The year is 1990, Greenwich CT. I’m in kindergarten and my teacher is going around the room asking everyone what they ate for breakfast that day. Some kids said eggs, some said pancakes, pop tarts were for sure mentioned, and then it was my turn. I proudly and confidently yelled out “Lebneh.” My teacher and fellow classmates looked slightly confused. I of course had no idea that Lebneh wasn’t an american dish, and as far as I knew it was as common as two eggs over easy with a side of bacon. I went on to explain what it was, and the confusion remained, it was then I realized that though I was born in america I was very different from my classmates. With a mother who grew up in Egypt, and a father from Lebanon, the food I grew up eating was most diffinetly not common in my home town. This became something I was slightly embarrassed about. I totally got over it with time and now proudly introduce these dishes to friends, and now to you all!
Now let me explain exactly what Lebneh is, but first let’s start with what makes it special; za'atar.
Za'atar is a middle eastern mix of spices that can be used in many different ways. You can add olive oil to it, and eat as a dip with pita bread. It’s great on hummus, or used to spice meats, vegetables, and fish. But I most commonly use it with Labneh which is a strained yogurt, thick and slightly sour in flavor, which you season with za'atar, olive oil, olives and eat as a sort of dip with pita bread. It’s usually prepared as a breakfast dish, but I have no rules when it comes to this…I pretty much eat it everyday, day or night. You can find Lebnah at middle eastern specialty stores, but you can also use greek yogurt, or regular yogurt that you’ve strained with cheese cloth over night. Greek yogurt is easiest to use, and super easy to find.
For the za'atar, in a medium frying pan on medium heat, toast, occasionally tossing around, the coriander seeds till fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they can burn easily. Once toasted, transfer coriander seeds to a bowl to cool.
Next, in the same pan, on medium heat, toast the cumin seeds till fragrant and darker in color for a little over a minute. Make sure to toss with a wooden spoon while they’re toasting, again they can burn easily. Transfer the cumin to the bowl of coriander seeds to cool as well.
Now, on the same pan, toast the sesame seeds till golden in color for about 30 second tossing the whole time. These toast very fast. Turn of heat, and transfer sesame seeds to a different small bowl.
Using a coffee grinder, place a few spoonfuls of the cumin coriander seed mixture at a time. Grind to a fine powder. Transfer ground the ground cumin and coriander to a new bowl. Grind all till all the seeds of ground.
Mix in the sesame seeds into the ground cumin and coriander mixture. And now you got yourself some za'atar! Store in a jar at room temp. Done!
For the Labneh, spread yogurt onto a plate. Season with salt, and sprinkle dry mint on top. Add the zatar to one side, and drizzle oive oil over the labneh. Serve with some olives and eat with pita bread.
In a medium pot, on medium heat, heat up a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and sauté till garlic is golden. Add the beans, sprigs of cilantro, and a good pinch of salt. Then add enough water to barley cover the black beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer the beans for about 5-10 minutes. Taste, and season more if needed. Let the beans sit in the pot while you prepare everything else.
For the salad, in a bowl, add the cabbage, cilantro, jalapeño. Dress with the lime, olive oil, salt and pepper.Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Set aside.
Slice up an avocado, lay out on a plate and squeeze some lime juice over it, and sprinkle some maldon salt on top.
Put out a bowl of sour cream, and extra lime slices.
Place the black beans in a serving bowl, and discard the cilantro sprigs. If the beans are too watery, strain the water out.
Toast as many tortillas as you’ll be needing over an open flame on your stove top. Put them on a plate, and serve away!
To make the taco, add a few spoon fills of the beans to a tortilla, then the cabbage salad, some slices of avocado, and a dollop of sour cream. Had some hot sauce for some spice, and enjoy!
Winter Kale Salad with Warm Roasted Sunchokes and Butternut Squash
5 oz baby kale
7 medium sized sunchokes, makes about 1 cup once sliced
butternut squash, 1 cup cubed
3 garlic cloves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
parmesan for garnish
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons o fresh lemon juice
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 crushed garlic clove
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of freshly crushed black pepper
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, but now that the holidays are over, and work is chilling out a bit/a lot, I have all the time to continue sharing my recipes with you fine folks. I thought I’d start the new year off with a salad…because lets face it, we all want to start eating healthier and working out once the new years begins. It may not be a resolution that lasts the whole year, but it’s nice to try it out any way. I know I’m going to get to the gym one of these days…maybe.
What I think is important to eating healthy is that what you’re eating doesn’t have to be boring and bland. You can make a salad hearty, healthy, and packed with flavor. With this salad, you’ve got kale, which is a great source of iron, vitamins A and C, fiber, among several other benefits. For some unique flavor you’ve got roasted butternut squash and sunchokes. Basically, this salad is great and easy to make, it even impressed my salad hating boyfriend. Here’s a start to a healthy (with the occasional cream based recipe) happy, successful year.
preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Scrub, clean, and dry the sunchokes. Cut each one in half length wise, and then slice about ½ inch thick slices. Set aside.
Cut the butternut squash into about ½ inch thick cubes. Lay the butternut squash and sunchokes out on a baking sheet. Throw in the rosemary sprig and 3 garlic cloves. Toss everything together with ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and a drizzle of about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Pop in the oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender and golden.
While the sunchokes and butternut squash are roasting, rinse and dry the baby kale. Set aside in a large salad bowl.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl, taste and adjust seasoning or add more lemon if necessary.
Once the sunchokes and butternut squash are done, discard the rosemary and garlic cloves (save garlic cloves to spread on some bread, or eat them alone…immediately…like I did) add them to the salad bowl with the kale while they’re still warm. Toss the salad with half of the dressing. If you think you need more dressing, add more. If not, set the remaining dressing in the fridge to use another time.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve while the veggies are still warm, and garnish each serving with some parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
½ medium sized butternut squash cut into small cubes (yields 3 cups once squared)
1 large shallot, minced
3 tablespoons of butter
½ cup heavy cream
½ parmesan, freshly grated
3 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
Hillshire Farm approached me with a fun opportunity to create a seasonal, quick, and easy recipe using their smoked sausage. When I think of this time of year, my mind always goes to butternut squash. You’ve all heard me rant about how much I love it, and I thought it would pair really nicely with the sausage. So I decided to venture out from the typical butternut squash risotto…everyones favorite. I thought, why not take that staple of a dish, and make it more exciting and different. Using farro was a great replacement to risotto rice, a healthy one at that. And by adding sausage which is such an easy addition, it makes for a great hearty dinner, and it barley takes any time to make.
In a deep sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Once melted and slightly bubbling, add the minced shallot. Sautee in the butter till translucent, then add the cut butternut squash. Let that cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the washed faro, some salt and pepper, and stir. Once the faro is well mixed with the shallots and butternut squash, add the 3 cups of water and cover. Keep the water at a constant boil for about 10-15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the faro is cooked.
While the faro is cooking, slice your sausage a half an inch thick. Heat up a medium sized frying pan on medium heat, and pan fry the sliced sausage till crispy and golden on each sides. About 5-8 minutes. Once the sliced sausage is done, transfer to a paper towel covered plate as to absorb any access oil.
When the faro and butternut squash are cooked and tender, bring the stove to a very low heat, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, heavy cream, and parmesan. Mix well, till the cream has slightly thickened, and butter and cheese is melted. About 1 minute. Turn off heat, and mix in the crispy slices sausage and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Taste, and add more cheese if desired.
Tip* When serving, garnish with fresh minced parsley, and more grated parmesan.
I know most people think of basil when they think of pesto, but there are so many different ways of making it. I’ve been playing around with a lot of varieties, including switching it up with the nuts (pine nuts are traditionally used in pestos), adding anchovies…and spinach has been once of my favorites. Make this and store in your fridge for up to 5 days. Can be eaten with pasta, in sandwiches, fish…I’m honestly trying to add this to anything and everything.
Yields about 1 cup.
Wash and dry the spinach well. Add the spinach to a food processor as well as all the other ingredients minus the salt and puree into a pesto. Taste, and adjust flavor with salt. No more than ¼ teaspoon of salt.
Broccoli Salad with Purple Collards and Husk Cherries
2 cups of thinly sliced broccoli
1 cup purple collards, shredded (collard greens, or kale can be used instead)
¼ cup of husk cherries, halved (red or green grapes can be used instead)
¼ cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon of minced onion
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons garlic vinegar, white wine vinegar is fine too
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
This is a great salad to make beforehand and eat later. With broccoli, and collards being such thick greens, you don’t need to worry about them getting soggy. Instead you can expect for the flavors to become more intense and delicious the longer they sit together.
I know purple collards, and husk cherries are intimidating ingredients, but if you have the means of finding them, I say go for it! The purple in the collards make such a pretty color palette mixed with the green of the broccoli, and the orange of the husk cherries. Though if you want to replace them with kale or grapes, this salad will be just as delicious. I guess the painter/makeup artist in me came out in this recipe and demanded PRETTY COLORS!
Serves 2-4 as a side salad
Whisk together all the ingredients to the dressing in a small bowl. Set aside.
Wash and dry the broccoli. Thinly slice the broccoli including the stems. Set aside in a salad bowl.
Wash and dry the collards and thinly slice (shredded). set aside with the broccoli.
Halve the husk cherries and add to the bowl. Toss the dressing with broccoli, collards, and husk cherries. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve right away, or prepare before hand and keep in the fridge. This salad definitely tastes better when all the flavors have marinated in the fridge a bit. You can add grated parmesan to this when ready to serve.