Saturday, April 27, 2013


This soup is Gazpacho's cousin.

On the surface they seem similar, both a rich red color and loaded with tomatoes. They both feel light and refreshing. Both are loaded with garlic.

That's where the similarities end.

Whereas gazpacho is loaded with veggies, salmorejo gets its heft from a generous dose of olive oil, almonds and toasted bread.

Gazpacho is made at the height of summer, with the freshest vegetables imaginable. Salmorejo is more forgiving. Sure, fresh, ripe tomatoes would probably be best, but it's almost equally delicious in the dead of winter, loaded with canned plum tomatoes.

There's something fantastic about having a soup that tastes this fresh in early spring, months before tomatoes show up in the market. We drank it by the cupful, literally.

I topped it with chopped hard-boiled eggs. The true Spaniard would add chopped ham, but I left it out.

The leftovers froze beautifully and made a perfect meal for another night.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chickpea, Freekeh and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Za'atar

The bagel shop down the street introduced me to za'atar. It features prominently in one of their breakfast sandwiches: a whole wheat everything bagel, sliced and toasted, topped with thinly sliced hardboiled eggs, and then drizzled with olive oil and za'atar.

It's the perfect sandwich for mornings when you want to really eat, like those long train rides to museums outside the city or the mornings when you rush off to a workshop and know you won't get a break for hours.

My dad sent me a huge box of za'atar. Delightfully huge. Big enough to fill a large canning jar plus some. It felt like Christmas came early.

The thing is, you generally only use a few tablespoons of za'atar at a time, which means I've got a lot of experimenting to do.

I could use up all the za'atar my dad sent in this salad, just making it again and again every week.

Whatever you call this--salad, hearty main dish, a bowl of perfection--it's just delicious. The za'atar brings a Middle Eastern flavor to the dish, and the lemon juice brightens things up. The roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions add a bit of sweetness, and the eggplant and carrots give you something to look forward to in every bite.

I ate this hot, at room temperature and chilled, and I loved it every way.

This salad does require some significant preparation, but I spaced it out over the course of two days. When I put the chickpeas and freekeh out to soak, I chopped and roasted the vegetables and caramelized the onions. The next day, I simply needed to boil the chickpeas and freekeh and mix everything together. Simple.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Marinated Olives with Lemon

Simple can be best.

A cup of black coffee, roasted from the perfect beans.

A stroll though the farmers' market on a Saturday morning.

Chocolate peanut butter cookies just out of the oven.

A fresh, green salad overflowing on my plate.

Homemade pillows. Lots of them. In various sizes and patterns.

And these olives, marinated for a few days (or for two or three weeks) with lemon, olive oil, garlic and pepper. The lemon lingers in the background. It's present without being overbearing.

These olives come together in a few minutes, and then get thrown in the refrigerator until you need them. They need some time to come to room temperature before you eat them so the oil melts.

They make the perfect addition to a make-ahead appetizer table.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are all about flexibility.

You see, I ran out of brown sugar about a week ago, and I forgot to pick some up at the store last weekend.

Disclaimer: I could have solved my problem. Easily. Within a five-minute walk from my apartment, there are at least two 24-hour grocery stores and bodegas that would definitely have brown sugar. Also, it was the middle of the day. And it was beautiful out. I could have left the house and enjoyed it.

Needless to say, I didn't. I proceeded to make cookies with no brown sugar, substituting molasses and white sugar instead.

I was nervous at first. The dough had that distinctive molasses taste at first, and I worried it would show its face in the final product. It seemed too strong.

I persevered. I kept eating cookie dough. All of a sudden, I didn't mind the molasses at all.

Then I let the dough chill for a few hours and baked it up.

I bit into the first one before it cooled.

Delicious. No molasses taste at all. Chewy, with a bit of a crunch on the outside. Just loaded with chocolate chunks. 

I made these cookies for my mom to celebrate her birthday, loaded with oatmeal just like she likes them. I shipped them off this weekend in hopes they'll be to her today. 

Happy birthday to you, Mom! Sending lots of love your way. Like the molasses, I hope these cookies will substitue a bit for my absence. Wish I could be there with you today!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How To Enjoy Hosting A Dinner Party

Ever hosted a dinner party and realized, at the end of the night as you crawled into bed exhausted, that you didn't really get to enjoy it at all?

 Sure, there's a lot of enjoyment to be gained from watching others devour food you made. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that you spent all evening in the kitchen, while your guests socialized in the living room. I'm talking about not being able to hold a conversation of any significance because you keep getting distracted by that pot that's boiling over or the bread that's almost too toasted in the oven.

Thankfully, I'm not that girl anymore. I've learned a lot these past few years about how to host AND enjoy a dinner party.

You can do it too. I promise.

1. Start planning in advance. At least a week in advance, I choose the recipes I'll make. I read through them, mapping out how much of each ingredient I need to buy. Then, I schedule out what I'll do each day leading up to the dinner. I try to do less time-sensitive jobs, like picking out what bowls I'll use for what dish, in advance.

2. Choose make-ahead appetizers. Think roasted nuts, marinated olives or a cheese plate. Look for dishes that can be prepared in advance and easily uncovered just before your guests arrive. It's so nice to have snacks out when guests show up, and having them prepped in advance ensures you're ready.

3. Prep, prep, prep. Once you've mapped out how much of each vegetable you need, prepare it in advance. Before my last dinner party, I peeled and trimmed five heads of garlic. I chopped six onions and thinly sliced two others. I roasted four peppers and chopped two more. I saved time the day of because so much prep work had already been done.

4. Be realistic. Don't make every dish a show stopper. This is one of the areas where I struggle the most. I made homemade bread for my last dinner party, and I felt like I had to tell people so they knew and could appreciate it. Everyone would have been just as happy with store-bought bread, and I could have saved myself a few hours of work. Pour your energy into one or two main dishes your guests will really savor.

5. Don't worry about what you can't control. Did a bowl of crackers crash to the ground and shatter? Someone spill tomato soup all over the rug your mom made? It happens, and there's nothing you can do about it but reassure your guests that it's ok, and get started cleaning it up. Stressing out about the situation will just make you and your guests feel bad, lessening everyone's enjoyment of the meal.

6. Sit down and eat. Even if the dinner is casual, take the time. Drink refills can wait for a few minutes. People will survive for five minutes without more salad. You worked hard, and you deserve the time to savor the meal. Clean your plate, and then get up.

Following (almost) all of this advice lead to one of my most enjoyable dinner parties yet (more recipes and photos to come).

What's your best advice on enjoying the dinner parties you host?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower and Lima Bean Stew

This is the little black dress of soups. You can eat it every day for a week, and, just by switching up your toppings, feel as though you are eating something different.

Monday. Caramelized onions.

Tuesday. Chopped raw apple.

Wednesday. Smoked salmon.

Thursday. Olive oil and paprika.

Friday. Mini garlic croutons made out of homemade bread.

Saturday. Oven-roasted tomatoes.

Sunday. On its own. Delicious.

I'm linking up with Healthy Vegan Fridays. Visit to see a ton of delicious, healthy vegan dishes!