Saturday, April 30, 2011

Barley, Beans & Balsamic

For the past 25 years my husband and I have followed a budget.  Every December I review all the spending categories for the year and make recommendations for the upcoming year.  And we really make every effort to stay within the budget.  So what does this have to do with food or my blog?  Well, today is the last day of the month and I have a whopping $1.17 left in my food budget for dinner.  Now, I'm usually very creative when it comes to stretching money for meals.  I normally can prepare a really healthy and nutritious dinner for about $10-12 per day, but $1 is not going to get me far at the grocery store.  Unless of course the grocery store is located in my kitchen pantry.

So here's a sampling of what is in my pantry.  Beans: Kidney, Garbanzo, Black, Cannellini, Red Lentils, Green Lentils, and Yellow Split Peas; Grains: Barley, Wheat Berries, Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Basmati, and Arborio Rice; Pasta: Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Linguine, Penne, Fideo and Orzo; Dried Fruit: Cranberries, Currants and Apricots; Nuts: Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds and Pistachios.  It's amazing actually--we could probably go almost two weeks without spending hardly any money for food.  I would just need to pick up a few leafy greens and some vegetables and we'd be all set!  And for tonight's dinner I didn't spend a penny so I have surplus for next month!


1 cup hulless barley
3/4 cup dried pink or red kidney beans, or 1 can rinsed and drained
1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2-3 cups kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
2 tbsp minced parsley
2 tbsp raw walnuts, chopped (optional)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp salt (less or more to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
Note:  Look for hulless barley in the bulk section of the grocery store.  Unlike pearl barley, it contains the bran and the germ so it is considered a whole grain and is more nutritious.

  • In a medium saute pan, cover beans with a lot of water, bring to a boil and cook on medium low for about one hour until tender, drain beans and chill until ready to use.
  • In a medium saute pan, cover barley with a lot of water, add a 1/2 tsp salt, bring to a boil and simmer for one hour until grains start to open and have increased in size.  Drain and chill until ready to use.
  • Remove stems from kale and tear into bit size pieces.  Steam kale for about 1 minute until lightly soft and bright green.
  • In a small bowl, whisk balsamic vinegar, mustard and oil together.
  • In a large bowl, add all ingredients and toss with balsamic vinaigrette.  I prefer my vinaigrette to be more acidic, usually 3:1 ratio of vinegar to oil, but you can add more oil if you prefer.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and chill for about 30 minutes to let flavors combine. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Banh Mi Sandwich

The Vietnamese Banh Mi is one of my favorite sandwiches.  I love the contrasting textures of the crunchy vegetables against the tofu, along with the bold flavors of lemongrass with hints of sweet and sour from the pickled do chua.  But the baguette is really the star of the sandwich.  Luckily for me there is a Lee's Sandwich Shop close to my house and they bake fresh French baguettes every 30 minutes, so I can make Bahn Mi's anytime.  If you don't have a Lee's close by, then any French baguette will do.

Traditionally, Banh Mi's are made with do chua, which is pickled shredded daikon radish and carrots.  But I like adding shredded broccoli to mine as well.  If you can't find daikon in your market, then you can substitute any radish, turnips, or cabbage.  Whatever you choose it will still be delicious and provide lots of texture.

Do Chua Pickling Liquid:

1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup warm filtered water
1/3 cup agave syrup or 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 pound daikon radish, peeled and cut thinly into 3" matchsticks or shredded
2 large carrots, peeled and cut thinly into 3" matchsticks or shredded
2 large broccoli stalks, peeled and cut into 3" matchsticks or shredded

  • In a large bowl combine all the liquid ingredients, including the salt and mix well.
  • Add the cut or shredded vegetables and toss to coat and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour for flavors to combine.
  • When ready to use, drain vegetables over a strainer to remove excess liquid.
Tofu Marinade:

1 tsp lemongrass (bulb only) minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger root, grated
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup of organic soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup or sugar
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained really well
1-2 tsp canola oil
Note:  You can use Soy Curls, tempeh, textured soy protein, seitan or pre-marinated baked tofu instead of regular tofu. 

  • Slice tofu into 2"x4" slices and add to marinade.  Toss lightly to combine and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  • Drain tofu and pat dry.
  • Heat a saute pan on medium-heat, add canola oil and fry tofu on all sides until lightly golden brown.  Set aside.
Other Ingredients:
(Serves 4)
2 French baguettes
1/2 large English cucumber sliced thinly into rounds
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
4 tbsp Vegenaise
Salt and pepper

  • Slice baguettes in half and lightly toast.
  • Rub both sides of baguette with Vegenaise.
  • Place tofu on bottom of baguette and layer with cucumber, do chua, jalapeno and cilantro.
  • Drizzle extra marinade over top and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with extra marinade or soy sauce on the side.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Couscous Almondine

I shop for groceries everyday--I've always done this.  Doesn't matter if I work all day, I always find a reason to stop by the store on my way home.  I just love walking around a market deciding on what ingredients I'm going to purchase.  Actually, when I wake up in the middle of the night and I can't go back to sleep, I think about what I'm going to make the next day, and the day after...

So this got me thinking.... Since I shop everyday, I only purchase exactly what I need.  It's very European by the way and I like that.  And since we don't eat meat, fish or dairy--what's the sense of owning a large refrigerator?  Especially since our refrigerator was purchased in 1985 (still running great), but probably not the best use of energy.  Perhaps I should consider trading it in for a portable fridge (the kind you see in hotels).  Really, the only items we refrigerate are some condiments, almond milk and frozen fruit and of course a big bag of ice for Margaritas...seems like a bit of a waste.  But then our fridge would end up in a landfill and that's not a good solution either...

So what does this have to do with Couscous Almondine?  And what is Almondine anyway?  Well, one of the stores I shop at daily is Whole Foods Market and I always walk around their prepared foods section.  I noticed that they had a new salad called Couscous Almondine and so I decided to make my own version.  "Almondine" by the way means "with almonds".  So "Couscous Almondine" sounds better than "Couscous with Almonds" and I agree.  However, Morocco gets all the credit for pairing almonds or any nut or fruit with couscous.  So perhaps the next time that I make this dish, I will omit the tomatoes, cucumber and oregano, and add saffron, cinnamon and cumin and call it "Moroccan Spiced Couscous with Almonds".  This sounds so much more exotic, but you'll have to wait until next fall for the recipe!


1 1/4 cups whole wheat dried couscous
1 1/4 cups filtered water
1 1/4 cups Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cups English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup raw almonds, roasted and chopped coarsely
2 tsp fresh oregano, finely minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

  • Place couscous in a bowl and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Rub mixture together until grains are coated with oil.
  • Bring 1 1/4 cups filtered water to a boil and pour over couscous.  Cover with a plate and fluff with a fork after 15 minutes.  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
  • Prep other ingredients and add to couscous.  Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill for at least 1 hour before serving for flavors to combine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cornmeal Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce

When I worked for the restaurant we used to serve a Cornmeal Pound Cake with Roasted Strawberries for dessert.  So I thought that this would be a great recipe to "Veganize" and make it healthy.  The original recipe's ingredients included:  butter, eggs, buttermilk, white sugar, all purpose flour and high fructose corn syrup.  No wonder that we have an obesity epidemic in this country, along with soaring rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  I can't believe that I ever ate this way--seems so foreign to me now.  

Even though that this is SO MUCH HEALTHIER (and just as delicious), I still eat sweets in moderation.  Sugar is sugar is sugar, but at least I know that this is made with whole grains, has no cholesterol, almost zero saturated fat and uses fresh seasonal fruit!


1 2/3 cups whole grain spelt flour
1/3 cup cornmeal, finely ground
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (slightly melted)
4 tsp Ener-g Egg Replacer (found in health food stores)
1/3 cup filtered water
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
Note:  I use whole grain or whole wheat flours in my baking because they have more nutrients and protein than regular all purpose flour, especially spelt. However, using whole wheat products produces a darker grain, which I happen to prefer.  If you want your pound cake to be a little lighter in color then switch to a white spelt flour instead. 

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a standard loaf pan with canola spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine maple syrup, melted butter, vanilla extract, almond milk and lemon zest and blend with a hand mixer.
  • In a small bowl, whisk Ener-g Egg Replacer with the filtered water and add to the liquid ingredients and combine.
  • Using a spatula or hand held mixer on low add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake on the middle rack for about 30-35 minutes.  Check for doneness at 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove cake from the oven and let sit on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
Strawberry Sauce:

1 pound Organic Strawberries, rinsed and quartered (save several of the them for garnish)
1/4 cup Agave syrup
1 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of black pepper

  • Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan, bring up to a boil, reduce heat and cook on low for about 5 minutes until strawberries are soft.
  • Add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer and chill in the refrigerator.
Serve with sliced fresh strawberries and Organic So Delicious Dairy Free Creamy Vanilla.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chilled Garden Pea & Mint Soup

This soup just screams Spring to me with its beautiful color and freshness.  I love the change of seasons when you have an opportunity to cook with new ingredients, especially young, sweet vegetables.  I walk through the market and there are so many things that I want to make right now.  Not only is it a great time for peas, but also artichokes, carrots, fava beans, fennel, leeks, morel mushrooms and ramps.  Looks like I'll be making a Spring vegetable risotto soon! 

The key to making this soup is not to overcook the peas so that they retain their vibrant green color.  This soup is elegant and can be served as a first course for a special dinner, or enjoyed with a loaf of crusty bread.   Garnish it with mint oil or white truffle oil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to bring out the natural sweetness of the peas! 


3 cups garden peas (approximately 3 pounds in the shell)
1/2 onion sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp all purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup fresh mint leaves
3-4 cups baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Note:  If you can't find fresh garden peas, then just purchase a bag of frozen peas.  It will still taste just as good and will be quicker if you're in a hurry.)

  • After you shuck the peas, blanch them in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes until soft and then immediately immerse in an ice bath to set the color.  Drain and set aside.  If you are using frozen peas, just rinse under cold water to thaw and set aside.
  • In a 5qt pan, heat olive oil, add onion, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and cook on medium-low until onion softens.  Be careful not to brown the onion because you don't want to change the color of the soup.
  • Add garlic, flour and stir to combine.
  • Immediately add vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook on low for 5-10 minutes for flavors to combine.  Remove broth from heat, set aside and let cool for about 30 minutes.
  • While the broth is cooking, blanch mint and spinach for about 20 seconds, drain and set aside.
  • Add peas, spinach and mint to broth and blend until smooth in a blender in several batches.
  • Strain broth to remove any skins.  The soup should be the consistency of heavy cream.
  • Taste again and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fava Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Bruschetta

This is a wonderful dish to serve as a first course before dinner or as an appetizer for a cocktail party.  I would serve this with a nice bottle of Pinot Gris, it would be a perfect pairing!  I love when fava beans come into season.  They are at their best right now, so tender and sweet!  The only problem with fresh fava beans is that they are a bit of a pain to peel because you have to do it twice.  But it's worth it in the end because they are delicious and good for you too!

(Serves 4)
1 bulb fresh garlic, roasted
1 loaf Italian sweet batard, sliced on a bias in 1/2" slices
2 1/2-3 pounds fresh fava beans (about 1 1/2 cups peeled)
1 8.5 oz jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cups organic arugula (or wild rocket)

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut garlic bulb in half, drizzle each half with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap loosely in foil.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until soft and slightly caramelized.  Let cool and squeeze out roasted garlic from shell, set aside.
  • Slice bread, brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on a sheet tray and bake in the oven for 8 minutes on each side until slightly crispy.  
  • Remove fava beans from pod, and place in boiling water for about 1 minute or so.  They cook really quick and can go from bright green to army green in a matter of a couple minutes.  Remove from water and place in an ice bath to stop cooking.  Drain beans and remove the skin/peel.
  • Place fava beans in a food processor, add 4 cloves of the roasted garlic and the juice of 1 lemon or to taste.  Pulse until mixture starts to form a puree, scraping down the sides.  Drizzle in a little olive oil until desired consistency and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain oil from sun-dried tomatoes, finely dice and place in a bowl.  Add minced capers, minced garlic, minced tarragon, lemon zest and the juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste.  Mix together and season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Spread a really thin layer of roasted garlic on the toasted bread.  Top with each piece with 1 tbsp of fava bean puree and 1 tbsp of sun-dried tomato tapenade.  Cut bread in half on a bias.
  • Mix arugula with a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and place on top of bruschetta slices and serve! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spicy Thai BBQ Wrap with Sweet Ginger Sauce

When I'm thinking about what I want to make for dinner, not only do I look though cookbooks, but I also go to restaurant websites and look at their menus.  Or when we're out dinning, I'll pick up a menu and save it for future use.  

When I was in Portland last year visiting family, we went to a cafe called the Blossoming Lotus that serves organic, vegan and sustainable cuisine.  I really loved the restaurant.  Everything we had was so fresh and flavorful.  Anyway, I ordered their Crispy Thai BBQ Wrap and it was yummy and so I decided to make my own version.

My photo doesn't do it justice, but if you make this recipe I guarantee you'll be making it over and over again.  And if you're ever in Portland, stop by the Blossoming Lotus for a really healthy and delicious meal!

Spicy Thai BBQ Sauce:

1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced lemongrass (bulb only)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
3/4 cup organic ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup organic low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup filtered water
1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Agave syrup
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
Note:  To save time and money (if you don't have all of the ingredients), you can purchase a bottle of pre-made spicy bbq sauce.  Just make sure that it is low in sugar and doesn't contain high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Add all ingredients into a small sauce pan and simmer on medium-low for about 15-20 minutes until flavors combine.  Makes about 1 cup.
Sweet Ginger Sauce:

1/4 cup Vegenaise
2 tbsp Agave syrup
1.5 tsp minced lemongrass
1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 large lime
Salt and pepper to taste 

  • Add ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine.
Other Ingredients:

1/2-3/4 package Soy Curls (If you can't find Soy Curls, tempeh, or seitan will work just as well.)
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1/4 package vermicelli rice sticks (I used Kong Moon, but another popular brand is Maifun.)
100% wholewheat or whole grain tortillas
2-3 tbsp canola oil

  • Remove rice sticks from the package and crumble or cut into smaller 3-4" pieces.
  • Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tbsp canola oil.  
  • Working in small quantities, spread a thin layer of the rice noodles in the pan and cook until they puff up in size about 1 minute.  Be careful not to burn.  Remove them immediately from the pan and place on paper towels to drain off any excess oil.  Season with a little salt and repeat process.
  • Rehydrate soy curls according to package, drain really well and toss with some bbq sauce and set aside.
  • Warm tortillas briefly and layer with all the ingredients.  Drizzle with sweet ginger sauce and more bbq sauce.
  • Fold up like a burrito and cut on a bias.  Serve with sweet ginger sauce on the side and a fresh salad!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tofu Veggie Hash

Before I switched to a plant-based diet, I never ate eggs.  I didn't like the texture, or the taste.  Plus, I had really high cholesterol and so I never wanted to aggravate the situation.  I also was really bothered by the horrendous conditions in which hens live on factory farms and so it just didn't feel right to me.  
This tofu veggie hash has no cholesterol, is low in saturated fat, is high in protein, potassium, iron and fiber.  So for all the egg eaters out there, I'd like you to give this recipe a try and I hope that you'll never eat eggs your way again.  I mean, why would you when this is so delicious and good for you!  And good for the chickens too!

I usually make this for a Sunday breakfast or a quick dinner.  I like serving it with corn or whole wheat tortillas and spicy salsa.  Also, feel free to add any vegetables you like--it will only get healthier!  Broccoli and shiitake mushrooms would be a nice addition!


1 package organic extra firm tofu
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 pounds baby Yukon gold or baby red potatoes, rinsed well and diced.
1 package baby spinach
1-2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp black salt (Black salt is a rose colored powder, not black, tastes and smells like eggs and really salty.  You can purchase it at Indian markets.  If you can't find it, no problem, then just use the turmeric powder.)
1 tbsp canola oil (you can cut back on the oil and use some veg stock to make it even healthier.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable stock

  • In a large frying pan, heat canola oil on medium heat, add potatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes until they start to soften and brown. 
  • Add bell peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes more until potatoes are fully cooked.  Stir frequently so that potatoes do not burn and add some vegetable stock if it seems dry.
  • While potatoes are cooking, drain tofu and place in a large bowl and mash with a fork.  Stir in black salt and turmeric.
  • When the potatoes and peppers are finished, add tofu and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted and everything is combined.
  • Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Vegetable Bowl)

Whenever I feel like I'm not eating enough leafy greens or vegetables and I feel like I'm consuming way too much of the other stuff, I know that it's time to make Bibimbap.  Actually, I usually try to make a day of eating incredibly healthy with no added oils or salt in my cooking.  For instance, here's a sample of what I ate yesterday and I feel so much better for it.  And today I'm on track for another really healthy day!  Not that I ever really eat unhealthy, but some days I may not eat enough of the green stuff and yesterday, I know that I did.  And it was delicious!

Breakfast:  My morning cocktail 
Lunch:  No-tahini hummus with raw broccoli, carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes
Mid-Afternoon Snack:  Steamed baby bok choy with a splash of organic soy
Dinner:  Bibimbap served with a whole grain brown rice blend

You can make Bibimbap as simple or as complicated as you like.  When I say complicated, I'm referring to the tofu marinade.  You can purchase already marinated baked tofu, or make your own.  Also, use any combination of vegetables you like.  These are veggies typically used in this dish and I happen to like how they all work together with texture and color.

Tofu Marinade:

1/2 cup organic low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp filtered water
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 pear or apple, shredded with skin
1 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup
1 package organic extra firm tofu, drained and diced

  • Whisk all ingredients in a bowl.  Add tofu and let marinate for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Other Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups brown rice.  (I use a blend which contains brown basmati, radish, black barley, and wild rice.)
3 cups shredded carrots
1 package baby spinach
3 small zucchini, cut into 4" thin strips
1 English cucumber, cut into 4" thin strips
1 bag mung bean sprouts, rinsed really well

  • Cook rice according to package, fluff with a fork when finished and set aside.
  • Steam the carrots, zucchini and spinach separately for about 1-2 minutes maximum.  They should still have a crunch and be bright in color.
  • You can also steam the mung bean sprouts but I don't.  I prefer them to remain really crunchy and bright white.  This goes for the cucumbers as well.
  • Pour tofu and marinade into a sauce pan and heat on medium for about five minutes until onions are soft.
  • Place rice in the bottom of a large bowl, top with all other ingredients and serve with chili sauce (below).  
  • Serves 4...Enjoy!
Chili Sauce:

1/4 cup Chili bean sauce or any other type of Asian chili sauce
2 tbsp organic, low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sabich (Israeli Fast Food)

I can't tell you how many times I've eaten falafels.  I love them, but I don't like the fact that they are deep fried!  So I end up making them at home.  Still, I have a hard time resisting and a new falafel restaurant is opening two miles from my house and so I'll have to go and check it out.

In the meantime, this Sabich Grilled Eggplant pita that I made for dinner last night is my new go to favorite!  I can't believe that I've never made this before--the flavors are just amazing together.  It's smokey, spicy, tangy, crunchy and so simple to make.  And for those of you who don't like eggplant, this will convert you!


1 large globe eggplant, sliced thinly into rounds
8 oz plain hummus spread
1 pt cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 large English cucumber, diced small
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp parsley, finely minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
Harissa sauce or Sriracha hot sauce
Amba, pickled mango sauce or diced kosher pickles
4 pita flatbreads

Note:  You can make the hummus from scratch, like I did.  You just need a food processor, cooked chickpeas, fresh garlic, tahini sauce, cumin powder, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  However, there are a lot of good brands of hummus in the grocery stores, so find a brand that you like and use it.  I also made my own harissa, a North African hot sauce, but you can purchase that as well, or use Sriracha or any hot sauce you like.   The one ingredient that I hope you can find for this dish is the Amba.  I've never tasted anything like it before and it is very hard to describe.  It's pungent, spicy, sweet, sour and salty and when mixed with the other ingredients in the wrap it goes so well together.   If you can't find it at a Middle Eastern market, then just purchase kosher dill pickles and dice them.  I also blended my Amba with a little water in the blender to create a sauce instead of using it right out of the jar.

  • Slice eggplants thinly 1/8"-1/4" rounds.  Brush both sides of eggplant lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat a flat griddle iron on medium-high heat and brush lightly with olive oil and place eggplant slices on the griddle.  Cook on both sides until golden brown.  Place on paper towels to remove excess oil.  Set aside.  
  • Combine cut tomatoes, diced cucumber, sliced red onion and minced parsley in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.
  • Heat pita bread in the oven or a toaster oven until warm and soft and brush lightly with olive oil.
  • Layer the pita starting with the hummus, eggplant, tomato-cucumber salad, hot sauce and finish with the Amba or pickles. 
  • You can also finish with a drizzle of tahini sauce if you wish.
  • Just delicious!!! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Greek Tahini Cake with Maple-Date Glaze

I love simply prepared cakes and a slice of this tahini cake is just perfect.  It's dense, but incredibly moist.  It has a nutty flavor from the tahini and an underlying sweetness from the dates and maple syrup.  I could eat the whole cake (serves 8), but I decided not to and save a piece for my husband.  Serve this cake anytime with a cup of authentic Greek coffee, or a shot of Raki and you're all set!  Just delicious and so easy to make!  Takes me back to Crete!


1/3 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs, finely ground
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup tahini sauce/paste (found in Middle Eastern markets)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about two large oranges)
1 1/2 tbsp orange zest
1/4 tsp orange blossom water (optional-found in Middle Eastern markets)
1/3-1/2 cup filtered water

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly oil and flour a 9" cake pan and set aside.
  • Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
  • In a blender or food processor add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix by hand until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes until cake pulls away from the side of the pan and toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Let cool on a cake rack for about 15 minutes before removing.
Maple-Date Glaze:

1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini sauce/paste
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish

  • Remove pit from dates and cut into quarters.  Place dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit covered for 30 minutes until soft, then drain off water.
  • In a blender or food processor add all ingredients and blend until smooth.
  • Drizzle glaze over cake and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Greek Rice Pilaf with Kalamata Olives

I've been making this Greek rice pilaf recipe for many years.  I use it to stuff grape leaves, Swiss chard, Napa cabbage, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes.  Tonight, I served it with sauteed spinach with minced garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  It also goes great with my Tahini Mint Sauce.


1 1/2 cups brown long grain rice
3 cups filtered water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp dried Greek oregano flakes
1/4 cup roasted salted sunflower seeds (You can also use walnuts or pine nuts.)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in quarters
Juice of 1-2 fresh lemons
1/2-1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

  • Heat a 2qt sauce pan on medium, add 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, add brown rice and cook until lightly golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Immediately add water, 1/2 tsp salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook 35 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes longer.  Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  • In a large saute pan heat remaining olive oil on medium, add onions and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until onions are soft.  Add garlic, dried oregano and cook for another 2-3 minutes longer.
  • Add cooked brown rice, sunflower seeds, mint, dill and stir to combine.
  • Fold in Kalamata olives and finish with fresh lemon juice.
  • Check seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed.