Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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Savory Yogurt

My husband and I are not vegetarians, but we eat a plant based diet most of the time. We enjoy food of all kinds, preferring food that is good for us, but happy to indulge in delicious food that may not be particularly healthy, on occasion.  Our philosophy is that it’s what we do most of the time that really matters.

My dad was in the Air Force, and did a tour of duty in Korea for a year when I was in the fourth grade, so my mom and I moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. My family is from Harrisonburg, so we moved from San Antonio, Texas to be closer to family. Those Virginia kids told me I “talked funny.” What!? I don’t recall, but I probably thought they “talked funny” too. But I digress. For some reason, that was the year I decided to dabble in “vegetarianism,”  in quotation marks because I didn’t know the meaning of the word at the tender young age of 9.  I don’t know where I got the idea that mom and I should be vegetarians, because I’m pretty sure there weren’t many of them in the Valley at that time.

As adults, the beginning of my exploration into vegetarian food lies with a friend I worked with at Stanford Medical Center, where I worked on the oncology floor before returning to school full time for my teaching degree.  Actually, I went back to get a degree in nutrition, but changed my mind and became a teacher. I’m sure I would have been happy in either field, but I have no regrets with the path I took. Erika was a vegetarian, and she introduced me to one of my favorite cookbooks, Laurel’s Kitchen.

We have been eating plain yogurt for a long time at our house. It started when I learned about falafel, from Erika and Laurel’s Kitchen. I can’t remember if my first falafel was from a local restaurant that served fried falafel balls, or the baked falafel I made from Laurel’s Kitchen, but they were both delicious. I’ll post a falafel recipe in the future, but for now, I’d like to say how delicious plain yogurt is, and how it can be the main focus or a tasty garnish. It’s probably safe to say that it is an acquired taste, and in my opinion, one worth acquiring.  Here are a few favorite ways I like to eat plain yogurt.  They are all seasoned with freshly ground salt, freshly ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil-fresh herbs are always a welcome addition.

Try this for breakfast or lunch…you can make it however you like.

 

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Or this. . . Can you tell the orange bowl is my favorite??

yogurt with preserved lemons, tomatoes, kalamata olives and sprouts

Yogurt, tomatoes, preserved lemons, kalamata olives and sprouts

How about this one?  Today’s lunch. . .

Yogurt, herring, diced beets, capers and sprouts

Yogurt, pickled herring, steamed beets, rinsed capers & sprouts

Yogurt Bowl with Cilantro Blossoms

Yogurt with Avocado, Baby Lettuce, Cilantro Blossoms, Olive Oil & a Splash of Red Wine Vinegar

What will you put on your plain yogurt?  I hope I’ve given you some ideas!

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Thinking About Food…Outside the Box

Two weeks ago, I ordered what I’m sure will be in my top 5 “go to” books about food.  My first introduction to its author, Samin Nosrat, was on Food52 last month.  The name of her book?  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat:  Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.  Her basic premise is that you can cook almost anything without a recipe, if you understand the four elements- salt, fat, acid and heat.  I love Food52, and their recent {April 2017} series called “Samin Nosrat’s 12 Must-Know Lessons That’ve Changed How We Cook” has me excited about thinking about food in a whole new way.   I highly recommend you click the link and check it out.  It will give you a different perspective on how to cook, season and enjoy food.  There are lessons, including videos, for each element.  Let’s take salt for example-when you taste food for seasoning, you may find it to be bland.  Many of us reach for salt as the cure for food that is flat.  Nope, not so fast, according to Nosrat.  Step away from the salt and think about the many ingredients that can add more saltiness and flavor to food…Parmesan, anchovies, olives, kimchi, capers, fish sauce, shoyu, raw sauerkraut, preserved lemons and more.  Before you toss in some sodium chloride in its crystalline form, take a moment to consider some other flavorful options; you will be glad you did!

A new food discovery for me, which contributes both salt and acid to a dish, is preserved lemons.  I first tasted them in California earlier this year, when I visited my aunt, who has a Meyer lemon tree in her front yard.

Debbie's Meyer Lemon Tree

Southern California Meyer Lemon Tree

She has a freezer full of frozen lemon juice {as do I}, and sought out other recipes for using up the many gorgeous lemons begging to be enjoyed in ways more interesting than juice.  She found a recipe for preserved lemons, and had some ready to eat when I was visiting;  I fell in love with them!  Breakfast was sangak {Iranian flatbread} topped with with homemade hummus, cooked spinach and diced pieces of preserved lemon.  Many, if not most, recipes for preserved lemons say to discard the pulp and eat only the rind;  after a quick rinse, I eat the whole lemon, including the viscous tart/salty liquid, all of which get better and better with time.

Sangak with Hummus and Preserved Lemon

Sangak with Hummus, Preserved Lemon, Olive Oil, Sesame Seeds & Sumac

Delicious! Preserved lemons are similar to capers, but I think they are better, and quite addictive.  What prevents me from inhaling my preserved lemons is that I only made 3 pints, so I am rationing them out until my sources of local Meyer lemons have more ripe lemons.  The next time I get my hands on another bag of lemons, I will then make many pints of these delectable lemons, and eat them with abandon…I highly recommend that you do too!  I made the recipe exactly as written on the Daring Gourmet blog, but next time I may slice the lemons instead of quartering them, to fit more into the jars.

Once your preserved lemons are ready to eat, enjoy them with hummus {this is my former recipe, which is excellent, but here is my new favorite Israeli hummus recipe}, fish, chicken, salad dressings, salads & more.  Use your imagination & enjoy your jars of sunny deliciousness!

Preserved Lemons in Jar

Preserved Lemons in Jar