Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady – Cookbook Review


As evidenced previously, I’m a total sucker for putting Asian spices in traditionally Western foods. Like, I actually find myself incapable of making “plain” banana / zucchini bread like a normal human and insist on garam-masala-ing or allspicing everything. I know, it’s probably insufferable, but I literally can’t stop.

My predilection made Seven Spoons, by Tara O’Brady an easy win for me because of one single recipe: Spiced Candied nuts. I know, the book’s got the gorgeous fig toast, and everyone’s talking about the chicken or the chocolate chip cookies, but these nuts, guys. Okay, it took me a super long time to figure out an even remotely appetizing way to photograph a pile of nuts, but they are really good. They’re everything candied walnuts wished they could be: sweet, with that great shattering sugar texture that reminds me of kettle corn, but also spicy and smoky and totally addicting. I baked up a batch and prettied some up for a care package for my sister because I wanted her to have something nice to snack on in college. Thank goodness, because after I had a taste, I knew immediately that I had to give more away, or else I’d eat the entire batch in one day.

In the spirit of rooting for the underdog recipe and/or beige food piles, I also made Flat Potatoes from Seven Spoons. Though the name inexplicably makes me giggle, it’s also a dangerous recipe. Creamy potatoes roasted between two very hot pans, coaxed along with some ghee (I used coconut oil) means for a mean roasted potato that lives somewhere between the chip and baked potato continuum. Yum.

And, last beige food I enjoyed: the hummus recipe in this book includes a spoonful of white miso. As we know, I’m no stranger to adding miso to unexpected foods, so I was on board immediately. I adapted my own hummus recipe and added the miso, and the results were delightful. The slight funk and tang from miso pairs excellently with creamy, dreamy tahini. I’ve started using this flavor combination all over the place. Sorry not sorry.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.

Low-Key Fish Tacos


“The taco is the most versatile fruit.” – Hannah Hart, My Drunk Kitchen

First order of business, (re)watch that entire video and maybe entire first season.

Second, nothing quite smacks me in the face like a taco craving. I think I may say this about all foods (and in fact I briefly looked through my own blog archives to check, but then it got tedious), but, really, tacos. And I like all the tacos, but I especially like fish tacos. I especially especially like the ones in Pescadero, but I’ll take what I can get. Until I read that one Food52 article, I’d never really thought to make them at home. But, hey, as promised, it was relatively easy and quick.

Low-Key Fish Tacos
Adapted from Food52

1 lb of fish of your choice
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
6 small tortillas
taco toppings of choice

Here’s what I used for toppings: I quick-pickled red onion by slicing it thin and submerging it in lemon juice. I also prepared cherry tomatoes with cucumber and a cabbage and spinach slaw that I massaged with a bit of lime juice and cilantro. For toppings, we have avocado and cilantro. And limes, of course.

The fish was simple, too. I’ll write it up as a recipe, but really, it’s not any more involved than chopping up vegetables for toppings.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. (I heated up the broiler instead, which sort of lit my parchment paper nearly on fire, as you can see. It worked, and it was fast, and it didn’t make my apartment hot, but there’s the paper on fire thing. So, you can do that, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Rub fish on both sides with chili powder, cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper. Set on a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray.

Bake fish until it’s just done — whether you’re using the oven or broiler, it’s just under 10 minutes for each inch at the thickest point of the piece. You can also heat up tortillas in the oven at this point.

Serve as a DIY taco bar for minimum time between beginning dinner and food in face. Yum.

Summer salads: Raw Zucchini with Pine Nuts and Tabbouleh



It’s the last few days that really feel summery! Time to get it all in — wear your white pants*, listen to upbeat pop about ambiguous summertime things, and read on the beach somehow. But actually, who am I kidding, we all know that I mark seasons the way I mark the rest of my life: by what I’m eating. So, actually, fire up the grill, eat stone fruit and watermelon while letting the juices drip to your elbows, and make these salads.

*Side note, I somewhat recently acquired some relatively nice white pants on super clearance, and I’m terrified to wear and wash them. How do people do it? When I wear them, I feel like I can’t eat or bike, which are both things I do daily if not multiple times a day. I haven’t washed them because I assume the rest of my clothes will tint them. How do I adult? Please send help.

Okay, clothing anxiety aside, back to the summer salads. It’s a great time for salads because you don’t have to use the stove or oven as much, and also, you don’t feel bad about eating a ton of popsicles after a meal that’s got two salads in it, right?

The first is a super simple zucchini salad. I’m not actually the biggest fan of zucchini, so I rely on cheese, pine nuts, and a generous amount of olive oil here to make the raw squash tasty. It works, but it feels a little cheap. Still, not a bad way to send summer out. Seeya next year, zukes!

The second is a classic tabouleh. I learned the lemon juice trick from a housemate of mine in college and have never turned back. I think there are two tabouleh camps, right? The parsley salad garnished with bulgur, and the bulgur salad garnished with parsley? I wold say I’m actually square in the middle, but nobody likes that, so if I had to choose, I’d go heavy on the parsley. Mo flava!

Short, simple recipes today, so I’m presenting two. I know, recipes without somewhat Asian-inspired adjustments and/or extra complications are not my usual situation, here. I like to keep you guys guessing.

Raw Zucchini Salad with Pine Nuts
From Epicurious

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 large pinch of flaky salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 large zucchinis
1 small bunch of basil / 1 big handful of basil leaves
2 Tablespoons cup pine nuts, toasted
Small knob of Parmesan cheese

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Using a peeler, shave the zucchini into thin ribbons. Do the same with the Parmesan, if possible. If your knob is very small, grating the cheese may be easier. Chop or tear the basil (whichever you prefer).

Arrange the zucchini in a bowl, and top with cheese and dressing. Add warm, toasted pine nuts and serve immediately.

Tabbouleh, without adjustment

1 Tablespoons dried bulgur
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 large tomato
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the bulgur overnight, or, at least for a few hours in the lemon juice and enough water to cover the grains handily. When the bulgur is edible but still a bit chewy, it’s done, and you can drain it. No need to rinse.

Chop the parsley and cube the tomato. Toss in the soaked bulgur. Dress with a generous drizzle of olive oil, more lemon juice if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.

Asian Stir Fried Calamari and Green Beans


Life accomplishment update — I learned how to clean squid! And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be, especially after perusing these instructions that, while helpfully clear and photographed, unhelpfully described the process as “ugly as sin and ten times as slimy.” I will agree that removing the beak was slightly “creepy,” as noted. I didn’t take any process shots because my hands were indeed pretty slimy. If you’re curious, hit the slideshow above for some slightly too real photos.

Benefits of cleaning like 20-30 little tiny squids mainly included feeling like a total badass in my kitchen and making sure that what I’m eating is, in fact, squid and not pork bung. Foodies will wax poetic about harvesting the ink, but when I saw the tiny volume of ink in each sac and also realized that I had no idea what to do with it all, I just scrapped that idea altogether. Sorry; am a bad nose-to-tail eater. Maybe if I get larger squid at some point that yield slightly more than a single drop of ink per slimy fellow, maybe then, I will try it. So send your most tantalizing squid ink recipes my way? The only things I can think of are pasta (nope; no pasta maker and no patience) and calamari cheesy rolls a la 85˚C.

That said, I liked this preparation, based off of a great one from Wild Greens and Sardines (via Food52). Using lots of green veggies and bright flavors like chile and lime offsets the brininess of the fish sauce and squid, and a little bit of brown sugar makes it kind of addicting. I tried to get some color on the squid for those delicious crispy bits — which turned out to be tough, since they release a lot of water when they meet the heat. Melissa Clark from NYT has some tips, and I’d recommend a heavy pan like cast iron for best results on that front.

Asian Stir Fried Calamari and Green Beans
Adapted from Wild Greens and Sardines (via Food52)

~1 lb of calamari, cleaned
1 stalk of celery
~1 lb of green beans
Bunch of Thai basil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 small knob of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Thinly slice the celery and clean/trim the green beans. Mince (I grate it frozen, on a microplane) the ginger and garlic. Mix the fish sauce, mirin, lime juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Pluck the leaves off of the basil plant and set aside. With this recipe, things move fast and all at once, so I actually do all this prep work… usually I’m sort of prepare-as-you go, but this is an exception.

Generously oil a large, heavy pan and bring it over high heat. Wait until the oil is nearly smoking, and add the celery and green beans, and stir-fry quickly. When they are nearly cooked, add the chili flakes, ginger, and garlic, and stir fry until fragrant.

Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add a little more oil. Wait until it gets really hot, then add the squid, all at once, in a single layer. Let it sit for a minute to try to coax out a little color. After one minute, quickly incorporate with the vegetables and add the sauce. Stir fry for about 30 more seconds, mixing in the basil at the last moment. Serve hot.

Indian-inspired Bowl


Another grain bowl? Yeah, I know. It’s just… what I eat. I might start a series so it seems more intentional than coincidental. That’d work, right?

It’s hot here. Like, shut all the blinds and lie on the ground hot. Today, I couldn’t even brave turning on the stove, so I went out for dumplings, and it was the best. When I’m not being a wimp and when the temperature rises, I often want spicy food. You know, hot on the outside, also hot on the inside? I think I sort of get this from my family — we used to eat hot soup on hot days. It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s something about eating hot soup on a hot day and just sweating it out. It’s like the working man’s sauna. With snacks, so, obviously superior.

I still didn’t want to use the oven and stove and make my apartment unbearably hot, but if there had been an Indian Chipotle (DREAM LIFE), I would have gone there and gotten this in a jiffy. Satisfying, and everything with a kick, it’d make my tummy feel like the smokey outside, and we’d all be zen. So, I’ll share the recipe now, but know that I’m being a total wimp and only cooking things with the microwave or pressure cooker right now. Sorry not sorry.

From the top, these bowls were:

  • Spiced, charred cabbage and fennel – based loosely on Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe
  • Chana masala (ish) – I make mine based loosely on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe
  • Palak tofu – recipe below
  • Brown rice

The palak tofu is my and my roommate’s version, after numerous iterations and adjustments. It’s very spinachy and brightly spiced, and I top it with baked tofu. (I’m sure it would be really good with paneer, but I don’t often have paneer/lots of milk on hand, but I’ve almost always got tofu, spinach, an onion, and spices.) I’ve found that my homemade version is intensely green, both in appearance and taste. I love that it’s like a shot of greens and nutrition and that I feel like an ethnic Popeye when I eat it.

Palak Tofu

1/3 block of tofu, cut into small cubes
1/2 Tablespoon cooking oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 lbs of spinach (seriously)
1 small knob of ginger, approx the size of a walnut
1-2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 yellow onion
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Arrange the tofu cubes on a silicon baking mat or parchment paper so none are touching. Bake them until they are puffy and golden, around 40 minutes. You may need to carefully rearrange/flip them once or twice throughout the baking process.

While your tofu bakes, you can get going on the spinach. Mince the garlic and ginger. (I grate frozen ginger on a microplane instead of mincing it, if you are so inclined.) Heat up the oil in a large pan, and add the spinach and spices, stirring occasionally until the spinach is wilted. When the spinach has wilted, turn off the heat and let it cool a bit.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a food processor. Add a little bit of lemon juice and pulse until it’s smooth. Taste the spinach and adjust the spices, lemon juice, and salt and pepper as needed.

Finely chop the onion. Heat up a bit more oil in the pan and fry the onion until it’s translucent. Then, add the spinach and heat through. Taste and adjust for seasoning one more time, if needed. When you are ready to serve, transfer to a serving plate and top with the puffed tofu.