roasted vegetables

roasted vegetables

I feel bad for taking such a long hiatus and returning with something as uninspiring as roasted vegetables. I’m assuming, like me, you’ve established a casual relationship with vegetables, only eating them because you’re a grownup and someone somewhere said you should. You could just focus on the vegetables that you like, but what about your family? More than once, I’ve peered over my shoulder while reaching for carrots only to find Martin shaking his head disapprovingly from across the produce section. If you too suffer from the disapproving glances cast by loved ones because of your choice in vegetable, then, I have a solution for you!

I’ve suffered many pans of poorly roasted vegetables. I’ve tried the roast the firm vegetables first and then add the softer vegetables later technique. And even with all the intermittent stirring and strategically timed adding of vegetables they still turned out okay. This just wasn’t working for me. Roasting vegetables should not be so labor intensive. Then I discovered this article: How to Master Roasted Vegetables.

I made brussels sprouts taste like butter.


Brussels sprouts
1 turnip (I’m not sure how this ended up in my house)
1 yam (This isn’t a real yam it’s just a variety of sweet potato that grocery stores label as “yam.” I just learned about this.)

I’ve also successfully roasted other vegetables such as: cauliflower, carrots, red bell pepper, and sweet potatoes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut Brussels sprouts in half (so the bottom part holding the leaves together is cut in half), peel (or not) the yam and cut into 1 inch cubes, cut the turnip into 1 inch cubes. Toss the veggies together in a bowl and season generously with salt. Pour in good olive oil and toss the veggies until theres a nice sheen on them, however not so much that oil pools on the bottom. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, try to avoid overlapping vegetables. Stick them in the oven. After about 10-12 minutes check on the veggies to see if they’re browning. I’ve found my veggies don’t really start browning until about 15-20 minutes or so in the oven. Once they start to brown, give them a stir and stick them back in, checking on them about every 5 minutes or so until they’re evenly browned. I’ve roasted them up to 30 minutes or so.

If they’re browning too fast and don’t feel soft enough, then turn the heat down until they’re soft. Turn the heat back up so they can caramelize.

Once they’re out of the oven you can season them with some pepper and herbes.

Cooking notes: Read the full article for more information on how to cut each type of vegetable and more tips on roasting. 


gruyere grilled cheese with apple salad

What happened to fall? I was just starting to enjoy the crisp fall leaves, wearing sweaters in the appropriate season, and eating yummy cinnamony things. Instead I get a hurricane. I’m from the Midwest so hurricanes don’t make sense to me. Several days of preparation, waiting, anticipating, and praying that everything is okay and this thing is moving a whopping 10 miles an hour, TEN!! I had cabin fever before it even passed North Carolina! To add to my anxiety, we’re in what is called a Category 4 flood zone and what is now a voluntary evacuation zone. So, we’re just going to hope there aren’t any category 4 floods. On a positive note, I’ve learned some new scientific terms, like “storm surge,” and I have even memorized the time for high tide in our neighborhood as if it were Maghrib during Ramadan.

While I’m holed up, and hoping we emerge from this unscathed, I hope you have a chance to enjoy some lovely fall weather. Here’s a delicious sandwich and salad to keep you company!

Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Apple Salad

4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup ¼” thick sliced shallots
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ¼” thick slices country-style white bread (I used Martin’s 100% Whole Wheat Potato Bread)
8 oz Gruyere, sliced ⅛” thick
2 cups arugula
½ apple cut into ¼” slices
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over high heat. When butter begins to foam, add shallots and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until shallots begin to soften and caramelize, 4-5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, add 1 tbsp of butter and swirl in pan to melt butter and coat bottom of pan. Add 2 slices of bread to pan and cook until golden brown and crisp on the bottom, 2-3 minutes. Transfer bread, toasted side down to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining butter and bread slices. Divide cheese evenly among bread slices; top cheese with reserved shallots.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cheese is melted, 7-8 minutes.

Combine Arugula, apple slices, lemon juice and oil in a large bowl; toss to coat and evenly distribute. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Press 2 pieces of bread together, and cut on a diagonal and place on a plate. Divide salad between plates.

Cooking Notes: I made this twice, once following the directions as listed and baking the cheese, and also by making it the traditional way – melting the cheese between slices of bread while on the skillet. Both techniques offered a great sandwich and I found no noticeable difference between the two. The second version was just simpler. You could probably also cut down on the amount of butter by just buttering 1 side of each slice of bread – but really, this sandwich is not pretending to be healthy. Do not omit the shallots, they are absolutely amazing in this grilled cheese. I’m not sure how I’ve made grilled cheese sandwiches without shallots before.

eggplant, mozzarella, and arborio rice bake

Rice is a sticky subject in our house. There seems to be no end to the Basmati vs. Jasmin tiff. Though we can appreciate the merits of both types of rice, we each prefer the rice we grew up eating. I prefer Basmati, and Martin Jasmine. Sure, a sticky Jasmine rice is necessary- and not to mention delicious- with Asian cuisine, especially if it requires chopsticks. But, Basmati is still better. The fluffiness of a long grain rice is a delight to eat even on its own.

I was mesmerized by a recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Baked eggplant, in a tomato sauce with melted cheese sounded heavenly. However, the saffron arborio rice gave me pause as did the potential heaviness of the dish. I’ve never cooked arborio rice, let alone baked rice in some saucy concoction. I was intrigued, but not convinced this was for me. Despite our rice differences we can both agree that mushy rice is just not for us. A few days later I saw Smitten Kitchen posted a baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella recipe. This was a sign. The lightness of the Smitten Kitchen recipe is what sold me. I decided that making a lighter version of the BA recipe following some guidelines from the SK recipe was the way to go.

The hybrid turned out pretty well. My first concern was that the rice would be either over or under done, and it turned out perfect. It wasn’t mushy and held together. Fresh mozzarella of course makes everything better, however the additional pecorino wasn’t necessary. I’m so glad I went with fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce as BA recommended. As for Martin, he exclaimed “it’s like pizza rice!” after eating his first bite. I’m still not sure how to take that, but I think that’s a compliment. In the end, we were pleasantly surprised by the rice.

1 large eggplant cubed
2 tbsp butter
½  onion diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 cup arborio rice
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 medium tomatoes diced
½ lb fresh mozzarella cubed

Cube eggplant into ⅓ inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. While the eggplant is baking begin to make the rice. Melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted saute onions until soft, add garlic and cook until soft. Add the herbs and stir frequently for about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to mix and then add 1 cup of water (or broth) and bring to a gentle boil for about 6 minutes then remove from heat. Stir in tomato paste.

Once the eggplant has baked for 30 minutes. Combine ½ of the eggplant and diced tomatoes in an oven proof pan, I used a Dutch oven, layer with ½ of rice mixture, ½ cheese layer remaining eggplant, tomato, rice and top with cheese. These will likely be messy layers and that’s okay. I’m sure I could have just stirred this all together and it would have been fine. Just be sure to end with a layer of cheese.

Bake 20 minutes covered and another 20 minutes uncovered.

Recipe Notes:

I prefer to bake eggplant, but pan frying it would be just fine. I’d recommend a firmer mozzarella, probably one that is not packed in water. Arborio rice was just a bit more expensive than what I would have guessed, so keep that in mind when buying it. I’m not sure if any other rice would have worked as well as arborio, I would hesitate to suggest any substitutions.

cold noodles with sesame sauce

I’m sure by now it doesn’t really come as a surprise that I get hooked to one ingredient and go on to prepare it in multiple ways for weeks on end. Remember those chickpeas I was crazy about? Yes well, I’ve found a new obsession. Tahini. I guess this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise either – chickpeas and tahini are well acquainted after all. As most of my food obsessions, it begins unassumingly, I never expect it and before I can control the situation, I’ve already purchased an excessive quantity of it. Fortunately though because of tahini’s rich taste and texture I maintained my sanity. I couldn’t overindulge. The long shelf-life also helped!
I ate tahini with carrots, in salads, and on sandwiches and while this was all well and good, I wanted more. I wanted fireworks. Tahini has a great flavor on it’s own, but I didn’t want it to be the only flavor, the only texture. I wanted it paired with something that would compliment it’s texture, play off of it’s flavors, really make it sing.

I found what I was looking for in a Mark Bittman recipe for cold noodles with sesame sauce. With some ever so slight modifications this recipe has become a favorite. Though his recipe suggests you can make this with peanut butter, I have decided I am not a peanut-butter-in-my-noodles kind of person. I’ve tried it and, and in the end, it still tastes like peanut butter and noodles. I think tahini makes a far better accompaniment to Asian noodles.

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

1 block of tofu cubed
12 ounces Chinese egg noodles or long pasta, like linguine
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
½ cup tahini
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp rice vnegar
Hot sesame oil or Tabasco sauce to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
chopped fresh scallion for garnish

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes and fry in 2 tbsp of oil until golden and crisp, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender. Whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water until it’s about the consistency of heavy cream. When the pasta is done, drain it and run the pasta under cold water. Drain.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and tofu, salt to taste. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Recipe Notes: Though I did not do this, Bittman suggests adding shredded cucumber into the mix. This can only make things even more awesome.

tomato basil pizza (for winter)

Martin came back! Hurray! It’s too bad that he only came for a few days and now has to head off to his next destination. While he was away enjoying English cuisine,  I tried to think of foods that he would miss at home. Fortunately for me, the bar was low. As long as I avoided fish and chips I could out-do London. I decided one of our favorite pizzas would be perfect, but with some modifications. We absolutely LOVE tomato basil pizza in the summer. Now that it’s cold and delicious tomatoes are nowhere to be found, I tried a homemade tomato sauce, with buffalo mozzarella and basil. I think we found our winter alternative for tomato basil pizza.

Also, if you were wondering, the name of this blog came about when making tomato basil pizza. However delicious the pizza would be the dough would always end up a little soft from all the watery ingredients. Martin would reassure me that the pizza was still amazing, but I’d always think it’s just too bad that I don’t have a professional brick oven that can reach 900 degrees. Alas, with my standard ol’ oven, I’ll always be 400 degrees from perfection…

Pizza Dough
Serves 3 (or 2 very full adults)

2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 heaping tsp active dry yeast
¾ cup lukewarm water (may need 1-2 tablespoons more)
1 ½ tsp olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Knead everything into a ball for about a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the dough over to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the dough into roughly a ball and let it sit under the plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, top with whatever toppings and seasonings you like. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Pizza Sauce

This is actually a tomato sauce to be eaten with pasta, but I liked how thick and textured it ends up being. Instead of a runny smooth sauce, I liked this thick and chunky sauce better for pizza. It’s also simple and doesn’t disrupt the simplicity of a traditional tomato basil pizza.

1 cup whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes
2 ½ tbsp butter
½ of an onion
salt to taste
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, butter and onion half in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a stead simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break up large chunks of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed. Discard onion half before serving.

Recipe Notes: There ended up being a lot of notes, so I’ve divided them into categories for easier reading. Apologies for the dissertation on pizza.

1. Refrigerating pizza dough: I have read that if you plan to let pizza dough sit for a while it is best to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature and then proceed. However, I have never had good luck with refrigerated pizza dough. I find that it is not as pliable and is harder to work with. Generally, I avoid refrigerating dough. If you’ve had better luck, please do share!

2. Pizza stones: I know that there are good stones out there, I just don’t have one. I’ve been fine with using a baking sheet, but I know the results will be better with a stone. My mother has a Pampered Chef baking stone which I love and hope to inherit. I’ve also heard of people using  anything from ceramic tiles on the floor of their oven, to the bottom of clay pots. I haven’t tried these methods, so I can’t really say how well they work. Again, your insights are welcome!

3.  Pre-baking the dough: This has become my work around. If I’m making pizza with very moist/wet toppings such as tomato basil, I usually pre-bake the dough on it’s own for about 5-7 minutes. I’ll take the dough out, add toppings and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes or until it’s bubbling, melty and irresistible.

4. Tomato sauce: This tomato sauce has been raved about, and I was expecting… more. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful and perfect for this pizza. However, next time I’d add some garlic into the mix. I might also find higher quality canned tomatoes. Martin said the sauce tasted “earthy.” I have no idea what that means. He did however like it more than the store bought, overly sweetened variety.

5. Buffalo mozzarella: This is amazing! I know, it’s like $8.00 for a ball of cheese, but it is oh so good. It has a sharper flavor than… cow mozzarella, but is much softer and creamier. The sauce isn’t what shined in this pizza, it was the cheese. I’m pretty sure we’re going to go with buffalo mozzarella on our summer tomato basil pizzas as well. Also, I used the entire 8oz ball of mozzarella on the pizza.