Recently in Meatless/Almost Meatless Category
Steve and I recently returned from a biking trip in the Dordogne region of France. We pedaled through the beautiful countryside which was adorned with newly opened red poppies and
Richly flavored with Andouille sausage, ancho chile powder and oregano, and jam-packed with cubes of butternut squash and bell peppers, this chili is perfect for a nippy autumn evening, and I’ll be serving it at our Halloween party. I like to top the chili with a tart lime cream and serve it with the slightly sweet and gently spiced Pumpkin Cornbread, posted a few days ago.
We’ll start off the evening nibbling on crunchy toasted seeds from the squash, one of many good reasons to bother cutting up any winter squash. Roasting the seeds is so easy, I’ll describe the process here without a formal recipe: Scrape the seeds from the squash, along with the moist fibers that surround them, into a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, coarse kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and then spread them out on a greased small baking sheet. Roast at 300°F until crispy, about 20 minutes. I love these hot from the oven, but they make a tasty snack at room temperature too.
Despite a life filled with exercise, I have osteoporosis, or at least did until my latest bone scan. Now, my bones are growing healthier every day, thanks to diet, an exercise regime designed to strengthen bones, and carefully chosen supplements.
I took my young friend Rebecca to Huckleberry Café in Santa Monica for brunch, and we couldn’t resist 2 items on the menu: the poached eggs smothered in a savory lentil and chard ragout, and fried eggs sitting atop quinoa tossed with market vegetables. Not wanting to waste a drop of the lentil stew, we spooned the last bits over the remaining quinoa, and the mixture was a winner. Rebecca, who is attending culinary school, was curious about what gave the lentil ragout its rich flavors, and we decided to try to recreate the recipe together.
I am a big fan of both quinoa and legumes as satisfying, gluten-free staples. Because of their complex tastes, intriguing textures, and superior nutritional values they make unexpected but excellent accompaniments to eggs. Quinoa creates a toothsome base for fried or poached eggs, and poached eggs nestled in legume stews have become a favorite Sunday breakfast.
When thumbing through the Thanksgiving
cookbook I wrote for Williams-Sonoma in 1997 (link), I rediscovered my recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Grapefruit and Honey. We have a prolific grapefruit tree in the yard of our new home, and so my decision about how to flavor the cranberries this year was easy.
One of my all time favorite sweet ingredients shows up in this sparkling condiment too- crystalized ginger. The resulting dish is tangy from the grapefruit and cranberries, sweet from the honey, and slightly spicy from the ginger- a terrific compliment to roast turkey.
This quick and easy gluten-free breakfast recipe is also satisfying for dinner. I like to make it at the end of a busy day when I don’t have time to shop or plan and don’t have much energy left for cooking. The polenta cooks to steaming creaminess in the microwave while I melt a heap of greens until almost tender and then fry eggs in the same skillet until crispy on the edges. For a burst of freshness, serve it with a zesty salsa fresca—herbs and shallot mixed with olive oil.
When I am not creating a specific recipe for a book, magazine article, or blog post at lunchtime, I want to eat something that takes only a few minutes to prepare and is as satisfying as a sandwich. Corn tortillas have become a favorite replacement for bread, especially as the base for quick tacos.
I discovered there are as many fillings for tacos as for sandwiches on a scouting trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for Bon Appetit magazine about 11 years ago. That was my first introduction to authentic Mexican food, and my cooking was changed forever as I fell in love with the zesty complex flavors of the moles, soups, fresh and dried chiles, and endless dishes made with corn tortillas. Little did I know then that corn tortillas would become a staple in my home when I segued to a gluten-free diet.
I was not going to give up pasta when I had to stop eating wheat, so I went on a search for a tasty, firm, nutritious, gluten-free product. Most gluten-free pastas are made from rice. The texture and flavor of rice-based noodles are great in Asian cooking, but they don’t work for me in Italian food—they don’t have enough body, easily overcook to a limp mess, and the flavor is wrong. In addition, it is now suggested we cut back on rice consumption, because of high arsenic levels in some rice products.
Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta
and Schar Gluten-Free Pasta
are two happy discoveries. They are both a semolina-like yellow from the corn in their formula, taste pleasantly nutty, and are resilient in texture if not overcooked. Ancient Harvest is organic and adds quinoa for rich flavor, high quality protein, iron, and B vitamins. Schar
incorporates pea protein and rice flour for a more complex taste and extra protein.
Pasta Update: Since writing this post in 2013, I have discovered 2 new pastas. Barilla
has developed excellent gluten-free pastas, made from corn flour and rice flour. They come the closest to traditional pasta in both flavor and texture. I am also a fan of Power Pasta
, fashioned from red lentils. Although not as similar to wheat pasta as Barilla
, this pasta is wonderfully satisfying because it is a whole food packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Read more about it here
, where you will also find another recipe featuring asparagus.
I love pasta carbonara almost as much as the New Yorker writer and food enthusiast Calvin Trillin
does. While I don’t follow his suggestion to serve it for Thanksgiving dinner, I make it frequently, and in many guises. Inspired by the fresh asparagus and peas appearing now in farmers’ markets and grocery stores, I prepared the recipe here for lunch this past weekend. To compliment the spring vegetables, I added lemon zest and fresh basil to the egg, pancetta, and Parmesan cheese sauce.
My new book, Weeknight Gluten Free, is filled with recipes for luscious, naturally gluten-free sauces. One of my favorites is a vibrant pistachio and basil salsa verde. Salsa verde is an uncooked, fragrant mixture of olive oil and fresh herbs that takes only a few minutes to prepare. There are Italian, French, Spanish, Argentinian, and German versions. I use a full flavored extra-virgin olive oil, a little minced shallot, and lots of aromatic herbs as the base for many variations.
For the recipe in the book, I add a big handful of toasted pistachios and spoon the sauce over creamy buratta
cheese and asparagus stalks. The idea for this dish came from my birthday dinner last year at Farmshop
, a rustic yet sophisticated restaurant in Santa Monica that serves perfectly cooked, creative, farmers’ market inspired food.
The sauce is way too yummy to use only in this specific pairing. Like all the sauces in the book, this one can be served on lots of different items. We have enjoyed it over grilled Alaskan salmon, roasted arctic char, and sautéed
chicken breasts. Carie
at Wheatfree Mom
tweeted that she served it over ricotta cheese, and I am eager to try this as an appetizer with crackers.
To avoid the crowds of holiday shoppers and to give personal gifts, I have started preparing goodies in my kitchen. Today I boiled up a batch of Maple-Nut Pralines. It took me only half an hour to turn out a large batch of confections, and my house smells like maple sugaring time in Vermont.
Pralines are a New Orleans-style candy fashioned from sugar, cream, and pecans. I put my own flavor stamp on these sweets by replacing the standard white sugar with pure maple syrup, stirring in walnuts in addition to pecans, and adding a pinch of nutmeg for a festive touch.
I plan to concoct more candies and bake cookies all during December, and will post some of the recipes on this blog. They will be treats I have thought up over the years and enjoy making again and again. These recipes, and many more, can also be found in Cooking at Home
. I am going to thumb through the book again, to select a cookie to make for the friends I will be visiting this weekend.
The cold, windy weekend weather drove me into the kitchen to bake something comforting. In less than 15 minutes I had mixed together a cornbread batter, and in 10 more minutes enticing aromas accompanied the welcome heat radiating from the oven. It was only minutes longer and a golden, crusty loaf was ready to serve with the maple-molasses butter I had whipped together.
The bread is sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with sage leaves. Whole grain cornmeal offers crunch, and buttermilk imparts tenderness. This recipe makes a reliable starting point, but I have fun changing it around. For a healthier version, I replace the butter with light olive oil or vegetable oil, and use whole wheat flour rather than all purpose. Sometimes I season it with rosemary instead of sage, or use honey as an alternative to maple syrup. I have added generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper, and folded in corn kernels.
I received this whimsical bouquet of red and green endive on Valentine’s Day, each head of endive still attached to its big root. The bouquet came from California Vegetable Specialties, the only US grower of endive. A whole case of endive followed the Valentine, and there was nothing to do but prepare endive for lunch and dinner all week.
As I became engrossed in experimenting with endive, I decided it was time to learn about how it is produced. Endive is the second growth on chicory roots. The chicory seed is sown in fields, and leafy greens follow. Once the greens are mature, they are harvested and used as high quality cattle feed. The precious roots are dug up, cleaned, and put in cold storage for a period of dormancy. Finally, the roots are moved to dark, cool, humid rooms, where they are forced to grow new leaves. The operation is very high tech, and local for those of us who live in California. Very little pesticides are used, and organically grown endive is available at Whole Foods and other specialty food stores.
I have always enjoyed endive’s sweet-peppery flavor and delicate crunch in salads, particularly when dressed with a sprightly Dijon mustard and Sherry wine vinegar vinaigrette and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. But I wanted to try other preparations too. I discovered endive makes a great stand in for iceberg lettuce or cabbage in tacos. I shredded a couple of heads of endive and tossed them with fresh lime juice and a minced Serrano chile; then heaped the mixture in warmed corn tortillas filled with sliced grilled chicken and avocado.
Romanesco Cauliflower: Found at Weiser Family Farms stands at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: Choose regular cauliflower.
I have been curious about this fantastical looking vegetable ever since I first noticed it at a street market in Rome, about 5 years ago. Now it is available in Los Angeles, but so far I have only seen it at farmers’ markets. Its wondrous shape, reminding me of a bouquet of tiny cones, is described mathematically as a fractal
, but I like to think of it as a natural art form. The flavor is more delicate than regular cauliflower, with slightly nutty nuances, and it has a more tender texture.
Roasted, this highly nutritious vegetable makes a satisfying side dish, or, as in the recipe below, can be the star of a pasta creation. Simply cut off the florets, starting at the base and working up towards the tip, and then toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a hot oven until brown in spots, crispy on the outside yet yielding in the center.
I’ve been obsessed with these Mexican flatbreads since learning to make them. Corn tortillas are cooked on a griddle until the bottoms are crisp and the cheese melts, flavored with a fragrant pesto, and topped with vibrant vegetables. They are fun to assemble, take only minutes to cook, and are addictive. I first served them, cut into wedges, as an appetizer at a birthday party for one of my gal pals. Since then, Steve and I have enjoyed this friendly finger food for lunch on a hot weekend afternoon, and I’ve whipped them up for quick snacks.
Here’s a simple and easy-to-put-together dish that gets its great taste from fresh vegetables and basil, snappy extra-virgin olive oil, and truly delectable pasta. Barilla
is one of my favorite gluten-free pastas, but I recently discovered Power Pasta
at a gluten-free festival in Austin, and I developed this recipe to show it off.
I created this lusty dish last week when my stepson, Ethan Peck
, squeezed in a dinner with us before heading to Milan. He stars in a 2 minute video
for the luxury fashion company Ferragamo
, and he was invited to make an appearance at Italian fashion week. Having little warning about his visit with us, I looked in my fridge and cupboards for inspiration, and this recipe was born.
For a super quick and tasty dinner, I mixed pasta with the eggplant, pepper, and tomato sauce leftover from a couple of nights before. Soft fresh goat cheese added creaminess, and to freshen it, a handful of fragrant herbs. We liked it every bit as much as the first meal, maybe even a little more.
This delightfully creamy but not too rich potato recipe has been a favorite since I first made it early this summer. Dutch Yellow Potatoes are steamed with peas, and then tossed with a yogurt, olive oil, and basil sauce. Chunks of briny feta cheese and toasted pine nuts top it off. Served warm, this is satisfying as a meatless main course; it’s also a great side dish at meals featuring grilled salmon, burgers, or chicken, and ideal for Labor Day gatherings.
Have you ever tasted roasted vegetables dipped in homemade mayonnaise, crafted with an exquisite extra-virgin olive oil? If not, get shopping and cooking right now for a delectable experience. Please don’t conjure jarred mayo when you imagine this recipe, the homemade version is an opulent sauce, and the better the oil the tastier the results. I’ve been experimenting with several outstanding California extra-virgin oils lately, and in the process this became my favorite way to enjoy them.
I took the summer off from blogging to move. Steve and I had felt cramped in a small house along with 3 cats, my growing collection of kitchen props, and the expanding photo equipment we need for this blog and our work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With falling real estate prices, we could now afford a house with separate offices for each of us, space for the large oval dining table we inherited from Steve’s mom, and a nice big kitchen.
It was hot last Thursday, and I was tired after spending the day setting up my office and didn’t feel very creative. Hence, I fell back on an old favorite recipe for dinner: Spaghetti Carbonara
with Greens. It is such a favorite; I put it in my book, Weeknight Fresh and Fast
I love this dish because the egg and Parmesan cheese sauce is creamy and soothing. Also, it takes only minutes to prepare. But perhaps the main reason I make it over and over is that it never requires a trip to the market; it uses ingredients I always have on hand- farm fresh eggs, pasta, and cheese.
During the summer, when I get home from my weekly visit to the farmers’ market, it always seems like I have purchased too many heirloom tomatoes. But every week we devour them all.
A few of my favorite preparations:
- a quick salad of large tomato wedges, sprinkled with salt and pepper, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and finished with a shower of fresh marjoram or basil
- to accompany grilled fish or chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes halved and sautéed with red onion and thyme
- for an intense cold soup, the ripest specimens pureed with extra-virgin olive oil, shallots, and breadcrumbs
I am on a quest to serve healthy greens more frequently, and last week I was tempted by Chinese broccoli. Steve does not like the bitter flavor of most greens, and when he sees sliced chard or kale on the cutting board, he always asks why I would want to ruin dinner with something so unpleasant. However, broccoli rabe and its close relative Chinese broccoli are sweeter than most greens, and if I sneak them into soups, stews, and pasta dishes, Steve enjoys the meal.
This photo shows me creating the dish that convinced Steve greens can be tasty. It is a broccoli rabe and tofu stir-fry that is in my upcoming cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast. Delicate broccoli rabe and creamy tofu are jazzed up with assertive Asian chile sauce and fragrant ginger, and then spooned over steaming, delicately scented brown jasmine rice.
I’ve been having lots of fun cooking from my friend Amelia Saltsman’s
new cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen
. This is a warm, personal book, filled with Amelia’s spins on Jewish recipes, often influenced by the intense flavors of Middle Eastern fare. It is organized by the seasons, features fresh produce, and offers fascinating history and family stories. You might remember Amelia from her wonderful The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook
Here’s an easy, robust, and even healthful gluten-free chili to make any evening you’re tight on time. I came up with it right after we returned from a few days of glorious, but very cold, hiking in Yosemite. I was busy catching up after our trip, and didn’t have time to get to a grocery store, so I trolled my cupboard and refrigerator to make dinner.
After cooking a feast for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t believe I needed to shop for food on Monday, but we were running out of a few staples. As I went through the store, gathering soy milk, yogurt, and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Hot Cereal
, I found myself drawn to the produce section, and I added a couple of bright red bell peppers, a sweet butternut squash, and some curly black kale to my cart before heading home.
I was craving vegetables, and relief from the rich holiday fare. As soon as I unloaded the groceries, I poured a little olive oil into a large pot and set it over medium heat, cut a big onion and one of the bell peppers into ½-inch cubes (faster than finely chopping), and got a cauldron of fragrant soup started.
For Valentine’s Day dinner we’ll be feasting on tender egg fettuccini crowned with luxurious wild mushrooms and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The last few years we’ve gone out to dinner at Farmshop, one of our favorite restaurants, but this year we decided to avoid the Saturday night, special-occasion crowds and the always-challenging Los Angeles traffic.