Well, that was a mouthful — both to write as a header and to cook, serve and eat.
Since moving to Philadelphia, one of the biggest advantages to my new life has been my kitchen. I’m still getting used to so many aspects of my life two hours south of New York City, from the faces to the streets to my daily run and routine.
(My morning runs are straight out and back. I thought I’d find them more boring than they are, but in truth, many have gone by faster than at home in New York. I’m not sure I ever realized how frustrating it was to wait for lights to change in my favor or to weave in and out of morning foot traffic.)
But my kitchen — my big, beautiful, spacious kitchen — was easy to settle in to. Perhaps that’s because, in Manhattan, my kitchen was really just a glorified closet. Here, I have counter tops, a real stove — wait for it — a garbage can. That’s right, folks. My apartment back up north didn’t have space for trash.
So while I haven’t been upping the intensity of my meals since, on weekdays, I generally prefer to keep dinner light and green, I have been able to incorporate lots of awesome, simple and tasty ingredients onto my plate at once. It isn’t just nice to look at either; it tastes pretty dang good too.
The other night, I put together this concoction of nutritious side dishes that, when combined, totally hit the spot. It was made up of four different smaller eats. Try one, or try them all.
1. Parmesan Tomato and Roasted Chickpeas: The prep time on this is the fastest, but the chickpeas and other ingredients definitely need time to cook. That’s why I like to start here. Simply spray a baking pan lightly with PAM or olive oil, and spread out your chickpeas, chopped red onion and chopped peppers (I used mini red, orange and yellow ones, but really any will do). Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. If you have fresh rosemary, I’d try that too for a summery kick of flavor.
Then, slice a tomato in half (perfect this time of the year) and place in the center of your tray, topped with a heaping spoonful of parmesan cheese and a bit of salt and pepper.
Your tray of goodies will need to bake for about 30 minutes in an oven at 375 degrees. Check halfway through and give your chickpeas a good shake.
2. Tomato Quinoa: This is the simplest of the group, so I figured I’d get this one out of the way next. On the stove, heat up water until it comes to a boil. Add your quinoa (remember that you don’t need much; the grain puffs up and nearly doubles before it’s done). When the water boils out and your quinoa is nice and light, stir in a few spoonfuls of your favorite tomato sauce. I personally love Rao’s.
(This is what the dish looked like before adding any of the greens. The combination of roasted chickpeas with cooked onions, pepper and quinoa was really satisfying. And actually, especially with the roasted tomato and parmesan plopped in the center, this would be a nice meal as well. I just happen to love a very green plate (keep reading for proof.))
3. Kale with almonds and goat cheese: The key to this side dish is not to burn your almonds. I like to spray a pan and add a handful of sliced almonds as it’s heating up. Then, I toss in my chopped kale and stir continuously. As the kale begins to wilt, add salt. The goat cheese gets added last once the kale is in your serving bowl so it doesn’t get all gooey.
4. Blanched string beans: I picked up a gorgeous bag of string beans at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market last weekend and needed a fun way to incorporate them into a meal.
These I chose to keep simple. As long as you don’t overcook them, blanched string beans are perfect and naturally sweet just the way they are. To make, bring about an inch of water to a boil in a pan. Add your string beans and cook just until they turn a fresh, vibrant color. Remove the string beans and strain them with cold water in the sink. Add a pinch of salt.
Here’s what the dish looked like when served together. And as a side note, it made a delicious lunch the next day too.