Tag Archives: cucumber

Quinoa Tabbouleh

24 Sep

I am a lover of Middle-eastern food… ever since I visited Israel 15 years ago, I have been a fan of falafels, hummus, pita bread, rice pilaf, dolmades, among others.

Tabbouleh would be part of that fan list, however, the tabboulehs made usually in Middle-Eastern restaurants are too heavy on the parsley for my taste.  And now that I am trying to avoid wheat sometimes, well I rather order the arab salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and skip the tabbouleh all together.  Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with cracked wheat.

For the last time I cooked in the Yoga Center, I wanted to make a Middle-Eastern inspired menu and it all revolved around the fact I wanted to make this salad.  We made hummus, a salad with mixed herbs including mint, rice with spinach, mushrooms and nuts, which is not like the rice pilafs I am used to having at middle-eastern restaurants, but it fit better for the Yoga appetites.

This recipe also makes use of the abundance of avocados we have right now in Puerto Rico…  and what dish is not instantly improved by adding avocado to it??


Recipe by KarmaFree Cooking


2 cups of quinoa

1 vegetable bouillon cube

The zest and juice of 6 yellow lemons

2 bunches of scallions, thinly sliced

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of fresh spearmint leaves, julienned

4 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 seedless cucumbers, unpeeled and diced

1 avocado, diced

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper


  1. Cook the quinoa first… by adding 4 cups of water to a medium saucepan with the vegetable bouillon cube.  When the water reaches a boiling point, add the quinoa.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, just like you would when making rice.  Cover and lower the heat to simmer until the quinoa cooks, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. After the quinoa is done, fluff it with a fork and season with ¼ cup of the olive oil and the zest and juice of 3 lemons.  Set aside.  If you are making this ahead of time, you can stop here and store the cooked quinoa in the refrigerator after it has had a chance to cool off a bit.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the scallions, onions, parsley, spearmint leaves, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Add the cooked quinoa and toss all the ingredients together.  Season the whole salad with the additional ¼ cup of olive oil, the zest and juice of the remaining 3 lemons, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss again well to combine.  Let all the flavors combine about 30mins – 1 hour before serving.

When you’re about to serve, garnish with the pieces of avocado.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

My first Bánh Mì in NYC

18 Nov

I have been reading about Báhn Mì’s for about a year now… maybe even longer. These Vietnamese sandwiches are all the rage in the US.

I have heard about them during the first season of The Great Food Truck Race via the successful Nom Nom Truck from Los Angeles. They were selling these sandwiches like there was no tomorrow… And even in Serious Eats, Kenji went on a dissertation of what makes a Báhn Mì a Báhn Mì and he even went on a search for the best Báhn Mì in NYC.

Báhn Mì’s are a Vietnamese sandwich that originated as a fusion of cultures when Vietnam was under French rule… According to Kenji, the main aspects of a Báhn MI are:

  • Bread – French-baguette type bread usually made using rice flour for added crunch and lightness
  • Main Ingredient – we will concentrate on vegetarian, tofu-based Báhn Mì’s for the purposes of this vegetarian blog post
  • Sauce – the traditional Báhn Mì has a spreading of mayonnaise or butter cut with mayonnaise. These sandwiches are considered vegan, so there were no spread included. However, we should introduce these Báhn Mì people to Vegenaise. I think it would add a certain something- something closer to the traditional offerings.
  • Vegetable toppings – usually made of pickled daikon radishes, pickled carrots and cucumbers all cut into small thin sticks. Cilantro stems and some sort of spicy chili pepper. Some people put Sriracha sauce on theirs, but according to expert Kenji, this is neither typical nor respectable in the Báhn Mì world.

In the search for my first Bahn Mi, I deferred to Kenji, the expert in the matter and decided to head to Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich located at 369 Broome Street, New York NY; 212-219-8341. Saigon was rated third best sandwich in Manhattan so I knew it would be a good choice over all and was easily reachable by subway. Something I liked about them as well, they had 4 vegetarian options on their menu… so we had plenty to choose from.

Mom and I were super hungry and decided to try two of their tofu sandwiches – the Bánh mì chay đạc biêt – House Special Vegetarian (with tofu, mushroom, pickled carrots and radish) and a Bánh Mì Chay Đậu Hũ, Xả Ớt Rau  with Vegan chicken (tofu) with lemongrass.

I tried both versions… and my favorite was the House Special Vegetarian. Way more flavorful and interesting than the tofu lemongrass in my opinion. The House Special Vegetarian has a delicious sweet/salty peanut sauce that made the sandwich. As for the cilantro, I can certainly do without the stems. Only a few leaves on mine, please!!! I added a few drops, literally, 2-3 drops of sriracha to mine and the heat level was too much for me. I am still a spicy wimp… sorry!!!

The verdict… I loved the Báhn Mì. And if I have it again in Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, I will order the House Special and not bother with anything else. I will try to bring some Vegenaise to use on mine… I will try to scope out other places to get a more complete sense of what a true Vietnamese báhn mì is… but for now, the intrigue is OVER!!!

Have you had a vegetarian báhn mì before??? Where are your favorite spots???

Asian Salad

25 May

What makes this salad Asian??   The vinegar…

Ume Plum Vinegar is something I learned to use in a cooking class I took with Diane Carlson, from the Conscious Gourmet. This vinegar is made from umeboshi plums, which are fermented and therefore salty and sour all at the same time. The vinegar made from these plums is also salty and sour.

When in a rush, I dress salads using this vinegar and I do not need to add nothing else but olive oil for a delicious, exotic salad dressing.


Your favorite mix of salad greens – lettuces, baby spinach, sprouts
Chopped tomatoes
Sliced cucumbers
Drizzle of ume plum vinegar
Drizzle of olive oil
  1. In a salad bowl or even in your own dinner plate, mix together the salad components.
  2. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and ume plum vinegar over the salad. Toss to combine and dress well.


That’s it… enjoy.

Salade des Haricots Verts

13 May

Last week, the Serious Eats site released the challenge of making a great weekend meal by cleaning out your pantry.  I was so inspired by the idea I made two… well, it was really a whole meal composed of the main course, Spinach Puffed Empanadas, and this side salad with French green beans and lettuce, directly from by CSA basket.

  Salade Haricots Verts


a handful of French green beans or haricots verts, trimmed of the stem end
5-6 leaves of lettuce, I used a local “del país” lettuce, but any buttery lettuce will do
½ tomato, chopped
½ cucumber, peeled if it’s not organic and chopped
The juice of ½ a lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil                                                                                                                    
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small to medium covered sauce pan, bring about ½ inch of water to a boil.  Salt the water with about ½ tsp of salt and place the green beans.  Cover the saucepan again and wait about 1 minute.  Turn the heat off and let the green beans steam for about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Mix together in a salad bowl the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and cooked green beans.  Pour over it the lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.


 Spinach Empanada 5

Serve alongside a Spinach Puffed Empanada or the main course of your choice…

Easy Breezy Salad

5 Oct

Not all salads must include lettuce… especially during avocado season.

Growing up, a few slices of tomato or opening a can of corn were considered a salad side dish.  Nowadays, when I am running all over the place, and have little time to prepare a full-on meal, I usually go to my quickie salad fixes – very similar, but very different from what I used to do.

 This is a quickie and easy salad at its best…



2-3 slices of avocado, chopped
½ a tomato, chopped
¼ cucumber, sliced and quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
A sprinkle of Kosher salt


  1. Place all the avocado, tomato and cucumber pieces on the side of the plate.  Drizzle with a bit of the olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them.  Done!!!


It’s refreshing, crispy and delicious.  No need to bother with a dressing, but if you want, you can drizzle any vinaigrette you might have on hand.  It’s up to you…

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