While “rut” can mean an annually recurrent state of sexual excitement in the male deer (thanks, Merriam-Webster, I had no idea), it is more commonly defined as a usual or fixed practice.
I’ve definitely been in a bit of a rut (as in a usual, predictable practice) with the lunches I make for my workweek. Most Sundays I’ll cook up a grain of some kind, add some roasted vegetables, and occasionally some ricotta salata, feta cheese, or crumbled goat cheese. And I’ll eat this concoction for a few days for lunch. Some may think being in a cooking rut is a bad thing, but I don’t see it that way when I am eating so much delicious, easy to prepare food.
The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to these dishes. I tend to use whatever vegetable is in season and bulgur, faro, brown rice, or couscous. Some coworkers have commented that my lunches look similar, but they all taste unique as I always switch up the ingredients.
One of the better salads I’ve made recently has followed this rather predictable basis (roasted veggies and a grain), but extra spice has enhanced the flavor and the addition of chickpeas has added protein for a bit more substance.
Zucchini, Garbonzo Bean, and Couscous Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit; serves 4-6
- 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup pearled couscous
- Salt and pepper
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice zucchini crosswise into ½ inch pieces. Place on sheet pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, tossing half way through cooking. You’ll want the zucchini to be slightly browned and tender but not mushy.
Combine garbanzo beans, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Set aside and let marinate while roasting zucchini.
Cook couscous according to package instructions with one exception: add cumin, paprika and turmeric to cooking liquid.
Add couscous and zucchini (along with all the roasting juices from the zucchini) to the large bowl with chickpeas. Toss with remaining olive oil and let cool slightly. Add in green onions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
The New Yorker is a magazine my mother has had a subscription to (off and on) for well over a decade. It’s my personal favorite publication as it covers a wide array of topics and events and balances being informative and humorous (and I never mind getting them after she’s read them). Her last subscription ended about a year ago so for one of her Christmas gifts I got her a subscription.
If any of you have ever bought a magazine subscription online I’m sure you’re well aware there are a slew of other magazines you can purchase (at a huge discount) when you checkout. It’s like the grocery store; checkout aisles are always full of junk food, just tempting you to impulse purchase. While I try not to spend frivolously, I just couldn’t resist purchasing a year subscription to Bon Appetit for myself. It just seemed too good of a deal. After perusing the first issue I received, I quickly started a list of all of the dishes I wanted to make and decided the first dish to try would be their Beet Salad with Miso and Black Sesame.
The original recipe calls for a combination of wedges of roasted beet, thin slices of raw beet, mixed together with watercress. What made this salad interesting to me was that you got two very different textures from one ingredient. Wanting to take it a step further, I wanted to get three uses out of one ingredient, so in addition to using the beets, I used the beet greens.
For anyone that hasn’t used beet greens, you’re missing out. They have an earthy flavor and are almost reminiscent of spinach. They’re great sautéed, but equally nice when raw (if eating raw, I typically don’t eat the thicker ribs of the leaf, as I find them a bit fibrous). In addition to eating a delicious salad, I was also cutting down on waste as I used so many parts of one ingredient.
Roasted, Blanched, and Raw Beet Salad with Miso Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 4 golden beets
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup miso
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Juice of half a lime
- A handful of mixed greens (I felt there weren’t enough beet greens, so I added extra mixed greens [spinach would also work nicely])
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Scrub all beets, reserving greens. Take 3 beets, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and tightly wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until tender. Unwrap beets, let cool slightly, remove skin (I find rubbing with a paper towel is the easiest way of skinning cooked beets), and cut into wedges (approximately 8-10 wedges per beet).
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Using a mandolin (or using a knife), slice the remaining beet as thinly as possible and blanche in boiling water for 45 seconds. I found thinly sliced raw beet to be a smidge tough, which is why I recommend blanching them. Drain and shock in incredibly cold tap water or ice water. This stops the cooking.
Whisk together miso, vinegar, lime juice, and 3 tablespoons of water. Gradually pour in remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, while whisking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chop or tear beat greens into bite sized pieces and thoroughly rinse (they can be quite sandy) and pat dry with paper towels.
In a large bowl, mix together beet greens, additional mixed greens, roasted beets, and blanched beets. Pour on enough dressing to lightly coat the salad (I probably only used 1/3 to 1/2 of the dressing since I like very lightly dressed salads). Arrange on 4 individual plates (or one large platter) and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Do any of you have recipes that are so simple and easy that you can eat the finished product within 10 minutes of opening starting? While I have no qualms spending hours in the kitchen to make a dish, everyone needs a few recipes in their arsenal that require few ingredients and can be whipped up in minutes.
For me, sautéed green beans with garlic and lemon are a go-to recipe when I don’t have much time and want a tasty vegetable. While fresh green beans are ideal, I’ve made these countless times with frozen green beans (no need to thaw; right from the freezer is a-ok). Besides green beans, you only need garlic, lemon, and olive oil (and perhaps some crushed red pepper flakes, if so desired). Seeing as I usually cook for just two people, the following will serve two, but it can very easily be doubled, tripled, etcetera.
These are intensely lemony and garlicky and they pair nicely with a steak but somehow are delicate and light enough to work well with a poultry or fish dish or lean protein. If you’re not a fan of overwhelming garlic and lemon (I promise it’s overwhelming in a good way), feel free to cut back a bit (although I don’t recommend it).
Garlicky, Lemony Green Beans
- 1/2 lb fresh green beans
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Fill a large sautee pan with an inch of water. Bring to boil and add salt (you want to add enough salt so that the water tastes of the sea, similar to what you would do with pasta water). Meanwhile, trim the stems of the green beans.
Once water has come to a boil (it should boil quickly), add green beans and blanche for approximately 2 minutes. Drain green beans and immediately rinse in the coldest tap water (the goal is to stop the cooking and ensure the beans stay a vibrant green [you can also place them in a bowl of ice water, but I find my tap water is cold enough]).
Meanwhile, using the same sautee pan you used to blanche the green beans, drizzle in approximately a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee for a few minutes, until fragrant, but not browned. Add green beans and cook for 3 minutes, until heated through. Add lemon juice and cook for an additional minute. Before serving, mix in lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.