July 12, 2011

Back to the Kitchen

I miss cooking. I've been eating out a lot lately and don't get me wrong, it's been wonderful. But I miss creating in my tiny NYC kitchen. Time spent focusing on flavors, letting my mind wander, sometimes with a great soundtrack playing in the background; other times in complete calming silence. Aside from the actual experience of cooking my own meals, I love deciding what I'm going to put in them; the clean, fresh & whole fruits, vegetables and grains that make me feel incredible and give me awesome energy. So I'm making a strong effort to get back to my kitchen and creating the meals I love.

Friday was my first day back in that happy space and it felt pretty darn good. I was cooking dinner for myself and a friend and since I was racing the next morning, I wanted to make sure it was food that would give me energy but that I could easily digest. And although I'm a vegetarian, my friend is a major meat lover and I knew I'd need to prepare something heart enough to satisfy him. I love dishes that are simple but have lots of fresh flavors so I decided on a Mediterranean menu:

Quinoa Taboule Salad with Chickpeas
Beets with Dill and Toasted Walnuts
Greek Olives
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Grilled Artichokes
Cubes of Feta Cheese

I began by preparing the quinoa, placing the raw grains in a bowl of cold water and leaving in the refrigerator while I prepped some of the other ingredients and placed the beets in the oven. In case you've never made quinoa before, or need a reminder, I wrote a post all about it which you can find here. I find that soaking it in cold water for a few hours before cooking results in the prettiest fluffiest quinoa you could imagine. Once the quinoa and beets were ready, I allowed them to cool and ran to the market to pick up the grilled artichokes, olives, stuffed grape leaves and feta. Yes, sometimes I mix homemade with prepared but I can admit I'm not superwoman. I have a business to run and couldn't find the time to stuff my own grape leaves on Friday!
I completed the salads, left them in the refrigerator so that the flavors could develop and looked forward to a delicious dinner which was a success! My meat eating friend had two servings of quinoa, which it turns out he'd never had before, and admitted that eating vegetarian was actually pretty good. Bonus? He called me yesterday to tell me that he hadn't eaten meat in three days and it was the first day in forever he could remember that he didn't feel like he needed a nap. How cool is that?

So here they are, the meatless Mediterranean recipes that could quite possibly convert a carnivore to veggie (ok, maybe I'm dreaming but would be cool).

Quinoa Taboule with Chickpeas
1 1/2 cups of cooked Quinoa
1 1/2 cups of minced fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
3 tbsp of minced fresh Mint Leaves
Juice of 2 large Lemons
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 bunch of Green Onions, bottom white portions only, minced
1 can Chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 large Tomato, seeded & diced
1 large Cucumber, peeled, seeded & diced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl & season with salt & pepper. Cover & let refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. The longer it hangs in the fridge, the better is tastes!

Beets with Dill & Toasted Walnuts
adapted from Williams Sonoma 

3-4 medium sized Beets
1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh Dill
1/4 cup toasted & roughly chopped Walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375F. Remove the beet greens, if attached, leaving about 1 inch of stem attached to the beets; reserve the greens for another use. Place the beets in a baking dish and cover with water by about 1/4 inch. Cover the dish tightly and bake until the beets can be easily pierced with a knife, about an hour or more, depending on the size of the beets.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into cubes. Place the beets in a medium bowl, add the vinegar and toss together gently. Let stand for 30 minutes. Add the olive oil, dill, garlic and salt.  Stir in the walnuts and serve.
I have another race this weekend and am already working on my Friday night menu... can't wait to tell you all about it!

Do you love to spend time in the kitchen too? I'd love to hear some of your recipes so don't forget to comment and post some links to your favorites!


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