Tofu and Cucumber Salad + Africa Pictures

So this recipe is not at all African. It just so happens that I’ve made it twice since I have been here. I have not (and will not) stock a full pantry here for a mere two months, so I am trying to create some recipes with just a few basics. I have soy sauce, and oil and vinegar, and I bought a nice spice mixture called Pilau Masala, which is used for making a rice dish called – you guessed it – Pilau. So with just a few items, I have been throwing together this nice little salad.

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I never really wrote much about our 2-week pre-internship trip through Tanzania and Rwanda. It was yet another wildlife-centric trip for us, with just a bit of beach and city time on each end. I only have photos from Zanzibar and Rwanda uploaded to flickr right now, so safari photos will have to wait until next time, but here is a little preview of my favorite photos from those two places.

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Sunset at Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

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The evening sun illuminates a building in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Eric eating chapati while watching a local soccer match

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The red colobus monkey of Zanzibar

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A mass grave at Kigali’s genocide memorial, Rwanda

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Eric paying his respects to the victims buried in the mass graves

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Locals participate in gorilla conservation by entertaining hikers each morning

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Manicured streets of Kigali, Rwanda

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Rwandan countryside

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Silverback gorilla posing for the camera

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Female gorilla, contemplating

In other news, I have settled into a work routine here in Nairobi. Many days I will wake up and head to Kibera to meet up with the KDI Kenya team. Others I will work from home if I have to use internet or the computer. We have not had many days off yet – public meetings need to happen on weekends when people are home from work, so that means Saturdays and Sundays have so far been off limits for traveling.

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Soccer field in Kibera

It is striking to me what a different world Kibera is – especially compared to the wealth you see in other parts of Nairobi. You enter Kibera on foot because there are not really roads – just dirt paths that are steep and uneven. When you walk in, you see row after row of small businesses – a clothing shop or a butcher, a vegetable stand or a hair braiding salon, a tailor or a knife sharpener – each set up in its own little tin-roofed shack. Further in, you can start to smell the fragrance of Kibera. If it’s a warm or sunny day, the smell can be especially strong. Sewage, sweat, and animals (including farm animals such as goats and pigs) are the main scents I can identify. Trash collects at dumping grounds along the river and is scattered along the paths. The rivers are essentially open sewers, and in many places in Kibera, the stream runs black.

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Trash builds up along the river; there is no formal garbage collection system in Kibera

The extravagant wealth that you can find in other parts of Nairobi may not exist in Kibera, but you will still find well-dressed men and women, children attending school, eager entrepreneurs, and happy, friendly people. As I walk through – with my pale skin and blonde hair – children break into a sort-of song and dance, chanting “how are you” as they stomp their feet and run to shake my hand. High fives and fist pumps are huge with the kids. And if you respond to their “how are you” – if you say “I am fine, how are you?” back to them – they will often giggle and turn their head shyly. The younger children know few English words beyond that.

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School children love posing for the camera

Tofu and Cucumber Salad

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1 english cucumber, halved and sliced
1/2 medium sized daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 package tofu, cubed
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon vinegar (preferably rice vinegar, but I used red wine as I had none on hand)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Combined tofu, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a sprinkling of vinegar in a container and marinate tofu for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and combined. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, water, vinegar, and honey. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate.

When the tofu is done marinating, pour some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, making sure it is in a single layer. Let sit for a couple minutes until 1 side of the tofu has a crispy, golden edge. Stir around or flip the pieces and continue until most or all sides of each piece are crispy. Combine the warm tofu with the cold salad and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Cheese-less Pizza

Eric and I have started a Friday night pizza ritual. We generally pick up some multigrain pizza dough from Whole Foods, though making your own is just easy (but messier!). It seems crazy that I only recently brought home my first haul from the farmer’s market. My Saturdays have been so busy, I just never had time to go. Nonetheless, we turned Friday night pizza night into Saturday morning pizza day because we wanted to load up our pizza with fresh veg from the market. We also bought baby kale, sorrel, and radishes for a perfect spring salad.

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Radishes are cute, aren’t they?

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We eat most of our pizzas without cheese these days. I already have enough of a cheese habit – I don’t need it on my pizza, also! The key, then, is really good tomatoes. We always buy San Marzano in the can for this pizza, then load on tons of fresh garlic and black pepper. I rarely make an actual sauce – the tomatoes with fresh garlic are enough to make this a great meal.

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And for the salad, I just juice some lemons into a mason jar, put in equal amounts of olive oil, sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it up and drizzle it on – easy.

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So there’s no real recipe here. For this particular pizza, we chopped asparagus into little discs and sprinkled them all over. Fresh slices of an heirloom tomato went on top, and make sure to sprinkle salt over the whole shebang. And seriously, do not skimp on the garlic. I think I added 5-6 cloves to this pizza. I minced them finely, but sometimes I’ll just do thin slices. Eric and I have been practicing making pizza so that he can make it perfectly while I’m gone all summer. His version will likely include granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic, but even he can handle rolling out the dough and smearing canned tomatoes all over it!

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing

This post comes a little late. Or a lot late. I made this at least two months ago, and the early spring has us eating asparagus and ramps rather than squash now, but it’s still good so I figured I’d share.

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And speaking of sharing… did you know I am going to Africa this summer?! I accepted an internship position with an NGO that works in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. I am really, really excited to test out the waters of working for an NGO and be confronted with new and probably life-changing challenges. Hopefully I will post more about my job at a later date and throughout my time in Kenya, though I cannot promise anything until I get a real sense of how I will be living over there.

In other exciting news, Eric and I will be traveling through Tanzania for 2.5 weeks prior to my start date in Kenya! I am still in research mode, which involves lots of spreadsheets, books, and websites, but rest assured, we will be visiting the Serengeti at least and checking out some awesome African wildlife. Other parts of the trip are currently unplanned, and they may remain that way until we hit African soil.

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing
inspired by 101 Cookbooks

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 16-ounce package extra firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil, like grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon white miso
juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
5 tablespoons water

Steam the squash until just fork tender or even just a little underdone. Also make sure the tofu has no moisture by patting it dry in a towel.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, miso, acid (lemon juice or rice wine vinegar), chile flakes, and water. Set aside.

In a pan, heat the neutral-flavored oil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu cubes in the pan in a single layer and let it sit for a few minutes, until the bottom becomes crispy brown. Toss the tofu around a bit to get the other sides browned (if you want to be meticulous here, you could brown each side of tofu, but after one side is browned, I usually just toss it around let it sit for a few more minutes – the lazy way). Add in the butternut squash (and a bit more oil, if needed), and stir it around with the tofu. Let this cook for a minute or two. Finally, add the kale and stir around until it gets soft – just a minute or two.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the dressing. Serve warm.

Raw Radish Salad

This little salad is something I have been making lately. It’s simple, which makes it nice when I’m packing a lunch in the morning. The combo of really good extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt makes the humble little radish taste like something you have never known before. Who knew?!

I also just noticed that I accidentally deleted a bunch of my pictures from Flickr, which makes for a bunch of broken links on this blog. Bummer. Not sure when I will get around to fixing that with my busy schedule these days. Might just have to wait until Spring Break!

Raw Radish Salad

radishes, however many you want, thinly sliced
drizzle of really good evoo
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

Do you really need me to spell it out for you now? Mix it all together and serve!

Shaved Carrot Salad

I don’t have too much to say this week. Things are busy as usual. This is a nice little Jamie Oliver recipe adapted to be a simple carrot salad (the original included lamb). Pretty tasty!


adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home cookbook

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

1 pound carrots

Start by toasting the cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat. They’ll toast quickly, so the minute you start to smell them, pull them off.

In the meantime, start peeling carrots. I shaved mine with a vegetable peeler, but you could also grate them on a box grater. Since the carrots are raw, you want a finer cut so that the carrot doesn’t overwhelm the dressing.

Crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle, then add the garlic and ginger. Smash a little more, then add a glug of olive oil. In a separate bowl, pour in the mixture from the mortar and pestle in with the rest of the olive oil, garam masala, and vinegar. Stir well to combine. Pour over carrots.

Moroccan Chickpea & Millet Salad

Part of being back in school with a totally new schedule is figuring out how and when to eat. I used to have a pretty routine schedule – breakfast at home, sandwich for lunch, run, dinner at home. For one, I’m pretty sick of sandwiches. I just can’t eat them anymore. And two, I’m not home or away at such predictable times anymore. One thing I have been doing to make sure I always have food with me (after all, now that my income is about a quarter of what it once was, we and I cannot afford to just go buy a $10 lunch whenever I am hungry) is to make a big batch of interesting and nutritious salads. I’ve also been carrying around homemade granola that is pretty awesome – I’ll share that recipe soon also.


Anyway, this recipe was inspired by this Moroccan Chickpea recipe I saw recently on Serious Eats. I changed it up a bit and added some millet to add a little more substance for lunch. Millet is a new favorite of mine. It sort of feels and tastes like couscous, and it cooks up very quickly. I’ve also been looking for a way to use the preserved lemons that I made at the beginning of the summer, and this recipe fit perfectly. You can make your own by following this recipe or just use some fresh lemon zest and a little salt.


Moroccan Chickpea & Millet Salad

Extra virgin olive oil
~1/2 pound spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 large tomato
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 preserved lemon rind, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup millet
salt and pepper

Combine the millet with 2 1/2 cups water in a pot, let the water come to an almost boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let it sit for 20-25 minutes. Sauté the garlic in a little olive oil in a large pan for a minute or two, then add the chickpeas. In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs, tomato, cumin, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Add this mixture and the red wine vinegar to the pan with chickpeas and garlic and stir to make sure all the chickpeas are covered in this mixture. Now add the spinach and continue to cook until there is no more liquid in the pan. Pull off the heat and set aside. When the millet is finished, toss it with the chickpeas, preserved lemons, and salt and pepper.

Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad

Tonight is my last night of scuba diving class. It has been fun spending my Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last two and a half weeks taking quizzes and breathing underwater, but I’m glad it is almost over. The classes extend a half hour beyond my designated bed time, you see, preventing me from getting my required 9 hours of sleep each night. Nonetheless, it’s pretty cool that I now feel comfortable with the act of breathing through a regulator underwater.

I have been meaning to obtain my Open Water Diver certificate ever since I studied abroad in Australia in 2006. As a student, it was too expensive, though I did do a “resort dive” in the Great Barrier Reef, which allowed me to go underwater with a scuba unit for around 20 minutes, albeit holding on to an instructor’s hand.

Before Eric and I went on our honeymoon, I thought of taking classes also, but Eric had some anxiety about it. So we held off, promising that we’d do another “resort dive” when we were staying on Pom Pom Island off the coast of Borneo – off some of the very best dive sites in the world. It’s true – the diving and even the snorkeling is amazing there. Better than any snorkeling I’ve done elsewhere, including the Great Barrier Reef. Eric happened to catch a cold when we were there, and after watching the video that shows your lung exploding, he didn’t want to risk it. I dove, again holding on to my smarmy Italian instructor’s hand, and thought it was awesome. With that, I decided to take the plunge and invest in Open Water courses and my very own snorkeling gear.

bye bye water bungalow
Water bungalows at Pom Pom Island

lion fish!
Lion fish in Borneo

It’s nemo

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Eric “makes the snorkel”, as our Italian dive master would say

Anyway, what does this have to do with potato salad? Nothing, really, but it is a fun little intro. This potato salad is full of all kinds of springy, healthy goodies. Nearly all my ingredients came from the market – including the Russian fingerling potatoes, asparagus, stinging nettles, and green garlic. It’s a versatile recipe, though, so if nettles and green garlic aren’t available or don’t float your boat, a simple vinaigrette would work nicely as well.


Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad with Stinging Nettle and Green Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 pound fresh asparagus
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3-4 stalks stinging nettles, leaves only
1-2 stalks green garlic, chopped into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 can tuna packed in olive oil
1/4 cup capers

Start by boiling the potatoes. Fill a pot with cool or room temperature water. Plop in the potatoes and bring to a boil. Boil them until they are al dente or just underdone. Strain out the water and put the potatoes in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. Slice the potatoes into thin discs and set aside.

Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, shred the asparagus into this strips, keeping the heads in tact. Bring another pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the shaved asparagus in for 1 minute, then remove. Mix with the potatoes.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, nettles, and green garlic in a food processor. Process until the oil is emulsified and the solids are nicely ground. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste, as well as some additional lemon juice or vinegar if needed.

Finally, strain and rinse the can of tuna. Combine the potatoes, asparagus, capers, and tuna, then toss with the dressing.

Spelt Berry Salad

Would you believe that I have never done yoga before? I should say, rather, I had never done yoga before – until this week when my friend Tracy dragged me to a hot yoga class. And then I went to the sculpt yoga class – hot, humid yoga with weights. If you know me, and you know my propensity for fainting, then it should not surprise you that I almost passed out. The cool breeze that blew into the studio when the doors opened smacked me in the face and pulled me out of that haze.

Unfortunately, I did not come home to eat this salad – it was eaten up weeks ago. It would have been the perfect post-hot-yoga dinner, though, so maybe next time I’ll be more prepared. If you don’t have spelt berries, any other grain would do – wheat berries, brown rice, barley, etc etc.


Spelt Berry Salad

1 cup spelt berries or wheat berries
1/2 English cucumber, diced
couple handfuls of arugula
juice of 1 lemon
splash or more of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Cook the spelt berries similar to the way you would cook rice. I just tossed mine in the rice cooker with 3 cups of water.

Prepare the dressing by combing the shallots, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and white wine vinegar. If the dressing is too oily, add more vinegar. Season it with salt and pepper and set aside.

When the spelt berries are cooked, combine with the arugula and cucumbers. Chop some parsley and mint – to taste. I probably used about 1/4 cup of each, but that can be reduced. Mix the herbs with the other components, then stir in the dressing. Serve cold or room temperature.

This would also be great with the addition of kalamata olives, avocado, or a different combination of herbs, so play with it.

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.


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.


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!).


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.



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.


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.


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.

Kale Salad with Seeds, Nuts, and Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Whenever we get back from vacation, Eric and I have a sort of detox week. We eat salads, try to get back into the regular workout routine, and try to shake off the jet lag. Today, with snowpocalypse painting our windows white, we came home early from work for a night of wine, The Wire, and this kale salad. The candle is burning, the down blanket is on the couch, and we’re watching the storm – it’s nice to eat a healthy salad knowing we can’t brave the outdoors for a run.


I had a similar salad at Prune in New York. It was a simple salad with pine nuts, parmesano reggiano, and a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. I added a few more nuts and seeds, and at the last minute, I decided to throw in warm garbanzo beans. It was a good choice. A poached egg would be excellent with this as well.


Last night was the first night we could get groceries, so tonight was our first real night of home cooking, and I figured a healthy, nutrient-rich salad was in order. With all the news of the impending snow storm, grocery stores were packed to the brim last night. No parking spots, no carts, picked-bare shelves, and 30-minute waits to check out were the order of the night. I picked up the last bunch of lacinato kale and tried to round up the rest of what I needed. Paired with a bottle of wine, this dinner made for a nice, healthy, indoors kind of night.

Kale Salad with Seeds, Nuts, and Roasted Garbanzo Beans

inspired by the Kale Salad at Prune in NYC
measurements here are rough – vary the ingredients depending on how big your bunch of kale is.

for the salad:
1 bunch lacinato kale
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
teaspoon or so of raw sesame seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, and raw slivered almonds
1 teaspoon nice aged red wine vinegar
parmesano reggiano cheese, shaved
fresh ground pepper and salt

for the roasted garbanzo beans:
1 can garbanzo beans
extra virgin olive oil
mix of seasoning – I used a smoked hickory salt, cumin, and granulated garlic

Prepare the kale by removing the thick stems, then roll up the leaves and chiffonade the kale (aka, cut into thin strips). Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil and let it marinate while you prepare the garbanzo beans.


Heat an oven to 450. Drain and rinse the beans, then dry them off, removing any husks that rub off in the process. Toss them with olive oil and the seasonings of your choice. Roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes – they’ll turn a dark, golden brown and will be crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

Toss the kale salad with the rest of the ingredients – vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cheese, and the nuts and seeds. Serve with the warm garbanzo beans.