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parsley

Swiss Chard Falafel

Swiss Chard

I should probably admit upfront, these err a tad more on the side of fritters than falafel. But I hate a dry, dense ball of falafel, so in my mind, the characteristics of these are what the word “falafel” should always mean.

Falafel should be as moist as the fresh chickpeas you put into it. It should mean a circular or ovular sphere flavorful enough to snack on as it is, even if a little bit of yogurt sauce or hummus elevates it to a whole other level. I.e., a truly good falafel should be the shining star in the pita you pack it in, radiating brighter than all else that lays beside it.

Swiss Chard Falafel

It’s simply impossible to deny how beautiful of a veggie swiss chard is. I’ve expressed before my love of pinks when it comes to produce, and the photographing of it. Beets and radishes, while not necessarily my favorite flavors of the veggie kingdom, stand among my all-time most beloved subjects to photograph. (Apologies in advance to my friend Laura. And my 90-year-old grandpa. And the random boys in my life. All of which are other favorite photo subjects in my life – but I’m telling you, beets and radishes make for some steadfast competition.)

Swiss Chard

The magenta lines that stream down a leaf of swiss chard, the veins not unlike our own that bring this veggie to life, make it a mesmerizing sight. Its yellow veins, too. Although if I had to choose, I’d of course go for the pink. There’s just something about those pinks when you get them in front of a camera. Born to be (still life) models, I tell you.

Swiss Chard Falafel

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut lately. Breakfast for dinner has been popping up more often than I’d like, as is thrown together bowls of beans, rice, herbs, and avocado. (Although – if that avocado is a magically flawless and ripe specimen, forget the hesitancy and tone of complaint emanating from that last sentence. Hand me a ripe avocado, and I’ll be a happy kid forever.)

I never thought I’d be one to say this, but busyness has led me to allow cooking to fall by the side of the road for a few. Plus, it’s summer, and I enjoy nothing more than eating outside. And if this means scoping out all the restaurants with outdoor seating, then so be it. Cooking can be put on pause for a few.

However, you know as well as I do, I do love cooking. And so I return, by the sight of a healthy looking bunch of swiss chard.

Swiss Chard Falafel

I picked this bunch of from the store and immediately had ideas start to come to me from left and right. There’s nothing like a little ingredient inspiration to draw you out of a slight cooking hiatus.

It’d been forever since I made falafel, so that’s the idea I went with. Don’t ask me how swiss chard led my brain to falafel – but it worked out well. I mean, why not add some green power to falafel? Tastes great, looks decent, and kills it on the “you should really make this meal more nutritious” level.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard’s back in style. Every farmers’ market table will be wearing it pretty soon. Get some while you can. Admire it’s beauty for a day. Or 15 minutes on your cutting board. Then chop it all and throw it into this falafel recipe.

These are definitely snackable on their own, but I love the pairing with the yogurt/herb sauce. You choose whether to pack them in a pita, or throw them with some brown rice. Either one you go with, drizzle a little tahini on top, and voila. A truly golden, slightly green meal.

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Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Okay, so I lied. I said I wasn’t going to do any food blogging this week given the first week of actual spring-like weather. I had a packed schedule of tennis, running club, concert photography, yoga teaching, and wedding photo meetings, in addition to some First Friday festivities I’m headed to tonight. Not to mention my regular full-time job. Whew, just listing all that out is starting to make me feel the soreness from my first tennis match a bit more.

Somehow, however, I still managed to get in the kitchen. With my camera, too! That’s true love, ladies and gents.

But it’s also a result of the weather, the same reason I thought I wouldn’t be doing much cooking. Oh spring, how I love thee.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts How many of you also feel a sudden onslaught of energy once springtime arrives? Maybe it’s the extended hours of daylight. Maybe it’s because my body isn’t working so hard to stay warm. Maybe it’s just because I’m all around happier. Whatever it is, spring gives me pep. And I’m all about it. Ya feel me? No complaints here. Even if my shins are killing me, and my shoulders are a bit sore. And my friday night might be cut a bit short because I really probably could use some sleep. It’s spring so none of that matters.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

My brother just moved to L.A. I’m visiting him this summer, and after I do, my mom thinks I’ll never come back. If this trip were in the winter, she’d probably be right. I’m pretty sure one day I will unite with a warm weathered locale, and never turn my back on it again. Will it be L.A.? Who knows. I have my doubts, though I’ve yet to ever go there, so I can’t say for sure.

What I can say for sure is I could gush about springtime forever. If that makes me a boring weather-conversationalist, so be it. Me and spring, and summer too, have a deep connection. If you’re in on that, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, well, sorry.

Brussels Sprouts

I’ve also got a deep connection with mushrooms. I love ’em. Chewy and full of flavor, there is not a shitake I wouldn’t want in my pasta. Here, they team up with some shredded sprouts, which get coated in a light olive oil, garlic and Dijon sauce. Tossed with parsley, salt and pepper, this feels like the perfect early springtime dish before the abundance of other seasonal veggies start to shower my kitchen. It’s light and fresh, but not too delicate on flavor. The sauce can certainly hold its own to a hearty whole wheat pasta, so make sure to go that route when you make this.

Alright, I’m off to brave a few April showers. Enjoy!

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Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush

When I get eggplant, it heads straight to the oven. Forget stir-fry. Forget sautés. Forget the grill. Forget anything else you’d ever do with the purple beauts.

Like wine is made for sharing, eggplant’s made for roasting.

This applies 95% of the time in my kitchen. Nothing beats a soft and caramelized, creamy bite of eggplant. And nothing’s worse than an undercooked bite, either.  This happens all too often in stir fry, often with restaurants that don’t know what they’re doing.  Stick with baking and give yourself ample time, and you’ll be golden. Your eggplant too.

Heirloom eggplant

Baba ganoush is a classic, Middle Eastern dip. It’s similar to hummus, but swaps the chickpeas for roasted eggplant. It’s creamy, cumin-y, and the perfect smearer for a slightly toasted pita. Try it out while you can because the summer season’s quickly coming to an end, and along with it, farm-to-table eggplant.

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Summer Rice and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Beets

Summer Tabbouleh with Beets

Can we talk about how fast life moves after graduating from college? And I’m not even at a 9-5 job anymore. Nor do I have kids…I can’t image how time will feel when that happens. I’m picturing similar to how this 800 mile per hour high speed train would feel, if it ever gets built.

This summer seems like a blur. Late August and evening sweater weather, how did you creep up so fast? Please leave me be for another few weeks. I need some time to contemplate. (i.e., to lay on my back in a pool, and stare mindlessly up at the sky). Ya feel me?

At least I can say the past few months have been entertaining ones, and packed with a tabbouleh salad full of new experiences. This last week, I had the opportunity to teach yoga to a class of senior citizens, a group of former homeless drug addicts, and Temple University’s volleyball team. Man, was each experience different. And tremendously rewarding. Occasions like this really make me reevaluate life. If only I had more time to ponder over those feelings. In a pool. Or a lake. I won’t be picky, summer, if you just stay a bit longer.

Summer Tabbouleh with Beets

So while life has been busy and all over the place, I’ve been making a lot of no-recipe tabbouleh salads. Ones in a huge bowl that will last for the week, and are packed with farmer’s market veggies to keep me charged and thinking straight.

On these occasions, there are no measuring cups or spoons present, excluding the one I’m using to taste as I go. There is no exact science involved. Or open laptop being splattered with veggie juice, tracking every ingredient’s use. While I love recipe development, more often than not, this is how I enjoy cooking the most. Improvisation based off of the ingredients I have at hand.

I hate to snub you guys of a precise directions here, but I want you to simply use this as inspiration to create your own version of tabbouleh. No stressing if you’re missing ingredients from the recipe, well, because there is no recipe. And no freaking out if it doesn’t look like some photo. Below is simply a loose blueprint to get you started. Also, just an FYI, one beet can go a long way. You don’t need much to add that gorgeous pink vibrancy you’ll see in the bowl above.

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Italian Feta Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Feta Burgers

I could not be more excited about this 70ish spring weather! My scarf and hat needed a break (and likely a trip to the laundromat as well). I’m also enjoying the motivation to get my booty outside and running.

I’m training for my first 10-miler. I’ve been a runner since high school, but for some reason, the thought of 10-miles still makes me weary. I know my legs can make it, but my mind’s an entity of its own. It’s made my training process a little slow-growing…

City running generally gets boring to me after mile three. Not enough trees or obstacles. I’ll push myself two more miles, but much more after that and my mind starts going crazy. I start yelling inside my head at all the oblivious dog-walkers on the street and then fight with myself about how those are not so nice or productive thoughts. I love dogs, but seriously, your pooches needn’t take up the whole path. City sidewalks aren’t royal runways for your dog. But what’s the use of letting those things get to me, right? If I have to slow down to dodge a person simply enjoying the weather, so what.

Gah…the conversations I have with myself while trying to keep my feet running and my mind distracted. If only Philly had more running trails. Luckily, I’m sure the race will provide plenty of people watching to keep me entertained for at least a few miles. People watching is a personal favorite spring and summer activity of mine.

Another favorite warm weather pursuit? Making burgers. Burgers just breathe springtime to me, even when they’re not made on the grill. I mixed things up with this one by adding feta, and then using whole chickpeas for a textural experience. I really liked the crunch from the chickpeas. Just don’t go overboard when adding them in, or they’ll dominate in flavor. As I’ve suggested below (though not pictured), consider sautéing the onions before topping off your burger. The sweetness with the feta is totally worth the extra step.

Black Bean Feta Burgers

Click here for recipe…