Rice, Lentils, and Caramelized Onions with Spiced Yogurt

lentils and yogurt

lentils

People often ask me what I make for lunches, and I have to be honest; I will make one meal on Sunday night and eat it everyday for lunch the entire week, provided that it’s adequately delicious.

Even better is when the meal gets better over the course of the week, like this one. The longer the flavors mingle, the more comforting this dish becomes. (For the record, it’s actually called mujaddara.)

Even even better is when that meal maintains some semblance of “healthy.” Granted, I doubled the yogurt sauce recipe, but I also added carrots and celery because I’m aware that some of you have New Year’s resolutions that you’re interested in keeping, and my cupcakes are no help. I wanted to redeem myself this week.

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions — what meals are you looking to make more of in 2013? I’d love some new post inspiration.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting the butter for more olive oil, and using a vegan yogurt. (My real vegan roommate suggests the coconut alternative as the almond was too sweet.)

Recipe from Food 52. I added carrots and celery.

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Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting & Candied Pecans

sweet potato cupcakes

Hey friends.

I know it’s been awhile.

Hopefully some sweet potato cupcakes will appease you. (For now.)

plain cupcakes

They are quite delightful, these moist little muffins topped with creamy frosting and crunchy pecans.

single cupcake

I’m currently testing recipes for a friend’s wedding. This friend, to be exact. These passed the test. Remember last time I made cupcakes for a wedding? I vowed only to do one wedding every two years.

I’m a woman of my word, it turns out. Except when that word involves promising to write more. That kind of thing is best left to chance.

Anyway, I know I should be posting recipes that help people keep their New Year’s resolutions, not actively attempt to break them. Alas, one of those recipes is best left to another day.

The original recipe for these cupcakes comes from some sort of Food Network cupcake challenge, but I’ve modified it to suit my tastes. (And the happy couple, of course.)

If you make them yourself, let me know how they turn out!

Sweet Potato Cupcakes:
Makes 18 – 24 cupcakes
2 cups mashed and cooled sweet potatoes, or one 16-ounce can
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cinnamon sugar, if desired

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a few cupcake tins with paper liners.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients and then the sweet potato puree.
3) Fill cupcake tin cup three-quarters full of batter. Bake until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean — 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
4) Once cooled, frost the cupcakes with the frosting, top with candied pecans, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Brown Sugar Frosting:
Frosts 18 – 24 cupcakes
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1) Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the butter and beat until well incorporated.
2) Add the light brown sugar and beat until fluffy, then stir in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.

Candied Pecans:
Makes four cups
Canola/vegetable oil, for greasing
1 egg white
4 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound chopped pecans

1) Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with oil.
2) Beat the egg white in a bowl until frothy, then whisk water and the vanilla extract into the egg.
3) Stir the sugar, cinnamon and salt into the egg mixture, then stir in the chopped pecans until they’re fully coated.
4) Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet and bake in 20 minute intervals, stirring the pecans before placing them back in the oven. Continue baking for about an hour.
5) Allow the pecans to cool on the baking sheet.

Tapioca Pudding

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved tapioca pudding. For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been known in my family as nutmeg. (You better believe there’s a direct correlation.)

Megala. Goobie. Little. Cowsey. Wilbur…

Just a sampling of the other charming names my siblings and I acquired growing up. Fortunately, they never really took off beyond the walls of our house. Every so often, there are occasions when sharing means more when it’s intimate (and when it means avoiding potential ridicule).

This recipe, however, is meant to be shared. Just don’t ask me to share my pudding. It’s fluffy and creamy and best straight from the fridge with a large spoon.

Fair warning: don’t top it with too much nutmeg. In large quantities, nutmeg is a hallucinogen. Read into that as you will.

Tapioca Pudding:
Serves 4 – 6
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (NOT instant)
3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature, separated
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
nutmeg, if desired

1) Combine tapioca, milk, and salt in a saucepan on medium high heat. Stir until boiling. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes at the lowest possible heat. Add sugar gradually.
2) Beat egg yolks in a separate bowl. Stir in some of the hot tapioca so the eggs don’t curdle when added to the pudding.
3) Combine eggs in the pan with the tapioca. Slowly bring mixture barely to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir several minutes at a low simmer, stirring constantly until the pudding thickens and coats the back of your spatula.
4) Beat egg whites in a bowl until they form soft peaks. Remove the tapioca pudding from the stove and fold in the beaten egg whites.
5) Cool the pudding for 15 minutes. Add vanilla. Serve either warm or chilled and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Confetti Vegetable Sauce

I’ve been keeping something from you.

More than a year ago, I was hanging out in Italy. Mostly just eating, but sometimes cooking. Obviously, my life tends to revolve around food as it is, but my fixation was only exacerbated by being in a place where food serves as a language of its own.

The point is, I learned how to make this really amazing, really simple sauce, and then I proceeded to not share the recipe with you for more than a year. My host in Pisa taught me how to make this sauce. That’s right; you’re looking at a real Italian recipe from a real Italian person.

Once you make it, I imagine you’ll forgive me. Basically everything in here is easily substituted, too. Try it with eggplant. Try it with sour cream. Try it without any dairy at all. Then, let me know how it turned out!

Confetti Vegetable Sauce:
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 zucchini, grated
1 squash, grated
1 red pepper, grated
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
your favorite pasta, cooked and drained

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash and red pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the water has been cooked off. Drain the vegetables.
2) Place the pan back on the stove and lower the heat to medium-low. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of butter. Stir in the garlic. Cook until light brown.
3) Stir in the well-drained vegetables until the mixture is very warm. Turn the heat to low and combine the mascarpone cheese. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper.
4) Spoon sauce onto your favorite pasta and top with fresh basil.

Chickpea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

It’s that time of year again — that period in summer where I mostly boycott my oven. And I eat even more vegetables than usual.

This salad is super simple and chock full of protein, which I always appreciate along with my veggies.

Chickpea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Serves 8
2 (8-ounce) cans of chickpeas
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of feta cheese
3 (or to taste) sprigs of dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

1) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Apple Onion Cheese Tart

I am not private in my opinion of comfort foods. This blog, if nothing else, serves as a testament of my devotion to all things warm and buttery. Living so far from home necessitates cooking with an excess of butter from time to time. Is a flaky tart an acceptable replacement for my brother’s bear hugs or my sister’s permeating laugh? Well, no. But it makes a decent consolation prize.

Being a resident of New York City is taxing in all the ways you’ve heard (including, quite literally, taxes). There is no loneliness quite so profound as the one experienced while surrounded by a sea of strangers. Cures are difficult to come by. When home is a few bites away, sometimes that’s enough. In any case, it has to be.

This recipe comes from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, which is my go-to resource for fresh and, obviously, simple food. Alice actually has the onion tart and the apple tart listed as two different recipes, but the two foods seemed like such a complementary pair. The dough recipe required no modification. It actually bubbles butter. Now that, my friends, is enough.

Tart Dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water

1) Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2) Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Tart Filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup cheddar or goat cheese

1) Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan on medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are brown and soft. Let cool.
2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
3) Spread cheese over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Starting at the outside, layer the apples slightly over one another and work toward the center. Apple slices in the center should be layered about 1 inch thick.
4) Sprinkle the apples with the cooked onions. Fold the border over the apples and onions to make a crust.
5) Mix the egg and milk or water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta

“Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point in going to them if one intends to keep one’s belt buckled.”
– Frederic Raphael

It’s not that I have forsaken cooking in pursuit of other, more easily acquired (and dare I say wanton?), meals. I haven’t. Sure, the occasional Chinese food delivery threatens my resolve, and the even less frequent meat loaf sandwich convinces me of my own culinary inadequacy, but I do still cook.

Unfortunately, prolific eating does not always lead to prolific writing. On the contrary, my food-induced comas compel me to do very little of anything, which is further indication that my restaurant reviewing career would not be especially promising. (Unless Instagram-friendly reviews were considered pithy rather than lazy.) Similarly, the food I eat out does not always inspire me so much as enable me to continue eating out.

So, my homemade meals of late have been basic. Vegetarian. Wholesome. I am still wholly capable of making indulgent foods, but mine is a city of indulgences, and sometimes I just crave simplicity. And that’s what home is for these days.

This recipe comes from One Big Table, which is as much about American food and material culture as it is about recipes. I highly recommend buying a copy. I especially love all the amazing vegetable dishes. (Cooking veggies tends to be where my creativity wanes.)

Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta
Serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)
pepper
4 ounces/1 cup feta cheese
1 dish of polenta

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a pan, heat olive oil to medium heat, then add eggplant and garlic. Cook until browned and slightly tender, then season with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oregano.
2) Pour eggplant into an 8 x 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish, then cover with diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and remaining oregano. Sprinkle feta on top, then cover the dish with foil. Bake until cheese begins to melt (25 to 30 minutes).
3) Meanwhile, prepare the polenta according to the package’s directions.
4) Remove the eggplant dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Heat a pan to medium heat and grease with butter or olive oil. Slice pieces of polenta and fry on each side for 2 to 3 minutes.
5) Place polenta on a plate, then top with eggplant and tomato dish. Serve warm.