Baked Sugar Snap Peas

20160825_184458The sweetness of sugar snap peas really comes out in this dish, which uses only five ingredients and takes just 10 minutes in the oven. I made this on a night when we had leftovers, and it baked while the rest of the meal reheated in the microwave.

Serves 4

8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 shallot, minced
Dried basil for sprinkling on top
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt to taste

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Place sugar snap peas on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with minced shallot and basil and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake 8-10 minutes. Season with salt before serving.

(Adapted from a Publix recipe.)

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomatoes

At our house we try to have a Meatless Monday each week, where we forego typical protein in favor of vegetarian options (though sometimes with our busy schedules, it ends up being a Meatless Tuesday or Wednesday). Aside from the health benefits, a meatless night forces us to be creative in planning our dinners.

But that’s not always easy. The vegetable section of my three-ring recipe binder has mostly side dishes. And the stir-fries that I love to eat will quickly get boring for the rest of the family.

An Internet search a few weeks ago yielded this recipe from Bon Appetit, which was a great success, especially with the soft, warm naan bread I served with it. Even with the curry seasoning, the children loved it. It also kept well in the fridge for a few days.

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Serves 4.

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves
1 red jalapeno, coarsely chopped (I left this out to keep the dish mild)
1 Tbsp. chopped ginger
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, any tough stems removed
Salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chili powder (I left this out too)
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 24-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
Naan bread or basmati rice for serving

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, jalapeno (if using), and ginger; cook until fragrant and softened, about 4 minutes.

Working in batches, add spinach by the handful, tossing to wilt between additions. Cook until fully wilted and bright green, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add curry powder and chili powder (if using) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, tomatoes with liquid, and 1/2 cup water. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer about 10 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with the side of a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thickened and tomatoes are soft. Fold in spinach puree. Serve with naan bread or rice.

Couscous with Spinach, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts

Here is another wonderfully easy and delicious dish, with bursts of sweet, crunchy, and savory. It would taste wonderful alongside seasoned sausages, chicken with a creamy sauce, or crispy baked fish — which is how we had it tonight, together with broccoli.

IMAG2259Serves 4

200g (7 oz.) fresh spinach
2 Tbsp. golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. pine nuts (pine kernels)
1/2 chicken stock cube
200g (7 oz.) couscous
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Wash the spinach and place it immediately in a large pot over high heat. Remove from heat when the spinach is just wilted. (The water from washing it is all you need to wilt the leaves.)

Separately, heat 1 1/2 cups water and stir in the golden raisins. Stir and leave for a few minutes.

Heat the canola oil in a pan and stir-fry the pine nuts for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until golden. Remove the pine nuts with a slotted spoon, then set aside.

Boil 1 cup of water and drop the bouillon cube in to dissolve. Place the couscous, raisins, and pine nuts in a bowl, stir in the stock, and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir well and cover, then leave for 10 to 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

While you are waiting, finely chop the wilted spinach. When the couscous is done, mix in the spinach and add salt and pepper, if you feel it needs it. Serve right away.

Squash Casserole with Cornbread

It took me a long time to find a squash casserole recipe that was actually a casserole and not just another way to cook squash. I was through with baking the squash in sour cream or under melted cheese; even with breadcrumbs, they just came out in a limp spoonful on the plate.

I found plenty of recipes that promised me what I wanted — a big, hearty. main-dish sized casserole — but they all seemed to be loaded with bad stuff. Condensed cream of mushroom soup and whole sticks of butter are delicious, but I was looking for something healthier. And I didn’t want to drown out the flavor of the wonderful yellow squash.

Bingo. After trying several recipes and tossing aside a dozen more, I found what seems to be the copy-cat recipe for a squash casserole at a U.S. restaurant chain. I don’t know if it’s the real thing, but it was the winner for me. The big difference with the others is that it calls for cornbread, which adds a nice amount of sweetness and enough volume to ensure a big, hearty (and not so unhealthy) casserole.

A note on the cornbread: The recipe calls for Jiffy corn muffin mix, which may not be available where you live, but you could easily use another cornbread mix or even your own recipe. Here’s one from Paula Deen I found in a quick search just now that could probably work.

Serves 8
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
6 regular-size yellow squash, diced
1/3 cup butter
1 regular-size yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 chicken boullion cubes
2 cups canned corn kernels
8 oz. mild cheddar cheese, grated

Prepare cornbread mix as directed for an 8×8-inch pan and let cool.

For the casserole, preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Place diced squash in a large saucepan, cover with water, then bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, just until tender. Remove from heat. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Place the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, then saute the onions until translucent. Add salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, and bouillon cubes and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Add drained squash, corn, and cheese, and stir to combine. Crumble cornbread and add to the mixture, then pour in the reserved water and mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared dish and cover. Bake for 50 minutes, then remove cover and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, until lightly browned or you just get too hungry to wait any longer.

NOTE: I halved this recipe and baked it in a 7-inch round cake form with good results. Also, the recipe can be made ahead — prepare and pour into the casserole dish, then refrigerate or even freeze until ready to bake (though if you freeze it, make sure to thaw it before you put it in the oven).

Roasted Cauliflower with Relish

Roasting broccoli is one of my favorite ways to have it — it’s a nice change from boiling or steaming it and dressing it with butter (although that’s pretty delicious too). We decided to try roasting cauliflower this time because we had a bunch of florets left over from crudites at a party. We both thought it was tasty, though I liked the relish and my husband did not.

The recipe, from Bon Appetit, gives instructions for using a whole cauliflower and cutting it into thick slices. I just used the florets and it worked fine. This recipe, by the way, is a great way to use leftover cauliflower — just scale the ingredients accordingly. I also used regular tomatoes (which were leftovers, too) instead of the plum tomatoes.

Implements you will need:
Cutting board
Large knife
Small bowl
Large oven-proof skillet
Large rimmed baking sheet
Blender

Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower
1/2 cup pitted oil-packed black olives, finely chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped or thinly sliced
3 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and quartered

Trim the stem end of the cauliflower all the way to the base, leaving the core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into four thick “steaks,” starting from the center of the cauliflower and moving outward.

Some florets will break off during slicing. Finely chop them to measure about 1/2 cup. Transfer them to a small bowl and mix with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season relish with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 400F degrees (205C degrees). Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook cauliflower steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding 1 Tbsp. olive oil to pan between batches. Transfer steaks to a large rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven.

Reserve the skillet. Roast cauliflower until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium-high heat and add minced garlic and tomatoes, one cut side down. Cook until tomatoes are browned, them turn the tomatoes over and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast garlic and tomatoes until tender, about 12 minutes, keeping the cauliflower in the oven.

Transfer the garlic, tomatoes, and 1/2 Tbsp. oil to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Divide tomato sauce among plates. Place 1 cauliflower steak on each plate and spoon the relish on top.

Malaysian Rendang Curry with Tofu

This is a great curry dish similar to delicious takeout versions, with a curry paste made from scratch. Making this was also the first time I ever got the tofu right in a dish I cooked at home.

The recipe comes from a booklet I picked up at a supermarket in London (I’m pretty sure it was the John Lewis Food Hall on Oxford Street, where I shopped nearly every other day on the way home from work!). It was printed by a tofu company, and looking now on their website, I see they have lots of other good-looking recipes there. No doubt I’ll be trying those very soon, especially now that I know how to cook tofu.

Serves 4

300g (10.5 oz.) firm tofu
3 Tbsp. dessicated coconut
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and sliced (or substitute 1 inch of lemongrass paste from a tube)
1 Tbsp. chili flakes
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 can coconut milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) water
1 tsp. tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water (pulp available at Asian supermarkets)
1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro (fresh coriander), roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

First, prepare the tofu. Rinse the block and wrap in a dishtowel, then place it on a plate with a cutting board on top. Put something heavy like a big cookbook on top to press out the water.

After about 10 minutes or so, unwrap the tofu and cut it into cubes. Heat a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat and fry the tofu pieces, turning often, until browned. Set aside.

Separately, heat a small, dry frying pan and add the coconut. Toast until lightly golden.

In a bowl, blend together the coconut, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chili flakes, ginger, turmeric, salt, and sugar.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large pot or deep frying pan. Add the paste and stir for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add the coconut milk, water, tamarind water, and five-spice powder, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir for another five minutes, then add the tofu and red pepper. Continue to cook gently for another 10 minutes, then stir in the cilantro.

Serve atop steamed rice (jasmine or even basmati). Garnish with cilantro.

Kale Chips

I discovered these via a very cool food blog, A Thought for Food. They are a wonderful way to make one of the healthiest vegetables around, delicious and full of flavor. And they’re so light they practically disappear in the mouth.

The recipe calls for smoked paprika, which I used and really enjoyed, but the blog says you can also change the seasonings to suit whatever taste you like — from chili powder to cinnamon and sugar.

They are a terrific, healthy snack. They might also make a wonderful garnish, maybe on top of a creamy soup or on the side of an entree.


1 bunch of curly kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt, to taste
Smoked paprika, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Wash kale and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems and ribs of the kale. Rip into 2-inch (or larger if you prefer) chunks and place into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top of the kale and mix, making sure each piece is coated. Sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika, or whatever seasonings you are using.

Spread the mixture across baking sheets that have been covered with either parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until each piece has dried up. Let cool before transferring to a bowl.