humus (1 of 1)

Timothy van Poucke, photographer

And you are all thinking: Oh no, not another hummus recipe on a cooking blog!!!! I know, I know…..  No I am not posting this hummus recipe by default. Never mind that I have loads of papers to grade and couldn’t think of anything else to make for lunch that was quick and nutritious.  I am posting this recipe because this hummus is delicious and quickly made, has a light taste, it’s loaded with protein and makes a perfect sandwich, snack or part of a salad. Although I really like tahini in general this humus is tahiniless, since I don’t like the heaviness that it creates in this otherwise fresh summery dish. Chickpeas are creamy enough on their own, specially combined with olive oil.


1 can of chickpeas (2 cups cooked chickpeas)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
1 tbs. cumin seeds
2 tbs. olive oil extra
1/2 chili pepper finely chopped
black olives
paprika powder
extra olive oil

-purée the chick peas, olive oil, lemon juice, one clove of garlic chopped and salt with a hand blender until creamy, stir in the chopped black olives and some of the chopped cilantro leaves
-in a heavy frying pan heat the  2 tbs. olive oil and add the cumin, chili pepper and other piece of garlic chopped.
-stir for a couple of minutes until fragrant
-place the chickpea purée in a serving bowl and drizzle with the olive oil cumin mixture
-sprinkle the hummus generously with powdered paprika
-sprinkle the roasted pine nuts on top
-drizzle with a bit more olive oil and possibly a bit more lemon juice
-garnish with cilantro, parsley or chives (I didn’t have any today)



pea spread (1 of 1)

Photography: Tim van Poucke


Don’t you just love the feeling of being able to whip-up some elegant looking dish in less than 10 minutes and wow everyone around you and most of all yourself? Well, this Green Pea Tapenade will do that for you!
It has been a long and wonderfully hot weekend filled with activities. This hot weekend has really lent itself to light food with minimal cooking time and fresh tastes and colors. Stuff that you can just eat in the garden while drinking a glass of wine with friends or finishing that book which you only have time to read on the weekends. In our family’s case that would be food which lends itself to being made while major busyness is taking place around the house, like painting the house, helping out with homework, making summer plans, talking to your BFF for hours on the phone, grading papers etc….At about 11 today I thought of making this tapenade. I realized that I had almost finished a bag of raw fresh peas all on my own, since every time I passed by the refrigerator I would stick my hands in a bag filled with peas which I would greedily eat while doing something else. That is, eat the ones that wouldn’t fall on the floor to be eaten by the dog in the process of me putting them in my mouth while multi tasking and doing god knows what at the same time.  I figured I’d better think of something to do with the rest of the peas to avoid getting extremely bloated by eating an excess of raw peas as well as to prepare something to eat that others beside myself could appreciate and enjoy. This recipe is very easy and can be eaten in a much more elegant way than I ate those raw peas while roaming around the house. It can be used as a tapenade, on a sandwich, pizza or as a part of a salad platter and please accompany it with a glass of sparkling white wine! Feel free to use frozen peas if you don’t have fresh ones, although in that case you may get less of the nutty crispy taste and a more of a humus like texture.

Green Pea Tapenade

2 cups of fresh (or frozen) green peas
sea salt
olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
black pepper
finely sliced spring onions

-blanch the peas in boiling water for about 2 minutes
-drain the peas and put them in a bowl
-drizzle with good quality olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste
-blend with the hand blender (it doesn’t need to be totally puree)
-drizzle with lemon juice
-stir in the chopped spring onions
-adjust the salt and sprinkle with pepper if you like

pea spread bowl (1 of 1)

Photography: Tim van Poucke

pea spread with anna (1 of 1)

Anna enjoying her Green Pea Tapenade/ Photography: Tim van Poucke


Black Bean Brownies

On this lazy Sunday after making breakfast, doing some cleaning around the house and preparing my lesson plans for my ESL classes(I teach ESL to Dutch high school kids) I decided to play a game: make the first vegan recipe that would come up on Google. Luckily I bumped into this good looking black bean brownies, they are not only vegan but also gluten free! And, sooo easy! And, I had leftover cooked black beans from yesterday’s dinner!

I took them out of oven a bit soon, but because they contain no flour, eggs or other ingredients that need to be baked it wasn’t such a problem, they were just perfectly gooey.

The recipe is from the blog Minimalist Baker

1 15 oz. can (~ 1 3/4 cups) black beans, well rinsed and drained
2 large flax eggs (2.5 T flaxseed meal + 6 T water)
3 T coconut oil, melted (or sub other oil of choice)
3/4 cup cocoa powder (the higher quality the better)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
heaping 1/2 cup raw sugar, slightly ground or pulsed in a food processor or coffee grinder for refined texture(I used sucanat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Optional toppings: crush walnuts, pecans or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease a 12-slot standard size muffin pan (not mini).
Prepare flax egg by combining flax and water in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a couple times and then let rest for a few minutes.
Add remaining ingredients (besides walnuts or other toppings) and puree – about 3 minutes – scraping down sides as needed. You want it pretty smooth.
If the batter appears too thick, add a Tbsp or two of water and pulse again. It should be slightly less thick than chocolate frosting but nowhere close to runny.
Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tin and smooth the tops with a spoon or your finger.
Optional: Sprinkle with crushed walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips.
Bake for 20-26 minutes or until the tops are dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides. I found mine took about 25.
Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan. They will be tender, so remove gently with a fork. The insides are meant to be very fudgy, so don’t be concerned if they seem too moist – that’s the point. Plus, they’re vegan so it doesn’t really matter.
Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. Refrigerate to keep longer
(From Minimalist Baker)

Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries

Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries

Braised Tomatoes


Braised Cauliflower

One of my kids is a ballet dancer and just like my other 3 children grew up on a vegetarian/macrobiotic diet. Today after a hard day of training and rehearsals for his end of the year performance, he came home a bit alarmed about a trainer’s comment regarding the dangers of consuming too much soy and the potential effect on his physical development, specially muscle building and his intake of female hormones. I know that soy can be controversial and that some people will have nothing to do with it. On the other hand I know that there are millions of people, including strong men, for whom soy is a basic source of protein and an important part of their traditional diets. The soy that we consume at our house is not genetically modified, we make our on soy milk and get the best quality tempeh, tofu, miso and tamari. Nevertheless I felt compelled to change our dinner menu a bit for his peace of mind.
The Spinach Butternut Squash Pastries where originally supposed to be Spinach Tofu Pastries, but I must say that the butternut substitution worked beautifully, and I would definitely choose it the next time above the tofu version.

Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 butternut squash cut in chunks and steamed
lightly roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup chia seeds
filo dough
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
Extra olive oil for brushing

-cook the spinach with the olive oil and garlic and a pinch of salt until wilted
-puree the spinach with a hand blender
-mix in the butternut squash, pine nuts and chia seeds and adjust the salt
-roll out the sheets of filo one at a time and brush olive oil on it, place another sheet on top and brush again with oil
-repeat this process 4 times and on the final and top sheet sprinkle about 1/2 of the breadcrumbs and then place the spinach filling on top horizontally across the middle of the filo sheet
-fold the sides inwards first and then make a roll
-brush the roll with olive oil
-repeat this procedure until you don’t have any more filling and/or dough
-place on an oven tray covered with wax paper
-make diagonal or vertical slits on the rolls with a knife
-bake for about 20 minutes at 180*c

We ate this delicious rolls with brown rice cooked in vegetable broth, kidney beans, braised tomatoes, braised cauliflower, a green salad and nori condiment.

Will I eliminate soy from our diet? No, but I will re open my curiosity for the soy issue now that my 16 year old son has questions about it. What are the effects soy as a major source of protein on a growing ballet dancer.

Delicate Humus


This humus is so easy and so tasty. I don’t use tahini or cumin because I like to keep it fresh tasting and those two ingredients are a bit heavier. Make this humus when you have great olive oil around!

3 cups of cooked chick peas( you can use canned)
the juice of 1 large lemon
olive oil
1/2 clove of garlic minced(or none if you prefer)
sea salt
about 1/4 to 1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
fresh cilantro
A handful of Kalamata olives without pits and chopped
paprika powder

-puree the chickpeas with the hand blender or the food processor
-add a bit of olive oil, garlic and sea salt
-add the lemon juice and blend a bit more
-stir in the pine nuts(leave some for garnish)and the olives
-add the cilantro
-garnish with the pine nuts and drizzle with extra olive oil, creating a film of oil on top of the humus.
-sprinkle with paprika powder

Chickpea Stew


2 cups of chickpeas soaked
4 cups of water
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion cut in small cubes
4 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 red pepper cut in small cubes
1 carrot cut in medium cubes
2 celery stalks cut small
2 tomatoes cut chunks
3 small potatoes cut in medium cubes
cumin powder
spanish smoked paprika
turmeric powder
1/2 cup sherry or white wine
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
a bunch of raw wild spinach
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts

-cook the chickpeas with the water(I always put a small piece of kombu seaweed to speed up the cooking process). It takes about an hour to cook. You can also pressure cook the chickpeas if you didn’t have time to soak them. In the pressure cooker it takes about 45 minutes to cook.

-while the chickpeas are cooking cut your vegetables and find all your seasonings, to have everything close by and ready.

-when the chickpeas are done let them sit while you sauté the vegetables.

-in a stew pan warm up the olive oil and sauté the onions, then add the carrots, peppers, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes. Throw the veggies in one at the time, it creates an intenser taste.

-sauté for a bit, stirring.

-add 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika and a tiny bit of turmeric and 1/2 tsp. cumin, stir.

-add the sherry or wine, and then the chickpeas with a bit of the cooking liquid if you have some and add sea salt to taste.

– let it cook covered at medium heat for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally.

-add a bit of water if it’s too dry, and cook until the stew thickens.

-add a tbs of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle garlic powder generously.

-cook for another minute, turn off the fire and add the spinach and the roasted pine nuts.

Madrina’s Cuban Style Black Bean Soup


This beautiful combination of Flamenco and Salsa(Bebo & Cigala, Lagrimas Negras) is a reflexion of my heritage, and maybe it will inspire you to add some extra spice to your black beans, it does for me! It’s fantastic music, and will liven up any party.

Madrina’s Cuban Style Black Bean Soup

This black velvety soup has a very sensual and comforting quality to it, the slightly bitter sweet touch of the black beans combined with the tangy tomatoes, smoky chipotle accent and the cilantro garnish gives the dish an exotic down to earth naughtiness.

2 ups dried black beans
1 or 2 onions cut in smallish cubes
3 garlic cloves minced
1 green pepper in large cubes
about 3 or 4 chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 tbs. olive oil
sea salt
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/8 of a cup dry sherry
chipotle adobo(optional)
finely cut cilantro or flat leaf parsley

-cook the beans and bay leaf for 45 minutes in a pressure cooker in 2 times the amount of water(if not pressure cooking soak the beans overnight and cook in a regular soup pan until the beans are soft)
-heat the olive oil in a soup pan and saute the garlic, onions and green pepper
-add the oregano and cumin to the pan and saute until the onions begin to soften
-add the tomatoes
-add the cooked beans to the soup pan with extra water if necessary and sea salt
-let the soup cook for 20-30 minutes at low fire.
-add the vinegar, dry sherry and optional chipotle and cook for another 2 minutes
-adjust the salt

A Story

When I was a kid in Cuba I loved listening to my mom tell me stories about her own childhood. One story I particularly remember was about a time when my mother had been quite sick. She had a long recovery period, in which the doctor had advised her to eat very well in order to gain her strength back and continue to grow. At that time my mother didn’t have a good appetite as a result of her illness, and her parents didn’t know what else to do to get her to eat better. Her godmother or “madrina” suggested that she went to spend sometime in the countryside with her, and promised my grandmother that she would have my mother eating in no time. This woman was older and had no children, she had time to spend creating dishes that would please a fussy child like my mom.

The godmother was also fussy herself and very neat. The story goes that for the godmother to make sure that her house was clean she would have my mom go outside the house lay on the floor across the street and look inside her house from a laying position to make sure that there were no difficult to see particles of dust, and that her floor was impeccably shiny and clean.
In spite of her madrina’s obsessive behaviour my mom had a great time during her extended visit. My mom remembers her godmother making black bean soup with a special touch to make it irresistible to her. Her godmother would decorate the soup by making a circle of “platanos maduros fritos” or fried plantains around the edge of the plate. As a child I really loved this story and this dish. To me this soup is comfort food at its best


Maqluba is a Palestinian upside-down rice dish, traditionally filled with meat and vegetables. This is not a traditional Maqluba, but I liked the idea of layering rice with vegetables and lentils, mostly to pimp-up the presentation, and give it a “special” touch. Here I have made it really simple, but you can imagine how you could layer it sky high, (if you have a suitable pan) use all sorts of fillings and get more adventurous with spices, if you like.
My 11 year old daughter just came back from a three day school camp, she is totally wiped out, so I wanted to make something wholesome, not too rich, but a bit special and I figured that the presentation in this dish could work Unfortunately she has been sleeping deeply since she got back and doesn’t seem to be planning to wake until tomorrow, this mild Maqluba could make a nice breakfast though.


2 cups of raw brown rice cooked in 3 cups of water
2 cups of brown lentils cooked and then sautéed in olive oil with onions, garlic, 1/2 cup canned pomodori, smoked Spanish pimiento powder and sea salt
1 zucchini sliced and cooked in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt
2 raw tomatoes thinly sliced

-oil a round oven dish and layer the sliced tomatoes
-add a layer of rice
-add a layer of sliced cooked zucchini
-add another layer of rice
-pat and push everything down with your hands
-add a layer of cooked lentils
-add another layer of rice and pat it down again so that everything is very compact
-cover the pan with aluminum foil and put it in the oven at 200* for about 25 minutes
-uncover and bake for another 10 minutes
-carefully invert the Maqluba on a flat plate and garnish the dish with roasted walnuts or pine nuts, wait a couple of minutes before cutting

We ate this dish with a green salad and steamed broccoli
Didn’t make it to prepare dessert

Jane Doe


Today I really had no time to let my cooking imagination wonder. I am involved in a series of projects which don’t have anything to do with cooking and require a lot of my time. Nevertheless the kids have to eat, and the blogger has to blog!
Yesterday while laying leisurely on the park during our picnic, I enjoyed reading bits of a fantastic book I’ve had around for a couple of years but never really bothered to read: “The Lost Art of Real Cooking“, by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger. I really recommend it!

Well, the book really helped me today to cook with some dignity and confidence even though I had few ingredients and little time. If you read the book you’ll know what I mean!

The dish I am about to describe is not a miracle or a new idea, but for some reason I felt really “together” and even creative while making it, and the eaters liked it.

I am naming this dish “Jane Doe” since it’s far from unusual and bit generic if you will, but beautiful in its simplicity, and once you experience it, just as with any Jane Doe you’ll experience its uniqueness. Here it goes:

2 cups of brown rice
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
3 cups of water
1 tbs of a concentrated mushroom bouillon paste(I use Vitam, Steinpilz-Hefebruhe, from the health food store), but you can substitute a bouillon cube dissolved in the 3 cups of water
1 red bell pepper finely sliced
1 large onion cut in cubes
2 cloves of garlic minced
About 200g. canned pomodori
A bunch of fresh broad beans
1 carrot chopped in small cubes
Some leftover raw spinach
Sea salt
A bit of fresh rosemary

-in a heavy iron pan sauté the rice and the garlic in the hot olive oil for several minutes, until you feel it’s beginning to toast a bit, keep stirring
-add the water and the concentrated bouillon paste or cube
-cover and let it cook for about 40 minutes at very low heat with a flame deflector, in the mean time cut your veggies
-in another pan make the “sofrito”, or sauté the onions, garlic, rosemary, pepper and other vegetables, adding the spinach at the end
-when the vegetables are done(not over cooked!), add the cooked rice and stir well
-cook for a minute and serve garnished with parsley

You see it is nothing amazing, but it was tasty and quick. And, if you read The Lost Art of Real Cooking