Elevating Breakfast

I absolutely love food! It is my passion, my vocation, my artform and my entertainment. Yet, my relationship to food has been out of balance for most of my life. I eat when I’m stressed, I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m bored. I eat when I’m happy. In other words, I am an emotional eater. This has caused me to lose the same 30-40 pounds over and over throughout my adult life. It has taken me a long time to be willing to come to terms with the fact that my relationship to food was what was out of balance.

I am by nature a generous person. Food is love to me. My ability to love myself, not so much. I became aware that the act of excessive eating, was how I filled myself up. Food substituted for love, and this realization was an amazing discovery. So what do I do with this information? Diets have never worked for me. I would lose the weight only to gain it back (and then some)! What I needed was a lifestyle change, not a diet. I needed to understand the why of my overeating, its triggers, and correct that distortion. In other words, I needed to create a life that was healthy and took into account my love of food. I discovered: Noom. I highly recommend it for not only helping you lose weight, but learning about the psychology of why we create unhealthy habits. If I as an elder can make changes, anyone can.

The following recipe is a good example of controlling food quantity, as well as being satisfied. I am a person who does not eat a lot of processed food. I find this not only delicious, but something created from items we usually have on hand. I usually prepare a entire can of artichoke hearts, so I can use it throughout the week.

ARTICHOKE & EGG TARTINE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1-2 leeks cleaned and rinsed, using white and light green parts, thinly sliced (you can also use 2-3 shallots)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 slice of toasted bread of choice per person
  • 1 large farm fresh egg per person
  • Hot sauce (optional) I like Chalula

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Drain artichokes, then place them between several layers of paper towels. Press firmly to absorb as much of the brine as possible; then chop coarsely.
  2. Slice leeks or shallots thinly; set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet on medium. Add leeks or shallots and sauté until soft. Add artichokes, oregano and pepper. Sauté until hot.
  4. Toast bread (you could also use 1/2 of an English muffin). Poach or fry eggs over-easy.
  5. Spoon artichoke mixture on toast; top with egg.
  6. Add a dash or two of hot sauce.

Serves up to 4

“Every woman who finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” —Shannon L. Alder

Mi Casa es Su Casa

Needing to shed a few pounds, I’ve been busy creating dishes that although leaner are still interesting. Lately I’m finding many ways to use cauliflower rice. It’s so easy to make and so incredibly versatile. If you really want to cut corners, many grocery stores sell it prebagged for convenience in the produce section.

As I have pointed out in my recent cookbook, Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat! vegetables do not have to be boring! There is no substitute for fresh veggies, when it comes to feeling healthy. When I make cauliflower rice, I like to use a large head so I will have additional meals at the ready. I simply vacuum seal it in 4 cup increments. One large head can produce enough for 3 meals! When I made this Mexican Cauliflower Rice dish today, my wife could not tell the difference between real rice and its faux counterpart.

MEXICAN CAULIFLOWER RICE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, riced (approx. 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 1 paste tomato, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons green tabasco

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. To make cauliflower rice, separate head into flowerettes and slice stalks into 1 inch pieces. Place in food processor and pulse 7-8 times or until course and resembles rice. Measure out 4 cups and set aside.
  2. Chop your veggies and prep ingredients. Combine spices in a small bowl and mix.
  3. Whisk together Greek yogurt and green tabasco. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat a 12 inch non-stick skillet on medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Add onion, peppers, tomato, and garlic. Sauté for 5-8 minutes or until soft.
  6. Add the spice blend, stock, and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  7. Add cauliflower rice and cook until desire texture is reached, folding ingredients until thoroughly incorporated, about 5-6 more minutes.
  8. Add minced jalapeño and mix.
  9. Plate and drizzle dressing over the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 4

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” —George Bernard Shaq

Sweet and Spicy!

There are times when we just have to shake it up a bit! We all have our go-to rotations for meal planning, but it is interesting how a different condiment or sauce can really take a side to the next level (thank you Yotam Ottelenghi). I also appreciate a sauce that can go with many different things, from vegetables, to chicken, lamb or fish. This sauce has it all. Even the color contrast of this dish is striking. As I mentioned last week, using the addition of a flavored olive oil is really wonderful, in this case Persian Lime. It pairs nicely with the fresh lime juice. Skip it if you don’t have it. If you have people in your family that don’t like too much heat, the Greek yogurt that accompanies this side will easily tamp it down.

Sweet potatoes are a terrific vegetable for people watching their weight. They are high in vitamin A, they support digestive and heart health, and they are rich in dietary fiber, keeping you full longer. They also stabilize your blood-sugar, fuel your brain, and since they are loaded with beta-carotene they are terrific for your eyes. So what’s not to like?

SWEET POTATOES WITH YOGURT & CILANTRO-CHILI SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided (Persian Lime if available)
  • 1/2 tablespoon local honey
  • Juice of 2 limes, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 2 green chilies, seeded and chopped (I use jalapenos)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
  • 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, honey, juice from 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste, and potato wedges. Toss to coat. Spread in a even layer on baking sheet, bake until tender and lightly browned in spots, about 45-55- minutes. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse to combine 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, the cilantro, chilies, garlic, almonds, juice from remaining lime, vinegar and a large pinch of salt, until it forms a chunky puree. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  4. Arrange sweet potatoes on a platter; spoon sauce in dollops over the potatoes, dollop with yogurt, drizzle with some olive oil, and serve with additional sauce and yogurt on the side.

Serve 4-6

“Our very survival depends on us staying awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant, and to face the challenge of change.” –Martin Luther King

Feel The Beet!

Wow, what a week we have had! There are times that writing a food blog under these circumstances is challenging, and seemingly unimportant. However I also recognize we all need something positive to hold on to when the world is unraveling around us. After the new year, I finally insisted I get on the scale, and wasn’t surprised with what stared back at me, but disappointed in myself. So I’m doing veggie/protein as a lifestyle. I have forgiven myself for the need to be endlessly in the kitchen as a survival strategy in 2020, but I know I can’t continue feeling out of control. To that end this side dish is probably one of my favorites for using beets.

Some of you remember my story about loathing beets most of my life, but it is worth repeating. Before I moved to a vegetable farm, there were only two vegetables I absolutely hated, okra and beets (I still hate okra!). I remember asking Val early on why she grew so many beets? Do people really like them? I have since learned that all root vegetables are directly affected by growing methods. They absorb the off taste of chemical fertilizers for example. Those chemicals will make both beets and carrots taste off, orslightly bitter. Most of us have experienced that off taste and have decided that we did not like that particular vegetable. Once I tasted clean tasting vegetables from our farm, I totally came around. Now, I positively love beets!

This recipe is a lovely side for most things grilled, or as a part of a Mezza spread. It is simple enough for weeknight’s and showy enough for company. The various contrasts of textures really add interest; but the real coup d’ etat is if you can get your hands on some blood orange olive oil. This ingredient will really put this recipe over the top! The other ingredient that will make a serious difference is a high quality balsamic vinegar. I was gifted with some incredible 18 year stuff that was wonderful!

ROASTED BEETS WITH YOGURT, PISTACHIOS & CORIANDER

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 small to medium beets (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or that luscious blood orange stuff)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted pistachios

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the beets, halve them vertically, then cut each half in 3 or 4 wedges. Toss the beets with 2 tablespoons regular extra-virgin olive oil and the ground coriander on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast tossing once halfway through for 30-45 minutes until almost fully tender, (the time will be determined on the size of your wedges).
  2. Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium, shaking the skillet, until golden and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Season the yogurt with salt and pepper and spread it on a platter. Add the remaining olive oil (this is where you would use your blood orange olive oil if you have it) and the balsamic vinegar to the roasted beets and toss to coat. Arrange the beets and their juices over the yogurt. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and toasted coriander seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

“Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation.” –Bernie Siegel

A Pantry Darling

It is blustery and cold today at the farm. It has been a challenging year. A year marked by the pandemic, angry politics, frustration and despair for so many. It has caused us to rethink our lives going forward, and adjust our priorities. As 2020 starts to wind down, I am grateful for the love in my life, shelter from the howling wind outside, and our loving animals. But the one thing that has kept me going day after day is being in my kitchen to create something that not only feeds our bodies, but our souls. Nourishment. We require it as much as the air we breathe. I find this nourishment in the act of feeding others. It is an act of love.

When it comes to what we create in our kitchens, I find there are some ingredients that I return to again and again. I put up dozens and dozens of jars of tomatoes in all their various forms. They are truly a pantry staple. When I reflected on other ingredients, I had to acknowledge an item that has just as much versatility; the humble chickpea. Whether canned or dried this protein warrior is far more than your simple hummus. Everything from spreads, to soups, to salads and entries, the garbanzo bean has it all. Although I appreciate having canned chickpeas on hand, I can’t recommend enough cooking them from their dried state. Quite frankly, they are dirt cheap! But they are also surprisingly delicious made from scratch. When soaked overnight, they cook in about 40 minutes. I usually make a large batch and freeze some of them with their cooking liquid for additional options. Remember to add 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda to every 2 cups of dried chickpeas, in your soaking water. After draining them before cooking add the same amount to your cooking water. This helps soften them. Also, never add salt to your cooking water, as your beans will never get soft.

INDIAN BUTTER CHICKPEAS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (I use a quart of homemade)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole coconut milk, stirred with whisk in separate bowl before adding
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained OR equivalent of 4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
  • 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, for serving
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
  • 1 lime cut in wedges, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until golden and browned around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat (you don’t want to burn the butter).
  2. Stir in the garlic and ginger, and cook another minute. Stir in cumin, paprika, garam masala and cinnamon stick, and cook another 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juices. Using a large spoon, break up and smash the tomatoes in the pot. Stir in whisked coconut milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and continuing to break up the tomatoes if necessary.
  4. Stir in chickpeas and cayenne if using, simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Add 2 cups packed baby spinach of heat. It will wilt as you stir in in. Serve in bowls over rice, garnishing with cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Serves 4-6

“What the new year brings to you, will depend on what you bring to the new year.”

Riff It…Riff It Good!

Being vegetable farmers, we love all things vegetable; but no one pushes that envelope better than Yotam Ottolenghi. This man fascinates me with his amazing combinations. I love his cookbooks. They are a treasure trove of ideas and visual art. He encourages all of us to jump head first into the unusual. He is my mentor for true creativity in the kitchen. In his new cookbook Flavor, he introduces his philosophy of layering ingredients for optimal impact. He prefers plates and platters to bowls, and I have largely adopted that approach. By layering textures and flavors every ingredient has a chance to stand out on its own. He prepares condiments ahead of time, as flavor bombs. The simplest roasted vegetable takes on new life when topped with a sauce, relish or spice. The visual impact of food is also important, as we eat with our eyes; so color contrast takes on a whole new meaning. From the platter, to the color and texture of each layer, to the final garnishes, every element is crucial to the presentation of the dish.

In the spirit of trying a little used vegetable, we tried his celeriac steaks with Café De Paris sauce. This dish from Ottolenghi’s Flavor cookbook was so unusual, it was a literal treat for the tastebuds. After roasting the celeriac steaks, they were placed on top of a sauce of butter, shallot, garlic, anchovy, mustard and curry powder, capers, chives, tarragon and parsley. There are really no words to adequately describe this dish. Talk about a flavor bomb! Dishes like these can really get you thinking outside the box. So when I contemplated what vegetables we had on hand, and how I could use them creatively; I came up with the following recipe. You can make “steaks” out of many root vegetables, and we had an abundance of large turnips still in the ground. So I made turnip steaks. Then I needed another vegetable that would offer a color contrast to the turnip. I decided on carrots that I roasted and pureed with a little maple syrup and olive oil. I added a small amount of water; just enough to loosen it in my food processor without changing the flavor. The final decision was a dressing or sauce. I settled on a mustard vinaigrette, as both turnips and carrots would be enhanced by this addition. I garnished with chopped parsley and toasted breadcrumbs; but in hindsight thought a sprinkle of dukkah would have also worked well.

TURNIP STEAKS WITH CARROT PUREE & MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 large turnips (3 slices per person), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 2-inch chunks
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoon toasted fresh breadcrumbs, or dukkah

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare two large sheet pans, one for the carrots, and one for the turnip steaks by lining them with parchment paper.
  2. Scatter the carrots on one sheet pan and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil; toss with your hands. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes, turning carrots halfway through, until lightly browned and soft when tested with a knife. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Place turnip steaks on sheet pan, leaving 1-inch between each slice. Baste both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, turning each slice over halfway through. They should look brown around the edges.
  4. In a food processor, place roasted carrots, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon maple syrup; pulse 3 or 4 times. You want to leave some texture; if too thick add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Place in bowl.
  5. Make vinaigrette, by combining both mustards, white balsamic vinegar, minced shallot, and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a pint jar. Shake vigorously until combined.
  6. On a platter, place turnip steaks overlapping down the center. Spoon pureed carrots around the edge of platter. Drizzle dressing down the center of the turnips. Garnish with chopped parsley and breadcrumbs or dukkah.

Serves 4

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” — Paul Theroux

Beyond Lettuce

When we elect to stay home as much as possible and self-shelter during this pandemic, how we have prepared can really make a difference. I really notice this during the winter as well. When it comes to salads, we need to think outside the box and get creative. For example, when Val and I were walking the dogs the other day on our farm, we came across a row of overgrown arugula. Rather than going to flower, it was still sending up small new leaves. They weren’t as tender as during the summer months, but they were still quite viable; more like field spinach. We picked about 12 cups of the stuff, and it’s working rather well in all sorts of dishes. Add this to dry cooked or canned beans and shredded carrots and you’ve got yourself a delicious healthy salad. No arugula, try spinach or kale. Both chickpeas and cannellini beans work, and most of us have olives, lemon juice and olive oil.

Having sturdy root vegetables on hand is also another way to get some ‘fresh’ in during winter. I go to the store about every 6 weeks, and when it comes to fresh vegetables it is as follows: potatoes, beets, peppers, carrots, cabbage, oranges and cherry tomatoes. Root vegetables are excellent, and the peppers and cherry tomatoes are throw in all sorts of recipes until their gone. I never buy lettuce in the winter! Most times it has been traumatized during transit and goes south in a matter of days. This is the seasonal time for citrus, so that can be a welcome addition.

BEAN SALAD WITH CARROTS, ARUGULA AND OLIVES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 carrots, peeled and shredded on large holes of box grater
  • 1 small red onion, vertically sliced
  • 2 cup arugula, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place beans in a microwave safe bowl. Mix together your olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Heat beans on high for 2 minutes; then pour dressing over warm beans. This will allow them to absorb the dressing and make them more flavorful. Let sit for 20-30 minutes
  2. Add carrots, arugula and olives; toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper.

“Winter forms our character and brings out our best.” —Tim Allen

Scandinavian Dauphinoise

Every morning during coffee, Val asks me the same question, “What’s for dinner today?” We go over the fresh vegetables we still have in our larder. When we created our larder for self-sheltering this winter, we chose vegetables with a long shelf-life such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, cabbage, winter squash and celeriac or celery root. I try to combine fresh with anything that was ‘put up’ during our farm year. Some items are frozen, some canned, others dried, so you can find all sorts of creative ways to make dishes that are unique and delicious. Simple ingredients combined together can yield unexpected results.

Whenever I am looking for inspiration, I will flip through cookbooks, take a look at what we have on hand, and try to create something that often crosses different cultures. The term dauphinoise (do-fin-WAHZ) is French for scalloped potatoes. Smoked salmon is found throughout Scandinavia. I find that certain combinations repeat themselves regardless of where they originated. In this case, cream with potatoes, onion, and dill with smoked salmon. This gratin, rather than being a side dish for a protein, is totally appropriate as a complete meal. Although you can make this with either cold or hot cured smoked salmon, I like using the cold cured so I can layer it between the potatoes and celeriac. If you choose hot cured, you will have to crumble it. But no worries they both taste delicious. If you have never tried celeriac before, you are in for a treat. It blends beautifully with the other ingredients, with its mild taste of celery, along with providing a nice texture difference. The finished product was surprisingly rich, and flavorful.

SCANDINAVIAN DAUPHINOISE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lemon, juiced, mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and quartered vertically
  • 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled (I use Yukon Golds or Russets)
  • 2 x 125g packs of cold cured smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced vertically
  • 2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the lemon juice and water in a large bowl. On a mandolin, slice each quarter of celeriac 1/4 inch thick. Place in bowl and toss with lemon water. This will prevent it from browning.
  2. Do the same with the potatoes; slicing them 1/4 inch thick horizontally, placing them in the lemon water as well. Toss. In a 9×9 square ceramic baking dish, place slices of potatoes overlapping across the bottom; then layer with slices of celeriac on top of potatoes. Place slices of smoked salmon over celeriac; then slices of onion, followed by dill. Spoon 1/2 cup of heavy cream over the layers, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Repeat. You should be able to have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, cream and dill.
  3. Cover the dish with foil and place on a tray. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and the top is crispy and golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine.

Serves 4-6

“Food, like a loving touch, or a glimpse of divine power, has the ability to comfort.” –Norman Kolpas

Edible Culture

As the wind throws our wind chimes against the house, and stirs up whitecaps on the lake; I sit beside our wood burner feeling quite cozy. I was thinking about our kitchen fest last holiday weekend; I absolutely love egg dishes and had made Shashuka on Sunday. The dish’s name means ‘all mixed up’ and in a sense it is. Its name dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is a favorite in the Middle East, Israel and North Africa. It’s hardy, affordable and delicious with warm spices of cumin and smoked paprika, along with tomatoes, sweet peppers, chickpeas, onion, garlic and of course eggs. There are several similar egg dishes in the world that have some of these ingredients along with their own cultural flair. I have always thought that any dish combining tomatoes and eggs is an automatic winner.

Shashuka has a comforting nature and healthy ingredients. There are many variations that allow for levels of spiciness, along with vegetables, herbs and meat. You can add ground lamb or sausage before sautéing the onion and pepper, and garnish it with feta; or you can make it more Tex-Mex by omitting the paprika and adding chili powder, black beans or corn, then finishing it with chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. It’s just plain flexible, so let your imagination soar. These days, practically any dish in which eggs are cooked in a sauce may be called Shashuka. In my last cookbook I have a recipe for Green Shashuka, made with spinach, Swiss chard, arugula or kale; along with onions, garlic, herbs, cream and feta.

SHASHUKA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers, I like one red and one yellow, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes (or 6-8 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 15-oz can rinsed chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 2 fresh eggs per person
  • 1/2 cup fresh micro-greens, chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
Let’s start with onions and garlic
Then add beautiful peppers and tomatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat your oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until soft and translucent; add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add peppers and fresh tomatoes if using; cook until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add fire-roasted tomatoes if using, then cumin, smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), black pepper, chickpeas and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Simmer until thickened, about 5-8 more minutes.
  3. Stir in baby spinach and fold gently until spinach wilts. Make indentations in the sauce and gently crack the eggs into the wells. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet, and cook until the egg whites are just set, but yolks are still soft, about 7-10 minutes.
  4. Carry skillet to table and serve hot, sprinkled with garnish of your choice.

Serves: 2-6

Eggs poaching in sauce
Beautiful Shashuka ready to eat!!

“Food is love!!”

Basic Comfort

As we dive into our pantry’s and larder’s, there are few things more affordable than beans. I always have assorted cans on hand for dinners that come together quickly. But when it comes to a texture and flavor difference, I can’t recommend enough, using dried beans. My goodness, could anything be more pantry stable and down right cheap? As many of us are home more than usual due to the pandemic, this is the perfect time to simmer up a pot of these amazing nuggets.

There are four dried beans that I always have on hand, both for their versatility and flavor: cannellini, chickpeas, dark red kidneys, and black. You can create beautiful soups, stews, salads and braises. It is not difficult to cook dried beans; it’s really a matter of time. Although I own an Instant Pot, I prefer to cook beans on the stove. I find that electric pressure cookers give you a lack of control. The beans tend to split and rupture their skins when cooked in a pressure cooker. The beauty of controlling the simmer and cooking time is they will be just right for your application. The only thing you really need to plan is soaking them overnight.

A pot on cannellini’s ready for the stove.

Sometimes you will cook beans to add to your recipe; other times they are part of the recipe and are cooked with your meat. There are a few nuances that I suggest when cooking beans. The most important one is don’t salt your beans while they are cooking. Salt makes the skins tough and doesn’t allow the bean to become soft. Once your beans are cooked to the texture required for your recipe, then feel free to add salt. Beans require salt! I also like to add a few cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, but this is an option, not a requirement. There is such a thing as the pot liqueur or the bean cooking liquid. When I cooked beans for this stew, I dished up a cup of the beans, pot liqueur and topped it with homemade basil oil. I literally swooned!

The following stew is a great way to use cooked cannellini beans. You can use either bulk Italian sausage or link. If you use links, you will simply remove their casings before cooking. The spinach adds a nice texture and color. If you don’t have spinach, you can use Swiss chard or ribboned kale or leave it out completely. The stew will still taste great!!

ITALIAN STEW WITH CANNELLINI AND SAUSAGE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans
  • 3 cloves garlic and 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finally cubed
  • 1 pound bulk/or 5 links, Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1/4 inch
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE BEANS:

  1. Soak your 2 cups of beans overnight. Cover them with about 4 inches of water.
  2. Drain your beans and place in a Dutch oven of enamel covered cast iron pot and cover with water about 2 inches. Add garlic and bay leaf if using. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook 45-90 minutes until soft. Once soft, add 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and simmer 15 minutes more. Drain and separate beans in half. You will puree one half to thicken stew.
Italian sausage and pancetta

FOR STEW:

  1. If using links, take the sausage meat out of its casings and crumble it into a large soup pot, along with the pancetta.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients.
  3. Transfer the sausage and pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot (spoon any excess out).
  4. Add the onion to the pot and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Add the beans, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and rosemary. Stir thoroughly and dissolve any browned bits in the bottom of pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. With an immersion blender, (I use a quart Mason jar) puree the remaining half of cooked beans until smooth. Add them back to the pot, along with the sausage and pancetta. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove stew from heat and stir in the baby spinach. The spinach will wilt in about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Ready to serve
Savory Italian bean and sausage stew.

” A stew sustains you against the hungers of the world.”

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