Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Comforting Khichari is nutritious, delicious and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal. It’s also a great pantry meal and easily adaptable. Like most of the world, my husband and I are sheltering inside until the Covid 19 pandemic is defeated.

We are eternally grateful to the brave and heroic healthcare workers, grocery shoppers, delivery people and others who are putting their lives on the line so that we can be cared for and fed. There cannot be enough shout-outs to those who are risking their own lives during these extraordinary times.

In order to help in some small way, we are trying to limit grocery deliveries. But we also know how important it is to so many families living on the edge to have any income coming in. So if you are receiving deliveries, please be generous with the people who are making them. Every little bit helps. For those lucky enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely and the incomes to go with it, be very generous.

So why Khichari? The most basic is comprised of a lentil, rice and some seasoning. Not only are these pantry staples for many, but it is loaded with nutrition for those who are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. While not a vegetarian, my husband and I often eat vegetarian or vegan meals. I came across this particular recipe recently and knew that I had everything on hand. Well almost. I didn’t happen to have the Thai chile or cauliflower. But I did have a butternut squash and a jalapeno pepper.

I made up a simple raita (yogurt and cucumber) to eat alongside with some pita that I had in my freezer. If you are vegan, a chutney of some sort or some other vegetable dip would be appropriate. And if you don’t have either of those, this dish is comforting and delicious on its own.

I simply peeled, cubed and roasted my butternut squash with EVOO, salt and pepper at 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And I added a cup of frozen peas to the end of the cooking time as much for color as anything else. What I am trying to say, is don’t stress if you are missing an ingredient or if you want to substitute something. I had mung dal in my pantry and curry leaves in my freezer. If you don’t, then double up on the split red lentil and just leave out the curry leaves. Maybe add some lemon or lime zest if you have it or a bit of asafoetida.

This is not a traditional recipe so don’t be afraid to play with it a bit. Now is a great time to be a bit fearless with cooking. However you end up making Khichari, just keep the proportions of grains and lentils to liquid. And if you are not using a split lentil, the cooking time might increase a bit along with the liquid. You can always add liquid as you go if necessary. Assuming you can receive deliveries, most of the ingredients are available online and keep well stored in airtight containers. After that, go for it!

For other great dal and side ideas:

Chana Dal Kichadi

Punjabi Chana Dal

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

¼ cup red split lentils

¼ cup yellow split mung dal

¼ cup basmati rice

¼ cup white quinoa

2 tablespoons ghee or melted virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

6 fresh curry leaves or 2 dried cassia leaves (optional)

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1 small green Thai chile, finely chopped

2 cups chopped cauliflower florets and/or peeled daikon

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon (or more) Himalayan rock salt (or kosher salt)

Optional

Cilantro, basil, lime slices, black pepper, and olive oil (for serving)

Directions

Cover lentils and mung dal with water in a small bowl and let soak 30 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, rinse rice and quinoa and drain well.

Heat ghee or oil in a large pot over medium-low. Add turmeric and toast just until slightly darkened, about 10 seconds. Add curry leaves, if using, ginger, and chile and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add drained lentils, mung dal, rice, and quinoa and cook, stirring, until nearly dry, 1–2 minutes. Add cauliflower, fennel seeds, 1 tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that forms on the surface, then simmer covered until grains and vegetables are very tender, 30–40 minutes; the khichari should be thick, very soft, and just loose enough not to stick to bottom of the pot (add water as needed to loosen). Season with more salt, if needed. Note: I did not have the cauliflower so I roasted my butternut squash separately and added it on top for serving.

Divide among bowls. Top with cilantro, basil, black pepper, and limes. Drizzle with oil.

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One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca

This One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca is a game changer! Everything cooks in one pot and is delicious and cooked exactly right. I already am a fan of sheet-pan cooking, but when I tried this pasta I became an evangelist. It’s absolutely brilliant. No more worrying about if your sauce and pasta are both ready at the same time.

Since we are all confined to our homes, I am spending even more time than usual looking at recipes. I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, the kitchn.com. Apparently it was developed by a Martha Stewart chef and it truly is magical. Even in these days of difficult-to-come-by groceries, I had all of the ingredients on hand. I did make a couple of changes to the original. The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of salt which was too much especially when adding olives and capers. And for some reason, the original recipe said to only use 12 ounces of pasta when most boxed dry pasta come in 1 pound increments. Those were easy fixes to make.

This definitely is something that will make it into my regular rotation of dinners. It is just so easy, with minimal clean-up – ONE POT! And everything was cooked perfectly. I had baked bread earlier in the day so along with a glass of delicious red wine, my husband and I feasted. Really, you MUST try this.

For the recipe to work, you need a large shallowish pan like the Staub Heritage All-Day Pan or this Lodge enameled cast iron pan. I love my Staub pan and use it constantly. These pans are perfect for braising and go from the stove-top to the oven. If you are setting up your kitchen or looking to replace pots and pans, you can’t go wrong with either of these. (And I receive no remuneration for saying this.) You also need to use pasta made from wheat. The starch from the pasta will combine with the water to thicken and form a creamy sauce. This won’t happen with a vegetable-based pasta and the cooking time would be off.

Make this One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca for your next Meatless Monday.

How we’re managing isolation

My husband and I are in that vulnerable category of over 60 and with underlying health issues. So we are being very careful about social distancing. In addition to our normal home activities and chores, we have added some things. We are each taking advantage of free online lecture series, some of which are quite wonderful.

Not being able to use the gym in our building has meant getting creative with workouts. You can find us walking our long hallways (we live in a condo) and running stairs. Not much competition with our neighbors so far. And I have started a weights program and actually am developing arm definition! We do crossword puzzles together and I just started a wonderful 1,000-page biography of Winston Churchill by Andrew Roberts. That will clearly keep me busy for some time to come. Our beautiful, sweet cat is getting very, very spoiled having us constantly at her beck and call.

And I do needlepoint and my husband is a “maker.” None of this makes up for the loss of social interaction or the freedom of movement, but maybe I’ll come out of confinement a little smarter, healthier and having created something beautiful.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of dry pasta like a linguine

About 12 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 cup pitted and halved olives (I used a mixture of Kalamatos and green olives)

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes

4.5 cups warm tap water

Optional

Grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, swishing the pasta around to keep it from sticking and to distribute the ingredients. I find that using tongs is best for this.

Turn off the heat and mix thoroughly. Add some additional chopped parsley and the cheese, if using to serve.

Note:

My husband requested that I add a protein and I happened to have some shrimp in my freezer. I added about a dozen shrimp during the final three minutes. Personally, I would have been fine without it so this would make a perfect meatless Monday meal.

African Peanut Soup

Rich in flavor and robust with sweet potato chunks and kale, this creamy, spicy soup is sure to please. This African Peanut Soup is a riff on the West African Maafe or peanut stew. A perfect Meatless Monday meal that comes together in no time.

As we are all sheltering in place trying to avoid contracting and spreading the Novel Coronavirus, eating healthily and satisfyingly has become even more important. Grocery shopping has become increasingly difficult so it is good to find delicious recipes that make use of as many pantry staples as possible. And the vivid colors and flavors of this African Peanut Soup can cheer anyone out of their boredom.

I searched the web and found many variations for this ground nut soup, although many of the ingredients were the same, appearing in different quantities. There also were versions with chicken or beef, but I wanted something meatless, that was easy to put together and packed a punch. Ultimately, I made a few changes to the recipe, in part, because it turned out that I was missing an ingredient and wasn’t about to go to the store to get it. With a couple of tweaks, I was able to make an acceptable work-around. But you be the judge. Give this soup a try.

We can all get through this pandemic.

For more healthy pantry soup ideas:

Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce (Also eaten as a soup over rice)

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Carrot and Harissa Soup

Recipe

Servings: 4 to 6 with rice

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoons peanut oil oil (or high heat oil such as Canola or Grapeseed)

1 large onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed (I didn’t need more)

3/4 to 1 cup creamy or chunky natural unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup finely chopped or ground canned tomatoes

2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, diced (about 20 ounces total weight)

1 bunch curly kale leaves or collard greens, torn off of the stem into bite sized pieces

1 to 2 rounded teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving

Cooked rice

Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute the onion, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom and jalapeno. Cook everything for about 1 minute more, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth, peanut butter, chopped tomatoes and maple syrup to the pot. Stir well to fully blend everything. Add the sweet potato, raise the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  5. Lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. You can thin the soup with some extra broth or water if it becomes too thick. Mine didn’t.
  6. Stir in the kale. You may need to add a bit at a time and let each addition wilt to make room for the next.
  7. Let the mixture continue simmering for 5 to 10 minutes, until the kale is tender and the soup is thick.
  8. Remove the pot from heat and season the soup with salt, pepper and Sriracha to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a scoop of rice, chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve.

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Like many people, my husband and I try to eat healthily. Since we cook and eat almost all of our meals at home, this is fairly easy to do. We also try to keep a balance of vegetarian vs. meat-based meals. These Indian-spiced lentil burgers will make Meatless Mondays anything but boring.

As it happens, Andrew and I have both been home sick for the past 10+ days. No Novel Corona Virus, but very bad colds and coughs. It’s pretty easy to get down and out right now, so I am paying special attention to creating interesting and healthy meals. And as anyone who has had a terrible cold knows, the taste buds are one of the first casualties.

So when I came across this recipe for Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with a Cilantro Chutney, I immediately perked up. I figured, rightly so as it turned out, that there would be enough flavor here to break through even my currently stuffed nose. I had all of the ingredients needed for the burgers, but unfortunately was short on ingredients for the chutney. The ingredients for the chutney can be found below, but I actually used a delicious onion chutney that I happened to have on hand instead. You can also purchase Indian Cilantro or Mint Chutney which should be equally delicious and one less thing to have to put together yourself. When you are coming home from work or are not feeling your best, simplicity is key.

I happen to love Indian food and the particular mix of seasonings given here. However, the recipe is pretty flexible. It is really the method and proportions that count. So if you prefer a more Mediterranean set of flavorings, just swap out the cumin, turmeric and coriander for the seasonings of choice. And instead of a delicious chutney, use a tomato-based or pesto spread on your bun. If you are going the Asian route, spread on some Teriyaki sauce or Peanut Sauce.

By using a food processor to do the main chopping, and the speed with which red lentils cook, this dish comes together pretty quickly. You do need to refrigerate the patties before cooking them, however. Because of that, you can either throw these together in the morning before you leave for work or make the patties the night before.

These burgers are not going to fool you into thinking you are eating meat. So junk that notion and enjoy them for the deliciousness that they are.

Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

INGREDIENTS

For the Chutney:

  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped to make 2 packed cups 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from about 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the burgers:

  • 1 cup dry red lentils 
  • 2 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for broiling the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

Garnishes: Optional

  • 4 hamburger buns or similar rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • Chutney (Onion, Mango, Mint, Coriander)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves, a handful of sprouts, or greens of your choice
  • Quickly pickled onion

Make the chutney, if using: In a food processor, puree the cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth “ish”, scraping down the sides of the bowl two or three times. The mixture will still have some texture but should be predominately smooth. 

Transfer to a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the food processor. You’ll use it again in a second.

Pick over the lentils: Spread the lentils on a baking sheet and pick out small stones or pieces of dirt if there are any. Place them in a sieve and run them under cold water to rinse them. Drain. 

Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and the lentils to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. 

At this point they should still hold their shape somewhat, though you will notice that the outer husks may have separated. Drain well in a fine-mesh colander or sieve. 

Chop the vegetables: While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped. (If you are using a different flavor profile, you can omit the ginger.)

Cook the vegetables and spices: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

Mash the lentils: Stir the well-drained lentils into the still-warm vegetables in the skillet. With a fork or potato masher, mash about half the mixture, leaving the other half intact.

Clear a space on one side of the skillet and add the eggs. Beat them well with a fork, and stir them into the lentils. Add the breadcrumbs and stir again. Let the mixture cool enough for you to handle and form into patties.

Form the patties: Form the lentil mixture into 4 patties that are about 4-inches across. Brush lightly with oil. Refrigerate the patties, uncovered, for 30 minutes or overnight.

Cook the burgers: Set a rack 4 to 6-inches from the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Using a well-seasoned cast-iron pan or a baking sheet lined with foil, heat the pan in the hot oven. Brush the tops of the patties with oil and place onto the hot pan. There should be a nice sizzle. Broil for 6 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn carefully, brush with more oil, and brown on the other side (another 5 to 6 minutes.)

Serve the burgers: You can lightly toast the buns if you like. Then spread some of the yogurt and chutney/sauce on the two halves. Place the burgers on top. Top with sliced cucumbers and lettuce or greens of your choice. And while these certainly didn’t need it, I could see adding a slice of cheese on top if I were going with a Mediterranean profile.

For other Meatless Monday ideas:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Roasted Tomato Soup

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Tofu Coconut Curry

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup is a hearty one-pot meal perfect for damp, chilly fall or winter days. This will warm your hearts and your stomachs and needs nothing more than some good bread. Add a salad and you have a veritable feast.

The texture of the soup is creamy but it comes from pureeing the veggies with an immersion blender. So the rich flavor and texture is actually healthy. And while the soup can be a bit spicy, the level of heat is all within your control. And did I mention that there is also kale?

The most difficult part of this recipe is remembering to soak your chickpeas the night before. In the winter, my husband and I love to spend Sundays snuggled at home with our beautiful, sweet cat. It’s the perfect day for making a big pot of soup or stew that will last all week for lazy lunches or dinners. While the soup slowly simmers, we will work on a crossword puzzle or two or just listen to some good music while we read. Somehow it’s even better if we can have some snow or rain while we are toasty and comfy with each other inside. And, of course, a fire crackling completes the picture.

The Magic of Sundays

The Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup only requires a minimum of prep and then you are pretty free to spend those 2.5 hours while it gently bubbles away in any pursuit that you choose. If you are feeling particularly virtuous maybe a workout is in order. Then again, Sundays are great days for watching a game. Buy a crusty country bread or make Socca.

This recipe makes a large quantity. And while I am happy to have it for lunch all week, you can also freeze the soup if it is more than you want. Better yet, invite some friends over to share this. You can thank me later.

The original recipe stemmed from a Bon Appetit October 2019 post by Carla Lalli Music. After reading the reviews and the recipe, I decided to make a number of changes.

Recipe

Yield: About 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked to cover for 8 hours or overnight

4 quarts of water

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon chicken or vegetable)

2 very large carrots, coarsely sliced

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 head of garlic, with cloves separated and peeled

1 smoked turkey leg or wings or a smoked ham hock (I prefer turkey)

1/4 cup EVOO

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Freshly cracked black pepper

A good chunk of Parmesan rind (Optional)

1 large bunch of curly kale, leaves torn from the stems

7 to 8 ounces of Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I prefer “original” style, but you can also buy “picante” which is spicier. I did not need to go any further than my local grocery store to find this.)

Directions

Drain your chickpeas after they have soaked. Place them in a large stockpot (9 quarts, if possible) with the 4 quarts of tap water. Season with 1 Tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, skimming any foam that rises to the surface for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your veggies. Once the liquid has been skimmed of foam, add in all of the veggies EXCEPT for the kale. Add in the seasonings, bouillon, Parmesan rind, if using and smoked turkey. When the liquid has returned to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2.5 hours.

Turn off the heat and using tongs, remove the turkey or ham hock to a cutting board. Fish out the Parmesan rind, if using. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out about two+ cups of the chickpeas and set aside. Don’t worry if a few veggies fall in. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture left in the pot until smooth. (If you don’t own an immersion blender, BUY ONE! Mine was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law and it is now a cherished and essential piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t know how I managed without one. Fortunately, they are easy to come by and inexpensive. They also don’t take up much room, which is good because I have a small kitchen.)

By now the turkey should be cool enough to handle. Using your clean hands, strip the meat from the bones, cartilage and skin. If you use a turkey leg, there will be a fair amount of meat, but there will only be a small amount with the wings or ham hock. Add the meat back to the pot along with the whole chickpeas that you had set aside. You can make the soup ahead up to this point.

When you are ready to serve the soup, add the chorizo (which is fully cooked and only requires heating) and the kale. Return the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes more. Honestly, it’s difficult to over-cook this as long as it is on a low heat. The soup just gets better each day.

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice is a savory, succulent, budget-friendly dinner worthy of company. Also known as Plau B’Jeej, this dish contains subtle layers of flavors and textures. I cooked chicken thighs with tomato paste and spices to make the broth which I then used later to cook the rice. Chicken thighs are more flavorful than breast meat and they retain their moisture. Onions (LOTS) were slowly sauteed until just short of caramelization. When I added an exotic blend of spices along with almonds and raisins I was immediately transported to the market places in Israel.

We ate the Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice for a satisfying, lovely Shabbat meal. A cup of Greek Red Lentil Soup, along with side salads of Moroccan Beets, Baba Ganoush and a watercress, Persian cucumber, tomato and olive filled out the menu. And, of course, my husband’s beautiful challah!

While I know that some people eat the same special meal every Shabbat, I have always tried to vary it. With a wonderful library of cookbooks, I’m never short of inspiration. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I especially love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food as well as Indian. They both use lots of fresh herbs, pulses, vegetables and spices and it’s fun to mix and match cuisines. These palate pleasers also create a feast for the eyes with their colorful blends. This recipe comes from the Jewish Soul Food From Minsk to Marrakesh cookbook by Janna Gur.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings, depending on sides. Any leftover rice can be used with other grilled, or roasted meat, chicken or fish.

Ingredients

2 to 2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or saddles , which includes the legs)

5 cups of water

7 ounces of tomato paste

1 slightly rounded teaspoon of ground cumin

1 slightly rounded teaspoon sweet paprika

Generous pinch of cayenne (optional, but I used)

Kosher salt

2 cups long-grain white rice (I used Basmati)

3 to 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil such as Canola

3 large yellow or white onions

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 slightly rounded teaspoon baharat spice mix (easily available online, but a recipe for making it at home will be included at the bottom)

1 cup of blanched slivered or halved almonds

1/2 cup of raisins (I used unsulphured Sultana Raisins)

Directions

Place the chicken in a medium saucepan. Mix the water with the tomato paste, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour. Toward the end of cooking, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until it is cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes). There should be just about 3.5 cups of liquid remaining, which you will use in a bit to cook the rice.

While the chicken is cooking, rinse and then soak the rice in cold water, using a sieve or colander over a bowl. The rice should soak for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Then drain the rice.

Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat off of the bone. Set the chicken meat aside.

Peel and thinly slice the three onions. Don’t get scared off by the seemingly large amount. It cooks down and is all necessary. In a 12-inch pan (preferably cast iron) heat the vegetable oil. I ended up using about 3.5 Tablespoons of oil. Add the sliced onions and saute over medium heat, only stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes+. You want the onions to become softened and just beginning to turn golden and caramelized. Season with salt to taste and add the turmeric and baharat. Mix through. All of this can be done ahead if you wish.

Twenty minutes or so before you are ready to eat, bring the tomato liquid to a boil. Add the drained rice. Cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, but check it after 15 since different brands of rice cook different times. You want the liquid to be absorbed and the rice to be tender. Fluff the rice with a fork, re-cover the pot and allow the rice to stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the onion mixture if you made it ahead. Add back the chicken and mix it through. Add the almonds and saute for about 5 to 6 minutes more, gently tossing the almonds through the mixture. Now add the raisins and cook for one more minute.

This can be presented on a platter with the rice on the bottom and the chicken, almond, onion, raisin mixture mounded on top. Be sure to leave some of the rice visible. You can also serve this in a similar presentation on individual plates. Top with a bit of fresh parsley or cilantro for color contrast.

Baharat Spice Mix

There is no one single recipe for Baharat. Every family and spice vendor has their own blend. The following recipe also comes from the Janna Gur cookbook and is one option for making Baharat at home. I used a commercial blend this time which I received as a gift.

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

1 Tablespoon freshly ground balck pepper

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground allspice

1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine and keep stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

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)

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.