Lately I have been kinda lazy… With lots of work and travel, I have not been the most creative in the kitchen, cooking from scratch for myself. For lunch or dinner, lots of sandwiches and snack foods. I know… not so good.
But I was training for a half marathon so I needed to get some good vegetarian protein in my diet especially for after my workouts. They help rebuild muscle when taken right after training. I sometimes turn to my trusted pretzels with hummus combination… or my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I had gone to La Hacienda, a popular gourmet market and deli here in Puerto Rico and I had bought a garbanzo bean salad and this is what I came up with it… you can call it a pizza or an open-faced sandwich, but there’s no denying that you will certainly be adding “mouth-watering” and “addictive” to whichever name you choose.
OPEN-FACED MEDITERRANEAN SANDWICH
1 flat bread of your choice… I like FlatOut brand
½ cup of cooked garbanzo beans or garbanzo bean salad from La Hacienda
3 wedges of avocado
1 roma tomato, sliced
2 large handfuls of mesclun salad greens
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is just assembling…
- Drizzle and spread some olive oil to the flat bread and toast it in the oven… I like my flat breads crispy. I use the toaster feature in Light.
- Take the toasted flat bread from the oven and place the garbanzo bean salad and the avocado wedges and mash it all together with a fork trying to cover as much flatbread surface as possible. You can sprinkle a little salt, pepper and olive oil to the mixture while you’re mashing.
- Place tomato slices over the mashed garbanzo/avocado mixture.
- Place mesclun greens or even baby spinach over the tomato slices. Season salad greens with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Cut into pieces using a pizza cutter… I found it was easier than using a knife.
Tip: I found the mashing worked best than leaving the garbanzos and avocados in pieces… they would roll off the flat bread and I ended up eating more out of the plate with a fork than over the bread itself. So that’s why I recommend mashing…
This is my attempt to update one of my classic go-to recipes, Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes.
Lately I’ve been splurging on all the different varieties of tomatoes available in the market so I mix the best, most colorful tomatoes I can find and marinate them with arugula and even sometimes baby fresh spinach to make for a great un cooked, wilted salad pasta that’s a whole meal in one bowl.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do…
PASTA WITH MARINATED TOMATO ARUGULA SALAD
2-3 cups of tomatoes – cherry, grape, zebra, any kind of tomato you prefer…
3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
6-8 fresh basil leaves or 1 tbs freeze-fried basil leaves
3-4 handfuls of baby arugula or baby spinach – or a combination of the two – somewhat chopped
2 ounces of goat cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
3 cups of dried pasta – I use quinoa penne pasta, and the amount should be enough for 4 people
- In a large bowl, add the tomatoes either halved or quartered, depending on their original size. I halve the small ones and quarter the larger ones. Add the smashed garlic cloves, drizzle olive oil and season with salt, pepper and basil leaves. Mix well to combine. Add the arugula leaves and toss again. The olive oil and juices of tomatoes will wilt the arugula a bit… that’s our goal.
2. While the tomatoes and arugula marinate and wilt, cook the pasta according to the packages direction. Remember to salt the water well before adding the pasta to the water.
3. Toss the tomatoes and arugula once in while the pasta cooks… it should take about 10-12 minutes. I usually turn the stove off after 12 minutes, cover the pot and leave it covered for about 5 minutes more. The pasta will turn out perfect every time and you save 5 minutes of electricity each time you make pasta…
4. When pasta is done to your liking, drain the water saving a bit of pasta water. I usually just don’t drain it completely… and leave some water in the bottom of the pot. Return the pasta to the pot you cooked it in.
5. Remove the garlic cloves from the marinated tomatoes/arugula mixture and add it to the pasta. Toss well to combine. Add the goat cheese in small pieces to help it melt with the heat of the pasta and pot. Season with grated parmesan cheese and a small drizzle of olive oil, if you prefer…
To me this is one of the most satisfying lunches… and it’s great to eat on the days when I train. It has complex carbs and delicious veggies with some protein from the quinoa pasta and cheeses. Mmmmmmm… I might make myself this today again.
I went to a very well-known Mexican restaurant that just opened in Puerto Rico… one that has many locations in cities around the US, but apparently according to the hard-core fan base, it’s not a chain restaurant. Well… back to my experience, the thing was, I was underwhelmed. After all the fanfare of this restaurant opening in PR and having friends telling me such “wonderful” things about it, I was not impressed. My net takeaway was – I can make better Mexican food at home!
This is how these quesadillas came about… Why make quesadillas with only 1 cheese, or only one ingredient for that matter? And newsflash to all the “fancy schmancy” restaurants out there, quesadillas can be made with something other than just chicken.
Inspired by the fried quesadillas of Guadalajara, here is my take on a great vegetarian option for lunch on even dinner…
SPINACH FRIED QUESADILLA
3 sprouted corn tortillas
1 cup baby fresh spinach – what you can fit in a 1 cup measuring cup
1 cup grated mozzarella or Italian blend cheeses
2 ounces of goat cheese – cream cheese will do in a pinch
Freshly grated Black Pepper
You’ll be able to make 2 quesadillas at a time using a large skillet, but you need to make them in staggered steps. I consider 3 quesadillas is a good serving portion for one, but if you think you are better off with 4 quesadillas, just add one more tortilla and adjust the rest of the ingredients. This is more a method than a recipe…
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and place one tortilla… flip it over on both sides so there’s some of the olive oil on both sides.
- Place some of the shredded cheese on top of the tortilla. Now place a few fresh baby spinach leaves on top of the cheese. You can rip them into smaller pieces with your hands if you’d like. Season the spinach with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place a few pieces of goat cheese over spinach.
- Carefully, fold tortilla in half so you end up with a half moon filled with spinach and cheese. At first it will seem as if there is too much spinach for the small tortilla, but the heat from the skillet will wilt the spinach and it will reduce the bulk considerably.
- Flip the tortilla a few times so that it gets golden brown on both sides.
While one quesadilla is getting golden brown to the side of the pan, you can use the remaining space to heat up tortilla #2. And start the process all over again.
The other day I posted on Instagram that I was eating a fainá… and many of you liked the picture. But I was wondering if most of you know what a fainá is… I learned about it during my one and only visit to Buenos Aires a couple of years ago.
When you look at the picture above, you just say it’s a pizza, right?? But this is no ordinary pizza… A fainá is a flatbread made with chickpea flour, very typical in Argentina. They usually serve it as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to pizza. But, you can also order a fainá as the CRUST of a pizza, topping it with cheese and any of the traditional pizza toppings, making it a gluten-free alternative.
When we were in Argentina, we went to this little pizzeria in our neighborhood and the owner would make pizza using fainá as the crust. I am not kidding you when I tell you we went almost every day to eat dinner there.
In Puerto Rico, we have an Argentinean pizzeria Juan Pan Pizza, which serves us pizza in a fainá crust. If you call ahead, they’ll make you individually-sized pizzas with a very thin and crispy fainá crust. Usually fainá is a tad thick… and in a pinch, they’ll just top the fainá they have on hand and top it with your favorite pizza toppings.
You see? There are gluten-free alternatives wherever you go… Hope you visit Juan Pan Pizza soon if you live in Puerto Rico or now get to order a fainá on your next trip to Buenos Aires.
It’s incredible when you have the opportunity to live outside your native country, how you turn more patriotic than the flag.
I developed this recipe as part of a special post for my friend Marixsa’s blog, Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. She’s sharing a series of articles celebrating the Puerto Rican Parade in NYC under the moniker Abrazos Boricuas. She was gracious to invite me to share a bit of my experience living and experiencing the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the first time, 20 years ago!!! Can you believe it?!?!
If you want to read more about my story and the pride I feel about flaunting my “mancha de plátano”, please visit Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. And to her readers who are visiting KarmaFree Cooking for the first time, we welcome you with open arms. Here I share many vegetarian recipes recipes that express my love for my beautiful Island, Puerto Rico. This is one of them… enjoy!
SWEET PLANTAIN CANOES FILLED WITH CREAMED SPINACH
4 sweet ripe plantains
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 oz of cream cheese
A splash of half & half or milk
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbs of pine nuts
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bake the plantains in their own skin… cut a Little bit of the ends and you make a shallow slit on the inside of the plantain from one end to the other. Place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper side to side and bake in a 350F for about 30 minutes.
- While the plantains cook, we prepare the filling… In a large skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, the onions and garlic clove. Sweat slowly for the onions to cook and the garlic to infuse its flavor, without browning.
- When the onions are cooked and translucent, remove the Garlic clove and add the spinach in batches to the skillet. It might seem like too much, but the spinach will wilt down a lot. Cover the skillet for a few minutes to help the wilting process. Mix the spinach and the onions well to help the spinach wilt and for the flavors to meld together.
- Add the cream cheese in pieces to make it easier to melt with the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. You’ll end up with a creamy spinach mixture. If you feel the mixture is tight, add a splash of milk or half and half.
- When the plantains are cooked, take them out of their blackened skins and place in a baking dish all 4 plantains together side by side or in individual lasagna dishes or even shallow ramekins might work well too.
- Place the plantains with the natural curve to the top. If you made the slit to the skin previously, now make the slit slightly deeper to fill the plantain on the inside. Place ¼ of the spinach mixture over each plantain. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the plantains evenly and cover them all with the grated mozzarella cheese.
- Return the plantains to the oven for a few minutes at 350F to melt and brown the cheese a bit.
Enjoy these plantain canoes with a nice salad and rice with corn on the side.