We could all use a little more green in our lives, right? But eating a salad can sometimes be a bit boring. Something I can never get tired of though–roasted vegetables. It’s amazing what a little heat and seasoning can do to ordinary veggies to make them spectacular.
Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a heavy meat dish, to complete a weeknight meal, or even to be the star of the dish. Try it topped with a poached egg and hollandaise for a healthier take on traditional eggs benedict. Yum! This recipe for Herb Roasted Asparagus is so easy and comes together in no time at all. Plus, asparagus just seems so elegant and impressive–no one needs to know how easy it was to make!
- Asparagus, 1-2 bunches
- Herbs de Provence (can find in Trader Joe’s for a great deal)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat an oven to 425 degrees
- On a sheet pan, place a piece of parchment paper — while not necessary to cook, parchment paper prevents sticking and also makes for easy cleanup
- Cut or break off ends of asparagus spears — if using your hands, the fibrous ends will break off naturally. You won’t want to eat these since they’re very woody and tough, but they’re excellent for soups
- Toss the asparagus with enough olive oil to coat, a big pinch of salt, pepper and herbs de Provence — Remember to season aggressively!
- Using a microplane or part of a box grater, add the zest of 1 lemon to the asparagus
- Squeeze the juice from half of that lemon onto the asparagus as well
- Roast the asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they’re tender and slightly crisp
- Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, and a squeeze of lemon
Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds super fancy–and it definitely tastes luxurious!–but is actually far easier to make at home than most people think. In fact, it doesn’t even need cream or milk to make it creamy. You just need to buy the right kind of rice and give it a little love and attention and you’ll be whipping up some restaurant worthy risotto in no time. Flavor it with your favorite mix-ins like roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash or more. Bon appetito!
- Arborio rice, 2 cups — you must use arborio rice for this dish. Arborio rice has a super high starch content and this is what makes your risotto creamy and delicious!
- Garlic, 5-6 cloves chopped
- White wine, 1 cup
- Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian/dairy), 4 cups — if you wanted to do a super rich and earthy mushroom risotto, you could make some mushroom broth by rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms for a truly luxurious risotto dish!
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan (or nondairy substitute such as nutritional yeast), optional but always worth it
- 1 cup of Herb Roasted Asparagus (or your favorite mix-in)
- Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
- Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
- Add rice and toss to coat. Sauté the rice so it gets nice and toasty. This will give it a wonderful and deep flavor later on
- Add about a cup of white wine of your choice — you can also use champagne, sparkling wine etc. Just make sure it’s something you like. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! The flavor will just concentrate as it’s cooking
- Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
- Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, it needs to be stirred. As it cooks and gets stirred, it will start to release its starches which creates the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto
- After about 18 minutes, you will have added several cups of liquid and the ride should be creamy and have expanded. Give it a quick taste for seasoning and to make sure the rice is al dente (should have a little bit of chew left)
- Now would be the time to add anything to the risotto like some roasted asparagus, maple roasted butternut squash if you wanted to go sweet, or anything you like
- Turn off the heat and add some nutritional yeast (if meat meal) to give it some umami or a cup of grated Parmesan cheese if a dairy meal and stir.
- Serve while still warm. To reheat, heat risotto into a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of water and stir until steamy and ready to inhale
I love coming up with new ways to cook with some of my favorite ingredients, especially comfort foods. To me, a big wok full of curry is super comforting and was one of the dishes I made all the time when I moved into my first solo apartment. It’s warm, earthy, spicy and makes me feel good all over. Plus, it’s amazing for leftovers! So, when Mama Lam’s, a local food vendor making and selling their own Malaysian Curry Paste that I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual Queens Taste, event contacted me about partnering up, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try cooking with their homemade, Malaysian curry paste and curating a couple of dishes to use their product in.
I decided to create a curry themed meal featuring Mama Lam’s Curry Paste two ways—a Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon and a Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu. Check out the recipes below and also watch my YouTube cooking demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCoQ8uLQYU.
Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon
- 4-6 salmon filets (skin on)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
- 1 tbsp Sambal Olek or another Southeast Asian chili sauce—Sriracha works fine.
- I recommend not skipping this ingredient, even if you don’t like spicy food. The fish has a warming heat and it is very much tempered by the coconut milk and acidity of the lime juice
- 1/2 can of coconut milk
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces–you can also use 1/2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass from a tube. You’ll find this near the fresh herbs in the market
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 cups of roasted pistachios, shell removed
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
- Create a marinade with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, salt and pepper
- Marinade the salmon for at least an hour and up to 4 hours
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Crush the pistachios with either your hands or a mallet. A rolling pin works well too—this is very cathartic and a great way to take out your aggression. Ha!
- After the fish has soaked, dip the salmon into the pistachios and coat on sides and top with the nuts
- Place the salmon skin side down on a greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is set—The fish should be cooked through, but still a bit pink in the center and very moist. It will continue cooking for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven
- Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice over the top
- This fish is delicious served all on its own with a fresh salad or some roasted asparagus, but is even better with some Curry Noodles!
Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu
- 1 package of firm tofu, 14oz
- 1 pound of broad rice noodles
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1 eggplant—chopped into bite sized pieces. I love to use Japanese or graffiti eggplant for this dish not only because of the beautiful color, but also because it has less water in it than an Italian eggplant, so it’ll be sweeter and stay firmer when cooked down
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp of fish sauce
- 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
- 1 tbsp of Sambal Olek chili sauce
- 1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)—also called green onion or spring onion in some supermarkets
- 1 can of coconut milk—do not use reduced fat as the texture and thickness of the sauce will be off. Plus, coconut milk is a healthy fat
- Vegetable or peanut oil—any high heat oil will do such as canola, corn, grapeseed oil, etc.
- The first step of this dish is to make the crispy tofu—who doesn’t like their tofu crispy?
- Tofu has a lot of water, which is why it usually tastes bland. In fact, the biggest mistake that most cooks make when handling tofu is not getting rid of the excess water. This will never work! Even if you just want to marinade the tofu you’ll still need to do this step
- Put the tofu between two paper towels and press. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and then let the tofu sit between the towels for at least 20 minutes to really draw out the moisture
- Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke a little, then add the oil. It’s important that you don’t add your oil before this as you don’t want it to bubble up and burn you
- Add the tofu to the wok and spread it out in a single layer—you should hear it sizzle. If there’s no sizzle, then your wok isn’t hot enough and your tofu will steam instead of crisp up
- Let the tofu cook on one side for a couple min, then mix it up and repeat this process a few times until it’s crispy on all sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so
- Put your tofu on a plate and place aside for later on
- Heat your wok back up on the stove while you get the rest of your ingredients ready
- Add some more oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions—this is the holy trinity of Asian dishes!
- Let these sauté for a minute, then add the curry paste and heat through, followed by the onions, peppers and eggplant
- Let the veggies cook for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, chili sauce and coconut milk and stir until it becomes a homogenized sauce
- Cook the curry for at least 10 minutes or longer depending on how thick you like your sauce—as it cooks the flavors of the salty fish sauce, spicy chilis, earthy curry and more will concentrate
- Meanwhile, drop the rice noodles into some salted boiling water—off the heat—and let soak for 5 minutes
- Add the par-cooked noodles to the curry and toss together in the wok
- Let the noodles and curry cook together as the noodles absorb the sauce and meld together into one cohesive dish
- Garnish with the crispy tofu, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, and some chopped peanuts or pistachios if you’d like to tie the two dishes together even more
- Eat while still hot or add some sesame oil and have as a cold salad the next day for lunch. Yum!
Enjoy these dishes together with a Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad for a fabulous Southeast Asian inspired dinner at home.
You can order Mama Lam’s delicious Curry Paste here: https://www.mamalams.com/shop-1/curry-sau
To watch the cooking demo for these recipes, click here or watch below.
The other day, someone who I had met at a food festival asked me for the recipe for this Moroccan Chicken. They had eaten it at an event I had catered in Philadelphia a couple of months ago though my catering company, J2Food, and loved it. I don’t always give out some of my more secret recipes, but since she was so nice, I decided to write it up and post it here for all of you 🙂 This Moroccan Chicken dish isn’t actually cooked inside of a “tagine” pot, but it echoes a lot of the flavors that I love when I ordering tagines at Moroccan restaurants — a little bit sweet, salty, sour, savory and the protein is always fall apart tender. It’s very comforting in this winter weather, and is also great to make in the slow cooker! Let me know how yours turns out.
- 1 package of boneless chicken thighs
- 1 large yellow or sweet onion
- 5-6 carrots chopped into chunks
- 2-3 medium onions chopped roughly
- 1 cup of pitted green olives
- 1 cup dried apricots
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- Spices: smoked paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, coriander
- Saffron, 2-3 threads
- 3-4 cups of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 preserved lemons, chopped — can substitute 2-3 regular lemons, juices and zest grated. Can buy preserved lemons at most specialty food stores
- Cilantro (optional)
- Blend the spices and any other spices you like into a rub and divide in half
- Mix one half of the rub with olive oil to form a loose paste and Coat the chicken on all sides with it
- Sauté chicken in olive oil in a hot Dutch oven or deep pot on both sides until browned but not fully cooked through
- Remove chicken and set aside. You’ll come back to it
- In same pot add garlic and onions and cook until starting to brown
- Add carrots and onions and keep cooking
- Add more of the same spice mixture to the pot with the vegetables and heat until fragrant
- Add preserved lemon, lemon juice, saffron, (zest) and cook for a couple of minutes
- Add broth and make sure to scrape bottom of the pot for flavor bits — add just enough broth so that the liquid covers the ingredients
- Add olives to the pot and make sure to give everything a good mix!
- Add the chicken back in and stir all together — taste the liquid and adjust seasonings to your taste. Maybe add more lemon, salt etc
- Heat on medium high for 5-10 minutes, then cover and lower heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 min – 1 hour
- Add parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes on high uncovered
- Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro then spoon over couscous or serve in a bowl with sides of your choosing
I served this dish with some braised collard greens, herb roasted tomatoes and some crusty bread to mop up the sauce. It was a big hit!
The other night I was thinking about what to make for dinner on my way home, when I passed by one of the ubiquitous Halal carts. I don’t know why, but whenever I pass a Halal food cart, I always take a big sniff…it just smells so good! It immediately made me think of Middle Eastern flavors with lots of spices, citrus, and conversation. That night I made chicken shawarma for dinner with fixings, and instead of using store-bought dips, I decided to make my own–and it was so easy! Rustic lemon hummus consists of a quick trip to the pantry for most of the ingredients, and roasted eggplant babaghanoush will make your fellow diners think you’re a spice savant! Try these Middle Eastern spreads at home and you’ll never feel the need to head to the grocery the next time you want to eat some hummus.
Rustic Lemon Hummus
- 1 can of chickpeas—canned chickpeas are super easy and always in my pantry, but dried chickpeas that you soak overnight are really the best for this recipe and will give you a cleaner flavor
- 3 tablespoons of tahini paste
- 2 lemons—juice of both, and the zest of one
- 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- Olive Oil
- Rinse the chickpeas off under cold water until you get rid of all of the gunk from the can off of the chickpeas
- In a food processor or blender–I only had my KitchenAid mixer available, so that’s what I used–add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper
- Start to mix all of the ingredients on low to slowly break up the chickpeas until it becomes a thick paste
- Add in the rest of the spices, and gradually add the oil as you increase the speed to medium
- The hummus is done when it gets to your personal consistency preference—I like mine a bit chunky—great for pita chips!
- Spoon out into a bowl and eat with chips, pita, or use it was a topping for your favorite falafel. Hummus is also delicious as a spread or used in place of mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches
Roasted Eggplant Babaghanoush
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika—this goes well with the roasted and charred eggplant, but regular paprika works just as well
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of cumin—add the extra teaspoon if you don’t have smoked paprika. The cumin has a natural smokiness that can compensate
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
- 2 teaspoons of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fo fresh parsley, chopped
- Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of tahini paste
- 1/4 of an onion, grated
- Hot sauce (to taste)—I like mine spicy, but this dip is delicious mild as well
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit
- Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise—Resist the urge to peel it at this point! The peel will not only help keep moisture in the eggplant flesh, but also hold it together in the oven.
- Use a fork or sharp paring knife to poke holes into the eggplant skin all over
- Rub the flesh side with olive oil and season with 1/2 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
- Roast the eggplant for 20-25 minutes until the skin is charred and the flesh becomes slightly creamy and the outside if browned—you want the skin to get black
- Once the eggplant has cooled a bit, but still hot, use a knife or fork to remove the charred skin—it should come off very easily
- Discard the skin and spoon the flesh into the bowl of a mixer or food processor
- Pulse together the eggplant with the remaining ingredients until it comes together in a thick dip—feel free to blend it as much as you’d like
- Serve similarly to the hummus, and garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice and extra parsley, and enjoy—One of my favorite ways to consume the eggplant is to make sabich, an Iraqi sandwich that consists of hard boiled eggs and fried eggplant on fresh pita bread. Babaghanoush would be a wonderful substitute for the traditional fried eggplant, and maybe add some salty feta cheese to give the sandwich a rich umami flavor
All I know is that both of these spreads are absolutely delicious, and are perfect for any dinner party or even an afternoon snack. You can also feel free to customize your hummus and babaghanoush—substitute cilantro for the parsley for a more Mexican version, top your hummus with some mushrooms sautéed with zhatar spice, or make a festive zucchini version of babaghanoush and spread it on some thick toast and top with avocado. Yummy! I love to simply serve them with some homemade pita chips!
Sorry I’ve been away for a few weeks, but work’s been crazy! This recipe is actually inspired by all of the craziness. I wanted something that was not only delicious, but also comforting. This lasagna is packed full of roasted vegetables, so it’s also a healthy dinner to serve your family. This recipe might seem like it has a lot of steps, but all of them are simple and can be multitasked. So if you want to feed a crowd, or have a lot of leftovers–which are delicious!–try this recipe for Roasted Vegetable Lasagna.
- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes—my favorite brand is San Marzano for its inherent sweetness, but any brand should be fine
- ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 ½ teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 tin of anchovy filets—it’s important that the anchovies are packed in oil as opposed to water since you want to flavor and richness of the oil to help flavor the sauce. Flat filets are also easier for melting into the oil
- 4-5 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 pound of grape tomatoes—quartered whole tomatoes or cherry tomatoes could work in this dish too, but grape tomatoes are a nice size and roast beautifully in the oven
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound of cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
- 2 small to medium zucchini, cut into half moons
- 2 small to medium yellow squash, cut into half moons
- 1 green pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 large onion, chopped roughly
- 1 pound of ricotta cheese—it might be tempting to use low fat here, but use whole milk ricotta—trust me, you’ll taste the difference!
- 1 cup of Parmesan cheese—shredded or grated as long as you’d eat it on your pasta
- 2 eggs
- 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained—Make sure you squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can
- 1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles
- 1 bag of shredded mozzarella—one of those Italian blends works too
- 1 small ball of fresh mozzarella (optional)
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of oregano and salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- Spread tomatoes on a sheet pan and roast for 15-20 minutes
- At the same time, use a second, larger sheet pan for the zucchini, squash, pepper and onion and increase to 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of oregano, and 1 teaspoon of pepper
- Roast the veggies for around 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the components for the lasagna
- Drop the heat to 375 degrees when the veggies come out of the oven
- While the veggies are in the oven, add enough olive oil to a big sauté pan to coat the bottom and heat on medium-high heat
- Add anchovies to the pan and break them up with a back of a wooden spoon—Don’t skip this step! Even if you don’t like anchovies, the high heat will melt the filets into the oil and it will give needed background and depth to your sauce
- Once the anchovy is melted, add the garlic and brown for about a minute or two
- Add the mushrooms—it’s important for mushrooms to be spread out for them to brown evenly. If they’re too crowded in the pan, then they’ll start to steam and turn rubbery
- Once the mushrooms have cooked, season with a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper,½ teaspoon of oregano
- Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and stir—you want the seasonings to be evenly spread throughout
- Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the roasted tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven, and then transfer tomatoes to the sauce
- Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes
- While the sauce is finishing up, you can work on the ricotta layer
- In a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, parmesan, eggs, and spinach, as well as a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together for about 3-4 minutes
- Time to assemble the layers! In a 9×13 baking dish, spoon a bit of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish
- Add the lasagna noodles to the dish in a single layer all the way across—I shingled a little and also got creative by using one noodle that I cracked to fill in empty crevices
- The next layer should be some more tomato sauce
- Next up is a layer of the roasted vegetables
- After the vegetables should be a layer of the ricotta mixture—don’t skimp on the ricotta!
- After the ricotta comes the cheese layer—add about ¼ of the bag of mozzarella cheese over the ricotta
- Repeat the layering another 3 times, and top with a layer of noodles
- For the final layer, add a thick layer of tomato sauce all over the top, followed by the rest of the cheese, and a handful of parmesan—for my top layer, I actually like to use some fresh mozzarella since it melts so beautifully and makes for a beautiful presentation
- I place the whole thing onto a larger sheet tray so that if there’s spillage, it doesn’t go all over the oven floor
- Bake in the oven at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes
Let it cool for at least 5-10 minutes before you cut into it. In fact, lasagna is a great make-ahead dish that you can keep in the fridge for up to 2 days before heating it. If you plan to refrigerate, make sure you add an additional 10-12 minutes to the cooking time. Also, this makes for a pretty saucy lasagna, but if you want you can reserve some extra sauce and spoon it over the top of each piece as it’s served, and garnish with some extra parmesan. Now who wouldn’t want a piece of that beauty? Buon Appetito!
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to experiment, and, of course, make my own version of restaurant dishes at home. Earlier in the day, I had gotten some Indian food for lunch, and of course eaten some fluffy, warm naan bread. The best part of naan—for me at least—is that you can use it to mop up the delicious curries and sauces. So, I asked myself, “What can I dip into my leftover lamb sauce?” Then it hit me—pita! But, plain pita is boring, so what about pita chips? These were so easy to make it’s ridiculous. Make these pita chips at home, and you’ll never feel like buying them at the store again. This recipe yields 18 chips, but feel free to make much, much more!
- 3 whole pita breads
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley–I happened to have fresh herbs for another recipe, but dried herbs would work just as well
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Cut each pita in half lengthwise
- Cut each half into 3 equal sized wedges
- Mix the parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper with the oil
- Let the herb oil mixture sit for about 15 minutes, and set the oven to 300 degrees
- Toss the pita triangles with the herb oil to lightly coat, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet
- Bake the pita chips for about 20-22 minutes, or until they are browned and crisped up
- Allow the chips to cool before consuming with hummus, guacamole, onion dip, or delicious braising liquid from lamb shanks!