Weekend Inspiration: Shana Tova with Dahlias

Shana tova, l'shana tovan, jewish, kosher, challah, apples, honey, new year, labneh

Shana Tova to all those celebrating! Wishing all of us a year of peace, health, beautiful surprises, content, and beauty. I defrosted a turmeric challah roll with pistachios and nigella seeds for my celebration and to go along with labneh drizzled with olive oil and topped with honey and smoked honey. 

May we all be and do better in the new year.

dahlias, flowers, hgtv, home decor, vases, flower power, pink, yellow, blooms, flower arrangment


Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts With Tahini Dressing And Pickled Red Onions

sweet potato, brussels sprouts, vegetarian, vegan, pickled onions, side, salad, healthy, cilantro

This past weekend I created a vibrant and healthy vegan side dish: Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts With Tahini Dressing And Pickled Red Onions.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make because you can make all the components ahead of time, and you can serve this side hot, at room temperature, or cold. Because it's vegan, it's good for you and you can bring it on a picnic without any worries of things spoiling.

A note on tahini dressing: I make mine without any specific proportions, but to taste. I learned a trick of pouring lemon juice over minced garlic and letting it sit for about ten minutes to infuse the lemon juice with the garlic. Then, strain and discard the garlic. Add tahini to the lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cumin and enough cold water to whisk into a smooth sauce.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts With Tahini Dressing And Pickled Red Onions


sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed into bite size pieces

Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved or quartered depending on the size



olive oil

pickled red onions

tahini dressing



1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. In a bowl combine the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with za'atar and salt to taste and enough olive oil to coat.

3. In a large cookie sheet, in a single layer, roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes, occasionally shaking the sheet. 

4. Serve the roasted vegetables on a large platter topped with pickled red onions, drizzle of tahini dressing, and fresh cilantro. 


Ground Beef Bulgogi Platter

bulgogi, korean, ground beef, beef, kimchi, salad, eggplant, mushrooms

After getting a few Asian pears in my Washington's Green Grocer order last week, I asked my instagram followers what I should make with it. Several people said bulgogi: a flavorful Korean beef dish. In fact, I've made bulgogi before, but this time around I only had ground beef.

Not to worry, I found a bulgogi recipe using ground beef on Carmy's blog. It did, however, not have Asian pear in the list of ingredients, and I also did not have a few ingredients that Carmy called for: thus, and as always, I made a few alterations.

Ground Beef Bulgogi Platter


6 tablespoons soy sauce

1.5 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 small onion, cut into chunks

1/2 Asian pear, cut into chunks

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1" ginger, chopped

1 pound ground beef

1/2 onion, sliced

green onions, thinly sliced

sides: kimchi, cucumber salad, kimchi, red pepper slices


1. Put the first 7 ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade over ground beef in a large bowl, mix to combine, and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

2. Add the marinated beef into a heated skillet with the sliced onions and saute until the beef is cooked through. 

NOTE: I used 80/20 beef. It was quite fatty and did not need extra oil for sauteing. In fact, at one point I had to drain the beef and onions to get rid of extra fat. You may have to do the same. Just be careful not to splash yourself.

3. Serve topped with green onions and all the sides.

I'm currently not eating rice, but that of course would be a perfect accompaniment for the dish.

So much flavor! Such great comfort food. Perfect leftovers. 


Best Baked Plantains I've Ever Made

plantains, puerto rican food, zhoug, appetizer, gluten free, vegetarian, snack

I LOVE plantains and associate them with my friend Laura, who is Puerto Rican and always makes plantains when we see each other.

Last year I texted Laura to tell her I baked my plantains instead of pan frying them, and she said she did exactly the same a few days prior.

Since then, I've made several versions of baked plantains, but last week I perfected my technique!

Best Baked Plantains I've Ever Made


a very ripe plantain peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds

olive oil


zhoug sauce from Trader Joe's or any other dipping sauce


1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Trust me: do NOT use aluminum foil because plantains will stick to it.

3. Lightly brush the parchment paper with oil. Layer plantain rounds in a single layer with space in between and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

4. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip the plantain rounds and season with a bit more salt. Bake for 10 more minutes.

5. Serve with zhoug sauce.

I was so pleased with how these turned out! I think Laura would approve too.


Weekend Inspirations

flowers, flower arrangement, urban stems, roses, eucalyptus, bouquet


Shrimp Red Thai Curry With Chickpeas And Spinach

shrimp, curry, chickpeas, gluten free, dinner

Shrimp Red Thai Curry With Chickpeas And Spinach is a super quick recipe that uses a few pantry items and can be easily modified to your taste. I was inspired to make this dish after my friend Jenn described it to me.

If you love coconut milk and a bit of spice, you'll love this dish: I wanted to dive into the slightly spicy broth. You can serve this curry over rice, or eat it as is. 

Use frozen defrosted shrimp or fresh shrimp. To make this dish vegetarian, use tofu.

Shrimp Red Thai Curry With Chickpeas And Spinach

Serves 2 to 4 depending on your hunger level


1 can coconut milk, do not shake it: you want the solids to be separate from the liquid

1 medium onion, halved, and thinly sliced

1 heaping spoon of red curry paste

2 cups raw shrimp

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 cups baby spinach

salt to taste

fresh lime juice to taste

Thai seasoned cashews (I get mine from Trader Joes), chopped

cilantro, chopped


1. Heat a few spoons of the solid part of coconut milk in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until they've softened.

2. Add the curry paste and saute until fragrant.

3. Add the rest of the coconut milk and mix to combine. Bring to a simmer.

4. Add the shrimp, chickpeas, and spinach and simmer until shrimp are cooked through. Season with salt.

5. Serve in a bowl with a bit of lime juice, chopped cashews, and cilantro.

This dish reheats great as leftovers!


CRAVINGS: Homemade Buns for a Burger

Burger, bun, homemade bun, pickle, lunch, green beans
If you are craving a burger, may I highly recommend you bake your own burger buns? Trust me, it's really not that hard. 

After my friend Jazmin brought burger buns for our social distance picnic last month, I thought I should try baking them too.

The recipe from Love & Lemons is ridiculously easy. I used all white flour and was so happy I did not freak out when the dough did not come together immediately. Have faith!

Jazmin told me to only glaze a few buns at a time with the egg wash so that the egg wash doesn't dry out on the piping hot buns, which will stop the toppings from sticking.

Speaking of toppings, why use 1 when you can use 4? From top to bottom: black and white sesame seeds, everything but the bagel, togarashi, and za'atar.

I had two of these and froze the rest sliced in half. Next time I'll do a better job at making the buns more uniform. 

And what about that burger above? I used ground beef, raw red onion, salt, pepper, and a bit of cumin. Mayo on both sides of the bun, plus thinly sliced red onions, and Dubliner cheese. A side of green beans and pickles.
buns, bread, baking, zaatar, rolls


Garlic Lemon Green Beans From Hemsley Hemsley

green beans, garlic, lemon, side dish, vegetables

Last week I received a surprise cookbook in my latest produce order from Washington's Green Grocer! After being a trusted customer for over 6 years, this was such a sweet gesture.

Looking through Hemsley Hemsley cookbook, I immediately flagged a recipe for Garlic Lemon Green Beans and made it over the weekend.

You basically steam the green beans while heating ghee (I used olive oil) with chopped garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice, and fresh parsley. Once the beans are tender, drain and add them to the "bath" and seasons with salt and pepper. Top with parsley. 

I highly recommend doubling the recipe because it's great reheated in a skillet the next day.

cabbage, peaches, cookbook, hemsley hemsley, produce, corn, green beans


Sumac Marinated Tomatoes, Tahini & Pine Nuts Hummus Bowl

I've been dreaming about Sumac Marinated Tomatoes, Tahini & Pine Nuts Hummus Bowl ever since I saw Little Sesame post about it on their instagram. Finally today I ordered it!

They had me at tomatoes ;) The hummus is one of the best I've ever had: smooth, with the perfect amount of tahini, and not screaming of garlic or lemon.

I added a side of crushed cucumbers and am mad at myself for not adding an extra pita to my order.

hummus bowl, pita, cucumber, hummus, lunch, harissa


Meatless Monday: Patty Pan Squash & Corn With Feta Dip

Ready or not, it's another Monday!! If you are swimming in summer corn and squash, I have a super fast and flavorful recipe for you: Patty Pan Squash & Corn with Feta Dip.

Earlier last week I saw Ellie Krieger's instagram post about feta dip: basically feta, yogurt, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic, and magically happened to have all the necessary ingredients!

I also had a few patty pan squashes and fresh corn, and thought the dip would be awesome on top of patty pan squash and corn pancakes.

But my pancakes UTTERLY fell apart. Such is life sometimes.

Instead, I sauteed everything together: grated patty pan squash, kernels of corn, minced garlic, chopped parsley, a bit of cayenne powder, one egg, a bit of bread crumbs, and salt. 

I then topped this mixture with Ellie's feta dip and extra parsley on top.

This was a lovely lunch and I had leftovers for breakfast with an egg.

If you don't have patty pan squash, use zucchini or summer squash.

BONUS: here's a recipe for summer squash and corn fritters that actually works.  


Beef Meatballs With Zhoug & Patty Pan Squash

If you love meatballs but are tired of the same old recipes, you need to make my Beef Meatballs With Zhoug & Patty Pan Squash.

Earlier this week I wrote about my love of zhoug and shared a recipe for Warm Potato & Crispy Chickpea Tacos With Zhoug.

Today, I'd like to share a recipe for meatballs that uses zhoug as a flavor bomb and patty pan squash to stretch the meat further and to make the meatballs tender.

If you can't find zhoug, use pesto. If you can't find patty pan squash, use regular summer squash or zucchini or even carrots or onions!

Beef Meatballs With Zhoug & Patty Pan Squash
Makes 17 meatballs

1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20)
1/4 cup zhoug
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup grated patty pan squash loosely packed
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients until well mixed.
4. Using a scoop, make 17 meatballs and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet with space in between.
5. Bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165.
6. Turn the broiler on and move the oven rack to a higher position and broil the meatballs for about 5 minutes or until they are golden brown.

These were so flavorful and tender! They reheat well and can also be frozen.

To serve, I made a simple salad of chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and cilantro.


Warm Potato & Crispy Chickpea Tacos with Feta & Zhoug

It's Taco Tuesday! Not that I need a reason or an excuse to make tacos. These Warm Potato & Crispy Chickpea Tacos with Feta & Zhoug were inspired by a container of zhoug I picked up at Trader Joe's yesterday:

"Zhoug (pronounced ZOOg) likely originated in Yemen, and is now popular throughout the Middle East. It’s a cilantro-based sauce/condiment that’s been likened to “Middle Eastern pesto,” but we think that description shortchanges the originality of this spicy, fragrant, fabulously flavorful culinary creation.
It’s a sauce that’s taking the internet by storm – from food blogs to social media feeds, Zhoug is having its moment in the digital sun. And it's about to have its moment in our stores!
Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce comes to us from a California vendor well-versed in the art and science of Middle Eastern foods. Here, they’ve put together a very straightforward collection of ingredients – cilantro, canola oil, jalapeƱo peppers, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt, and cumin seeds – to create a sauce/dip/spread/condiment that bursts with vibrant flavor and color."
I've used zhoug as salad dressing, mixed with mayo for sandwiches, as an added flavor in cooked lentils, etc. 
Warm Potato & Crispy Chickpea Tacos with Feta & Zhoug
corn tortillas, heated on direct flame, until blustered
red potatoes, cubed, cooked until tender in salted water, kept warm
olive oil
cooked chickpeas
feta, crumbled
kalamata olives, pitted, chopped
avocado, diced
lime juice
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add chickpeas and saute until crispy. Add arugula and saute until it wilts.
2. Place warm potatoes on the bottom of corn tortillas and top with the chickpea/arugula mixture, crumbled feta, olives, and diced avocado. Season with salt.
3. Spoon zhoug sauce over tacos and add a bit of lime juice. 


Crystallized Ginger, Dried Cherries & Tangerine Zest Buttermilk Scones

What can you do with crystallized ginger? That's the question my friend Sylvie asked me when we hung out this past Monday. SCONES was my answer.

Alas, her daughter did not feel like baking scones, so we made friendship bracelets, went on a walk to see turtles, had a dance party, watched episodes of Bluey, and made lasagna.

But the idea of scones lingered in my mind. I found a recipe for basic buttermilk scones on Wild Wild Whisk blog and added chopped crystallized ginger, dried cherries, and zest from 3 tiny tangerines.

The recipe could not be easier to follow. I wish I would have refrigerated the dough before cutting it into scones and also that I would have made them smaller. The scones turned out the size of my head (maybe a slight exaggeration!), and I'm planning on cutting them in half and freezing most of them.

These are slightly sweet with great crumbly texture, and a great flavor coming from the add ins. I'm looking forward to eating one of them Saturday morning with iced tea!


No-Knead Sandwich Bread & Ricotta Toasts

I've been baking no-knead bread for years, but this is the first time I baked it in a loaf pan instead of a large Dutch oven. This happened because my twin sister told me she found a recipe for no-knead sandwich bread and was going to bake it. After she did so successfully, I decided to make a loaf as well.

This recipe was even easier than the one I typically use. AND it comes from my friend Carey!

First, I combined all the ingredients (I halved the recipe) in a bowl with a wooden spoon: no need for a stand mixer.

Second, although the recipe requires the dough to rise for 5 hours, that's not really a negative. I have plenty of time. The dough bubbled up amazingly well.

Third, you can then put the dough into the refrigerator for days!!! This develops the flavors and gives you a bit of a breather.

The final product was lovely: salty, slightly yeasty, with soft texture. I liked the bread both as is dipped in olive oil, and also toasted. 

It's also awesome as toast! I slathered both slices with home made ricotta from my friend Sylvie, and topped one with tomatoes, basil, and salt, and the other with grapes and chocolate halva.

This recipe will definitely go into rotation.


Weekend Inspirations: Farmgirl Flowers

When it's another weekend at home, you may as well spend it with gorgeous flowers. Super grateful to my friend Jenny for sending these beauties to me after I told her about one of my emotional meltdowns. 

What are your plans for this 4th of July weekend? I'm going to continue sewing masks, writing VOTE post cards, and exercising.

Special projects will include dusting, laundry, perhaps baking bread, and maybe food takeout or delivery!


Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries

Hi, there Monday. How I've not missed you. Luckily, I have a scoop of delicious Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries in the freezer to brighten my mood.

This dessert was inspired by a chocolate halva my friends at Hebel & Co sent me a few weeks ago.

Originally, I thought about mixing chunks of halva into vanilla ice cream, but Whole Foods was out of their 365 brand, and I just did not feel like paying $6 for ice cream. And so I picked up a small container of pistachio gelato instead!

This impressive looking, and more importantly, delicious dessert could not be easier to put together. It bursts with color, texture, and flavor and is easily made days in advance.

Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries

1 pint pistachio gelato, softened for 20 minutes in the refrigerator
4 ounces chocolate halva, cut into large pieces, or crumbled
12 cherries, pitted, and chopped
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

In a large bowl, mix together gelato, halva, and cherries. Be careful not to smash the ingredients together: you still want to see the chunks of halva and pieces of cherries.

Freeze the mixture overnight.

Serve topped with dark chocolate.

That's all!

Because you've added several ingredients to the gelato, the final mixture will not fit into its original container: snack on the remainder :)

Disclosure: I received a sample of halva free of charge and was not paid for this post. All opinions are my own.


Turmeric Challah With Pistachios And Nigella Seeds

Hi, friends! It's been silent here for a bit, but I've been still cooking and baking and eating: check out my instagram if you have any doubts. 

Over the weekend, I baked Turmeric Challah With Pistachios And Nigella Seeds. I came up with this idea for multiple reasons:

1. I finally have a scale!! (a kitchen scale that is)
2. I've not baked in a while.
3. Turmeric makes any baked good so beautiful.
4. I received a sample of Hebel & Co pistachio and nigella halva that also came with a little jar of pistachios and nigella seeds
5. Anna, my twin, made King Arthur challah recipe before and highly approved of it

What I did:

1. I made the challah recipe from King Arthur Flour, but added a few dashes of turmeric, about 3 tablespoons of pistachios, and 2 teaspoons of nigella seeds. Also, I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. 
2. Using a kitchen scale for measuring the ingredients and to divide the dough into equal amounts was such a game changer! Why did not I do this earlier?
3. I made 3 challah rolls and one braid from the full recipe. 
4. My condo smelled DIVINE. 

Just look at the gorgeous yellow color!!! The turmeric gives an almost earthy savory flavor to the bread. I think it would have been better to add pistachios at the very end because they got a bit soggy after the 4 hours of proofing process. The nigella seeds were a surprise to me as this was the first time I've tried them: they have a hard to describe flavor of an almost earthier/deeper cumin!

And what did I do the the pistachio nigella halva you may be wondering? I crumbled it on top of Greek yogurt and fresh apricots. 


Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup

The weather has turned cool and gloomy, and I really wish I had Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup from a few weeks ago.

This soup happened because I had some smoked salmon I did not really like. I thought it would taste milder when heated. First, I added it to an omelet, then I decided to make soup.

Because I did not have heavy cream, I used cream cheese. I originally wanted to use corn, but did not have any: luckily, I had a bag of frozen peas. Basically what I'm saying is use whatever you have!

Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup
4 portions

4 red skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes
olive oil
2 carrots, diced
1 celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups spinach
2 cups defrosted peas
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 cup chopped smoked salmon
fresh herbs

1. Cover potatoes in a large soup pot with water by a few inches. Add salt. Cook until potatoes are tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes. 
3. Add the vegetables to the cooked potatoes.
4. Stir in spinach and peas and allow the soup to come to a boil. The spinach will wilt.
5. Pour about 1 cup of the soup liquid into a small bowl and whisk in cream cheese. Add back into the soup pot.
6. Stir in smoked salmon and heat through.
7. Serve topped with fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, dill, cilantro, scallions) with a side of focaccia. 

The soup reheats great, and actually becomes creamier as potatoes fall apart slightly!


Garden Vegetable Focaccia

After seeing photos of gorgeously decorated focaccia all over social media, I finally decided to give it a try yesterday. After all, what else do I have to do Sunday during quarantine? I mean other than yoga, reading, sewing face masks, trying to keep anxiety in check, going for walks, chatting with friends and family, cooking, and admiring my plants....

Garden Vegetable Focaccia

I used a recipe I made 8 years ago, but instead of adding sauteed onions, grated cheese and herbs, I added these fun garden ingredients:

fresh asparagus, sliced lengthwise
pickled carrots I ordered from Phickles
grape tomatoes, sliced in half
red onion, sliced into circles
mini peppers, sliced into circles

Use your favorite focaccia recipe and press your garden ingredients lightly into the dough after spreading focaccia onto your baking sheet.

Allow the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes lightly covered with a clean kitchen towel, then lightly brush the top of focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before baking it in the oven.

I think my Garden Vegetable Focaccia turned out pretty!! It smelled amazing. I gave part of it to my friend who ate it to break her fast!!! 


Taco Tuesday: Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos

Today is a wonderful combination of Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo. To celebrate the occasion, I made Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos for lunch.

Just like life, these tacos aren't perfect. Just like in life, I made the best of what I had. {Is this too much for a food blog!?}

Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos
1) Guess who did not have any taco-shaped tortillas!? Not to worry, I charred a giant jalapeno wrap directly on my gas stove and then used a giant cookie cutter to make little rounds.

2) For the filling, I used a combination of cooked and sliced Russian Banana fingerling potatoes (first time I've heard of this variety), mini red peppers, black beans, crumbled feta, home made pickled red onion, cilantro leaves, and store bought salsa verde

3) My plan to add diced avocado, failed because the avocado was utterly unripe when I cut into it.

4) I forgot to add a few wedges of lime.

Still, the combination I did end up having was rather delicious and filling.

Now, if someone could just send me a mango margarita, hold the booze. 


Sourdough Za'atar & Cayenne Crackers

Remember Bubbly Olguita? That's the name of my sourdough starter for those who haven't been following my adventures in sourdough baking.

As I mentioned in in my earlier post, I used part of the starter to make crackers. I followed the recipe from King Arthur, but made a few changes following my twin's advice: mainly the use of olive oil instead of butter. 

Sourdough Za'atar & Cayenne Crackers
Adapted from King Arthur

1 cup flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar
cayenne powder to taste
more salt as a finishing touch

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the first 6 ingredients. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

On a piece of parchment, roll out the dough to 1/16" thickness. Use flour if the dough is slightly sticky.

Use a ravioli cutter to stamp out your crackers. Alternatively, use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into desired shapes.

Prick each cracker with a fork to make sure they'll bake evenly without puffing up.

Sprinkle the crackers with kosher salt, slightly pressing the salt into the dough.

Carefully transfer the parchment with the cut up crackers, you do not need to separate them at this point, onto the back of the cookie sheet (this is much easier!) and bake for about 18-20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through the baking process.

Once the crackers have cooled, break them into individual pieces. 

These freeze amazingly well!


Quarantine Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup Adapted From Cool Beans

Over the weekend I adapted Joe Yonan's recipe from Cool Beans for Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup.

I won Joe's cookbook from the food chat on Washington Post, and have already made his Garlicky Great Northern Beans and Broccoli Rabe Over Toast recipe a month or so ago.

The Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup is an easy to follow recipe with pretty standard ingredients, but I did not want to use my fresh tomatoes and did not have fresh peppers. What I did have, however, were cans of tomatoes and a jar of roasted peppers. That's what I ended up using. The benefit of starting with canned tomatoes is that you can make this soup any time of the year: even when tomatoes are not in season.

The key to using canned tomatoes is to drain them incredibly well (I drank the liquid) and then roasting tomatoes in the oven.

Quarantine Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup Adapted From Cool Beans

Serves 4


28 ounce canned diced tomatoes, drained well
14.5 ounce canned diced tomatoes, drained well
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jarred roasted peppers, chopped
3 cups liquid**
salt & pepper to taste
1 handful basil leaves, more to garnish
2 cups cooked beans (I used Great Northern beans)
optional: sugar
chili oil

** use a combination of liquid from the beans (I cooked mine in the pressure cooker) and water or vegetable broth


1. Preheat the oven to 500F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spread drained diced tomatoes in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute till tender. Do not burn.
3. Add roasted tomatoes and peppers to the onions and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. 
4. Add the liquid, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add basil. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup to the consistency you desire.
6. Add the beans and heat through. Add a pinch of sugar if needed.
7. Serve the soup drizzled with chili oil and a few fresh basil leaves. Challah toast is a great accompaniment!

I loved the natural sweetness of tomatoes that came through after roasting them in the oven paired with the chili oil. This soup can be an excellent sauce (do not add beans) for meatballs or a base for shakshuka!


Kalamata Olive & Basil Challah With Sunflower Seeds

If it's Friday, it's time to bake challah! Kidding. 

You can bake challah any day you want. You just need to have enough flour and yeast. Luckily, I had both. Unfortunately, something went wrong with my trusty recipe: maybe the yeast did not bloom? Maybe it was too cold inside my condo?

I had to add almost an extra cup of flour to stop the dough from being sticky. Also, it took almost 20 extra minutes to bake the challah in the oven.

What's going on!?!?

I also tried to make a 6 braid challah (that's the one on the left): it was quite a disaster. That's why I made a regular 3 braid challah with the remaining dough. Both lost their definition while baking.

But let's talk about what did work: the flavor!

Kalamata Olive & Basil Challah With Sunflower Seeds

1. Make your trusty regular challah recipe, but use sunflower oil instead of canola or vegetable oil. Try to find Ukrainian or Russian sunflower oil if you can.
2. Before braiding the challah, add 10 chopped kalamata olives (use paper towels to remove any extra moisture from the olives) and 5 chopped basil leaves.
3. After brushing unbaked challah with an egg wash, sprinkle the tops with sunflower seeds.

Here you go!


Pumpkin & Salmon Red Thai Curry

This past weekend I all of a sudden thought about one of my favorite dishes from Thai X-ing, a restaurant in DC, that I've not had in a while: pumpkin and salmon curry!

Maybe it's because the weather in DC area has been on a cooler side, or because I happened to have a can of coconut cream in my pantry and a kabocha squash that's been sitting on my kitchen counter for too many weeks to count.

I also just happened to have a few pieces of salmon arriving in my order from Whole Foods. Perfect timing.

I found a recipe from sel et sucre and adapted it using what I had in my kitchen. It definitely hit the spot!

Pumpkin & Salmon Red Thai Curry
Serves 4-6

1 can coconut cream (do not shake it)
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 kabocha squash, or any other small pumpkin or winter squash, peeled very carefully, and cut into bite size pieces after removing the seeds
3 kaffir leaves
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 salmon filets, skins removed, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup defrosted peas


1. In a large skillet, add the coconut cream (the solid part) and red curry paste and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Add kabocha, coconut milk (the liquid part from the can), and enough water to cover. Drop in kaffir leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until kabocha is tender.
3. Add peppers and yellow squash, season with salt and cook for 3-5 more minutes.
4. Nestle in salmon pieces and defrosted green peas and simmer until salmon is cooked through: about 3-5 minutes.
5. Serve garnished with lime wedges (squeeze those into the curry) and cilantro.

Look at the color!!! Of course if you have fish sauce and Thai basil, use those. You can also add a bit of heat with sriracha.

I ate the curry without rice, but you can do as you please. 

If you are vegetarian or vegan, use tofu or mushrooms instead of salmon. This would also be great with eggplant.

Comfort in a bowl.


How To Make Injera Chips

Raise your hand if you LOVE Ethiopian food! I love it so much, I ordered it for my birthday last month. One vegetarian platter AND one medium rare beef lasted for several meals, and I even had a large piece of injera leftover.

Did you know you can freeze injera? Wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and put in your freezer.

You can defrost injera directly on your kitchen counter for about an hour and then make Injera Chips!!!

Injera Chips
1) Preheat the oven to 425F.
2) Tear injera into chip-size pieces.
3) In a single layer, arrange injera pieces on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Roast for 7-10 minutes on each side. Allow to cool slightly. 

No need for oil or spices, but you can add both if you so desire.

These chips are incredibly light and crispy and are very addictive!


Dalgona Coffee: Delightful Cloud Like Beverage

I finally jumped on the dalgona coffee wagon! All it took was finding a packet of Starbucks VIA instant coffee behind several containers of coffee and tea in my cupboard.

If you want a fun cloud-like beverage with a caffeine kick, this is for you!

Dalgona Coffee
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
almond milk
home made whipped cream, sweetened
dark chocolate, shaved

1. Whisk the first three ingredients. Don't be a hero: use an electrical mixer.
2. Pour almond milk into a glass. 
3. Top the milk with whipped coffee.
4. Spoon whipped cream over the whipped coffee and top with chocolate shavings.



Adventures In Sourdough Bread Baking: From Starter To Loaf

Sourdough!! Have you seen all the photos of gorgeous loaves and countless jars of starters on line? Well, after a break up, and right before my birthday, and right as the social isolation was starting, I decided to try my hand at making my own sourdough starter.

After all, I needed something else that was alive in my one bedroom condo other than me and my 42 plants. Yes, 42 plants.

I used directions from TheKitchn and named my starter Bubbly Olguita.

Here's what I did:
Day 1 (March 25): 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon flour + 1/2 cup water (from now on referred as feeding)
Day 2: feeding
Day 3: feeding
Day 4: feeding
Day 5 (March 29 aka my birthday): feeding
Day 6: skipped feeding. Made my first sourdough loaf using a recipe and directions from Food52, but adding a few extra folding steps:  

Not bad for the first effort...it tasted like bread and looked like bread, but did not rise as much as I was hoping for and did not taste sour. I sliced and froze most of it.

Day 7: feeding
Day 8: skipped feeding. Made crackers using 1 cup of Bubbly Olguita (I'll post them later)
Day 9: feeding
Day 10: feeding
Day 11: used 1 cup to make pickle sourdough pancakes and gave 1 cup away + feeding
Day 12: baked 2nd loaf and put the rest of Bubbly Olguita into refrigerator to hibernate

The second loaf pictured below (and also the first photo in this post) was SO MUCH BETTER than the first. 

First, the starter actually floated in the water (that's the test some people tell you to perform to find out if the starter is ready: you just take a teaspoon of the starter and plunk it into a glass of water).

Second, I purchased a professional lame tool, and after accidentally cutting myself, was able to make a beautiful design.

Third, the loaf definitely rose quite a bit more than the first one and had better texture.

I sliced most of it and froze: it's great toasted!!

Finally, I decided to purchase a stainless steal knob for my Le Creuset so that I would not have to remove the plastic one every time I need to put the lid in the oven. How much do you love my Laser Lemon Door!?

I hope to bake more with Bubbly Olguita once it's no longer an ordeal to buy flour.


Weekend Inspiration: Plants

Grateful for having these beauties to keep me company.



Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas

This Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas is a super quick lunch recipe and was inspired by Melissa Clark's chat last week (virtual) with Politics & Prose

I submitted a question to Melissa asking what to do with 3 leeks and one huge zucchini. Melissa suggested sauteing both in butter and olive oil, then adding anchovies and serving with pasta.

I don't happen to like anchovies, other than the large fat marinated ones, but did not have those in my pantry (aka one kitchen cabinet).

I used what I had. It turned out lovely.

Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas

Ingredients (without  exact measurements)
olive oil
leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, and then into thin moon shapes
large zucchini, sliced the same as leeks
garlic cloves, minced
defrosted peas
zest and juice of Meyer lemon, or a regular lemon
pasta of your choice, cooked
shaved English extra mature cheddar
6 minute jammy egg (Put eggs into cold water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Turn the heat off. Let stand for 6 minutes. Dunk eggs into ice cold water. Peel. Cut in half.)

1. Heat a combination of olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add leeks and saute until they've softened. Try not to burn them like I did.
2. Add zucchini. At this point you may want to cover the skillet with a lid to quickly soften the zucchini.
3. Take the lid off, add garlic, and continue sauteing until the vegetables are cooked through and are golden brown.
4. Season with salt. Add defrosted peas, Meyer lemon zest and juice, and pasta. Combine. Heat through.
5. Serve in a bowl that you made in a pottery class.
6. Top with shaved cheese.
7. Add half of an egg topped with sumac.

This dish is great hot or at room temperature. Also, feel free to forego pasta and instead use the leek/zucchini/pea mixture as a filling for an omelet or a topping for toast!


Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce

If you are following me on instagram or are friends with me in real life and on FB, you know that I have a new addition to my family: Bubbly Olguita. Who??? It's my sourdough starter!

I'll write more about Bubbly Olguita in upcoming posts. For now, let's just say it's been an interesting 12 day experiment, and she's now hibernating in my refrigerator until the days when it'll no longer be a big deal to procure flour.

One of the steps in the sourdough starter process is to discard part of the starter. There are many recipes for what to do with that starter, but I decided to make Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce after seeing
Dan's (aka The Food in my Beard) Pickle Pancakes. Dan uses flour and pickle juice in his pancakes with vinegar. I just used my starter straight up.

Dan's recipe has actual measurements. Mine are approximations.

Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce
1 cup sourdough starter
1 huge pickle, diced
2 scallions, sliced (more for garnish)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

olive oil

mango chili sauce
soy sauce

1. Combine sourdough starter, diced pickle, scallion, and cornstarch in a bowl.
2. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan. Pour batter into the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. {You can make many little pancakes or a few large ones.}
3. Meanwhile, combine equal amounts of mayonnaise and mango chili sauce in a small bowl. Add enough soy sauce and sriracha to satisfy your salty and spicy taste buds.
4. Serve sourdough pickle and scallion pancakes garnished with scallions and a side of spicy mango sauce.

These were spongy in the best way possible. I loved the crispy edges the most!


Olive Oil & Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake

Last Sunday was my birthday. My original plans of celebrating in Arizona with my twin Anna and our friend Kate clearly did not happen.

Instead, I did a lot of facetime with family and friends, chatted on the phone, had a friend drop by and drop off banh mi sandwiches (thank you Sylvie!!), got flowers delivered from Anna, made a batch of Russian Potato salad, went on a walk, drank white wine, and got Ethiopian take out.

I also made myself a cake.

Olive Oil & Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake
1) Use a brownie mix, but instead of vegetable oil, use olive oil.
2) Add a splash of vanilla extract and a handful of chocolate chips.
3) Once baked and fully cooled, cut out 3 rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter. Freeze the rest for later.
4) Whip heavy whipping cream.
5) Layer the brownie rounds with whipped cream and currants. If you can't find currants, use any other berries.
6) Add candles. Light them. Make a wish. Blow them out.


Everything But The Bagel And Herbaceous No Knead Bread

Guess what!? I baked another no knead loaf last week. Don't worry: I did not eat all of it. I sliced more than half and froze it.

Everything But The Bagel And Herbaceous No Knead Bread

This time, I used my standard Le Creuset recipe, but added two things:

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs: a combination of rosemary, thyme, and parsley
2 tablespoons everything but the bagel spice mix

I also increased the amount of salt to about 2 teaspoons in the dough itself.

The result looked and smelled amazing. I need to work on my lame skills, and actually ordered a professional lame tool to make the scoring of the unbaked bread easier and more precise.

This bread is best when toasted. 

For other flavor ideas, check out my za'atar and Parmesan loaf and turmeric and black pepper loaf


Friday Flower Love: Weekend Inspirations

Mood boosters:
a walk outside
a thoughtfully prepared meal
a spoon of Nutella
Facetime with friends and family

How are you all doing in this new temporary (I HOPE) reality?

Yesterday I picked up roses and tulips at the grocery store and paired them with yellow mums from a few weeks ago to arrange my birthday from-me-to-me flowers. 

I'm planning on celebrating on Sunday by making a mini brownie cake, a batch of Russian potato salad, and facetiming with my family.