Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

lettuce cups with homemade seitan

In dinner on November 17, 2015 at 12:47 am


we’re getting a winter CSA this year, and in the last box, there was a beautiful head of boston lettuce. IMO, the only and best thing to do with boston lettuce is to make lettuce cups (or “lettuce wraps,” for those p.f. changs fans out there.. you know who you are). well that sounded delicious but like an awful lot of work, so i put it off and put it off, but when the lettuce was STILL GOOD after TWELVE DAYS in the fridge, i decided i would reward its staying power (not to mention absorb its magical powers of eternal youth) and make it into a delicious meal.


do you remember when i made banh mi? for the french roll recipe, i needed to buy something called “vital wheat gluten.” interestingly enough, on the back of the vital wheat gluten box is a recipe for homemade seitan. what is seitan, you ask? thankfully, google/wikipedia provides the following synonyms: “wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten”

i think you get the picture. it’s a gluten-based meat substitute, most famous, if you’re from around here, as the basis of clover food lab’s bbq seitan sandwich. (unlike tofu, it’s not a healthy protein alternative. on a sandwich, you’re essentially eating bread on bread. perhaps that’s why it’s so delicious? i’m wrong! according to livestrong.com, seitan is “high in protein, low in fat and a good source of iron.” hooray! i shall make more, guilt-free!)

anyway, i was intrigued and wanted to try making it, so when i started thinking about a meaty alternative with which to fill my lettuce cups, i decided it was the perfect opportunity to whip up some homemade wheat meat. (i realized i’m not doing it any favors by calling it that, but how can i resist??)

vital wheat gluten is a powder. mix it with water (and i added some soy and oyster sauces), kneed for five minutes (in my kitchen aid), let sit, cut into chunks and boil for an hour. voila.


i cut these pieces into strips and stir fried them in a garlicy-gingery-asiany sauce with edamame.


to serve, fill lettuce cups with thin rice noodles, quick pickles and stir fry. top with cilantro.


the seitan turned out very well. much like tofu, it really just picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it in, so the texture is all that matters. it’s a little chewy, a little soft… not a bad filler for this kind of dish. if it can be crisped up on the edges, it could make good filling for spring rolls or even banh mi, too.


eggplant ragu

In dinner on August 2, 2015 at 9:17 pm

it’s been quite a bit too hot for pasta recently, but we had a cool evening last week and fortunately, i was prepared. both of my local farmers markets (mondays in central, tuesdays in harvard) carry fresh pasta by valicenti pasta farm. so amazingly delicious. we loved the ravioli a couple weeks ago, so this time i grabbed super-wide flat noodles that were flavored and colored with wine. i also grabbed a big, beautiful eggplant.


eggplant doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, so i knew i needed to build this pasta sauce with attention to detail from the ground up. i started by cubing my e.p., salting it very well, and letting it drain in a colander for an hour or so.

then i used a clean dishtowel to pat it dry. in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, i browned it very well in small batches. too much in the pan and it steams – i wanted browning.


in another pot i sauteed garlic and a small chopped up onion, as well as five or six small yellow carrots i had left over (that had seen better days. they were a little on the soft side, but that doesn’t matter in a sauce). once the veggies were softened, i splashed in half a cup or so of white wine and let it cook a little.


then as the e.p. browned in batches, i put it in the pot, along with a box of chopped pomi tomatoes, some oregano, salt, pepper, a little sugar, crushed red pepper and some garlic powder.


once everything was together, i took several big ladles-full, probably almost 80 percent of the mixture, and pulsed it 10 or so times in my food processor. i wanted chunky and combined, not totally pureed into mush.


back into the pot to stew a little longer, when he came along for a taste test. as much as it sounds like i salt everything to death, he always adds a little more and it’s perfect. so, more salt and capers!

after cooking the pasta, i also added about a cup of pasta-cooking water and stirred it into the sauce.


sorry it’s so dark! but the sauce really turned out well. the flavor was great – you definitely got bites you could tell were eggplant – and i really liked the texture. it coated the noodles nicely.

plus i saved the rest of the sauce we didn’t use and made pizza a couple nights later.

bi bim bop

In dinner on March 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

bi bim bop is a korean rice dish with meat, vegetables, pickles or kimchi, raw egg and sauce, traditionally served in a roaring hot stone bowl. when you mix everything together, the bowl heats everything, cooks the egg a little and produces yummy toasted rice around the outside.

it’s easy and delicious to recreate at home, even if you don’t have roaring hot stone bowls. my adaptation uses regular cooked white rice and a soft-boiled egg rather than raw.


for other toppings, i had:

  • sauteed chard with garlic and maggi sauce
  • sauteed mushrooms with sesame oil and sesame seeds
  • carrot and diakon radish pickles (leftover from banh mi!)
  • roasted tofu
  • sliced green onion
  • traditional garlic-chili sauce that he made

i thought it turned out great. the mix of flavors is so yummy and it very much feels like comfort food, while being healthy and full of veggies.

focaccia and soup

In dinner on January 12, 2015 at 12:34 am

perfect for our first super-cold evening of the year.


the focaccia recipe is from food network’s anne burrell and i really liked it. it says intermediate level, but i think this would actually be a great baking project for a beginner.

the only serious change i made was using 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3 1/2 cups white instead of 5 white.

i also put thinly sliced shallots on top, as well as a little dried rosemary and really big, crunchy salt.

the soup is my favorite gentle minestrone, which – i just realized – i left the two leeks out of when i made it for the blog! ack! the leeks are important!

roasted cauliflower winter salad

In dinner on January 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm

at this time of year, coming up with innovative salads and getting enough veggies in your diet is always a challenge. it seems like i just bounce between roasted brussels sprouts and morgan’s roasted limas. both delicious – not complaining – but how about a little variety?

i was asked to bring a salad to a recent dinner, which prompted some research. of course, there’s the classic – some combination of apples, spinach, walnuts and blue cheese – but then i found this recipe for cauliflower and radicchio salad with toasted bread crumbs on top from fine cooking.


i have to say, it came out quite well and was a nice change on usual winter vegetables.

we had it as a side salad with white chili, but it is hearty enough for vegetarian lunch or dinner. it also made enough to feed an army, but leftovers would be fine for a day or so.

yes, the dressing has a raw egg yolk, but don’t be scared. it gives it a luxurious richness.

a couple changes i made:

  • boiled cauliflower is gross. i roasted mine instead with a little salt and pepper on a baking sheet at 375 degrees until nicely browned. i think it made the texture, flavor and appearance of the salad better
  • i used half torn radicchio leaves and half sliced endive for variety

otherwise, the recipe worked well and i would definitely make this salad again.

warm brussels sprout and crispy red onion salad

In dinner on December 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

this is a yummy appetizer or side salad for an autumn or winter dinner. and it’s super simple, too.


i used the tiny brussels sprouts and left them whole because they are so picturesque, but you can certainly use the regular ones. just cut them in half.

toss your sprouts and half a red onion, thinly sliced, in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. make sure not to crowd the pan or things won’t brown. it’s ok use two if necessary.

bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. length of time in the oven obviously depends on the size of your sprouts or sprout pieces, so keep an eye on them. you want them to start to brown but not get too mushy. most of the onions should crisp up, too.

put in a dish and drizzle with a little balsamic. i used a thick balsamic glaze. if you want to duplicate something like that, make a mixture of one part balsamic and one part honey. serve warm.

fall pasta with roasted squash

In dinner on November 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm

this is a delicious and super easy one-pot* pasta dinner that tastes decadent and luxurious but is actually on the healthy side. can you beat it?


that’s pasta with roasted squash, baby kale wilted in and blue cheese crumbles that melt into everything and make a yummy sauce.

*it’s one-pot if you roasted the squash previously. peel, seed and cube your butternut squash into 3/4-inch pieces. toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and roast on a rimmed baking sheet at 400 degrees until tender. you can toss in some pieces of shallot, too, for a little extra flavor. not to sound like real simple or anything, but roasting up a bunch of fall veggies over the weekend can really help speed up weeknight meals and work lunches. toss in salad, pasta, a wrap, etc.

melt a little butter and olive oil in a pot and sautee the squash cubes a little, especially if they were roasted previously.

toss in pre-cooked pasta (save some pasta water!), the kale (i used a whole package of oliva’s organics) and a couple ounces of blue cheese. on medium heat, keep stirring and add a little pasta water until the cheese is melty and has come together with the water to make sauce.

i salted the pasta water, but be careful of salting the final product depending on how salty your cheese is. i picked an especially salty one, so i added a lot of black pepper but no salt.


serve with a side of cat.

fried rice 2

In dinner on October 10, 2014 at 2:56 am

just like my pasta salads, i try to make my fried rice more veggie than carb.


this one started with a large serving of leftover rice from the last time we went out for chinese food (to our favorite, dumpling house, the cambridge location)

for veggies, i used one carrot, half a red bell pepper, a couple handfuls of snow peas, a small head of bok choy (cut the leaves from the stems – you’ll want to add the stems to the pan earlier than the leaves because they take longer to cook) and about a cup of frozen peas.

i also marinated half a block of tofu, cubed, in just about equal parts sesame oil, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and sriracha, and scrambled in two eggs. at the last minute, i stirred in a large handful of chopped cilantro.

cooking with the wok is great fun. it takes some confidence (show it who’s boss) and some thought (what order the veggies should go in to all cook the right amount), but i do find it’s pretty forgiving, too. you just crank it up as high as your (gas) burner goes and start tossing things in. of course if you don’t have a wok, you can use a large frying pan or cast iron skillet for your fried rice – i did for years.

as i’ve said before, the only place you can really go wrong with fried rice is adding too much soy sauce and ending up with a too-salty product. otherwise, there’s really no right or wrong answer for what you put in it.

here are more fried rice tips from the archives

retro salad

In dinner on September 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

this is one of my favorite savory combinations of flavors – tuna salad and a super ripe, juicy tomato.

if i were in a fancy restaurant, i’d call this a deconstructed tuna salad sandwich (to continue the metaphor, i also served it with toasted, buttered garlic bread), but i prefer to think of this as a super retro salad that you’d see in a cookbook from the 50s or 60s when they were all into this kind of thing.

it’s also SO SIMPLE but because it’s plated up all fancy, it feels a little more like a real dinner than a plain old tuna sandwich would. and quite healthy, too. (especially if you skip the bread…)


so, the base is mixed herbs and salad greens with cubed avocado and a rice wine and shallot vinaigrette.

the tuna salad has mayo, garlic powder, salt & pepper, relish and capers. nice and simple. i use a lot less mayo for this application that i would for a sandwich. it doesn’t need to stick together as well here.

most important is to first core your tomatoes, and then cut through them just enough that they open like flowers but stay connected to hold the tuna salad.

love it!

creamy (and dairy-free) cauliflower soup

In dinner on June 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm

here’s another recipe i saw on america’s test kitchen. and another success.




(those are leeks)



cook half the cauliflower for 15 minutes and then add the other half and cook for another 15 minutes.



season with salt and pepper, of course, but for so few and simple ingredients, it really had great flavor. and it was incredibly creamy without any dairy. (if you need to be totally dairy-free, sautee the leeks in olive oil instead of an olive oil-butter mix)


the parmesan crisps are from iggy’s bread of the world and they are phenomenal. sometimes i plan meals about what would go with them.