Blistered shishito peppers with sesame sauce

Summer is when the farmer's markets come to life in New York City. The farmstands are bursting with produce. Berries abound, peaches and plums are abundant, the tomatoes are tempting and summer squash are ripe and delicious. Last weekend, I served samples of my summery eggplant caponata with pearl couscous from  Neighborhood at my local greenmarket in Carroll Gardens and enjoyed wowing the locals with how delicious basic vegetables can be! 

When I finished, I picked up these gorgeous shishito peppers from my favourite farm stall, Lani's Farm, who never disappoint with their fresh greens, and Asian produce such as shiso leaves, young ginger and fresh turmeric. I've been snacking on shishito often lately. When I get peckish, I blister a handful and either enjoy with a pinch of sea salt, or smother them in this sesame sauce. 

This sesame sauce is very adaptable. If you can't find shishitos, smother this sauce on green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, snow peas, eggplant or even noodles.

 

Blistered shishito peppers with sesame sauce

serves 2 as a snack

gf | vg

 

340g (3/4 lb) shishito peppers

extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (white, black or combination)

sea salt

 

Sesame sauce

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbso water

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp mirin

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

sea salt and black pepper

 

In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini and water until smooth. Add the garlic, sesame oil, mirin, and rice wine vinegar and blend together until smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

 

Place a large skillet on high heat, add a drizzle of oil and add the shishito peppers. Cook on high heat, shaking the skillet often to move the peppers around, until blistered. Remove and place onto 

Eggplant with turmeric-tahini yoghurt

Hey there, remember me?!

While I have been MIA on the blog front, real life has been rather busy for me in Brooklyn.

Two weeks ago, the US edition of Neighborhood (no ‘u’, okay?) was finally released. Such a dream come true for me, to share my salad recipes with a whole new audience. I’m proudly flying the Aussie-Veggie flag over here and doing my best to seduce more peeps with my sassy salad recipes. If you would like a copy, purchase here. And if you love the book, I would appreciate a review on Amazon (these things matter I’ve been told ;))

 
USA edition of Neighborhood

USA edition of Neighborhood

 

The ongoing book tour will take me from New York to Seattle in early August, where I will be hosting a one-time only brunch with Cannelle et Vanille’s Aran Goyoaga at her Seattle studio. The brunch is on the 12th August and I will be cooking salads from Neighborhood to share in an intimate, family-style dining setting. If you are in Seattle, I’d love to meet you - there are just a few tickets left - purchase them here.

There are several other events in New York over late summer – including a collab brunch called "Leaf on Loaf" with Sarah Owens in the Rockaways –  I hope to meet many of you there and what a great opportunity to discover the unique Summer food scene in the Rockaways. Purchase tickets here and see all my other events here (I will add to this list as new events come to light). Busy fun cooking days ahead ;)

I’ve also been working on a special project with my good friend Jodi. This is a test kitchen in the heart of Brooklyn, which will serve as a daylight photography studio for both of us, while also serving as a space where the food community in New York come together to create, cook and eat. We call it a ‘collaborative cooking’ space. In many ways, it will be the physical manifestation of my commitment to creating community around small food experiences. We hope the space will be opened by late summer but to stay up to date, visit our website here and sign up for updates. You can also find us on Instagram @neighborhoodstudiobk

With Summer in full swing over here, I’m swooning for all things eggplant right now. It all started a month or so ago when I scoffed an intensely delicious plate of pasta alla norma at a local Italian restaurant. Since then, I have been obsessed with these plump, shiny skinned nightshades. Lately I’ve been making the smoky baba ghanoush from Community, and the smashed eggplant and caponata from Neighbo(u)rhood. I’ve also devised this new eggplant recipe, which is a light dish for warm nights. It features barbecued eggplant, smothered in golden turmeric yoghurt and pomegranates, served with brown rice (or your fave grain). A vibrantly hued, simple-to-prepare bowl for easy veggie weeknight dinners.

 

Photo ©Luisa Brimble, outtake from Neighborhood cookbook shoot

Photo ©Luisa Brimble, outtake from Neighborhood cookbook shoot

Eggplant with turmeric-tahini yoghurt

gluten free

for vegan, omit feta and replace yogurt with tahini in equal quantities

 

Serves 4

 

3 medium eggplant (about 800g), trimmed

2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 cups cooked brown rice

2 (tightly packed) cups baby rocket (arugula) or spinach leaves

¼ (tightly packed) cup mint leaves

100g feta, crumbled

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (white, black or both)

½ pomegranate, seeds removed

Sea salt and black pepper

 

Turmeric tahini yoghurt

1/3 cup yogurt 

1 tbsp water

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

 

To make the turmeric yoghurt, combine the yoghurt and water and mix until smooth. You are looking for the consistency of thick cream – if it is too thick, slowly add more water, a teaspoon at a time. Add the maple, tahini, olive oil and turmeric, and stir to combine. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Slice the eggplant into 1cm thick slices and coat in the olive oil. Heat up the barbecue (or a griddle pan on the stovetop), and char-grill the eggplant for 2-3 minutes on each side until soft and cooked through. Sprinkle over sea salt and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add a big spoonful (or two) of brown rice, toss in a handful of rocket and spinach, a scatter of mint leaves and top with a few slices of eggplant. Spoon over some turmeric yogurt, and scatter over the feta, sesame seeds and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

Chilaquiles Verde

Travel is always so inspiring to me as a cook. I return from trips overflowing with ideas and possibilities. Apart from my Chinese heritage, I would say travel is the single most important and consistent influence on me in all aspects of my life, not just in the kitchen.

As Diana Vreeland eloquently said “I certainly didn’t learn anything from the school. My education was the world.”

An experience of the world never leaves you. Often unknowingly, it seeps into every part of your life and consciousness. For me, the physical evidence of world experience usually manifests on the plate. Our recent trip to Playa del Carmen had me thinking about Mexican food in a new way. The food there is full of color and vibrancy. But even though the food is punchy, there is also a delicacy and subtlety to the flavors. The dish I loved most was chilaquiles verde, a traditional peasant dish of fried tortilla chips bathed in salsa verde. As with many of the great dishes of the world, chilaquiles has humble beginnings – the dish was born in Mexican homes as a way of using up leftover tortillas and salsa. In Mexico, we ate chilaquiles with a fried egg for breakfast but for me, it’s the perfect dinner for all the family. My kids didn’t try this in Mexico but at home in Brooklyn, they loved it served with a fried egg, cucumber, corn and crème fraiche.

For the salsa verde, I used tomatillos, which are similar to unripe green tomatoes. In America, they are very common but in Australia, they are probably impossible to find. I certainly can’t remember seeing them anywhere but please leave a comment if you know where to buy them. For non-US readers, substitute the tomatillo with unripe tomatoes and perhaps add a squeeze of lime juice to mimic the tomatillos signature tartness.

I fried corn tortillas to make chips but you could just use good quality, store-bought corn chips (choose unsalted if you can).

 

Chilaquiles verde

If you are using unripe tomatoes in place of tomatillos, remember to add more citrus (lime) to the tomatoes to inject some tartness. Cooled salsa can be stored in the fridge in a clean, sterilized container for up to 2 weeks.

Serves 4

  • ¾  - 1 cup olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 20 fresh corn tortillas, cut into 4 wedges
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup vegetable stock

Salsa Verde

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 500g (1 lb) tomatillos (or unripe tomatoes), roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • juice of ½ lime

To serve

  • fried eggs (1-2 per person)
  • cucumber, sliced
  • cooked corn
  • crème fraiche
  • few handfuls crumbled cotija or feta cheese
  • handful coriander (cilantro) leaves

 

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat; once hot, add olive oil, tomatillos and jalapenos, along with 2 tablespoons of water. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and cook until it is very soft – about 10 minutes – stirring often. Place the tomatillo mix into a high-powered blender, add the coriander along with a pinch of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with more salt and a squeeze of lime juice. Set aside.

Add a good drizzle of oil to a large, deep skillet and heat until it is very hot (you could also use a deep fryer or wok). Reduce the heat to medium, and panfry the tortilla chips, working in batches, turning them so that both sides are golden and crisp. It should take less than 3 minutes for each batch. Transfer to a paper towel to drain, and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.

In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil, along with the salsa verde and vegetable stock. Stir and bring to a simmer. Add the fried tortilla chips, turning them to coat the chips in the sauce. Cook until the tortilla chips are warmed through.

To serve, spoon chilaquiles onto a serving plate, top with a fried egg, sliced cucumbers, corn, cheese and spoonful of crème fraiche and a scattering of coriander leaves.

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Creamy Yellow Lentils and Potato Stir Fry from Vibrant India

I was a relative latecomer to Indian food. The first time I tried it, I suspect I was in my late teens and a university student. During those days, food choices were made based on value for money! One of our favourite cheap eats was curry from the cafeteria-style Indian eateries that are found in Sydney. These eateries were usually predictably named -  think monikers like “Taj Mahal” or “North Indian Diner” - and they all offered the same fare. At the hot counter, we would feast on dishes such as dal, vegetable korma, aloo matar, saag paneer and buttery naan. Back in those days, our choice of 3 curries with rice set us back about 5 bucks. Cheap and cheerful at its best. 

My early Indian food foray didn’t prepare me for the curry epiphany that I would experience in London. In the UK, going for 'a curry' is part of the culture, a meal tantamount to the burger and chips or pizza of America. We ate curry, of both Indian and Bangladeshi origin, all over the city; sometimes in Brick Lane, but more often in local pubs or neighborhood eateries. We often took visiting friends to a bustling, touristy Masala Zone in Soho for grand thalis. On the night before I gave birth to my first child Scout, I scoffed a very hot curry at the old Bombay Bicycle Club in Holland Park (now closed) to encourage her arrival (she was 9 days late by this point!!). It worked; she was born the next day. Curry, it seems, serves many purposes!

My Indian odyssey this week comes care of Chitra Agrawal’s new book Vibrant India. This is a beautiful, sentimental volume, showing the lighter, fresher side of Indian cuisine. The recipes are inspired by Chitra’s family traditions from Bangalore, journeying to Brooklyn, where she interpret’s her mother’s traditional South Indian recipes for local home cooks. Chitra’s recipes are a refreshing take on Indian cuisine. Ironically, far from the heavy curries that I formerly favoured, Chitra’s style of cuisine is often called the “yoga diet”, based on seasonal produce, grains, legumes coconut, yoghurt, along with spices, herbs, citrus and chili. And best of all, all recipes are vegetarian.

I might just add, Chitra is a lovely person. And also a very talented cook with her very own range of Indian condiments called Brooklyn Delhi. If you are looking for a new go-to sauce, try her tomato achaar which is my new obsession. It now stands side by side with my other essential condiment, New York Shuk’s harissa.

Today, I’m delighted to share two recipes from Vibrant Food – I cooked these dishes for my kids this week and they loooooved them both. They especially love wrapping the potato stir fry in lettuce cups! Fun and delicious…

GIVEAWAY TIME! I’m delighted to be giving away a copy of Chitra’s Vibrant India. To enter, just comment below and let me know your favourite Spring fruit or vegetable…or your favorite Indian dish! Competition is open to US and Canada residents only. I’ll announce the winner Friday 7th April!
CONGRATULATIONS TO JILL FERGUS, who won a copy of Vibrant India. Happy Cooking.
 

 

 

 

 

Recipes from Vibrant Food by Chitra Agrawal (Ten Speed Press)

My note for the below recipes:

I didn’t have any asafetida so I left it out of both! It was still sooooo good. I also didn’t have all the right legumes or know the correct translation for all the ‘dals’ so here is what I used:

Creamy Yellow Lentils:

For the moong dal, I used yellow split peas.

For the urad dal, I used whole black lentils

Potato Stir-fry

For the chana dal, I used yellow split peas

For the urad dal, I used whole black lentils

I substituted dried curry leaves for the fresh ones. 

 

Creamy yellow lentils with tomato and ginger (Hesaru Bele Thovvay)

Serves 4 

  • 1 cup moong dal 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (about 20 leaves) 
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated 
  • 2 to 3 Indian green chiles or serrano chiles, finely chopped 
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1 to 1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt 
  • 2 teaspoons ghee (page 202) unsalted butter, or canola oil 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black mustard seeds 
  • Pinch of asafetida (hing) powder 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon urad dal 
  • 1 shallot or 1⁄4 red onion, chopped 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped 
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 1 1⁄2 tablespoons), plus more as needed 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish 

SERVING OPTIONS 

  • Chapatis or other flatbread 
  • Cooked rice
  • Raita or plain yogurt 

Dry-roast the moong dal in a saucepan over medium heat until they are golden brown and have a nutty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. (This step is optional but reduces the stickiness of the dal.) Thoroughly wash the moong dal, using a fine-mesh colander. 

Combine the moong dal and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the top. Mix in half of the curry leaves and the ginger, 1 or 2 green chiles, and the turmeric powder. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until cooked, about 30 minutes. The dal should be easily mashable and creamy in texture. Season with 3⁄4 to 1 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat. 

Put the ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat. when melted, add one black mustard seed. when the seed sizzles and pops, add the rest of the mustard seeds and the asafetida. keep a lid handy to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (a few seconds) immediately add the urad dal. Stir to coat with oil and turn the heat down to medium-low. Continue to stir the dal so it evenly roasts, until it turns a reddish brown and smells nutty, less than a minute. Rub the remaining curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils and drop them, along with the remaining green Chile into the ghee. Cover immediately, as moisture from the curry leaves will cause the ghee to spatter. Then stir to evenly coat everything with ghee, a few seconds.

Add the shallot to the pan and fry over medium heat until softened and translucent, a couple of minutes. Next, add the garlic and fry until fragrant. Mix in the tomato and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook until the tomato is falling apart, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Pour the flavoured ghee and tomatoes over the soup and mix. Let it all boil together for a minute or two. The consistency should be on the thicker side for soups, able to be scooped up in a chapati or to loosely rest on rice. Turn off the heat. Mix in the lemon juice and cilantro. taste for salt and lemon juice and adjust if needed. Garnish with more chopped cilantro. 

Serve hot with chapatis or enjoy plain or over rice with a dollop of raita on top. 

When reheating thorvay, add water to get it back to your desired consistency, as it has a tendency to thicken up in the fridge. 

 

 

Potato stir-fry with onion and ginger (Alugedde Palya)

Serves 6 

  • 3 medium red or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed (about 11⁄2 pounds) 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 tablespoons mild-flavored oil such as canola, plus more as needed 
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (page 202) or unsalted butter 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black mustard seeds 
  • Pinch of asafetida (hing) powder 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chana dal 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon urad dal 
  • 4 or 5 fresh curry leaves 
  • 2 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 Indian green chile or serrano chile, chopped 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced 
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves 

Place the potatoes in a pot and add water to cover by 2 inches. Add the salt to the water and boil over medium-high heat until the potatoes are cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them cool. When cool, coarsely chop the potatoes into bite-size pieces. 

Put the oil and ghee in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add one black mustard seed. When the seed sizzles and pops, add the rest of the mustard seeds and asafetida. Keep a lid handy to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (a few seconds), immediately add the chana dal and urad dal. Stir to coat with oil, and turn the heat to medium-low. Continue to stir the dals so they evenly roast, until they turn a reddish golden brown and smell nutty, less than a minute. Rub the curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils, and drop them, the ginger, and green chile into the oil. Cover immediately, as moisture from the curry leaves will cause the oil to spatter. Then stir to evenly coat everything with oil and continue to fry until the ginger and chile are less raw, 10 to 15 seconds. 

Add the onion and turmeric powder to the pan. Turn the heat to medium. Mix well and cook until the onion is softened and translucent. Mix in the potato and stir-fry until they start to become soft and mashable. If the pan is getting dry, add a little oil. Turn off the heat. Mix in the lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for lemon juice and salt and adjust if needed before serving. 

 

Creamy broccoli and cheddar soup with cheesy chickpeas

I’m just back from Mexico where I ate too much and did very little. We visited a small bungalow resort on Playa Xcalacoco, a small local beach in the northern part of bustling Playa Del Carmen. Most days were spent poolside reading Zadie Smith’s brilliant Swing Time, indulging in beachside massages, lying in hammocks listening to the hypnotic crashing of waves, followed by a dip in the warm Caribbean Sea. Even as a native Sydney-sider, I’ve never considered myself a beach person. I generally loathe sand. But this trip, I realized how much I miss the ocean. The fearlessness of the sea, the never-ending horizon and bright skies made me feel completely at home.

Mexico is colour. Nothing is muted. Everywhere you venture, there are pops of vibrant hues to be savoured – brilliant red macaws, fluorescent pink flamingos, radiant blue skies, and courageously-bright architecture.  At one of our favourite eateries El Fogon, a little taqueria in Playa Del Carmen frequented by locals and tourists alike, the vividly painted walls are a jaunty backdrop to the famed al pastor, a Lebanese-inspired shawarma spit-grilled meat. Eating is lively and immersive, with sauces, tortilla chips and lots of small plate filling up tables, and music amplifying the air. I was so inspired by the complex-yet-clean flavours in Mexico – my new obsessions are a green ‘salsa verde’ made of parsley and mayo, habanero sauce, queso fundido and chilaquiles in green tomato sauce. Expect some Mex-inspired recipes in the months ahead!

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Back in Brooklyn, the weather is warmer than it should be at the beginning of March. This is always disheartening to me. While I love a bit of unexpected warmth, you can’t help but feel that the world is spiraling a bit out of control right now. So, despite the unseasonable warmth, I’m making soup this week. Because it is Winter, the season of soup. I just might be eating it in my tank top ;)

It is no secret that I have a MAJOR CRUSH on broccoli. I seriously could eat it at every meal. In this simple recipe, broccoli joins cheddar in a classic pairing, topped with addictive cheesy chickpeas. My daughter recommends a squeeze of lemon to the soup just before eating – she says it gives the soup a ‘lift’. I just nod and do as she says.

 

Creamy broccoli and cheddar soup with cheesy chickpeas

I used an aged cheddar but you could also use pecorino, parmesan or gruyere. The creaminess is from the tofu! No cream necessary.

Serves 4

  • 700g (2 small) broccoli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 cups vegetable broth/stock
  • 200g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 100g sharp cheddar, grated
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • ½ lemon, to serve
  • handful parsley leaves, to serve

Cheesy chickpeas

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese
  • pinch sea salt and black pepper

 

Cut the broccoli into florets. Retain the stalks, removing the woody outer layer.

In a large pot on medium heat, add oil and onions and saute for 60 seconds. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes, until soft and aromatic. Toss in the broccoli and cook for 5 minutes, until the broccoli gain a nice char. Add the broth and tofu, and allow to cook on medium heat, uncovered, for another 5 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Remove from the heat, and immediately add the cheese – the heat will melt the cheese. Using a handheld blender or food processor, blitz the soup until very smooth.

In a small bowl, add the chickpeas along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cheese and stir to combine. Season with a pinch of sea salt and turn of black pepper. Heat a small frypan on medium heat. Once hot, add a small drizzle of oil and add the chickpeas. Fry for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan often, until the chickpeas are golden and crispy.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Top with a few cheesy chickpeas, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a scattering of parsley leaves.