Category Archives: dinner

BBQ Eggplant Tacos

Who doesn’t love BBQ and tacos? And who doesn’t love even more when those things are put together? After a bit of change in my plans on Sunday, I was left to fend for myself for dinner. I hemmed and hawed about what to make. I flipped through saved recipes and some cookbooks. Nothing was really jumping out to me. I wanted to crump, but didn’t want to push it. I had the time to make something that was a little more elaborate, but didn’t feel like dirtying my freshly scrubbed kitchen too much. I also really wanted to put BBQ sauce on something/everything.

Ok, a little backstory here. R and I were out running errands on Saturday, when we stumbled into Williams Sonoma. Well, the culinary Gods were smiling upon me that day, for Williams Sonoma had a BBQ sauce tasting bar set up. WHAT?! It had a bowl of tiny spoons next to a line of artisan BBQ sauces. There was a cherry chipotle, smoked vidalia onion, jalapeño-peach… all in squirt bottles just begging to be squirt into my mouth. R said I was embarrassing him as I made us lap back to this magical place multiple times (he is just lucky I was being civil enough to actually use the little spoons and not just squirt it directly into my mouth/all over my body). Whatever. Oh, they also had a bowl of chili-lime corn nuts. I am a sucker for corn nuts. And by the third lap I had the stroke of genius to start squirting the BBQ sauce on the corn nuts. It was truly magical. I want to go to there now.

But I digress. I didn’t feel like doing the standard BBQ tofu (but I will admit, while I am typing this and am woefully out of the BBQ eggplant… I plan on supplementing the leftovers with some BBQ tofu), so I was thinking that the meaty texture of eggplant would hold up nicely to some thick and tasty BBQ sauce. Also, the one thing that had popped out to me from my Millennium cookbook was this peach-lime chutney, which I thought would pair nicely with the BBQ sauce and replace the standard salsa. And instead of a traditional slaw, I topped these bad larries with a super simple fennel slaw.

These tacos were, for lack of a better phrase, stupid good. I will be honest, while I may not make the chutney again, it worked here. But I can’t wait to make the BBQ eggplant again and build some more fun entrees around it!

BBQ Eggplant Tacos

Adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian and The Millennium Cookbook
 
Materials:
  • Tortillas of choice (I like La Tortilla Factory)
  • 2 eggplants (I used 1 and it was just enough for me)
  • olive oil
  • your favorite BBQ sauce
For the Peach-Lime Chutney
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lime, with peel, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger
  • 1 jalapeño, de-seeded and finely diced
  • 2 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
For the Fennel Slaw
  • 1 head fennel, shaved on mandoline
  • 2 tablespoons vegan mayo
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
Methods:
To make the BBQ eggplant
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise.
  3. Generously oil a rimmed baking sheet and place eggplants cut side down in olive oil.
  4. Roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Remove skin from eggplant and squeeze out the excess moisture.
  7. Lightly tear apart the flesh and then smother it with BBQ sauce, massaging in the BBQ sauce so every bit of eggplant is covered.
    • Lick your hands clean.
  8. Place back in oven for 20 additional minutes.
To make the Peach-Lime Chutney

  1. Bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan.
  2. Add the lime and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the lime and set aside (you may want to give it some more chopping action at this time).
  4. Heat up the vinegar and sugar in a medium skillet until the sugar has dissolved and it takes on a bit of a syrupy consistency.
  5. Add the ginger and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant.
  6. Add the peaches, pepper, and lime.
  7. Saute for additional ~7 minutes.
  8. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool.

To make the fennel slaw

  1. Toss the fennel with the remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble

  1. Warm up your tortillas either in a skillet or quickly in the microwave.
  2. Spoon in the BBQ eggplant and top with the chutney and slaw.
  3. Enjoy!

 

Weeknight fancy: Herbed zucchini and blossom pasta

Beautiful flowers from my beautiful bestie, Awesome A :-D!

Wow. I am going to jump right into it with this post: this dish is one of my favorite things I have made/eaten in a while. Sure, some of my pleasure from this dish is derived from the fact that many of the ingredients came straight from my garden (my first harvest!), but it was also straight up delicious. Delicious to the point where even Reasonable R kept talking about it… almost as much as he talked about the jalapeño beer cornbread.

Now, what is this magical dish I speak of? Let me break it down. First, I harvested a few baby zucchini… nay, adolescent zucchini and their attached blossoms this week (in addition to a few childless male blossoms). They were delicate and beautiful and perfect and I loved them. Next, I took a few steps over to my herb garden and snipped off some of each… parsley, pineapple sage, mint, basil, and lemon thyme. Finally, I strolled on to my CSA box to complete the dish with a large juicy tomato (since I probably still have a few weeks before my dozens of tomatoes turn red). The only pantry items that supported this dish were some quinoa pasta and some tofu. Wait, did I say tofu? I meant homemade tofu ricotta that fooled Realistic R. SO. DELICIOUS. I am definitely making that more often.

The zucchini blossoms add such an awesome floral note to it, the tofu gives the dish a nice silkiness, and the herbs just give it so much flavor. The star of the dish though? The zucchini. They were so tender and were an absolute pleasure to have in my mouth. My zucchini plant is going to be producing prolifically this summer, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I steamed up a side of broccoli and sat down with my gorgeous meal to catch up on the last couple episodes of the Bachelorette. Don’t judge, please… especially when I am here to share with you such a delicious, nutritious, and easy weekday meal! Oh, and did I mention the whole thing took maybe 20 minutes to prepare?

Herbed Zucchini and Blossom Pasta with Tofu Ricotta 

Materials:
Tofu Ricotta
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
Remaining Ingredients
  • 1 lb your favorite pasta
  • olive oil
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup assorted fresh herbs, minced
  • 3 or 4 zucchini blossoms (or a few more if you have them), chiffonaded
  • salt
  • pepper
Methods:
For the Tofu Ricotta

  1. Mash the block of tofu with your hands in a mixing bowl until is has sufficiently crumbled.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to mash with your hands until is resembles ricotta cheese.
  3. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.

For the Pasta

  1. Cook pasta accordingly.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and zucchini and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the zucchini is barely softened.
  4. Gently toss together the cooked pasta, lightly sautéed zucchini, tomato, herbs, zucchini blossoms, and tofu ricotta with a light drizzle of olive oil and a shake of salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Enjoy immensely!

More corn and more salad

Ok, the time has come. I have no flight reservations coming up, no trips, no big school events, etc. And I couldn’t be more excited! I had a few weeks of travel that all culminated with my birthday weekend this past weekend (Happy Birthday to me!). I had an amazing birthday where I felt immensely loved and taken care of, which is the best way to spend your birthday. From a new (zoom) lens from my amazing parents and a family reunion at some old stomping grounds in Michigan to a surprise birthday dinner at Chez Panisse and homemade birthday cakes in Berkeley from my amazing friends… it truly was a treat and I feel very blessed!

But alas, time to get down to business around here, especially as summer produce is flooding our farmers markets and our gardens. When vegetables are grown organically and picked fresh and ripe, they are at their most nutritious. When farmed organically (without the use of pesticides, etc), the plants must rely on their natural defenses to stay alive. This means that they produce more protective compounds, which are then passed on to you when you eat it. Also, when they are at their ripest, it is when the plant is saying, “ok, i’m ready for my seeds to be spread, in return I will give you a nutrient packed treat!” So, I encourage you to take advantage of the produce that is out right now!

Which brings me to this salad. I was in Michigan, which for anyone who has visited there, has lots of corn… and a 100 degree day on the 5th of July was a perfect day for this corn salad that my mom has been waiting to try out. It is the perfect refreshing dish for a summer barbecue. We added some chickpeas to it to make it a filling main dish and served it at a little get together and it was enjoyed by all! I jazzed it up a bit with extra basil and some mint and it was incredibly palate pleasing and a great way to cool down on a hot day. Also, a big shout out to Elaine for providing the adorable star plate and the other props for this dish :-).

Fresh Corn Salad
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
 
Materials:
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper (I used orange), finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cups arugula
Method:
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and set aside to allow the sugar to dissolve while preparing the rest of the salad.
  2. Toss together the fresh corn kernels with the fresh of the finely diced vegetables and dressing.
  3. At serving, gently fold in the arugula.
  4. Enjoy!
    • Preferably with family and friends at a summer BBQ :-).

Many apologies via parsley pesto

I owe you an apology. Many apologies, in fact. I have been MIA. Sure, I could go on and on telling you how busy I have been, and while that is partly true, I refuse to use it as an excuse. My free time has been jam packed with one social obligation after another, though. I had a friend visiting, during which time I spent my days in Napa, visiting Alcatraz, trekking in Muir woods, BBQing, or stuffing my face with food truck food. I was also away for 10 days at a conference in New Hampshire on lipoprotein metabolism (which was exhausting, awesome, and filled with wonderful people). Not to mention the plethora of needless eating out I have been doing. And then on the days that I was just chilling at home… I wasn’t making anything noteworthy.

That is with the exception of this parsley pesto… which I made weeks ago… and am only posting now. So embarrassing.

Parsley overfloweth in my herb garden, so I knew I wanted to do some garden fresh parsley-heavy dish. And what better way to use up a big bunch of parsley than to blend it into a fresh pesto?! I didn’t have any pine nuts on hand, but I did have some walnuts… and obviously plenty of garlic.

I tossed this pungent (and I mean that in the best of ways… the parsley flavor is very strong in a very very good way) sauce over some quinoa pasta with some fresh cherry tomatoes and called it a night. Simple as that! And then I enjoyed it on my balcony, looking at my newly trimmed herb garden. Next up, the mint and the pineapple sage need some tending to… in general expect some herb heavy recipes this summer.

Parsley Pesto
Materials:
  • 1 bunch of parsley (roughly 2 cups), stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil (ends up being about 1/2 cup)
  • salt
  • pepper
Methods:
  1. Add the parsley, walnuts, garlic and lemon juice to a food processor and process until a uniform paste forms.
  2. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil until a smooth sauce consistency is reached.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss with pasta and enjoy!
    • If serving with pasta, reserve a bit of the pasta water to thin out the sauce and help it coat the pasta nicely.

Not your average salad

Remember my spiel about salads? Right.

Well here is another reminder that salads don’t have to be boring! Or limp. Or soggy. This salad is about as crunchy and zippy as it gets. Lemon juice, vinegar, and jalapeños for brightness, corn and cabbage for crunch, all cooled off by some tomatoes. We have ourselves a winner!

Isn’t cabbage pretty?

Oh, do some of those ingredients look familiar? Ya, I haven’t been to the grocery store… so I am in throwing-together-what-I-have mode. Also because I have been trying my hardest to use everything from one grocery trip before going again to avoid wasting food. Well turns out 1 head of cabbage takes me forever to get rid of, so the cabbage you see popping up in all my recipes all hails from the same head of cabbage. I have begged cabbage-loving R to take it off my hands… but lately I think he has had enough of eating foods that leak red color into him (the same guy who complains that beets taste like dirt has been drinking beet/dirt juice nightly… at least when he isn’t too busy making oatmeal smoothies?? I don’t know about that one…). And the lemon juice you see in the recipe? Oh, just from a lemon that I GREW. NBD. I have a meyer lemon tree as part of my balcony oasis, and said little lemon tree currently has roughly 30 itty bitty teeny weeny little lemons on it!

Expect lot so of lemon recipes this summer…

Anyways, if it means eating this salad every night until the cabbage is done, then I am A-OK with that!

Spicy Cabbage and Corn Salad
Materials:
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
  • Fresh kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced thin
  • Juice from 1 meyer lemon
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped mint
  • salt and pepper to taste
Methods:
  1. Toss all of the above ingredients together.
  2. Enjoy!

I eat barbecue sauce with a spoon.

Really. It’s a problem.

People usually can’t wrap their mind around a vegetarian with such an obsession with barbecue sauce, but alas, you are reading the words of (and then hopefully making the food from) one. I can’t even tell you what it is that I love about it. Everything, maybe? I’m not super picky… if the label even hints that it is barbecue sauce, then get me a spoon. Stat. Lest I use my hands.

And I suppose eating sauce from the jar with my hands is probably not lady like (who is this girl?!).

Luckily, I had some tofu sliced up and ready to go when I grabbed the barbecue sauce this weekend.

I also had some tomatoes roasting in the oven, and some leeks sliced up… and some grits cooking. I didn’t have much of a plan, but this dish came together SO nicely! It was the perfect Sunday night dinner after spending the day planting a garden on my balcony.

I’ve one to Scarborough Fair….Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

The BBQ tofu is simple and classic, and the grits are there to catch any stray barbecue sauce. The caramelized leeks on top give it a nice crunch, and the tomatoes daintily sit atop every bite, doling out their burst of sweetness. Also, you can make all the components at the same time… so even though it seems complex, it really is still a 30 minute meal. Huzzah!

BBQ Tofu 
with Grits, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Leeks

 
Materials:
  • Olive oil
  • 4 campari tomatoes, halved with seeds removed (or whatever you have)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grits
  • 1/4 soy milk
  • 1 leek, sliced and cleaned
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
Methods:
For the tomatoes
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Place the tomato halves on a lined baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a shake of salt, and place in the oven for roughly 30 minutes.
For the grits
  1. Bring the water to a boil in small sauce pan.
  2. Add the grits, return to a boil, and then turn down to very low.
  3. Cook covered, with frequent stirring, for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the soy milk, and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste
For the leeks
  1. While the grits are cooking, heat up some olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the leeks.
  2. Sprinkle the leeks with salt, and then cook over low for about 20 minutes, until tender.
For the tofu
  1. Heat up some olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the tofu and allow to sear for about 7 minutes per side.
  3. Pour in the barbecue sauce, making sure each piece is nicely coated.
  4. Cook for additional 5 minutes.

 

Spring salad

I enjoy salads as much as the next vegetarian, I suppose.

No, scratch that… I enjoy salads less than the average vegetarian (who I made up for the purpose of this argument). It isn’t so much that I dislike the idea of a salad, or raw vegetables… it’s just that salads are usually so uninspired. As in, if we are defining salad as “a bowl of raw vegetables tossed in oil and vinegar,” then count me in. But, if we are talking “bowl of limp iceberg lettuce with some hard tomatoes on top,” then count me out. Far out. As you can see, my issue is that most of the bowl is taken up by lettuce. I have nothing against lettuce… but I would rather have the space taken up by other vegetables. Everyone’s favorite parts of a salad are the dressing and the toppings, anyways, right? So why not make a salad that is ONLY toppings?

The few years post college, I started doing just that. My idea of a salad was garden fresh tomatoes (my mom is a prolific tomato grower in the summer), cucumber, fresh corn, avocado, red onion, and Ken’s steakhouse italian dressing (yes, that is my favorite dressing and can be added to my odd list of favorites under fake maple syrup and above barbecue sauce). Delicious! So whenever I see a salad that is sans lettuce, it peaks my interest… which is exactly what this salad did. I made it for dinner one night last week and it was AMAZING. My word, it is so refreshing and flavorful. It has a super light dressing, but then the salad almost dresses itself as the tangerines burst in your mouth with every bite.

Well this weekend, when I was craving an equally refreshing salad (it has been pretty hot here lately), but had none of the ingredients left, I threw the following salad together. I had bought some radishes and asparagus, and knew I wanted to do something raw with the asparagus. And a little birdie once told me that radishes are delicious (but not as delicious as soup). AND I had a grapefruit that needed to be eaten. So it looked like I was on my way to a pretty delicious salad. And I was right (said with M emphasis)! It is crispy and crunchy and tangy and smooth. The radishes do their thing, and then the asparagus does its thang for the rest of the day. Lovely, just lovely.

Asparagus and Radish Spring Salad
Materials:
  • 1/2 bunch radishes
  • a few spears of asparagus
  • 1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 grapefruit, supremed
  • 1/2 cup snap peas, halved
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Methods:
  1. Slice the radishes and asparagus thinly using a mandolin.
  2. I cut the asparagus crosswise into medallions, but feel free to try ribbons if that is what you prefer.
  3. Toss everything together and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Enjoy!