Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kale and Mushroom Acquacotta

Spicy Kale and Mushroom Acquacotta

Hi my beautiful friends.

It's cloudy. It's hazy. It's cold.  This calls for the opposite: clear, spicy, and hot soup. I think I'm hooked on juxtapositions with the food and weather here in Chicago. The best part? It's so easy. Traditionally, an aquacotta is a soup designed by the peasants of Italy; where ingredients are chucked into water to create a simple and econimical soup. The truth is that this soup taste rather bland if only made with water, so I made the decision to use good quality chicken stock. When it's your kitchen, it's your rules that matter. :) However, the origin of this soup was inspired from a simple mushroom and spinach version. Use any vegetables you have on hand. This is a really mindless healthy recipe and can be paired virtually with anything. 

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced in half
1 cup white onion, chopped
2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (or, white button and large portobello caps are fine)
1-2 teaspoons fresh red chili, chopped (or sub with chili flakes, to taste)
1 – 32 ounce Container Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 cups baby kale, or any dark green leafy vegetable 
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parmesean or asiago cheese, grated


Soup pot on medium-high heat.


1.)    Add oil to a large soup pot. Add the garlic halves. Toast the garlic in the oil over medium-low heat until they turn golden brown. Remove the garlic and discard. (Or, eat them :)  
2.)    Add the chilies, onion, and mushrooms to the oil.  Add salt and pepper. Stir and sweat these veggies 5-7 minutes, until they are tender. Once tender, add the chicken broth. Cover and bring the entire pot to a boil.

4.)    Add the kale and bring to a boil again. It's ready!
5.)    Serve 1/2 cup of soup into a large bowl and sprinkle over the cheese. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lemon Chicken Soup with Hazelnut Parsley Pesto

Lemon Chicken Soup with Hazelnut Parsley Pesto

Hi my beautiful friends.

These days I live on the edge. When I go with the ebb and flow of life and make something out of nothing, the best things always happen. Saturdays are more spontaneous than the weekdays. That’s precisely what happened today and this soup was born. The weather has taken a sharp turn and the air is crisp and cool. I love it. Autumn has always had a special space in my heart. It must be the opportunity to wear sweaters and feel the sharp, cold wind against my cheek as I sip on a pumpkin spiced latte. I like that feeling of juxtaposition in life.  I bundled up to a bowl of this on my balcony earlier this afternoon and I felt so warm and fuzzy inside that I felt this is one worth sharing with you. 'Tis the season for a nice bowl of soup such as this one. 

Serves 4


1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, breast (variety is good)
1/2 cup white or yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup green beans, cut
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 – 32 ounce Container Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1/4 cup basmati rice (or any long grained white rice)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste


1 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, loosely packed
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup Asiago or Parmesean cheese, fresh
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste


Soup pot on medium-high heat.


1.)    Add 2 teaspoons of oil to a large soup pot. Add the chicken. Cook 5 minutes, or until opaque – no browning required.  Transfer the chicken to a dish and set it aside for later.
2.)    Add remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Add the turmeric and red chili flakes and allow it to bloom 15-20 seconds in the oil, then immediately add the onions and carrots. Stir and sweat these veggies 5-7 minutes, until they are tender. Once tender, stir in the fresh thyme.
3.)    Pour in the chicken stock and bring the entire pot to a boil. Once there is a rolling boil, add the rice and bring it back to a boil.
4.)    Add the beans. Shred the chicken and also add it to the pot.
5.)    Pour in the fresh lemon juice. Taste the soup and check for salt and pepper.


You will need a food processor for this pesto.

1.)   Toast the hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat. Take care not to burn them. Transfer to the food processor.
2.)   In the food processor, add the garlic and parsley and pulse until finely chopped.
3.) Turn the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Ensure that the texture is smooth. Add 1-2 tablespoons water if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of Asiago or Parmesan.

Serve the soup in a bowl and spoon a tablespoon of the pesto over. The pesto will melt its flavor into the soup. Enjoy! <3 span="">


Friday, March 29, 2013

:Green and White Chicken Salad with Tahini Dressing::

Green and White Chicken Salad

I think I penned the titled of this recipe when I wasn't giving anything much thought. Just feeling carefree and accepting the pace of my day, I pulled random ingredients where I could instantly visualize what the taste would be like just by looking at it. It was unusually sunny outside and I could sense a perfect change of weather emerging.  With the influence of the beautiful sun and cool air, I subconciously selected lots of  green and white food, for me the spirit of feeling fresh, crisp and clean. And that's the state which this salad amplifies. 

I do have a small confession to make. I was half way into this dish when I realized I didn't snap a photograph. Embarassing, but it's the truth. As a result the avocados are absent. That's what happens when you put the importance for having a meal on the backburner. You become ravenous and senseless; best to keep a schedule with your meals. I am most productive when I carve out slots of time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since this recipe was worth sharing, I know I'll be making it again and will certainly snap another photo before I dive in. 

serves 1

2 cups of greens (arugula, green leaf, kale, romaine--whatever the heart desires)
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 cup chicken breast shreds (oven roasted w/oil, salt, pepper in its former life)
1/8 avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 drop soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon Za'tar- Middle Eastern Spice blend (optional--just as good w/o it)


Grab a nice, big bowl...
1.)   Whisk the olive oil, tahini, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and za'tar to create the dressing. Done. 
2.)  Toss the dressing with the greens, shredded chicken, and avocado. . 

* Be creative and add your own medley of vegetables. (Turnips, jicama, carrots or cremini mushrooms work well here. Toasted pepitas are great too.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

:: Grilled Vegetables & Balsamic Vinaigrette ::

Grilled Vegetables & Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a perfect world you would eat vegetables every meal, every snack, every day. But in order for you to eat them this frequently you have to be intrigued by the flavor (and the time). I believe it should be lazy method so the food itself makes you want to revisit it again and again.

This medley of eggplant, zucchini, and red bell peppers injects a bit of joy on your plate and your taste buds. It’s embarrassing, because this isn’t really a recipe, but everyone has a ninety nine problems and it’d be nice if cooking wasn’t one of them.

If you choose to make this it shouldn’t carve out too much time—just some strategic slicing, a few minutes of waiting, and patience to whip up a 4-ingredient dressing.

Grilling always morphs vegetables into a nice symphony of textures: creamy, crunchy, and sweet. And because of the smoky flavor it imparts, it’s suitable to refresh it with a vibrant dressing like one. The vegetables shrivel up perfectly and allow the tart balsamic vinaigrette to pool and cling every where. It’s also an all rounder; versatile enough to be paired with meat, chicken, fish, or added to a salad.  


2 medium size zucchini
3 baby eggplants
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil for the vinaigrette
Salt, to taste,
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped


Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. 
1.)   Cut vegetables in half; leave the stems on every vegetable.
2.)   Brush with olive oil. Be sure to smother every nook and cranny.
3.)    Sprinkle salt and pepper, lay vegetables face down on the grill.
4.)   Times: for me, zucchini needed 10 minutes; eggplants 5-6 minutes; bell peppers 4-5 minutes on the first side. I finished off the other sides of all the vegetables with 4 minutes extra. (These are guidelines. Heat intensity varies, so it’s best to check frequently to cater to your liking.)
5.)   For vinaigrette: whisk balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add extra herbs if you feel like it.
6.)   Arrange vegetables on a platter, spoon over vinaigrette, sprinkle parsley. It’s ready. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

:: Spaghetti Squash & Spicey Honey Butter Dressing ::

Spaghetti Squash 

Spicey Honey Butter Dressing

I've certainly changed my daily rhythm in the kitchen. I can feel myself extracting the unessential out of my life and carving out time for what matters now. Which leads me to say, I really hate spending more than 15 minutes to cook something. So this is a mindless recipe because all you do is throw the squash into the oven and dilly dally for an hour. Then you come back to make the dressing which can be made even without chopping any of the herbs, throw the leaves in if you wish. All I did was smash the garlic and started plucking things out of the fridge...what a tasty elixir this dressing morphed into. It's sweet, kinda spicey, and lemony--it makes the squash. I suppose this is a breaking point on this blog now; on to the less labor intensive dishes now. I hope you feel me on this one. Happy Palm Sunday!  :-)


1 medium size spaghetti squash                              1/4 teaspoon thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons butter                                              1 tablespoon parsley 
2 tablespoons olive oil (make sure it’s quality)        1 teaspoon honey
1 small clove garlic, minced                                    pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of red pepper flakes                                      pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice

1.)   Slice squash in half (lengthways), scoop out seeds (can be saved for later), place cut side down. Roast at 400° F for one hour.
2.)   Over low heat, add all the ingredients except the lemon juice into a small skillet. The intent is to gradually warm all the ingredients—not to scorch it over intense heat because it will bubble and split the solids in the butter.
3.)   Once the squash is done roasting, grab a fork and gingerly scrape the flesh out, giving it plenty of room to keep it’s stringy  nature intact. Alternatively, scoop out the flesh with a large spoon and separate with your fingers. Arrange the spaghetti squash in a serving bowl.
4.)   Pour the dressing over the squash, squeeze lemon over to your liking--it's ready.  (Be free with the honey and lemon if you need more)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


As a kid, I was always paranoid of smelling like ginger and garlic. My mother would always begin a curry with some hot oil and spices, but inevitably...the ginger and garlic would have to make its appearance and leave the home infused with a smoky, nutty fragrance. I used to close my bedroom door to save myself from embarassment later on, but these days I'm running to ginger and garlic. 

Here, ginger and garlic are used to enhance the flavor of sirloin. I've used 95/5, which translates to 95% lean/5% fat--you gotta respect your heart my friend. Any ground meat, for that matter, which is 90% lean is a splendid choice for your health. Since ginger and garlic is too powerful when it's raw, you'll start by mellowing the burn over low heat. Once it's cooled down, it's safe to follow through with the remainders of the recipe.  

The ingredients here are easy to find: soy sauce, for a complex flavor you won't get from the sole addition of salt, and wasabi cream made with low fat Greek yogurt and wasabi powder. A cute package of roasted red peppers tucked into the center serves as a nice escape from all the ginger and garlicky goodness that meanders throughout this juicy burger.  


For the burgers:
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil + 1 extra TB for grilling
½ cup onion, grated
2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 ¼ pound lean 95/5 ground sirloin
salt, 1 teaspoon
pepper, ½ teaspoon
½ cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
Romaine lettuce, optional

For the wasabi cream:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature or warmed 10-15 sec. in microwave
wasabi paste, 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1.)    Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onion, garlic, and ginger for 3-4 minutes, just until the onion is translucent and the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.

2.)    Using a large mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, cilantro, cooled ginger-garlic-onion mixture, salt, and pepper to the sirloin.  Mix lightly with a fork . Optional: Cook  a small spoonful of meat in 1 teaspoon of oil to check the seasons and adjust to your taste, or skip if you don't care to. Separate meat into four sections directly in the mixing bowl.
3.)   Scoop one section out and divide it in half. Flatten each half to form two slender patties. Place 2 tablespoons of the roasted red peppers on one patty and top it with the other patty. Seal the edges with your fingers to ensure the red peppers stay in the center. If necessary, gently cup your palms around the burger to restore a uniform round shape. Form the remaining burgers using this same method.
4.)    Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the surface. Place burgers on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes per side for well-done. 3 minutes for medium-well.  Toast the hamburger buns on the grill while the hamburgers are cooking.
5.)    Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients for wasabi cream in a small bowl.
6.)    To assemble: spread 2 tablespoons of the wasabi cream over each hamburger bun, sandwich a sirloin burger  in between and top with romaine lettuce, if using.