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Monday, March 9, 2009

Menu 8: Scallion Pancakes; Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Salad; Pita Pockets with Cilantro Pesto and Feta; Curried Cauliflower Soup...

This week’s patchwork menu began when my mom sent me a box of Florida oranges and a bag of pine nuts.

(Oranges because she can buy them in giant bags at her local farmer’s market, and knows that the ones I get here just aren’t as sweet and juicy as they ones she gets in Florida. Pine nuts because she saw them on sale for a lot less than what I pay in NYC…and because she is in constant disbelief about the cost of living in NYC – even in this economy - she was just doing her part to help me out.)

So, the box on my coffee table, containing two layers of oranges, neatly separated by tissue paper, and my re-sealable bag of pine nuts got me thinking. Whereas I could have continued trying to eat three to four oranges a day in order to eat them all while fresh, I found the salad with asparagus, mint, and oranges – and an opportunity to be more creative than that.

The salad included some feta. And, I had found the zucchini pancakes which required just a bit of cilantro. In keeping with my mission to maximize my use of purchased ingredients, I needed another dish that would make full use of the feta and cilantro. So, I put together the pita sandwiches…with veggies, chickpeas, feta, and a cilantro pesto (made with pine nuts).

Where does the soup come in? I love cooking dishes that only require one pot, cauliflower is really good for you, I was intrigued by the use of an apple in the soup, and the recipe only required me to buy four ingredients (I have everything else, like olive oil, curry powder, and honey, in the apartment already).

As I said – it was a random assortment of ideas and thoughts that pulled this menu together. And, here’s what I’m cooking.

This week’s dishes:
Fast scallion pancakes and zucchini corn pancakes with Thai chili sauce

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta salad

Pita Pockets with Cilantro Pesto and Feta

This week’s menu:

Dinner: Curried Cauliflower Soup
Cook: Curried Cauliflower Soup, Pita Pockets (for Monday’s lunch)

Lunch: Pita Pockets
Dinner: Scallion Pancakes and Zucchini Corn Pancakes
Cook: Scallion Pancakes and Zucchini Corn Pancakes, Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta Salad (for Tuesday’s lunch)

Lunch: Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta Salad
Dinner: Curried Cauliflower Soup
Cook: Pita Pockets (for Wednesday’s lunch)

Lunch: Pita Pockets
Dinner: Scallion Pancakes and Zucchini Corn Pancakes
Cook: Scallion Pancakes and Zucchini Corn Pancakes, Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta Salad (for Thursday’s lunch)

Lunch: Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta Salad
Dinner: Curried Cauliflower Soup and Zucchini Corn Pancakes
Cook: Zucchini Corn Pancakes, Pita Pockets (for Friday’s lunch)

Lunch: Pita Pockets

This week’s recipes:

Fast Scallion Pancakes and Zucchini Corn Pancakes with Thai chili sauce
Savory pancakes are one of my favorite things to order at Korean restaurants, like Hangawi (which is entirely vegetarian!) And, because I’m indecisive, I always just get the combination pancakes so that I can have a little of each kind. So, here are my own “combination” pancakes, pulled from Mark Bittman’s blog, and Vegetarian Times. The zucchini corn pancakes recipe calls for them to be eaten with salsa, but I’m going to keep the flavor Asian and eat both of these with a Thai chili dipping sauce.

Note: When I make these for the first time on Monday, I’ll make the full recipe – so that the batter for all of the pancakes will be ready. Then, I’ll store the batter for each type of pancake in separate, air tight containers, so that when I’m making them over the course of the week, I’m not spending time making everything from scratch, just making the pancakes fresh from the batter. Alternatively, you could make all of the pancakes on Monday, and then reheat them over the stove or in the oven each night that you eat them for dinner, over the course of the week.

Click here for the Scallion Pancakes recipe.

Click here for the Zucchini Corn Pancakes recipe.

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Less than 10 ingredients, and only two steps – you can’t really beat that!

If you find that eating the soup by itself is not enough, then I recommend that you add some bread on the side. You can toast some pita, brush a bit of olive olive and freshly ground black pepper on it. Or, spread some (Earth Balance) vegan butter on bread, sprinkle with garlic powder, and toast.

Click here for the Curried Cauliflower Soup recipe.

Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta salad
This salad is wonderfully light and refreshing, but not so light that you’re hungry 20 minutes later. The flavors and textures blend really well, and it almost feels like the perfect thing to be eating with springtime upon us. (Unless you’re in Boston, where it snowed after a weekend of 50 degree weather.)

The original recipe (see below), serves 8. I am only making it twice this week, and I think 2 servings each time is plenty.

So, instead of using the quantities listed in the recipe, use the following for each time you make the salad:
¼ lb asparagus, trimmed
1 medium navel orange
2 oz., whole wheat campanelle pasta, or other medium size pasta, cooked, rinsed, and drained
¼ cup scallions, chopped
2 tbsp., chopped fresh mint
½ tsp., white wine vinegar
1 tsp., olive oil
½ tsp., salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons, crumbled feta cheese

Click here for the Orange, Mint, and Asparagus Pasta Salad recipe.

Pita Pockets with Cilantro Pesto and Feta
The cilantro pesto here is similar to one I posted in Menu 7, but uses pine nuts instead of walnuts. The chickpeas are thrown in for protein – you could also use baked tofu, or falafel nuggets, if you were feeling ambitious.

Ingredients for Cilantro Pesto:
2 cups, cilantro (packed down)
8 tablespoons, olive oil
2/3 cup, pine nuts
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves, garlic
Paprika, to taste

Ingredients for Pita Pocket:
1 Pita, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons, cilantro pesto
1/ 4 cup, green leaf lettuce
3 tablespoons, canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small roma tomato, diced
½ small red onion, diced
¼ cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons, feta cheese

1. Pulse cilantro and olive oil in food processor or blender. (Add a bit of water if it’s not mixing well in the blender.)
2. Add remaining ingredients for pesto, and pulse or blend until smooth.
3. Spread cilantro pesto evenly inside of pita pocket.
4. Stuff pita pocket with lettuce.
5. Toss chickpeas, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and feta in a bowl to mix well. Then, add to pita pocket.
4. Serve.

Note: Depending on how many pitas you’re serving for a particular meal, you may or may not use all of the chickpeas. So, when you open the can of chickpeas, transfer all contents to an airtight container. Only rinse and drain the amount of chickpeas you’ll use in that one meal – store the rest in the container. I’ll store the unused portions of onion and cucumber in Ziploc sandwich bags – make sure to seal the bags so that there’s no air caught inside.

This week’s grocery list:
I think this is the cheapest week I’ve put together so far – I spent $10.00 at the farmer’s market on all of the produce. And, bought everything else I needed at Whole Foods for $25.00 (If you cook often like I do, you should have all of the oils, spices, and most condiments/bottled goods in stock in your pantry). And remember, that $35.00 includes things like flour and egg replacer that are now in stock in my pantry, so I can use them for future dishes.

Here’s the full list – just print, cross off what you already have, and you’re ready to shop.

½ lb, asparagus
2 medium zucchini
1 medium cucumber
1 large head, cauliflower
1 bunch, green leaf lettuce
3 small roma tomatoes
2 medium navel oranges
1 small yellow onion
2 small red onions
1 medium Granny Smith apple
1 bunch, scallions
1 bunch, cilantro
1 bunch, fresh mint
1 bulb, garlic
1 lemon

Oils, Spices, Condiments:
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Peanut Oil (optional)
Soy Sauce
Curry Powder
Vegetable bullion cubes (for broth)

Canned and Bottled Goods:
White wine vinegar
Rice wine vinegar
Thai Chili sauce (for dipping)
1, 15 oz. can, chickpeas/garbanzo beans

Dry Goods:
8 oz., whole wheat campanelle, (or other medium size pasta)
Flour (of your choice – all purpose, whole wheat, or spelt)
Baking powder
Egg replacer* (if vegan)
1 pkg., Pita bread
1 cup, pine nuts

8 oz., Feta Cheese (vegan version)
½ dozen eggs (if vegetarian)
8 oz., frozen corn
Soy milk

*If you don't want to buy packaged egg replacer, try one of these options.

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