Archive | August, 2013

Speedy Ratatouille

28 Aug

Speedy Ratatouille

This dish is magic.  It’s full of vegetables, but despite that, my kids seem to love it.  I was shocked when they asked for a second helping the first time I made it.  Thinking it was a fluke, I made it again a few weeks later.  Again, they emptied their bowls and asked for more.  It’s become a family staple.  Nowadays they even get excited when I tell them we’re having ratatouille for dinner.

This would be a great dinner for company, because you can make it the day before (see notes below).  Be sure to serve it with crusty bread….mmm.

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cored and finely chopped (in a pinch, I just use canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup loosely packed shredded basil leaves*
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup crumbled aged goat cheese
  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the eggplant and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add one-third of the garlic, season with salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a plate.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the casserole along with the zucchini and yellow squash and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add another one-third of the garlic, season with salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetables to the eggplant.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the casserole, along with the onion and bell pepper. Cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, season with salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, two-thirds of the basil and the reserved vegetables and cook over moderate heat until the tomatoes have broken down and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining basil along with the lemon zest and juice. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle with the goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Make Ahead: The ratatouille can be refrigerated overnight.  In fact, it’s even better the next day.  Just wait to do the lemon and goat cheese until you’re ready to serve.
*If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, you can substitute dried basil.  I add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon to each batch of cooking veggies.

Fresh Limeade

28 Aug

I am completely addicted to this stuff.  We’ve made it several times this summer, thanks to the kids’ help.  They have graciously juiced bagfuls of limes from our local Mexican grocer.  This recipe is based on Mark Bittman’s suggested ratios; however, you should obviously adjust it to suit your taste.  I think it’s perfect as-is, but Sam likes his a little less tart.

Fresh Limeade

1 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 1/3 cups simple syrup*
4 cups water or sparkling water (it’s the best!)

Combine ingredients in pitcher and serve over lots of ice.

This recipe can be adjusted to make any quantity, simply use the ratio 1:1.3:4.

*To make simple syrup, just combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan.  Boil gently until sugar is dissolved.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  It will keep for weeks.

Chana Masala

28 Aug

Chana Masala- Homemade life2

This summer I read Molly Wizenberg’s memoir, A Homemade Life.  It’s full of yummy recipes and was really inspiring.  I have made at least 8 of her recipes and so far none have disappointed.  This was one of our family favorites.  Yes, even the kids enjoyed it.

Chana Masala

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed (or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional


Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods (or powder), and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve. **

Yields 4 servings

**Molly’s notes about serving– This chana masala can be served in two different styles: with a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt to smooth and soften the flavors, or sans yogurt, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of fresh cilantro. Either way, this dish is even better the second—or third—day.

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles

28 Aug

Many thanks to my friend Erin for introducing me to this recipe.  I’ve made it at least five times this summer.  Grilled marinated chicken topped with a fresh cucumber “salsa” and peanut sauce — yum!  Don’t be discouraged by the laundry list of ingredients.  It’s easy to prepare, and you could even make the peanut sauce and sambal a few hours ahead if needed.  I double the amount of peanut sauce and cucumber sambal.

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles

  • 4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 8 ounces, weight Dry Spaghetti
  • ¼ cups Dry Roasted Peanuts, Chopped (for Garnish)


  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil
  • ½ teaspoons Kosher Salt


  • ½ cup Chicken Broth
  • ¼ cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Garlic Sauce
  • ½ cups Fresh Cilantro, Minced


  • 1 cup Cucumber, Seeded, Diced
  • ½ cups Scallions, Thinly Sliced
  • ¼ cups Red Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • ½ Tablespoons Kosher Salt

Preheat grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Toss with chicken and grill for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from grill (or grill pan), and tent with foil while preparing the other ingredients.

Prepare the cucumber sambal by tossing together the sambal ingredients. Set aside till serving.

Cook the pasta according to the package; drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, prepare peanut sauce. Heat broth, peanut butter, brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, and chili garlic sauce in a saucepan over medium heat to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Off heat, stir in cilantro and salt, then pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat.

Top each chicken breast with pasta and cucumber sambal. Garnish with peanuts.

Makes 4 servings

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

28 Aug

This is our new favorite dinner recipe.  I promise you won’t miss the meat!

Sweet Potato Enchiladas_1499

Sweet Potato Enchiladas_1497

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

  • 4 medium to large sweet potatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,softened
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1  1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1  1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1  1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 (7 inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 (19 ounce) can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and roast for about 60 minutes until soft in center.  Cool potatoes slightly.
2. Scoop the flesh of the sweet potatoes into a bowl, and mash it with the cream cheese, green onions, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper until well mixed.  Stir in black beans.  (Mixture can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.)
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 13×9 inch baking dish.
4. Place 6 tortillas on a cookie sheet.  Spray both sides of tortillas with cooking spray and bake for 3 minutes until soft and pliable.  Repeat with remaining 6 tortillas.
5. Place about 1/3 cup of sweet potato filling down the center of each tortilla, roll it up, and place filled tortillas seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas, and sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the enchiladas are bubbling and the cheese is beginning to brown.
(Adapted from