Les Petits Farcis - Pork Stuffed Summer Vegetables

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Les Petits Farcis - Serves 6

The food traditions of different cultures is a passion of mine. Where the traditions came from, why they were made and what are the flavors. Taking guests on Culinary trips to Julia Child’s once summer home means immersing everyone in the traditional cuisine of Nice Nicoise cuisine. The iconic dish Les Petits Farcis does just that. or requires And to squeeze in the last bit of summer, try my Petits Farcis. This dish is the signature dish of Nice, France using petite summer vegetables that are stuffed and baked. It's not a quick dish to prepare; I'd call it a "Sunday dish". They leftovers are are easy to reheat during the week.

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 white onions, chopped

  • 2 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 orange zest strip, about 1 inch wide

  • Sea salt to taste

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley (optional)

  • A bouquet garni - a bay leaf, sprigs of thyme, and parsley stems tied with string

The Stuffed Vegetables:

  • 12 small vegetables such as tomatoes, pattypan or globe squash, each about 2-3 inches in diameter or medium zucchini, cut into 3 to 4-inch logs, 

  • 2 white onions (as part of your twelve vegetables) peeled, stems and about ½ inch of the flower end  removed 

  • Salt to taste

  • olive oil

  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped

  • ¾ lb ground pork, lamb, or veal or spicy bulk sausage

  • 1 tsp dried herbes de Provence

  • ¼ cup minced parsley

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 large egg lightly beaten

  • 1 cup hot water

For the sauce:

  1. In a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, cover, and sweat until soft. Remove the lid and sauté for about 10 minutes. Do not allow to color.  

  2. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they have rendered their juice, about 15 minutes being careful not to scorch the bottom.  

  3. Add the garlic, bouquet garni, and orange zest and season with salt. Stir once, reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced by about one-third, 15 - 20 minutes. Add a splash of water or white wine if needed. Discard the bouquet garni and zest and season with salt. If desired, add the cayenne and stir in the basil or parsley, if using,

For the Vegetables:

  1. While the tomato sauce is simmering, cut a thin slice off the stem end of each stuffing tomato.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the center, discarding the seeds and juice and reserving the flesh. Lightly salt the inside of each tomato, then place upside down on a paper towel to drain.  

  2. Using a melon baller, trim off the stems of the globe or pattypan squash and hollow the center leaving a ¼ to ⅓ inch shell. Reserve the vegetable pieces. 

  3. Trim the ends of the zucchini. Slice each zucchini crosswise into 4 equal lengths.  One at a time, stand the pieces upright on an end. Using a melon baller, scoop out their centers, leaving the bottom intact and forming walls about ⅜ inch thick.  Be careful not to cut through the walls. Reserve the flesh.

  4. Fill a large saucepan three-fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the two onions and simmer until the outer 3 or 4 layers are cooked while the center is still firm. Remove and set aside to cool.

  5.  Slip the squash pieces into the boiling water and simmer, uncovered, until just softened, about 4 minutes. Remove the vegetable pieces and place them upside down to drain and cool.

  6. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Oil a baking dish large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer without touching.

  7. Carefully hollow out the onions saving the outer, larger layers for stuffing. Finely chop the remaining onion with the reserved vegetable bits.

  8. In a sauté pan, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables and minced garlic and sauté stirring and tossing, until softened, about 15 minutes.  

  9. Transfer the mixture to a plate and allow to cool. Once cool, place in a bowl with the sausage meat, herbes de Provence, parsley, fresh bread crumbs, and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese and stir to mix well.  Add the egg and drizzle in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Using your hands, mix together gently. Sauté one small patty to taste and adjust seasoning.

  10. Arrange the tomato and zucchini shells in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the cavity of each with a little salt and drizzle with some of the remaining olive oil.  Using a teaspoon, distribute the stuffing evenly among the vegetables, pressing gently with the back of the spoon. Pour the hot water into the bottom of the dish.

  11. Bake the stuffed vegetables for 15 minutes then drizzle the top of the vegetables and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Continue to cook until the stuffing is golden brown, about another 15 minutes.  

  12. Warm the sauce over low heat.  Spoon some of the sauce on each plate.  Arrange the vegetables on top and serve sprinkles with reserved parsley. 

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Sweet Potato Tacos with Blue Corn Tortillas

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Braised sweet potatoes make a fantastic taco filling. Use the filling on it’s own or as a, accompaniment to chicken, pork or beef tacos. Serve these tacos with the accompaniments below and homemade tortillas which are worth the effort! The flavor is sweet and “corny” and delicious!

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tbls. olive oil

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 tsp. cumin

  • 2 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp. ancho chili powder

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes or butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 12oz. bottle beer (such as a lager or Modelo Negra)

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Pickled Radishes

  • 1  jalapeño (thinly sliced)

  • 1 1/2 cups radishes, thinly sliced (one large bunch)

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

  • 3 whole black peppercorns

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar

  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1 Tbls. sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

To serve:

Corn tortillas, pickled radishes, shredded cabbage, guacamole, salsa verde, crema, cilantro and hot sauce …

The Pickled Radishes

  1. In a saucepan add white wine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes.

  2. Place jalapeños, radishes, garlic and peppercorns in a large wide-mouthed mason jar.

  3. Pour the hot liquid into the to the mason jar to cover the jalapeños and radishes. Cool then seal the jar. Store in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight.

The Sweet Potatoes

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, until onion is slightly softened, about 3-4 minutes.

  2. Add the cumin, paprika and ancho chili powder and mix to combine.

  3. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.

  4. Add about three fourths of the beer and gently boil sweet potatoes uncovered, stirring occasionally until beer reduces.

  5. Add more beer if needed and simmer, covered for a total of 10-15 minutes or until just tender and not mushy.

Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali.

Tortillas

Homemade tortillas are so tasty! They are worth the effort and fun to make. If you’re hosting a crowd, set up a tortilla station and let guests make them for you. If you’ve got kids, get them in the kitchen and have them make the tortillas. The picture above is tacos and tortillas made by my summer camp kids.

Makes about 10 tortillas

  • 1 1/2 cups masa harina - not cornmeal or corn flour. Blue corn masa carina can be found at Mexican grocery stores including Chavez Market

  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and ground cumin

  • 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)

  • 2 Tbls. olive oil or good quality vegetable oil

  • 1 gallon size plastic bag cut around the edges to create 2 plastic sheets

  • A tortilla press

  1. Combine the masa harina, salt, cumin, and Aleppo pepper in a bowl. Stir in the oil and then slowly stream in 1 cup of hot water until a dough forms. Knead until all is incorporated and smooth.

  2. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  3. Heat a dry cast iron pan, grilled or heavy bottomed pan.

  4. Take small pinches of dough, about the size of a ping pong ball and roll into a ball then pat the ball into a disk. You can also roll the dough into a log and wrap with plastic for 30 minutes and then slice the log into rounds.

  5. Place one plastic sheet on your press, add the disk of dough and then the second sheet. This will keep the tortilla from sticking. Press the dough to create a thin tortilla.

  6. Carefully place tortillas on the hot pan. Fry for about 1 minute (or less) on each side until the dough is cooked and the tortilla is blistered.

  7. Place in a tortilla warmer or on a plate and cover with a towel that has been lightly sprinkled with water.

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna

This is perfect as a side dish or an entree. I serve it with a salad of bitter greens like arugula and endive with oranges, pomegranate seeds and a light vinaigrette. Serves 8

This is perfect as a side dish or an entree. I serve it with a salad of bitter greens like arugula and endive with oranges, pomegranate seeds and a light vinaigrette. Serves 8

For squash filling:

  • 2 Tbls. melted butter

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

  • 2 Tbls chopped fresh sage (ideal) or 2 tsp. powdered dry sage

  • 3 lbs. Butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced ¼ inch thick

  • 1 cup (4 oz) hazelnuts , toasted - remove skins by rubbed off with a kitchen towel and coarsely chop

  • Parchment paper

For the sauce:

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 6 Tbls. unsalted butter

  • 5 Tbls. all-purpose flour

  • 5 cups milk or chicken stock, or a blend of both, heated with the bay leaf for 10 minutes

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg or to taste

  • 1 tsp. salt or to taste

  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper or to taste

  • Dash cayenne pepper

For assembling lasagna:

  • 12 oz good quality fresh mozzarella, drained well and sliced thinly

  • 3 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino  (1 cup)

  • 12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagna (1/2 lbs.)


Make filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚ and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir the salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage to blend.

  2. In a large bowl, toss the sliced squash with the melted butter. Sprinkle the spice mixture over squash and toss. Place the squash on the parchment-lined cookie sheets in a single layer and roast until just tender, 10- minutes. Toss with a spatula if needed. Cool.

  3. Turn oven to 350˚F

Make sauce while squash cooks:

  1. In a pot, heat the broth and/or milk with the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.

  2. Heat 1 Tbls. of the butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft but not brown. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

  3. Heat the remaining 5 Tbls. butter in the saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the flour to make a roux whisking until smooth. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring without brown. Remove the bay leaf from the milk/stock and discard.

  4. Pour the stock/milk into the roux in a slow stream whisking all the while. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer. Add the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes or so.

  5. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon and add the onion-garlic mixture and stir. Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Remove from heat.

Assemble lasagna:

  1. Toss the cheeses together in a small bowl.

  2. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 to 4 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets.

  3. Spread with ⅔ cup sauce and one third of the squash and chopped hazelnuts, then add ⅓ of the cheese.

  4. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

  5. Butter a piece of foil that will cover your dish. Tightly cover the lasagna with the buttered foil and bake in middle of oven 30 minutes.

  6. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving

Cook’s note:

  • I have found the hazelnuts pre-skinned at Whole Foods in the bulk section

  • To peel the butternut squash easily, set the entire squash in your oven as it preheats for 5-10 minutes. Test with a sharp knife. After 5 minutes or so the squash will have baked just enough to make the skin soft. Cool and peel the squash with a sharp knife.

  • Filling and sauce can be made one day ahead and kept separately, chilled.

  • Place plastic wrap directly on the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Bring to room temperature before assembling.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2001

About Polenta

Yellow Polenta with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Yellow Polenta with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Polenta is a delicious (gluten free) starch for every season. I love it

  • In summer with grilled vegetables and fish.

  • In Fall, with roasted winter squash, wild mushrooms and quick braised sausage.

  • In Winter with braised meats and greens.

Choosing polenta in the words of Viola Buitoni

At our Cooking From the Summer Garden Weekend Getaway with Viola Buitoni in August, we had a delicious polenta evening. Below are Viola’s thoughts on the types of polenta ~

From Viola:

“There are four different kinds of polenta with which all have space in my heart and pantry. The classic yellow one, whole wheat, white and taragna.

White is the most delicate and lends itself well to decisive and refined flavors with underlying sweetness: fish and seafood, spices and nutty, delicate cheeses. It is generally milled to an even slightly finer ground.

Yellow is a jack-of-all-trades and can successfully espouse a range of flavors: from sweet, to rustic, to acid, to spicy. The mill of it, more than the flavor, will determine your selection. A finer mill (fioretto) is more suitable to a sweeter more fragrant sauce-like mushrooms for example, while a coarser (bramata) grind will hold up well to a long braise, with a red wine base and dark meat. In Italy, one can also find a mill grade called fumetto, a very fine polenta typically used in pastry.

Whole wheat polenta has a nuttier, woodsy flavor that goes well with stinky cheeses, spicy sauces, sweet nuts and butter.

Taragna, which has a percentage of buckwheat in it. I like it with creamy aged and blue cheeses, and redolent vegetables in the cabbage family.”

Cooking Polenta

1 cup polenta yields about 6 heaping 1/2 cup servings

Depending on how you will serve polenta, proportions of dry polenta to liquid should be:

  • For a dry / firm polenta that you will chill then slice: 1 part dry polenta to 3 parts liquid

  • For a wet / creamy polenta:  1 part dry polenta to 4 or 5 parts liquid

  • The liquid can be water, vegetable or meat stock or broth. Milk can also be used or added with water to create a creamy polenta or to make cheesy grits.

  1. Bring the liquid to a boil and salt to taste. You should be able to taste a faint taste of salt.

  2. With a wooden spoon in hand, slowly pour the polenta into the boiling liquid in a slow, steady stream, stirring all the while to keep the polenta from clumping.

  3. Continue stirring until the polenta begins to boil then turn the heat down to a simmer. At this point, the polenta should just puff little bursts of steam. You don’t want it to boil as the polenta will burst out of the pot and can burn.

  4. Continue stirring until the polenta off and on for about 20 minutes or until it is creamy with a bit of texture. You can add a splatter guard or loosely place a lid over the polenta.

  5. Add liquid towards the end if a runnier consistency is desired.

  6. If desired, add a knob of unsalted butter, more salt and white pepper.

Springtime Herb Sauces

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Spring is the season for green and that includes herbs. In Spring the "leafy herbs" such as basil, cilantro, chives, and parsley are bursting forth. "Woody herbs" such as thyme or sage are best saved for longer cooking winter dishes. 

Herb sauces are a fantastic way to get loads of rich, raw nutrients into a meal. I sneak probiotics in by using miso or brine from fermented vegetables or sauerkraut; just a tablespoon or two will do. Place a bowl of any of these sauces on the table with dinner. They add freshness and flavor to baked potatoes, as a dip for veggies, as a sandwich spread, over pasta, or as a marinade or sauce to any protein. 

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Tips:

  • Try not to by herbs at chain markets where you get a few sprigs in a plastic shell for a high price. I buy herbs at the farmer's market or neighborhood Meditteranean markets. These cultures use herbs as a vegetable, not a garnish so herbs in these stores are ussually inexpensive and fresh. 
  • Most herbs can be rinsed and spun dry in a salad spinner and wrapped in paper towel to wick away extra moisture. Keep in the vegetable bin. Don't rinse basil until ready to use. It will bruise and brown.
  • Use the stems. Cilantro pesto or delicious and use can use stem and all. Tougher stems like large basil stem should not be used but the stem close to the leaf is tender. In other words don't be to picky when picking the leaves from the stem.
  • Blend herbs; herbs grown in the same season go together well in sauces so use up those half bunches by making a sauce.
  • These sauces freeze well. Make a batch, use some for dinner, freeze the rest in small containers. That way you can pull out just enough for dinner.

Recipes:

Salsa Verde ~ Delicious as a dip or sauce with with prawns, chicken, grilled meats and cooked vegetables.

  • 1/4 cup pickled capers, rinsed or salted capers, soaked for ½ hour and rinsed
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (leave out if serving with prawns)
  • 3 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 1 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup each coarsely chopped arugula, parsley, basil & cilantro
  • 1/4 cup each coarsely chopped tarragon or 1 tsp. Dried and coarsely chopped chives

In a mortar or on a cutting board, smash the garlic and add the capers and anchovies. Mash until the mixture forms a paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in half of the olive oil. Stir in the herbs and and the remaining olive oil to taste depending on the thickness you’d like.

Green Herb Pesto ~ Use as you would traditional pesto over pasta or as a sauce.

  • 2 cloves garlic, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 2 cups packed fresh leafy herbs such as basil, cilantro, arugula, parsley, or a mixture (no mint)
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nuts: pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or pistachios (toasted if you like)
  • 1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice or 1 pinch (1/8 tsp.) Vitamin C powder
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

With a food processor or blender running, drop the garlic in and allow to mince. Add the herbs, nuts, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Plus just enough to blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Chermoula, a Moroccan sauce that is delicious as a marinade for chicken or spooned over fresh grilled fish. Keep it slightly chuncky, not pureed.

  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch parsley, tops only
  • 3 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds*
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika or ½ tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, pulp discarded, rinsed, and rind coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • About ½ cup good quality olive oil

In a small skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over low heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and grind the seend with a pinch of salt until fairly well ground. In a food processor or blender, mince the garlic and then add the herbs, spices, preserved lemon, and  1 Tbls. lemon juice. While the machine is on, slowly pour in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. I like this sauce to be slightly course. Adjust seasoning.

Carrot-Top Pesto ~ The carrot family Umbelliferae consist of anise, dill, celery, parsley, cilantro and coriander, to name a few. Families pair well together when prepared in a dish. Use “sister” herbs to add more depth to this pesto. Use as you would pesto or drizzle over steamed carrots (hot or cold) or, roasted sweet vegetables.

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 2 cups carrot leaves, no stems
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh “sister” herbs above such as cilantro, dill, or parsley or use basil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil

Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor or blender until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrot tops, herbs, Parmesan and process into a coarse purée. Add olive oil in a steady stream while machine is running until combined; season with salt and pepper.

Fermented Green Sauce ~ Here’s another green sauce with a probiotic boost, miso. To keep the probiotics alive, don’t heat it but rather toss the sauce with cooked foods. It’s a yummy dip, sandwich spread or drizzled over cooked vegetables.

  • 1 small bunch each cilantro, parsley and chives
  • A ½ to 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (optional; it adds a distinctive spice)
  • Juice of one or 2 fresh lemons, limes, or both or 1 Tbls. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbls. white miso
  • 2 Tbls. tahini
  • ¼ cup or more good quality olive oil
  • 1 Tbls. honey (optional)

Pulse or blend everything in a blender or food processor. Season to taste. Add more olive oil (or a bit of water) for a thinner consistency.

 

 

Stuffed Artichokes ~ Two Ways

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Spring brings us big, beautiful artichokes which I love to stuff and serve as a first course or entree. Here are two of my favorite versions. Italian Sausage Stuffed Artichokes and Anchovy & Pine Nut Stuffed Artichokes.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Artichokes ~ Serves 6 ~ This is a meal! Add a salad using bitter greens like arugula with good red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

  • 6 medium to large artichokes, rinsed
  • ½ lemon
  • 4 Tbls olive oil, halved
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs, I like to us good sourdough whole wheat; nuts and seeds are fine
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or raw links, split and casing removed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbls each fresh mince oregano and parsley (or 1 tsp. each dried) You can also substitute ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth, white wine or water
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (optional)

To cook artichokes for both recipes:

  1. Rinse the artichokes. Slice about ¾-inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke using a serrated knife. Next, cut off the tips of the petals using scissors and remove the small petals at the base. Last, cut off the stem so that the artichoke can sit flat. Reserve the stem. Rub the artichoke with the cut lemon.
  2. Steam the artichokes. If desired, add a few aromatic bay leaves, sliced garlic, sprigs of thyme, etc. to the water before steaming the artichokes. For this recipe, steam until almost done but not quite tender, between 20 and 35 minutes depending on the size. Use a sharp knife to pierce through the bottom of the heart to check for doneness.

Meanwhile:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. Evenly spread the breadcrumbs on flat baking pan or cookie sheet and bake until toasted but not completely dry, 5 to 8 minutes. In other words, don’t be too picky but do watch them closely so they don’t burn.
  3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the pork, breaking it into small pieces, until it is cooked through and crumbled. Drain on paper towel.
  4. Add two tablespoons olive oil to the pan and then the onion and garlic sautéing until the onion is tender.
  5. Add the onions and garlic to a medium bowl along with the sausage, bread crumbs, herbs, pine nuts and cheese and toss just to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, gently spread the leaves to open the artichoke giving room to add the filling. Remove the smallest leaves in the very center. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the fuzzy choke making sure you get the fuzz out of the crevices.
  7. Lightly fill the artichoke center with filling as well as in-between the leaves and place the artichokes in a baking dish that has just enough room to hold them snuggly.
  8. Drizzle with remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the one cup of broth.
  9. Carefully pour water into the bottom of the dish (avoiding artichokes) up to ¼-inch.
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned and the artichokes are hot.
  11. Serve the marinara sauce as a dip on the side.
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Anchovy & Pine Nut Stuffed Artichokes ~ Serves 4 to 6 ~ This is a lighter version and makes a great appetizer using artichokes that are on the small to medium size. The anchovies melt into the stuffing creating umami flavors perfect with artichokes.

  • 4 medium or 6 small artichokes, cooked and cleaned as above
  • 4 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 anchovies (or more)
  • 2 Tbls each fresh mince oregano and parsley (or 1 tsp. each dried) You can also substitute ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs, toasted as in above recipe
  • ¼ cup capers
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Pinch peperoncino (pepper flakes)
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Follow cooking instructions above for the artichokes and the breadcrumbs.

Meanwhile:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion until tender.
  3. Mince the garlic and anchovies together to form a rough paste and add to the onions. Sauté until the garlic is tender and the anchovies have “melted” into the mixture.
  4. Add the mixture to a medium bowl along with the bread crumbs, pine nuts and capers, herbs, chili flakes and cheese and toss just to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Lightly fill the artichoke center with filling as well as in-between the leaves.
  6. Place the artichokes in a baking dish that has just enough room to hold them snuggly.
  7. Drizzle with remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the 1 cup of broth, water, or wine.
  8. Carefully pour water into the bottom of the dish (avoiding artichokes) up to ¼-inch.
  9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned and the artichokes are hot.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges or lemon butter.

Compound Butters

These butters are a fantastic “sauce” to keep in your freezer. Pull one out, thaw just enough to slice, and refreeze what’s left. Serve on veggies, grilled steaks, fish or chicken to add loads of flavor.

These butters are a fantastic “sauce” to keep in your freezer. Pull one out, thaw just enough to slice, and refreeze what’s left. Serve on veggies, grilled steaks, fish or chicken to add loads of flavor.

To make compound butter:

Simply bring the butter to room temperature. Place in a bowl with remaining ingredients, see below, and beat with a wooden spoon. Season to taste. 

  • Roll the butter into a log in plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, wrap in foil and mark with a Sharpie. 
  • Slice into 1/4” slices when cold and place over grilled steak or chicken. 
  • Or, bring to room temp. in a bowl, stir to soften and plop onto veggies, fish or a baked potato.

To one (4oz) stick of unsalted butter and add:

Sesame Butter (green beans, chicken, steak)

  • 2 Tbls. toasted sesame seeds, black or white
  • 2 Tbls. minced chives or scallions
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Rosemary Olive Butter (chicken, steaks, roasted potatoes)

  • 2 Tbls. fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Tbls. oil-cured olives, chopped and drained

Dill and Lemon (salmon or any fish, asparagus)

  • 4 Tbls. coarsely chopped dill
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Chive Butter (steak, potatoes)

  • 4-6 Tbls. chopped fresh chives

Cilantro and Pine Nut (chicken, summer squash, fish)

  • 4 Tbls. cilantro
  • 3 Tbls. pine nuts
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Green Peppercorn Butter (steak!)

  • 1 Tbls. green peppercorns, drained, crushed lightly
  • 1-2 pinches of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (or use a zester)

Vanilla Butter (delicious on baked sweet potatoes and roasted root veggies)

  • 1 vanilla been split, scrape seeds out and blend with butter
  • 1/2 tsp good quality vanilla can be substituted but it’s not as good
  • pinch cinnamon 

 

 

 

Keep it Bright: Blanching Vegetables

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The weather's gorgeous and no one wants to be indoors cooking for hours. Hence, blanching is the perfect vegetable technique for Spring. Many vegetables can be blanched in a pot full of boiling water until crisp and slightly under-done. Drain the vegetables and immediately plunge into a bath of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the bright color. You can cook several night’s worth of vegetables this way and store them in the fridge in containers lined with paper towel to capture the moisture. 

To use, sauté vegetables in good oil or butter just until warmed through or toss them into a salad. Mix vegetables that are grown in the same season; they naturally taste delicious together. 

Here’s a list of vegetables to use for blanching and fun combinations for sautéing. The italicised vegetables should not be blanched.

Asparagus, snow peas or sugar snap peas with:

  • Green onion, shaved fennel and slivered ham or prosciutto
  • Salted cashews
  • Sugar snap peas and frozen petite peas, lemon zest
  • Sesame seeds sautéd in sesame oil

Carrots with:

  • Green onion, lime juice, and chopped cashews
  • Ghee or coconut oil with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Cauliflower, mint & preserved lemon

Broccolini with:

  • Garlic, olive oil and chili flakes
  • Capers, toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts 

Green beans with:

  • Bacon and toasted walnuts or pecans
  • Diced tomatoes, garlic and nicoise or black olives

Carrots with:

  • Caraway seeds
  • Chick peas, Moroccan spices

Broccoli, cauliflower with:

  • Garlic, crumbled (leftover) Italian sausage
  • Raisins soaked in hot water then sautéed, blue cheese crumbles, pine-nuts
  • Cauliflower with curry and raisins
  • Sautéd mushrooms, shallots, basil, Pecorino 
  • Brown butter, pumpkin seeds, cumin

Blanched Spring Vegetables with Arugula, Olive Oil, Lemon & Cheese

Here's a quick, delicious, and very detoxifying salad that I love to make-

In a bowl, add a large handful of arugula per person along with a handful of blanched vegetables per person.  Note that in the photo, I've used asparagus, snap peas and fava beans. Toss with just enough good quality olive oil to coat the leaves with no oil puddling at the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste and toss with a spoonful of capers. Cover with a blanket of freshly grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

 

Aroma Therapy, Coaxing the love out of vegetables & Minestrone

    

 

 

Aroma Therapy

You know that feeling when something in the kitchen smells so good and you just breath it in and you begin to drool? That’s what I call aroma therapy! 

Pulling the natural aroma and flavor out of vegetables takes a bit of coaxing and love. You want to create depth by layering flavors. And as usual, nature tells us how to do it. Have a look at my “vegetable tree”. Seeing vegetables in this way gives a visual of what order vegetables prefer to be added to a dish to bring out their best. 

At the base of the tree are “root vegetables” or vegetables that grow underground and include carrots, onions, parsley, leeks, garlic, celery root (celeriac) and more. They are sweet in nature, caramelize well and are known as “aromatic vegetables” or “aromatics”. Most, if not all, traditional cuisines have a combination of aromatic vegetables that begin every soup, stew or sauce. The French use a “mirepoix”, a mixture of onion, carrot and celery. In Germany a “suppengrün” of celeriac, carrot and leek is used.   Cajun cuisine has the “Holy Trinity” a mixture of onion, celery and green bell pepper. Asian cuisines add turmeric root, ginger and lemongrass. Italian soffritto is often made with bits of leftover prosciutto or pancetta.

Here’s how I do the coaxing~

Following your recipe, start with the aromatics and sauté them gently to allow moisture to evaporate and condense the flavor. Add bay leaves, *hearty herbs and peppercorns here. You can put a lid on the pan for the first 4 or 5 minutes to sweat the vegetables. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender.

Next add low-to-the-ground vegetables like celery, hearty cabbage, cauliflower and so on. At this point, I don’t add a lid as it can discolor some vegetables. Cook until the color is vibrant but the vegetables are still crisp tender. Season as you go to layer and bring out flavors using salt and spices. Add broth, sauces, or splash of white wine.

Now, add leafy vegetables: kale, chard, Napa cabbage and bitter greens like radicchio. Once the vegetables are cooked perfectly and the flavoring is perfect too, turn off the heat and add minced *tender herbs for a splash of brightness in the dish.

Voila, you’ve got a lovely meal that is full of depth, flavor and color. Bon Appétit!

  • *Hearty herbs are herbs that need to be cooked: sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano
  • *Tender herbs are herbs that are tasty raw: cilantro, parsley, dill, mint, chives

Minestrone Soup

Using the methods above, apply the techniques to Italian Minestrone, a simple a soup with equal proportions of vegetables and broth. In Italy, Minestrone changes from region to region and season to season. This recipe is a guide. Use what you have and what you like.

Spring & Summer:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta scraps, minced
  • 4 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed or chopped
  • 3 medium leeks (white and light green part), sliced thinly
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup celery root or celery, diced or sliced
  • 4 medium new potatoes, large dice
  • 1/2 pound green beans in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 piece of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 - 15 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes and juice, crushed by hand
  • Chicken broth or water
  • 3 cups savoy cabbage or swiss chard, chiffonade (cut like thin ribbons) 
  • 2 small zucchini, large dice
  • 2 cups pre-cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup dry pasta (use odds and ends of pasta from your pantry)
  • Good olive oil
  • Minced parsley
  • Crostini & grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté pancetta and garlic until fragrant. Stir in the carrots and celery root and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the leeks and sweat the aromatic vegetables with the lid on until they are translucent. Season lightly.   

Add potatoes, green beans, parmesan rind and tomatoes with their juice. Add chicken stock or water just to cover the vegetables. Simmer 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Skim any impurities that rise to the surface.

Add the cabbage, zucchini, beans and pasta if using. Simmer for 15 minutes or to taste. Turn off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Top with bread, cheese and minced parsley.

In Winter replace summer vegetables with:

  • 1 lb. winter squash like butternut
  • 2-3 parsnips
  • Use kale instead of swiss chard or cabbage

For a thicker soup, remove two cups of soup with veggies and purée in a blender. Add the mixture back into soup.

Bon Appétit!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Pumpkin Seed Crumble

I love my Brussels sprouts with this crumble. It's a tiny bit sweet and the sugar can be left out if you prefer but I love it with the saltiness of the bacon. - Serves 6

Make the crumble: 

Makes 3/4 cup

  • 6 Tbls. pepitas or squash seeds 
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 Tbls. organic brown or coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • About 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚ Scatter seeds on a dry cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them! Set aside. 

Put the almond flour, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor or clean coffee/spice grinder and pulse to combine. Add the seeds and pulse a few times to break them up. With the machine running, slowly pour in enough olive oil so the mixture comes together into a moist crumble. Season to taste with sea salt. 

  • Pepita Crumble is delicious sprinkled over sautéd or roasted vegetables
  • Makes a great coating/breading for chicken or fish
  • Can be made days ahead 

Brussels Sprouts:

  • 1 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 to 3 slices thick cut maplewood bacon cut into 1/4” thick pieces (optional)
  • 2 Tbls. olive oil
  • Pepita (pumpkin seed) Crumble, below
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Clean the sprouts by trimming the bottom and removing any bruised outer leaves. Blanch the sprouts by dropping them into the water until they are crisp-tender and not quite done, 2 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Remove the sprouts from the water with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the color. As soon as they are cool, drain them and dry on paper towel. Halve them lengthwise if they are large or if desired.

  • This can be done one day ahead. Place in a gallon bag or container with paper towel to absorb the moisture. Pat them dry very well.

Before serving, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and render the fat while allowing it to cook through and become crispy, 5 to 10 minutes. Set the bacon aside on paper towel to drain and remove all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining fat in the pan. Heat to medium. (Use olive oil if not using bacon or the bacon fat.)

Add the sprouts to the pan and sauté the sprouts for 5 to 8 minutes or until the brown slightly and become tender. Do not cover with a lid. Check by piercing with a sharp knife. Don’t cook to long, you want to maintain the bright green color.

Add the bacon, toss and season with salt and pepper. Place in a serving dish and top with the crumble.

Roasting Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is a great way to prep ahead for busy days. Vegetables can be roasted and stored in the fridge. Then:

  • Rewarm in a 325˚ oven
  • Toss into pasta
  • Toss into salads
  • Stir into risotto
  • Stir into stuffing
  • Stir into soup

Here's how:

Preheat oven to 375˚ - 450˚

Wash and drain veggies well & pat dry. Cut into similar size. Toss lightly in olive oil, coconut oil or melted ghee depending on the flavor profile of your vegetables. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Do not crowd. Roast until tender. Check by poking with a sharp knife. Test for seasoning adding s&p and a drizzle of flavored oil such as truffle oil, nut oils, olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Great veggies for roasting:

  • Winter veggie 
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Root veggies, carrots, turnips, parsnips...
  • Tomatoes, halved
  • Onions, halved, cut side down
  • Shallots, peeled
  • Sweet potatoes, leaving skin on make “steak fries”
  • Japanese eggplant halved lengthwise
  • Cauliflower and broccoli, cut into florets
  • Not good: leafy vegetables

Flavors: Sprinkle before roasting with~

  • “Hearty” herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary
  • Smoked or sweet paprika 
  • Mexican spices: oregano & cumin
  • Indian spices: curry powder, turmeric, pepper
  • Chinese five spice with sweet veggies
  • Moroccan: Cumin, coriander, cinnamon
  • Drizzled honey (go lightly)

Flavors: Sprinkle after roasting~

  • Minced “fresh tender” herbs such as cilantro, parsley, tarragon, chives
  • Add pitted Kalamata or dry cured olives into the oven the last 5 minutes of roasting
  • Pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts added to oven last 4 to 5 minutes to toast
  • Capers
  • Toasted breadcrumbs
  • Citrus zest

My favorite topping for Thanksgiving Vegetables: Pecan Gremolata~

  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • 1 smallclove garlic, minced

Place pecans on a sheet pan and toast lightly while veggies are cooking, 4-6 minutes. Chop pecans until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Season to taste and drizzle over veggies.