Yesterday I spent about an hour browsing the melamine aisle at Target and it felt really amazing. Turning over the various floral pattern plate sets and palming the smooth plastic cups available in a variety of sea greens was just what I needed to come back to my domestic decision-making reality and refocus my attention after a blissful holiday week in Michigan.
We didn’t do much recipe experimenting while on vacation, but we did roast marshmallows and grill the best veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten – thanks Michael, Stephanie, “Baby Lily”, and Kosar! I did, however, manage to try a wonderful new recipe for Quinoa with Roasted Summer Vegetables and Harissa Marinade from Amy Chaplin’s book “At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen” before leaving town which I cannot recommend enough. The roasted vegetables and quinoa are the basis of many traditional Italian dishes, but the aromatic Harissa – a mild chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking – added an unexpected spicy flavor which will soon become a new staple in my kitchen.
Quinoa with roasted summer vegetables
- 1 cup quinoa
- Sea salt
- 2 zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 orange pepper, seeded and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook quinoa two parts water to one part quinoa on medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Place zucchini, peppers and cherry tomatoes on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toss to combine. Put in oven and roast 20 to 25 minutes, stirring half way. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Heat a skillet over high heat add a tablespoon of olive oil and red onion and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized. Add a pinch of salt, stir and remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper, depending on how hot you like it
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Large pinch sea salt
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Warm a skillet over a medium flame and add the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds, toast for 3 minutes, shaking pan occasionally. Transfer into a spice grinder and grind until fine. Place ground spices in a bowl and add the cayenne, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Stir and then drizzle in the olive oil, stir until smooth. Spoon harissa in a small bowl, add lemon juice and olive oil. I actually did about 1/4 cup olive oil to break down the paste a bit more. Stir well and set aside.Place cooked quinoa and roasted vegetables in bowl, drizzle with harissa, and gently toss to combine.
I haven’t been on a vacation since before my kids were born. Sure we’ve had a weeknight away here and there for sanity breaks, but my passport has sat untouched since 2008. Ever since eagerly planning for the family reunion in the Bahamas a few months ago, the word “vacation” has become a verb, noun and adjective in our household. A Holy Grail even. We’re going “On Vacation.” We put our pants on and acting like a good boy “To Vacation.” We are going to have a great “Vacation Day.” So naturally the trip had to start off with tears at the airport because mommy didn’t properly arrange for passports for the boys and after all that packing and planning and Asher screaming “I WANNA GO ON THE AIRPLANE WAAAAAH” in his Panama hat we ended up going home instead. Then mommy flew out for vacation with her overseas family while daddy stayed with the boys and applied for passports in Chicago for three days and never slept. But as most things that seem too perfect in the beginning go, the kinks and stress paid off in the end because it helped me value even more what we had gained at the end of the journey.
There is nothing like not knowing what time it is and, more poignantly, not caring what time it is. The Bahamas is a magical place frozen in time full of warm sea water, white squishy sand, coconut trees growing wild, and a general sense of peace and pleasure. Nestled into the quiet nook of Lyford Cay on the island of Nassau is a private little bay and a gorgeous villa where you can literally walk out your bedroom door and follow the manta rays that stalk the shore at dawn. Where tiny little hermit crabs are the same shade of white as the sand, and where night herons screech and dance amongst the palms. A place where the 1940’s polo-themed living room with no walls opens to a plantation style porch on one side and a peach travertine pillared courtyard that welcomes the Caribbean rain water on the other. Where the turquoise water is so shallow and calm that a baby can sit there for hours. Where toddlers develop a general sense adventure, jumping into swimming pools, wading through the Caribbean Sea, sleeping in a Queen size bed. Even one day in this island haven makes the effort with two young children worthwhile. Sigh.
I was in the mood to continue to the fiesta when I returned home – hence today’s recipe for Enchilada Casserole. The bean salad from the recipes makes the perfect side dish for a BBQ or can be the stuffing for peppers or enchiladas, but I opted for the Enchilada Casserole because it is makes a hearty dish that you can serve with fresh avocado and cilantro. And margaritas.
12 corn tortillas
3 zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
30 oz can red enchilada sauce
1 bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pan, add olive oil and fry the zucchini for 7 to 8 minutes on medium heat, until translucent. Stir in the chili powder and cumin, then mix in the corn, beans and olives. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Arrange 6 corn tortillas on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with half the bean mixture then pour half the enchilada sauce over the mixture. Add another layer of 6 corn tortillas, then top with the remaining bean mixture. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the top layer. Top with cheese or soy cheese, then bake for 40 minutes.
This weekend I had the immense pleasure of escaping to NYC for my friend Stephanie’s baby shower for two glorious nights and three full days. From sunning on their rooftop deck in Hoboken overlooking the musky Manhattan skyline, to prancing around Times Square searching for overpriced NYPD-themed stuffed animals for my boys back home, to spending $11 on the smallest glass of wine in the world during intermission at the powerful performance of “All The Way” at the Niel Simon Theatre, I loved every minute of the energy, power, and thrill of the big city. But more importantly, I loved being present to welcome my friends into the wonderful world of parenthood … and to wish them luck with her 5-floor walk-up.
On Saturday evening we had a little BBQ and I experimented with a new recipe for black bean burgers from Skinny Taste which featured a kind of pureed salsa in the base. I have always struggled with keeping black bean burgers from falling apart, and after a little research I learned that freezing the patties for 2 hours prior to cooking actually keeps them intact. So I had to impart this little nugget of knowledge on my blog! Not sure Frank Sinatra would approve of these Hoboken Black Bean Burgers, but I sure do.
HOBOKEN BLACK BEAN BURGERS
16 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jumbo egg
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 to 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup quick oats
In a medium bowl, mash beans with a fork until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, cilantro, onion, and garlic. Mix in add oats, eggs and spices. Then stir into mashed beans. Divide mixture into four patties and place them onto a flat surface covered with wax paper. I did add a few tablespoons additional oats to help keep the mixture firm. Freeze at least 2 hours before cooking or keep frozen until ready to cook. Bake at 375 degrees or pan fry 7 minutes per side. I served with a nice dollop of guacamole.