Confit tandoori chickpeas

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, also featured on The Guardian

Ingredients:

  • 2 tins of chickpeas (800g), drained (480g)
  • 11 garlic cloves, peeled,10 left whole and 1 crushed
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 400g datterini or regular cherry tomatoes
  • 3 red chillies, mild or spicy, a slit cut down their length
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1⁄2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp red Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 200ml olive oil
  • YOGHURT DRESSING
  • 180g (about 6 oz) Greek-style yoghurt
  • 15g picked mint leaves
  • 30g fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2–3 limes: juiced to get 1 tbsp and the rest cut into wedges to serve salt
  • 4 pita breads (or other flatbread) or rice, to serve (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 170 C (150 C fan) / 325 F.
  2. Put the chickpeas, 10 whole garlic cloves, ginger, tomatoes, chillies, tomato paste, spices, sugar, oil and a teaspoon of salt in a large, oven-proof saute pan for which you have a lid, then stir to combine. We used our Dutch oven.
  3. Cover, put in the oven and cook for 75 minutes, stirring once halfway, until the aromatics have softened and the tomatoes have broken down.
  4. Meanwhile, make the yoghurt dressing: Put the mint, cilantro, yoghurt, lime juice, 1 crushed garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in the small bowl of a food processor and blitz smooth.
  5. Serve the chickpeas directly from the pan (or transfer them to a shallow serving platter), with the yoghurt and lime wedges in two separate bowls alongside, with warm pita or flatbread, if you wish. We also made rice to serve with.

I was first introduced to this recipe at a high school English Language Arts department get together. Perfect for groups including vegetarian guests, and satisfying enough for everyone. For even larger groups, double the recipe!

Jessica

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Salad vinaigrette

Adapted from Cookie and Kate

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Stir well with a small whisk until the ingredients are completely mixed together.
  2. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for future use. Homemade vinaigrette keeps well for 7 to 10 days. If your vinaigrette solidifies somewhat in the fridge, don’t worry about it—real olive oil tends to do that. Simply let it rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes or microwave very briefly (about 20 seconds) to liquify the olive oil again. Whisk to blend and serve.
arugula with smoked lox and freshly grated cheese

Really love the Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar that Jesse’s mom likes to buy from Littly Italy. Any time we’re making an arugula salad with burrata and cherry tomatoes and sometimes avocado, some variation of this dressing is made fresh.

~Jessica

Penne alla vodka, revisited

Adapted from Vicenzo’s Plate and Serious Eats

Ingredients (x 2):

  • 300 g (10.5 oz) Penne Rigate, preferably DeCecco
  • 400 g (14.5 oz) of Italian peeled Tomatoes (1 small can)
  • 4.5 ounce (130g) tube concentrated tomato paste
  • 200 g (7 oz) of cooking cream
  • 200 g (7 oz) Cured Pancetta/Bacon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil (EVOO)
  • handful of fresh Basil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tbsp rock salt
  • 100 mL (3.3 oz) Vodka

Directions:

  1. Add 5L water to a large pot and put it on the stove to boil while you make your penne alla vodka sauce. 
  2. Now, cut the pancetta into small strips and be sure to keep some fat on every piece. The fat will render when you cook it and add that extra flavour to the sauce and make it more crispy.
  3. Put the pan on the stove on low heat and add 4 tbsp of olive oil (EVOO) to the pan and toss in the chopped onion, cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the pancetta and cook it for approx. 5-10 minutes or until the onions start to turn golden and the pancetta is nice and crispy. 
  5. While the pancetta and onions are cooking, pour the peeled tomatoes into a large mixing bowl and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper before gently crushing them by hand (or using a masher utensil) Don’t be too rough! (We skipped seasoning and crushing the tomatoes because we used Trader Joe’s diced tomatoes, which already have salt).
  6. Pour the vodka into the pan with the pancetta and onions, and cook it together for about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the peeled tomato we crushed earlier into the pan with the pancetta, vodka, and onions. Mix the penne alla vodka sauce slowly using a wooden spoon and cook at a medium-low heat for at least 15-20 minutes.
  8. Break the basil leaves using your hands and toss them into the pan. The sauce should start to slowly thicken.  
  9. Add a small amount of cream into the pan until the sauce turns pink. Stir to incorporate. Transfer sauce to a blender, and blend until very smooth (you may be able to use an immersion blender).
  10. Now, cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 3 minutes less than the package directs. Once it is almost ready, scoop up some pasta water using a mug and put it aside. 
  11. Once ready, using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta directly to sauce pot along with 1/2 cup (120ml) pasta water to the sauce, which should be on a medium-low heat while gently mixing it, until pasta is well coated in sauce and reaches the al dente stage, about 3 minutes.
  12. Add more pasta water in 1/4 cup (60ml) increments as needed, and mix everything together until every penne is immersed in the penne alla vodka creamy sauce.
  13. Lastly, Remove from heat and stir in pecorino (as much or little as you like) and toss it again. If you can’t detect the vodka at all, you can add a few drops more and stir it in before serving (less is more)!
  14. Plate warm and top with additional grated cheese. Serve immediately.

We previously made this dish and I had a hankering for it again. So I tried finding a more authentic Italian recipe. Jesse thought it was good. Flavorful, nice texture, and mildly spicy (from the pepper flakes and green chilies)!

~Jessica

Zero waste laundry

I’ve been concerned about climate change and plastic pollution ever since taking AP Environmental Science in high school, and my college and career reflect that. So I’ve been exploring plastic-free laundry and kitchen alternatives.

Of all recycling, plastic makes up only 4.5% according to the EPA, while “plastics accounted for over 18 percent” that went to landfills. That means laundry detergent jugs are dumped into landfills across North America every year. Although we may try to recycle as much as possible, research shows that recycling can still end up in the landfill. I’ve collected so many research hours on environmentally friendly cleaning and the zero waste journey, I thought I would write a quick note on products most people still don’t know about.

Before we even get to cleaning products, did you know “natural fibers like merino wool, and linen are naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial” (Vox)? So they don’t need to be washed as often as synthetics. I try to replace my old clothes with organic cotton from Pact, hemp underwear from Wama, linens from Uniqlo, merino wool sneakers from Allbirds. Not as durable but even softer: bamboo clothes from Boody.

Eco Nuts

I bought Eco Nuts Plastic Free Laundry Detergent Soap Berries and liked them, but didn’t like shopping from Amazon, because corporations.

Blueland

I’ve tried most of the Blueland products, because all of their packaging is compostable, and really like the Toilet CleanerHand Soap (you just need a foaming dispenser, I’m reusing a Weleda bottle), Oxi Laundry Booster (I store them in reused dried plum containers), and their multi-surface cleaners (any previous cleaning spray bottle works!). Their Laundry tables works better if you break up the tablets and put it directly in the wash (it wasn’t always dissolving in the dispenser tray), but Package Free offers a detergent powder (and I have tried Whole Foods laundry detergent powder before, which is cheaper but has a plastic bag inside the box). I also tried their Dishwasher tablets but found Trader Joe’s also sells dishwasher detergent powder — will let you know how they compare!

Package Free

For dish soap to hand wash knives, nonstick pans, cast iron, etc. we really liked Package Free round dish soap but found Blueland powder dish soap was cheaper (just don’t breathe in the powder dust!). I still love and use the Package Free dishwashing brush (you can find similar on etsy), which is great because brushes are scientifically proven to harbor less bacteria than sponges, and compostable, and they sell replacement heads. 

Why?

Microfibers are a considerable source of microplastic pollution. “Every time we do our laundry, an average of 9 million microfibers are released into wastewater treatment plants, which cannot retrieve them, and they end up in the ocean. Also, just by wearing synthetic clothes, plastic fibers are constantly released into the air.” (source) If you haven’t seen The Story of Stuff short video, I highly recommend it!

The EPA says : “Researchers have found plastic microfibers in a variety of the fish and shellfish that people consume. Though scientific research has made it clear that humans are exposed to microplastics through the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, we do not yet know what effects microplastics might have on our health.”

Not yet reviewed:

If anyone knows someone who has tried the Tru Earth laundry strips, let me know how you like them!

The Cora Ball ($$) captured 26% of microfibers, according to the study. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m very interested! The Lint LUV-R filter catches more, but is a significant investment (installation and $$$).

~Jessica

Chicken shawarma

Adapted from RecipeTin Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg / 2 lb chicken thigh fillets, boneless

MARINADE

  • 1 large garlic clove , minced (or 2 small cloves)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (we subbed with chili flakes and chili powder)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

YOGHURT SAUCE

  • 260 g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic , crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

TO SERVE

  • 4 – 5 flatbreads (pita)
  • Sliced lettuce
  • Tomato slices
  • Red onion , finely sliced
  • Cheese , shredded (optional)
  • Hot sauce of choice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Marinate the chicken – Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag (or glass dish). Add the chicken, seal, the massage from the outside with your hands to make sure each piece is coated. Marinate 24 hours (minimum 3 hours).
  2. Yogurt Sauce – Combine the Yogurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl (we used a clean salsa jar) and mix. Cover and put in the fridge until required (it will last for 3 days in the fridge).
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon over medium high heat.
  4. Cook chicken – Place chicken in the skillet (we used a cast iron pan) and cook the first side for 4 – 5 minutes until nicely charred. Turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes (the 2nd side takes less time).
  5. Rest – Remove chicken from heat. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Slice chicken and pile onto platter alongside flatbreads, Salad and the Yoghurt Sauce
  7. To make a wrap, get a piece of flatbread and smear with Yoghurt Sauce. Top with greens and tomato and Chicken Shawarma. Roll up and enjoy!

Jesse chose this recipe from the most popular list (love this idea), and I promptly rounded up all the ingredients from Trader Joe’s. I did not see thigh fillets, which would have been preferable to have dark meat, but the breast fillets were still acceptable after marinating overnight. We had cherry / grape tomatoes which I sliced up for toppings. And instead of romaine lettuce, I wanted to try the TJ’s organic spinach and spring greens.

~Jessica

Crêpes

Adapted from a cookbook I had (maybe Crepe Cookery by Mable Hoffman)

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs and salt.
  2. Gradually add milk and flour, alternating. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Beat in melted butter.
  4. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 1 hour).
  5. In the morning, on medium-low heat, butter your pan. When it’s hot, pour the batter as thinly as possible if you don’t have a crêpe spreader. Flip after each side has browned a bit (starts to form a crust so easier to slide your spatula under)

Makes 16-18 all-purpose crepes. You can add sweet or savory toppings.

~Kai-ling

Pasta with corn, zucchini, and sausage

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Spend with Pennies

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes or chili powder
  • 16 oz pappardelle
  • 28 ounces canned whole tomatoes with juices
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears — I only bought one)
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Chop bell pepper, and onion into 1″ pieces. Toss with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
  3. Spread in a single layer on a foil-lined pan and roast 20 minutes. Stir and switch oven to broil. Broil 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and have some light browning on the edges.
  4. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and cook garlic in same pot, stirring occasionally, until light golden around edges, about 2 minutes. Add basil sprigs and Aleppo-style pepper (flakes / powder); cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 1 minute. Add sliced zucchini (if you have).
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  7. Add canned tomatoes, corn, and ½ cup pasta water to pot and cook, stirring often, until corn is mostly tender, about 3 minutes. Season to taste (salt, pepper, etc.) and add in roasted vegetables.
  8. Stir in pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Then add butter and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce reaches desired consistency.
  9. Add 2 oz. Parmesan in several additions, stirring after each addition until sauce is smooth. Return sausage to pot and cook, adding a splash or two more of cooking liquid if needed to loosen sauce, until flavors meld, about 1 minute. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce reaches desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Divide pasta among shallow bowls; top with basil leaves and more Parmesan.

On one recent episode of Bob’s Burgers, Gene (“Summer Is Awful. There’s Too Much Pressure To Enjoy Yourself”) asks for fried zucchini on his panini from Grandpa Nini’s Grand Paninis. I was also longing to do a more traditional Italian zucchini cream sauce with heavy cream, which I might try in a few weeks. Jesse thinks this recipe is complicated and he’s not wrong, but he also said it was “really really good”.

~Jessica

Things I’ve learned about travel albums

This past year I was an advisor to the Yearbook Club, and I could appreciate that two of our club members had taken a photography class one semester. Although I already had a handle on a lot of the basics, I was surprised that I had even more hints and suggestions for taking good portraits, just from traveling with Asian friends (who photograph. A lot.) I also had forgotten the basics from digital art extracurricular classes I took in middle or high school, learning about backgrounds and layers and how to organize layout. There’s a lot to it, needless to say.

Recently I was viewing a family member’s travel album on slideshow, when I realized after years of traveling and presenting (for lab meetings, conferences, etc.) that there are a lot of niceties I do to make my albums more accessible and enjoyable. You can’t bring everyone there, but you can create a narrative that the audience can latch on to, IF you take some time to go through your photo reel.

Overexposed. You can’t even see the hat properly, it’s so whited out. Delete.

Here are some of the tips and tricks I follow to improve a trip photo album:

  1. Label your photos. If you turned on Location Sharing on Google Photos, great — I find that helps to remind me where I was, and also when uploading flora and fauna to iNaturalist. Even if you do turn it on, however, it won’t show up in a slideshow or be easy for viewers to interpret. Name the place, or describe what you were doing in the photo, or explain why you felt that photo needed to be taken. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but add a few of your own to give your viewers some context!
  2. Background research. This is a little something extra I like to do: look up the attraction/ historical site/artwork/etc. and add a fun fact or story. I also learn something in the process, and get to relive the awesome experience of having experienced these first hand. Wikipedia is a great resource.
  3. Delete repeat shots. If you took 3 or 5 photos of the same thing (I get it, smartphones are too easy like that), take the time to go back and delete all but the best shot. If you have two photos of the same thing and they’re different enough (objects moved, different expressions, etc.), I would keep them if they add to the story. You can even make an animated photo in Google Photos if you want a little animated gif! But no one needs to see 4 different shots of the same thing — this creates fatigue on the brain. Be ruthless in deleting.
  4. Delete blurry shots. If your photo captured something absolutely impossible, is 1 in a million, then fine, keep the blurry photo of that unicorn you saw. But no one needs to view another hard-to-see selfie, or Bigfoot in the far off distance, or the wind blowing a flower (o’ fickle wind). They’ll do without, and be better off for it.
  5. Delete accidental shots. It’s just laziness if you added pictures that were the equivalent of a butt dial to your album. There are billions of photos in the world now — clear up space on your phone, your cloud storage, and free up your audience’s attention for the good stuff.
Blurry. Retake the photo! and delete this one.

So if you plan sharing travel pics with loved ones (or even acquaintances), be sure to do a once over before showcasing. Your trip was awesome! No one is going to appreciate that as much as you and your travel companions, but skim through the self-explanatory, and make sure you emphasize the really standout story points!

Wind totally messed up my shot. Out of focus, no good background. Delete.

Brandy milk punch

Adapted from New Orleans

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • 3 ice cubes
  • cracked ice
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker (we used measuring cup + mini whisk), combine the brandy, milk, and sugar with 3 ice cubes and shake until frothy, about one minutes.
  2. Strain into a double old-fashioned glass with cracked ice. 
  3. Sprinkle with nutmeg (plus we added cinnamon!) and serve.

In Spain, we picked up brandy from Jerez, and voilà!

~Jessica

Arugula-endive salad

Adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pignoli (we had raw walnuts)
  • 2 teaspoons honey, preferably clover
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (whole-grain is available)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 tomato on the vine, chopped
  • 1 endives (halved, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise)
  • 4 ounces Bocconcini or ciliegine

Directions:

  1. Chop / crumble the walnuts.
  2. In a tall container, whisk 2 teaspoons of honey with the vinegar and the mustards. Gradually whisk in the oil; season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl, toss the arugula with the endives, tomato, and mozzarella cheese. Break the walnuts into small pieces and add them to the salad.
  4. Add the dressing, toss to coat and serve at once.
walnuts sifted to the bottom!

It’s summertime, school’s out, and the farmer’s markets are open, so you know what that means! Fresh salad lunches. My family never normally consumed endives, but Jesse impulse-shopped these at the last market, and they were delightful.

~Jessica