Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips”

This has to be my new guilty pleasure!  OMG, it’s such a burst of salt and vinegar flavor in my mouth.  I’ve always LOVED salt and vinegar potato chips, but I haven’t had a bag of chips in so long.  So when I came across this recipe, I just knew I had to make them soon.  Well, I’ve made these twice and with every bite I take, I mouth out how “these are the best things ever!”  Martha Stewart is a genius.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips” (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes; add more vinegar if necessary).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 15 minutes (original recipe calls for 30 minutes, but we found it to be way too vinegary).  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Tandoori Tofu… a delicious twist from the traditional chicken tandoori.

tandoori, tandoori tofu, tofu tandoori, tandoori tofu kebabs, tandoori tofu kebobs, tandoori tofu skewers

Too captivated by the season finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” that I can’t even focus on writing a blog post.  The competitors this season are all so phenomenal!  Have you been watching this show?  If so, who do you want to win?  I’m voting for Melanie!

I hope you enjoy the tofu recipe… it was a delicious alternative to the traditional chicken tandoori.

Tofu Tandoori

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon sweet (not hot) paprika
1 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
2.5 tablespoons lemon juice
4 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) box extra firm tofu, cubed

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, then cook the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and paprika, stirring often, until fragrant (approximately 2-3 minutes). Let cool completely.

Whisk in the cooled spice-oil mixture into the yogurt, then mix in the lemon juice, garlic, salt and ginger.

Coat the tofu in the marinade, cover and chill for at least two hours.

Prepare your grill so that one side is quite hot over direct heat, the other side cooler, not over direct heat. If using charcoal, leave one side of the grill without coals, so you have a hot side and a cooler side. If you are using a gas grill, just turn on one-half of the burners. Use tongs to wipe the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. Take the tofu out of the marinade and shake off the excess. You want the tofu coated, but not gloppy. Skewer the tofu and put it on the hot side of the grill and cover.  Cook 2-3 minutes before checking.  Turn the tofu so it is brown (even a little bit charred) on all sides.

Conversely, you can also cook this in your oven.  Preheat the oven to 550 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place tofu onto baking sheet, and put into the oven.  Bake for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Turn on the broiler, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes to char the tofu a little bit more.

Serve with lemon wedges, and grilled sliced onions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

watermelon feta salad

What a delicious sweet and savory combination! Who knew watermelon and feta paired so well together! When I first saw this combination on one of the food competition shows, I thought it sounded and looked strange. I didn’t get it. But I also didn’t get the sweet and savory combination back then either. And mind you, this was many, many years ago before I became a glutton for food. We’ve been buying seedless watermelons at the farmer’s market for the last month, and it finally dawned on me to try this salad tonight! OH EM GEE, why did we not try this salad sooner?!

Watermelon and Feta Salad

1 (2 to 3 pound) seedless watermelon, rind removed
1 large block of feta
2 cups good quality balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Special equipment: 2.5 inch cake ring

Place the vinegar in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. Heat on low, so that you have a light simmer. Reduce until syrupy, or to desired consistency, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Be careful not to burn the balsamic reduction. Once cooled, store at room temperature.

Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out watermelon rounds and cut it in half horizontally. Set aside.

Depending on the size of your feta block, cut into 3/4-inch thick layers. Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out feta rounds. Set aside.

Arrange the salad with the watermelon slices on the bottom, followed with the feta rounds, and then two fresh basil leaves. Repeat until all the watermelon and feta rounds have been used. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction, and finish with fresh cracked black pepper.

Ratatouille’s Rat • a • too • ee

We were in Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago and while ordering coffee and pastries for breakfast at Little T American Bakery, our eyes gazed over towards their lunch menu.  Low and behold, there was a ratatouille panini sandwich with goat cheese.  My mouth began to salivate.  A lot.  If only it was lunch time, as I thought to myself.  I’m pretty sure that thought was mutual between the both of us.  Before we left with our coffee and breakfast, I muttered under my breath that I had to HAVE that.  Well, unfortunately, we never had a chance to make it back to Little T’s for lunch.  But it’s been on my mind ever since.

I was feeling inspired to make ratatouille when we were perusing all the different varieties of squash, eggplant, and bell peppers that the farmer’s market had to offer.  I mean, how hard could it be to make ratatouille?  If a rat can do it, then so can I! ;)

This was really fun and easy to make.  I only wish I had a better mandoline.  I purchased a Pamper Chef mandoline a few years ago only because a friend swore by hers.  I have yet to find it useful.  It’s the most clumsiest kitchen tool that I own.  Ugh.  I tried to use it again today, but after a minute of frustration, I decided to slice the vegetables with a knife.  It came out fine, but the vegetables were a little uneven.  And being the most anal person that I am, it bugged me that they weren’t all exactly the same thickness.  In fact, it still bugs me.  But I’m trying to get over it.  Anyhow, this dish has reminded me to get rid of the Pampered Chef mandoline, and to invest in a REAL mandoline.  Basically, I love any reason to buy new kitchen toys… I mean, tools :)

[p.s. Try to buy vegetables all within the same diameter.  As you can see in the picture, the zucchini I used was a lot smaller in diameter when compared to the rest of the vegetables.  So I had to use three zucchini in place of one medium to large zucchini.]

[p.p.s. if you like ratatouille, you should try my roasted ratatouille bisque with parmesan crisps... I'm know, such a shameless plug.]

Ratatouille’s Rat • a • too • ee (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
1 medium Italian eggplant (small in diameter)
1 medium zucchini (small in diameter)
1 medium yellow squash (small in diameter)
1 longish red bell pepper
1 (15-ounce) can San Marzano Tomato Puree
Extra virgin olive oil
Few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval [or whatever you have on hand... I used a square baking dish] baking dish. Drop the minced garlic and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the shape intact.

On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. [If you have a handful of sliced vegetables left over, don't fret... just make another ratatouille! Trust me. You'll want leftovers!]

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside [or over it, which is what I did. I didn't have the patience to cut the parchment paper to fit and it came out just fine.]

Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone with a little tomato sauce drizzled around the plate, on pasta, or pressed into a panini sandwich with some good crusty bread. Yum.

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

Hummus

I laughed at my parents when they bought a small freezer for their garage.  In fact, I thought they were silly for needing extra freezer space.  I told them to just clean out their freezer and it’ll open up lots of space for them.  Well, I ate my words recently.  I seem to eat my words often :)

Our freezer in the house was filled to its capacity, from top to bottom.  I even cleaned out the freezer and tossed out foods that we were no longer going to eat.  But it was still full.  We were shoving things into every little nook and cranny that we could find.  So much so that one of our shelves toppled over because it was weighed down so heavily with meats/seafood.  It was also getting to a point where we would have to take out all the items from one of the shelves just to find one item we needed.  It was just ridiculous.  I finally broke down.  I, too, bought a small freezer for the garage.  We moved all of our meats and seafoods to the extra freezer.  It was liberating!  We can actually see what’s in our freezer in the house, and pull things out without everything tumbling onto our toes!

I was embarrassed to tell my parents about the purchase, but sucked it up and told them.  This time they laughed at me :)

Hummus

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), no sodium added
1/2 cups tahini sauce
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Paprika (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Drain excess water.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon. Process. Adjust seasoning again with a half teaspoon of salt. Repeat until the seasoning is to your liking.  [If you like it creamier, add a little more water. If you like it more citrusy, add a little more lemon juice.]

Spoon hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Makes 3 cups.

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

Homemade spicy tuna handrolls are our go-to meals when we feel like having sushi.  We have a great fishmonger, Stan, that sets aside fresh ahi tuna for us.  He’s so convincing, too, because when we’re not there for fish, he’ll tell what he has in fresh that day, and we immediately order a pound or two.  Like last weekend when we were there specifically for ribs, and walked out with five pounds of ribs and one pound of ahi tuna.  We even told ourselves in the car on our way to the market that we were only there for ribs, and nothing more.  If only we weren’t so easily convinced…

It had been some time since we had spicy tuna sushi, and we were craving sushi that day, too.  So it really worked out in our favor.  The only problem was that I was too lazy to make rice.  I know.  What in the hell kind of Asian am I?!  I’m questioning myself, too, as I type this sentence.  I know it’s not hard, but I was too lazy to pick myself off the couch to make rice, and by the time I looked up at the clock, it was already nearing 1 p.m.  And I didn’t want to eat too late because we had plans to eat yummy things for dinner.  So, I had to forego the rice :(

However, on the flip side of this, I got to eat more of the spicy tuna “handrolls” because it was guilt-free eating without all the carbs! :)

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

1 pound sushi grade fresh ahi tuna, cut into 1/2 inch dices
1/4 cup flying fish roe
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, plus more to adjust level of spiciness
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Nori seaweed sheets, cut into 4″x 3″ strips

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salt and mix well. Add more Sriracha sauce if you prefer it to be more spicy, or add less to begin with if you like it less spicy. Mix well again. Adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

Spoon spicy tuna mixture into the middle of each Nori strip, and enjoy! :)

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