Zucchini & Zucchini blossom Soup

Zucchini Blossoms Soup

Summertime, fresh Californian produce, farmers market and fresh air. What do they all have in common?

Nothing much, per se, but they all provide a lot of inspiration of fresh and healthy meals.

Last week while we were at the Fort Mason Farmers Market, the vegetable stall was a riot of color. I saw orange-yellow squash blossoms stacked next to green and yellow zucchinis and red tomatoes. The  colors were inviting and I picked up a bunch of flowers. Vipul eyed me and the flowers suspiciously. I told him I am going to make some zucchini blossom fritters. He asked me if that was all for dinner or there was “real” food as well along with it.

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Pan fried Pumpkin and Halloumi Salad

Panfried HAlloumi and Pumpkin Salad

Salads can be sexy too. Interesting. Appealing. But most importantly filling and easy to make.

To continue with our weight loss journey, I made pan fried Pumpkin and Halloumi Quinoa Salad. Pumpkin made it filling and interesting. Halloumi added a salty touch and a unique rubbery texture. Quinoa gave it an excellent protein base. Pan frying it made it easy to make. I am usually a fan of using the oven but a few months ago a friend pointed out how energy inefficient it is to bake a pumpkin for hours in the oven. Although that is incredibly hands off to cook in over, it probably is more energy intensive. I agree with her and decided to quickly make this in a skillet.

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Pinterest Told Me To Make: Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Before Mom and Dad left for India, I wanted to make something special for them. They are unlikely to visit for another year or so; this was my way to end our time together on a high note. With summer produce on a high in markets, ratatouille it was.

I had pinned this beautifully presented ratatouille dish for some time now and it was time to give it a try. The flavors are traditional and the presentation contemporary. It’s not the mush like stew that it originally was intended.

Ratatouille

The veggies are sliced thin, pan-fried to take out excess moisture and then baked over a ripe fresh tomatoes sauce.

If anything is a summer on a plate then this is it. Colorful, vegetarian and seasonal to boot.

Ratatouille

I made mini ratatouilles as individual servings and then paired it with big pearly Israeli couscous for a filling meal. It’s a great alternative to good old salad and a great way to eat that 2 cups of veggies per meal.

My kid didn’t touch it but we all loved it. Give it a try this summer while veggies are at their peak!

Ratatouille

Ratatouille Recipe

For the Sliced Veggies

  • 2 Zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 1/2 eggplant thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes thinly sliced

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided + 1 teaspoon to grease the baking dish
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup white onion finely diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper finely diced
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Crumbled goat cheese to garnish
  1. Heat a table-spoon of olive oil in a skillet. Sear the zucchini, squash and eggplant on each side lightly till light golden brown. Set aside.

  2. In the same pan add another table-spoon of oil. Saute the garlic and onion in the oil for 2 – 3 minutes till onions are translucent over medium heat.

  3. Then add red bell pepper. Saute for another 2 – 3 minutes till softened. Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for another 4- 5 minutes till cooked into a thick sauce.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

  5. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Spoon sauce at the bottom. Layer the vegetables on the sauce in rows or a spiral alternating zucchini, squash and eggplant. Bake in top third of the oven for 10 minutes till the vegetables are seared a bit on the top.

Garnish with goat cheese and parsley. Serve warm with couscous, quinoa or pasta.

 

Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Spring Quinoa Salad

People who love to eat are always the best kind of people – Julia Child 

It’s not like we can pretend to be otherwise. We are self-confessed foodies. A new restaurant, a new ingredient, new places rock our boat. Some of our best friends are foodies too which make it amazing to have dinner parties and travels.

But they (as in the rich food not friends) make for poor waistline.

As you know the other saying: Abs Are Made in Kitchen!

Asparagus

What we neglected in our 20’s, we are paying for in our 30’s.

In our quest to get back in shape this year and maintain it, we have indulged in salads. Sometimes simple with homemade dressing and other times festive and with flair to get us out of the rut and keep the enthusiasm going.

This quinoa salad is one in the middle – not everyday ho-hum but not too exotic. Something that can be conjured up on weeknight. Healthy, loaded with veggies, protein powerhouse. Here instead of cooking quinoa in plain water, cook it in water with spices and herbs. I used garlic, parsley and oregano but you could add whatever you have on-hand. Thyme, Cumin, Parsley – anything will work. It makes the quinoa savory. So you don’t really need separate dressing.

Coupled with chicken or salmon or tuna cakes make for a complete meal. Paired with wine can be dressed up for brunch. Versatile and seasonal. Weeknight meals don’t get much easier than this.

Spring Quinoa Salad

Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad Recipe

  • 1 Cup Red Quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 – 10 cups water to blanch vegetables
  • 8 -10 asparagus stalks, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh peas, shelled
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 2- 3 celery stalks diced
  • 2 radishes thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot with clove, parsley, oregano and salt in it. When it boils, add quinoa. Stir and cook covered for 10 – 12 minutes till quinoa is cooked. Fluff with a fork and remove in a bowl.

  2. In the meantime, set water to boil in another pot. Add salt to this pot of water. Once boiling, add vegetables to blanch.

Add asparagus and let them blanch for 2- 3minutes till they turn bright green. Remove them with a pair of tongs.

Add carrots and peas and cook them for another 2- 3 minutes till they soften.

  1. Slice the asparagus into 1/4 inch segments on a diagonal.

  2. Add the blanched vegetables, celery and lemon juice to cooked quinoa. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with radish slices and serve warm.

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

When we lived in Redmond, Thai was our staple food. SilverSpoon and Chantanee were our favorite restaurants there.
Most of the sauces and dressings in Thai food have fish sauce and dried shrimp. But these two places made a vegetarian version with soy sauce.My parents loved Thai food there as well. Even my aunt who is a staunch Indian food lover and hasn’t taken to any other cuisines, liked Thai food at SilverSpoon when we took her out there while she was visiting.

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

This is our attempt to ward off the Sunday evening blues and make a tasty healthy salad that is vegetarian to boot.

Spicy. Salty. Sour. Slightly Sweet.

Crunchy. Colorful.

Thai Green Papaya Salad is the Salad to master all Salad’s. When the going gets tough and you crave something that’s not boring or diet food like then this is the salad to go to.

Fortunately Green Papaya is easy to come by in an Asian market. We live near Chinatown so Dad could get one easily. It probably is a GMO version from Hawaii. But I doubt I will find a green non-GMO papaya in US.

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

If you don’t find a green papaya, green apple, turnips, chayote squash or even cucumber are excellent substitutes.

The sweet, sour and spicy dressing can be customized per taste. Supposedly, leftovers taste even better but we never have had any to confirm!

I served the salad with lemon garlic shrimp. It was a great dinner salad that we could have  over and over again. Even Dad was big fan!

Give it a try this week. It’s bound to make your spring even more colorful!

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad Recipe

For the Salad 

  • 3 cups grated green papaya ( peeled and de-seeded)
  • 1/2 cup blanched green beans cut into 1 inch segments
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 – 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 8 – 10 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onion greens

For the Dressing

  • 1/3 – 1/2  cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup coarsely ground dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated jaggery or palm sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon sriracha sauce 
  • 1 – 2 thai green chili minced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon spring onion whites finely minced
  • Salt to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients of the dressing in a bowl and set aside.

Start with smaller amounts of lemon juice, thai chilli, sriracha sauce and jaggery/palm sugar. Taste and adjust for sweet/spicy/sour notes.

2. In a large bowl, add the grate green papayas and green beans. Lightly pound them with a pestle ( or a rolling-pin or back of a heavy spoon) till they are bruised but not broken into a pulp. This allows the papayas and beans to “soak” the dressing as without it the salad is pretty bland.

3. Then add the mung bean sprouts, carrots, tomatoes and spring onions.

4. Add the dressing and toss it till well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings again. You may need to add more lemon juice, sriracha sauce , jaggery/palm sugar and/or salt.

Let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to meld.

Serve with garlicky shrimp or chicken. Nom! Nom!