Laotian-Style Khao Soi

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“Anytime I’m eating spicy noodles in a bowl, I’m happy.” – the late, great Anthony Bourdain.

He was right, of course. I can’t think of much that’s more satisfying than a bowl of noodles. This Laotian-style khao soi is a lot different than its richer, northern Thai-style counterpart, down to the zucchini ribbons that are served alongside rice noodles for a lighter bowl. It’s perfect on a sweltering summer day.

Laotian-Style Khao Soi

Ingredients:

3 dried Thai chiles
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons avocado oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound ground turkey
1 plum tomatoe, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup soybean paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 bunch cilantro
8 cups chicken broth
14 ounces dried thin rice stick noodles
3 cups zucchini ribbons
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Black pepper
Lime wedges

1. Crumble Thai chiles into a medium heatproof bowl. Add 1 cup hot water; let stand 15 minutes. Drain chiles; discard liquid. Process chiles, oil, and garlic in a mini food processor until chiles are very finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add chile mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add turkey; cook, stirring occasionally to break pork into small pieces, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, soybean paste, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, sugar, and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced and turkey is coated with sauce, about 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, separate cilantro stems from leaves. Chop leaves to yield about 1/2 cup; set aside for garnish. Stir together chicken broth, cilantro stems, and remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium. Uncover; strain and discard cilantro stems. Cover broth; keep warm over medium-low.

4. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles, and divide evenly among 8 serving bowls. Add zucchini ribbons to hot broth; cook over medium-low until just tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a spider, remove zucchini from broth and divide evenly among serving bowls. Top each bowl with about 1/4 cup turkey mixture and 1 cup hot broth. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and reserved chopped cilantro. Garnish with black pepper and serve with lime wedges.

Gazpacho Salad

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If gazpacho were a salad, this would be it. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this salad is peak summer: juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers bound by a tangy, garlicy, and yes — tomatoey dressing.

Gazpacho salad

Ingredients:

2 English cucumbers or 5 Persian cucumbers
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed under cold water
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Peel cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, and if using English cucumbers, remove seeds. Cut cucumbers into 1/2-inch slices; set aside. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Cut tomatoes into 3/4-inch pieces (about 5 cups).

2. Combine 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, lime juice, basil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a blender. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Season dressing with salt to taste.

3. Combine onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar in a large bowl; toss to coat. Add bell peppers, cucumber slices, remaining chopped tomatoes, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; toss to combine. Stir in tomato dressing. Let stand for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt to taste. Garnish with basil and serve.

Persian Mulberry and Hibiscus Chia Seed Jam

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My parents have a giant shahtoot (Persian mulberry) tree and every year, we look forward to staining our fingers (and our clothes) from picking the juicy, crimson berries. This year, I used some to make a fresh, not-too-sweet and super healthy jam. Paired with hibiscus, this jam comes together in minutes and is bound by chia seeds. I use sugar very sparingly here, so this is a jam that won’t keep forever, even in the fridge. (Don’t worry, it won’t last long anyway.)

Persian mulberry and hibiscus chia seed jam

Ingredients:

1/3 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 1/4 pound (about 1 1/2 pints) Persian mulberries
4 tablespoons chia seeds
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Put the hibiscus in a heatproof bowl and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes. Strain to remove the dried flowers, pressing down to release their flavor.

2. Put the mulberries in a saucepan and slowly heat, roughly crushing the berries with the back of a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the juices have run. Stir in the chia seeds and hibiscus water, then cook for another minute. Add honey and sugar, tasting to adjust if needed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool and thicken. Cover and store in the fridge.

Ghalayet Kousa (Sauted Zucchini)

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Sorry guys, this is a zucchini blog now. Iranian ghaliyeh kadoo, meet your Palestinian cousin, ghaleyet kousa. Just as delicious a zucchini dish, ghalayet kousa is a little mintier, a little spicier, and sans turmeric. If you love zucchini like I do, you’ll be making this easy dish all summer long.

Ghalayet kousa

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil
6 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chili, minced
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the zucchini and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and let the zucchini cook down, stirring occasionally. Season with salt.

2. After about 10 minutes, add the mint and mix with the zucchini. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mutabal Kousa (Zucchini and Yogurt Dip)

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I first made this Palestinian zucchini, yogurt, and tahini dip last summer when we had way too much zucchini on our hands and didn’t know what to do with it. One bite of the creamy dip flecked with garlic, lemon, and mint, and I was hooked. So naturally, I ended up making this a hundred or so times last summer — and plan on doing the same this year, too. Like Iranian ghaliyeh kadoo, you can serve mutabal kousa with flatbread, or if you’re like me, you can eat it straight out of the bowl.

Mutabal kousa

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
4 or 5 zucchini, cubed
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 serrano chili, minced
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt
Flatbread to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the zucchini with 1 teaspoon of salt, until golden grown. Remove from the heat.

2. Smash the zucchini in a bowl with a fork to achieve a chunky texture. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, yogurt, and salt, if needed.

3. Add the chili and dried mint and mix to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.