These noodles are an addictive combination of salty, spicy and sweet. For best results, use thick Asian wheat noodles, such as udon or lo mein, that cook up with chewy resilience. We try to include vegetarian dishes into our repertoire of meals, and this recipe is anything but ho-hum. Plus the ease of prep and limited ingredients let you serve dinner in under a half hour.
Chili crisp, a Chinese condiment sold in jars, is chili oil amped up with with red pepper flakes and additional spices. If you can find it, it’s a more flavorful alternative to standard chili oil. We used a chili-garlic paste, including the full two tablespoons. In fact, The Hubs added even more to his portion before tasting it–which probably wasn’t that wise 😉
If you want to amp up the veggies, one reviewer suggested including mushrooms, which we both agreed would be a good addition. Our Udon noodles weighed in at only eight ounces as opposed to the ten ounces the recipe called for. Luckily we didn’t have another mouth to feed because we polished off the entire skillet’s worth!
Mushrooms are widely known for their great taste and amazing health benefits. Packed with a ton of essential vitamins and minerals, they make for an excellent addition to your diet, adding flavor to many different recipes. Thank goodness we love them!
This hearty plant-based mushroom ragù consists of readily available fresh mushrooms and is ready in about an hour. Three types of the funghi are incorporated in this recipe, but feel free to use just one or two types to make the sauce even easier. Serve vegan ragù over polenta, pasta, couscous, or even as a topping for steak or chicken.
Classic or vegan mushroom ragù will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container; in the freezer for up to 6 months. To reheat, spoon the ragù sauce into a pot over medium heat until warmed through. If it has become too thick, add a little more liquid (water or vegetable broth) to loosen it a little.
Make it even a bit healthier by using a whole wheat pasta. Of course if you add grated cheese like we did, it is no longer vegan, but we were OK with that.
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with a big pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and season with another dash of salt. Add a drizzle more of olive oil and a little bit of the broth. Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften and cook down a little bit.
Add the thyme, oregano, parsley, and a good dash of black pepper. Stir.
Finally, add the red wine, tomato sauce, and the remainder of the broth. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or so covered, then uncover and allow the mushrooms to cook some more (about 15 to 20 minutes) until the mixture thickens to a ragù.
To finish, taste and adjust salt to your liking. Stir in a bit more fresh parsley. If you like, add in the chopped hazelnuts (optional).
Serve with your favorite pasta, polenta, or even pearl couscous
Having a ready-made pizza delivered to your doorstep is certainly the easy route. But often times we love a culinary challenge, and this pizza recipe from Milk Street proved to be just that. We made our dough from scratch, even warmed it up to a perfect 75° in a sous vide bath, but it still was tricky to stretch out. You can always purchase a pre-made dough and save yourself some aggravation, just sayin’…
Be aware, heating the oven and pizza steel or stone to 550°F takes about an hour. Use this time to roast portobello mushrooms, and to combine the fontina-Parmesan cream white sauce. Don’t undercook the mushrooms. Roasting them until well browned removes moisture that would otherwise make the pizza crust soggy. Another suggestion would be to use cremini mushrooms instead of portobello caps, then you wouldn’t have to remove any gills.
For a time-saver on dinner day, the mushrooms also can be prepped up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. When shaping the pizza dough, make sure that the edges are thicker than the center so they contain the cream sauce, which becomes runny during baking. For a crisp, well-browned bottom crust, if your oven only goes to 500°F, the pizza will need to bake for an extra two minutes.
The first attempt was unremarkable. The crust shape was more rectangular and we over-charred the mushrooms. Since the Fontina-Parmesan Cream makes enough for two pizzas, we made another several days later, which was more of a success story. This time we browned cremini mushrooms in a nonstick skillet on the stovetop. Plus we added about another cup of shredded fontina on top of the mushrooms. And that my friends, was a perfect pie!
1 cup fontina-Parmesan cream (recipe below); more on top of the mushrooms if desired.
2 scallions, thinly sliced on bias
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
At least 1 hour before baking, heat the oven to 550°F with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack and a second rack in the lower-middle.
Cut the mushroom caps into ¼-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms, olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
Spread the mushrooms in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the lower oven rack, stirring once, until they have released their moisture, the moisture evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 15 minutes. OR, brown them in a nonstick skillet on the stovetop.
Stir in the thyme and garlic, then roast/cook in skillet until the mushrooms have browned and the garlic is no longer raw, another 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Turn the dough out onto a counter dusted generously with bread flour. Flour your hands and, using your fingers, press the dough, starting at the center and working out to the edges, into a 12-inch round, turning the dough over once. The round should be thin in the center, with slightly thicker edges. Lightly dust a baking peel, inverted baking sheet or rimless cookie sheet with the semolina. Transfer the dough to the peel and, if needed, reshape into a 12-inch round.
Using the back of a spoon, spread the fontina-Parmesan cream evenly on the dough, leaving ½-inch border at the edge. Scatter the mushrooms over it and season with pepper. If desired, add more shredded fontina on top of the mushrooms.
Slide the pizza onto the baking steel or stone and bake until the crust is well browned, 7 to 9 minutes.
Using the peel, transfer the pizza to a wire rack. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with scallions and red pepper flakes.
3/4 cup heavy cream, cold
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium until stiff peaks form, about 2 1⁄2 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the fontina, Parmesan, rosemary and pepper.
Does a Mediterranean diet appeal to you? Then these two recipes might be worth a try. The first from Cook’s Country, Orzo with Shrimp, Feta and Lemon dish will grab your attention. Cooking the orzo pilaf-style gives it extra flavor and allows you to control the slightly creamy consistency.
To keep this meatless, use seafood/shellfish stock as opposed to chicken broth. Also, if the broth you use is on the bland side, use 4 cups of the stock and omit the water. If, like our homemade shellfish stock, it is intense, dilute it with two cups of water.
Adjust the amounts of olives and feta to suit your own preferences. One version of the recipe indicated only a half cup of Kalamatas and only 2 ounces of feta, while the list below indicates double of each.
Because we cooked our meal in a 10-inch-wide nonstick pan, the shrimp took an extra two minutes to become opaque. Keep that in mind if using less than a 12-inch skillet.
The second recipe, Baked Shrimp and Orzo with Feta and Tomatoes, is another Mediterranean-inspired shrimp dish similar to the Orzo with Shrimp, Feta and Lemon above, however this version gets started on the cooktop and then baked in the oven. It only calls for 1 pound of shrimp but we had 1 1⁄2 pounds and decided to use it all. The 12-inch skillet was brimming full. Our other change was incorporating homemade shellfish stock for the chicken broth.
To build in plenty of Mediterranean flavor, start by sautéing chopped onion and red bell pepper, to soften them before adding in minced garlic and oregano. To guarantee perfectly cooked shrimp and pasta, sauté the orzo in the aromatics to unlock its toasty notes. The crumbled saffron threads, though not traditional, introduce a sunny hue and warm, complex flavor.
Chicken (or shellfish) broth and the drained juice from a can of diced tomatoes are then stirred in; as the orzo cooks to al dente, its releases starch (similar to a risotto) creating a sauce with a subtly creamy texture. To prevent the shrimp from overcooking, stir them right into the orzo, along with the reserved tomatoes and frozen peas, and transfer the skillet to the oven to cook through gently. A sprinkling of feta before baking reinforces the dish’s Greek flavors and promises an appealing browned, cheesy crust.
Make sure that the orzo is al dente, or slightly firm to the bite; otherwise it may overcook in the oven. If using smaller or larger shrimp, the cooking times may vary accordingly. You can leave the shrimp tails on, if desired. The small amount of saffron makes a big difference to the flavor and look of the dish, so be sure to include it. You will need a 12-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet for this recipe.
1 lb. extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
2 cups (12 oz.) orzo
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
3 cups chicken or shellfish broth
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
½ cup frozen peas
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (¾ cup)
2 scallions, sliced thin
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until needed.
Heat oil in 12-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in orzo and saffron and cook, stirring often, until orzo is lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Stir in broth and reserved tomato juice, bring to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until orzo is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, and peas, then sprinkle feta evenly over top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until shrimp are cooked through and feta is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove skillet from oven (skillet handle will be hot). Sprinkle scallions over top and serve with lemon wedges.
Traybake, a savory, one-pan meal cooked on a baking sheet in the oven is a home chef’s friend. This simple vegetarian traybake combines several pantry staples—hoisin, soy sauce and garlic—with broccoli and tofu and yields a hearty, satisfying main.
A 475°F oven develops the right amount of flavorful char on the broccoli and cooks the florets to a pleasing tender-crisp texture. While steamed rice is the usual accompaniment, we went a step further and made Vegetable Fried Rice.
A bit short on the hoisin sauce, we decided to make up the 1/4 cup deficit by including oyster sauce. The end result was less sweet and more to our liking.
Don’t skip the baking-sheet prep. Be sure to line it with foil and mist it with cooking spray. The sugar in the hoisin makes things a little sticky in the oven. The foil and cooking spray help ensure the broccoli and especially the more fragile tofu release from the baking sheet.
14 oz. container firm OR extra-firm tofu, drained, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices and pressed dry
Toasted sesame seeds, to serve
Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil. In a medium bowl, toss the broccoli with half of the hoisin mixture until evenly coated. Distribute in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Transfer the remaining hoisin mixture to the now-empty bowl, add the tofu and gently toss to coat. Place the tofu on the baking sheet, arranging it in a single layer, being sure that all the slices lay flat against the baking sheet.
Roast the broccoli and tofu without stirring until the broccoli is charred and tender-crisp, about 25 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer to a platter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Flexible in that this Cheesy Italian Baked Beans recipe could be your main dish, or part of a meal as a side. Here, traditional Italian ingredients like onion, garlic, tomatoes, cheese, and rosemary put a spin on classic baked beans.
The prep is minimal and afterward it only cooks in the oven for about 20 minutes. When it came to topping the casserole with the shredded fontina cheese, I may have put a bit more than the 1/2 cup that was called for… like 50% more 🙂
I added a final step of letting the casserole sit for 5-10 minutes after removing from the oven. We paired the entrée with a side of steamed broccolini and a toasted whole grain baguette with garlic and parmesan.
1 28-oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, undrained
¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped, plus additional for garnish
3 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cup shredded Fontina cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until tender.
Stir in tomatoes and rosemary. Bring to boiling; boil gently, uncovered, 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Stir in beans and half the Parmesan. Season to taste with crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Transfer to a 2-qt. rectangular baking dish. Top with remaining Parmesan and the Fontina. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until beginning to lightly brown around the edges.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
Looking for a new twist on a meatless pasta with veggies dish? How about this Tortellini-Vegetable Bake? While it does have quite a bit of dairy, there is also a wide variety of vegetables. Add a side salad, and your meal is complete!
We have to disagree with the Better Homes & Gardens qualification stating it feeds eight. Unless you eat very little, and/or you are serving other sides and bread, six portions is probably more realistic.
And it wasn’t until we were done eating and I referred back to the original recipe that I noticed I had only incorporated 4 ounces of cream cheese, instead of eight (yes, a senior moment). But you know what, we didn’t miss it, so we saved ourselves some calories.
BH&G noted prep time was 30 minutes, I’m saying at least 45 in reality. And in Step 4, they originally said to mix everything in the skillet before spooning it into the baking dish. No way José. Better idea to mix the mushrooms, bell peppers and tomatoes into the cream sauce in the skillet, place the tortellini mixture into the casserole dish, then spoon the cream sauce over that and mix well. Save yourself the agony of cleaning up the spillage if you were to try and blend it altogether in the skillet first.
Oh, and we doubled (so much for saving calories) the amount of grated Parmesan to four tablespoons, divided between topping it before it goes in the oven, and two tablespoons when it comes out piping hot.
8 oz. fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 medium carrot, sliced 1⁄8″ thick
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
⅓ cup vegetable broth
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup milk
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
½ cup coarsely chopped red or green sweet pepper (1 small)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook tortellini according to package directions, adding sugar snap peas and carrot for the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms; cook about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet.
In a screw-top jar combine broth, flour, oregano, garlic salt, and black pepper. Cover and shake until smooth. Add to the same skillet; add milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add cream cheese; cook and stir until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.
Stir mushrooms, tomatoes, and sweet pepper into cream cheese mixture in skillet, the pour into an ungreased 3-quart baking dish. Spoon tortellini mixture over the other veggies in the casserole dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the grated Parm on top, cover with foil.
Bake, covered, about 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
While we know salmon isn’t a Mediterranean fish, this recipe riff from “Patricia Wells at Home in Provence,” uses high-impact Provençal ingredients which are an ideal match for the rich, meaty fillets. Here, steamed fish sits atop a bed of sliced fennel to add sweet, licorice-like perfume; after cooking, the tender-crisp slices make a delicious accompaniment.
The sharp flavors of the warm olive, caper and lemon vinaigrette complement both fish and fennel. Cook the salmon to medium doneness—that is, until only the center is translucent. For well-done fillets, steam the fish for a couple minutes longer than indicated.
If you prefer white fish over salmon, thick fillets of striped bass or sea bass work well, but increase the steaming time to about 10 minutes. No matter the type of fish you choose, try to select fillets of equal thickness so they cook at the same rate.
Don’t uncover the pot while the fish is steaming, as loss of steam will slow the cooking. Instead, simply set a timer (or tell Alexa to remind you 😉 ). Note to the wise: When opening the pot, angle the lid away from you to avoid a burst of steam to the face.
We chose broccoli rabe as the other side dish. By par-boiling it first, much of the bitterness is eradicated. Once chilled in an ice bath and drained, any extra moisture is wrung out in a clean dish towel. A little garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes give it a boost of flavor when reheated in a pan.
Fennel-Steamed Salmon with Warm Olive and Caper Vinaigrette
2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 lb. total), halved, cored and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 6-oz. salmon fillets, each about 1 inch thick
6 sprigs dill, plus 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
¼ cup drained capers
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
In a medium bowl, toss the fennel with the lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside. Season the salmon all over with salt and pepper.
Place a folding steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of the pot without submerging the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high.
Line the basket with the fennel. Place the salmon skin down on the fennel, then lay the dill sprigs on the fillets. Turn off the heat under the pot, then set the basket in it. Cover and return to a simmer over medium. Steam until the thickest parts of the fillets reach 115°F to 120°F (for medium doneness), 7 to 9 minutes; the fennel should be tender but not completely soft.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium, combine the olives, capers, oil and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, just until sizzling gently, about 2 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, just until warm, another 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and set aside.
When the salmon is done, remove and discard the dill sprigs. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fennel and fillets, skin down, to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the chopped dill, then spoon on the warm sauce.
The day before a small dinner party, we made this wonderful soup by Mikel López Iturriaga which combines carrots, apples, leeks and onions as the main stars. Our overall meal revolved around a veggie- and fruit-centric theme, despite the fact the main entrée was a herb-stuffed pork loin roast. So this soup fit into the rotation nicely as the first course.
With the addition of honey, we were a bit concerned the soup may be too sweet, but the alliums countered that sweetness and the mint and yogurt finish provided a cool refreshing note. The finished soup is silky smooth and creamy, yet there is no cream in it!
One of the best we’ve ever eaten, it is moving on up into that Top Ten range of best soups ever. Of course, anytime you make a recipe that calls for stock or broth, you’ll enhance the depth of flavor by using homemade, as opposed to the bland store-bought varieties.
1 1⁄2 lbs. carrots, peeled, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
3 Golden Delicious apples, washed, cored and peeled
1 1⁄2 large leeks, trimmed and washed thoroughly, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 1⁄2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
4 cups (1 qt.) chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. apple liqueur
4 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 pinch ground cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Peel and chop the leek (white and light green parts only), the onion, and the carrot into half-inch pieces. Poach them covered in a large soup pot over medium-low heat with a pinch of salt and about 3 tablespoons olive oil for about 20 minutes or until the onion is tender. Do not brown the vegetables.
Add the broth and thyme bundle, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until carrots are very tender.
Meanwhile, core and peel the apples, then cut each into 8 segments. Place on a large plate and daub them with the honey.
Place the butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over a medium heat. When it is melted and hot, add the apple segments making sure that the broad side of each one makes contact with the bottom of the skillet. Caramelize them for about 5 minutes or until they achieve a dark golden color, then turn them and caramelize the other side, about another 5 minutes.
Once the apple pieces are tender and golden, add them to the soup pot. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the apple liqueur and stir to loosen the fond on the bottom of the skillet. Return the skillet to a medium-high heat and boil for about 2 minutes.
Add this sauce to the soup, cook the soup for a couple minutes more and then puree the mixture until it is velvety smooth and no pieces of the apple peel are visible. If the soup appears too thick, add some additional broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Allow the soup to rest for several hours. It’s best made the day before you plan to serve it.
When ready to serve, bring the soup gently to a simmer.
In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, cumin, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the hot soup with a tablespoon of the yogurt as garnish.
As we were eating this lovely pasta dish, The Hubs exclaimed how much he liked it. I responded “And the list of ingredients was short for such depth of flavor and it was simple to boot!” Then he looked at the Milk Street recipe print out and saw that this adaptation hailed from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook titled “Simple”—how serendipitous!
That being said, I cut back the pasta from 12 to 8 ounces because it did not seem that the amount of sauce would be sufficient for the larger quantity. With gentle simmering and a bit of water to facilitate cooking, cherry or grape tomatoes are transformed into a bold pasta sauce. To ratchet up the flavor, herbs, red pepper flakes and pecorino Romano are added. Try to get a block of the cheese to create shavings as opposed to the already grated variety.
Fusilli was our choice, but spaghetti or bucatini (a tubular pasta resembling thick spaghetti) also pairs particularly well with the sauce. Be aware that you do not want to simmer the tomatoes until there is no liquid remaining. Some moisture is needed for the sauce to cling to the pasta.
8 oz. fusilli, bucatini pasta or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
¾ tsp. smoked paprika
Shaved pecorino Romano, to serve
Add the oil to a 12-inch skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the garlic, pepper flakes and bay, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 4 minutes.
Reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a steady simmer, until the tomatoes have fully broken down and the sauce is thick enough that a spatula drawn through it leaves a trail, 40 to 50 minutes.
Remove from the heat and remove and discard the bay. Stir in 1 tablespoon of sage and the smoked paprika, then cover to keep warm.
When the sauce is almost ready, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the fusilli, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
Drain the pasta, then return to the pot. Add the sauce and toss until well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sage and shaved pecorino, then drizzle with additional oil.
An Italian, Middle-Eastern mash-up if you will. In a twist, this version of Sicilian eggplant dish is roasted on a sheet pan in the oven, so you don’t have to bother with any deep- or pan-frying. The tomato paste and cinnamon give it depth, the sherry vinegar lends brightness, and the raisins and brown sugar offer balance.
This variation on Italian caponata becomes a main course atop fluffy couscous and creamy goat cheese. Buy the freshest eggplant you can find, it should feel heavy and have no soft spots, and you won’t need to peel or salt it to pull out any bitterness. Because pine nuts are traditional in caponata, they’re the first choice, but they can be pricey so pepitas or chopped walnuts make fine substitutions. Finally, if you don’t like goat cheese, substitute ricotta or farmer cheese. But the cheese adds a welcome component, so don’t omit it.
Under the couscous, the goat cheese melts into a creamy, salty, tangy puddle.
G. Daniela galarza
NOTE: Leftovers may be refrigerated in covered containers for up to 4 days.
1 lb. Japanese or globe eggplant, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow or red onion (8 to 10 oz.), chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium tomato (6 to 8 oz.), chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. light brown sugar or honey, or to taste
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup raisins (any kind)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, pepitas or chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, or to taste
For the Couscous
1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
1 1/2 cups (about 9 oz.) couscous
3 oz. soft goat cheese, or more if desired
1/4 cup torn fresh basil, mint or parsley (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the eggplant, onion, bell pepper, tomato and garlic, and use your hands to toss everything together. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top, followed by the brown sugar or honey, salt, cinnamon and black pepper. Toss again, then spread into an even layer.
Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using tongs or a spatula, flip and redistribute vegetables so they cook evenly. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.
Transfer the pan to a heatproof surface. Mash the garlic cloves into a paste. Push the vegetables aside to expose a small area of the hot metal and place the tomato paste on it. Using a wooden spoon, stir the tomato paste into the vegetables, followed by the raisins, nuts or seeds, water and vinegar; stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with more vinegar, sugar, salt and/or pepper as desired.
Make the couscous: About 10 minutes before the eggplant is finished roasting, in a medium lidded saucepan over high heat, bring the water or stock, olive oil and salt to a rolling boil. Immediately pour in the couscous, ensuring it’s moistened throughout, then cover, remove from the heat and let it steam for about 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, portion about a quarter of the goat cheese into the center of each plate. Top with a pile of couscous and some of the caponata. Garnish with the torn herbs and more goat cheese, if desired.
Recently a foodie friend posted pictures of this recipe on her FB feed, and I knew I had to try it—thanks Deb! She informed me it’s from “Mostly Plants” by Tracy Pollan, an Emmy award-nominated actress who has enjoyed a successful career in television, film, and on the Broadway stage—and is the wife of Michael J. Fox.
In October 2014, Pollan, along with her two sisters and mother, co-authored the multiple award winning The Pollan Family Table, a cookbook of family recipes, kitchen tips and cooking techniques. Based on the outcome of this dish, I’m curious to try some more from the Pollan family…
If you’ve ever had chicken or veal piccata, you are familiar with the flavor components of tangy lemon, briny capers and aromatic garlic all combined together in a silken butter sauce. Paired with spinach with its range of valuable vitamins and minerals, and navy beans with their high nutritive value and protein content, you got one healthy meal here!
Our changes: Instead of four skinless fillets, we cooked the skin-on salmon whole which required a few minutes longer on each side. In lieu of canned navy beans, which the grocery store didn’t have, we used Great Northern. And there was a lot of liquid in the sauce so the cooking time was nearly doubled to reduce it enough before adding the butter.
In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Slowly add the spinach and cook, stirring until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the beans and season with salt and pepper, mix until combined. Cook until the beans are warm, about 2 minutes; remove from heat.
In a separate large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Gently add the fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until light golden brown. Transfer fillets to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add the shallots to the hot skillet and cook, stirring until translucent, about 1 minute.
Add the broth, wine, lemon juice and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, and when melted, add 2 tablespoons of parsley and stir.
Distribute the sautéed spinach and beans on a serving platter (or divided amongst 4 individual plates). Top with the salmon fillets and spoon the sauce over the fish.
Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and top with lemon slices. Serve hot.
This delicious simple bean salad, Fasolia Piaz, was found in our Milk Street magazine and had the Mediterranean profile we were looking for. In Greece they typically use large, flat butter beans, but here, easier-to-find cannellinis are incorporated.
To compensate for canned beans’ blandness, they are heated in the microwave, then tossed while still hot with oil, vinegar and aromatics. As the beans cool, they absorb the seasonings, so they’re flavorful throughout.
A bonus, the beans can be heated, dressed and refrigerated up to a day in advance; but bring the beans to room temperature before tossing with the avocado, herbs and lemon. However, even cold the salad is delicious. A great dish to serve at a picnic or potluck as a side for meat lovers, or as a main for plant-based followers.
Milk Street stresses not to skip the step of heating the beans in the microwave, and don’t allow the beans to cool before adding the oil, vinegar and aromatics. Dressing them while hot ensures they are fully infused with flavor. To keep the flavors and colors fresh and bright, don’t add the avocado and herbs until you’re ready to serve.
It’s not unusual that most of us would like to cut calories and fat where we can, but not loose flavor. With this riff on a Martha Stewart recipe, you bake rather than fry, for less mess and less fat. In addition, there is no salting of the eggplant to extract moisture—a process I’ve never grown fond of.
Another plus, make the chunky tomato sauce a day or two ahead and save time on dinner night. It only takes about 20 minutes total, then refrigerate in an air tight container, and you’re one step ahead of the game.
As we prepped the dish, we realized that a few tweaks to the recipe were needed. After coating the slices for one of the eggplants, we noted there would not be enough for all the remaining slices, so we quickly increased by about another 50%; while the amount of egg wash was spot on.
The shredded mozzarella was increased to 2 cups from 1 1/2, although we would even increase it more next time! The dried basil was swapped out for fresh, making sure to add it between layers as well as a garnish. One of those grocery store clamshells of basil is the perfect amount. These changes are noted in the ingredients below.
It was so light and tasty, The Hubs claimed it might be the best Eggplant Parm he’s ever had! Can’t wait to attack those leftovers… Serves 8 as a side dish, 6 as a main.
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 Tbsp. for topping
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 oz. fresh basil, chopped to equal a loose 1/2 cup, save some whole leaves for garnish
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 lbs. total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2+ cups shredded mozzarella
Tomato Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, 2 to 4 minutes. Crush tomatoes into pan; add oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Make up to 3 days ahead.
Eggplant Parm: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 1 cup grated Parmesan, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and basil; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Pistachios are a borderline addiction for me (although I’m usually not picky when it comes to nuts of any sort). In fact, whenever we stop at Costco’s, it’s pretty likely we’ll pick up a 1.5-pound bag of the shelled, roasted/salted variety.
Did you know Sicily is famous for its pistachios, as well as for ricotta cheese? In this recipe, Milk Street blends the two, along with fresh basil and chives, to create a simple pesto to toss with al dente pasta.
There’s no need to grate the Parmesan—simply cut it into chunks and toss the pieces into the blender. The pesto is good on a wide variety of pasta shapes, but the hollow centers and surface ridges of rigatoni do a particularly good job of gripping the rich, creamy sauce. We used rotini whose spirals also made an easy job of grasping that sauce.
Milk Street advises NOT to use toasted or roasted pistachios because they claim, in this case, raw pistachios are best. Their bright color and natural sweetness lend a vibrant, full-flavored pesto. Well, as I mentioned, we had the roasted salted pistachios and went ahead and used them.
Now don’t forget to reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta. You’ll need some of the starchy seasoned liquid to thin out the pesto.
¾ cup raw pistachios, plus 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 oz. Parmesan cheese (without rind), cut into 4 or 5 pieces
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh chives
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
In a blender, combine the ricotta, the whole pistachios, oil, Parmesan, basil, chives, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and blend until creamy, about 1 minute; the pesto should have a consistency similar to yogurt.
Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir, adding more reserved pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with the chopped pistachios.