight with dried apricots and dates enhanced with the aromatic flavors of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger giving this quinoa a rich warm and slightly sweet flavor. In fact it is sweet enough for a dessert, but I suggest it served with a curried vegetable dish. With this dish you are transported with flavors from around the world into your home. This recipe has been adapted from Martha Stewarts, Cinnamon Scented Couscous. I find that most dishes that ask for couscous can be easily adapted for quinoa, a gluten free grain.
Serves 6

1/3 cup almonds, slivered
3 cups water
2/3 cup dates, diced
1/3 cup  dried apricots, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ cups quinoa

                      1      Preheat over to 350°F
                      2      Toast almonds in baking sheet for 10 minutes, stirring once.
                      3      Combine water, dates, apricots, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, salt, oil  and quinoa in a medium  saucepan under a medium high flame.
                      4      Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
                     5      Stir in almonds and serve.
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