I recently mentioned to my mom on the phone that I was really excited about getting an immersion blender, and would probably ask for one for Christmas, or, failing that, put it on my wedding registry. Well, my mom is a wonderful woman who loves giving gifts, so I was pleasantly surprised when UPS dropped off a box with an immersion blender in it not too long after! Whatta great lady she is. I decided my inaugural use of the blender would be this White Bean Hummus Soup I’ve been eyeing from Keep it Simple Foods for a little while now.

The soup is really delicious and flavorful for how simple it is! You sautee your onions and garlic, add the beans, broth, lime zest and juice, and cilantro, and let it go for 5-10 minutes!

I am still trying to figure out how to photograph soup, since the steam fogs up my camera’s lens!

Once that’s done, you run your immersion blender through the soup – or, if you don’t have one, you can definitely just add it to the stand blender and puree. And you’re done! The original post recommended making some French bread crostini, which I did as well:

There is basically nothing better than bread and olive oil, seriously.

The soup was a great success – light, but still pretty filling for early autumn! Unfortunately, my cilantro had partially gone south since I bought it, so there wasn’t as much in as I would have liked, and I think I would add some crushed red pepper flakes or even a little bit of hot sauce in the future for a little bit of heat. A really simple, delicious soup with pantry ingredients, what more can you ask for?

White Bean Hummus Soup (from Keep It Simple Foods)

3 cans cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

2 limes (juice and zest)

3 cloves garlic (chopped)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups vegetable stock

1/3 cup chopped onion (I used shallot, as always)

a good handful of cilantro (chopped)

salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, on medium high heat, combine the oil, onion, and garlic. When onions and garlic cook down a bit, add the beans and lime zest. Cook for another minute or two.  Add in the veggie stock, then add in the cilantro and lime juice.

Cover with a lid and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to make the soup creamy and smooth.  Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

 

So, I’m not officially participating in the Vegan Month of Food – partially because I only found out about it yesterday, but mostly because I’m not actually vegan – but I figure there’s no time like the present to focus on the vegan recipes I’ve been meaning to try, which means sifting through my Pinterest feed and dredging out a ton of cookbooks. Thankfully, those are some of my favorite things to do. To start it off, here’s a delicious vegan meal I had the other night at V-Note on the Upper East Side.

I had the Crispy Pinenut and Basil Seitan, which came with roasted tomatoes, potatoes, and artichoke slices, along with a few slices of grilled pineapple and a creamy white wine sauce. It was delicious! The potatoes were almost too garlicky (for me, that’s saying something), but the seitan was AMAZING, and the sauce was great, too. My friend had the Seitan Piccata, which I got to try and was equally tasty. I was even too full for dessert, which never happens to me! It’s a little pricey, and a little far from my Brooklyn digs, but I would absolutely go back to V-Note for a special dinner.

Now that the weather has cooled, it’s officially fall, no matter what the calendar says. And fall means I finally rise out of my heat-induced torpor and get interested in food again! Last night, I had a real bee in my bonnet, and made this Spicy Mac & Cheese that I have been promising my boo for a while now, as well as roasted broccoli and some baked goods to bring to work today! (More on the bread later). The mac ended up absolutely deliciously.

Ingredients! And we’re not even missing anything, I don’t think! Progress.

This mac & cheese (or maybe I should call it gemelli & cheese?) is a pretty standard mac & cheese recipe, with a few great additions. The first step calls for sautéing onions (or, in my case, shallots, as always), jalapeño(s) (I only used one because of the pepper jack that went into the sauce), and roasted red peppers until they’re soft. Then, you cook the pasta – whatever small shapes you have, I used gemelli because it was on sale and I had never used it before! – and make your cheese sauce. It starts, like almost every cheese sauce, with a roux of flour and butter, with milk added once the two are combined. A lot of times, my cheese sauce on homemade mac gets grainy, but this time, I made sure to whisk really well, and cook the milk a little longer than I usually do. This made it perfect! Once the time came to add the pepper jack and the cheddar (what I had around – the original recipe called for cheddar and jack cheeses), the sauce was thick, creamy, and rich. Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and vegetables, put some breadcrumbs on top (again, the recipe called for homemade breadcrumbs, but I had some in the pantry that were begging to be used up), and pop it in the oven! It comes out hot, rich, and a little spicy – perfect for me! If you’re really into spicy, I would use two jalapeños.

I was in total mom-mode, so I had to make some vegetables to go on the side. I used my standby roasted broccoli recipe, the so-called “best broccoli in the world,” which actually is really damn good. My fiancee was bananas over this broccoli, possibly even more than the mac & cheese! Thank goodness the time for roasted vegetables is here again.

Spicy Mac & Cheese (adapted from Annie’s Eats original recipe)

4 cups pasta shapes
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted red pepper (jarred or home roasted), finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
6½ tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  In the meantime, melt ½ tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, red pepper and jalapeno to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant and tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour.  Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it turns a light golden brown color and begins to foam, about 2 minutes.  (Be careful not to burn!)  Whisk in the milk until well blended.  Cook the mixture, whisking or stirring frequently, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Whisk in the spices.  Add the cheeses to the mixture and whisk until completely melted and well incorporated.  Remove the mixture from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.  Return the drained pasta to the large pot.  Add in the cooked vegetables and the cheese sauce, and mix until well blended.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in an even layer on top of the pasta.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the topping is golden brown.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

For my slow battle against the laziness that has stopped me from making any food of note lately, I decided to tackle this Pad Thai I found floating around the internet. It was an easy choice, since I love Thai food (we order it a lot!), and I love recipes that can be described as “easy with a capital E.” I honestly wasn’t expecting very much from this recipe, since it seems, well, too easy, but it was seriously as delicious as any Pad Thai I’ve had delivered lately – way less greasy and cheaper, too! Definite thumbs up, bookmarking this for another lazy day.

(Missing from the cast of characters – because I haven’t quite gotten the hang of these ingredient photos yet, I guess – are my peanuts! A vital ingredient, for sure.)

Round up the ingredients, most of which, aside from the rice noodles, I already had in my pantry. Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, I added a dash or two of vegan oyster sauce that I picked up in Chinatown recently, which I think gave the sauce a little more depth. Definitely not necessary, but a nice choice!

Basically, all you have to do is soak your rice noodles in hot water – I used half this box for two of us, and it was two good dinner-sized portions – and while that’s happening, make up the sauce with the soy sauce, brown sugar, juice of 1 lime, and the “oyster” sauce. Scramble your eggs with the garlic and white parts of the green onion, stir fry the softened noodles with the rest of the green onions, add back the eggs and the sauce, and you have it! Serve with cilantro and peanuts on top. The longest part of this recipe by far is soaking the rice noodles. I can totally deal with that, no matter how lazy I am.

I served the noodles with a little salad, using spring mix, baby cucumbers (the best part of late summer produce!), and pepitas, which I picked up an entire bag of at Trader Joe’s recently, and am still trying to figure out how to use them up (perhaps a brittle? Pepita experiments in this space soon, I’m sure!). I dressed it with this balsamic glaze I also got from TJ’s, which was really nice. The entire, lazy meal was surprisingly delicious! I love when that happens.

Easy Pad Thai (originally from Everyday Food magazine, originally posted at Brownies for Dinner)

8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 squirt (about 1/8 teaspoon) Sriracha (optional)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, separated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, light beaten (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

  1. Soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and Sriracha.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet with spatula until eggs are almost set (about 30 seconds). Transfer eggs to a plate.
  5. Add noodles, scallion greens, and sauce to skillet. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft (about 1 minute). Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.
  6. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

If I’ve been lax about updating this blog lately (and I have), it’s because I have honestly been lax about making any kind of interesting food lately. Work is busy, summer is punishingly hot and humid, and I have no energy at all. We usually end up ordering in, which isn’t good for our wallets or anything else, really. But I feel a sea change at hand — I’ve spent the last few lazy hours in bed, looking at recipes, getting excited for things to make (Serious Eats is speaking to me right now)! So in the meantime, here’s a few pictures and thoughts from my visit to Tortaria the other day.

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Tortaria in Union Square is a place I have been meaning to visit for some time now, but every time I have stopped by, it’s been crazy busy. That’s no good when you have self-seating and counter service, but it definitely boded well for the food, so I was persistent. Thank goodness for NYC early bird dinner; being a midwestern girl, I’ve been used to eating dinner between 5-5:30pm my entire life. This serves me well in New York, as when I meet someone for dinner at 6 or 6:30, I’m starving, but there’s no one at the restaurant yet. Win win! That was exactly the case at Tortaria; when my friend and I were done by 7:30, the place was just starting to get packed. Keep that in mind when you visit!

I ordered the Crispy Eggplant Torta, with a side of plantains and, of course, a Pacifico. The sandwich was really wonderful – the eggplant was indeed crispy and pretty tasty, the Chihuahua cheese was melted and delicious, the avocado was refreshing, and there was an amazing chipotle BBQ sauce that tied it all together. The only thing I would get different for next time is asking for it with no pickled jalapeño slices – they were distracting and didn’t mesh well with the rest of the sandwich. The plantains were good, not great – when I get sweet plantains, I expect them to have that crunchy caramelized outside that gets stuck in your teeth, but these were not that well-done. They were also served with a sauce that straight up puzzled me and my friend; it was like melted Tootsie Rolls with anise in it? No thanks, I would definitely prefer crema next time.

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I was really excited for the Horchata-Tequila Paleta, which I read about in a blog post about alcoholic popsicles in the city (best idea!), so when I ordered it and I got this cup with solid, frozen horchata, topped with a grenadine syrup, I was confused. This was no paleta! There are two sticks, but how am I supposed to eat it? I poked at it with my plastic spoon for a while, finally realizing the sticks are for show. Once it started melting, I was able to dig in with my spoon – it’s way more of a shaved ice than a traditional popsicle, but once it got going, it’s absolutely delicious. You can taste the cinnamon and the rice-ness of the horchata (in a good way, like really comforting, cold rice pudding), and the grenadine syrup adds a little pop and sweetness. The tequila is definitely there – I was feeling it when I was done, that’s for sure – but it’s not bracing. Once I got to the last third, I had a pinkish, melty, sweet, delicious mix of grenadine, tequila, and horchata. It was near-perfect.

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All that, for less than $20 – I’m planning on heading back to Tortaria, if I can ever find a seat again.

As I’ve probably said before, I want to become a changed woman; I am trying to use all the produce I buy, instead of letting it go bad in the vegetable drawer (as, unfortunately, I have done way too many times). Last time I was at the farmer’s market, I saw these adorable miniature white eggplants, and because I am a total sucker for both different-colored vegetables and miniature produce, I had to get them. Luckily, I remembered them for this super quick dinner before they went bad. Score one for Dana!

I found this recipe in The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East, and other than the eggplant and green onions, was made up totally of things I already had in my kitchen! It cooks in less than 20 minutes – by far, the longest parts were making the rice and letting the eggplant sweat (releasing its extra moisture via salt). I accidentally had a bit of a heavy hand with the rice vinegar, but I saved it with a little honey, making it non-vegan, but edible and delicious.

It’s not a revolutionary dish, but it’s really good. Definitely don’t underestimate the “garlic lover’s” part of the recipe – it’s super garlicky, which we love in this house. The recipe originally says it serves 4 as a side dish, which is accurate – we’re admittedly big eaters, but this was just enough for both of us with rice. Next time, I’d probably double it and keep the leftovers. Delicious, and easy – perfect for weeknights!

Garlic Lover’s Eggplant (from The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East by Mark Renfield and Jennifer Murray)

6 cups eggplant, 1-inch cubes (I used all the eggplant seen in the picture)

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil

10 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1/2 chile pepper, seeded and minced, optional (I used crushed red pepper flakes)

1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons diced green onion

Place the cubed eggplant in a casserole dish and sprinkle with salt. After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the eggplant, place in a colander, and rinse well.

When the eggplant is ready, place the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and child pepper, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the eggplant and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and enjoy!

As much as I love cooking for myself and my friends and family, I love going to restaurants. Too much, actually; particularly in New York, where dinner is not usually cheap. So I’m trying to curb that urge a little, but last night, I had a tattoo consultation appointment with the lovely Jess Versus in Williamsburg, so I thought we should go out for dinner afterwards, to celebrate, or something. We found ourselves in eastern Williamsburg, with a lot of good stuff to choose from, but we decided on Lodge, which looked great from the posted menu. I had no idea how great it would actually be!

We started with drinks – Darren got a beer, I got an Eastern Standard, which was lemonade with blueberry-thyme vodka. The lemonade was delicious, but I couldn’t really detect the blueberry or the thyme? But I think I was a little tipsy at the end of dinner, so it was probably in there somewhere. Total hipster bingo with that picture, by the way: mason jar cocktails with Instagram filters in Brooklyn! Sheesh.

We shared the grilled kale salad with homemade ricotta and figs as an appetizer. This bad boy stole the show. We both were absolutely amazed at how good this was – we both love kale, but this was next level kale. It was salty and smokey but still crispy and went amazingly well with the ricotta and figs. I could have used another fig (the menu said there would be red grapes, but I assume they were out by this time), but this was one of the best kale dishes I’ve ever had.

After that salad, I was afraid the entrees would be disappointing, but nope! I had (on the left, obviously) a vegan lobster roll, which was a daily special too tempting to pass up. I’ve never had an actual lobster roll, as my family wasn’t really fond of seafood growing up and I stopped eating meat before I was sophisticated enough to try it, but it was pretty delicious! There were chickpeas and beans mashed with vegenaise, nori, and lots of spices. It was served with Old Bay-seasoned fries and watermelon. So good! Darren got…some sort of steak? I kind of zone out when people order meat, to be perfectly honest. It came with fries, and a delicious salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and beans. He was pleased, as well!

I knew dessert would be a mistake, insane quantity of food-wise, but I did it anyway. We shared a honey peach crumble with vanilla ice cream, which was excellent – not too sweet, crunchies on top, good fruit – everything that’s good about a crumble.

I know I’m going back to Lodge – I already have mental plans about what to order next! Highly recommended.