Just A Little Crabby!

When it comes to seafood, one of my absolute favorites is crab cakes. I do have a caveat however, and that is they can’t be bready. I want just enough binder to hold them together. I want to taste crab, not bread. I also like them generous in size. I remember my first time in San Francisco, having lunch at the Ferry Building on a perfect fall day. We were able to eat outside and watch the ferry boats come in and out. I ordered crab cakes and they were crazy good. Perfectly seared on both sides and literally 2 inches thick! I was swooning with every mouthful. Hardly any filler, loads of lump crab meat, and a glass of chilled white wine nearby.

This recipe uses panko breadcrumbs, which adds a binder that does not get mushy. I measure each crab cake into a 1/2 cup measuring vessel, and gently press the contents in, then I simply tap them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. I refrigerate them for about 2 hours, which firms them up before I sear them. I find that this step prevents overcooking the crab meat as well; giving you a perfect crust and moist interior.

I don’t use many processed products, but rather than tartar sauce, I enjoy a simple sauce made up of guacamole salsa and sour cream (you could also use yogurt). I like to place it under each crab cake. It’s slightly spicy and compliments the crab cakes perfectly. For visual appeal, I mince sweet peppers to sprinkle around the plate, and top with arugula.

CRAB CAKES WITH AVOCADO SALSA SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Hellmans’)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil for frying
  • 3/4 cup guacamole salsa
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 1 cup minced sweet pepper for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups arugula for garnish
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard cartilage) and panko; using a rubber spatula, gently fold the mixture together until just combined, being careful not to break up the crabmeat. Gently press mixture into a 1/2 cup measuring vessel, then tap it out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat using all of the crab mixture. You should have 5-6 cakes. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. This helps them firm up and hold together.
  2. Preheat a large non-stick skillet on medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons avocado oil. Once the oil is hot, place the crab cakes in the pan and cook until golden brown, 3-5 minutes per side. Place on paper towels for a few minutes to make sure they aren’t greasy.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the avocado salsa and sour cream or yogurt. To plate spoon a small amount of sauce on each plate, place 2 crab cakes on top of sauce. Sprinkle plate with minced sweet pepper and sprinkle arugula on top. Serve warm with additional sauce on the side.

What can I eat and not get tired of? Without a doubt, seafood!

Hold The Mayo!

When the weather starts to break in the spring, one of the things I crave is salads, and one of my favorites is potato salad. Although I was raised on a mayonnaise based potato salad, loaded with onions and hard-boil eggs, I enjoy making them with a slightly lighter hand. This however, does not mean bland. I want a salad with a punch. Bold Mediterranean flavors, like capers, olives, red onion and herbs guarantees flavor in every forkful . Eliminating the mayonnaise and replacing it with a good quality olive oil is key. I like to turn this into a meal salad by adding imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil. It adds additional bulk, plays well with the other ingredients and looks showy served on a bed of greens. This potato salad is best served warm or at room temperature. I also enjoy adding about 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes, when they are available in June. Not a tuna fan? Simply omit it. So simple to adjust it to your own taste preferences.

Don’t allow the potatoes to cool before tossing them with the dressing. This when they really absorb the flavor. Also, don’t skip the caper brine! It’s just not the same without it.

MEDITERRANEAN POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or red skinned potatoes (or a combination of both) cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup drained capers, plus 1 tablespoon caper brine
  • 1/2 cup sliced and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounce jar Italian olive oil-packed tuna (optional)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed Italian parsley or basil OR a combination of both, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, red wine vinegar and oregano, set aside. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water to about 1-inch above the potatoes, and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then turn down to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a potato meets no resistance.
  2. Drain the potatoes in a colander. To the large bowl, add capers, brine, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add hot potatoes and mix gently again. If using tuna, add next along with the parsley and basil. Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Serve warm on a platter lined with greens.

Yields: 4-6 servings

“Food is the ingredient that binds us together.”

Cultural Influences

I have always enjoyed spicy food, particularly Mexican and Mediterranean. There is so much variety that it’s impossible to be bored. Many recipes use chorizo as a flavorful ingredient; but did you know that Mexican and Spanish chorizo are distinctly different from each other?

SPANISH CHORIZO:

Spanish chorizo is a cured or firm, sausage made from coarsely chopped pork, and is heavily seasoned, with a characteristically red color due to the heavy amounts of paprika in the spice mix. Depending on the type of paprika used, Spanish chorizo can be either spicy or sweet. The paprika used in Spanish chorizo is almost always smoked, which gives the sausage a deep smoky flavor. Other ingredients may include garlic, white wine and herbs, with the links varying in length.

Because Spanish chorizo is cured, meaning it has been aged for several weeks, it can be eaten without cooking and is often served sliced as part of a tapas tray or charcuterie board.

MEXICAN CHORIZO:

Mexican chorizo is quite different from Spanish chorizo. The meat is usually ground, rather than chopped, and the sausage is fresh rather than cured. It is sold in both bulk and links. The red color of Mexican chorizo usually comes from spicy red pepper rather than the smoked paprika you find in Spanish chorizo. Pork fat is often added to the meat mixture, along with other spices and vinegar. The links are short and air dried for one day to a week.

Mexican chorizo is sold raw and must be cooked prior to eating. It can be cooked either in its casing or removed from its casing and cooked like ground meat (most people purchase it as bulk sausage for this purpose). Mexican chorizo is used in place of ground beef in tacos, burritos, chili, soups, burgers and egg dishes.

I use bulk Mexican chorizo regularly, but last week I made an incredible Shrimp and Spanish chorizo dish that was simple to make, and big in flavor. It may be my favorite way to eat shrimp!

SPANISH CHORIZO AND SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined (leave the tails on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 ounces Spanish chorizo, casing removed and sliced 1/4 inch, then each slice in quarters
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock (homemade if you have it)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the shelled shrimp in a bowl, season with salt, pepper and paprika and toss to ensure they are all evenly coated. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat olive oil in a stick-free pan on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and sear for two minutes per side (you may need to do this in two batches). Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  3. Add the chorizo pieces to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the chorizo is golden and slightly crisp. Add the diced onion and garlic to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate.
  4. Add the chicken stock, cherry tomatoes, canned tomatoes and paprika to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften and the sauce has thickened.
  5. Return the cooked shrimp and any juices to the pan and reheat for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and plate, garnishing with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Serves 2-4

“You have to live life to its full chorizo!” –Mario Batali

Chorizo Chickpea Stew

It’s the time of the year when the grayness of winter has sunk into our bones. I look out at the marsh and lake hoping that the ice will break up and the lake will move again. It’s the annual pause before spring when we are wanting, needing to see life again. I find myself watching for the finches to change color and the crocus to bloom.

To counter this time of the blahs I lean towards cooking something at little spicy, and chorizo definitely does the trick. I enjoy all chorizo whether it’s fresh Mexican (in link or bulk) or cured Spanish (in link ready to eat). Good chorizo is about the flavor profile. Traditionally made from pork, it may contain garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, salt, ground oregano, ground cumin and black pepper.

Several weeks ago I discovered a chicken chorizo that simply amazed me! The seasoning was perfect, and the texture bellied that it was even chicken. I also found that it was very versatile. I fry up a pound and keep it available for tacos, taco salads, or breakfast quesadillas. Then I made this chickpea stew. Wow.

CHORIZO CHICKPEA STEW

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound bulk chorizo of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2-15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups packed fresh kale, stemmed and chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large heavy pot, brown the chorizo in the olive oil over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the chopped onion and continue to cook, until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste, stirring until incorporated.
  3. Add chickpeas, paprika, salt, and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes.
  4. Add chopped kale, and simmer until kale is wilted and softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls.

Serves 4

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” –Margaret Atwood

Savoring the Savory

As a confirmed nibbler, I love baked goods, particularly warm from the oven. We don’t eat a great deal of sugar in our home, but tarts and scones are always a hit. I prefer the savory scone to a sweet one, and this scone has all the markings of a moist, slightly salty and savory mouthful. I return to these again and again for something unexpected and delicious.

GRUYERE, PROSCIUTTO & GREEN ONION SCONES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup grated gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • Sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture, until you have coarse crumbs. This can also be done in a food processor with a few pulses. In using a food processor, place contents in a bowl after pulsing.
  2. In another bowl, whisk and eggs and buttermilk together. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just moist.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the gruyere, prosciutto, parmesan and green onion. Add this to the batter, then mix lightly. The dough will be sticky.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, turn the sticky dough out and knead lightly until all the cheese, prosciutto and green onion are incorporated into the dough. Roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. Shape roughly into a circle and cut 8 triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and lightly brush with half and half. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Place the scones in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Once the scones have chilled, bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Serves 8

“Baking is love made edible.”

Let’s Spread Hummus, Not Hate

I’ve been making hummus, the Middle-Eastern chickpea spread for decades. I am very anti commercially processed hummus. One, I dislike the consistency, and two I can make 5-6 times as much for the price of one 8 ounce container. Although I have frequently advocated for using soaked, dried chickpeas, I’ve been working at making a good hummus with canned chickpeas; and I have finally come up with the result I was looking for using a few tricks that made a significant difference. I found it amazing that using these 4 techniques made for a creamy and delicious hummus I was ready to eat and serve to others.

  • Technique #1: warm your chickpeas. I found warming my chickpeas in the microwave for about 2 minutes helped to give me the same incredible consistency I prefer when I cook the chickpeas from scratch. And lets face it there are times that time is of the essence when soaking and cooking them isn’t practical.
  • Technique #2: Save your canned liquid. The starchy liquid from canned chickpeas is called Aquafaba. It is often used by vegans as an egg substitute. Here we will use it to flavor and thin out our processed chickpeas to just the right consistency.
  • Technique #3: Patience grasshopper! Process, process, process! It is extremely important that you process your hummus for as long as it takes, which can be as long as 10 minutes! I find the time can vary quite a bit for unknown reasons. I will sometimes add 2-3 tablespoons of ice water near the end, if the consistency is at all grainy.
  • Technique #4: Taste as you go. I can’t tell you how many times when I have neglected to do this that I end up making adjustments that weren’t necessary. The two primary factors being salt and lemon juice. Once it’s added you can’t take it away.

I make hummus several times a month. I can’t get enough of it, and it’s so versatil. You can add roasted carrots, beets, avocado, or marinated artichokes to it and end up with something completely different. Lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with using it as a replacement for pasta or rice, and turning it into a dinner hummus. I have used ground lamb and topped it with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olives, green onions and cilantro. I have roasted a sheet pan of veggies like eggplant, zucchini and squash. You name it, and you can create a healthy topping for this classic spread. This week I used cut up boneless chicken thighs, caramelized onions and roasted cauliflower seasoned with my homemade ras el hanout https://twistedbasics.com/2019/03/16/got-the-munchies/ and was totally blown away with the result. This will definitely be on a permanent rotation in this house! Don’t be daunted by the several steps; it still comes together relatively quickly and is well worth the effort!

MIDDLE EASTERN DINNER HUMMUS

FOR THE HUMMUS:

  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained, reserving liquid from one can
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves

MAKE THE HUMMUS:

  1. Heat your drained chickpeas in a microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes. Throw the garlic down your entry shoot while your food processor is running, processing to chop it. Stop and add chickpeas, tahini, oil, 1/2 of the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, then process until a coarse paste forms, about 45 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Slowly add the chickpea liquid and process until smooth and creamy (up to 10 minutes). Don’t rush this step. If after processing your hummus still looks granular, add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time (up to 3 tablespoons). Taste adding additional lemon juice and/or salt. This will make more than you will need for this recipe, but yay more for later. Place finished hummus in bowl and set aside.

FOR CAULIFLOWER:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut or broken into small flowerettes about 4 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and ras el hanout. Place on baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until cauliflower is slightly charred around the edges.

FOR CHICKEN & ONIONS:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  1. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with ras el hanout. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. (I love my cast iron skillet for this). Add chicken in an even layer; cook, undisturbed, until the bottom of the chicken is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. You may need to do this in two batches. Turn over chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 4 more minutes; transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. To the same skillet reduce the heat to medium and add the sliced onion, za’atar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until softened, lightly brown and caramelized. Add 1/4 cup water and the raisins to the skillet, the chicken and cauliflower. Stir gently and heat until warmed through. Season with salt to taste.

FOR ASSEMBLY:

On a decorative platter, spread the hummus 1/2-3/4 inch thick to completely cover the bottom of platter. Make a well in the center of the hummus and spoon the chicken, caramelized onions and cauliflower over hummus. Top with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley. Drizzle with olive oil. Pass pita or pita chips for serve.

Serves 4

“Middle age is about getting super excited about different flavors of hummus!”

Just Stuff It!

We all enjoy comfort food in the winter, but sometimes we want our dishes to look, well, pretty. Maybe it’s a special event like a birthday or anniversary, and we have a few more mouths to feed and our time is limited. I have the answer! This dish can be made in advance, it’s attractive to serve and will feed 4-6 people. It even freezes well if you want to make a double batch. Even picky eaters seem to enjoy it, and you can sneak a green vegetable in like spinach, to make the filling more interesting. Any guesses? I’m talking about jumbo pasta shells stuffed with spinach, ricotta and pecorino cheese.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know I’m keen on putting up tomato sauce during our growing season on the farm. However, you can save time by using a good quality marinara sauce of your choice. Make sure to read your labels and make sure that it doesn’t have a lot of added sugar. You want savory not sweet sauce. If you want more heat, add a few red pepper flakes and/or minced garlic to your sauce, or maybe some fresh basil or parsley. There are many ways to amp these commercial sauces to suit your personal preferences. You can also fill each shell easily by putting your filling in a sandwich bag and snip a corner. That way you can simply pipe in the filling in each shell without making a mess of it.

STUFFED PASTA SHELLS WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 20-22 jumbo pasta shells
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 16 ounce bag of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
  • 16 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Lemon zest from 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for pasta water
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 16 ounce (2 cups) jar marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley or basil, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the pasta shells for 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and drizzle a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
  3. Place the drained and squeezed spinach in a medium bowl. Combine with the ricotta, pecorino, garlic, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, egg, sea salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag (I put the bag in a quart canning jar to hold it upright). Cut the corner of the bag when ready to pipe filling into shells.
  4. Spread 3/4 (1 1/2 cups) of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pipe the filling into each shell and place in baking dish. Repeat until all your shells are filled. Spoon a little marinara sauce over each shell and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil or parsley.

Serves 4-6

“Sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way.” –Benjamin Bratt

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

It’s been cold here, very cold; and there’s nothing more satisfying in winter than a warm bowl of soup. I typically make a soup at least once a week. One of my favorites is anything showcasing beans. They’re cheap, healthy and hardy. With very little forethought you can serve up a soup that will delight anyone lucky enough to dig into a bowl of it. Today let’s focus on cannellini bean soup. You can get a bag of these beans for a couple bucks, which will give you a far superior result (particularly for soups) than you will get with canned. Although soaking your beans overnight is a small extra step it will allow for a much creamier texture in the end; which is one of the hallmarks of a great bean soup.

You can approach this soup in several ways to adjust for personal preferences. For example you can use either vegetable or chicken stock. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is just how important it is to use homemade stock. We all use carton stock in a pinch, but your end result will be just that, and will taste like well, carton stock. No worries though, you won’t have a swat team coming through your windows if carton stock is all you have.

I also like near the end of simmering adding some kind of green. Here, you have many options such as spinach (fresh or frozen), kale, or Swiss chard. If you are using frozen make sure to thaw and wring out as much moisture as possible before adding it to your soup. If using kale or Swiss chard, make sure to remove the thick stems are they can be rather tough, and we want to retain some healthy green color in the end result.

As far as herbs go, you can use fresh or dried; rule of thumb being 3:1 ratio. In other words, 1 tablespoon fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried.

HARDY CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water 2 inches over the level of the beans. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to water.
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup white vermouth (the alcohol will cook out once it’s evaporated)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (homemade preferred)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soak 2 cups dried cannellini beans overnight, covering the beans with 2 inches of water and adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Drain the next day and place in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a tightly fitting lid. Cover them with 3 inches of water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add 2 cloves of garlic lightly smashed, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover leaving a little space open for the lid and lower heat to medium-low. Cook beans for 40-60 minutes, or until soft. Drain beans and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, beans, tomato paste, potatoes, rosemary, thyme and paprika. Cook stirring frequently, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the vermouth, stir well and let it simmer until it has evaporated, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add stock of your choice, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, and the soup is thick and creamy, add the greens of your choice. Stir to wilt the greens, yet keeping their color and some texture.
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need additional salt, depending on your personal preferences.
  7. Ladle into bowls, and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 6-8

“Beans have a soul.” –Pythagoras

The Fungus Among Us!

In the winter there is nothing better than soup, and this soup is soul-filling! There are many approaches to mushroom soup, and they will all give you satisfying results. This approach however, has a secret ingredient that not only thickens it with added protein, but gives it a rich and wonderful rustic feel. That ingredient is chickpea flour. What? That’s right, chickpea flour. Your are free to omit it, but you will end up with a much brothyer soup.

There are several elements to this soup that are equally important; homemade stock, a variety of fresh mushrooms, and making sure that you brown the mushrooms deeply, not just saute them. Each of these elements build on the other, giving you a opulent result you will feel proud to serve your family or guests.

SAVORY MUSHROOM SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, (such as cremini, white mushrooms, shitake, oyster or portabellas), chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes, then finely chopped, straining steeping water through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside.
  • 4 large shallots, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated on micro planer
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I can’t empathize how important this is)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour 1 cup boiling water over porcini mushrooms and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms and chop, set aside. Strain soaking water through a fine mesh strainer, set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Stir in half of the shallots and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10-12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shallots and mushrooms to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, olive oil, shallots and mushrooms.
  3. Pour all the mushrooms back into the pot, including the porcini’s, stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Then stir in the thyme, rosemary, 1 teaspoon of salt, coriander, and paprika and cook for 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in the chickpea flour, and cook stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the stock of your choice, the reserved porcini water, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and chopped herbs.

Serves 4-6

“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art is a mushroom.” –Thomas Carlyle.

Anything Moroccan!!

I am a big fan of ethnic food, particularly anything from the Mediterranean. French, Italian, Spanish, North African and especially Moroccan. Mediterranean cuisine is so darn full of fresh, savory ingredients! I just can’t get enough. Moroccan food is particularly known for their national food the tagine, it has the unique taste of popular spices such as saffron, cumin (my favorite), cinnamon, ginger, and cilantro. Most recipes are healthy and loaded with vegetables. The delicious combination of mouth-watering flavors is what makes it unique…Oh, and what flavors!

This recipe is a stew that is on regular rotation at our house. The combination of butternut squash, red potato, chickpeas and spices works beautifully together; but the green olives give it not only a punch of color, but a salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash. The color of this dish alone is one of the reasons to try it. You can serve this stew over, couscous, rice or cauliflower rice (which is what I use). I also love to use my homemade cilantro-chili sauce, rather than fresh cilantro. You can find it on this blog under Indian Roasted Potatoes, February 2, 2021.

MOROCCAN STEW

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1 head garlic, cloves thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound butternut squash, large dice
  • 3/4 pound (about 3 medium) red potatoes, large dice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade will really add depth)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 cup green olives, (I use Castelvetrano)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
  • Toasted slivered almonds for garnish
  • Plain Greek yogurt for garnish
  • Your favorite hot sauce (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add squash and potatoes, stir to coat, and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add stock, chickpeas, tomatoes with their juices, and saffron. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until squash and potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and olives. Serve over grain of choice. Garnish with cilantro, almonds and yogurt.

Serves 4-6

“Ethnic diversity adds richness to a society.” –Gary Locke

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