Tzatziki

tzatzikiLast time, I posted about making Greek (strained) yogurt at home, and here’s one of my favorite ways to use it. Tzatziki is a Mediterranean sauce or dip which is good with veggies, bread, or meat. It’s best after it sits for a night to let the flavors develop, so plan ahead if possible.

Ingredients
3/4 cup (180mL) Greek or strained yogurt
1/2 cucumber
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Instructions

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. If the cucumber has a thick peel, you may want to remove it, but it’s not necessary. Chop the remaining cucumber into small pieces.

Mix all ingredients together well. Let the tzatziki sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The flavors will get stronger as it sits, so don’t add more garlic until you taste it the next day. If some water collects on top of the tzatziki overnight, you can pour it off, or mix it back in.
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Some of my favorite ways to eat this are with pita bread or chips, with falafel, with chicken, or with rice dishes that have warm spices in them. In the picture above I have a homemade pita filled with sauteed chicken, tzatziki, red onion, broccoli sprouts, and extra cucumber.

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Coconut Cashew Curry

IMG_7439I’m always trying out new recipes for curry. This is my latest one, and we really enjoyed it. It ended up being very flavorful and a good, inexpensive, filling dinner that included plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I sometimes leave out the chicken or replace it with tofu, in which case this recipe is vegan.

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned diced tomato is fine)
3/4 cup cashews, divided
2 cups (480 mL) vegetable broth (chicken would be OK too)
2 to 2-1/2 cups vegetables of your choice, sliced or chopped into bite-size pieces
2 chicken breasts (optional – leave out or replace with cubes of 木綿/firm tofu)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, fennel, and kaffir lime powder**
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional; see recipe)
Rice for serving

* Vegetables: really, you can use whatever you like here. I always use what I have on hand or what is on sale or in season at the moment. Some of my favorites are asparagus, green beans, zucchini, carrots, and… daikon, which is great in curry and has a similar taste and texture to potato when cooked.

** Kaffir lime powder is a seasoning I found here in Japan but have never seen elsewhere, so i don’t know how common it is. You can leave it out, or add a little extra lemon or lime juice if you like instead.

Instructions

Heat the vegetable oil in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Saute the sliced onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the tomato. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato has broken down and most of the juice is gone.

Meanwhile, toast the cashews in the oven or in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove.

Let cool for a few minutes, then scrape the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup toasted cashews and some of the vegetable broth (depending on how much your appliance can hold) so the mixture will blend. Process until smooth.

Return to the pot with the remaining vegetable broth and heat to a simmer. Add any vegetables that need time to cook (for example, daikon, carrot). Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced chicken and coconut milk and stir. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Add the spices and lemon juice and mix well. If the curry is not thick enough, you can add the cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of water, and cook for two to three minutes until thickened.

Taste and add salt if necessary (it depends how salty your broth is).

Serve over white or brown rice, with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted cashews sprinkled on top!

Creamy Pasta with White Beans

pasta with white beansThis recipe is quite adaptable. As I’ve written it, this is a vegetarian pasta dish, but you can add chicken as well, and you can change the vegetables to fit what’s in season or on sale. It also includes some protein from the beans.

Ingredients (serves 2 with leftovers)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
700mL (3 cups) vegetable broth (chicken broth is okay too)
200g dry penne pasta (1/2 lb)
1 cup cooked white beans
1-1/2 cups vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, and spinach or a mixture are all great)
125g (4 oz) sun-dried or salted tomatoes
120mL (1/2 cup) cream (in Japan, I use 35% cream)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until softened. Add vegetable (or chicken) broth and pasta. Bring to a simmer.

Cook pasta for the time directed on the package, plus 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If too much liquid evaporates, add a little more water. With five minutes remaining, add the tomatoes, beans, and vegetables and stir.

After the pasta finishes cooking, add the cream. Stir and cook until the cream thickens into a sauce. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Tomato-Avocado Grilled Cheese

I made these open-face grilled cheese type sandwiches using some leftovers from last night’s dinner, and they were so delicious! You could top these with all kinds of different things, and do it as a sandwich or open-face – very adaptable.

Ingredients
2 slices of bread or baguette
1 tbsp mayonnaise
a few drops lemon juice
a pinch of basil
2 thin slices of your favorite meltable cheese
1/2 tomato
1/2 avocado
salt and pepper
butter or margarine for cooking

Instructions

In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and basil. Spread on one side of each slice of bread. Place thin slices of cheese on top.

In a frying pan, melt a small pat of butter or margarine, and place the bread slices (mayo and cheese side up) in the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bread side.

Carefully remove from the pan and top with sliced avocado and tomato. Here’s where you can get creative and put whatever you like on it. I’ve added many different veggies, or sometimes marinated grilled or sauteed chicken. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Leave the sandwiches open-face or put them together to be more traditional.

Serves 1.