One Bowl of Veggies, Day 2: Creamy Coconut Soup

It’s day 2 of having a big bowl of vegetables in the fridge (see day 1 here). Today’s recipe is super easy. Simmer coconut milk with some aromatics and then add your vegetables to the pot. Done.

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Què màs? Well, Eric and I are heading to Louisville this weekend to drink our way through the Bourbon Trail. We have an ambitious plan of visiting four (maybe five, if we can handle it) distilleries on Saturday, including Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Heaven Hill, and Willet. We’re quite excited. I’m making a big batch of quinoa patties to sustain us between distilleries, and I’m loading them with veggies. Broccoli, rapini, and butternut squash are getting mixed in for maximum health benefit in addition to herbs and parmesan cheese. This trick of ours – bringing quinoa patties to munch on – also helps us cut down on eating-out costs while we travel. Win-win.

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Creamy Coconut Soup with Veggies

1 13.5-oz can full-fat coconut milk
13.5 oz water (just use the can to measure this)
1/2 inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 stalk lemongrass
salt to taste
mixed vegetables
handful of toasted pepita seeds

In a pot, combine the coconut milk, water, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. To prepare the lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves and cut off the ends. Cut it into 4-inch pieces and smash it with the back of the knife. Simmer the mixture for 20-25 minutes, being careful to never let it boil.

You can heat the vegetables in the microwave for a minute or two to warm them, then place them in a bowl. Ladle the coconut broth over the vegetables and top with toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds.

One Bowl of Veggies, a Week of Meals

Making a giant bowl of veggies has become a nearly weekly ritual. I’ve nearly perfected the art – it takes just the right vegetable combo, proper blanching, and a bit of creativity – but lately I’ve managed to turn my big bowl of vegetables into several different meals, and I thought it was time to finally share. Here we go.

Day 1: Make the veg and eat a simple bowl mixed veg with harissa and yogurt.

Day 2: Creamy coconut soup and top with mixed veg.

Day 3: Miso soba noodles with mixed veggies.

Day 4: Cold kale-veggie salad with coconut-lime dressing.

Day 5: Tacos topped with mixed veggie slaw.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 2

On day 1, I like to keep it simple. After all, I just went through all the work of chopping and blanching and roasting, so I generally throw the veggies in a big bowl with some harissa, yogurt, and a soft-boiled egg. If I have a decent avocado, that will go in the mix as well. The harissa here is homemade, and I’ll include a recipe below, but you can also buy jars of harissa at the store.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 4

Making the harissa was a process as well, since I bought seven different peppers, prepped and processed them each separately, and then mixed then in small quantities until I found the perfect recipe. I actually recommend you do the same because a) it was a fun experiment and b) your palate is likely different than mine. Eric ended up preferring a different recipe than I did, but they both had one thing in common: fresh roasted red pepper. Most recipes for harissa only call for dried red chiles, but the fresh red peppers add a sweetness that works well to counter the bitterness of the dried chiles.

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As for the veggies, you can get creative with it, but the broccoli in my opinion is not optional. Quickly blanched, it just works. The asparagus in this bowl was on sale, which is why it is here, but I would say a good base is always squash, broccoli, and red cabbage. This trio has the perfect texture and color to make it all look so entirely appetizing. Add to that lentils and any other veg that looks good/is on sale.

Big Veggie Bowl 

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 medium-sized head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small butternut, buttercup, or other squash of your choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup black lentils, uncooked
1/2 cup green lentils, uncooked

To save on dishes, I usually use two pots and cook everything in series. But, by all means, if you have 4 pots and you want to wash them all when you’re done, do it all at once! Otherwise, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, put the broccoli in for 30 seconds to 1 minute, MAX. Immediately drain the broccoli (you can reserve the liquid to blanch the cabbage if you want) and place it in an ice bath. Follow the same procedure to blanch the cabbage, though the cabbage can cook in the water for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the black lentils in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer until all the water is gone. Put the lentils in a big bowl and reuse the pot to cook the green lentils.

While all the above is happening, roast the squash. For butternut squash, peel the skin off, but for many other types you can and should leave the skin on. Toss the cubes in olive oil and salt and pepper. For butternut or buttercup squash cut into 1-inch cubes, I usually roast them for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Other squash might take more or less time. Just check them and pull them out when tender.

When everything is finished cooking, mix it all together in a big bowl. Taste it and season as necessary. This big bowl is now the vegetable base for your week’s worth of meals.

Day 1: Mixed Veg with Harissa, Yogurt, and a Soft-Boiled Egg

1 egg
1 heaping teaspoon harissa (see recipes below)
1 heaping teaspoon greek yogurt
1/2 avocado, finely sliced
few big scoops from the big veg bowl

To make a soft-boiled egg, I place a raw egg in room-temperate water (from the tap) and turn on the burner. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, I set a timer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I pull the egg out and run it under cold water until it is cool enough to peel. This timing makes the whites nice and solid and the yolk still runny, but this could vary a lot based on altitude, so play around with it. For example, in Nairobi, I boil my eggs for 5 minutes instead of 2.

Layer everything in a bowl, take a picture because it’s pretty, and then mix it all around. Eat.

Homemade Harissa

To test out the recipes, I bought fresh red pepper, fresh red jalapeño, and five varieties of dried chiles: ancho, morita, mulato, guajillo, and pulla. If you want to do your own chile test, you can follow this method:

1) In a dry skillet, toast the dried chiles one batch at a time. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant but be careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and deseed the chiles as best you can. Keep the different varieties in separate bowls and label them if you need to.

2) Roast the fresh red pepper and red jalapeño. Place the red peppers under a broiler until the skin turns black. Remove them and allow to cool until you can peel the charred skin off. Roast the red jalapeños under a broiler, but not charred. Pull out and remove the stems. I kept the seeds for spice, but you can also remove them.

3) In a food processor, process the chiles. For the dried, toasted chiles, pour some water in until the peppers become a paste. Pour each paste into a jar, label it, and set aside. The roasted red peppers should process easily without water, but the red jalapeños will also need a bit of water and/or oil to form a paste.

4)  Make garlic oil. In the food processer, add 5-6 cloves of garlic and process with 3/4 cups olive oil. Pour the mixture into a pan and heat until fragrant over medium heat.

5) Taste all the chile pastes separately to get a feel for the flavor of each one. Morita chiles, for example, have a very smoky flavor, while ancho chiles are a bit sweet.

6) Start mixing and matching. Each batch should have a mix of pepper pastes in addition to salt, garlic oil, and cumin. In general, per 5 teaspoons of pepper paste, I used 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 tablespoon of garlic oil. Play around with it until you find a combo you like.

Harissa 1

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April’s Harissa Recipe

If you already have the pepper pastes made, here are the ratios I preferred:

2 parts roasted red pepper paste
1 part roasted red jalapeño paste
2 parts guajillo paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

If you don’t have pepper pastes, here are better measurements:

5-6 dried guajillo chiles
1 roasted red pepper
2 red jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s Harissa Recipe

1 part roasted red pepper paste
1 part ancho chile paste
1 part morita chile paste
1 part mulato chile paste
1 part red jalapeño paste
1 part guajillo chile paste
1 part pulla chile paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s is kind of a mish mash of everything. Rather than providing better measurements, I would simply buy a bunch of different peppers, process them according to the directions above, and mix them all together. The exact quantity is probably not as important as imparting a bit of each chile into the final harissa.

Popcorn, 3 Ways

More iPhone photos in this one… sorry. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered to pull out my SLR and take a proper photo. So anyway, this was dinner a couple weekends ago. Popcorn, a bottle of wine, and a Breaking Bad marathon. Thankfully we have finally finished watching Breaking Bad; now we can have our lives back. I will admit to having a small hole in my heart for about two days after we watched the finale, but it healed quickly.

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Anyway, back to the popcorn. My new obsession is sichuan peppercorns. The red ones are more readily available, but the green ones are my favorite. This popcorn was made with the red variety, though. Both versions cause a similar mouth numbness that is just… so. cool. The numbing effect is perfect with spiciness. The red ones have more of an anise flavor, while the green ones verge more toward minty-ness in a way.

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Another relatively recent discovery is dried curry leaves. I found these at a grocery store in Little India in Chicago, but you can order them online easily. I ground them in my spice grinder with a little turmeric and it adds this sort of grassy curry flavor to the popcorn.

The other thing that I love on all popcorn is something green and fresh. Usually this just ends up being an herb, but I had some finely processed asparagus from a dumpling-making session and found that those were great also.

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Popcorn, 3 Ways

This recipe doesn’t really have exact measurements, just ratios. Just sprinkle things on until the popcorn tastes good is my general rule. If you need a tutorial on popping popcorn, there is a great one over at Simply Recipes. I always pop mine on the stove top in a big pot. You can top it with butter, which is of course amazing, but if you want something slightly healthier, pick up an olive oil spray canister and just spray the popcorn. Then mix all the spices together in a bowl and sprinkle it on with salt to taste. Toss the popcorn and top with fresh greenery.

Curry + Pea Shoots

2:1 ratio of ground, dried curry leaves and ground turmeric
finely chopped pea shoots

Spicy Sichuan Peppercorn + Black Pepper

2:1:1 ratio of ground sichuan peppercorns, freshly ground black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes
finely chopped green onions

Truffle Salt + Cheese

truffle salt to taste
parmesan cheese
finely processed asparagus

[for the truffle salt + cheese popcorn, I actually like to microwave it for 15-30 seconds to allow the cheese to melt over the popcorn. yum.]

Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

[Please excuse the poorly-lit iPhone photos.]

I stopped by the farmer’s market this weekend to pick up some peppers for our Sunday afternoon of pickling and canning. In the process, I came across these cute little cherry tomatoes. And kale. And in my search for some type of cheese to throw into this evolving salad, I bought some cheese curds.

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It may seem like a strange combo, but it was really tasty. Be careful when adding the salt because cheese curds are pretty salty already. Eric and I ate this, walked around the neighborhood a bit, then came back and canned 13 jars worth of pickles and pickled peppers. If they turn out like I think they will, I’ll share the recipe on here.

Eric also got his first lesson in mandolin technique when slicing the cucumbers. About two minutes after I showed him how to use it and warned him to be very careful not to chop his finger off – you guessed it – he sliced the top of his finger off. The cukes were fine, though, and so was he. As for me, my eyes burned putting my contacts in this morning from the pepper oils that are still on my fingers, but I think it will be worth it.

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Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

1 bunch Lacinato kale, finely shredded
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup squeaky cheese curds, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh cayenne pepper or other spicy pepper, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, kale, and cheese curds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pepper, and lemon. Dress the salad to your liking and season to taste with salt.

Mushroom Miso Ramen

I love a good bowl of ramen. Lucky for me that ramen shops have been popping up like weeds in Chicago.

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This bowl might not be as satisfying as a fatty, porky tonkotsu, but it is certainly a lot healthier and quicker. Some of the ingredients are definitely specialty items that I picked up at the Japanese and Vietnamese grocery stores. You can easily make substitutions for the harder-to-find ingredients, as noted below. At the very least, the dried shiitake mushrooms are needed to make a tasty broth.

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Mushroom Miso Ramen

Notes:

-Mirin is a sweet rice wine that can pretty easily be found at any asian grocery store or even whole foods. The Seattle Times has suggestions for substitutions.
-There are a few varieties of miso paste. Aka miso is a red miso and shiro miso is a white miso. Awase miso is a mixture of aka and shiro miso, which is what I used here.
-If you can’t find ramen noodles sold individually, just buy the college-standard ramen packages that have the flavor pouches. Same stuff. Just be sure to discard the flavor pouches.
-Any variety of mushrooms will work here for the toppings.
-If pea shoots aren’t available, a more common topping would be sliced green onions.

Broth:

8-9 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup dried bonito flakes (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
1 stalk lemongrass, outer skins removed and sliced in half
9 cups water
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons awase miso paste 

Combine the dried mushrooms, bonito flakes, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and water in a large pot and heat until water comes just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

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Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. You can keep the now-rehydrated shiitakes and incorporate those into the soup if you wish, or save them for later for another use. Add the mirin and soy sauce and stir to combine.

Remove a ladle of the broth into a small bowl. Whisk in the miso paste until it is smooth, and then combine it with the rest of the broth. Set the broth aside and keep it warm.

Toppings:

ramen noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 package cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 package maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms
1 package bunashimeji (beech mushrooms)
baby bok choy
pea shoots or sliced green onions
fried, puffed tofu (optional)
1 package enoki mushrooms
sriracha

Bring a pot of water to a boil and then cook the ramen noodles for ~3 minutes. Remove, rinse with water, and set aside.

Pour the oil in a large wok or frying pan and stir fry the cremini, maitake, and bunashimeji mushrooms. Set aside.

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Blanch the baby bok choy in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately cool in an ice bath.

Cut the puffed tofu into whichever shape you prefer.

Ramen Assembly:

Put the noodles in the bottom of a large bowl. Scoop a few ladles of broth on top, then add your preferred toppings. If you need an extra kick, squirt on some sriracha. Serve hot with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad

I’ve been using my mortar and pestle almost daily lately. I’ve been making loads of tasty salad dressings with it and last night I made fresh basil pesto. What I love most about using the m&p is the way the garlic forms this liquid-y, flavorful paste when you smash it with a little salt. I’ve been getting this mild variety of garlic from the farmer’s market that works perfect in its raw form in a salad dressing.

Green Bean Salad 2

We went backpacking in the Cucamonga Wilderness outside of LA a couple weeks ago, which was pretty fun. It was my first time backpacking and it was pretty brilliant. Now that we have some gear, Eric and I will be doing more camping trips since they’re pretty inexpensive and fun.

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We have a little weekend trip to Portland coming up, also, which will include copious amounts of micro-brewed beer and tasty PNW food. I feel like I should be an advertisement for Southwest since that is who we have been and will be flying for all these trips. This view from my seat was too good, so I turned on my phone below 10,000 feet to take this picture while we were landing. Gasp!

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Green Bean Salad 1

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fresh green beans
garlic scapes, optional
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 small clove raw garlic
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Start by bringing a pot of water – large enough to fit all the beans and garlic scapes in – to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath while the water is warming up. When the water starts to boil, add the green beans and garlic scapes and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the water and immediately put in the ice bath. Strain and set aside.

Slice the onion into thin slivers. Quick-pickling them by soaking in vinegar or lime juice while you’re preparing the recipe is great. I forgot to do this here, but feel free. Otherwise, set aside. Toast the almonds for a few minutes in a dry pan.

For the dressing, smash the raw garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt until it forms a paste. Add the roasted garlic. I like to pan-roast my garlic these days – just throw a couple cloves in a dry pan and move them around until the skins start to darken. Should take 5-8 minutes. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and then add those and the black peppercorns to the mortar and pestle. Crush the whole mixture together and add a splash of olive oil. Remove the mixture into a jar and add the lemon and olive oil. Shake to combine.

To serve, combine the beans and garlic scapes, onion, and almonds with the salad dressing.

Lately

Lately…

I’ve been eating a lot of radishes…
Roasted Radishes 2

pickling everything…
Pickles

and making Heidi Swanson’s Coriander Soba Noodles, with the addition of puffed tofu…
Coriander Soba Noodles 1

I’ve also been editing photos from Ethiopia…
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Ethiopia 39

Ethiopia 60

Ethiopia 108

Ethiopia 261

Ethiopia 270

Ethiopia 374

and Uganda…
Uganda 8

Uganda 39

Uganda 54

Uganda 61

Uganda 59

and Kenya…
Kenya 13

Kenya 32

Kenya 52

Kenya 53

Kenya 70

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Kenya 92

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Kale and Black Lentil Salad

I’m back in the US of A and enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been getting in lots of cuddle time with my kitties and Eric in between all the activities – Lollapalooza, pickling and canning (!), farmer’s markets, and workouts. Eric got my bike tuned up over the summer so we’ve been biking everywhere! Biking = freedom, and it’s been awesome.

I’m working on sorting the 2000+ photos and videos that I took over the past month. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia, one week in Uganda, and then one week on the Kenyan coast. Every part of the trip was different and incredible. What a blissful month.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad 1

One thing I love about being home, though, is the ability to cook the way I like to cook. In the past week I’ve been to the farmer’s market twice and am so in love with the variety of veg we get here in the summer. I bought about 10lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I plan on making bloody mary’s with, and I pickled loads of different varieties of chiles today. The kale in this salad also comes from the market, and while I do enjoy the kale you find all over Kenya – sukuma wiki – I still prefer dino kale in my salads.

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Kale and Black Lentil Salad with Black Pepper + Avocado Dressing

The ripeness of the avocado for the dressing is important – if it’s not soft enough, it won’t mash nicely. You could alternatively use a food processor, but it’s much simpler to just make it in a mason jar. I like it still kind of chunky.

I actually bought the black lentils at a health food store in Nairobi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with other sturdy lentils.

1 bunch dino kale
1/2 cup dried black lentils, rinsed and cooked 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 carrots, shredded on a grater
1 big heirloom tomato, diced

2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
1/2 very ripe avocado, finely diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Remove kale from the stems and cut it into fine ribbons. Combine in a large bowl with the lentils, chickpeas, carrots, and tomato.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with salt to make a paste. Add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds and process until the seeds are crushed and everything is combined. Scoop the paste into a jar and add the avocado and liquid ingredients. Use a fork to mash up the avocado in the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.

Toss salad with dressing and add salt to taste.

 

Montreal, Amsterdam, Nairobi

May was a whirlwind month for me, in part because I was finishing up my final semester of grad school and in part because we were traveling every weekend. Then, of course, there was that looming trip to East Africa to plan for…

Which brings me to the here and now. It’s a lovely, sunny day in Nairobi and rooming with a British engineer, even for only a few days, already has me saying things like “it’s a wee bit wonky” and “do you fancy a drink?”. Louisa, the Brit, leaves in a few days and will soon be replaced by an American, so I’m sure the expiration date for these phrases is coming up soon.

I’ve reunited with all the KDI Kenya staff and enjoyed my first few versions of “How Are You”, as sung by Kiberan children. Perhaps the coolest part about returning to Nairobi is seeing the project that I worked on last summer in it’s nearly-completed form.

Before we get to that stuff, though, I want to share just a few pictures from some recent excursions. The Auerbach clan was busy graduating in May – Eric with his second masters and Ben with a PhD. Then of course there was me with my (first) masters and Ben’s wife, Sam, graduated with her NP. To celebrate, we all made our way to Montreal to eat and explore.

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And now for the story about getting to Kenya… Upon trying to check into my flight on KLM, I realized that I had booked my flight out of JFK for Thursday, May 30, at 11pm. However, I booked a flight from Chicago to New York to catch this flight on Wednesday, May 29, in the afternoon. That meant I had a full day and a half to bum around New York. This was annoying in that I really could have used that extra day at home; nonetheless, I enjoyed my day in New York fitting in some last minute exercise prior to sitting in a narrow airplane seat for the next 20 hours.

BUT THEN… upon actually checking into my flight on KLM, I also discovered that I had a 9-hour layover in Amsterdam. Score one for me! This meant I had plenty of time to explore, which is exactly what I did. See below.

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And now, of course, I am in Nairobi, half-settled into a fully-furnished and serviced apartment and jumping straight into my mile-long to-do list. The apartment is cleaned everyday. They even do our dishes – quite a luxury! And my first few visits to Kibera were met with lots of adorable children.

Big Green Dinner Salad

This big green salad is hearty enough for lunch or dinner. It’s loaded with all kinds of things that you can’t really make out in the picture: olives, blanched broccoli, blanched asparagus, cabbage, arugula, and chickpeas. Blanched broccoli is a recently rediscovered favorite of mine; sometimes I make a dinner out of just that drizzled with some salad dressing. It soaks up the dressing perfectly. I have been making huge batches of this salad in the beginning of the week so that I can grab some easily for lunch or dinner without much hassle.

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I have also been making various versions of a yogurt dressing. It’s so easy: dump yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, and an add-in or two into a jar and shake, shake, shake. This past week, my add-in was a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and a 1/2 teaspoon of coriander. But you could add chopped herbs, crushed garlic (raw or roasted), crushed scallions, sesame seeds, etc. Measurements here are approximate – get creative with it.

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Big Green Dinner Salad

Romaine lettuce, finely shredded
Arugula, finely shredded
Red, green, or savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas, drained
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
1 bunch asparagus, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced olives of your choosing (I’ve been using “fresh cured” olives lately, which are in the black olive section of the grocery store)

1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 raw garlic clove
add-ins of your choosing (for example, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you begin chopping all the veggies. Put the romaine, arugula, cabbage, chickpeas, quinoa, and olives in a large bowl. When the water starts to boil, put in the broccoli and asparagus. Let boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then immediately strain and place in an ice bath. Let the broccoli and asparagus drain completely. When drained, add to the bowl. Toss the entire salad together.

Make the dressing by combining yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and any spices in a jar. Crush the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of flaky sea salt until it is the consistency of a paste. Add the garlic to a jar, put on the lid, and shake until combined. Dress the salad on a per serving basis. The salad itself will last a few days (really, up to a week, though it will begin to wilt a bit) in the fridge undressed.

*Other options to add to this salad: chopped hard boiled eggs, shaved brussels sprouts, finely shredded kale, other grains like farro or bulgar wheat, blanched and chopped cauliflower, fresh roasted sweet corn, mushrooms, etc, etc.