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Entries in The Main Dish (21)


Spicy Peanut, Carrot, Radish, and Snap Pea Wraps

Starting on the 4th of July, Rob and I took an amazing vacation to the Pacific Northwest.  We started in Portland, which is a seriously hip city with a phenomenal food scene.  I fell in love with its quaint neighborhoods, the abundance of green, fantastic ethnic food and food carts at every turn, the fact that everyone rides bikes everywhere, the ice cream at Salt & Straw, and the coffee and craft beer.  Unfortunately, I'll never be cool enough to live there, but that won't stop me from visiting again soon, especially since our dear friends M&C live there and are the best tour guides ever (no exaggeration - I'm nervous for them to visit Denver because I really have to brush up on my Denver knowledge beforehand).


After Portland, we made our way east to Hood River.  We visited a dam on the Columbia River where you can see fish swimming upstream to spawn (nerdy, yes, but totally awesome), went on a trail run to a stunning waterfall with a swimming hole, and visited Solera Brewery at the base of Mount Hood that surely must be the brewery with the best view anywhere.
Our next stop was Bend where we tested our mountain biking skills, drank (more) craft beer, and I contemplated what kind of legal career I could have in Central Oregon.  We eventually made our way to the coast, which is dotted with dramatic rock formations, tides that let you explore cool sea life, and really cute towns perfect for relaxing and walking the beach.  The trip reminded me that the United States is full of incredible things to see and that while I'll always have wanderlust for foreign destinations, there is much to be seen right here in the U.S. of A!
It was at a farmer's market in Astoria where I sampled a truly delicious roll-up sandwich.  The recipe is something I would NEVER make if I just read it, but after sampling this at a stand at the market I snapped up the recipe.  It's now part of our lunch rotation.
Spicy Peanut, Carrot, Radish, and Snap Pea Wraps
Adapted from Sunset Magazine
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 teaspoons Asian chili paste
1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 whole-wheat tortillas
1 cup coarsely shredded carrots
1 cup snap peas, sliced diagonally
1 cup coarsely shredded radishes (approximately 5) 
In a small bowl, whisk peanut butter, chili paste, soy sauce, and 2 tbsp. water to blend.  Evenly divide mixture between the two tortillas and spread the entire tortilla leaving a border at the edge.  Add carrots, snap peas, and radish in a rectangle down the center of the tortilla.  Roll-up the tortilla burrito-style and sliced into desired portion sizes.


Baingan Bharta & the Colorado Get Movin' Challenge


Hello, August!  It's been a full month since I last blogged.  The intention to post has been there -- I have at least ten e-mails to myself in my inbox with post ideas, I've been cooking, and I was totally inspired by a trip to the Pacific Northwest.  But then… crickets.  

I'm hoping to turn things around this month, starting with my role as an Ambassador for the LiveWell Colorado Get Movin' Challenge.  For the month of August, I've committed to exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and am hoping to inspire others to join me.  If you live in Colorado, please join the challenge today!  Since the Ironman last fall, I've been a bit lax about exercising and I think this month's challenge will help me get back into gear.  Every time I exercise, I feel better mentally and physically but it is still SO hard to get out there and do it every day.  I've included a few photos in this post from my favorite places to work out on the Front Range - Centennial Cone, Bergen Peak, and North Table Mountain.  Coloradans have no excuse when it comes to working out -- we should be out there taking advantage of our spectacular surroundings every day!
I'm in San Francisco for work for a few days so I'm kicking off the challenge with a run to the Presidio from my hotel.  In addition to exercising more, I'm going to make a concerted effort to eat healthier this month.  To get started, I made a tasty eggplant dish courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Eggplants hold such promise with their shiny purple skin and fun shape, but I am never thrilled with the outcome.  The dishes I've made in the past tend to be bland and I had basically written off ever making something as tasty as what you get in a restaurant.  In Indian restaurants, Baingan Bharta is my go-to dish.
Baingan Bharta is a traditionally a South Asian dish that includes the spice blend Garam Masala, which varies by region but typically includes cinnamon, black and white peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods.  An added bonus to making this is that I was able to use a jalapeño pepper from my own garden!  I started small this year and just planted jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, basil, and a lone eggplant, but it has been so fun harvesting everything.  We'll be eating pesto well into the winter… as for the jalapeños (10 on the plant and counting), I've yet to figure out what to do with all of them.  Any ideas?
Baingan Bharta
Yield = 4 servings
Notes - One of the coolest things about this recipe was grilling whole eggplant, which I'd never done before.  I was worried that I wouldn't know when they were done, but it was obvious when the eggplant "collapsed" and was cooked inside.  After about 10 minutes, they were cool enough to peel and it really was a breeze.  I'll be using this method again!  I served this with naan that I picked up at the grocery store - it wasn't great, but you do want to serve this with something for "scooping."  Pita bread would work well, too, but be sure to warm it up just prior to serving.
  • 2 pounds eggplant (approximately 3 medium-sized eggplants)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fresh hot green chile like a jalapeño, or more to taste, diced (discard seeds for less heat)
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, thin stems included
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (if you enjoy extra heat)

1.  Prick the eggplant with a thin-blade knife all over. Grill over or next to very high heat, turning as necessary until the skin is blackened and the eggplant collapses. Or broil, or roast on a heated cast-iron pan in the hottest possible oven. It will take about 20 minutes.

2.  When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel (this will be easy) and trim away the hard stem. Chop or mash in a bowl, with lime juice.

3.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook for another minute. Add the tomato, turmeric and salt. Cook until the tomato is soft, 5 minutes or so.

4.  Stir in the eggplant purée and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, garam masala, paprika, and chili powder (if you are using it) and turn off the heat. Serve hot with warm naan bread or pita, or over rice.


Sweet Potato & Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Somehow it has been over a month since I last posted about food.  It isn't that I haven't been cooking, but life has been a bit overwhelming since we returned from Asia in April.  First, I started a new job!  After almost six years of practicing law at a firm, I've moved "in-house" to work for the world's largest producer of mozzarella that is conveniently headquartered on our neighborhood.  Proposed alternative titles to "Corporate Attorney" include Counselor of Curds and Moosquire.  In mid-May we finally had our last snow, which means that we are experiencing our first spring / early summer as homeowners. We've spent hours weeding and spreading mulch and laying sod and while the work is incredibly satisfying, it never seems to end!  Between work and household chores the days just disappear.  
This past weekend I finally made time for cooking.  One food item that always disappoints me is the veggie burger.  Store bought versions are usually lacking in flavor and with a cardboard texture and I've always figured they must be easy to make.  I wanted something spicy and flavorful but also a burger that would stick together and stand up to grilling since it is officially that time of year!  With the combination of roasted sweet potatoes, black beans and an egg, these burgers have great flavor and moisture and stick together without issue when grilled.  Adjust the seasoning to your spice tolerance - these aren't spicy per se, but you they have a subtle kick.  I also think you could use any grain (quinoa, millet, oats, bread crumbs) -- I just happened to have cooked brown rice available.
We've been enjoying our burgers over a bed of lettuce with tomatoes and avocado, but only because I haven't made Homemade Hamburger Buns recently.  Now that our whole yard is mulched, perhaps I'll actually get to those before the 4th of July?
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Burgers
Yield = 6
Prep Time = 1 hour (includes roasting time)
Adapted from Whole Foods
1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 (15 ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1/2 onion, chopped (I used a white onion - red or yellow would work well, too)
1 cup brown rice, cooked (I think you could substitute a range of grains, including quinoa or even bread crumbs)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
Hot sauce (optional - I added 3 dashes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Spread the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, and roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Using a food processor, pulse the onions and sweet potatoes until just combined being careful not to over-process (I think I did about 5 pulses).  Add the beans and pulse another 2-3 times until combined and the beans are in smaller pieces.  Alternatively, if you don't feel like using a food processor, finely dice the onion and mash use a fork to mash the sweet potatoes and mix them with the onions.  In a separate bowl, mash the black beans with the back of a fork and mix them into the sweet potatoes and the onions.  I think it's key to be sure the onion is finely diced whether you use a food processor or a just hand mix the ingredients.

3.  Add the egg, rice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder, and hot sauce (I used about 4 dashes, but we like things spicy).  Form 6 patties of even thickness.

4.  To cook the veggie burgers, either heat a large skillet over medium heat and arrange a single layer of burgers and cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through (approximately 10 minutes) or grill the burgers!  We grilled ours using a gas grill and they took about 12 minutes, but obviously this will vary by how hot your grill is.  Enjoy the burgers on a bun or served over a salad... I particularly enjoyed ours with avocado.
On a completely separate note, aren't lilacs just the loveliest?  We aren't getting many this year because of our late snows, but they are just so fragrant.  



Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Milk

Rarely do I cook a meal for myself when I'm eating alone.  Instead, I'll have a piece of cheese, a few olives, perhaps some leftovers, or maybe some frozen peas (I adore frozen peas and am known and ridiculed for bringing them to work for lunch).  I can't really be bothered with purposeful cooking when it is just me eating.

Last weekend, Rob was in Boston and I was home alone.  I'd seen Melissa Clark's recipe for Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Coconut the day we returned from Southeast Asia.  It sounded delicious, but we were coming off of 19 days of curries, coconut milk, ginger, and so much rice.  We were craving salads, spaghetti, sandwiches, and cheese.  I won't even tell you where we ate our last meal in Thailand because it is so embarrassing... but we'd reached the point at which we just wanted something familiar (and, frankly, some air conditioning).

The food really was one of the highlights of our trip.  Everything we ate was delicious (well, there was a Northern Thai speciality involving congealed chicken blood in a soup that we didn't love, but we probably would have enjoyed that, too, had the ingredients not been identified) and neither of us could get enough of the coconut and tamarind, the fresh dragon fruit and pineapple, the Vietnamese iced coffee (totally genius to put sweetened condensed milk in iced coffee), and the green papaya salad (my personal favorite).  And by last weekend, I was ready to try Melissa Clark's recipe, even if just for myself.

This dish is delicious.  It would be perfect for a dinner party because it cooks in the oven for about 40 minutes, allowing you time to prep the rice and a simple salad to serve alongside.  The aromas of ginger, coconut, and red curry will waft through your kitchen... and when you toast the coconut and the mustard seeds to sprinkle on top the dish, your kitchen will smell even more amazing and the seeds will make an electric sound as they heat up.  Don't skip making the topping as the crispy texture and the coconut-mustard flavor really complements the curry and makes all the difference in the dish.  More importantly, don't skip making this - you won't be disappointed.

Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Coconut
Recipe from Melissa Clark for the New York Times
Total Time = 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield = 4 servings 


  • 2.5 pounds of skin-on breasts, thighs and drumsticks or 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • Black pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons peanut, safflower or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion
  • 1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño or Serrano chiles, to taste, seeded and finely chopped (I used 1.5 jalapeño chiles)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste (the original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons, but I wanted a strong curry flavor)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can coconut milk (I used light)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or threads
  • 1 tablespoon black, brown or yellow mustard seeds (I could only find yellow at my grocery store)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges


1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

2.  Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Brown chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until golden all over, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.

3.  Add a little oil to the Dutch oven and stir scallion, ginger, garlic and chiles into pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in curry paste and cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and sweet potatoes. Arrange chicken pieces on top of potatoes, placing breast meat on top. Pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of chicken (about 1/2 cup). Bring to a boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, in a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast coconut flakes until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mustard seeds and toast until they begin to pop, 1 minute more.  Transfer to a bowl and season with a pinch of salt.

5.  Transfer chicken and sweet potatoes to a platter. Return Dutch oven to the stove and simmer over medium-high heat until cooking liquid has thickened to a sauce-like consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour over chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle with the coconut and mustard seed mixture. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing and cilantro for a garnish.

Lamb Tagine with Olives & Dates

Last night, a marvelous thing happened - it was light until 7:30 PM.  I'll sacrifice an hour of sleep if it means the days seem longer, the afternoons stretch into evening without notice, and there are more daylight hours when I'm out of the office and awake.  I like winter, but I love spring.

While there is still a chill in the air (it was a windy winter wonderful here on Saturday), you should make this lamb tagine.  Rob and I went to Morocco a few years ago and after a week straight of tagines and mint tea, we swore them off forever -- until now.   A tagine refers not only to the North African cooking vessel, but also to the dish that is slow-cooked in the vessel (and no special vessel is used in this recipe).  With this dish, the lamb stews in a broth of red wine, dates, olives, capers, and brown sugar, which melds into the most flavorful broth and results in tender lamb that falls off the bone.  The spices used in this dish reminded me of the spice pyramids pictured above that are ubiquitous in Moroccan markets - certainly meant to draw in tourists (it worked), but impressive all the same.

This dish is a perfect main course for a dinner party because you prep the lamb, put it in the oven, and 2 hours later your home will smell incredible and dinner will be ready.  J provided me with the recipe via a cooking class she attended, and I took her suggestion and served it with Israeli couscous, as well as a green salad and sourdough bread (necessary for sopping up the broth).

Tagine of Lamb with Olives and Dates
Adapted from a recipe from Julie Lackner via Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom
Serves 4

Note - I doubled this recipe and had to use a leg of lamb instead of lamb shanks.  Doubling the recipe worked, but the second baking of the lamb in step 4 took about 70 minutes instead of 50-60.  For a dinner party of 6, the doubled recipe easily served everyone and we had leftovers as well.  Just be conscious of the lamb not being too crowded in the pot.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 to 4 pounds lamb shanks (or leg of lamb - I used leg of lamb because the store was out of shanks)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme 
3 bay leaves, broken in half
1/2 cup green Mediterranean olives (pitted is best for your guests, but unpitted will work)
1/3 cup capers with a little bit of their juice 
1 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
12 large Medjool dates, unpitted (J used figs, so try figs if you have then already or can't find dates)
2 pinches red pepper flakes*

1.  Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Heat oil in a large, non reactive, deep-sided pot with a lid (e.g., a Dutch oven) set over high heat.  When hot, add the lamb and brown on all sides (4-5 minutes).  Remove the pot from the heat.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the cumin, salt, pepper, and thyme and sprinkle the mixture over the lamb.  Add the bay leaves, olives, and capers to the pot.  Pour the wine and vinegar over the lamb, then sprinkle the sugar over the mixture.  Cover the pan tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil, then with the lid.

4.  Bake the lamb for 45 minutes, then remove the pot from the oven and turn the meat.  Add the dates, cover again with the foil and lid, and continue to cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 50-60 minutes more.

5.  Remove the pot from the oven and uncover it.  Stir in the red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup water.  If serving the lamb immediately, arrange the lamb shanks in a serving bowl or on a platter and ladle the sauce with the dates and olives over the lamb.  Slice the lamb prior to serving and remind your guests if there are pits in the olives and/or dates!  Be sure to ladle the sauce over the lamb when serving.  

6.  This dish can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.  After step 4, allow the lamb to cool.  Cover the pot with the foil and lid and refrigerate.  Reheat, covered with foil and lid, in a 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven until hot, about 25 minutes.  We had leftovers from this dish and the lamb may have been even better a day or two later after soaking in the broth.

* The original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of harissa, a Tunisian hot chile sauce.  I couldn't find harissa at my grocery store, but if you have it, great!  You can order it from Amazon and I think next time I make this I'll give it a try.