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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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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birthday dinner: steak with tarragon shallot sauce, home made fries(!!), hk’s oyster mushrooms, and roasted asparagus!

it was a certain some one special’s birthday recently right after he had returned from a big journey, so we decided to have a nice meal at home-the birthday boy chose the menu: organic grass fed new york steaks (he claimed we hadn’t had any steak recently-which was technically true) served with a heavenly (and rather rich) tarragon sauce (le relais de l’entrecote secret sauce wannabe), hand cut home made french fries which tasted much better than they looked, quickly stir fried oyster mushrooms with dijon mustard (his recipe from the bachelor days), and finally- roasted asparagus. we ate well that night. happy-happy!

ingredients for the (entrecote wannabe) sauce:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 1 shallot
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt, cracked pepper
  • 2 tbs creme fraiche or sour cream * see creme fraiche recipe below*
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • a splash of good wine (optional)

pulse together-tarragon leaves (no stems), 1 small shallot (or 1/2 large), garlic, a touch of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

melt 1-2 tsp butter in a sauce pan and add the herb mixture to the pot on med/high heat, stirring constantly for about 2-3 minutes

reduce the heat and add either a nice squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of wine (not too much), 1 tbs good french dijon mustard, mix well, then and 2 tbs creme fraiche (or sour cream), stirring for a minute or two on med/low heat before removing from from the stove. add the juices from your steak (or deglaze the pan with a splash of wine) to the warm sauce and mix well prior to serving. i marinate my steaks (grass fed) in a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and some rosemary or thyme-sea salt is added once the steak is in the frying pan or lately always on the grill.

*creme fraiche*: in case you ever need some and can’t find it at the store (it happens), you can make creme fraiche at home- combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a container (glass). cover and let it stand at room temperature for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24, or until the mixture is very thick. stir well, cover, and refrigerate.

for the oyster mushrooms a l’hk:
oyster mushrooms (a good amount-keeping in mind they shrink drastically)

  • 1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, cracked pepper to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • a small bunch flat leaf parsley or fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

add the olive oil to a frying pan on high heat, then add the mushrooms to the pan as soon as the oil is just hot, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste, and stir fry until just tender-
combine the mustard and lemon juice, mix well, then add to the hot pan of stir fried mushrooms, stirring well,  stir fry for just another minute or two until the liquid is absorbed.

top with fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper. serve.

for the grilled asparagus:
remove the hard stems of the asparagus, lay them on a sheet pan, add a touch of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper, make sure they are all coated well, then bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. done.

for the fries…they didn’t look so good, so i’m not sure i should be sharing my fabulous technique (haha), but they were delicious:

  • about 10 medium organic yellow potatoes (you can peel them if you prefer)
  • safflower oil & extra virgin olive oil (i used half of each)-enough to fill up to half of your pot.
  • sea salt to taste
  • cut the potatoes into evenly thin slices and soak them in cold water for about 20-30 minutes, then remove and pat them dry (completely).

heat the oil to about 325 degrees, then carefully add the potatoes, and fry them until golden brown. remove carefully with a slotted spatula and place on a few paper towels to drain the extra oil. sprinkle with sea salt and serve right away. obviously i could use some tips on making better looking fries, so any comments/recommendations would be greatly appreciated (although i don’t foresee making fries again any time soon)!

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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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