Sweet n’ Spicy Sriracha Salad Dressing, and Erin’s Asian Salad

As summer heats up, my oven cools down – it is just too hot to warm up my small apartment even more by baking. This is a delicious summer meal that is refreshing wherever you eat it, and is my go-to for picnics and cook-outs. This also was a regular meal during the days of the Great Greens (aka “That time when Erin had way too much produce”). Luckily it is delicious, so I never tired of it!

Erin’s Sweet n’ Spicy Sriracha Peanut Salad Dressing

– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 2 tsp sriracha
– 1 tbsp honey
– 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
– 2 tsp lemon juice
– 2 tbsp natural* peanut butter

Combine and stir with a fork.

* Preferred: unhomogenized peanutbutter. If you only have homogenized peanut butter, like Skippy, cut back on the honey and use a food processor or blender to combine.

Erin’s Kick-ass Asian Salad

Ingredients:

– 1 lb lettuce (your preferred type, or a mixture)
– 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
– 8 hard boiled eggs, chopped into chunks
– 1 1/2 cup of Erin’s Cucumber-Apple Pickles
– Erin’s Sriracha Salad Dressing

Instructions:

Wash, tear, and toss lettuce in a large bowl. Tear cilantro leaves off stems, add to bowl, and toss. Top with pickles, egg, and dressing.

Erin's Asian Salad

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Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

If the word “pickle” has you ducking and running, hang with me for a second! I promise I’m not from Portlandia. This isn’t what you think it is – there is no canning involved. These are refrigerator pickles, which means that you throw everything together, toss it is a jar, and chuck it in the fridge overnight. Done.

We Can Pickle That

Not only is this recipe easy, it is delicious – the apple and apple cider vinegar gives it a sweet flavor that is unlike the almost sickening sweetness of some of your average sweet pickles, and the ginger and red pepper gives it a wonderful Asian-influenced kick.

Need me to sell it more? Use these on pretty much anything you’d make at a summer cook-out: on bratwurst with ketchup and a dollop of roasted onions, on a burger with lettuce and onion rings, or on the meanest Asian salad ever (recipe to come!).

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickle

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

Ingredients:

– 1 cucumber (Japanese, Kirby, or just any old sort!)
– 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
– 1 apple (any crisp and sweet variety, like Fuji or Gala)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
– 2 tbsp very thin matchsticks of peeled ginger
– 1/4 sugar
– a generous pinch or two of  crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

1. Slice cucumbers crosswise 1/8 inch thick and toss with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then rinse and squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. Note: Don’t worry too much about squeezing out all of the liquid — you end up pouring more water over the mixture anyway.

2. Halve apple half lengthwise and cut out core. With a mandoline or sharp knife, slice crosswise 1/8 inch thick, then halve the slices.

3. Toss apple with cucumbers and remaining ingredients and place in a 4-cup Ball jar (or equivalent-sized container). Marinate, refrigerated, for 1 day (give or take).

Enjoy! And don’t miss the upcoming recipe for Erin’s Asian Salad – there’s sriracha involved!

Note: This recipe is based off a recipe from Alexandra Cooks. She is awesome. So is her recipe. I just made some tweaks to simplify it.

Marriage and Singleness – a reminder.

The other day in church, we prayed for a couple that is getting married soon. The pastor said something that really struck me – he prayed for the couple “as they are answering a calling to marriage.”

A calling.

callingA calling.

Somehow, in these two simple words, I found two important reminders that I needed to hear:

1) Marriage is a calling. It is a calling by God for two lives to become one. Marriage is not simply a choice by two people who are “in love”; as Christians we believe that marriage is a covenant between two people, a covenant that exists to model for the world the covenantal love that God has for us. In marriage Christians show the world a different narrative: one of steadfast love in spite of sinfulness and faithfulness in the face of hardship. In the words of one of my professors, “Marriage is a mission.” (Holla at me, Dr. K’s Book Group!)

2) Marriage is not the calling. God does not call everyone to marriage; sometimes it is “not yet,” and sometimes it is “not ever.” Only time will tell which of the two it is in each person’s life, but regardless of the answer, singleness is a calling too. Let me say that again. Singleness – for now or for ever – is a calling too. In singleness and celibacy Christians show the world a different narrative: that sex and love are not what this world says they are, that the love of God and the Church is more than enough, that singleness is a calling both to radically serve the Church and to radically be served by the Church. I preach here what I have to preach to myself, sometimes: singleness is a calling.

Much of this reflection comes from a wonderful little book by Stanley Hauerwas that I had the chance to study in a small group with one of my (favorite) professors in college, so I will leave you with a quote that I loved:

“Both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life… that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope… that God has not abandoned this world.”

– Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (p. 191)

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

As some of you might know, the other day I was given basically all the greens ever grown. My friends’ garden was on hyper-alert, and before I knew it I had an entire cooler filled with greens. Among this plentiful produce was at least 3lbs of swiss chard. I have already taken care of using up the parsley and mint and blanching and freezing the 3lbs of kale (saved to make this soup later!) to clear out some room in the fridge for my poor roommates. But even so, the fridge is still overflowing with leaves.

So, on to step 3 – take out the chard!

Chard

Isn’t it pretty?

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Ingredients:

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
– 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 cup brown or green lentils
– 2 cups water
– 12 oz Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)
– 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
– 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
– 4 tsp red wine vinegar or 6 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, stir to combine, and add the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the ends from the chard stems and discard. Cut off the stems at the base of the leaves and slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and set aside. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside in another bowl.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the reserved chard stems, season with a dash of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped chard leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. If serving immediately, keep feta separate and allow diners to sprinkle it individually, so that the cheese doesn’t melt and turn runny. If serving chilled, refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before stirring in feta.

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

 

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh, and Erin Gets the Green(s).

Summer has finally come to Chicago, having shamelessly cut Spring in line. Chicago Spring is pretty weak-ass and didn’t even try to fight for her place in line, so I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see her come around. Maybe she’ll work on her left-hook over this year.

With the summer has come all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, and it is glorious. My best friend’s parents have a garden plot, and this week were suddenly up to their ears in produce. When they asked if I wanted any I jumped on the offer, but I could not have expected what showed up at my door – an entire cooler full of greens. Gobs and gobs of greens. After unpacking the bounty, this is what I ended up with in my refrigerator:

– 3 lbs of kale
– 3 lbs of swiss chard
– 3 varieties of lettuce
– 1 bunch of cilantro
– 1 bunch of mint
– 1 bunch of parsley

In other words, I was now up to my ears in greens too. In order to not evict my roommates from their share of fridge space, I knew I needed to get that situation under control.

Step 1: Take out both the mint and the parsley in one fell swoop. In other words, make tabbouleh.

.          .          .

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa TabboulehIngredients:

– 3/4 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 3 tbsp of lemon juice
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– a pinch or two of cinnamon
– 1 bunch fresh parlsey
– 1 bunch fresh mint
– 1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions:

1) Cook quinoa as directed on package.

2) Meanwhile, rinse and chop parsley and mint, and toss together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3) Once the quinoa is cooked and allowed to cool, add olive oil, lemon, salt, and spices to the pot and toss with a fork.

4) Stir quinoa and cranberries into the herbs, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

.          .          .

Step 2: Blanch and freeze the kale. This is an awesome way to maximize fridge space, and to preserve produce for later use. Three pounds of kale cooks down to two small ziploc bags, individually packaged for  instant use when I want to make my favorite soup – Portuguese Kale, Ham, and Potato Soup.

Stay tuned for Step 3 – Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta Cheese. Yum!

Do you want room for cream in that? (Coffee and Gentrification)

Bienvenidos

The word has gone out that Pilsen is getting a new coffee shop, a branch of a shop from  from Lakeview, with locations currently in Lakeview and the Loop. The news has inspired a rally of responses – “Awesome!” “Stay away!” “Good coffee, finally!” “Another coffee shop, are you kidding me?” – and shouts of “Gentrification! Gentrification!” in the tone of voice one would expect with shouts of “Fire! Fire!”

And maybe there is a some justification in that.

Let’s be honest – gentrification is a cycle. The arrival of restaurants like Dusek’s and coffee shops like Bow Truss do show that Pilsen’s market is changing – they would not have come if they did not see a market here. But once in the neighborhood they also become forces of gentrification, contributing to the changing demographics and rising prices.

The honest part of me has to admit that in the grand scheme of things, I am a culprit in the process too – I’m the cream in the Pilsen coffee. A white girl with borderline-hipster tendencies, who barely speaks a lick of Spanish; the cream mixing in with the shades of brown. So I can’t really judge the other people who came to Pilsen for the same reasons I did, taking advantage of the cheap rent and great neighborhood environment. (Okay, I did have some other reasons, in my defense…)

But all the while the snarky part is me is sassing-out Bow Truss owner Phil Tadros for calling Pilsen “underserved” in the coffee department. What about Cafe Jumping Bean? La Catrina? Cafe Vio? The Nite Cap? And now, the coffee bar in Meztisoy? The only coffee-related thing that is “underserved” in Pilsen is (as my roommate mistakenly but hilariously called it) Pour-Over-Hipster coffee, see photo below. (The thing they don’t tell you is that in that little funnel through which they pour the coffee, there is a tiny little hipster standing. They pour it over the hipster so that you get all those nice hipster juices, like sweat and hair grease. At least, that’s the image that went through my head when my roommate called it that. Let’s not even talk about the fact that pour-over was a thing long before the hipsters were doing it.) But the pour-over coffee consumer is the niche market Bow Truss is going for – and the niche does exist here. I can’t fault them for the marketing ploy, but I can call them on the bullshit. Bow Truss’s expansion is a savvy business move, not an act of mercy.

The thing is, I actually do like pour-over. To be honest, when Bow Truss opens I’m totally going to check it out. I’ll have one small coffee, with room for gentrification, please. 

Pour-over-hipster coffee

Photo via boiseweekly.com