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Gather

Gather

Hanukkah, Christmas, Festiuvs, Yaldaa or surviving 2017: No matter what we  just celebrated, we sent off last year with a bang and welcomed 2018.

New beginnings are a good time to press the wellness reset button, but healthy living can be a year-long lifestyle and need not be limited to new year resolutions. As we begin the year, I remind myself to set achievable goals, eat nutritious but delicious food, learn as much as possible, be kind to myself and others, let old wounds heal, practice gratitude, and make life as colorful as possible.

Last year was certainly colorful. 2017 tested me. But as I reflect on the last twelve months, I realize the positives outweighed the challenges and there was much to be grateful for. Mostly, the incredible people I have in my life and the extraordinary experiences we shared. Not surprisingly, many of those occurred around the table as we broke bread together, told our stories, laughed at our fortunes, waxed poetic about the future and perhaps even learned a bit about ourselves along the way. “Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind,” Einstein wrote, “life would have seemed to me empty.” Indeed.

I have written about gathering around the fire. Today, on a cold snowy day in NYC, I sip hot chai and reflect on the warm memories of last year. I smile remembering the gorgeous tables we gathered around, the delightful food we ate, and the marvelous people who’s company I had the pleasure to keep. Michael Polan says “the shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.” It is also a place where our fondest memories live. Where we receive the gift of love by those who prepared those meals for us. It is where we are reminded of the power of coming together.

My memories of this gift begin in Naz year zero. My parents have always been extraordinary and generous hosts. Bringing people together and creating countless memories is an art form they have mastered a thousand times over. The loving energy created around their tables, is my eternal source of inspiration. I wrote more about that here.

In the meantime, I want to point out the only difference between the first two photos in this post are 37 years and geography. Otherwise, in both photos you see my beautiful Mother at the head of the table of her loving home, and me really excited about what we’re about to eat! Just a bit of role reversal in who’s serving whom.

Happy new year from Basil and Roses! Below are a few of our favorite “gatherings” of 2017 and the recipes they inspired.

Wishing you a colorful and meaning year!

Naz

“Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” Epicurus

Pretty Pickled Onions

Roasted Cauliflower with The Evergreen Chimichurri Sauce

Beer & Basil Braised Brisket

Nani’s Classic Tomato, Onion & Feta Omelette (recipe coming in 2018)

Mama’s Mexican Fiesta (Fish Taco, Guacamole, Mango Salsa, Cabbage Slaw, Pico, Fresh Margaritas)

Tuscan Inspired Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Cannelini Beans

Persian Stuffed Peppers

Shirazi Salad (or Israeli Salad or Mediterranean chopped salad)

Sesame Crusted Baked Salmon

Cindy’s Fabulous Holiday Rib Roast (Recipe coming in 2018!)

Green Goddess Basmati Rice with Basil, Mint, Chive and an Unexpected Trip Home

Smoked Salmon & Creme Fraiche Canapes with Fresh Dill

Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

 

Other Top 2017 Recipes to try:

Nani’s Healthy But Decadent Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Thai Basil Beef

Citrusy Chicken Skewers with Mint-Basil Sauce

Panko-Crusted Dijon Cod

The Best Steak Of Your Life

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Medly

Mint & Cannelini Bean Tuna Salad

Roasted Cauliflower with Tangy Tahini Sauce

Baklava

Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

My latest curry craving almost had me ordering take out, but why do that when you can make fabulous vegetable curry in a snap at home? It is a great go-to dish when you want to impress someone, feed a crowd or just craving curry goodness.

Warning, this is a crazy addictive coconut curry! You can substitute vegetables and  proteins to your liking, but this combo is literally awesome sauce.

What is the magic ingredient? Store-bought curry paste. Most varieties have ingredients which you can only find at Asian Markets. Since most of us don’t have lemongrass, kaffir lime, and galangal laying around, this is a great way to achieve authentic flavors.

This recipe is healthy with the added indulgence of a creamy coconut sauce. The miracle of this decadence is that it is vegan and dairy free, despite its richness. It is one of my absolute favorite dishes to eat and just one of those perfect recipes that satisfies many a taste buds and preferences. 

It keeps well, so make a pot of it and you’ll have fabulous leftovers for a couple of lunches during the week.

 

 

Baklava

Baklava

Like many other traditional foods of the past, the origin of baklava is difficult to narrow down. Every ethnic group with ancestry connected to the Middle East has some claim to this delicious pastry.  It seems generally accepted that Baklava was first made by the Assyrians around 8th century B.C.- who layered nuts with unleavened flat bread and drenched with honey.

The type of nuts or syrup ingredients often suggest the origin of the recipe. Syrup with rose water and cardamom is most likely be from Iran or Arab countries. While syrup with cinnamon and cloves is more associated with characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and those of the western part of the Middle East. The Greeks version is often more walnut heavy.

I’ve had them all! Persian, Greek and Turkish baklava are all sumptuous in their own way. The Persian iteration  with the saffron + pistachios reminds of my Grandmother. The Greek variety takes me back to a wonderful trip to Mykonos a couple of years ago and the Turkish version echoes the sound of the call to prayer which we I  had in the Sultan Ahmed area of the the old city in Istanbul.

In a water-front cafe in Mykonosimg_20140809_170208

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At the top of the world in magical Santorini
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In Istanbul, the honey on the baklava had a unique flavor, served with a rich cream. It was really enjoyable with tea or Turkish coffee of course!img_20151005_000044

So I decided to create my own version, taking a bit of inspiration from each culture. What can I say, I like the harmony of honey and nuts and dough. After all, there is a reason in ancient times Baklava was considered the food of the Gods!

My recipe is below. The layering requires a bit of patience and time but the end result is well worth the effort.

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Musical Inspiration-

Soap Kills – Cheftak

Beer + Basil Braised Brisket

Beer + Basil Braised Brisket

Brisket is one of my favorite dishes to cook for my family. It’s warming and satisfying and one of those meals that’s wonderful to share. As we bunker down for the cold days of winter in NY, it’s the perfect hearty meal for a family dinner or for entertaining during the holidays.

There are many flavor combinations you can use for the braising liquid and aromatics. In this recipe I combined beer an basil and it was fabulous!

Tonight’s menu also included Rosemary Sea-Salt Baked Potato Chips and a Cucumber-Onion Salad with Thai Basil. Meat and potatoes are always a good compliment and the lightness of the cucumber salad is a nice contrast to the richness of the meat and potatoes. The Thai bail echos the sweet basil from brisket and it all comes together nicely.

 

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Homemade Falafel with Herb Tahini Sauce and Shirazi Salad

Homemade Falafel with Herb Tahini Sauce and Shirazi Salad

Falafel! The ultimate Middle Eastern  comfort food, the name of which probably comes from the word pilpel (pepper, felfel in Farsi- referring to the shape of a pepper corn) was made in two ways: In Egypt today, from crushed, soaked fava beans and combined with chickpeas or, as Yemenite Jews and the Arabs of Jerusalem did, from chickpeas alone. My version uses chickpeas and herbs and it’s simple and finger lickin’ good!

Note: Add a drizzle of Harisa (a hot sauce paste used in North African cuisine, made from chili peppers, paprika, and olive oil) for an extra kick!

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***A special thanks to the Kashin Kitchen for hosting the recipe testing of  this deelish dish!