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We’re well on our way to summer!
Temperatures are reaching nearly a hundred degrees this week. Seriously? What IS nice is that the mornings are now like, 70 degrees (instead of a chilly 50 earlier this year, ugh), so I can comfortably wear the same outfit all day. No shedding sweaters for me anymore! That being said, I’m only a student, so that prime time between when the sun rises and hits the very top of the sky, at the perfect temperature: I’m stuck in class.
Yes, boo hoo for me. At least there’s only a month left until we’re out of those cold, air-conditioned classrooms. Temperatures aside, let’s enjoy the season while we have it! There are so many new vegetables coming in; spring is prime for young ones, too, and I stumbled upon some of these beauties when I was at Whole Foods.
What are they? Young garbanzo beans! (Or chickpeas as you may know them). They were sold in their shells, and inside each shell is a little green bean. How cute! I bought a small handful, knowing how time consuming it would be to peel them. That being said – I have no experience with these little guys. The only time I’d ever seen them was on the tv show Chopped; I vaguely remembered they were sautéed, but this wasn’t enough to quell my curiosity. So my research began!
Turns out you should never boil them, but they’re good prepared steamed, roasted, sautéed, or even raw! When they’re boiled, they’re akin to nasty over-cooked lima beans, ew. Dorothy over at shockinglydelicious gave a ton of suggestions at her site, too, one that I found particularly interesting being to roast them in a pan with a bit of oil and blend of salt, cumin, chili powder, and other spices for 5 minutes. That’s a pretty amazing sounding recipe over there!
What I did was simply steam them for about 6 minutes, and snack on them plain. They’re something like fresh peas or edamame, I can’t put my finger on what, but mighty tasty to just mindlessly munch on if you find yourself sitting by the pool sometime.
So if you run into these, buy them! They’re fun, healthy snacks that are just so adorable.
Beautiful plates of food. Gorgeous posts on instagram. Delicious restaurant meals. Inspirational healthy recipes. You’re motivated; you want to cook, and you’re ready to embark on a journey into the culinary world, and then you open the fridge, and you’re missing the key ingredient.
The eggs. The cilantro. The canned tomatoes. The jalapeno. Suddenly your epicurean aspirations fall apart, and you’re back on the couch with a takeout menu in hand. I get it.
Yes, it is difficult getting started cooking. You have to have the recipe laid out; every ingredient has to be present; you have to make sure all your equipment is up to par. It might seem like missing one thing is the end of the world when you’ve got one thing in mind, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from cooking (and the TV show Chopped) is improvisation!
For example, today I was so ready to make spring rolls. I had my carrots and jicama sautéed, my vietnamese ham all fried up, sauce ready, herbs washed, and then I realized: I was out of rice paper. Duh! Luckily iceberg lettuce came to my rescue and I made lettuce wraps instead. In the future I think I’ll use this as a lazy spring roll version (as opposed to salad-ifying spring rolls) if I’m in the mood to dip.
If you’ve never heard of vietnamese ham (or vietnamese baloney), called Cha Lua in Vietnamese, do not be put off by the name! It’s such a sad english translation. It’s basically like a huge cylindrical steamed meatball, like the kind you’d find in asian soups, but wrapped in banana leaf. It’s often available at Vietnamese sandwich shops and grocery stores. Try it in a Vietnamese sandwich first (Banh Mi Cha Lua) and once you’re hooked, you can buy the full ham to slice at home!
Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce
Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet and add the fried shallots over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the julienned jicama, stir. Let cook down a bit, for about 2 minutes, before adding the carrots. Stir fry all together until the carrots and jicama are softened and the jicama is slightly translucent. Season the jicama-carrot mixture with pepper and fish sauce to taste. Set vegetables aside.
In the same skillet, toss julienned vietnamese ham and let brown, stirring every minute or so until the small bits are crispy. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix hoisin, plum sauce, and sriracha. Thin out a bit with some water if your plum sauce is too thick.
On a cutting board, slice the iceberg lettuce in half down the stem. Carefully remove the leaves so they do not lose shape.
Layer a leaf with jicama carrot mixture, then vietnamese ham, then the mint leaves. Continue making lettuce “rolls” until all ingredients are finished. Enjoy by dipping the rolls in the hoisin-plum sauce.
So I’ve been meaning to post this recipe – I first made it when I got my mandolin slicer for Christmas (!!). But with summer just around the corner, weather in the 90’s forecasted this week, and lots of available, fresh produce, I decided that now would be the perfect time to share such a refreshing recipe.
Green papaya (unripened papaya) is shredded, and tossed with a salty-sweet dressing, and topped with fried shallots, beef jerky, and crushed peanuts. This dish comes originally from Laos, but I’ve been familiarized with it through my Vietnamese mother.
It’s helpful to have a mandolin to shred the papaya quickly. Also, any beef jerky will work (I prefer spicy), and you can find green papaya at your nearby asian grocer. Most western grocery stores DO carry papaya, but sometimes even though it looks underripe, it’s not. It’s best to go to an asian grocery to eliminate any doubts.
Green Papaya Salad (Vietnamese Style)
Shred the green papaya with a mandolin or knife into fine strips. Place in a colander and toss with a pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to remove sliminess and some of the excess water. Rinse, and pat dry. In a seperate bowl, mix the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, water, and sugar until all are dissolved.
Toss the papaya, dressing, basil, half the beef jerky and half the peanuts in a large bowl just before serving. Put onto a large plate, garnish with the remaining peanuts, beef jerky, and optional peppers. Serve immediately!
Seriously, who named them Snickerdoodles? I guess it is a fittingly whimsical name for a nostalgic cookie – little round drops of dough, rolled in a mixture of cinnamon sugar, and baked until delightfully soft and the smell wafts through your entire household.
I’ve decided to do a little upgrade on the good old snickerdoodle – I’ve replaced white flour for whole wheat to amp up the fiber, subbed coconut oil for butter (a healthy saturated fat with a wonderfully floral flavor!) and I’ve also subbed date paste for the sugar. Still delicious, and now you won’t feel guilty eating a cookie at 11 am.
What is date paste? It’s a great sugar substitute made from pure, dried dates. Add some whole pitted dates that have been soaked in hot water to a blender or food processor, and use it easily to substitute sugar. Date paste has a wonderful caramel flavor and is loaded with all the benefits of dates (fiber, potassium, magnesium, & other antioxidants). Here’s a great recipe for it if you want more directions.
Without further ado,
Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles
adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, & baking soda. In a separate bowl, melt the coconut oil, and beat in the date paste on medium until smooth. Stir in vanilla and milk. Pour dry into wet and stir with a spoon until just combined. Chill the dough in the fridge or freezer until it firms up.
Roll each ball in a 1:2 mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 9-10 minutes. They will appear underdone, but they will firm up after cooling. Enjoy with an ice cold glass of milk!
If you’ve ever bought beets, you’ve probably noticed that they’re often sold with their leafy tops attached. More often than not, these leafy heads get tossed away, but don’t let them wilt in the compost bin!
Beet greens are 100% edible. They can easily be substituted for another dark, leafy green, like rainbow chard or spinach, but they have their own distinct flavor. They shockingly taste a bit like beets!
The first time I discovered beet greens could be eaten, I was addicted! The hearty flavor of dark greens, paired with a subtle sweetness in the stems – sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, it’s a simple delight that showcases the beauty of using kitchen scraps.
This humble green is also extremely versatile; you can:
What you do with beet greens is really up to you! Just make sure they don’t end up in the compost ;)
Sometimes its nice to just have something simple.
Clean, crisp, light flavors are like a cleanse for the palate, and after my dad and I had three nights of heavy eating, we were really craving a simple dinner for Sunday evening.
With some fresh ginger from the farmers market and beautiful fillets of cod from Whole Foods, what better way to use them than with Japanese steamed fish. Seasoned with only soy sauce, mirin, and ginger, this dish steams conveniently in the oven for those of you who don’t have a nice steamer.
Japanese-style Steamed Fish
Adapted from Allrecipes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a round or square glass baking dish, place fillets of fish in one even layer. Mix the marinade in a seperate bowl. Carefully pour over the fish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until fish is opaque as it will continue to cook in the hot liquid.
Garnish with fresh sprouts and serve with rice or a grain and steamed fresh vegetables for a truly simple meal. Enjoy!
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