Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Now that I’m an adult, on the cusp of independence, I have decided that I should probably start thinking about my health.  I will never give up dessert, of course–I just mean that I should be a bit more conscious about consuming things that will help me to live to be 105 (this has always been my goal.  It seems like a good age).  So I’m going to make an effort to bike and walk more (my mom wants me to run. I do not want to run.  I should probably run) and to incorporate more healthy things into my diet.  And what’s healthier than a salad?

Once in a while I’ve made myself salads for lunch, using a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  While good, this combination never tasted as nice as the salads I would eat at my dad’s restaurant (fancy that).  So I asked him, and he told me that the secret was honey-balsamic vinaigrette.  He was right–the vinaigrette provides just the right combination of salty and sweet to pull the salad together into healthy perfection.  I drizzled a tablespoon of it onto a salad of mixed greens, avocado and sauteed vegetables, packed it in my lunchbox, and ate a restaurant-worthy meal in my high school cafeteria.

So, you will need….

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place all the ingredients in a jar and stir thoroughly.  Drizzle over salad for use.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.  Enjoy!

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store in a cute jar and take awkward selfie

 

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Drizzle over greens and revel in the healthiness

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Vegetable Quinoa

My senior year is drawing to a close and college is fast approaching, which means that pretty soon I will no longer be living at home, eating meals my parents prepare every night.  Nor will I have access to a nice kitchen or money to be spending on grass-fed beef (or time in which to prepare complex recipes).  So lately I’ve been thinking about the sort of cheap, easy-to-prepare-in-bulk dishes that will keep me satisfied in college. One of my current favorites is quinoa.

For those of you who have never eaten quinoa, it’s fairly similar to rice (but it has a very nice flavor and is actually quite healthy).  Its taste, while good, is subtle enough that you can make it with anything: with meat or vegetables, as a side, in a salad, etc.  Last night I thought I’d prepare a batch to take for lunch throughout the week.  As I said, quinoa goes with anything, so I grabbed the veggies we currently had in the fridge: carrots, Brussels sprouts and spinach.

First I poured one cup of chicken stock, one cup of water, a teaspoon of salt and one cup of dry quinoa in a pot and placed it over medium heat. I let the quinoa come to a boil, then reduced the heat and covered it, allowing it to cook and stirring every now and then.

Then I placed a pan over medium heat and choppedd up the Brussels sprouts and carrots.  When the pan was hot I poured in enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then added the carrots and Brussels sprouts with some salt and pepper (in this way you can make practically any vegetable delicious). After some minutes, when the vegetables were mostly cooked, I added in generous heaps of spinach and allowed them to cook.

It took about twenty minutes for
the quinoa to cook (it should be dry and fluffy).  To finish it off I stirred the vegetables into the quinoa and mixed.  And voila! Quinoa!

 

Potato Dumpling Soup

There’s something wonderfully comforting about a hot soup for dinner. Whether you’re sipping it slowly or soaking up the liquid with bread, soup warms you up from head to toe. The other reason I love soup is that it’s usually quite quick and easy; you can whip it up for lunch or dinner in under an hour.

My mom  discovered the recipe for this delicious German dish in an issue of Food and Wine several  months ago, and since then it has become a favorite at the Chackalackal house. Because the soup is made with dumplings, additional bread is not necessary, but it does add a nice touch.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper

For the soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 large garlic  cloves
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup cream

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.  Add 6 tablespoons of water and knead till smooth.  Set aside.

In a soup pan on the stove, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Chop the onions, carrots and celery finely and add to the soup pan.  Cook ten minutes, then add the garlic.  Stir in the stock, bay leaves, and potatoes and bring to a boil.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a longish log shape and slice into small pieces.  Add these to the soup; the dumplings will cook in the broth.  Allow the soup to cook for another thirty minutes, then add the cream.  Stir, cook a few minutes more, then serve.  Enjoy!

 

Tortillas

Back when I posted my recipe for pita, I raved about how easy it was to make, and how quick.  But tortillas are even more simple, and just as delicious. The dough is wonderful to work with and perfect for rolling out.  Like pita, I like to make tortillas in bulk, freeze what I don’t eat, and then pull out tortillas to use for quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, even Indian food (tortillas are extremely similar to chapati, a south Indian flatbread)!

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and oil, working with your fingers.  Dissolve the salt in the water, then pour this into the bowl and begin to knead.  When the dough has come together, divide it into twelve balls, then cover the bowl with a damp rag and let it rest for 25 to 30 minutes (longer is okay, but unnecessary).

Dust a work surface with flour (I like to use a cutting board), making sure to keep flour on hand.  Turn the stove to medium heat and place a pan on it.  Roll out the dough into circular shapes roughly seven inches in diameter.  Once the pan is hot, place the rolled out tortillas on it one at a time.  Flip the tortilla when the dough starts to puff up and allow the other side to cook.  This should take very little time, so be watching constantly.  For a richer flavor, brush the tortillas with oil or butter once they are finished.  Enjoy!

Ratatouille

One of my favorite things about summer is the variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season.  In winter, things can get pretty boring (apples. Bananas. Apples. Bananas).  But right now, there’s zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers…just what we need to make ratatouille.

While it is an excellent film, the movie Ratatouille can give you the wrong idea about the dish. First, ratatouille is a side, not a main course, and it’s considered a very homey, casual sort of thing.  Secondly, the dish made in the movie is actually tian (in which the vegetables are sliced and then arranged in a pattern and baked together).  In true ratatouille, the vegetables are diced and sauteed separately before being mixed and served.

The following is my adaptation of the ratatouille from my favorite cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson (who also runs a fantastic blog).  You can make it all at once, but I personally find it easy to make the vegetables throughout the day and then assemble the dish before eating.

Ingredients

  • 5 tomatoes
  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 large onions
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Over medium heat, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Once it is boiling, place the tomatoes in the water until the skin begins to crack.  Remove them from the water and dry them off.  Place a large pan over medium heat and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Chop the onions into small chunks then place them in the pan with the bay leaf and allow them to saute, stirring every few minutes. Crush the garlic and add it to the pan, along with the thyme.


While the onions are cooking, dice the peppers.  When the onions are done (they should be lightly browned), scoop them into a bowl, then add more olive oil to the pan and pour in the peppers.  Again, saute them.
  

Repeat the same process with the zucchini and tomatoes, returning the bay leaf to the pan each time.  Make sure to add salt and pepper to each vegetable.

When all of the ingredients have been sauteed, place a large pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add all the ingredients to the pot, along with salt and pepper, and saute for a short time.  Ratatouille must be served hot; if you are making it a while before dinner, the put a lid on the pan for storage, then reheat it on the stove when it is time to eat. Enjoy!

 

 

Pita

Pita, a traditional Middle-Eastern and Greek flatbread, is an amazingly useful bread.  It takes little time and hardly any kneading, and it can be used a multitude of ways: with curries, hummus, gyros, paninis, sandwiches, etc. The flavor and texture of homemade pita totally eclipses that of the flavorless stuff you can buy at the grocery store–this pita is the sort of thing you will want to eat plain! 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (stick it in the microwave for ten seconds)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Set aside until bubbly. In a large bowl mix the salt and flour with a fork. When the yeast mixture is bubbling, add to the flour mix and add oil. Mix with a fork and then begin to knead by hand until it comes together in a large ball. Cover with damp cloth and allow to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Separate the dough into 6-10 smaller balls. Place a pan over the stove on low heat. On a floured surface, roll out the balls of dough until they are at least six inches in diameter. Place on pan, flipping when they begin to puff up and brushing with oil. Enjoy!

  
   

  

Sautéed Mushrooms

Words could never express how much I love mushrooms.  They are perfection, nature at its very best (that is, once they are cooked.  I am not at all fond of most raw vegetables, but saute anything –or roast it in olive oil–and it is absolutely delicious).

Mushrooms go especially well with sausage, cream-based sauces and stews.  We tend to make them as a side with boeuf bourguignon or with my personal favorite dish, gnocchi in cream-red wine-shallot sauce with Andoui sausage (goodness, just writing that makes me hungry).

Anyway, the mushrooms themselves are the height of simplicity.  You just follow the steps that you take with any vegetable: heat some oil in a pan over low heat (or, if you want a super-rich flavor, use butter).  Wash and chop up the mushrooms, then place them in the oil, making sure that they are spread fairly evenly.  After a few minutes, add salt and pepper and stir some.  Again, allow them too cook, stirring every couple minutes.  They will cook fairly quickly; when you think they are done, taste to see if more salt/pepper is necessary.  Enjoy!