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I love a good niçoise salad, though they’re hard to find. Either the potatoes are too dry, or the tuna is overcooked, or the green beans are overcooked, or something. I realized that I could make my own version very easily, without the tuna altogether (or the olives, hence the no-niçoise part), and with perfectly cooked green beans. How about that!

I also made my own aioli.

Let me explain. Aioli technically does not need to be involved in a salad, niçoise or otherwise. But the idea for this green salad came a little backwards, in that it started with an idea for potato salad. I boiled some red baby potatoes until nice and tender, smashed them up a bit, and coated them generously with homemade, garlicky, lemony aioli. They needed some greenery so I thought: what about that farmer’s market spinach I bought? And some french beans? And….an egg?

So I hard boiled a few eggs, blanched the green beans until juuuust tender, and shaved some parmesan. I made a lemon-mustard vinaigrette (juice of one small lemon, a teaspoon of grainy mustard, a small grated garlic clove, 4T (ish) of olive oil, salt & pepper)  to drizzle over the whole thing. No dry potatoes here! YUM.

Garlic aioli
1 egg yolk
8 oz. light, fruity olive oil
1 clove of garlic, pummeled in a mortar & pestle (or grated on a microplane)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, add your egg yolk, garlic, and a few drops of water. Whisk well. Start adding olive oil, literally a drop at a time, and whisking vigorously. It helps to have a partner helping. Once it starts to lighten in color and thicken, you can add the oil faster. One yolk will take about a cup of oil easily (scary). Just keep going. If it’s too stiff and tight, add a few more drops of water. Finish with the lemon juice and taste for salt. And before you know it: garlic aioli!

I was looking through the retrospective of Kenji’s Vegan Experience on Serious Eats (a month of vegan recipes), when I came across what looked to be a very tasty vegan empañada recipe. And then I realized: I’ve never made empañadas before! Which was obviously silly of me because they are delicious and sometimes I love overly complicated weeknight meals. This recipe definitely references potato samosas flavor-wise, with the curry powder and cilantro. But, the capers and chipotle make it something entirely unique, tangy, a touch spicy, and altogether scrumptious. Also: who doesn’t like homemade dough?

I didn’t use Kenji’s dough recipe because it had vegetable shortening instead of butter (him being on a vegan diet and all), so I found this one from Epicurious, which was perfect for 12 large-ish empanadas.

Other changes I made: I used 1/2 of a jalapeño instead of a bird chili in the cilantro sauce, I included one small sweet potato with the potatoes because it was wrinkling up before my eyes and I wanted to save it, and instead of the chipotle in adobo, I used the ketchup to end all ketchups, Sir Kensington’s — the Spiced flavor of course (2 heaping tablespoons). I ended up with some extra filling but the great thing is, it’s like super flavorful semi-mashed potatoes. So it was perfect for lunch today with leftover salad: spinach, fennel, red peppers, feta and sunflower seeds.

Here’s Kenji’s recipe, including the vegan dough if you’re so inclined!

This one has been a long time coming. I love challah bread with a passion, and yet for some reason, had not attempted it at home. Maybe it’s because you can get really amazing challah in the city, and it seemed a bit intimidating. But it’s actually quite simple, requiring just one rise. This bread is tender, moist, slightly sweet, and so tasty you will have to stop yourself from eating the whole loaf at once. I also made homemade ricotta, and spread on a slice of this challah is heaven. in. your. mouth.

The recipe I used I found on food52, here, and I think it was perfect. A few details: I used 1/3 white whole wheat flour and 2/3 white flour, and added some maldon sea salt flakes on top for some salty crunch. Mine took slightly longer to cook than indicated in the recipe — closer to 25-27 minutes than 20-22. I wasn’t quite sure how to tell when it was done, but I think just the goldenness of the crust is the best indicator.

Go forth and make challah. You can thank me later, once you wipe the crumbs off your lap.

Sorry for the radio silence, folks. Moving will do that to a person. I’m back now though, and this is a good one. So, yesterday I had to go to the physical location for Time Warner Cable (also known as the 9th circle of hell) to return my cable router. I love that with TWC, your two options are: wait for 6 hours for a surly guy to come to your house, or schlep to a place where you have to take a number and sit in a row of chairs watching the red blinking screens like some kind of Beetlejuice death prisoner. Kind of hard to choose, huh?

But I digress. Whenever I find myself in these types of boring, irritating situations, I pass the time by doing one of three things: playing an inane game on my phone, compulsively checking my email and / or facebook, or making up recipes for dinner.

Last night, I imagined eggs and yogurt (something that caught my eye from the New York Times), but via the Middle East. I was just in Atlanta for work and weirdly had the best falafel I’ve ever had in my life, so the cuisine has been on my mind. Inspiration struck in the form of the incredible dill yogurt sauce from my falafel — the eggs would sit on yogurt with dill, yes. And with it, a chunky version of muhammara, the most awesome spread made of roasted red peppers, pomegranate molasses, and walnuts. My version would include garlic, onions and tomatoes too. Of course then there are the eggs, in this case fried in oil and topped with a forest of mint and parsley and a bit of feta cheese. And who could forget the lemon juice, cracked black pepper and toasted pita?

Drooling yet? Recipe after the jump!

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