Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

A couple years ago, I read this recipe for roasted strawberries and thought, “why would one want to alter a perfect summer strawberry?” Then I bought two pounds of strawberries at Costco – admittedly not perfect summer strawberries – and decided to try it. WOW. wow. The beauty of roasting strawberries is that it coaxes this deep, rich flavor out of even mediocre strawberries. I’m still not sure I would roast those little bright red beauties from the farmer’s market – those just taste too good on their own – but for every other strawberry in the world, this will now be my go-to preparation.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

This was also my first stab at a frozen dessert, and I must say… again… wow. The key here is to consistently churn and stir the yogurt as it’s freezing. If you have an ice cream maker, that works as well, but you can still get pretty nice results by just pulling the bowl out of the freezer every 30 minutes to an hour to stir the mixture around. The more frequently you pull it out and stir it, the creamier the result. As an experiment, I just let a bowl of yogurt freeze without any stirring. I ended up with a bowl of ice, essentially.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (2)

I don’t really like big frozen strawberry chunks in my ice cream or frozen yogurt, so I just used the balsamic strawberry sauce that results from the roasting to flavor the yogurt and then poured the fruit over the top for serving. Much better than giant frozen chunks of strawberries mixed in. You might also notice some raspberries in these pictures. I had a few of those and therefore tossed them in as well.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (7)

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

1 pound fresh strawberries, leaves removed, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch or two of salt

1 quart full-fat plain yogurt
4 tablespoons maple syrup

finely shredded mint, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. On a deep baking tray, scattered the strawberries and cover with a bit of salt and the vinegar. Toss around to coat all the berries, then spread the berries into a single layer in the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. When done roasting, pour the strawberries and all the juices into a bowl and set aside.

In a metal bowl, combine the yogurt, maple syrup, and 1/2 cup of the liquid that results from roasting the strawberries. Have a taste here… the yogurt should taste just slightly too sweet. When it freezes, that sweetness will dull a bit and be perfect. Put the bowl in the freezer. Every 30 minutes to one hour, pull the bowl out and stir the mixture, being sure to scrape down the sides and incorporate any icy parts. Continue to do this until it reaches the consistency you like, between 4 and 6 hours.

When ready to serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into a bowl, top with roasted strawberries and a bit more sauce, and garish with fresh mint.

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Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions

I sat on the stoop this morning drinking coffee, catching up on emails, and doing a bit of work. It was chilly – around 50 degrees – but the sun was shining and I was determined to get some rays on my face. Nothing like the morning sun to set your mood for the day.

Chickpea Pancakes (5)

This recipe comes mostly from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. I added a few tweaks but the pancakes, the layering of flavors, the techniques – all Yotam’s genius at work. In subsequent servings I sprinkled roasted pumpkin seeds and Aleppo pepper on top. Smoked paprika would be lovely as well. The original recipe calls for a dollop of crème fraîche, which we happened to have on hand (homemade, in fact, by Eric!), but greek yogurt would work equally well.

Chickpea Pancakes (1)

So with this spring weather we’ve been enjoying lately, I am more and more excited about summer fun. I recently picked up a new sleeping bag for summer camping adventures. We’ve been borrowing Eric’s brother’s bag for a while now, so it was time to finally invest in our own. It is the coolest sleeping bag I have ever seen, and I’m so, SO excited to use it. I’m really trying hard to not wish away these beautiful spring days until our first camping trip of the season.

Chickpea Pancakes (2)

Chickpea Pancakes (8)

Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions
adapted, slightly, from Plenty

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon za’atar or roasted thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

1 3/4 cups chickpea flour
2 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper
2 egg whites

arugula leaves, to serve
crème fraîche or greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 275. Arrange the cherry tomatoes skin side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the onions, za’atar, and salt and pepper. After a minute, turn the heat to medium and slowly cook the onions until lightly caramelized, around 20-30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then combine with pancake batter. Heat a pan over medium heat and oil generously – enough so the pancakes don’t stick. Pour a small amount of the batter in the pan to form 6-8″ cakes. When holes and bubbles start to form, about 2 minutes, flip the cake and cook for another minute more. Continue until all the batter is gone.

To serve, layer the onions and tomatoes on top of the chickpea pancake. Top with arugula and crème fraîche as well as any other finishes you like – nuts, seeds, etc.

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.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 6

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

Harissa 3

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.

Garlicky, Spicy Pepper Oil

Jeez, has it been that long since I last posted? I cannot believe how busy I’ve been.

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It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Once I turned in my last 20-page paper, I was supposed to spend the day on the couch – watching movies, drinking wine, reading, and maybe even eating some ice cream. Instead, I went to work. And working is what I’ve been doing.

So that’s why I have not yet finished a bottle of wine this week. That’s why I have not read a good book (though I’m slowly working my way through Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America). I have managed to do a bit of cooking, though, which is at least a little satisfying. I’ve been using this oil on pasta, a drizzle on salads… it’d be great on popcorn. Get creative with it.

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Garlicky, Spicy Pepper Oil

3 cups extra virgin olive oil
5-6 (or more) dried chiles – I had some dried chiles that my brother- and sister-in-law brought back from Italy, but any spicy, dried chile will work. Admittedly, I used the whole bag rather than just 5-6, but my oil is
really spicy
5-6 cloves garlic

Pre-heat your oven to 325. Roughly cut the garlic into big chunks. Dry toast the peppers in an oven-proof pan for a minute or two, then add a tablespoon of oil and add the garlic. Stir around for just a minute, then take off the heat, add the rest of the oil, and pop the whole pan in the oven. Roast for 40 minutes. When it’s done, pull it out and let it cool at room temperature before you pour it into a container. You can move it to the fridge or just pour it directly into your pouring vessel of choice.

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

Continuing with detox/salad week, I made this Jamie Oliver winter salad last Wednesday when we were snowed in. With 20 inches of snow outside, it was so nice to wear sweatpants all day long and turn on the oven. Not to mention that it was our first week back to work, and a “free” day in the middle of that week was very much welcomed.

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I went to the book store right when we arrived home from our trip; I wanted to find a Vietnamese cookbook. I found a great one – Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. I’d highly recommend it. The dangerous thing about being in a book store is seeing all the books! Hundreds! Thousands! And of course I can never get out with just one. So I came home with Nguyen’s book as well as Jamie Oliver’s jamie at home. Perfect.

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Eric and I both loved this salad. Really loved it. We couldn’t stop talking about it. In fact, I want to make it again immediately. The only thing I would change: Jamie (yes, we’re on a first name basis) recommends serving it with sour cream; I think a nice thick greek yogurt would be even better (and just that much healthier!).

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Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

from jamie at home

1 pound carrots and parsnips
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried chili flakes (Jamie recommends fresh chillies; I forgot to buy them at the store)
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
extra virgin olive oil (as Jamie would say, a few glugs)
red wine vinegar
1 orange
1 lemon
2 ripe avocados
greens – I used radicchio and arugula
sour cream or greek yogurt
mixed seeds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then pop in the carrots and parsnips for 5-10 minutes – just until their soft. Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, combine the cumin seeds, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Then add the fresh thyme (picked from the stem) and garlic and keep smashing. Then add a glug of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. When the carrots and parsnips are done, rub this mixture of goodness all over them.

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Place the carrots and parsnips on a roasting pan along with the orange and lemon, halved. (I threw in a key lime for good measure, but it’s not necessary). Place in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.

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While the carrots and parsnips are roasting, halve the avocados and slice them. When the carrots and parsnips are done, assemble the salad. If using radicchio, you can grill the leaves to remove some of the bitterness first. Then layer the greens, carrots, and avocados.

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Prepare a dressing by mixing the juice of the roasted orange and lemon with some olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, then top with a bit of greek yogurt or sour cream and some mixed seeds.