My fourth guest on this space is my friend, Asha who writes the beautiful blog Fork Spoon Knife. Of course we met through this cyber space, through our blogs and Twitter. I remember that the first recipe I made from her blog was this zucchini chocolate loaf. Finally, last October we had the chance to meet and I could host her in Budapest, Hungary. Here is Asha…
“When I visited Zita last year in Budapest, I was most mesmerized by the abundance and richness of the local farmers’ markets. I was completely awe struck by the total honesty of the produce and its complete nakedness in bringing the health and flavor of the earth and all things good to the palate. So, when she invited me to write a guest post for her that was the first thing that popped in to my head as inspiration. Luckily, with the weather warming up, the farmers’ markets in NYC are also taking a strong hold of my kitchen and I was able to bring some of that nostalgic freshness back to her through some simple and flavorful vegetarian creations. As a new mother, I am also cognizant of the demands on her time by the little time, consequently leaving little room for elaborate meals. These dishes are designed to be quick to prepare or something that will cook away in the background, leaving baby and mommy time sacrosanct! This time of the year is still a touch cool leaving warm meals much in demand but definitely with a lighter note. With that in mind, I give you a few recipes for salads and soups that are nutritious and filling; just enough to keep the energy for the day! And, when the ingredients are this fresh, you don’t need to much to have a great dining experience.”
Fresh Green Salad with Quinoa Cakes and Lemon Vinaigrette
For the cakes
– 1-1/2 cup cooked quinoa, al dente
– 1 small onion, diced
– handful of fresh peas
– 1 egg, lightly whisked
– 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1/4 cup oatmeal flour + more if needed
– olive oil for sautéing
For the lemon vinaigrette
– juice of half a lemon
– pinch of salt and pepper
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Lightly sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the fresh peas and cook for just 2 minutes. Fold in the chilli flakes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Mix with the cooked quinoa. Let the mixture cool as much as you can let. Add the egg and fold to incorporate. If the mixture is too wet, add a touch of oatmeal flour.
Make patties out of the quinoa mixture. Lightly dredge them in oatmeal flour. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is ready, gently lay the cakes in the pan and let cook for 2 minutes until browned. Carefully, turn the cakes and brown on the other side.
Meanwhile, in a small bottle, add all the vinaigrette ingredients. Close the bottle and shake vigorously until the mixture emulsifies.
To serve, place quinoa cakes on a generous bed of salad leaves and drizzle with the lemon vinaigrette.
Baked Acorn Squash Stuffed with Lemon Couscous and Farm Fresh Ricotta
– 1 acorn squash, cut in half and deseeded
– 1 cup couscous
– 1 tablespoon lemon olive oil
– ricotta as needed
– salt and pepper as needed
– 1/3 cup water
To cook the squash, drizzle a bit of olive oil on the inside and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash face down in a roasting pan filled with a third of a cup of water. Roast at 350 F (180 C) for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on size) until soft but not mushy.
Meanwhile cook the couscous according to instructions using water or broth. Fluff with fork and drizzle lemon olive oil to add flavor. Gently fold in as much ricotta as needed.
When the squash is ready, fill the insides with the couscous mixture and serve immediately.
Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and Parsnip Soup
– 4 Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and diced
– 2 parsnips, cleaned and diced
– 1 small onion
– 3 cloves garlic
– 2 cups vegetable broth
– salt and pepper to taste
– olive oil as needed
Toss all the vegetable in a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in a oven preheated to 375F for 20 minutes. Puree the roast vegetables and transfer to a pot on the stove. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes until the right consistency is achieved. I left mine a little chunky for texture.
Serve with dollops of ricotta and drizzled with fresh olive oil.
Interview to get to know Asha a bit more…
Where are you from? Where do you live?
A: I was born in India and by heritage, I am Indian. But, New York, where I currently reside, I consider home and the place where I feel the most comfortable and belong to!
What is the name of your blog?
A: Fork Spoon Knife.
How long have you been blogging?
A: As I type this, it has been five amazing years of learning and growing!
When did you start cooking/baking?
A: Hmmm… My earliest memory at the stove is making dosas and omelets for my granddad at around 17. However, for many long years I simply dabbled in the making of food and concentrated on consuming my mothers’ awesome creations and later what Tokyo and NYC had to offer in enticing creations. I became a kitchen enthusiast at the same time I started this blog in 2008.
Who (where) did you learn cooking/baking from?
A: I am really self taught in both cooking and baking. I also watch numerous food shows when I started in 2008 and read a lot of books. I have never to date taken a class. But, I do plan to do a bread course sometime!
What is your signature dish?
A: Madras Crab Curry and Mutton Biriyani.
What is your favourite vegetarian/vegan meal?
A: Dal and Roti! It is perhaps by far the easiest, simplest and most comforting meal!
Where do you get inspiration from?
A: Everywhere! The Internet, cookbooks, chefs on TV, restaurant menus and meals, random cravings when talking to friends.
What was the most memorable food you have eaten during your travels?
A: Ebikatsu in Tokyo. Hands down my favorite meal to date!
Name three things you always have in your fridge!
A: Milk, butter, cheese.
Is there a food that always reminds you of home?
A: Well, since I consider NYC as my real home, this is a difficult question to answer. However, there is one dish, vethai kuzumbu, that reminds me of mom.
What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Is there anything you want to share?
A: I suppose, it is what people will not find. Gadgets. I do not own a Kitchenaid machine or high power blenders or any fancy tools. I bake a lot and prefer to use my hands and simple tools to make everything. I find the process of making from scratch without machination a very therapeutic process!
All photos are courtesy of Asha Pagdiwalla.