a {round} table gathering of friends with homemade hummus, fresh cut vegetables, and other such goodies

home made hummus with tahini and heirloom tomatoes

last night we had another book(food) club gathering (#almostatherapysession).  it was a good-good night. we had home made hummus with tahini and lots of citrus topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes served with fresh cut vegetables, a simple arugula salad, minty taboulé (latest obsession), olives, grilled tomatoes, goat cheese stuffed little red peppers,  (ohsogood) feta cheese with honey and walnuts, poirs au sirop (fancy way of saying pears in syrup-recipe to follow soon), and ice cream. there was a big basket of fresh breads (yes, we were bad). come to think of it, there aren’t many things more satisfying than sitting around (a round) table with good friends, enjoying freshly made simple food and (just a few) drinks (or more) while sharing stories and exchanging ideas. It is truly therapeutic and necessary for the soul. all of it: the company of true friends. laughter. (good)food. lots of it. new ideas. old stories. new ones too. more laughter. encouragement. support. a warm slice of bread dipped into a deliciously balanced homemade hummus. a sip or two of rosé. every few minutes. warm chatter. dirty dishes. leftovers. hugs and kisses. another good night come and gone. good memories remain. and leftovers.

poirs au sirop

cooking minhummus with tahini photo

grlled tomatoes and spring onions

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a totally scrumptious salad: green beans with dukkah roasted chickpeas & pesto dressing

dukkah roasted chickpeas in salad

i was so lucky to find myself standing in Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful deli in Nottingham this past summer with my Sahar {cousin-love-sister} trying to narrow down (the hardest part) what to order for a quick lunch. we ended up with way more ahhhmazinngly fresh and tasty food than we could possibly consume (and we can certainly consume a good bit) wrapped in beautiful crisp white boxes to go (the only table of 10 in the back was full of people eating happily with no intentions to leave).Ottolenghi deli Notting Hill we sat on a little wall just outside devouring spiced roasted cauliflowers, grilled aubergine with cucumbers and red peppercorns, mixed beans with dill and coriander seeds, and crushed beetroots with labne and grains of paradise. does it sound as simply delicious, uncomplicated yet sophisticated as it was? i haven’t even started on the desserts yet. maybe it’s best i leave it to your imagination. let me just say i have never seen meringue as large, tasty and beautiful. when we were paying for the food my cousin picked up a jar labeled Dukkah *(see below for more on this Egyptian spice blend) and asked if I’d ever cooked with it. i had not. Ottolenghi deli Notting Hillsaid jar was promptly paid for and tossed in my bag. “i’m sure my cousi will find a great way to use it” she said. well, i finally got around to using the Dukkah in a green bean and roasted chickpea (garbanzo) salad inspired by the genius food we’d shared that glorious sunny day in London. it was such a successful dish: pure and simple, filling, good for you, slightly spicy, crunchy, and really full of flavor. it’s been added to the list of favorites. i’m thinking a fresh jar of Dukkah might be just the excuse for another trip to London. i wish. :-)dukkah roasted garbanzo beans

ingredients for 4-6 servings of salad:

  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (see roasted garbanzo bean recipe here-add Dukkah to the beans prior to roasting)-for roasting the beans you will need extra virgin olive oil, spices such as dukkah or cumin and cayenne pepper  for spiciness, sea salt, & pepper (to taste)
  • 2-3 cups cleaned haricots verts (or green beans), cooked for just a few minutes in lightly salted rapidly boiling water (until just tender) and then cooled down in ice bath to retain color and crispness
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (julienned)
  • 1 cup sliced (cubed) ripe tomatoes
  • 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tbs home made walnut-parsley easto (recipe below)
  • 1/2 of a small lemon or a lime, freshly juiced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or lightly more crumbled french feta cheese

for the walnut-parsley pesto blend together in a blender with a steel blade:

green bean salad with pesto dressing

 

  • 1 large bunch (1 cup) fresh organic flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch fresh organic basil (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 10-12 raw walnuts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a few tsp of water may be needed to add to the blender to soften the pesto

build the salad in a shallow bowl starting with the cold (cooked) beans, bell pepper, tomatoes, chives or scallions, and crumbled cheese. top with slightly cooled but still crisp roasted garbanzo beans. dress with pesto dressing and mix just prior to serving. for the dressing combine 4-5 tbs of the pesto with lemon/lime juice and a few more tsp of olive oil if needed, mix well. taste and adjust seasoning. drizzle over the salad just before serving.

*Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mixture often served (marinated in olive oil) with pita bread. to make your own you will need:

  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

toast the sesame seeds and hazelnuts in the oven (separately), then combine all ingredients and grind in food processor for 3-4 minutes.

 

 

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back to basics: simple zucchini & tomatoes with walnut pesto

a simple dish, a small compromise, and a most beautiful october sunset over the ocean:

La Jolla fall sunsets

in preparation and anticipation of the fast approaching holiday season with all the glorious food consumption it entails (it’s bad! already can’t stop thinking about what sides and pies to serve this thanksgiving) i’ve made the decision to feed us a lighter, simpler, and predominantly vegetarian diet for the next few weeks. after a few nights of different vegetable soups and a nice salad nicoise, it was time for a non liquid meal on the warmer side. lately i’ve been trying to cook with what i have as opposed to shopping for specific recipes, so i wanted to use the beautiful light green zucchinis i had picked up at the farmers market along with a large sweet onion, tomatoes (always abundant in my kitchen), garlic, and fresh basil. the plan was to serve the dish with yogurt and flat bread, sort of in line with a persian “borani kadoo”, but i realized i had a slight problem.

cooking minette's zucchini with tomatoes & pestowe have a dear visitor staying with us, and he doesn’t  like garlic at all, nor basil, for that matter. the dish would survive without the garlic, but my basil was starting to become slightly wilted and had to be used: pesto! dinner would be a simple “borani” (a typical persian appetizer served with yogurt) with an optional drizzle of lemony walnut pesto. everyone was happy. oh, and the sunset picture? i just had to share the magical moment i snapped with my phone a few nights ago-there are few things more beautiful than the special light of an autumn sunset over the pacific!

Image 1

                                          for 4 servings:

  • 4-6 light green zucchinis (peeled or not, your choice), sliced lengthwise in two or three portions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or omit and use pesto)
  • sliced ripe tomatoes (amount depends on what type of tomatoes you are using), sliced to about same thickness as zucchini
  • 1 tbs olive or avocado oil (best not to use olive oil for high heat cooking)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional if serving with yogurt without pesto)
  • for pesto see recipe

borani kadoo with pesto

in a heavy skillet or frying  pan, heat the oil, then add onions and allow them to caramelize (cook while stirring occasionally on med/low heat until they become light brown and glassy) before adding the zucchinis (and turmeric & garlic if using) and frying on both sides (turn carefully with kitchen thongs). season with salt and pepper. cover with tomatoes, and allow them to cook  (stirring very carefully if necessary because the zucchinis break easily- or cut zucchinis in halves before frying ) on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes. serve when any liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and thickened.

 

 

 

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delicious and easy: tomato-arugula-parmesan pasta

these days when i talk to my mom she {very} often asks me when i’ll be posting my next recipe to the blog-and even though i really appreciate her enthusiasm and support, this makes me feel a certain kind of pressure to perform,  or post, i should say. so, even though i seem to have somehow strained a muscle in my arm which is causing some major discomfort (owwww), i felt like i should share this recipe not only to please my mother, but also because it is too good not to: an (almost) no-cooking-necessary (except for boiling the pasta of choice) meal that looks and tastes much better than it should.  it’s making me hungry for more just thinking about it. that good. do you have 10 minutes?

ingredients for 4 servings:
in a bowl combine:

  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes, finely cubed
  • 1.5-2 cups roughly chopped baby arugula 
  • 1-2 tbs freshly grated good parmesan cheese (like reggiano)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional for spicy)
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano (rub it between your fingers)
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice plus 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2-3 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil

combine well, and allow the mixture to rest for 10-15 minutes while the water boils & pasta cooks (you can use any pasta of choice~whole grain, brown rice, or quinoa pasta are healthier options) then add the hot drained pasta to the bowl and toss quickly-grate more parmesan cheese over the top and serve right away.

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