Creamy baked penne with kale, fennel + herbed breadcrumbs

 

 

 

cheesy-pasta-5-edited-v3-1-of-1

Creamy, luscious pasta strewn through with tender kale, sweet caramelized fennel, onion, and garlic… Are you into this? What if we added a bubbly, browned cheesy top and crunchy herbed breadcrumbs? Are we there yet?

It’s the ultimate winter comfort food!

I’ve lightened things up a bit by incorporating a lemon + garlic-infused cashew cream as the luscious, saucy element that binds all of the good things together, rather than a sauce based on heavy cream or roux (a toasted butter and flour mixture).

My version is both cashew “cheeze-y” as well as actual (dairy) cheese-y because I add shredded fontina and Parm to the mix, too. This might sound odd — why go to the trouble of making a non-dairy cream sauce if you’re going to add cheese to your pasta?!, you might be wondering. But hold on…

My reasoning is two-fold: (1) raw cashews are much easier to keep on hand than heavy cream (and quicker/easier to make than a roux) and (2) this is a “dairy/cheese-sparing” approach. The cashew sauce replaces the cream/butter in the sauce, and it allows me to use less cheese in the overall dish (about 2/3 cup vs 1-1/2 cups or more in the typical cheesy baked pasta scenario). So, the idea here is to lighten things up a bit rather than create something that’s entirely dairy-free.

However, if you prefer, you can very easily make a completely vegan, non-dairy version of this — simply use the vegan cheese of your preference (Daiya, Kite Hill, etc). Just choose a cheese that melts reasonably well, such as a mozzarella-style variety.

And when you’re in the mood for an even easier, no-bake version, simply toss the pasta and veggies with the cashew cream sauce, add some nutritional yeast to increase the cheezy factor or stir in a couple of handfuls of shredded dairy or non-dairy  cheese (such as a Parmigiano-style). Garnish with leafy herbs and toasted breadcrumbs, and you’ll be well on your way to creamy pasta heaven. Read More


Barley vegetable soup with lemon herb pesto

barley-soup

Another delicious dish inspired by a random pantry find – in this case, the forgotten remains of a bag of pearled barley. Yay for pantry discoveries that turn into easy, tasty meals!

Loaded with satisfyingly chewy grains of barley, winter veggies, tomato paste for added richness, and green peas and spinach for green goodness, this soup is hearty, earthy, and perfect for a cold winter night. A spoonful of bright, lemony herb pesto stirred into each bowl makes for the perfect finish.

I love that this recipe is flexible and can be customized around the ingredients you have on hand: use brown rice or farro as the grain, add cubed sweet potato or winter squash for a sweet and starchy element, use veggie stock or homemade bone broth as the liquid (or water plus a cube of good veggie bouillon, such as Rapunzel), sub in shelled edamame or frozen corn kernels for the green peas – you get the idea! I had about a cup of leftover cooked vaquero beans in the fridge, so I added those in for extra protein — cooked lentils would also be a nice addition.

The lemon-herb pesto is more rustic in texture than the usual pesto — it actually leans in the direction of a gremolata, but with the addition of olive oil. Rather than use a food processor or mortar & pestle, I finely chopped the leafy herbs and used my microplane to finely grate the garlic clove and zest the lemon into a small bowl, then stirred in a couple of glugs of olive oil to bring everything together.

You might want to consider making a double portion of this pesto-gremolata hybrid, since it’s amazing as a bright finish for any wintry soup, and would also be perfect slathered on crostini and topped with crumbled chèvre, added to a veggie sandwich or used to enrich a dressing, vinaigrette, or dip (I’m thinking hummus – definitely!). Feel free to use the fresh, leafy herbs of your choice: I imagine it would be delicious with dill, basil, or a bit of marjoram or oregano (and since those last two are quite pungent I would use just a teaspoon or so as a flavor accent, along with another herb).  Read More


Crispy chickpea salad with roasted beets, watermelon radish + herbed tahini-yogurt dressing

crispy-chickpea-salad

I love this salad. It makes a quick and easy weeknight dinner when you’re in the mood for a light meal, but it’s also festive enough to serve to guests or bring to a potluck.

Earthy-sweet roasted beets, crispy spiced chickpeas, chewy currants, and crunchy pumpkin seeds make for a delicious and satisfying plant-based combination, and the creamy herbed dressing is the perfect complement. It’s a dish that comes together into something greater than the sum of its parts.

And if you can get your hands on a watermelon radish (I’m lucky that one of the farms that sells at my local greenmarket grows them year-round), slice it up and add that, too – instant cheer on a cold winter night!

If you’ve never made crispy roasted chickpeas before, they really are a revelation. Perfect as a cocktail snack, they’re also one of the best salad toppers around. Nutty and rich in protein, the humble chickpea is the perfect vehicle for flavor.

I love a combination of curry powder with spicy chipotle pepper, and some other favorites are garam masala, lemon zest + black pepper, and smoked paprika + cayenne. You can take these crispy little guys in basically any flavor direction. And be warned: you might want to make a double batch, because they are extremely snackable right from the sheet pan.

This creamy herbed tahini + yogurt dressing is one of my go-to dressings. It’s great on a leafy green salad, and also makes the perfect drizzle on a grain bowl, sandwich, or veggie burger. I use Seed + Mill’s Green Tahini, which I buy at Chelsea Market (they sell online as well), but if you only have plain tahini in the pantry add a pinch of dried herbs (such as an herbes de Provence blend) or a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, dill + cilantro). This might be one to make a double-batch of, too, since it stores well in the fridge for several days, and once you have some on hand you’ll think of a million ways to use it. Read More


Smoky lentil and zucchini chili with Jalapeño-cheddar olive oil cornbread

lentil-chili-edited-1-of-1

Chili and cornbread: is there a more perfect combination for Sunday night football watching (or pretend-football-watching, if you’re like me)?

I don’t think so.

Multi-bean chili is one of my favorite winter meals, but I haven’t been making it as often as I’d like to because (a) I always seem to forget to soak and cook my dried beans in advance, and (b) I hate lugging canned beans home from the grocery store, making my odds of spontaneous chili-making close to zero.

Then last week my NYC foodie friend Jill, an amazing cook who is always coming up with interesting new recipes and flavor combinations, posted her lentil chili on Instagram.  And it hit me – of course! – quick-cooking, no-soaking-required lentils were the answer to my chili conundrum. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Inspired, I set about creating my own version, combining French lentils with lots of aromatic veggies, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and zucchini, classic chili spices (cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, sweet paprika), along with smoked paprika and dried chipotle pepper for heat and smoke.

From start to finish this chili takes only about an hour to prepare, but it tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove for hours. It’s thick and rich, with deep flavor and mellow sweetness from the red bell pepper and tomato taste, wonderful smokiness from all the spices, and satisfying texture from the hearty lentils and tender chunks of zucchini. I like to finish my bowl with lots of lime juice, diced avocado, scallions, cilantro, and sometimes a dollop of Greek yogurt and shredded raw cheddar.

As with any chili the flavor just keeps getting better for several days after this is made, so it’s a perfect dish for Sunday batch-cooking that will enable easy meals throughout the week.

And, if we’re having chili we really should make cornbread to go with it, yes?! Read More


Chestnut and roasted cauliflower soup with lemon-parsley oil

cauli-chestnut-soup-edited-1-of-1

Am I the only one who waits to buy their chestnuts until they go on post-holiday sale in January? I love Williams-Sonoma’s steamed French chestnuts that are packaged in a jar, but they are SO expensive (most of the cheaper packaged chestnuts you’ll see in stores are imported from China). And living in NYC, sorry but I’m not about to roast a bunch of chestnuts over an open fire. Just not gonna happen.

So this year as usual I stocked up on my half-price WS chestnuts a few days after Christmas. Even though the holidays are over it’s not too late — there’s still a long stretch of winter ahead of us, and chestnuts are wonderful in so many wintry dishes, from stuffing to soup to cake to the famous marrons glacé (candied chestnuts — which I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to making, but the possibility is always there…).

For my first chestnut cooking adventure of 2017 I went with a soup, pairing the sweet, nutty chestnuts with earthy roasted cauliflower, the usual aromatics (onion, celery, garlic), and a pinch of herbs de Provence. The soup is rich, earthy, hearty, and very satisfying on a cold winter day. For a bright, punchy element I swirled each bowl with parsley-lemon oil, and a scattering of crispy sprouted pumpkin seeds and my two-tone gomasio adds crunch and a savory-salty finish.  Read More


Wild rice salad with tahini-roasted butternut squash and creamy pomegranate dressing

 

wild-rice-salad-edited-1-of-1

Like so many of my favorite meals, this hearty winter salad started with a chance pantry encounter — I accidentally knocked a half-full bag of Rancho Gordo wild rice off the top shelf while trying to reach a can of coconut milk (luckily the attempt ended with neither the rice nor the coconut milk bouncing off my head). Rather than lug over the step-stool to reposition said bag of rice in a more favorable spot, I tossed it (minus the bag) into a small pot of salted boiling water to cook for a while, assuming that a plan for what to do with it would come to me later. Because since when is having a batch of cooked whole grains in the fridge a bad idea?

A little later the idea of a simple, warm salad arrived, and going with what was in the pantry and refrigerator I decided to pair the chewy, nutty wild rice with earthy and tender tahini-roasted squash, crisp sprouted pumpkin seeds, rich and resiny toasted pine nuts, sweet currants, briny salt-cured capers, verdant fresh parsley, and juicy pomegranate jewels. A fantastic combination of flavors and textures to wake up those winter-dulled taste buds!

Drizzled with a bright dressing featuring tangy pomegranate molasses, tahini, and grainy mustard, this is an entree-worthy salad I’m going to be returning to again and again. It makes a delicious plant-based meal on its own, and would also be a perfect side with the protein of your choice. And while you’re in the kitchen it might be a good idea to make a double batch of that dressing — it keeps in the fridge for several days and is wonderful on salads of all kinds. Read More


Chocolate chunk tahini banana bread

img_4576

Snowy January Saturdays — that’s when the baking tends to happen around here.

Just when I think the last thing I need is another banana bread recipe in my life (because we already have this one, and this grain-free one, oh and this brown butter one, too), along comes an idea for a new iteration that just demands to be tested. And I guess for us tried and true banana bread aficionados there can never be too many options, right?

On this particular blustery morning, bumping into a few bananas tucked away in the freezer (while searching for something wholly unrelated, of course) provided just enough motivation to get the oven going and the loaf pan greased. My latest vision was for a loaf that would be not overly sweet, enriched with tahini for nutty richness, yogurt and almond flour for extra protein, and studded with chunks of dark chocolate for good measure. And less than an hour later that’s exactly what emerged from the oven (yay!).

This banana loaf is pleasantly dense-crumbed and less cake-y than others I’ve made recently (like that brown butter one linked above, which I’m pretty crazy about and makes more of a dessert-appropriate cake). I actually like this new version best toasted on the day after it’s baked (and just a note that if you’re going that route, set a piece of aluminum foil under your slice lest you end up with burnt chocolate dripping all over the bottom of your toaster oven!).

Said toasted slice is wonderful for breakfast, slathered with tahini or nut butter and sprinkled with gomasio, and is particularly satisfying as an afternoon snack alongside a cup of tea or hot chocolate, preferably after an invigorating walk in the snow during which you are dragged along by a 14-pound personal trainer who will not take no for an answer.

The recipe is flexible, so tweaks are always welcome: leave out the chocolate if you like, add toasted walnuts, pecans, pumpkin and/or chia seeds, coconut flakes, even a couple of handfuls of crispy granola. It’s all yours. Read More


Turmeric chicken and brown rice soup

chicken-soup

This seems to have been the holiday season of getting sick. Everyone I know, including me, has been under the weather lately. This simple, delicious and super-healing turmeric chicken soup is for all of us dragging around with the sniffles right now (and also for those of us who want to avoid coming down with the sniffles — or worse). It’s the easiest chicken soup I’ve made in a while, mainly because it uses chicken parts, rather than a whole chicken, doesn’t require making or buying broth (though you could use if for an even richer soup), and doesn’t require any real-deal straining of broth.

I begin by simmering on-the-bone chicken parts (I’ve made this with chicken breasts alone and breasts + thighs, both with good results) in water with aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, fennel tops, garlic, ginger) for about an hour to create a light and flavorful broth. Then I fish out the chicken and vegetables with a spider (or slotted spoon), discarding the vegetables and reserving the chicken to be added back in towards the end.

Next to assemble the soup I add chopped veggies, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, turmeric and a few other spices, a Parmigiano rind (because always a Parm rind!), and cooked brown rice to the broth. (I like to use cooked brown rice so it doesn’t soak up too much of the broth and leave me with something more like risotto than soup.) After this mixture has simmered together for about 30 minutes I add the shredded chicken, cook for a few minutes more and then finish the soup with lots of lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley. Delicious!

The brown rice creates a rich, velvety broth and makes the soup more hearty and satisfying; ginger, garlic and turmeric are ultra-soothing, antiviral and immunity-boosting; and lemon is the perfect zesty finishing touch and adds a boost of much-needed vitamin C. I like my soup with a spicy kick from jalapeño and red chile flakes, but you can tone it down to suit your taste. This soup gets better over the next couple of days after it’s made, and freezes well. Make sure to stock a few servings in the freezer for a snowy day — winter’s only just beginning!

————–

Turmeric chicken and brown rice soup

2 large onions, one cut into quarters and the other diced (divided)

2 large carrots, one cut into chunks and the other diced (divided)

4 celery stalks, 2 cut into chunks and the remaining stalks diced (divided)

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced (if stalks are attached save them for the broth)

10 large garlic cloves, 5 peeled and left whole, 5 peeled and sliced (divided)

5 slices of fresh ginger + 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped (divided)

2-1/2 pounds chicken parts (bone-in breasts and/or thighs)

1 jalapeno, chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

pinch of red chile flakes (optional)

2 bay leaves

Piece of Parm rind

2 cups cooked brown rice

juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

olive oil

chopped fresh parsley

salt and black pepper

To make the soup base, combine quartered onion, carrot chunks, celery chunks, fennel stalks and trimmings, whole garlic cloves, ginger slices, and chicken parts in a soup pot. Add water to cover (about 8 cups) and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour. Remove chicken pieces with tongs and set aside. Remove vegetables, garlic and ginger with a spider or slotted spoon and discard.

Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, fennel, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, turmeric, coriander, chile flakes, bay leaves, Parm rind and brown rice to the pot. Simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones from chicken. Shred meat into bite-sized pieces and add to soup. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley and lemon wedges.


Garlicky polenta with fennel seed + sesame roasted butternut squash

polenta-and-squash

On these chilly days of early winter, when the holidays are approaching fast and everything seems to be moving at a million miles an hour, my cooking is all about simple comfort food.

In particular I have been loving polenta-based, one-bowl meals lately. Creamy, soothing and satisfying — it’s almost like having a cozy bowl of oatmeal for dinner, but better! Polenta, or coarsely ground, Italian-style cornmeal, is one of my favorite grains because it’s quick-cooking, full of flavor, gluten-free, and can go in a sweet or savory direction.

One of my favorite ways to prepare polenta is in the aglio, olio, peperoncino style (i.e., with garlic, oil & chile pepper), which infuses the cornmeal with loads of wonderful flavors while it’s cooking. Finishing the polenta with chopped fresh parsley, butter, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano takes it to another level entirely. It’s delicious on its own, but even better topped with sautéed or roasted vegetables.

This time around I roasted cubes of butternut squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of big pinches of Fennel Seed Gomasio (which you can find in my shop) until the squash was tender and caramelized.

The creamy, savory polenta and tender, earthy-sweet squash are a divine pairing and exactly what I want to eat when I return home after a long winter day. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a little more freshly grated Parm and some toasted nuts or seeds for crunch and it’s the perfect one-bowl meal.  Read More


Borlotti bean, escarole and wild rice soup (and a simple technique for a perfectly cooked pot of beans)

borlotti-bean-soup

Soup’s on!

Soup season is here and I couldn’t be happier about it. Somehow as I get older my love of soup continues to grow exponentially. Nothing makes me happier on a cold fall or winter evening than a big, warming bowl of slowly simmered soup brimming with tons of veggies, satisfyingly chewy grains, and creamy-tender beans in a super-flavorful broth infused with herbs and aromatics. Yes, please!

And when the start of soup season coincides with a delivery from Rancho Gordo, even better. If you’ve never ordered from NorCal-based RG you must try their wonderful heirloom beans (they also carry unique grains such as black quinoa, as well as dried herbs and spices, etc) — varieties you can’t find anywhere else and so much fresher than anything you can find at a grocery store or even specialty market.

This time my order included cranberry (aka borlotti beans) and wild rice, which I decided to bring together into this soup. If you haven’t cooked with borlotti beans before they are a wonderfully creamy bean, relatively quick-cooking, and with a thin skin so they create the most delicious pot liquor. They are delicious simply simmered with garlic and herbs and finished with olive oil, and they also make a fantastic soup bean. Read More