Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Israeli couscous stuffed peppers

I've been searching for a flavorful stuffed pepper recipe for a while - one that avoids bland, mushy fillings.  This is it - the israeli couscous adds texture, while the fennel adds a unique spicing.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.


2/3 c Israeli couscous
6 large bell peppers, mixed colors
1/2 onion, diced
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced thinly
1/2 t fennel seeds
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
1 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 c feta, crumbled
3 T tomato puree/paste
1/3 c pine nuts, toasted
olive oil for cooking
optional: 1/4 c black olives, quartered


1) Preheat oven to 350F/180C, and coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.
2) Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add a dash of olive oil and salt, and cook Israeli couscous for approximately 8 minutes, or according to instructions on packaging.  When al dente, drain and set aside.
3) Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and prepare peppers: cut stems and top 1/2" of red peppers, clean inside by scooping out seed and membranes.
4) Boil trimmed peppers for 5 minutes, then drain and set to dry upside down.
5) Heat a splash of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add onions, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
6) Add zucchini, fennel seeds, oregano, and salt, and cook for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
7) Remove from heat, and stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, tomato paste, feta, pine nuts, and olives (if using) - then add the couscous, and mix gently to combine.
8) Place peppers upright in baking dish (if they fall over, crumble up foil to keep them in place), and ladle couscous mixture into peppers.
9) Bake 15-20 minutes, or until peppers look heated through and slightly browned on top.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quinoa with broccoli pesto

This is a hearty quinoa dish for broccoli lovers, and makes for a nice almondy-twist on pesto.  Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.


1 c quinoa
5 c raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems
2 medium garlic cloves
2/3 c slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 c grated Parmesan
2 big pinches salt
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
3 T heavy cream
1/2 zucchini, cut lengthwise and into 1/4" half moons
2 green onions, sliced thinly
handful slivered basil
1 avocado, sliced thinly
1/2 c feta, crumbled


1) Heat quinoa and 2 c water in a medium saucepan until boiling - reduce and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffled up, about 15 minutes or according to package instructions.  Drain any extra water and set aside.
2) Blanch zucchini and broccoli by bringing a small pot of water to a simmer - add a big pinch of salt, stir in veggies.  Cover and cook for 2 minutes, just long enough to take the raw edge off.
3) Transfer the broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water until it stops cooking. Set aside.
4) Make broccoli pesto puree by combining 2 c cooked broccoli, garlic, 1/2 cup almonds, Parmesan, salt, lemon juice, oil, and cream in a food processor
5) Toss cooked broccoli and zucchini, remaining almonds, green onions, and basil with quinoa.  Serve sprinkled with avocado and feta, and with dollops of pesto.

Cheesecake brownies

This is a heavenly chocolate recipe - dense, rich brownies paired with a not-as-sweet, creamy cream cheese mix.  The chocolate and the cream cheese balance each other out - that's the key.  Adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe, per this website.  Note: I can't get unsweetened baking chocolate in the UK, so I've substitute cocoa powder and butter, per the conversion on this website, it worked just fine.


For the brownie batter

2/3 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
120 g bittersweet chocolate (I used 85% cocoa chocolate)
35 g cocoa powder
125 g lightly salted buter
1 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract
3 large eggs

For the cheesecake batter

450g cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 egg yolk
1/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract


1) Preheat oven to 165C/325F.  Coat the bottom of an 8" square baking pan with baking spray, lay down an 8x16" piece of foil to coat the bottom and sides (folding over the sides for handles), and coat the inside of the foil with baking spray.
2) Whisk cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
3) Combine bittersweet chocolate and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt gently until silky smooth.
4) Whisk in 1 c sugar, 2 t vanilla, and eggs (one at a time).
5) Whisk in dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated - do not overmix.
6) In another bowl, mix cream cheese, 1/4 c sugar, 1 t vanilla, and egg yolk.
7) Pour half of brownie batter into prepared pan, then drop half the cream cheese mixture throughout the batter in spoonfulls, distributing evenly. Swirl cream cheese mixture through batter with a a table knife or spoon.
8) Pour remaining half of brownie batter into pan, drop remaining cream cheese filling throughout, and swirl, creating a marbled effect.
9) Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes, until brownies have puffed slightly, and a knife inserted into the middle comes out with moist crumbs (or a tiny amount of batter).  The center should feel not quite firm - it's better to have them come out undercooked than overcooked.  Cool 5 minutes before eating.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vegetarian Moussaka

This is a beautiful recipe - it combines a rich tomato-chickpea-lentil stew with a creamy bechamel sauce and roasted potatoes and eggplant.  It is, however, very time and ingredient intensive, although I think it's worth it.  It also makes enough for about 12 - i.e. lots of leftovers!  Adapted from Jamie Oliver.


15g dried porcini mushrooms
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a handful fresh herb leaves (such as rosemary, sage)
dried oregano
250ml red wine
1 400g can of chickpeas, drained
1 400g can lentils, drained
4 bay leaves
3 400g cans chopped tomatoes
4 eggplants, cut into 1/2" round slices
800g potatoes, cut into 1/4" round slices
750ml milk
5 peppercorns
75g butter
75g flour
150g feta cheese
100g parmesian or pecorino
2 large egg yolks
olive oil
olive oil spray
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.  Place porcini in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, then set aside to soak. 
  2. Saute onion and garlic in 1T olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until translucent.
  3. Take porcini out of bowl (reserving the water), and roughly chop. At the same time, bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
  4. Add to the onions, along with fresh herbs and 1t oregano, and saute for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
  5.  Add wine, chickpeas, lentils, 2 bay leaves, tomatoes, and porcini water - season to taste, and simmer over low heat for ~1 hour, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  6. Meanwhile, parboil potatoes by cooking in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain and allow to dry.
  7. Place potatoes in large roasting tray, season with oil and a few pinches of dried oregano, and toss to coat evenly.  Spread in an even layer and set aside.
  8. Prepare another large roasting tray with olive oil spray, and spread eggplant in a single layer.  Spray top of eggplants, then add another single layer of eggplant, and spray again.  Continue layering eggplant and spray until all eggplant slices are in the tray.
  9. Roast potatoes and eggplant in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.  Once cooked, set aside.
  10. Add butter to a medium-large saucepan, and heat over medium heat - add flour and combine to form a paste, then cook for ~2 minutes, until butter-flour mixture is fragrant and has a slight golden color.
  11. Gradually stir in milk, making sure that there are no lumps of flour - add bay leaves and peppercorns, and stir mixture until it is  hot enough that it starts to thicken.
  12. Crumble in 50g feta, and stir to combine - set aside.
  13. Once the tomato mixture, roasted vegetables, and sauce are done, you can begin to assemble the moussaka: take roasting pan full of potatoes, cover with half the ragù, layer layer half the aubergines on top, and repeat with the remaining ragù and aubergines. 
  14. Whisk egg yolks into the béchamel sauce, then gently pour onto the aubergines in an even layer.
  15. Crumble and grate the remaining cheese on top, and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbling. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vanilla mascarpone ice cream

I made this ice cream without an ice cream maker - the custard base keeps it from forming ice crystals that are too big.  Adapted from BBC Good Food.


3 large egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
300ml full-fat milk
250g mascarpone
seeds ½ vanilla pod (or 2 t vanilla extract)

  1. Put the yolks and sugar into a large bowl, and beat together until pale and thick.
  2. Put milk, mascarpone, and vanilla into medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to combine
  3. Once just boiling, take off the heat and whisk this gradually into the bowl with egg mix to make a custard.
  4. Pour custard back into saucepan, and cook gently for 15 mins, stirring constantly until mix is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (approximately 65-70C). Don’t let it boil or the eggs will scramble. 
  5. Freeze  custard for approx. 4 hrs in a container, stirring and breaking up the crystals every hour until thick and smooth. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tagliatelle with asparagus in a parmesian and creme fraiche sauce

This is a tangy and fresh version of carbonara - the creme fraiche adds a depth of flavor to the dish.  Adapted from The River Cafe Cook Book Green


500g-1kg asparagus, ends trimmed
500g tagliatelle (fresh is ideal)
250g parmesian, grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
400ml creme fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a medium pot halfway with water, and bring to a very gentle simmer
  2. Rub the crushed garlic around the surface of a small-medium saucepan, and add creme fraiche, parmesian, and egg yolks
  3. Heat small pan filled with creme fraiche on top of medium pot filled with water - stir gently and cook until sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes (or until sauce reaches around 65C)
  4. Bring a large pan of water to boil, and season with 2 tablespoons of salt
  5. Prepare asparagus by slicing stems and tips into 1" pieces on the diagonal
  6. Cook pasta - read cooking instructions on pasta package, and add asparagus to boiling water so that it cooks with the pasta for the final 3-4 minutes, until both are al dente
  7. Drain pasta and asparagus, pour creme-fraiche sauce over and toss to mix

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Simple coconut rice

Try this rice with any Latin American or Asian flavored dishes, to add a bit or richness and flavor to your normal rice.


2 c short grain rice (or jasmine rice, if you want to use long grain - I prefer short grain as it makes the rice a bit sticky)
2 c water
2 c high-quality coconut milk

  1. Combine rice, water, and coconut milk in a medium-large pot
  2. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture starts to boil, stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes (depending on rice's cooking time), until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice (check for doneness by eating the rice or looking for extra liquid)
  4. Remove pot from heat and leave rice covered 5-10 minutes, or until serving
  5. To serve, fluff with a fork