Monday, April 30, 2012

Indian Tofu With Spinach

The draft of my second novel is finished!

I finally typed THE END last week.

Still much editing to do, but a major milestone nonetheless.

So now we can get back to the very important business of food. I'm still out in the Virginia countryside for another week and a half. My mother and I have been cooking up a storm.

Most impressive has been my mother's garden, and especially the vast quantities of spinach that it's churning out. She has a serious—and I mean serious—green thumb. There are few foods that I love more than spinach (does that make me strange I wonder?).

This recipe appeared in one of my favorite New York Times columns last week: Recipes for Health. It is written by the fantastic Martha Rose Shulman. It was my mother's idea to cook it. I loved how instead of cheese, Shulman substituted firm tofu. Not only was this recipe quick to make, but it was delicious, loaded with tons of spices, and super healthy, too.

I can't wait to cook it again. I made another Indian dish called Aloo Matar (potatoes and green peas traditionally, but I added cauliflower) to go with this one, and we served everything with brown basmati rice. It was the perfect Meatless Monday feast.

Indian Tofu With Spinach
Adapted from The New York Times
Serves 4 people (or 6 if used as a side dish)
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free

  • 3/4 pound firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallot
  • 4 lengthwise slices peeled fresh ginger (2 inches long, 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 whole dried red chilies or 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, stems trimmed at the end, or 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon arrowroot powder
  • salt to taste

  1. Drain the tofu on paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a wok or a large, heavy lidded skillet and add the tofu. Stir-fry until golden brown and remove from the heat.
  2. Combine the shallot and the ginger in a food processor or mini-chop and blend until finely minced, almost a paste.
  3. Heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat in a wok or skillet and add the whole chilies or chili flakes. Cook, stirring, for about 15 seconds. Add the onion and ginger and stir-fry until it is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, and turmeric, stir for about 10 seconds and add the spinach in batches, adding the next batch after the first batch wilts and stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze.
  4. Stir in the tofu, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the spinach is uniformly wilted and the tofu is warmed through.
  5. Whisk the arrowroot powder into the yogurt. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the whole chilies if used, and stir in the yogurt. Taste, adjust salt, and serve with rice or other grains.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Own Personal Writing Residency

My location—Floyd, Virginia.

My mission—to finish my new book.

My sustenance—my mother (a/k/a The Original Diva) has been cooking me fabulous meals.

My vino—my father (a/k/a The Wine Lover) has generously opened his well-stocked wine cellar.

It's possible that you've never heard of Floyd (and frankly many local Floydians would probably prefer to keep their idyllic mountain community a secret from the wider world). This little town is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's the home of bluegrass, artists, cardinals (one just perched on the porch in all its crimson glory), farmers, and so much more.

The view alone (pictured above) tells the story of why I'm here. Though it was lovely last week, it's pouring down snow today due to a freakish cold front. 

So excuse the hiatus this week—I've gone writing, as they say.

I'll be back with tons of new recipes just as soon as I wrap up this first draft. If all goes according to plan, this blessed event should occur sometime mid-week. Wish me luck!


P.S. For more information on my writing, visit my author website:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

I'm off the Virginia countryside for a self-imposed writing residency, where I will be finishing my new book. I can't believe that it's already here!

Though I am sad to leave Los Angeles—and especially my husband and the Adorable Monster—I know that I will enjoy visiting my parents. Also, a change of scenery will be good for my brain.

I'll be gone for about four weeks, but of course I will be blogging in residency, as I always do. I have plenty of fabulous recipes stored up for your viewing and cooking pleasure. So before I get on a jetplane tonight (I'm writing this on Sunday before I leave, but it will post on Monday morning), I wanted to write up this week's recipe.

I made this Broccoli Cheddar Quiche for a lovely weekend brunch. But it's also great for lunch, dinner, or leftover. While we are all familiar with quiche recipes, mine is slightly different for a few reasons. First, I used unsweetened almond milk in place of milk or cream.

For the crust, I used a mix of half whole grain spelt flour and all purpose flour. And instead of making the dough with butter or shortening, I used extra virgin olive oil, which came out fantastic. I based my olive oil crust on this recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini (a great blog that I stumbled across while googling). But you're welcome to use whatever crust recipe floats your boat.

This is a great vegetarian dish, filled with protein and healthy vegetables. I'm even packing my last piece for the airplane. Serve it along with mixed greens tossed with good olive oil and sea salt.

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
Makes one quiche
Baking time: about 45 minutes

  • 1 recipe for olive oil crust or whatever crust recipe you prefer
  • 8 large eggs, preferably organic free range
  • 2 cups broccoli, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Transfer the pie dough into an oiled pie dish and form the crust. 
  3. In a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until beginning to soften (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. Then add the broccoli and saute until becoming tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and almond milk. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and the broccoli-onion mixture.
  5. Pour the filling into the pie dish. Sprinkle with a little smoked paprika (optional).
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chickpea Quinoa Veggie Burgers

I've always wanted to make homemade veggie burgers.

This is for many reasons. I love them, for starters. But the ones at the store have always seemed too processed, and processed never taste quite as good as homemade. And of course, they can make for a very healthy, complete vegetarian meal. They're great on a whole wheat bun, or simply eaten straight as photographed with a little organic ketchup (one of the best condiments in the world, don't you think?).

These burgers are made with lots of healthful things. The base is quinoa (I love a tri-color blend that I buy at Trader Joe's) and chickpeas, both protein powerhouses. I also use a little yam and egg white as a binder, but if you want to go vegan on these, just eliminate the egg white and turn them a little more carefully. I also throw in sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (healthy fats and protein).

For the veggie part of the burger, I used a mix of sautéed carrot, shallots, and bell pepper and raw spinach, which I chopped in a food processor. Finally, I love adding sesame tahini, lemon juice, and cumin, and hot sauce.

This recipe is fungible. You're welcome to play around with different combinations of beans, whole grains, and vegetables. I know I do. For inspiration, here's a great veggie burger recipe round-up.

Chickpea Quinoa Veggie Burgers
Makes about 6-8 patties
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Vegetarian (with easy vegan conversion); dairy-free


  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, prepared per package instructions
  • 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 yam, cooked and skin removed (this can be done quickly in the microwave)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 egg white (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a saute pan, heat one tablespoon of the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the shallot or onion and cook for a few minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the carrot and bell pepper and cook for a few minutes under just becoming tender. Remove from heat.
  3. In a food processor, chop the veggie mixture. Add the raw spinach. Process a little more until combined. Place the veggie mixture in a mixing bowl.
  4. Next, add the chickpeas and tahini to the processor and pulse until broken down.
  5. Place the chickpeas, veggie mixture, quinoa, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and yam in a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, cumin, egg white (optional), and hot sauce (optional). Stir with a spoon until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Using your hands, shape the mixture into individual patties. Dust each one with flour.
  7. In a heavy-bottomed saute pan or cast iron skillet that can transfer to the oven, heat the remaining one tablespoon of grapeseed oil over medium high heat. Place the burgers in the pan and cook until nicely browned (about two minutes). Carefully flip the patties.
  8. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for another ten to twelve minutes, until the patties are nicely browned on the bottom and cooked through. 
  9. Remove from the oven and serve with or without buns and ketchup. Enjoy!
Advance Preparation: The patties can be shaped up to 3 days ahead of time and kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator until you're ready to brown them. They can also be made in advance and then reheated in a low oven or on the stovetop. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Exciting News! 'Domestic Divas' Mentioned in 'Billboard' Article

(Nicole Pajer, Sean Combs, Jennifer Brody)

I just had to share our big press mention this week!

Domestic Divas and yours truly were mentioned in a Billboard article. It all started the way that many of the best things in life do—with premium vodka and rapper-actor-mogul Sean Combs.

I was invited to attend an event at the SLS Hotel for Ciroc Vodka hosted by Sean Combs (along with much bigger publications like E! and Fox).

Uh... free food courtesy of The Bazaar by Jose Andres (one of my favorite restaurants)... free premium vodka drinks... and Sean Combs?

They had me at hello... err... vodka and chicken croquettas.

You can read all about the event and see our big mention in Billboard by clicking here:

Diddy Shows His Love for Social Media at Beverly Hills Ciroc Party

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Baby Kale with Currants & Pine Nuts

Kale is the biggest food trend right now.

It brings a smile to my face when I think about this poor little leafy green that was marginalized in the American diet for so long. Well, no more. It's the viral sensation of produce. The FIFTY SHADES OF GREY of vegetables, only far more substantive. It's spectacularly delicious, if prepared correctly.

I love baby kale, the immature version of this vegetable. I have a farmer at my market that grows the most beautiful baby kales. My favorite is the lacinato variety.

But any type will work, even if it's not babyish.

Also, feel free to experiment with different sorts of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, etc.) and different typs of nuts and seeds (sesame, walnuts, slivered almonds, etc.).

I eat this dish for breakfast (it's delicious with eggs and toast), for lunch (it's great on its own), or for dinner (it's a wonderful side dish to any meal). My mother actually first cooked a version of this for me, and I loved it. Pair it with a little grilled tofu dusted with curry powder.

Don't miss out on this trend—eat more kale now!

Baby Kale with Currants & Pine Nuts
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 10 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free

  • 4 cups of baby kale, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for one minute.
  3. Add the kale and cook until becoming tender, stirring occasionally (about four to five minutes).
  4. Add the currants and pine nuts and cook for another minute.
  5. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!