Corn & Quinoa Salad with Lemon & Mint

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

I write to you from Tucson, Arizona, where it is now “only” 99 degrees Fahrenheit outside, cooling down from what was likely a balmy high of 104. I’m here visiting family and taking in the general gestalt of the desert, where I lived for 18 years as a kid, but somehow appreciate so much more now. You don’t get sunsets and golden light like here anywhere else. And after marathoning Breaking Bad for the last few weeks (I know I’m late to the party, but yeah, it’s good), the desert seems even more cinematic, driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour with nothing but mountains, dust, and cacti on either side.

In any case, summer is felt loud and clear around these parts, and in summer I love these kinds of salads that can be a light dinner, a whole dinner, a lunch, an appetizer… and be as delicious cold as it is warm. This particular quinoa salad has a fantastic flavor, probably owing a lot to the fresh flavors of the corn, lemon and mint that play perfectly off the deep background flavor of butter and a hint of honey. And the fresh mint leaves throughout make the whole thing come together and sing. I devoured this warm for dinner, then ate it the next two days for work lunches, just cold out of the fridge. I probably don’t have to tell you that it would be a great potluck meal or side dish to bring too, and very easy to make a day ahead.

I hope everyone out there (at least those of you in the Northern hemisphere) are having a lovely summer so far, full of fresh foods and longer relaxing days. Do you have an all-time favorite summer salad?

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

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Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

The first time I had caprese, it was in a salad. Not the traditional caprese salad you may be thinking of – which is just sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella laying together in harmony, perfect as they are – but instead a big pile of salad greens with fresh basil leaves throughout, topped with cut tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Needless to say, it was incredibly good, so good that I often ordered in lieu of pizza at that restaurant (gasp). It has since been my go-to whenever I’m asked to bring an appetizer to a potluck – it’s hard to mess up.

And in the warm months, it’s hard to imagine a better thing to eat. Basil and tomatoes are at their freshest and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you can just go grab handfuls of both right outside. It is a big, bold, underlined item on my Life Goals list to have a garden of my own, and when I do, it will be required to house many bunches of my beloved basil.

Here, we’ve got another slight variation on the tomato, mozz, basil holy trinity: toss ’em with pasta. This caprese pasta salad has a twist, too: the tomatoes are quickly roasted in olive oil and garlic until they blister and soften in the oven, taking away any bitterness and replacing it with earthy sweetness. I had a hard time not plucking them all off of the pan and eating them before assembling the pasta. The roasted tomatoes get tossed with whatever pasta you like, ribbons of basil, and mozzarella in a bright vinaigrette. It’s equally good cold, room temperature, or warm, which makes it a great take-along meal for potlucks, parties, or just your desk at work.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

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Miso Ginger Baby Bok Choy

Easy Miso Bok Choy Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

Easy Miso Bok Choy Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

You know those recipes where you make, say, a sauce, and it is so good that you think “I’m going to put this on everything from now on?” Oh man, this is one of those recipes. I admittedly have quite a few sauces that are in this category, almost all of them Asian – this otsu sauce, this spicy and sweet szechuan chili sauce, this fresh ginger lemon sauce, and this miso sesame sauce just to name a few. But this miso ginger baby bok choy I have today has landed on the list as well, with its mild miso, hint of lime, present but not fiery ginger, and sweet mirin.

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Ginger Lemon Soba Noodles

Ginger Lemon Soba Noodles Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

Ginger Lemon Soba Noodles Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks was the first food blog I ever visited. It was 2008, I was a newly minted vegetarian, and I was searching online for a good recipe involving tofu. I came across the humble gem of a recipe for Caramelized Tofu, which I still to this day love, and a love of food blogs was born. The recipe seemed to marry so many disparate things that I would never have thought to put together: brussels sprouts (shredded up, no less), brown sugar, tofu, cilantro? But the end product was so good that I trusted her from then on.

I’m no longer a vegetarian, but I still love good vegetarian foods. Today I have a different recipe that I’ve adapted from Heidi, but one that has the same ingenuity of bringing together techniques and flavors I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own. I love ginger, I love lemon, I love soba. But the dressing on these noodles also incorporates mirin, brown sugar or honey, and celery, and the resulting flavor is very unique while still seeming just right. It’s tangy and refreshing, but combined with some pan-fried tofu (or any protein of your choice) it is undoubtedly filling.

Ginger Lemon Soba Noodles Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

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chinese choy sum with ginger and garlic

chinese choy sum with ginger and garlic [ inthiskitchen.com ]

Sometimes you want a big ol’ cinnamon roll cake, or a toasted buttery brown sugar and oatmeal cookie, and some other times you just want a simple and pure vegetable side dish that doesn’t take much thought. Today I have the latter, in the form of Chinese stir-fried choy sum. The Chinese have certainly figured out the secret to making veggies as delicious as they should be: cook them fast and simply, and give ’em a good hit of aromatics. This is choy sum, which is easily found in the produce section of Asian food stores, but this same treatment can be given to some hardy spinach leaves too, I’m sure. The choy sum tastes to me like a blend between a bok choy cabbage and spinach, and here it’s lightly stir-fried and dotted with garlic and ginger.

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roasted broccoli and farro salad with feta

roasted broccoli and farro salad with feta [ inthiskitchen.com ]

Well, we are definitely in the doldrums of January. While most of my family members are basking in the golden, dripping sunlight and 70 degrees that is Phoenix, AZ, I’m here trying to protect myself from 20 mile-an-hour winds and 11 degree temperatures even on the short walk from my office to my car. I also woke up this morning inexplicably thinking it was Sunday morning, and halfway through thinking about my plans to lounge around all day, I realized that it was indeed just 5:15 on a Tuesday. Oy.

But instead of complaining about the cold, which I’m sure all of you agree is your favorite thing to read about on a blog, let’s list some things I’m super happy about that have happened this week: we finally took the long-awaited Trip To Ikea and got not only the bookshelves we’ve been needing (why yes, we have just been living with about 15 plastic bins full of books in our living room for the last 3 months, isn’t that how you decorate?), but we also got a cool little desk, two lamps, and a few kitchen knickknacks that I will never have enough of. I also tried two new restaurants this week, both a Korean fried chicken place that was perfect on a cold day, and a Mexican chain restaurant that turned out to surpass my expectations wildly. And I have been cooking most nights (most… not all) and enjoying it. Huzzah for these things!

And I’m here today to share one of the recent major successful recipes: this simple, easy farro and roasted broccoli salad.

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french warm lentil salad

french warm lentil salad [ inthiskitchen.com ]

I’ve never been to France, and I’m a little embarrassed to say it. I’ve heard people wax dreamily about it ad infinitum, almost as if there are two groups of people in the world: ones who have felt the true experience of France or Paris, and those who haven’t. The truth is, if I’d had the opportunity to visit, I would have long ago. Being well-traveled is a colossal privilege, and one I haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully experience. I’ve had some amazing trips in my lifetime: Vancouver was one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, and as a stop on a cruise I was able to be in the Bahamas, albeit only for about two hours. But aside from that, when I traveled throughout my life it has always been to various places in the U.S. where my family members lived: New Jersey, Michigan, and then Arizona after I’d moved to the east coast. All of the travel dollars and frequent flyer miles went toward seeing family instead of embarking upon world adventures, and I absolutely don’t regret that at all.

french warm lentil salad [ inthiskitchen.com ]

That all being said, of course pretty much all of Europe is at the top of my “I want to go there” list. As for now, I feel like I have gotten a slice of what France must be like from food, and food writing. I loved David Lebovitz’ The Sweet Life in Paris. I’ve even read a book about how French people parent differently, despite not yet having kids or any plans to anytime soon. And of course Molly of Orangette is a great resource for stories and foods of France, and I’m so glad she shared this warm lentil salad that she says is very common in France, in an even simpler form.

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moroccan spiced roasted butternut squash

moroccan spiced roasted butternut squash [ inthiskitchen.com ]

I must admit that I have been trying to “eat healthier” lately. Before you hastily close this blog, never to return again, let me explain. For me, eating healthy cannot and never will mean sacrificing good food. I pretty much don’t do low fat (How could I? Have you tried full-fat Fage greek yogurt? God, how good it is), I don’t like artificial sweeteners, I won’t do low-carb, and the list goes on ad infinitum. Essentially, I just want to keep eating the things I love, but less of “the 10 chocolate truffles after lunch and half a large pizza for dinner” type of things I love and more of the “holy crap, roasted butternut squash is so good, subtly sweet and warming” type of things I love. It’s the same philosophy Diane Cu used and wrote about in this post, which is a wonderful read.

Leaving that aside, this roasted butternut squash is fantastic, spiced with a light hand, and sweet yet savory at the same time. It would be perfect for a side at a holiday feast, and just as perfect for the rest of winter when everyone wants healthy New Years Resolutions-friendly veggies.

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spiced roasted carrots with tahini yogurt

spiced roasted carrots with tahini yogurt [ inthiskitchen.com ]

Roasting vegetables is hard to mess up – as long as the veggies aren’t still raw in the center or aren’t cooked til they’re burnt, they probably taste fantastic roasted. And I definitely think carrots lend themselves particularly well to a good oven scorch, even though otherwise they can be synonymous with boring. Boiled or steamed carrots are a bit of a one-note in terms of flavor, becoming sweet and waterlogged pillows of mush.

That’s why when paired here with cumin and coriander, and a tahini sauce thats creamy, but with a bite, they’re fantastic. It’s obvious that the recipe would be good, as it’s from the veritable Food God himself, Yotam Ottolenghi. It is the first of his recipes I’ve tried, shock horror – and it’s a good one to start with because it’s simple and has easy-to-find ingredients.

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spicy szechuan eggplant

spicy szechuan eggplant [ inthiskitchen.com ]

When you hear the name “fish fragrant eggplant,” what do you think of?

I think of fish, certainly – probably some sort of fish-sauce or dried-fish laced eggplant dish. This is why I’ve chosen to call this recipe here “spicy szechuan eggplant.” The original name is indeed “fish fragrant eggplant,” even though it contains no fish, no fish sauce, no fish-related anything.

It turns out the only reason it is called “fish fragrant” is because this delicious, tangy and spicy sauce was often used for cooking fish and seafood. Here, it is draped generously over lightly fried eggplant. I don’t have a thermometer or any sort of deep, heavy cooking vessel, so I shy away from deep frying, and for those of you like me, pan-frying will do the trick. But however you cook your eggplant, the star of the dish is really the sauce; it is so flavorful with so little effort. I think the reason for this is the two heavy-hitter ingredients that you may need to find at your local Asian grocer: chinkiang vinegar and chinese chili bean sauce. I have them pictured below so you can have an idea of what to look for.

spicy szechuan eggplant [ inthiskitchen.com ]

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