While the shape of a gnoccho might resemble a knuckle or a small knot, the texture mimics a pillow - light, fluffy, and airy when prepared properly. Vegetables gently mixed into the dough along with flour and an egg help ensure this airiness. What follows is a method for preparing gnocchi with squash or pumpkin, sweet potatoes and beets, three ingredients in abundance all fall and winter long around here.
When the yellow squash melts into the bread under cover of apple and spice, kids (and adults like me) don’t even realize they’re gobbling up the vegetable. This recipe combines the oddly matched produce of late September, as is to say, "hey, I know fall is right around the corner, but summer is not quite over yet." You don’t have to wait until October to spice this up like a decadent warming pumpkin loaf.
Arrabbiata is a spicy tomato sauce made with lots of garlic and chili peppers. Although it literally translates to “angry,” no one, unless perhaps Tom Brady, will be angry if you make this Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata for dinner tonight. This dish can be adjusted, with equally delicious results, to suit vegans, those who eat gluten free, and/or eaters who are allergic to eggs! Win-win-win.
The spicy kick is not the only thing setting this apart from your average eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini. Those traditional configurations of eggplant, sauce and cheese are much more particular, and I dare say, unnecessary. Admittedly, I appreciate an impeccable eggplant parmesan. And my mother’s meticulously rolled eggplant rollatini, held together by toothpicks before being baked in the oven might just be the inspiration for this dish. But here’s why this Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata should replace all of that…well…fuss:
No frying. No mess. No three step dredge resulting in a once-normal hand transformed into 5 breaded thumbs.
It can be made gluten free — easily. See #1. Toasted breadcrumb topping is 100% optional.
All plant. No egg. Since the eggplant is not breaded, we skip the egg dredge.
Mix and match or even omit (gasp!) the cheese. Fresh Mozzarella is a classic in eggplant parmesan and ricotta makes for a luscious rollatini, but here you can use either, both, add parmesan or pecorino romano, or leave out the cheese entirely. And thus (see #3), this dish can be made vegan without any of those questionable imitation vegan “cheeses”.
Any sized casserole or baking dish with high sides will work. This fuss free eggplant bake doesn’t require a perfect fit, normally forcing you to transfer the partially layered contents of your eggplant bake into another better fitting vessel, three times, creating a sink full of dishes before you’ve put anything in the oven.
No rolling. No toothpicks. Sorry to take away your fun, mom.
I’m sure there is a 7th reason and perhaps even an 8th, but I want to share this with you before eggplant season has passed.
Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata
What You Need:
2 medium eggplant
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
red pepper flakes (crushed red pepper), to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese or 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or 3-4 tablespoons pecorino romano or combination
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cups Quick Spicy Tomato Basil Marinara or your favorite version
1/2 cup bread crumbs (seasoned if you like), optional
What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
If desired, peel the eggplant. (Note: I always leave the skin intact for color, flavor and nutrients but if you want your overall bite to have a more silky texture, peel the eggplant). Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slabs (or rounds if that is your preference).
Lay the eggplant slices out in a single layer on the cutting board or baking sheets. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Flip and sprinkle salt on the other side. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes so that the moisture sweats out of the eggplant.
Using a clean kitchen towel, pat the eggplant dry. Flip and pat dry on the other side as well.
Transfer to a baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Flip and drizzle olive oil on the other side. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until eggplant is golden brown and crisp around the edges, flipping the eggplant slices and rotating the pan halfway through.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix cheeses together with freshly ground black pepper.
In a baking dish with high sides, ladle a few spoonfuls of sauce, arrange about 1/4 of your eggplant slices in a single layer over the sauce. Dollop 1/4 of your cheese mixture across the eggplant slices. Repeat until you have used all of your ingredients, finishing with a layer of sauce on top. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes on top, if desired.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned around edges.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and sauté, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Remove eggplant from the oven, and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
I used to be intimidated by recipes calling for whole fish, even after growing up with a fishing rod tucked under my arm, and even after culinary school where we covered all things fin fish. Last summer, I explored grilling whole fish. It was a lot less intimidating to work with them outdoors on a gas grill. I’ve since tested and adapted these recipes for indoor cooking, because let’s face it, we all don’t have the option of grilling all the time.
This is the start to a perfect summer night meal, when you want to expel as little effort as possible to eat something light and full flavored. Pair with some grilled vegetables or a salad and you’re a star, a sea star.
What follows is a formula for simple whole grilled fish with herbs and citrus served in 4 of my favorite ways (I’m sure I’ll be amending this in a year or so with 2 additional ways). You can easily modify this formula to fit your favorite flavor combinations, seasonally available produce and local flavor. Or you can jump straight to my recipe for Whole Grilled Trout with Cilantro, Mint, Nam Pla Prik, and Cashews, which you won’t regret one bit.
WHOLE GRILLED FISH WITH FRESH HERBS & CITRUS - 4 WAYS
Lemon + Parsley + Garlic + Pepper + Olive Oil garnished with Hazelnuts
Orange + Parsley + Oregano + Olive Oil garnished with Olives + Capers
Orange + Lime + Cilantro + Serrano + Cumin garnished with Avocado + Tomato
Mint + Cilantro + Thai basil + White Pepper + Kaffir Lime Leaf garnished with Toasted Cashews + Nam Pla Prik Thai Chili Lime Sauce
Serves: 4 - 6
What You Need:
3 small whole fish, such as branzino, trout or red snapper, scaled, cleaned, & heads removed or butterflied, about 1 pound each
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ - 1 teaspoon ground pepper or other spices or spice blends
1 - 2 bunches of fresh herbs
2 - 3 limes, lemons or oranges, sliced or juiced for dressing
1 tablespoon oil
¼ cup nuts, lightly toasted
1-2 chili peppers, such as jalapeno, serrano or Thai bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
¼ - ½ cup olives, pickles, capers, or caper berries
What You Do:
Sprinkle sea salt and spices on the insides of the fish. Stuff each fish with few herb sprigs (leaving stems intact) and a few citrus slices.
Brush the outside of each fish lightly with canola oil.
Heat a grill on high heat.
Meanwhile, prepare any sauces or garnishes. Juice or slice the remaining citrus, toast nuts, slice peppers, tomatoes or other fruits, pluck herb leaves from the stems and discard stems.
Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, 6-7 minutes per side or until skin is crisped and flesh is flaky.
Serve immediately garnished with toasted nuts, additional citrus, herb leaves, and more per suggestions above.
I’ve been baking my own granola for years now, usually inspired by the odds and ends I find when cleaning my pantry. It’s incredibly satisfying to empty the remnants of bags of nuts, a tub of dried mystery fruit, a jar of cinnamon, and a rubber-band wrapped package of quinoa in one fell swoop! In the process, I create a wide open pantry shelf AND breakfast of champions for weeks!
Armed with some photos I took during the recent production of 60 jars for a dear friend’s wedding, I’m finally putting this granola “recipe” on the Teaching Table blog.
As the air quotes suggest, this is barely a recipe but rather a set of suggestions and instructions for assembling goodness out of any combination of nuts & dried fruit, spice, seeds, oil & sweetener. Mix and match to create a personalized granola that suits your taste and needs (or uses what you find in the back of your pantry). You can even adjust the ratios of the dry ingredients. The amounts are relative — another vote for this solution to reduce food waste! Here’s a basic formula.
Pantry Clean-Out granola
What you need:
2 ½ - 3 cups rolled (not instant nor steel cut) oats
½ - 1 cup whole grains such as quinoa, millet and amaranth
2 - 4 tablespoons seeds, such as sesame, chia and flax
1 - 2 teaspoons of ground spice, such as ginger, cinnamon, or cardamom, or powders like cocoa and matcha tea
½ - 1½ cups nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews and pistachios
½ cup oil (melted coconut, canola, hazelnut, pistachio, grapeseed, or olive oil)
⅓ cup sweetener in syrup form, such as honey, agave or maple syrup
½ cup dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries, apricots, figs, peaches or apples, ¼ inch dice
What you do:
Some of my favorite combinations:
All of these start with rolled oats…
walnuts + cinnamon + canola oil + maple syrup + dried apples
pistachios + almonds + cardamom + sesame seeds + coconut oil + honey + dried apricots
almonds + cocoa powder + nut oil (hazelnut, walnut) + agave + dried cherries
cashews + ginger + quinoa + coconut oil + agave + coconut flakes + dried mango
matcha tea powder + cashews + coconut oil + agave + golden raisins
walnuts + pistachios + cinnamon + quinoa + grapeseed oil + honey + raisins
What goes into your favorite mixture?
Once, when diligently cleaning out my pantry, I stumbled upon a partial package of biscuits and the dried up remnants of a jar of almond butter (you know, the part left behind because I didn’t bother to evenly distribute the oils). And of course I had dark chocolate chips on hand. Determined to turn these scraps into something edible and pacify my junk candy craving, I whipped up confections suitable for a vacation-land ice cream shop, that can live in my freezer to be eaten on demand.
This recipe has gone through a few iterations to reach the perfect state it’s currently in. At first, I used mini tart shells and swirled the chocolate and almond butter filling together. While it created an artful design (see photo top right), it was much too large for one serving and too hard to cut into for sharing. My initial peanut butter cup inspiration did not include jam. But the richness of the almond butter and the bitterness of the chocolate called for something tart and sweet. Enter in: any type of jam you have on hand - my favorites for this are raspberry and strawberry. Finally, it was the students in my gluten free desserts class who suggested lining the sides of the muffin cup with a thin layer of chocolate to contain all of that almond butter gooeyness (see photo bottom right for earlier less refined yet photogenic version). Proof that even the best desserts can be made better.
Almond Cookie Butter and Jam Cups in a Dark Chocolate Shell
Makes: 9-12 candy pieces
What You Need:
5 teaspoons coconut oil, divided
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely crushed biscuit* crumbs
½ cup creamy almond butter
Pinch sea salt
8 oz dark chocolate
¼ cup jam (raspberry or strawberry recommended)
What You Do:
Line a small baking sheet with silicone muffin cups or mini tart shells (1½ - 2 inches in diameter).
Over a double boiler (or in a glass bowl in the microwave), melt the coconut oil. Set aside 2 level teaspoons of coconut oil to be added to the chocolate later.
Combine 2 teaspoons melted coconut oil, biscuit crumbs, almond butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon more coconut oil if needed to smooth out the mixture.
In the same double boiler or bowl in which you melted the coconut oil, melt the chocolate with the reserved 2 teaspoons of coconut oil. Whisk until smooth.
Drop about 1 tablespoon of the melted chocolate into the bottom of each cup and spread out, turning and tilting the cup so that the chocolate evenly coats the bottom of the cup and runs up the sides about half an inch. Freeze for 3-5 minutes.
Dollop approximately 1 tablespoon of the biscuit crumb and almond butter mixture on top of the chocolate base in each cup.
Dollop ½ - 1 teaspoon of jam into the center of each cup.
Freeze for 20-30 minutes or until jam is firm.
Top the cup with another 2-3 teaspoons melted chocolate (Reheat it over the double boiler first if it firmed up). Spread chocolate evenly across the tops of the cups. Freeze for 30 minutes before enjoying.
After the cups have completely hardened, remove from their liners and transfer to a freezer safe bag or container. Store up to 6 months. But they will not last this long.
Remove from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Promptly return any uneaten portions to the freezer.
*Note about biscuits:
My favorite biscuits to use for these cups are the European graham cookies typically turned into speculoos. Biscoff works particularly well, but you can make these cups equally delicious with any sweetmeal or wholegrain biscuits that come in a cellophane tube (shown on the right), as well as gluten free graham cookies.
I first started exploring natural food dyes when trying to decorate my son’s birthday cake without using artificial colors from a little squeeze bottle. I knew there had to be ways to get vibrant colors out of actual foods. After discovering how to make pink, blue, green and yellow frosting, I moved on to coloring pasta, which is by far the most forgiving medium for natural food coloring. One can easily adjust moisture levels in pasta dough, which absorbs colors from solids, pastes, liquids and powders. Eggs, which are dyed in a quick bath of a colorful liquid, posed a new set of challenges.
Since we dunk eggs into liquid dyes, the pigments from colorful foods need to be transferred as much as possible to the water they are cooked in before straining off solids like shredded beets or dried flowers. And ground spice powders, like turmeric and paprika would ideally dissolve into the liquid. Not the case. Many formulas for natural dyes will tell you to use powdered turmeric for yellow. I love spices and figured I’d try others too like paprika, sumac, & chili powder. Why not?
It’s challenging to get clear vibrant color from these ground spices. First, ground spices are fat soluble, which means they work better with oil to break down and disperse their colors. But dunking an egg in oil sounded unorthodox and messy. So I followed the advice and simply simmered ground spices in boiling water for 20 minutes & then strained. The color was there, but it required a multi-hour, if not an overnight soak to dye eggs, and it left a little grit on the eggs, no matter how fine the strainer. So I revisited spices 101 and decided to bloom them first (or sauté them in a little bit of oil) before adding some water to make the liquid dye. The colors were certainly more vibrant and adhered in under 20 minutes, but the oil left a splotched rather than smooth finish on the egg - check out the orange speckled egg made from a combination of paprika and turmeric. Up next, I will attempt a dye made 100% from the ground spices bloomed in oil.
So, how do you get the best clear liquid yellow dye? If you have it available, fresh grated turmeric root works best. I simmered it in water just like the other fresh vegetables, and then strained off the solids. While the turmeric root itself appears orange, the liquid it creates makes a beautiful soft and natural yellow. If fresh turmeric root is not available, shredded golden beets work as well.
I had such success adding greens of all shades and varieties — sautéed, steamed, juiced and blanched spinach, kale, parsley & chard — to pasta dough & frosting that I didn’t expect it to be so challenging to dye eggs green. And, green eggs & ham, right? Wrong. For egg dying, not only do the green colors become terribly diluted in liquid, but the key ingredient required for getting dye to adhere to eggs destroys the green pigments. We add vinegar to egg dyes to create an acidic mixture that reacts with the calcium in the egg shell, allowing colors to be absorbed. While this acid creates vivid blues and bright pinks, any acid (lemon juice, wine, tomato sauce) deteriorates green rapidly and transforms it to an unappetizing olive or brown. The answer? Create vibrant greens by combining yellow and blue dye immediately before dunking eggs.
How to Produce a Rainbow of Natural Dyes
To make most types of natural liquid dye:
Boil or steep vegetables (1 cup), spices (1 tablespoon), or dried flowers or teas (1/2 cup) in water (1 1/2 - 2 cups) for 10-20 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Discard, compost or reuse the solids.
Add vinegar and stir. Use ~1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup liquid dye. Use less for acidic mixtures like berries cooked in lemon juice.
Steep: to soak (food, tea, etc.) in hot water so as to extract its flavor or color or to soften or reconstitute it
Boil: to cook (food) in boiling water over a heat source
For a quick reference list of formulas for these and a full rainbow of dyes, click here.
General Tips and Hacks for Dying Eggs
In my classes and conversations with many home cooks and those eager to become home cooks, I hear the same repeated request: Healthy. Easy. Meals. So here’s one of my favorites that meets this criteria and then some. As a sheet pan supper, you’ll only be washing one pan after you stuff your face with wholesome goodness. And since the incredible edible egg is the star protein, equally acceptable for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and of course BRUNCH), it’s easy on the wallet. The chili maple glaze turns the squash into crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, candy that even squash resisters can’t stop eating.
You can use any type of squash, but I find delicata or acorn work best in this dish, since the roasted skin is deliciously edible, upping the convenience and health factors (thank you, fiber). If butternut or another variety of squash is more readily available to you, go for it. Whichever you use, cut the squash into symmetrical crescent-shaped slices that can be ingeniously arranged to contain a cracked egg.
Make this for dinner on a weeknight. Make it for brunch and impress your friends. Make extra and put the leftovers inside a taco.
CHILI MAPLE GLAZED SQUASH AND RUNNY EGGS
Serves: 4 as a main dish
What you need:
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or canola)
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari (or shoyu or soy sauce)
4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced or grated
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled, minced or grated
¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle chili flakes, optional
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 acorn or 2 delicata squash, about 2 pounds
2-3 scallions, sliced at an angle
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
What you do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice into ½ inch-thick crescent shaped slices. (Peeling delicata or acorn squash is optional.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar, tamari, garlic, ginger, and chipotle chili flakes.
Season the squash pieces with salt and add to the maple syrup mixture. Toss to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Spread the squash in a single layer on the parchment lined sheet tray, reserving the extra glaze. Bake 25-30 minutes or until it is golden brown on the underside.
Remove the pan from the oven, flip the squash, brush with additional glaze and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until squash is browned on both sides.
Arrange the squash so that two half moons create a circle with a well in the middle. Drop one egg into each well. Season with salt. Return the pan to the oven and bake 7-8 minutes or until whites are solid and yolks are cooked to your preference.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallion slices and more chili maple glaze. Serve immediately.
Spiced Sweet Potato Custard
Make this custard merely because it is downright delicious — creamy, decadent, with a hint of spice and subtle sweetness, but if you should need to know, it is also gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and can be made without processed sugar. We use leftover mashed or baked sweet potatoes to whip up this one-bowl wonder. Your food processor or immersion blender combines everything to the perfect consistency in just a few minutes. All you have to do is wait (and fight off the aroma of maple and spices) while it sets to satin flawlessness in the oven. You can also adjust the level of sweetness — reduce the maple crystals and serve with additional maple syrup on top. We sometimes swap the sweet potato for cooked pumpkin or winter squash flesh. We eat this for breakfast, brunch or dessert (and 2-year-old Andy consumed multiple servings as a meal for weeks on end).
Some tips on making this dairy free custard:
Whip everything up in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender. Since there is no gluten, it’s hard to overdo it. The blending will simply make it all smoother. But if you create a lot of bubbles in the process, tap those out once you fill your ramekins.
A water bath or bain marie is a good idea if not a necessity (and not a particularly difficult one) for cooking custard to satiny smoothness. Don’t skip this. Before starting, simply find a baking dish large enough to hold your ramekins with space for some hot water in between. But don’t add the hot water until you've put your baking dish with filled ramekins into the oven and handle carefully to prevent water from spilling into the custard.
Maple crystals are the result of boiling all of the water off of the sap harvested from maple trees. Maple crystals, also known as maple sugar, are becoming increasingly easier to find wherever you buy pure maple syrup. If you can’t find maple crystals, turbinado and coconut sugar are your next best options in this recipe.
Freshly grate your nutmeg — it makes all the difference.
What you need:
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
1 ½ - 1 ⅔ cups cooked sweet potato flesh (peeled, skin discarded)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of sea salt
¼ cup maple crystals (or turbinado or coconut sugar)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons tapioca starch/tapioca flour
What you do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 8-10 ramekins with coconut oil and place in a large baking dish with high sides.
In a food processor or with an immersion blender in a medium bowl, purée sweet potato flesh with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cloves and sea salt until smooth. Stop and scrape down sides.
Add maple crystals, maple syrup, and remaining melted coconut oil. Purée until smooth. Stop and scrape down sides. Add eggs and process until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add coconut milk and tapioca starch and process until smooth.
Pour into prepared ramekins. Carefully transfer to oven rack that is slightly pulled out. Pour hot water into the baking dish until it comes halfway to two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully slide the baking dish and oven rack back into the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes until custard is set. A tiny pea-sized circle in center will jiggle just a little when done.
Allow to cool in baking dish 5 minutes. Then remove ramekins from baking dish and allow to cool further.
Serve warm or chilled with additional maple syrup or dusting of freshly ground nutmeg if desired.
To Freeze: You can freeze the unbaked custard mixture two ways: pour unbaked custard mixture into a freezer safe container or wrap filled ramekins tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze up to 3 months. Defrost in refrigerator about 3 hours and continue with procedure.
Alternatively, keep completely cooled baked custards in their ramekins and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze up to 3 months. Defrost in refrigerator about 3-4 hours and enjoy or allow to come to room temperature before enjoying.
This blog post is a wee bit misleading. While I intend to give you a straightforward recipe for a hearty health-supportive one-pot wonder perfect to combat today’s winter chill from Florida to Maine and New York to Chicago, I’m also going to give you the tools to make countless plant-based stews out of any ingredients you’re craving or have on hand. If you’re just here for the Anti-Inflammatory Butternut Squash and French Lentil Stew, click the link for the no-frills version pronto. But if you want to know how to make stew for days, without eating the same one twice, read on… (illustrations coming some day soon).
First, the formula for any Vegan Gluten Free Stew
What you need:
But Chef Laura, how do I know what pairs with what? I hear this question a lot. I leave with you a few tips:
what grows together goes together (seasonally, in the same parts of the country/world, etc.)
do a quick internet search for your ingredient in question and see what recipes come up not for the recipe itself but to see what others have paired with it
pick a genre or cuisine and choose ingredients to pair based on that cuisine’s classic combinations
and more you can read more strategies in this earlier blog on using what you have on hand.
Cooking oil (coconut, olive, canola)
Aromatics (ginger, garlic, onion, scallion, turmeric, chili peppers, etc.)
Salt (kosher or sea)
Pastes (curry paste, tahini, nut butters, tomato paste, etc.)
Liquids (water, stock, coconut milk, nut milks, juice, apple cider etc.)
Vegetables (raw, canned, frozen)
Cooked legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans of all varieties, etc.)* or uncooked legumes but be sure to add sooner with more liquid or cook separately, then add
Acid and/or umami (lemon juice, vinegar, wine, soy sauce, umeboshi, tomato)
Greens and/or fresh herbs
What you do:
In a large stock pot, heat cooking oil over medium high heat.
Add aromatics and a pinch of salt. If using onion, allow to soften before adding other “smaller” aromatics like garlic to prevent browning or burning.
Add dried spices and seasoning and allow to bloom for a few minutes in the oil.
Whisk in paste(s). [You might add acid, like wine, at this stage].
Slowly incorporate liquid by whisking a small amount into the paste and then gradually adding 1-3 cups. Bring to a simmer.
Add vegetables that need the longest cook time. Bring back to a simmer. Continue to add vegetables in order of their cooking time. Add more liquid if needed or desired.
Add cooked legumes and simmer stew for at least 15-20 minutes more or up to 2 hours to incorporate flavors and reduce slightly. [You might add a touch of acid at this stage].
Just before serving, add any greens or fresh herbs, or simply top the plated stew with fresh herbs and greens.
Add small pinches of salt at every stage.
If you don’t have/like an ingredient, leave it out or substitute something else from its category.
Cut vegetables into shapes and sizes that are appealing to eat relative to one another.
Amounts are relative -- add more of the ingredients you love, less of those you just want a taste of, and add as much liquid to get the consistency you want for your stew.
Add items that need to cook longer first such as carrots and those that cook quickly last, such as corn or frozen peas.
Now for the Soup du Jour:
Anti-Inflammatory Butternut Squash and French Lentil Stew
This hearty and flavorful stew highlights squash and fast-cooking french lentils. It’s spiced with Ras el hanout, a North African and Moroccan spice blend that means “head of the shop”. Ras el hanout is packed with anti-inflammatory agents, like ginger, turmeric and black peppercorn and delivers additional warmth with paprika, cinnamon and cayenne. Plant-based and lowcarb, this stew is thickened with tahini, the middle eastern staple made from ground sesame seeds. A bright finish of crisp spinach leaves and lemon juice give you everything you’re craving in one pot and 40 minutes.
Makes: 5-6 cups, serves 6-8
What you need:
½ cup french lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 small yellow or white onion, diced
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons grated ginger root
2 - 3 teaspoons ras el hanout spice (purchased or see my recipe)
2 tablespoons tahini
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 medium butternut squash, ¼ inch cubes
3 carrots, ¼ inch thick half moons
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch of spinach, about 2 cups leaves, torn
Freshly cracked black pepper
What you do:
Rinse the lentils and soak in a bowl of hot tap water for about 10 minutes (or until it is time to add them to the stew).
Heat olive oil in a soup pot on medium high heat. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt. Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt. Sauté about 1 minute longer.
Whisk in the spice mixture and sauté 30 seconds longer.
Stir in the tahini, and then gradually whisk in the stock in a slow steady stream, allowing it to thicken before adding more.
Strain the lentils and add them to the pot with the remaining salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and simmer gently about 20 minutes.
Add the butternut squash and carrots and simmer an additional 10-15 minutes or until lentils, squash and carrots are tender.
Taste and season the soup with lemon juice. Add the torn spinach leaves, stir and heat just a minute or two until they wilt. Serve with additional lemon juice and fresh cracked black pepper, if desired.
Back in college, my electric air popper was the highlight of my dorm floor, along with the beer die table residing at one end of the hall and the large screen TV at the other. I attracted my neighbors for study breaks (and post-beer die game drumunchies) with the aroma of freshly popping corn. I’ve graduated to not popping popcorn as a means of making new friends, and to using a regular old stove top and lidded pot to make the classic snack. Since my Stove-top Popcorn has impressed and puzzled many guests for Saturday afternoon snacks or movie night at our place, I thought I’d share how you too can make some, followed by a few ideas for yummy toppings.
Since I’ve been making popcorn this way, I have never had an un-popped kernel or burnt popcorn in a batch. I do, however, have occasional overflow of popped corn. But that is only a problem for…no one.
What you need:
average sized stainless steel pot with a well-fitting lid (I use a 3.5QT pot)
cooking oil (canola & olive work best, but you can try others so long as they have a high smoke point)
seasoning and flavorings (more on that below)
What you do:
Some seasoning ideas:
Of course you can go with the classic butter and salt topping, but I encourage you to try these variations and use your own creativity.
Herb Butter: melt butter and mince up any herbs you have on hand, such as thyme, rosemary and parsley. Better yet, if you have some of my herb garlic butter in your freezer, just melt that and toss with your popcorn. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
Hot Honey Kettle Corn: Transfer the popped popcorn to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, over low heat, melt a few tablespoons of butter. Add Mike’s hot honey (or any honey plus a couple teaspoons of dried chili flakes). Add the popcorn back to the pot and toss to coat. Transfer to a bowl. It will harden and get stickier as it cools.
Truffle Parmesan: Use olive oil or a combination of olive oil and truffle oil to pop the popcorn. Toss the popped popcorn in melted butter, then sprinkle with truffle salt, grated Parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper.
Salt and Pepper: ‘nuff said. Why does salt get all the attention when it comes to popcorn? Don’t leave out the black pepper.
Coconut Curry: Use coconut oil to pop the popcorn. Toss popped corn with a curry powder, madras curry or garam masala spice blend you enjoy.
Any spice mix plus salt and/or butter is a great addition to popped corn.
Although we enjoy our potatoes year-round, their chance to shine starts with Thanksgiving and continues through the cooler months, when we gobble up this “storage” crop.
Years ago, while studying abroad in Nepal, I understood first hand what this meant. I arrived at one homestay in the snowy mountain region of Annapurna just after the potato harvest and actually had the privilege of bunking up with the family’s potato stores. Those potatoes, overflowing from large wicker baskets in a cold dry loft above the hut would last them through the cold winter, primarily boiled and dipped in Himalayan salt.
Here, we treat ourselves to mashed potatoes at the holidays, incorporate them in our winter stews and roast them alongside chickens for Sunday dinner. Nothing says winter comfort food quite like a potato. But there are as many varieties of potatoes as dishes we make with them.
Farmer Ted (our CSA hero farmer from upstate NY) supplies at least 7 varieties each year, not even including the sweets and yams. I'm often asked, what's the difference between all of these spuds. I mean, a potato is a potato, right? Right. Um sorta. So why do I need all of these different varieties?
Well, each variety provides different nutrients and things we need for optimal health. You could read up on it in Jo Robinson's impeccably researched book, "Eating on the Wild Side" or you could just take my word for it. Okay, so variety of potatoes, yah, yah, yah, can I just cook them all the same way? Sure, you could. Potatoes are delicious pretty much any way you slice 'em, or roast them or boil them or you get the picture, but in my kitchen experience, I have found that some potatoes just lend themselves better to certain things than others...
Fingerlings of all shapes and colors are best when halved (or kept whole if really tiny), tossed in olive oil and salt and roasted in a hot oven (say 400 degrees) until crisped on the outside. I like adding fresh or dried hearty herbs like rosemary, whole garlic cloves, and whole spices like cumin seeds to mine too. These are also the best variety for slicing thinly for a tart, to top a pizza or elevate a salad.
Russet potatoes: there's a reason you often see these baked whole at steak houses. They make the best baked potatoes and vessels for all of those toppings, like butter, sour cream, cheese, broccoli, bacon, and of course they are great for twice baked or stuffed potato skins. But what you might not realize is that leftover baked Russet potato flesh is perfect to mix into croquettes or veggie burgers. They don't add too much moisture and their starches are useful for binding other ingredients together.
I use Yukon golds and red potatoes in pretty much everything else, like all sorts of mashed potatoes - garlic mashed, sour cream and chives, with gravy, I'm drooling for Thanksgiving now. Justifiably so, they go by the term “creamer” potatoes in some places. They are also my go to for chowders, all stews including My Dad’s Beef Stew, my Auntie Sheila's Puerto Rican Rice and Beans recipe, latkes, and for filling pierogi.
As we near Thanksgiving 2018, I feel compelled to provide an important public service announcement in regards to potatoes. Whichever variety you use for your mashed potatoes (although I recommend the yukon golds or reds), please DO NOT whip those potatoes with an electric mixer nor put them into a food processor. You may think this will help get a smooth and creamy consistency, it WON’T. While your potatoes may end up “lump free” they’ll be so gummy and gluey that you won’t be able to appreciate the absence of lumps. If you really want to make a mash in a food processor, then consider creamy mashed cauliflower instead — my recipe forthcoming.
Okay, so I’ll admit it, this post is not at all sexy, or even trendy and it might elicit some juvenile jokes about gas. But, I promise that if you learn how to cook beans properly and commit to making your own from scratch, you will actually keep that flatulence at bay…
Of course I use canned beans. They’re a fantastic convenience and as far as health is concerned, they are just as good for you as homemade, with the one distinction being sodium content. But scratch made beans — meaning cooked beans that started as dried — taste better and have superior texture. Cup for cup, they also cost less, and as an added bonus for us city-dwelling schleppers, dried beans are not as heavy to lug home from the grocery store. You can subtract the weight of the can and the cooking liquid. I know, but these are factors Brooklynites consider when it comes to making foods like beans and stock.
And since making beans from scratch is so simple and only requires a little advanced planning, water and a pot, why not? Go ahead, give your can opener a rest.
Steps to Cooking Beans from Scratch
Tips to cooking beans:
Soaking beans is essential. You will reduce cooking time, help them cook more evenly, and make them more digestible, eliminating the gassy effects many people experience with beans. Soak most beans for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. If you’ll be soaking them longer than that (whoops, no time to cook them!), then give them fresh water, transfer to the fridge if they were out, and use within 2 days max. The idea is to get them to double in size after soaking. See image below.
red kidney beans in 3 stages
1. The beans on the left are dried.
2. The beans in the middle were soaked overnight.
3. The beans on the right were pressure cooked for 5 minutes.
Adding salt at the beginning of the cooking process will make them more flavorful and more tender and will reduce the amount of salt you use in the dish later. Use 1/4 teaspoon to 1 cup DRIED beans (before soaking). There is much debate about salting beans during cooking. If you’re interested, read up here and here. So long as beans soaked before hand (and do not salt the soaking liquid), they will be soft enough to absorb salt from the cooking liquid and cook evenly from the beginning of the cooking process.
Use spices in bean dishes to help counteract flatulence. I told you that if you cook beans correctly, starting with soaking and finishing with seasoning, you can control how they are digested. Some spices that relieve flatulence include: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, black pepper, cloves, allspice, and fennel.
Bay leaf helps to tenderize the beans and also aids digestion.
Water should just cover the beans in a pressure cooker or go twice as high as beans in a conventional pot. In the latter, add more liquid as needed while beans are cooking.
Pressure cookers (or those instant pots everyone has now) are great for cooking beans in a fraction of the time. See chart below. To use: seal lid, turn burner on high and bring to pressure (when pin pops up and hisses), reduce heat to low and set timer for lower end of estimated cooking time. At time, remove pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to release on its own (pin pops down). Check beans, taste and repeat in 1-2 minute increments as needed. In a conventional pot, bring water to a boil with beans, bay leaf and salt. Reduce heat to medium and gently cook until beans are tender.
Cooking times will vary. Below is a very loose guideline for how long it takes to cook some common dried beans in both a pressure cooker (first number) and a typical pot with loosely fitting lid (second number), but there are so many factors that will affect how long it will take your beans to cook. And so, really, they are done when, well…they are done. You must taste to find out. Some of those factors include:
if/how long beans were soaked and at what temperature
age of the beans, which determines how “dry” they really are, and how “strong” their skins
variations on stove top heat
your personal preference and intended use of the bean: Do you like it softer or with a little firmness or chew? Do you want the beans to be creamy for a puree or stew or firm for use in a salad or pasta dish?
Estimated cooking times (bean: pressure cooker time or conventional pot cooking time)
chickpeas and adzuki beans: 4-5 minutes or 3 hours
black beans and red kidney beans: 6-8 minutes or 90 minutes
black eyed peas and pidgeon peas: not recommended or 1 hour
navy beans and cannellini beans: 5-7 minutes or 90 minutes
green or french lentils, green split peas, & yellow split peas: 5 minutes or 45 minutes
red lentils: not recommended or 20 minutes
As the longer days and warm weather winds down, the final baskets of heirloom red tomatoes and rainbow colored cherry tomatoes are available at farmer’s markets. Scoop them up while you can. However, you can rest assured that green tomatoes will appear over the next couple of weeks. I’ve got you covered for what to do with those green tomatoes - and it goes beyond frying ‘em.
Acknowledging their fate, I plucked quarts of green tomatoes from my tomato plants last weekend. They will never realize their potential colors promised on the seed packets. And that’s okay. I’m appreciative for the shorter days and cooler temps, especially when I dream up all of the good eats from these firm and punchy green ovals. I started with this tangy and spicy green tomato chutney. Over the weekend, we ate it with grilled pork chops, but it’s also delicious alongside this Bengali Red Lentil Dal or just slathered on bread.
Tangy and Spicy Green Tomato Chutney
Yield: 1 ½ - 2 cups
What you need:
4 cups green tomatoes, chopped into about ⅛ inch pieces
¼ cup sugar (I used turbinado or raw sugar)
2 teaspoons salt
3-6 serrano chilis, jalapenos or other small green chilis, halved, seeds removed & thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coconut oil (optional)
⅓ cup honey
1 whole star anise
8 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons to ¼ cup lime juice
What you do:
Combine the tomatoes, sugar and salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Strain the liquid from the tomatoes. Discard the liquid and transfer the tomatoes to a medium saucepan.
Add the sliced chili peppers, coconut oil, honey, star anise, and cardamom. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
Add lime juice to taste. Simmer another 10 minutes or until lime juice is reduced.
If chutney is not your jam, you might try these other ideas for an abundance of tomatoes, equally delicious with green tomatoes as well as their peak season rainbow colored cousins:
Emory enjoys arranging the bounty baskets even more than he enjoys picking produce from the garden
Here’s one of his arrangements.
Slow Oven Dried Tomatoes:
What you need:
tomatoes (any and all colors)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt or sea salt
garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes (optional)
What you do:
Slice cherry and grape tomatoes in half.
Arrange in a single layer cut side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Tip: If your olive oil comes out too fast or doesn’t drizzle nicely from the bottle, transfer some to a spoon or small liquid measuring cup and drizzle from that.
Sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt.
Roast in oven at 200-225 degrees for at least 2 hours. Check at 2 hours. You want tomatoes to be shriveled and dried (see bottom photo on right). They should move easily around the pan when you shake it. Continue roasting, checking every 15-30 minutes until you reach this state. You can store in the fridge up to 3 weeks as is or in a jar of olive oil, with or without additional seasoning, like roasted garlic cloves, dried oregano, red pepper flakes or dried basil. You can also freeze the roasted tomatoes in oil for up to 6 months.
I made a version of this sweet and spicy tomato jam, but I used about 3 lbs of tomatoes because that’s what I had. I reduced the amounts of other ingredients accordingly. In addition to tomatoes, my jam has ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup Mike’s hot honey, ¼ cup orange blossom honey, ¼ cup turbinado sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, and ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper. I basically followed the procedure and got 16 oz of jam (or four 4 oz ball jars). I want more! Increase the sugar if you use green tomatoes, unless you like a more tart jam.
Fresh Tomato Tart:
Fried Green Tomatoes:
There is no substitute for fried green tomatoes, so make some this weekend and share. I’m pretty sure I’m available. Call me. To make: Slice large green tomatoes into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick rounds. Put them through a three step dredge: 1. Flour seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper, 2. Egg whisked with salt and black pepper, and 3. Coarse ground cornmeal (with more cayenne if you’re feeling spicy). Fry in canola oil until golden brown on each side, remove and set on paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt immediately.
Just a chef showing off her tomatoes, and getting some sun on her guns.
Local seasonal cooking or the “use what you have method” is reliant upon a well-stocked pantry of easily adaptable staples. Since I often talk about what I find in my pantry to combine with unexpected pounds of fresh produce to assemble a quick dinner, many of you have asked, “what should be in my pantry?” As a chef, baker, and overall food enthusiast, my pantry is abnormally stocked with 6 types of rice, 8 varieties of flour, an assortment of oil and vinegar bottles and nearly 70 spices and dried herbs, and counting. What can I say, I love spices! However, for the purposes of this post, I asked myself, “what 10 items would you keep if you had to limit your ingredient indulgence?” In other words, below are the top 10 items I always have on hand.
Note: Your well-stocked pantry is going to have a lot to do with the type of cooking you do and the diet you eat [or aspire to eat]. This is my version.
High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Mediterranean diet, need I say more?
Canola oil - sometimes you need a health supportive cooking oil that won’t impart olive flavor
Apple Cider Vinegar - when I thought about it, this is the vinegar I use most in sauces, dressings, marinades, and even stews and bone broth
Dry Pasta - with my Italian roots and carbohydrate loving family, we’re often one box of pasta and some veggies away from dinner
Coconut Milk - for a quick curry, a creamy soup, “nice” cream, or overnight oats, it’s good to have this stuff around
A variety of Spices but only those you’ll use within a year. In the spirit of this post, if I had to choose one and only, I’ll take crushed red pepper flakes, since I use them nearly every day.
Red Lentils - fast cooking, no soaking required, endless possibilities…
A whole grain, and if I had to choose right now, it would be Freekeh, because it’s freaking delicious
Dried Cranberry Beans - New England favorite, they work in chili, make kick-ass beans and rice, and can be puréed into a smooth dip
Canned Chickpeas - I often cook my own chickpeas but having canned beans on hand for unplanned uses is critical and chickpeas are of the most useful
Okay, so ten items is extremely limiting; I’m including a bonus 5 items for bakers:
Unbleached All Purpose Flour - I bake with a variety of flours and meals, but you can’t beat all purpose, because, well it’s for all purposes, and I usually combine that with another variety like spelt or whole wheat
Turbinado Sugar - This raw version is less refined and offers more texture and flavor than its white counterpart, but it’s also versatile and can be used in most baking recipes that call for white and/or brown sugar. It can also be ground if you need it finer.
Baking Powder - Sometimes you need a leavener…and this works more often than baking soda which requires acid in the mixture. Admittedly, this baker uses both regularly.
Rolled Oats - these can also be ground into oat flour using a spice grinder or food processor
Pure Vanilla Extract - usually can’t go wrong with this addition to most sweets…
I forgot salt?! Bonus item: Kosher Salt. So, there you have it. 16 required items in my pantry.
I had just made a large batch of my masala chai tea latte when I remembered that I was about to go out of town for a while. There was no way I would drink it all before leaving for my trip. My first thought was “oh no, chai latte down the drain.” But my second thought, with a mischievous smirk, was “there’s only one thing I can do about this situation”. I promptly put the ice cream machine bowl into the freezer and began turning that chai into an ice cream base.
I consulted my go-to guide in ice cream making, local favorite Ample Hills Creamery cookbook. Their Walt’s Dream base and overall ice cream making instructions were a fantastic starting point for this batch of Masala Chai Latte ice cream. One great tip provided by Ample Hills is to use skim milk powder in place of some of the milk. They consider it their secret ingredient because it provides creaminess without adding too much water, which would lead to dreaded ice crystals. It’s perfect when making an ice cream from a mixture already containing a bit of water, like tea. If your grocery store doesn’t sell skim milk powder, you can easily buy it online.
So, if you ever find yourself with an excess of chai latte (ah, when does that ever happen?) you can quickly churn that into a creamy caffeinated frozen treat. Or you could also make yourself a batch of masala chai, drink a cup with a friend and use the remainder for this sweet & spicy afternoon pick me up. To me, it’s like coffee ice cream but way better! It pairs nicely with a sugar cone, oat cookies or biscuits, but can also make a decadent sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream, and bruléed peaches.
What you need:
2 cups prepared masala chai latte, strained, chilled or hot
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup dry non-fat/skim milk powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
What you do:
As per the instructions of your ice cream maker, put your ice cream bowl into the freezer to chill.
Pour prepared masala chai latte into a medium saucepan and whisk in the turbinado sugar and milk powder until they are fully dissolved and there are no lumps. Stir in the heavy cream.
Heat mixture over medium high heat until it just begins to steam, about 5 minutes (or when temperature on instant read thermometer reads 105 degrees). Turn off the heat.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks while simultaneously streaming in about 1/2 cup of the hot chai mixture in a very slow drizzle.
Slowly whisk this egg yolk mixture back into the pot. Heat on medium low heat until mixture thickens to coat the back of a rubber spatula and tiny bubbles appear (or when temperature on instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees) about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and set pot into an ice bath (a larger pot or container filled with ice water). Alternatively, transfer the hot mixture to a heat proof bowl or pitcher to place into ice bath. Avoid getting ice and water into your ice cream mixture. Chill in ice bath for about 20 minutes, stirring every 4-5 minutes.
Strain mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps and transfer to a container with a tightly fitting lid. Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or until your ice cream machine bowl is ready, or up to 3 days.
Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the machine's directions.
I'm from New England. This IS how you say it and spell it.
Here’s a recipe for a New England classic made vegetarian and gluten free. Of course, you can still use bacon for the extra richness or add lobster for a decadent summertime delight. See variations below. A traditional chowder might use a roux -- equal parts butter and flour cooked to a paste -- for thickening, but I’ve found that a purée of fresh corn kernels plus potatoes cooked down into the broth create the exact same result and help the chowder maintain it’s fresh light consistency rather than becoming gelatinous. Note: this chowder will also work well with leftover previously cooked corn on the cob. Just remove kernels from cobs and use both as if they were fresh. You might not extract as much flavor from the previously cooked cobs and the kernels won’t be as crunchy in the chowder but it’s certainly a great use for leftover corn on the cob.
What you need:
5 ears of corn
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter, plus more butter for serving if desired
1 onion, medium dice
4-5 medium red potatoes, small dice
¼ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
3 cups half-n-half, whole milk or combination
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves (from about 6-7 sprigs)
1 teaspoon minced parsley leaves
black pepper to taste
What you do:
1. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Using the back of your knife, scrape the remaining kernels and juices from the cob. Set aside.
2. Boil 3 cups water with 2 teaspoons sea salt and add cobs (with kernels removed) and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Discard the cobs and bay leaf.
3. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat until it shimmers. Add diced onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
4. Add potatoes, another pinch of salt, dried thyme, and cayenne if using, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes or while you prepare the liquid.
5. Put about a cup of the reserved corn stock and 1 cup of the corn kernels into a blender. Blend until smooth. Alternatively, you could just add the corn kernels to the liquid in a large measuring cup and purée with an immersion blender. Add this liquid to the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
6. Add remaining corn kernels and cook for about 4 minutes.
7. Add milk and thyme, and warm until liquid just begins to steam. Be careful not to boil the milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with an additional pat of butter, if desired, and minced parsley leaves.
With Bacon: At step 3, render the bacon until crispy in the soup pot. Remove bacon strips and lay on paper towels. Drain excess grease so that you are left with about 2 tablespoons in bottom of pan. Sauté diced onion in the 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and continue with recipe. Add roughly chopped bacon bits to the chowder just before serving.
With Lobster: At step 7, add previously cooked and shelled lobster meat, cut into bite sized pieces, with the milk and thyme.
To freeze: After adding the corn in step 6, remove from heat and allow to cool. Freeze the partially finished chowder at this point. To reheat and finish, simply defrost in the fridge or in a pot over low heat. Bring to a simmer and ensure potatoes are heated through. Add milk and thyme and continue with step 7.
It does not get more American than succotash, one of the first dishes Native Americans shared with settlers. The word, meaning "broken corn kernels" comes from the Narrangansett people, who lived in the area that is now Rhode Island. There are many ways to make succotash and an American southerner might eloquently debate a Yankee on both contents and process. I favor the New England variety, with a few tweaks, but also just assumed succotash translated to "every vegetable from the garden" or "the entire contents of your produce drawer dumped into a skillet."
Succotash is the whatever you have at the time kind of dish. Actually -- and perhaps I should put this into the procedure itself -- when making succotash, I open all drawers of my fridge, hunt behind jars and open every container of leftovers, stacking every possible vegetable that can be used on the cutting board along with the tomatoes ripening on the counter. As far as I'm concerned, the only required ingredient in summer succotash is fresh local sweet corn previously cooked or raw. The others you can take or leave or substitute, depending on what you have and what you like.
New England Summer Succotash
Yield: Serves 4-6
What you need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
sea salt or kosher salt
dried ground spices (e.g. smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, optional)
2 sweet peppers (any color bell, anaheim, cubanelle)
3-5 cloves garlic
1 cup beans (see note)
2 medium zucchini or summer squash
2-3 cups fresh corn kernels*
1/4 cup water
1-2 medium tomatoes or handful of cherry tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, basil, oregano, chives, rosemary), chopped
What you do:
Cut all vegetables into a similar size and shape.
Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet (cast iron if available) over moderately high heat. Heat the oil or butter and add the onion with a few pinches of salt. Sauté until soft and lightly browned, about 5-8 minutes.
Add spices if using and sauté about 1 minute.
Add the peppers, garlic, a pinch of salt and sauté until peppers are softened.
Add fresh beans (if using), zucchini and corn kernels with a few more pinches of salt. Sauté 1-2 minutes. Add the water and cook until liquid is absorbed.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they break down. Add cooked dried beans if using.
Right before turning off the heat, add the fresh herbs.
Use leftover already cooked vegetables, such as corn boiled on the cob or grilled zucchini and squash. Simply reduce the cooking time for the already cooked vegetables. Add them to the succotash a little later than the recipe calls for, omit the water and reduce the salt.
Serve the succotash as a brunch hash topped with crispy fried eggs. Push the succotash to the side, add a touch more oil and fry the eggs in the same skillet.
In place of tomatoes, try a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar or other vinegar.
Use salt pork or bacon for the fat. Render the fat in step 2 in place of oil or butter. Add the onion to the rendered fat and bacon pieces.
Crisp up small slices of dry salami in the oil. Remove before adding the onion, set aside and return to the dish at the end.
Do you need an "I've been out of town all weekend and have nothing in my fridge but want to put a healthy meal on the table pronto and have lunch for the week" kind of dish? For me, that dish is my 100% plant-based and pantry-sourced dhal and rice. It also get cheers from every single eater in my family. We make different variations of dhal, changing up the lentils, spices, aromatics and even the oil, but this Bengali Red Lentil Dhal cooks up quickest and uses the fewest ingredients. If you have them handy, you can brighten it up with chopped fresh tomatoes, cilantro leaves and slices of serrano or jalapeno peppers, luckily all things available from the garden this time of year. But those additions are not even necessary.
I have my Bengali-American friend, Ritu, to thank for this recipe. She taught it to me years ago before [tear] moving West. This dish comes closest to replicating the staple meal I ate daily while studying abroad in Nepal, half a lifetime ago. My quest for mastering dhal-bhat ended when Ritu showed me the ropes and her mom's recipe. While I'm at it, I guess I should also thank Ritu for providing fierce competition in office cooking challenges, forcing me to step up my game, and ultimately propelling me to culinary school.
What is dhal exactly? The word dhal comes from Sanskrit meaning "to split" and refers to a wide array of lentils, peas and beans (or pulses) that can be used to make dhal. But what distinguishes dhal from any other lentil soup or stewed pot of legumes is the tarka or tadka. This hot aromatic oil seasoned with onions, garlic, ginger, chilies, and toasted and ground spices is added to the cooked lentils toward the end of the cooking and adds dramatic flavor, color, digestive fire, and healing properties to the dish.
BENGALI RED LENTIL DAL
Yield: ~5 cups
What you need:
2 cups red lentils
4 - 5 cups water
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons panch proon (see left)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ginger, julienned
1 dried kashmiri chili, chopped, optional
1 tomato, chopped, optional
Sea salt to taste
1 jalapeno or serrano chili, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, thinly sliced
What you do:
Soak the lentils in a large pot of cool water for a minimum of 20 minutes (optional). Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear (not optional). Return the lentils to the pot and cover with 4-5 cups water.
Bring the water to a rolling bowl, add the salt, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender.
In a separate sauté pan, toast the spices until fragrant and lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and then grind coarsely in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Make the tadka. In the same sauté pan, heat ghee or coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. When onions are soft, add the garlic, ginger, chili and ground spices. Sauté about 1 minute longer.
Pour tadka into dal. Add the diced tomato, if using. Simmer an additional 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. Thin dal with additional water if needed.
Garnish with cilantro leaves and jalapeno. Serve with spiced brown basmati rice.