Ribollita Soup

Ribollita Soup is the ultimate comfort food

Soup is comfort food. And Ribollita Soup may just be the ultimate winter comfort soup. This savory Tuscan bean porridge checks all of the right boxes. And it is easy to tailor it to your own tastes. In deciding which recipe to follow, I looked at no fewer than 8 versions before settling on this one that appeared in Food and Wine. I made a couple of tweaks. But this humble and cost-saving soup that makes use of simple ingredients and stale bread is one of the most satisfying wintery soups I have made. And I make a LOT of soup.

This version of Ribollita Soup does take some time to cook properly, but there is nothing difficult or fussy about it. And on these cold wintery days when you are snuggled up at home with a good book and some music in the background, put up a pot of Ribollita for ultimate comfort. You won’t be disappointed. Add a glass of wine, and you raise this peasant soup to fine dining.

I used canned beans here but if you like to cook your own (as I often do) the best can be found at Rancho Gordo. I was first introduced to Rancho Gordo beans at the Culinary Institute several years ago on a trip with our son and daughter-in-law. Their heirloom beans are well-worth exploring.

My ribollita was made using chicken stock and Parmesan rinds, but you can easily veganize the soup using a vegetable stock and leaving out the cheese. Do use a simple rustic bread for this soup. It doesn’t actually have to be stale. The origins of Ribollita were to make use of everything and to waste nothing.

Recipe

Yield: About 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

28 ounce can OR 24 ounce box crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

1 1/2 cups unoaked white wine

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (You could also use a mixture of water and the liquid from your cooked beans if you cooked your own)

3 stale Tuscan-style bread (rustic country loaf or boule) slices, crusts removed and bread torn into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 ounces)

2 large bunches of kale (preferable lacinato kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (This may seem like a lot of kale but it cooks down)

Parmesan cheese rind (optional)

About 4 cups of peeled, diced Yukon Gold potatoes

4 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other thin-skinned white beans from 2 15-ounce cans or homemade).

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-low. When oil shimmers, add onion, carrot, and celery; stir to coat with oil. Stir in salt to help draw out liquid from onions and season the foundation of the soup. Cook, stirring often and scraping bottom of pot with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle sizzle, until mixture is very soft and translucent, about 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium; cook, stirring often, until sofrito is caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Sofrito

Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper, if using; cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes and wine, and stir, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot, until mixture is well combined. Increase heat to maintain a vigorous simmer (be careful of splattering tomato). Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to a jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes.

Add 8 cups water or stock, bread, kale, and Parmesan rind, if using; stir, scraping bottom of pan to fully incorporate sofrito into liquid. Simmer until kale is tender and bread is dissolved, about 20 minutes. Stir in potatoes, and simmer until partially tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree 1 cup beans with 1 cup tap water or bean cooking liquid (if not using canned). Add bean puree and remaining 3 cups beans, and simmer until beans and potatoes are completely tender but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon more salt, or to taste, and a generous amount of black pepper.

Let soup cool to room temperature if not eating immediately; cover and refrigerate. Reheat soup gently before serving, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Divide among bowls, and top each with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve hot. (I found the soup did not need any additional olive oil)

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One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs

Umami in a pan

One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs makes a savory and satisfying dinner. It takes no time or special skills to prep, is budget-friendly and can easily be tailored to your personal tastes.

I’m always looking for meals that are full of flavor, reasonably healthy and which don’t break the bank. Chicken thighs are the perfect solution. They are versatile, almost impossible to over-cook and are always available. And best of all, they lend themselves to one-pan meals. They are inexpensive enough to serve on a weeknight but can also be dressed up for company. Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can’t go wrong. And unlike chicken breasts these days which are bred to be huge, chicken thighs are proportioned for healthy eating.

We have been growing fresh herbs on our terrace, but now that winter temperatures have hit, the pots have moved indoors. So I used my ready supply of fresh herbs for this dish. If you don’t grow your own, choose whatever looks good at the market. You could use dried herbs here as well, by halving the amount. But do buy fresh for this One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs if it is an option.

All you need to complete the meal is a grain or some crusty bread. And while we enjoy drinking and cooking with wine, you could use chicken broth in its place here.

For other one-pan/one-pot chicken recipes check these out:

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on sides

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons neutral oil such as Canola or grapeseed (You could use all oil if you prefer to not mix dairy and meat)

2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken thighs

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes in their own juices

15 ounce can of cannellini beans or Great Northern, drained and rinsed

Generous 1/4 chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme, but you could use oregano, parsley or any combination)

2 small bay leaves

1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 head of garlic, with cloves peeled and lightly smashed

1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 12-inch deep skillet with a lid, heat the oil and butter (or all oil if using). Season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste. If you are using kosher chickens, use less salt.

Place the thighs skin-side down in the pan and cook for 8 minutes without stirring. (I like to use a screen over the pan to cut down on splatter and mess.) This will turn the skin to a lovely brown. Turn off the heat and turn the chicken thighs so that the browned skin is now facing up.

Evenly scatter the remaining ingredients around the chicken and place the pan, uncovered in the heated oven. (Could this GET any easier?)

Cook for 1.25 hours. Now eat! If you want, you can garnish with a little additional fresh herbs, but it’s just for show.

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Meatless Monday

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu is a delicious meatless meal ready in 30 minutes. It’s ingredients are flexible. And with a few cheats anyone can make this in under 30 minutes. If you are looking for a meatless Monday meal or just something fresh and healthy, look no further.

The One Joy of Getting Older

My husband and I just returned from two glorious weeks with our first grandchild. I know that everyone says this, but our granddaughter REALLY is the most beautiful, wonderful baby ever – until the next one! While it was great visiting our kids and spending so much time together, I returned home tired and with a bad throat. After one expensive and awful order-in meal, I decided that I simply needed to cook something healthy for us that wouldn’t take a lot of time or energy. The Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu was the perfect solution.

Making Use of Cooking Cheats

I placed an online delivery order and had everything I needed for a week of food within a couple of hours. I normally really enjoy grocery shopping and am VERY picky about my produce, so I was a bit anxious how the order would turn out. In general, it was pretty good and a nice option when you are under-the-weather or the weather is awful.

The prep for this meal took no time which left plenty of time for watching videos of our granddaughter. While I enjoy doing things myself in the kitchen and understand that it can be more cost-effective, sometimes using some cheats is worth it. Time is an all-too-precious commodity that most of us don’t have. So if you want to make your own cauliflower “rice” and grate your own ginger, please do. But many of us are lucky enough to live within easy access to quality prepared ingredients. And, I for one, am not ashamed to admit using them from time to time.

Don’t get too bogged down in actual quantities. You can be flexible. If you want more carrot, go for it. If you don’t like or can’t get sugar snap peas, use frozen English peas etc.

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings, depending on appetite (My husband and I ate the whole thing)

Ingredients

16 oz. cauliflower “rice”

7 oz. baked tofu (Like Wildwood brand Teriyaki Baked Tofu) cut into 1-inch dice

3 Large or Xtra Large eggs, lightly beaten wit the Mirin, if using

About 2 teaspoons of Mirin or dry sherry (optional)

3 to 4 scallions, white and light green part only – thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and cut into smallish dice

About 1 cup of sugar snap or snow peas, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal OR 1 cup of frozen peas

About one cup of fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed in cold water

1 Tablespoon grated fresh peeled ginger (I used prepared fresh ginger from a jar)

1 rounded teaspoon crushed or finely minced fresh garlic

About 3 Tablespoons neutral oil like Canola

About 2 Tablespoons low sodium soy or tamari sauce or to taste

Generous pinch of kosher salt

Toasted Sesame oil for drizzling

Directions

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the scallions and toss for about 1 minute. Then add the beaten eggs and cook as you would an omelette. When the omelette is cooked through, remove it from the pan and slice it into strips.

In the same wok or pan, add the last tablespoon of oil. Add the grated ginger and garlic and saute for about a minute. Add the cauliflower “rice” and carrot and toss well to coat with the oil, garlic and ginger. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or just until the cauliflower begins to soften. Now add soy sauce and toss through.

Add the tofu, peas and egg/scallion strips and toss through. Add the bean sprouts and quickly toss. Taste and adjust salt/ soy sauce. Serve drizzled with sesame oil. If you want to get fancier you can top with a little extra sliced scallion.

Swiss Chard Sauté

Swiss Chard is an under-rated vegetable. There, I’ve said it. But once you have tried this easy-to-prepare Swiss Chard Sauté, you will become a convert.

So what is Swiss Chard? It’s a green, leafy vegetable that is high in vitamins A, K, C and E as well as the minerals magnesium, manganese, iron and potassium. Young plants can be eaten raw in salads and more mature plants (what you generally see in the produce section of your grocery store) is best eaten sauteed. In Turkey and Egypt is is often cooked into soup or broth. I love the slightly peppery taste and the contrast of the somewhat crunchy tender stems along with the softer leaves. It can be blanched and added to quiche instead of spinach or kale for a more flavorful accent. But this Swiss Chard Sauté is probably the simplest way to prepare it and something my son enjoyed even as a young child.

Great as part of a vegan meal or as a side to grilled fish, chicken or meat. I like left-overs with scrambled eggs for breakfast the next day. However, you enjoy it, be sure to pick a bunch with shiny, unblemished leaves and the tenderest stems. Chard comes in different varieties – green, rainbow and red – but they all taste pretty much the same and any could be used in this recipe, which can be easily be doubled. This version comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Cookbook, a great source of delicious and nutritious recipes.

Recipe for Swiss Chard Saute

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients

Mangold or Swiss chard 'Rainbow' leaves isolated on white

2 teaspoons EVOO or good vegetable oil

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1/2 cup sliced leeks (white part only) or 1/2 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2/3 cup thinly sliced celery

1 Tablespoon broth (vegetable or chicken) or water

1 good bunch of Swiss Chard, coarsely chopped, including thinner stems

Freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok, preferably non-stick. Add the garlic, leeks or onion and celery. Sauté the vegetables, stirring them for about 3 minutes.

Add the broth or water and the Swiss Chard. Season with salt and pepper, stirring the ingredients to combine them. I find that using tongs works best here. Cover the pan and simmer/steam the mixture, stirring occasionally over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the chard is just wilted and tender.

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

This simply beautiful, tasty and healthy pizza hits all of the right notes for autumn. Butternut squash and arugula pizza is colorful, smells wonderful and tastes even better. And it’s simple to make at home! This recipe is another success from Valerie Bertinelli’s kitchen.

The vibrant orange of the butternut squash and the bright, deep green of the arugula will make any cheerless, wet autumn day seem just a little bit brighter. And the tang of goat cheese along with the ooey gooeyness of mozzarella makes for the perfect mouthfeel. Additional umami comes from the fresh sage, rosemary, garlic and lemon. What’s not to love here? Did I mention that it was easy to put together? So the next time you are looking for a delicious vegetarian option – perfect for meatless Monday – or want pizza without the guilt, try this Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza.

While most vegetables are available all year long these days, autumn really begins squash season. And not only do squashes taste great and are versatile, but they are nutrient rich foods. Butternut squash is low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and beta carotene. For some other great recipe ideas that use butternut squash, check these out:

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Red Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad

And for a different take on Butternut Squash Pizza

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Dough

2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves 

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast 

1/2 teaspoon sugar 

Kosher salt 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl 

Cornmeal, for dusting, optional 

Topping

One 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices (I had a bigger squash so roasted all of it and saved the rest for another use.)

2 1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves 

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary 

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1 large garlic clove, smashed 

2 cups shredded mozzarella

4 ounces goat cheese, coarsely crumbled 

3 cups baby arugula 

Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

For the dough: Combine the flour, rosemary, yeast, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add 3/4 cup warm water and the oil and process until the dough forms a ball. Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

For the topping: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the squash with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Roast until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the sage, rosemary, red pepper flakes and garlic. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes, just to infuse the oil.

Sprinkle cornmeal or flour on a 14-inch pizza pan and set aside. (I used a heavy-duty cookie sheet because I have a pizza steel but not a pan. The steel was a bit small. The cookie sheet worked just fine.)

Liberally flour a clean work surface. Place the dough on top and use your hands to stretch it out into a 14-inch circle. After patting it out with my fingers, I gently rolled the dough over my knuckles, pushing out carefully to stretch the dough. The circle doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s “rustic,” as Valerie would say! Carefully lay the dough on the pizza pan/cookie sheet. Brush the infused oil onto the dough. Top with the mozzarella and the roasted squash, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.


Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown, 14 to 18 minutes. Carefully sprinkle the goat cheese evenly on top.

Toss the arugula with the 2 teaspoons olive oil, lemon zest and juice and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Top the pizza with the arugula, then cut into slices to serve.

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

So who needs one more chicken dinner recipe? Well, I do. And this Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas dinner by Alison Roman checks all of my boxes. It is easy to make, inexpensive and loaded with umami.

I came across this recipe and knew immediately that it was something I had to make – and it didn’t disappoint. With a few tweaks and served up with Mediterranean salads, I had a dinner that my husband loved and which I would gladly serve to guests.

Now as much as I hate cleaning and use foil-lined pans whenever possible, placing the ingredients on an unlined pan really gave me the crispy, roasted finish to the sheet-pan chicken and chickpeas that this dish cries out for. And with a good pan soak overnight, clean-up was easier than I had expected – especially since my husband supplied the elbow grease! If you really don’t want to do that, you may have to turn the broiler on towards the end of cooking to approximate the right effect.

My chicken marinated overnight, but you could do it all in the same day. However, the longer marinating left the chicken incredibly moist and flavorful. Give your family something special with this sheet-pan chicken and chickpeas or try it the next time you have friends over for dinner. Once everything is in the oven, you get to relax and enjoy the company.

One thing I have learned in over 35 years of cooking daily and entertaining is that you don’t have to make everything yourself. Find some good brands that you like and trust and augment your meals when you want to serve multiple courses. If you have access to good salads or dips, use them. I found a really excellent boxed soup brand (Pacific Foods) and I use their Butternut Squash, Spicy Red Lentil or “Creamy” Tomato Basil soup as a first course. I might tart them up a bit by adding some pumpkin seeds that I dry-roasted quickly in a pan and tossed with a wonderful spice blend that I bought or I add some fresh basil when serving. Nobody knows that I didn’t make these from scratch, but if asked, I’m happy to confess.

For some accompanying salad ideas, try any of the following:

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Greek Eggplant Dip

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

And, of course, don’t forget the hummus!

Recipe for Sheet-Pan Chicken and Chickpeas

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings, depending on sides and appetites

Ingredients

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (About 3.25 pounds)

Kosher salt and Aleppo Pepper (Freshly cracked black pepper is fine too)

1.5 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, divided

Juice from 2 to 3 lemons

2 rounded teaspoons ground turmeric, divided

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

1 Tablespoon fennel seed

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced and divided in half

EVOO for drizzling

Torn fresh mint or cilantro for garnish

2 Tablespoons tahini

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a heavy-duty (freezer) resealable plastic bag. Combine 3/4 cup of the yogurt with the juice of 1.5 lemons, 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 Tablespoons of water. Season well with salt and whichever pepper you are using. (I used 1.5 teaspoons of salt here.) If you are using Kosher chicken, you will use less salt. Mix well to combine and pour it over the chicken. Seal the bag and using your hands, “massage” the yogurt mixture over all of the chicken. Refrigerate at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
  2. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the top third of the oven.
  3. Mix half of the sliced onions with the juice of 1 lemon and season with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and whatever pepper you are using. Set this quick onion pickle aside until you are ready to serve.
  4. Combine the chickpeas, fennel seed, cumin, remaining turmeric and half of the red onion slices on an unlined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO and season with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and whichever pepper you are using. Using tongs or your clean hands, toss everything together.
  5. Move the chickpea/onion mixture to the outer edges of the baking pan. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, scraping off any excess and place the thighs in the center of the baking pan, skin-side facing up.
  6. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake, moving the chickpeas around about every 15 minutes so they don’t stick. Bake until the skin on the chicken and chickpeas are well-browned and begin to crisp. This took about 45 minutes in my oven. I then turned the chicken pieces over and roasted for another 10 minutes to crisp up the skin on the underside of the chicken. Because you are using thighs, and because of the marinade, the chicken will not dry out.
  7. Combine the remaining yogurt with the juice of one lemon and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, 2 Tablespoons of tahini and 1/4 teaspoon of ground sumac. This can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. And if you like garlic, you could crush in 1 small clove as well, although it’s really not necessary.
  8. When you are ready to serve, scatter the pickled onions over the chicken and garnish with mint and/or cilantro. Serve the seasoned yogurt alongside.

Yemenite Beef and Bean Soup

Nothing is better on a cold wet day than this Yemenite Beef and Bean Soup. The days now are shorter, the winds are sharper and the damp is already beginning to seep into my bones. This may not cure all that ails you, but it sure comes close.

We eat a LOT of soup in our house – especially as a main meal with some homemade bread and maybe a salad. In the summer, the soups are usually served cold. However, as soon as the weather starts to turn, I am looking to hearty, warming soups that satisfy my soul. This Yemenite Beef and Bean soup is easy to make. I put it up in the morning and allowed it to cook over a low flame all day. When I left my apartment, the lovely, rich aroma greeted me before I even opened the door. I’m actually surprised that my neighbors didn’t come knocking to ask for a bowl.

The original recipe by Einat Admony and Janna Gur was truly a poor man’s soup. Mine is a slightly more middle class version, with a richer stock, more meat and the addition of carrots. Either way, it’s still a bargain. My instructions are also simplified because who wants to make more work? And when I make soup, it usually just sits on my stove, getting reheated each day until it’s gone. The depth of flavors are only enriched and I’m always ready when we need to drive away the blues or that chill.

The primary spice mixture is Hawaij – one of my absolute favorites. Hawaij means “mixture” in Arabic. I also use it in my Yemenite Chicken Soup and in my Cauliflower Tabbouleh. While you likely can purchase it in a Middle Eastern grocery or online, I make my own. It only takes minutes to grind your own spices and the difference in flavor is huge. Once you try making your own freshly ground spices, you will never go back. The recipe for Hawaij that I use can be found with my Yemenite Chicken Soup, but I will repeat it below.

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound dried navy beans (Other white beans can be used such as cannellini or Great Northern)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pounds of beef short ribs or beef shank

8 cups beef broth plus 4 cups of water (Use only 8 to 10 cups liquid total if you want a thicker soup. Depending on the bean you used, you may need then to add more liquid when reheating since generally beans expand and thicken the broth as it sits.)

6 ounces tomato paste

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, cleaned and tied in a bundle with kitchen twine

1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 to 3 carrots, sliced in thick rounds

1 whole head of garlic, with just the papery outer skin removed

2 to 3 teaspoons of Hawaij (See recipe below)

2.5 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Directions

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with 3 to 4 inches of cold water. Soak for at least 8 hours or over night. Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place your short ribs, meat side up on a foil covered pan and sprinkle with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. If you are using kosher meat, you do not need to add salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Then turn the ribs over and roast for 12 minutes. Turn them on their side and roast for about 8 to 10 more minutes or until well-browned. Set aside.

You can brown the meat in the pot instead of in the oven. I find this a tedious process and one that invariably spatters grease all over my stove. I also find that when I brown the meat in the oven, I really don’t have to skim the soup liquid – another tedious process. And almost all of the excess fat remains on the foil which I simply discard, instead of either having to clean the pot in between or later skim off.

In a large, heavy-duty pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the carrots and onions. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook the vegetables until the carrots just begin to soften and the onion to brown – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the meat to the pot, allowing the fat to remain on the foil, which you will discard. Add the beans, garlic head and parsley or cilantro bundle.

Mix the tomato paste with about 1/2 cup of the broth or water to thin out the paste. Add all of your liquid to the pot, including the tomato paste mixture. Add the Hawaij (Start with 2 teaspoons and add more later if you wish.) and mix through.

Bring the soup to a boil and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to very low so the soup is just barely simmering. Allow it to cook for 4 to 5 hours. Remove the bundle of parsley/cilantro. Don’t worry if some pieces fall back into the soup or get loose. It’s fine. Remove the head of garlic and allow it to cool enough to handle. Then squeeze the softened, unctuous garlic cloves out of their skin, mash them slightly and add back to the pot. Taste and adjust your seasonings.

Hawaij

Yield: About 5 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons black peppercorn

1 Tablespoon black caraway seed (Kalonji or Nigella)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon of the seeds from green cardamom

2 teaspoons turmeric

pinch of saffron (optional)

Either pound the spices with a mortar and pestle or use a coffee/spice grinder. This can also be purchased online. I made mine.

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

I consider it a huge win when I find something to make that is easy, delicious and visually very appealing. Even better, Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks will make both meat lovers and vegans happy.

The “Valerie” in this dish is Valerie Bertinelli. Both an actress and an accomplished home cook, her recipes have proven easy to follow and reliable as well as delicious. Even though I was expecting this to be good, my husband and I were surprised at just how delicious it really was. ANd so pretty!

I made half of her original recipe and eyeballed most of the ingredients. So below is Valerie’s recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Steaks for those who feel most comfortable with exact amounts. This easy-going recipe will work either way. And while I did use the butter for the pine nuts and raisins, you could just as easily use either a buttery vegan spread or a good fruity EVOO to keep this dish vegan-friendly.

Any left-over raw cauliflower (and there will be) can be zapped in a food processor to use as cauliflower rice for Cauliflower Tabbouleh, Cauliflower Fried Rice or even a Cauliflower pizza crust.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 heads cauliflower (if you use larger heads you will get the 6 servings)

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1/4 cup golden raisins or raisin medley

1 tablespoon unsalted butter/vegan buttery spread or EVOO

1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped or torn

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut off the cauliflower stems, then place the heads cut-side down and slice into 1/2-inch-thick steaks. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, flipping after the first 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the pine nuts to a dry medium saute pan and toast over medium heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the raisins and butter and season with salt. Cook, tossing, until the butter has melted and coats the pine nuts and raisins. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
  3. Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a serving platter. Pour the pine nut-raisin mixture over the top. Season with salt.

Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi)

Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi) is a classic Northern Indian dish. The name is a literal translation of the ingredients with “aloo” meaning potato and “gobi” meaning cauliflower. This combination is perfect as part of a vegetarian, vegan or meat meal. And if you just want to add a little spice to an otherwise plain piece of broiled or baked meat or fish, this is just the dish to kick things up a notch. It makes wonderful left-overs too.

Don’t be put off by the list of spices. This is an easy dish to prepare, and uses the classic spices that would be on hand in any kitchen that enjoys either Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine. And you can be in control of the heat, making the curried cauliflower and potatoes (aloo gobi) as spicy – or not – as you like. I do strongly encourage you to grind your own spices. I can’t emphasize enough the difference it will make in your cooking. Using a spice or coffee grinder, this only adds seconds to your prep time, but will immediately transform you into a better cook.

This recipe dates back to a May, 1980 Bon Appetit article on the cuisine of northern India. The chef is Paul Bhalla and his recipes do take some preparation, but they are all well worth the effort. Unfortunately, I have not been successful in finding any of his recipes online….

For a few ideas of putting together a complete Indian meal check out these links.

Indian Sides with Something to Please Everyone

Red Lentils with Ginger

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita

Eggplant Pate (Bharta)

Karhi (Yogurt Sauce)

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce

Recipe

Yield: About 6 to 8 servings, as part of a complete dinner

Ingredients

About 6 Tablespoons of margarine or vegetable oil

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5-inch cubes (I used red potatoes but Yukon Gold would also be nice)

1 teaspoon black or white whole mustard seeds

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (this makes the dish mildly spicy)

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Pinch of asfetida (Optional, but I have it so add it. Asfetida has a unique flavor and is worth getting if you do Indian cooking)

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1.5-inch cubes

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons slivered fresh ginger root

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

About 3 pounds of cauliflower, broken into florets (You can include some tender green leaves if you like. I did not.)

Garnish Options

Coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro

Chopped scallion

Lemon wedges

Directions

Melt the margarine (or heat the oil) in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and saute just until lightly browned. Remove the potatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Return the oil to hot and add the mustard seeds, shaking the pan until they begin to pop. This only takes about 30 seconds. Add the onion and brown lightly. Reduce the heat and add the dry spices and blend well with the onion.

Add the tomatoes, cilantro, ginger, jalapenos (if used) and salt. If your tomatoes are not particularly juicy, you will want to add about 2 Tablespoons of water so things don’t become too dry. Now add the cauliflower and potatoes, and turn them to coat well with the spices.

Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and cook for about 15 minutes. You want the vegetables to be firm but tender. Garnish when ready to serve.

Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad

We eat a LOT of salads in our house. They can be a complete lunch or dinner with some crusty bread and a glass of wine. Or they can be the myriad and varied salatim that are an essential part of any Middle Eastern meal. The Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad is another entry from Adeena Sussman’s Sababa cookbook.

It can be made with persimmons or peaches instead of the apple. You also can vary the flavor palate depending on the type of goat cheese that you choose as well. What cannot change is the freshness of the produce, the quality of the pecans and goat cheese and the brightness of the lemony dressing. This is a very satisfying salad and is visually quite appealing. So the next time you want to dress things up a bit, give this Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan salad a try. It is an especially nice accompaniment to the Za’atar Roasted Chicken over Sumac Potatoes and would be great with any fish dish.

Recipe

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side salad

Ingredients

For dressing

1/2 cup fruity EVOO

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1.5 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1.5 teaspoons date syrup (silan) (double the honey if you don’t wish to use silan)

1.5 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or more, to taste

For the salad

1 large head if butter lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces (You could use another soft, flavorful lettuce if butter lettuce isn’t available.)

1 large, firm persimmon, peach or crisp apple (I like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady)

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup toasted pecans – whole or coarsely chopped

4 ounces of a soft goat cheese (I used one with vegetal ash, but you could use an herbed or good plain goat cheese.)

Directions

Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar until emulsified and creamy. Set aside until just ready to serve.

Arrange the salad ingredient in a shallow bowl or platter in an attractive arrangement. When you are ready to serve, give the dressing a good stir or shake and drizzle over the salad. You do not want to drown the salad and any extra can be refrigerated for another salad. You can also serve some additional dressing on the side after the initial drizzle so that people can add more if they wish. Now eat!