Souvlaki-Style Tofu (version 2.0)

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Okay. So this tofu recipe is so delicious even a dedicated “tofu hater” will like this. Seriously. This is a slight variation of this original version where the tofu was baked. What’s different with this version (and is not represented in the printed recipe below), is that I added a couple teaspoons of smoked paprika to the marinade, diced the tofu (instead of slicing it, and after marinating it I rolled each piece in cornmeal. Then instead of baking it I pan-fried them in olive oil to crunchy deliciousness (yum!). And yes, before you ask, this recipe can also be baked but it will not be as crispy (I tried it both ways). Anyhow, try this recipe and I dare you to try to just eat one.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu

Makes about 6 servings

1 pound extra-firm tofu

souvlaki marinade (recipe below)

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick. Lay the tofu in a pan and pour enough of the marinade over the tofu to cover it, turning it to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for at least 30minutes. Preheat an oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. For firmer tofu, turn it over and bake another 10 minutes. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack, on a sandwich, or salad.


Roast Garlic Souvlaki Marinade

Makes about 2 cups

12 cloves garlic

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ small onion, diced

1 small bunch parsley, washed and course chopped

Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small skillet and place it over a low flame. Heat the oil until the garlic begins to simmer. Cook the garlic very slowly until it is golden brown, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool in the oil to room temperature. Once the garlic and oil are cooled, combine them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Puff this…

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Ok. So first a coupe things. These are crab and goat cheese puff appetizers, and they are delicious. They’re also (relatively) easy to make. The base is the classic pâte à choux, or sometimes simply referred to as “choux paste.” It’s a simple dough that is first cooked on the stove top before being used. It’s most often used for dessert recipes but it makes it’s appearance (unsweetened) as an appetizer as well. Once you have the dough made you can really mix in what you want (just a few cheese are delicious). And it can be baked or fried. Desserts are generally bake, and while the hot appetizers can be baked as well, they are really special when fried (some things are simply better when fried). Anyhow, try these and you won’t be sorry. But you’d better make extra because they won’t last long…

Crab and Goat Cheese “Puffs”

Makes about 3 dozen

For the pâte à choux (dough):

½ cup butter

1 cup water

1 cup all purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs

Combine the butter and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. When the butter is nearly melted add the flour and salt. Stir the flour with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough and pulls away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute or so, then remove from the heat. Stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.

For the Puffs:

1 recipe pâte à choux

1 pound crabmeat

4 ounces chevre cheese

½ bunch parsley, minced

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon granulated onion

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine all of the ingredients together and gently mix until combined. Heat about ½-inch vegetable oil in a skillet. When it is hot but not smoking, cook the puffs in batches. Scoop them into the hot oil using two spoons or a small ice-cream scoop. Cook them until golden, turning as necessary, then transfer them to absorbent paper. Serve as or with a dipping sauce.

Salade d’hiver…

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So just because it is the middle of February and one of the most frigid nights of the year it doesn’t mean you can’t eat a salad. This is great as a side or hearty enough as a main dish. And with saffron-poached potatoes, French lentils, and a cumin-coriander vinaigrette, what’s not to like. While this may look complicated at first, if you look at each step it is really simple.

Salade d’hiver

Serves 8-10

For the vinaigrette:

1 cup virgin olive oil

½ cup white balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed

2 teaspoons whole coriander seed

2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and whisk together. Combine the cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper in a small dry skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Cook the spices for a couple minutes—until they begin to smoke and pop—and then stir them into the vinaigrette. Set the vinaigrette aside while you prepare the salad.

For the salad:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 pinch saffron threads

½ pound French lentils

4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

½ small red onion, sliced

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped

Combine the potatoes and saffron in a small pot with just enough cold water to cover them. Place the pot over medium high heat and boil the potatoes until they are cooked but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes (reserve the liquid for a soup or discard it), spread them on a plate, and allow to cool to room temperature.

 In another pot, boil the lentils for about 20 minutes, or until cooked but not mushy. Drain the lentils, spread them on a plate, and cool to room temperature.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, pour simmering water over the tomatoes, and let them rest for five minutes, then drain and dice them.

 Roast the red pepper over and open flame, and then—after letting it steam in a bag—remove its skin under cool running water. Then dice the pepper. (Click here for step-by-step directions on how to roast a pepper.)

To assemble the salad, combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette and pour it over the salad. Gently fold the dressing into the salad ingredients. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pasta for a winter’s eve…

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If you’ve been to this blog before then you know a few things about me. One is that I like one-pot meals such as rice or pasta…especially pasta. And this is a good example. I’ve been ill for the past few days (a cold) and actually took the day off work yesterday, which is unlike me. But while being self-sequestered at home had difficulty doing absolutely nothing, so I did something that nourishes both body and soul…I cooked, and also baked bread. Checking my fridge I came up with the ingredients for this dish and it turned out to be just what I needed…perfect comfort food for a winter’s evening. And as usual, this recipe is simply a guide and not a blueprint…it is really just a sort of elaborate variation of the many aglio e olio recipes posted on this blog. Add or remove whichever ingredients you have at hand or suit your taste.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Kale

Serves 2-4

½ pound whole wheat spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cups kale, coarsely chopped

3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienned

2 cups chicken broth

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil the spaghetti al dente, drain, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and sautes them until they begin to brown, then add the garlic and hot pepper and saute another minute or two. Stir in the kale and sun-dried tomatoes, coating it with the oil and seasonings, then add the broth and salt. Bring the broth to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the broth for 5-10 minutes, or until it reduces by two-thirds and is concentrated in both flavor and viscosity. Add the cooked spaghetti and simmer it while stirring gently for a minute or two, allowing flavors to permeate the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Urban Simplicity.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

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This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.


Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad

Serves 8

4 large eggplant

½ red bell pepper, diced small

½ green bell pepper, diced small

¼ red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

Urban Simplicity.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût!

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This is a basic ragoût recipe, or a main dish stew. Like all of the recipes that I post, this is not carved in stone but should serve more as a guide. The ingredients and seasonings can all be interchanged–added or deleted–to suit your personal tastes. This is perfect middle-of-the-winter comfort food. It’s delicious and packed full of nutrients…and the best part is that it will only use one pot to prepare.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût

Serves 6

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

¼ head green cabbage, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 turnips, diced

1 bunch kale, diced

1 medium potato, diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

1 (15 oz) can red beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and cabbage; cook and stir for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and just begin to brown, then stir in the grlic and cook another minute or so. Lower the heat and add the spices: cumin, turmeric, coriander, hot pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables, then add the turnips, kale, and potato; stirring to coat with spices and oil. Then add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer the stew for 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and vegetables are tender, then stir in the beans and cook for another minute or so. Lastly, stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Chickpeas; Two Recipes

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I have posted variations of both these recipes before but these are two recent additions. Both are really simple to make, super delicious, and healthy…chickpeas are really good for you. And yes, the falafel can be baked rather than pan-fried but they would lack the crispy outer shell.

Spicy Avocado and Roast Garlic Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

¼ cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

2 ripe avocado, peeled

2 cans (15 oz. ea.) chickpeas, rinsed

½ cup lemon juice

1 cup tahini

¼ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small skillet and place over low heat. Simmer garlic in the oil until golden brown and soft, turning it as necessary. Add the Aleppo pepper, cumin, and coriander to the skillet and remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Transfer the olive oil with the cooked garlic and spices to the bowl of a food processor along with the avocado, chickpeas, lemon, tahini, water and sea salt. Process the hummus until very smooth. 

Spinach and Feta Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel

1 (15oz) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked spinach, squeezed of excess moisture

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

½ small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

sesame seeds for garnish

oil for frying

Combine the chickpeas, spinach, cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lemon juice, 7-spice, salt, turmeric, and baking powder in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the first the flour then the feta cheese by hand, keeping small pieces of cheese visible. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes; if it feels too moist add more flour. Shape into small balls, then flatten them slightly while pressing them into sesame seeds. Preheat a skillet with about ½ inch of vegetable oil and fry the falafel about two minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden on the outside and cooked throughout. Remove the falafel from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. 

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.


(Tahini-Garlic Sauce)

Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup tahini

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup cold water

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon sea

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. If too thick or too thin, adjust the consistency with water or tahini.

For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

Lebanese-Style Lentil Soup (another variation)

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This is one of my favorite soups. It is so easy to make, really good for you (lentils are a really healthy food), and it is of course really delicious. There are a few variations in this recipe compared to previous ones that I’ve posted (click here for other versions). The biggest being that I used French lentils (but any lentil will suffice for this recipe), which are a little firmer, or they at least hold their shape when cooked. And also I used tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes, which gives it a thicker and richer flavor and consistency because of the concentrated tomato. And I also used baharat, or Lebanese 7-spice mix rather than individual spices (because I have a large batch of it at work–where I made this soup–but a manageable sized recipe is listed below). Lastly, I added Aleppo pepper, which can be substituted with another crushed pepper or omitted, and also a bit of turmeric because I like the golden hue that it offers. For additional Lebanese-inspire recipes click here.

Middle Eastern Style Lentil Soup (variation)

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Lebanese 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups French lentils

8 cups chicken broth

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper; saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Add the tomato paste, 7-spice, turmeric, Aleppo pepper, and salt, then cook and stir the tomato and spices for a minute or so. Add the lentils broth, bring to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Allow the soup to cook for about an 30 minutes, then add the potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes or until the soup thickens and the lentils become very soft. If it becomes too thick, add additional broth or a little water. Stir in the lemon juice a couple minutes before removing from the heat.

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.


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Okay, so first a few things. One thing that I have to get off my chest straight away is that this is not Buffalo-Style Tofu…it doesn’t exist. It seems anything that is fried and spicy these days is tagged as “Buffalo-Style.” But I will say that these crispy little morsels are addictingly delicious. Also, as I’ve mentioned on many previous occasions, I am not a vegetarian but am always looking for non-meat options. Thus said, are these any more healthy than chicken wings? Maybe, but who knows. They are still fried (and before you comment or email to ask, yes these can be baked and would be equally flavorful just not as crispy). But it’s okay to indulge now and again, right? And don’t forget to serve them with blue cheese dressing and celery and carrot sticks (if you want to go all out “Buffalo-style”), or eat them over a salad with blue cheese dressing as I did today (yum!). Anyhow, these are really easy to make–just a few ingredients–and so delicious even a tofu hater will like them.

Buffalo-Style Tofu Nuggets

1 (14 oz.) extra firm tofu

1 cup Franks hot sauce

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons granulated onion

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

oil for pan-frying

Drain the tofu and remove it from its package. Place the tofu between two plates and allow it to gently press out some of its moisture for about twenty minutes. Then dice the tofu and place it in a shallow pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the hot sauce, cornstarch, onion, and garlic, making sure that the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Pour this mixture over the tofu and gently lift and move it to insure that is fully coated. Allow it to marinate for about 20 minutes. Then remove the tofu from it’s marinade to a clean plate. Heat about 1/2” vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. And when the oil is hot carefully add the marinated tofu. Fry for about 5 minutes, turning as necessary, or until golden and crispy. Transfer the crispy tofu with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper.

Bouillon de dinde…

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Nearly every year after the Thanksgiving feast at my sister’s house I lug the turkey carcass home, leave it on my porch overnight (as my fridge isn’t large enough to accommodate it), and make broth with it the next day. The simmering broth makes my house smell delicious and drives my two dogs nuts (but I do put some on their food as a treat). After packaging it in increments I freeze it and use it for a few weeks–or months–thereafter for whatever recipe calls for chicken broth. It’s so easy to make and offers a really delicious flavor. The simple recipe for broth is below, but if you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice sometime ago regarding other Thanksgiving leftovers, click here; and here’s a link to an article on broth itself.

Turkey Broth 

1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut into thirds

4 ribs celery, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns 

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.  

Urban Simplicity.

Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon!

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This simple and really delicious and healthy squash recipe is really a variation on “all things aglio e olio.” I had this for dinner this evening as as side to moudardara. Often when I cook squash or potatoes like this I add a few cumin and coriander seeds along with the hot pepper to give it a Near East flavor (but had neither in the house this evening). Nonetheless, this is really easy and delicious, and it can be made using many other hard winter vegetables.

Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon

Serves 2-4, depending on the size of the squash

4 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced thinly

1 small onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

¼ teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that is large enough to hold the sliced squash in a single layer. When the oil is hot add the squash and saute it for a few minutes. Then add the onion and saute a few more minutes. When the squash and onion just begin to brown add the garlic, hot pepper, and salt; saute another minute or two. Stir in the lemon and remove from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Some like it hot!

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If you’ve been to this blog prior then you know that I have been somewhat fascinated with the art of fermentation for sometime (click here), so this recipe should not come as a surprise. I initially got the idea when I came across a recipe for brussels sprouts kimchi at the website of Bon Appetite. Intrigued, I tried it but changed it up a bit to fit my tastes. Anyhow, it is really good (and really spicy) and easy to make. If you like fermented foods I hop you try this recipe (which is below).

Brussels Sprouts Kimchi

Makes 1 gallon

 4 pounds brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half

7 ounces kosher salt

4 quarts water


 1 small onion, peeled and quartered

8 scallions

4 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup gochugara (Korean crushed pepper) or Aleppo pepper

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup Sriracha

8 slices peeled ginger

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds


 2 quarts water

1½ ounces kosher salt

Place the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, dissolve the 7 ounces salt in the 4 quarts water and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Allow them to soak for one hour, then drain and rinse them, discarding the water.

Combine in a blender, the onion, scallions, garlic, crushed pepper, soy sauce, Sriracha, ginger, coriander, and fennel. Then puree until smooth.

Pour the spice mixture over the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, combining throughly, then transfer them to a gallon-sized glass jar. Mix the remaining 2 quarts of water and 1½ ounces salt together—allowing the salt to dissolve, and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Gently press the brussels sprouts to release any air pocket, but making sure that the vegetable is covered by an least a half-inch of liquid. Put a small plate or other object on the vegetable to keep them submerged. Cover the jar with a lid. Either leave the lid ajar or poke a small hole in it to allow the release of pressure and bubbles as it the kimchi ferments.

Leave the jar at room temperature for about 5 days, or until it is bubbling and tastes slightly sour, then refrigerate. The brussels sprouts kimchi will keep for months in refrigeration.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

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This is just another variation of the seemingly endless theme of hummus recipes. And this one–if I do say so myself–is not only equally delicious but also really simple to make…put everything in a food processor and process until smooth. But technically this is not a hummus after all (I can be such a stickler) because the Arabic word hummus translates as chickpea. This would be ful or fool (beans). Anyhow, this is really good, and really healthy, and really easy to make.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocados, peeled

2 cans (15 oz. ea.) black beans, rinsed

1 cup tahini

4 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup water

¼ cup hot pepper sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

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This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Another Pie…

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So yes, this is another variation on a theme. I made bread today and is often the case I took a small piece of dough and made a pizza with it while the bread was rising. For this one I used a whole-wheat sesame dough, tomato sauce, pesto sauce, broccoli and spaghetti squash aglio e olio, hot peppers, and four cheese (yum!). Links to recipes are below.

For dough recipes using 100% whole wheat flour, click here.

For a really simple 10 minute tomato sauce recipe, click here.

For pesto recipes, click here.

If you want to know how to cook nearly anything “aglio e olio,” click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Condiments…

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Okay. So these two condiments are so easy to make and so bursting with flavor you’ll wonder why you haven’t made them before. The recipes of course are not carved in stone…add or subtract flavors and ingredients that you like. Experiment. Nonetheless, both of these are sure to please.


Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 cup yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1/4 cup honey

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon turmeric

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar and allow to soak at room temperature for about two days. Transfer to a blender and puree to desired consistency. Return to the glass jar and refrigerate.

BBQ Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups ketchup

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup yellow mustard

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Urban Simplicity.

The Spice is Right…Two Recipes Inspired by the Near East

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So one thing you likely know about me by now if you’ve visited here before is that I like ethnic food. A lot. Herbs and spices can change everything. The most mundane foods (like chicken and lentils, for example) become something really special when seasoned with exotic spices. Anyhow, I made these for staff lunch today and served it with saffron-infused brown rice…delicious. There is a simple curry recipe at the bottom of this post but a good quality store-bought brand would be fine…or use your own flavor combination. Enjoy.

Tandoori Chicken Stir-Fry

Makes 4 servings

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup plain yogurt

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 small onion, sliced

4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced

oil for sauteing

black sesame seeds for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (except the oil for sauteing and the black sesame seeds) and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for one hour. Heat a small amount of oil over high heat in a large heavy skillet (cast iron works great). When to oil is hot, add the marinated chicken in a single layer. Allow the chicken to cook for a minute before stirring, Then gently stir the chicken and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and thoroughly cooked. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with black sesame seeds.

Curried Red Lentils with Potatoes and Peas

Makes 4-6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

1½ cups red lentils

3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup peas

Heat the oil in a heavy sauce-pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and green pepper and saute for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and saute a minute longer. Stir in the curry and cook it for a minute or two, and then stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a low simmer; cook the lentils for about 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and lemon juice and simmer another 15 minutes, or until the lentils are thoroughly cooked. Stir in the peas and remove the pot from the heat. 


Simple Madras-Style Curry Powder

Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons ground cumin 

3 tablespoons quality chili powder

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground fenugreek

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all the spices thoroughly and store away from direct sunlight in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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This is another one of those recipes that is so easy to make and so delicious that you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often. You can use fresh peppers—as I did for this recipe—or jarred ones which you rinse. I cooked the peppers over the grate of my stove at work, but this time of year it is fun (and flavorful) to cook them outside on a charcoal grill. And as with most my recipes, this is just a suggestion…add whatever flavorings or seasoning you would like. You’ll also note that when I say this is easy to make, it truly is one step. Once the peppers are roasted you simply combine everything in a food processor and puree it. The hummus will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator…but it is so delicious it will likely be eaten straight away.


Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 (15oz) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth puree.


How to Roast a Pepper

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium. Using a set of tongs turn the pepper ever couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. Immediately place the pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin. Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain). After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds.

Urban Simplicity.

The Miracle of Controlled Spoilage (bis)

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“Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson…
When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”
—Willa Cather, “Death Comes for the Archbishop” (1927)

Fermented foods still amaze me. Not only are they bursting with flavor and so incredibly good for you, but they basically make themselves; you simply provide the proper conditions and let nature take it’s course…salt some food, put it in a bucket and wait. Yup, it’s that simple. Kim-chi, or spicy Korean sauerkraut, is my favorite. I’ve posted this recipe many times before but not in a while. I was prompted to re-post the recipe after tasting my latest batch of the good stuff (pictured). Being as hot as it has been it didn’t take long to ferment and geeeze o’ man is it delicious…bubbling and bursting with flavor and nutrients in each bit. This is so easy to make; I hope you try it. If you’re interested to read more about fermented foods (and would like a bunch more recipes) here are a couple articles I wrote for Artvoice on the subject a few years ago (click here and here). If you’d like to delve deeper into fermented foods, I recommend this book.

Kim Chi

(Korean-Style Sauerkraut)

1 head Napa cabbage, cut into two-inch pieces

1 small daikon, grated

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small piece ginger, minced

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a container that is wide enough to fit a few small plates inside it. Press the cabbage down and weight it with plates. Cover the container and leave at room temperature. After a day it should release enough liquid that it is submerged, if not, add a little salted water. After about 2 days small bubbles will appear, after about a week or so it will smell and taste distinctively sour. Taste it as often as you like and when the flavor is to your liking transfer the container to the refrigerator to slow its fermentation.

Urban Simplicity.

How to make tofu really flavorful and chewy in three simple steps (yup, it’s this simple)

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This is really easy and the outcome is so delicious that I’ve even had a devout “tofu hater” say it was really good. Eaten as a snack, on a salad or sandwich, or as a component to a stir-fry or rice dish, it delicious, healthy, and versatile. I seasoned this with Cajun seasoning and sea salt but the flavors are really up to you (herbs, curry, smoked paprika, Mexican…it’s really limitless) but what you want to take away from this post is the simple method in which it is prepared, not specific ingredients..

(1) To start with, purchase extra firm tofu, then–after removing it from it’s package–place it between a few plate to gently squeeze out some of it’s moisture; leave the tofu like this for about 20 minutes (continued below).

(2) Slice the tofu and coat it with whichever seasonings you prefer. Then place it on baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack. Having the wire rack is important because air need to circulate under the tofu as it bakes.

(3) Bake the tofu in a preheated oven (350F) for about 20 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another ten. Allow it to cool before serving.

For multiple actual printable tofu recipes click here.

Urban Simplicity.


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