Spicy Chickpea Salad Melts

 

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I reaaaaally enjoyed this recipe. I’d describe it almost as a spicy vegetarian tuna melt. It was pretty quick and easy to make as well which is a bonus in my book, as I tend to not prepare complex recipes when I come home at 8pm on weekdays! The crunchy bread and melted cheese (crispy on the top from broiling in the oven) give the open-faced sandwich a nice texture while the flavors of sriracha, Dijon and pickle give it a tangy, spicy bite. And the chickpeas, with their nutlike taste and buttery texture, are a good source of protein, fiber and iron and do a great job of filling out the sandwich. Overall I was very impressed with this recipe, as well as the website I found it on, The Gouda Life.

Spicy Chickpea Salad Melts

Makes 4 open-faced sandwiches

1 1/2 cups (approx. a small can) canned chickpeas
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 red onions, diced very fine
2 tbsp Greek yogurt OR mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large dill pickle, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp fresh minced basil
juice form 1/2 lemon (or a whole lemon if you like it tangy!)
1 tbsp sriracha (+/- depending on heat tolerance) OR 1/2 tsp (+/-) cayenne pepper
salt
6 slices crusty multigrain bread
greens of your choice (I like torn kale)
sliced tomatoes
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella (or fresh, torn mozzarella)
fresh ground pepper

Pour rinsed chickpeas into a flat, high sided dish, drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil and mash with a fork or potato masher until mixture starts to stick together. No need to be fussy, it’s even tastier when you get a whole chickpea in a bite.

Add in the celery, red onion, mayo, Dijon, pickle, garlic, basil, lemon juice, sriracha or cayenne and a good pinch of salt. Mix and taste for seasoning. Add more lemon, salt or cayenne if needed.

Preheat oven to 400F (204 C).

Slice your bread, lay on a baking sheet and top each with 1/4 of the mixture. It may seem like a lot but trust me. Just trust me. Top the chickpea salad layer with some greens, a layer of tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle with pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. If necessary, turn the oven on to broil to brown the cheese in the last minute or two.

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Torre di Melanzane (Tower of Eggplants)

Torre di Melanzane is a really great vegetarian dish that is a good way to use the healthy eggplant! It is also quite a fun dish to make as it involves stacking layers of melanzane, or eggplant, with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Oh and to top it off – it’s delicious!

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Torre di Melanzane

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1.5 cups tomato puree
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 balls of mozzarella, sliced thinly.
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Drain the eggplants to get rid of the bitter juice.

  • To drain eggplants: Slice them into round slices and place a layer into a drainer. Sprinkle salt on the layer and then top with another layer of sliced eggplants. Continue this pattern until all eggplants are in the drainer. Place heavy bowls on top of the eggplants and let sit for 20 minutes until the bitter juice is removed.

Grill the eggplants on a grill pan, or fry them with oil.

Prepare the tomato puree by placing in a medium-sized pot and simmering on medium heat until the puree is reduced and thickened (approximately 7-10 minutes). Add red pepper flakes in the last few minutes for spicy kick.

On a plate, place a bottom layer of eggplants. Top with the spicy tomato sauce and slice of mozzarella. Continue with this pattern until the eggplant tower has reached the desired height.

Microwave the eggplant towers for approximately 30-45 seconds or until mozzarella cheese melts.

Finish with basil at the top of each tower.

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Lentils Braised in Red Wine

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This is a really great recipe that I discovered on a blog called Big Girls Small Kitchen. The blog has a lot of other nice recipes I’d like to try, but I’ll get to that later 🙂 I came across this one as I was looking for a recipe involving lentils, which I had just bought for the first time and didn’t know how to prepare.

I absolutely love lentil soup (especially Lebanese-style), and don’t even get me started on the health benefits of the legume! Lentils help to lower cholesterol, are a good source of minerals,  B-vitamins, and protein, and have virtually no fat. Not only that, but a whole cup of cooked lentils has only 250 calories! They are definitely a food I’d like to incorporate more into my everyday cooking!

So, while feeling bold at the grocery store I grabbed a nice box of green lentils that looked both intimidating and delicious. After doing some recipe searching, I realised cooking lentils isn’t as hard as it would seem, even for a novice, and this recipe was a great place to start!

Lentils Braised in Red Wine

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 1/2 cups lentils (green or red)
2 cups red wine
Salt
1 bay leaf
100 grams (3 ounces) fresh spinach

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat 1.5 T olive oil and cook  onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 3-4 whole cloves garlic. Add the lentils, wine, 2 ½ cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt,  and the bay leaf.

Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Before serving, add the fresh spinach and stir to let the leaves wilt. Taste for salt, adding more as needed. Remove the bay leaf.

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Balsamic Miso Root Salad

I found this recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP website – which I pretty much love. There are tons of delicious, healthy recipe ideas on it that I am constantly eyeing. Unfortunately I haven’t tried too many as sometimes the ingredients are very specialised. But I saw this Miso Root Salad and was immediately drawn to both the parsnips and miso paste – two ingredients that I do not often experiment with while cooking but that did not seem too intimidating.  Indeed, the recipe was extremely simple to make (after having gone to a health store to buy the miso paste) and very tasty. The root veggies were colorful and perfect for the cold winter. I think I’ll be visiting this recipe again in the near future!

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Balsamic Miso Root Salad (Gwyneth Paltrow – GOOP)

Ingredients:

  • Mixed root vegetables: baby carrots and parsnips (about 2 pounds)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp yellow miso

Directions:

1. Peel the carrots and parsnips. Leave them whole if they are all the same size – if not, chop the larger veggies to equal the size of the smaller ones.

2. Place veggies onto a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place in a 400F (200 C) degree oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, shaking them periodically for even cooking. Remove from oven when soft, slightly brown and caramelized.

3. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place all the ingredients aside from the oil in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to combine. Season to taste.

4. Plate veggies with dark, leafy winter greens of choice and drizzle dressing generously over top.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

This is a fun recipe that I found online. The Italian had never tried anything like it, so I’m not sure it would be considered a traditional Italian recipe, but it certainly was a good one!  I had made roasted butternut squash for dinner the night before and still had half the squash leftover so it was a perfect use for it. The original recipe called for boiled squash but I improvised and used my roasted one instead. The sweetness of the squash spiced with nutmeg and the salty parmesan was a winning combination!

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Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash
Olive oil
12 ounces penne pasta (or spaghetti)
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Sprinkle butternut squash with salt and olive oil  and roast in oven at 450F (220C) for about 35 minutes or until soft. Remove the skin. (Alternately, remove skin first and boil diced squash in boiling pot of water for 12-15 minutes.)

2. Place cooked squash in a food processor/blender. Puree the squash, adding the water or broth until it becomes smooth and reaches the desired consistency.

3. In frying pan, heat 1T olive oil and add garlic and onions. Sautee until onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the pureed squash. Stir in parmesan cheese. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4.  Add the pasta and mix until coated evenly. Serve hot.

Pomodori Secchi Piccanti (Spicy Sundried Tomatoes)

Spicy sundried tomatoes are a favorite of mine, and a fun item to make. We buy the sundried tomatoes from the market in Turin (the Italian and I bought a new pack on our last visit in November) and bring them back to London to assemble into jars of extra virgin olive oil and spices. The assembling process is fairly simple, but does take a bit of time. It also requires a special Italian spice mixture called “agliata”, which is essentially mixed dried peppers and garlic. For a less spicy version of the tomatoes, you can leave out the agliata.

1. The first step is to soak the sundried tomatoes, which will be very salty as part of the drying process, in water to get rid of the excess salt. Leave them soaking for several hours.

2. Next, boil a pot of water with vinegar. Add the tomatoes and boil for a couple minutes.

3. Drain the tomatoes. Place them with the inner side down on sheets of paper towels. Press them to ensure they maintain their shape while trying.

4. Blot the tomatoes with more paper towels. Leave them to dry in the open air for 8 hours or overnight.

5. Place tomatoes in glass jars with olive oil and agliata. Start first with a layer of olive oil, then add tomatoes and sprinkle agliata. Repeat until the jar is full. Ensure all the tomatoes are covered with oil, with no air pockets. You can push the tomatoes down with a fork to get the bubbles of air out. Cover the jar, and let them sit for 3-4 months.

6. Enjoy!

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Funghi Portobello alla Griglia (Grilled Portobello Mushrooms)

The Italian and I recently spent a weekend in Torino where we went mushroom picking in the forest outside of the city. The Italian is a pretty expert mushroom picker having gone with his father each fall growing up. We were looking for Porcini mushrooms, which that area of Piedmont is known for, as well as a couple of other varieties that the Italian knew to be edible. We didn’t have any luck finding the Porcini, but we did see some pretty spectacular mushrooms called Amanita Muscaria, which are apparently quite poisonous. The mushroom’s bright red and white coloring is a good warning sign to not eat it!

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Amanita muscaria

We ended up finding some beautiful Mazze di Tomburo (parasol mushrooms)  in the forest and picked them, planning on cooking them at the Italian’s place in Turin with parsley. After picking the mushroom we placed them in a paper bag. Apparently the traditional way to go mushroom picking is with a paper bag: a plastic bag brings bad luck. We had planned on eating the mushrooms for breakfast the next day, but after putting them in the fridge overnight we realized in the morning that they had gone off! Lesson learned: always eat freshly picked mushroom as soon as possible.

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Mazze di Tamburo, found in the woods. 

However, after our mushroom picking adventure I still wanted to try a mushroom recipe, so the following weekend back in London I visited the Seven Sisters market and bought some Portobello mushrooms, big, thick and meaty. We followed a simple recipe to cook them on a grill, and they were delicious!

Funghi Portobello alla Griglia (Grilled Portobello Mushrooms)

Clean the mushrooms well.

Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Grill several minutes on each side.

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The finished product, simple yet delicious!

Serve on its own or with bread and hummus.