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Panko-Crusted Avocado Fries with Lemon Cilantro Aioli

5 Jan

Wow, have I been on a hiatus! First I was super busy with the end of the semester madness, and then there were all of the holiday celebrations. I know… excuses, excuses. I’ll try to do better.

Well, a few days ago I finally got Pinterest. What a great way to procrastinate 😉 But it is also very motivational. I am itching to start doing more crafts, I just hope I have the time to do them with the new semester starting next week *whine.* I also love the food boards because I’m always looking for new recipes to try.

I am happy to say that my first recipe inspired by Pinterest was a success! Sure, I managed to negate the health benefits of avocado by frying it and dipping it in mayo, but these panko-crusted avocado fries were a fabulous treat! They were soft and creamy on the inside, and crispy and golden brown on the outside. And the lemon flavors in the aioli made it a perfect, flavorful, fresh accompaniment. I’m looking forward to trying lots more recipes 🙂

Panko-Crusted Avocado Fries with Lemon Cilantro Aioli

(adapted from recipe by Adventures in Cooking)


For the fries-

  • Canola oil (for frying)
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin

For the aioli-

  • 5 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the bread crumbs,  salt, pepper, and cumin. Set it aside.
  • Cut the avocados in half and then slice them vertically into wedges. Set them aside.
  • Heat the deep fryer to 335 degrees F.
  • Meanwhile, dredge the avocado slices in the breadcrumb mixture, then in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture again. Place them in the hot oil and fry them for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  • Allow fries to dry for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a serving tray and serve them immediately.
  • For the lemon cilantro aioli, place the mayonnaise, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy in texture.

Makes 3-4 servings.


Falafel with White Bean Yogurt Sauce & Tabouli

31 Jul

There are few things better in life than falafel enveloped by hummus and pita at a good Greek restaurant. While I’ve done a good job of making hummus in my own kitchen, I always thought falafel was something so delicious and complex that I’d never be able to recreate it. The closest I’d come was to buy a falafel mix, which proved sorely disappointing. Without hope, my quest to find a perfect falafel recipe never really began.

That’s why, when I randomly stumbled upon this recipe for falafel, I was only cautiously optimistic. I couldn’t allow myself to get my hopes up only to be disappointed! To say I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted this dish would be an understatement.

It was fantastic!! The falafel itself was crispy and flavorful and not too dry (like poorly executed falafel can sometimes be). The white bean yogurt sauce was the perfect accompaniment as a cold, refreshing topping to the warm falafel. And the tabouli was also amazing! Admittedly, I had never tried tabouli before so I can’t speak to its authenticity, but I can say that it tasted bright, fresh, and lemony. I can’t imagine a better side dish for the falafel!

Not only was this dish a delight to eat, but it was also rather simple to make. There isn’t much chopping because the recipe mostly relies on the food processor. The only thing that’s cooked on the stove is the Israeli couscous (unless you do your frying on the stove, that is), and the falafel only takes a couple of minutes in the deep fryer for almost immediate gratification.

And to top it all off, this recipe comes from Melissa D’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners. So you can easily whip up a delicious meal that tastes like it belongs in a great Greek restaurant, for less than $10! This recipe is definitely something to be excited about.

Falafel with White Bean Yogurt Sauce and Tabouli

(adapted from falafel, white bean sauce and tabouli recipes by Melissa D’Arabian)

For the Falafel-


  • 2 1/4 cups canned chickpeas
  • 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • Generous 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • Generous 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup flour, plus 1/4 cup flour for shaping patties
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Spinach, for garnish
  • White bean yogurt sauce, recipe follows


  • In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, scallions, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, parsley, cilantro, egg, and lemon juice. Pulse to combine and season with salt. The mixture will not be smooth, but it should not have  large chunks.
  • Add in the baking powder and 1/3 cup of the flour and pulse to just combine. Remove to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a deep fryer to 360 degrees F (Note: you can also fry on the stovetop if you don’t have a deep fryer– see the original recipe for instructions).
  • Remove the chickpea mixture from the refrigerator. While waiting for the deep fryer to heat, drop spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture onto a plate with 1/4 cup flour. Roll into balls on the floured plate and press gently into patties.
  • Fry in batches of hot oil for about 3 to 4 minutes each side and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve the falafel on a bed of spinach and topped with white bean yogurt sauce.

For the White Bean Yogurt Sauce-


  • 3/4 cup cooked white beans
  • 1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Puree the white beans, garlic, yogurt, lemon juice, and olive oil in a mini food processor until very smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the Tabouli-

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional, I didn’t use it)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • Cook couscous according to package directions, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the couscous and set aside to cool.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and zest with the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • In a large serving bowl, mix together the couscous, parsley, cilantro, mint (if using), tomatoes, and scallions. Toss with the vinaigrette and season to taste.
  • Allow to sit for at least a half hour so the flavors can marry.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Panzanella Salad & Becoming BFFs with a Top Chef

4 Jul

Wow, it has been almost a month since I’ve posted. I’ve been doing a lot of travel in the past month, including a trip home to New York state (not the exciting part) for my sister’s high school graduation, and going to Columbus for a friend’s wedding. In between all of the travel, I’ve been super busy with my summer class, and my husband has been doing the grocery shopping, and we’ve slipped into a routine of eating a variation of the same seven meals each week. So boring! Well yesterday I finally did the grocery shopping myself and picked up some ingredients for a new recipe I’ve been meaning to try, Grilled Panzanella Salad. Minus the meat, of course (vegetarian alert).

But before I get to this delicious recipe, allow me to update you.

Let’s start with New York. My baby sister graduated from high school which was rather emotional for me, but I am so proud of her! She is a little genius. Think I can take credit for her brilliance because I always used to “play school” with her and teach her all of the material I was learning in school, even though I’m seven years older?? I like to think so 🙂

My mom and I spent nearly an entire day on cupcakes for my sister’s graduation party the following day. After baking and decorating 100 cupcakes, my delusions of someday opening a cupcake bakery have vanished. It was hard work! But the result was impressive, if I do say so myself.

Ghiradelli squares on top of Reese's peanut butter cups for caps, and pirouette cookies for diplomas

To add to the excitement of graduation day, one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Angelo Sosa from Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All Stars, was in attendance!! Remember, I am not from the exciting part of New York, and my tiny hometown of approximately 6,000 is not used to anyone important being in our midst. But Angelo’s nephew was graduating with my sister, and I could not pass up the opportunity to meet one of my idols. So after the graduation, we had a wonderful conversation about Top Chef, food, my dad’s restaurant, and my life in Indiana! Hooray! Hopefully this means we are now BFFs.

Me and Angelo Sosa!! By the way, he is the most beautiful man I have ever seen in person. The pictures really don't do him justice.

But now I am back to my dull and school-filled life in Indiana. All the more reason to grill up something special for the holiday weekend.

As my luck would have it, about two minutes after I started grilling some lovely vegetables for the Grilled Panzanella Salad, my propane ran out 😦 But you know my motto, when life gives you lack of propane, make Grilled Panzanella Salad with a panini press. Or something like that. Using the panini press was less time-efficient, but the end result was a close enough approximation to what I could get on the grill.

The salad is lovely. Perhaps it’s not truly a panzanella salad because I omitted the salami, but I don’t think anyone would miss it. You get a delicious charred flavor on the vegetables, with soft cubes of grilled ciabatta bread to soak up all the lemon vinagrette. Top it with some fresh herbs, and you’ve got a bright, flavorful dish that would be a welcome addition to any cookout.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! Happy birthday, USA!

Vegetarian Grilled Panzanella Salad (adapted from recipe by Food Network Magazine)


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from about half of a medium lemon)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 6 scallions
  • 2 large bell peppers (any color), quartered
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 10-ounce loaf ciabatta or semolina bread, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Dried (or fresh) basil, to taste (I used approximately 1 tbsp dried)
  • Freshly grated parmesan


  • Preheat a grill to medium high. Make the dressing: Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  • Brush the grill with olive oil. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until slightly charred, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  • Put the scallions, peppers and zucchini in the same bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the bread with olive oil.
  • Grill the bread and vegetables until charred, about 2 minutes per side for the bread and scallions and 4 minutes per side for the peppers and zucchini. Transfer to the baking sheet and let cool slightly.
  • Cut the scallions, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and bread into bite-size pieces; transfer to the bowl. Add the herbs,  dressing and any juices from the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
  • Top with parmesan cheese.

Makes 3-4 servings.

[School’s NOT Out for Summer, But I at Least I Can Have Some] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Scallions

23 May

It’s finally starting to feel like summer here in Indiana! And you know what summer means… school is out of session and leisure time abounds with lots of lazy days by the pool.  Sigh, I wish! My summer is characterized by summer classes 5 days per week, my part-time research job requiring more work than usual, and studying for and taking a grueling six-hour preliminary exam to prove I am deserving of doctoral candidacy. /end complaining

But summer won’t be all bad. I have a few weekend trips planned, and I get to enjoy eating on the patio that my husband and I installed last year. To me, summer means grilling, which is not only delicious, but also gives me a satisfying sense that I am defying traditional gender roles. Any other ladies out there feel that sense of accomplishment from grilling, or is it just me? 🙂

Anyway, today’s recipe is for Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Scallions. It’s super easy. You just throw sweet potatoes, scallions, and garlic in a foil packet along with some salt and pepper, and plop it on the grill. Grilling the sweet potatoes really brings out their sweetness, which is balanced by the garlic and onion flavor. It’s the perfect summer side dish!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Scallions (recipe by Food Network Magazine)


  • 1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (Note: I used dried thyme, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Combine sweet potatoes, scallions, garlic, and thyme in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place mixture on a sheet of foil and fold to close.
  • Grill over low heat until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

Makes 3-4 side dish servings.