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!

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                                          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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potato and cauliflower pie ~ kookoo (kuku) seebzamini va gol kalam

how to make a vegetarian potato kookoo (or kuku) in a few (rather) easy steps:

potato cauliflower pieyou know those days when you suddenly have to come up with a quick meal for unexpected company? i had one of those last sunday when i had about an hour to make a respectable (as in deliciously worthy of the company) lunch for about eight (dear) people. it was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and we were going to eat outside. without time for food shopping, i had to make do with what i had, which on this day consisted of the good old standbys: potatoes, dry pasta, tomatoes, and eggs. i was also happy to find a nice looking cauliflower and some flat leaf parsley in the refrigerator.  it was a decent start. while the potatoes were boiling (and cauliflower steaming) for the kookoo ( also see herb kookoo & chicken kookoo), i started on a quick tomato sauce to go over the penne pasta. as you can imagine, we were also in need of something raw and fresh (and not so starchy): it would be a tomato salad with feta cheese and fresh oregano-we were in business! you’d never know the meal wasn’t pre-planned, would you? this is how the beautiful kookoo came about:

potato kookoo ingredients for 6-8

making kuku

  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled, and cubed
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1/2 of a cauliflower, steamed and cut into small pieces
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3-4 tbs cooking oil
  • small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 4-5 scallions (green onions) thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional for spicy)
  • 2-3 tbs organic ww flour
  1. combine all the ingredients (minus the oil) in a bowl and mix well. heat the oil in a deep (not so deep, but with an edge that comes up about 2 inches) skillet (frying pan) and pour in the mixture with a spatula. press it down lightly until evenly distributed.
  2. after about 4-5 minutes reduce the heat to medium/low, cover the skillet (partially, allowing the steam to escape), and let the kookoo (or pie) cook on one side for about 10-15 minutes or slightly more.
  3. when the edges start looking cooked and turn light brown, it is time to flip the kookoo over. carefully separate the edges from the skillet with the spatula.
  4. place a round plate slightly larger than the size of the top of the skillet over the skillet and carefully flip over so the kookoo lands cooked side up on the plate (or platter).
  5. very carefully slide the kookoo (uncooked side down) back into the skillet. cook for an additional 15-20 minutes before flipping it back onto the platter for serving.
  6. serve with yogurt on the side. may be served at room temperature.

vegetarian kookoo

for tomato salad: sliced ripe red & yellow tomatoes, cubed french feta cheese, fresh oregano, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & pepper, turkish chili flakes. combine right before serving.

tomato saladkuku recipe


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a sweet corn and lentil salad to round out the summer!

sweet summer corn salad

sweet summer corn salad with lentils

once again, i feel summer slipping out of our grips before we’ve even had time to truly welcome and enjoy it. this summer in particular seems to have blown by so fast it’s hard to believe it was ever here! this may have something to do with the fact that mr. sun chose not to grace us with [his} lovely warm presence as often as [he] typically does in sunny san diego! well, there’s still hope. summer has always been my favorite season-i’m just that much happier in the heat, soft sand on my feet, warm sun on my skin, sweet fruit in my mouth, the smell of the grill in the air, watching the children run free and the sun set over the ocean (it never gets old)! there’s the smell of peaches in the air, windows wide open, curtains blowing in the breeze, picnics, late nights, the best tomatoes ever, the occasional spoon (or two) of ice cream, did i mention the tomatoes?

La Jolla sunsets

one of those sunsets…

when it’s warm out, we tend to eat a little later, and a little lighter. often, if we find the time, we pack our dinners to eat at the beach. when i found sweet organic corn at the market (not so easy to find these days) a few days ago, i decided to make a light and easy salad for our beach dinner. i added small lentils as a good source of flavor and protein, and fresh lemon juice to round out the favors. the resulting (more than a simple) salad was a big hit. we’ll probably have it one more time before we officially bid summer goodbye-it’s only a few days past mid-August after all!

corn cut off the cob

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vegetarian quinoa and lentil patties or “cutlets”

vegetarian quinoa and lentil patties

growing up, when my mom asked us what we’d like to eat for dinner, i’d often request “kotlet” -or the persian version of a meat and potato cutlet flavored with onions, turmeric, cinnamon, and parsley without a moment’s hesitation. the “kotlet” is almost tastier cold or at room temperature than hot, and travels well-which is probably why i always associate it with traveling and the family road trips we used to take (bringing along delicious kotlet sandwiches wrapped in flatbread with crunchy dill pickles, chopped parsley, and tomato slices). here, i’ve taken the traditional persian cutlets ( see kotlet recipe ) and given them a lighter vegetarian twist. you can also coat these in breadcrumbs for added crunch, but i didn’t this time, and as you can see, they turned out beautifully. to make these delicious healthy “cutlets” (or burgers) you will need:

  • 1 cup small green lentils
  • 1 cup mung beans
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 small bunch chives
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo bean (or organic whole wheat) flour
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tsps turmeric
  • 1-2 tsps cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp organic unrefined coconut oil
quinoa patties or cutlets

1. cook the mung beans and lentils together in about 3 cups salted water until tender, drain, set aside (this also freezes well for later use).
2. cook quinoa in about 1 and 1/4 to 1/2 cups of water for about 15 minutes (should have none or very little liquid left), drain and set aside.
3. finely chop the herbs, then finely cube the 1/2 onion. fry the onion with 1-2 tsp of coconut oil and the turmeric until tender, and let it cool.
4. combine all of the above (in a bowl), including the sea salt & pepper (keep in mind the beans and quinoa were salted), cinnamon, three large organic eggs, chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, and mix well, creating a “paste”.  5. fry the patties by spooning spoonfuls of the “paste” on to a skillet with a tbs of coconut oil, and slightly flattening the top with the back of your spoon and frying about 2-3 minutes on each side (medium heat). you can also use your hands to make little balls that you flatten between your palms. if you want to serve the patties in buns use a larger spoon and use more paste to make a bigger patty. i served them with basil and tomato slices and a nice salad on the side-it was a good for you delicious meal!

{here is the link to my post on traditional beef & potato kotlet}

vegetarian cutlets or kotlet
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