Gazpacho

GazpachoThis chilled soup is ideal for a summer meal, and a sure way to impress any guest.  This is the gazpacho that blew my mind in Madrid when we first visited a few years ago — with a smooth, creamy, velvety consistency, but without any animal-based products at all.  The recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  While the folks at America’s Test Kitchen often seem to needlessly complicate some standard recipes, this one is well worth the small additional effort to prepare the vegetables. Continue reading

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Farro and Asparagus Salad

Farro-SaladRecently while looking for a new idea for a refreshing but substantial salad to serve for Easter brunch, we found this gem on Allrecipes.com.  We liked it so much that we served it two more times within a month.  Once we substituted barley for the farro with excellent results.  The other time, we replaced the asparagus with fresh steamed green beans, which were delightful. Continue reading

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas

20131029-165849.jpgLooking for an easy and healthful lunch for the home or office?  This is one of my favorite recipes — and it’s totally vegan.  It comes from the January 2008 issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine and was also featured on the Today show.  It’s infinitely variable; if you don’t happen to have cauliflower on hand, you can substitute another vegetable that roasts well, like bell peppers, or eggplant, or zucchini, or sliced onion.  I like including whole garlic cloves.  The arugula is nice, but totally optional.  And when I made this dish for lunch today, I substituted quinoa for the couscous, and it works perfectly!  Feel free to vary this to your own taste, and enjoy. Continue reading

Charkhlis Mkhali (Georgian Beet Salad)

BeetsThe Georgian table is always filled with a vast array of salads and appetizers.  Often at a Georgian restaurant, I don’t even make it to the main dish because I stuff myself on starters.  This is one of the culprits.  Mkhali (or pkhali) is a general term for a vegetable puree mixed with herbs and ground walnuts.  Yesterday I made the version with beets.  You could just as easily substitute spinach or other greens.  This recipe comes almost verbatim from Darra Goldstein’s masterpiece The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. Continue reading

Lobio (Georgian bean salad)

LobioAlong with generous amounts of khachapuri, the other item that I almost always order in a Georgian restaurant is lobio.  It comes different ways.  This particular recipe is fairly standard.  This recipe is a perfect example of how the Georgians can take something as ordinary as kidney beans and turn them into something wondrously exotic.  If your friends are deathly allergic to walnuts, you can leave them out, and the dish doesn’t suffer too much.  This dish can be served either at room temperature or hot.  The hot version usually has the consistency of a stew and is often made with hot pepper. Continue reading

Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread)

KhachapuriKhachapuri may be the most popular food in Georgia, and each of its many regions has its own distinct style. Imeretian khachapuri, the most common, is circular and filled with cheese.  Mingrelian is similar, but with more cheese added on top.  Adjarian khachapuri is shaped like an open boat and topped with a raw egg. Abkhazian khachapuri (Achma) is made of multiple moist layers of pasta-like dough, almost like lasagna.  Ossetian khachapuri has potato in the filling.  The economics school at Tbilisi State University has recently developed a “khachapuri index” to measure Georgian inflation, using as its market basket the limited set of ingredients used to make khachapuri, including the energy used to power the oven.

This recipe is a combination of the dough used in Darra Goldstein’s recipe in The Georgian Feast (the ultimate Georgian cookbook, in my opinion) and my favorite filling from Anya von Bremzen’s recipe in Please to the Table.  The picture above is what I produced yesterday.  It was very good, though not exactly the most common look. Continue reading

Yellow Lentils (Dal Tadka)

Yellow DalLast weekend my wife and I went out to dinner with a friend from college to Bollywood Bistro, a fun Indian establishment in old-town Fairfax, Virginia.  The service was enthusiastic (if a bit overbearing with the water-glass refills).  And one of my favorite dishes was the yellow dal, which is a very common dish in Indian cuisine.  I was inspired to try it myself the next evening at home, and it was quite satisfying.  I started with a popular recipe from Ruta Kahate’s book 5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Spices, and adjusted it to my available ingredients and cooking preferences.  I came up with the recipe below.

A note for those who appreciate the health benefits of herbs: Indian cuisine is filled with turmeric, which has potent anti-inflammatory effects when used in generous quantities.  It has also been shown to have some anti-cancer effect, and researchers are also investigating its possible effectiveness in Alzheimer’s disease.  To maximize its bio-availability, it needs to be combined with black pepper, which works synergistically with turmeric’s most active constituent, curcumin.  Hence, I’ve added black pepper to this recipe.  Enjoy this tasty opportunity to contribute to science! Continue reading