Some of the biggest challenges home cooks face are lack of time and accommodating different dietary preferences. I am right there with you! And this new fish in parchment recipe I am sharing is a dream come true. It is not only healthful and delicious, but it’s quick to prepare, quick to cook and customizable. You can use different fish, omit the vegetables or substitute other ones, add a spicy element, or keep it super plain for the choosier eaters.Continue reading
Chicken is still the most popular protein in my classes, so I am always trying to come up with new flavor profiles for this versatile meat. The seasonings I use for this roasted lemon sumac chicken are Middle Eastern and I love the tart, herbaceousness of sumac and za’atar together. I use these spices/dried herbs a lot. Don’t be put off by cooking a whole bird. It’s easier than it looks and I find it much more economical, plus I can use the bones afterwards for stock. 2 in 1! If your family eats white meat and dark meat, a whole bird is the way to go. Continue reading
When asparagus is in season, it’s a sign to me that we are out of the winter woods and it is officially spring!! I love featuring asparagus on every spring holiday menu and this recipe for roasted asparagus with parmigiano-reggiano has so much flavor and is so easy. I thought I would squeeze it in before Easter in case you’re looking for a good side dish.Continue reading
Next week is March and I am looking ahead to spring. You can find all of these ingredients in most markets, including Trader Joe’s. This snap pea and radish recipe is SO FAST, and so fresh and tasty. It’s an ideal side dish for entertaining as well as a weeknight dinner. It may not look like much, but the combination of these ingredients is a winner!Continue reading
Pasta has come a long way since I was a child, especially in the last few years. There used to be limited options beyond typical durum wheat pasta. Possibly you could find whole wheat, but that was about it. Now there are so many choices including spelt, quinoa, brown rice, gluten-free blends, corn and, miraculously, grain-free. I have had all of the above and whereas I think they are all good, Cappello’s grain-free pasta recently blew my mind. My daughter was home for spring break and she bought some for dinner one night. I’ll tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have even tried it because I would assume a grain-free pasta would be a mess plus it’s crazy expensive (I mean CRAZY.) But if you have to be grain-free, pasta is a food that you might kill for. Anyway, it was fantastic. Or maybe I just wanted to love it after I found out how much she spent.
I grew up eating pasta 3-4 times per week. Monday it was often in a soup, Tuesday or Thursday was baked ziti, Friday was linguine aglio e olio, and Sunday was either ravioli or my grandmother’s homemade pasta with her sauce. We are Italian, so no one ever complained or thought it was strange that we ate so much of it. But now I consider pasta an occasional treat because I believe it is a processed food with a significant amount of carbohydrates. There is nothing wrong with complex carbohydrates, i.e. those paired with fiber and/or protein. Complex carbs, as opposed to simple carbs, are good for you and we need them for energy. But it is quite easy to overeat pasta, especially if you consider that a serving size is 1 cup of cooked pasta. Overeating carbohydrates is what gets us into trouble. When our blood sugar spikes, insulin is released to scoop it all up and let me repeat myself, insulin is a pro-inflammatory, fat-storage hormone. What’s the moral of this story? Don’t go crazy with pasta. Eat a small portion, and even better, stretch it out with lots of nutrient-dense vegetables.
This is a lovely pasta recipe which utilizes the new spring produce coming out in the markets. I love the combination of asparagus, peas, mint and lemon. It’s so bright and fresh. According to Eating Well, asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Peas and grains make a complete protein, so if you wanted to serve this without any additional protein you could. My whole family, including the picky one, loves this pasta.
I think this would be nice for Easter lunch with poultry, lamb or ham. It’s easy enough though that you could whip this up for a weeknight dinner, too. For those of you not eating pasta, the vegetable mixture is terrific mixed with cooked brown rice or quinoa. I have also added a leek to this recipe. Just clean it really well, thinly slice it and sauté it before adding asparagus. A handful or two of spinach leaves would also be delicious. Adding dark green leafies is never wrong. And a few toasted pine nuts would add some nice crunch, if desired. Why didn’t I write all these suggestions into the recipe? Because I know people don’t like recipes with a lot of ingredients. This dish tastes excellent as is written, but feel free to improvise.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to save some pasta water before draining the pasta. That starchy, flavorful water is so valuable! It is the key ingredient to keep this from being dry, otherwise the inclination might be to add oil to the pasta to moisten it. If you are dairy-free, feel free to eliminate the cheese altogether, but do add a little extra salt. The pasta I used in these photos is Trader Joe’s gluten-free quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Check out this post here for how to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta!
1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces
zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
kosher salt for the pasta water
¾ pound pasta, such as penne
1 ½ cups peas (frozen is fine)
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance
⅓ cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the asparagus and sauté, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, garlic, red pepper, sea salt and pepper and sauté until garlic is fragrant to heat through, 1 minute. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until just before it reaches al dente. Remove 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside. Add the peas to the pasta pot and stir. Drain pasta and peas.
Return skillet to medium heat. Transfer pasta and peas to the skillet with the mint. Add 1 cup reserved pasta water and stir everything to combine well. You may need a little more with gluten-free pasta. Simmer until pasta is al dente, about 3-5 minutes. Add additional pasta water if desired. Stir in butter and cheese and taste for seasoning. If you don't add cheese, you may need a little extra salt.
In the summer, you can substitute chopped zucchini for half the asparagus. Halved cherry tomatoes are also nice sautéed with the vegetables. See my notes in the blog for other ways to change up this recipe.
Maybe you’re in the whirlwind of Thanksgiving preparation madness and can’t focus on the day after quite yet. But just thinking about this soup relaxes me. You know how I am rather structured and favoring traditions on Thanksgiving? I am just as much that way the day after Thanksgiving. I stay in my pajamas until noon, forgoing the turkey burn spin class that everyone else is at, in favor of a very leisurely breakfast with my family and holiday shopping on my laptop. But the first thing I do on Friday morning is to start my turkey stock on the stove with last night’s carcasses and fresh aromatic vegetables. Now when I smell turkey stock, it feels like a day off. And then I always make some version of a simple turkey soup for dinner. What’s nice about using the remnants of a roasted bird versus a raw one, is that you don’t have the accumulation of fat to contend with. So the resulting stock can be used that same day (as opposed to waiting until the next day to remove the fat that has solidified from the top.)
In general, you can take any soup which calls for chicken and chicken stock and replace it with turkey. Turkey just has a stronger, more distinctive flavor which tastes like….turkey! But you can take my Chicken and Lime Soup with Avocado and use turkey there, or Italian Wedding Soup with shredded turkey instead of turkey meatballs, and so forth. Or just make a batch of stock and freeze it for a rainy day. This soup though, is the perfect antidote to all the richness from Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a nice, light broth soup with a little tang from fresh lemon juice. I love that it doesn’t taste like yesterday’s meal. I personally like eating my leftovers in a transformed way, as opposed to just heating them up and having the same exact meal the next day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
I had some turkey leftovers from a recent class, so I made this Lemon Turkey and Barley Soup for my family and they all, even Mr. Picky, loved it! What’s lovely about barley is that it thickens up the longer it sits so I enjoy this soup even more the next day, and so did my kids when I put it in their thermoses for school lunch. If you are gluten-free, I think any kind of rice would be nice instead of barley. Be mindful of the cooking times, though. Brown rice takes 50 minutes and white takes 18. I asked the kids what they thought of the lemon juice in the soup and they all thought it was the perfect amount — definitely lemony, but not too much. I personally would have liked a little more lemon, but that’s something that can be added to each individual’s bowl, as well. It’s a nice, fresh twist on a barley soup. For a more traditional barley soup, check out this link here and sub turkey stock if you like.
Ironically, this year my day after Thanksgiving will be different. I’ll be waking up before the sun comes up and heading over to KTLA Channel 5 (not in my pajamas) armed with my Thanksgiving leftovers to make some delicious recipes with the anchors that morning. If you are in LA and are interested in tuning in, my segment is scheduled for 9:45 am!
Until then, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. I always remind myself in the midst of the planning and prep and cooking that this day is about being mindful of all we have to be thankful for — and there’s always, always something. I am so grateful for all of you and my students, from whom I learn so much and who inspire me every day!
Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add the herbs de provence and stir.
Add the stock, barley, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook partially covered until the barley is tender, at least 30 minutes.
Stir in the cooked turkey and simmer until turkey is heated through. If you want the barley to become larger and thicken the soup a little, just simmer another 10-20 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt, pepper or lemon juice, if needed. Serve with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, if desired.
* Herbs de provence is a blend of dried herbs which often include thyme, oregano, savory, marjoram, rosemary, and other herbs. If you don’t have herbs de provence, feel free to make your own blend of these herbs to use instead. ** You can also substitute 1-2 cups cooked grains and decrease the stock to 6-7 cups. You will just need to warm the grains through and not cook them for the full amount of time.
One day I woke up and decided I had to have falafel. Falafel are deep-fried balls of pulsed chickpeas blended with herbs, onion and garlic. Sometimes they are made with a combination of broad beans and chickpeas and sometimes that contain a lot of herbs which make them rather green on the inside. They’re so tasty and a great high-protein, vegetarian food that you can eat in a sandwich or on a salad or dipped into a sauce. My family and I love falafel and one day I just had such a craving for them. I wanted the works — pita bread, tahini sauce, lettuce, tomato and pickled radishes.
But the fact that falafel are deep-fried is a major turn-off to me, especially food that is deep-fried in a restaurant, as opposed to at my house, because restaurants use and re-use the same low-quality oil over and over again. Deep-fried foods are just a big plate of inflammation, bad for digestion, bad for the heart, bad for the blood, bad for the skin, just B.A.D. Knowing how awful deep-fried foods are is a little bit of a curse because it’s hard for me to enjoy them, even in moderation. But I wanted to make real, authentic falafel that I would un-authetically bake. So naturally I went on Youtube to learn how to make them. Sure there are plenty of blogs with falafel recipes, but a lot of these recipes are not the real deal. For the real deal, I watched falafel-making videos from Israel and I learned everything I needed to know and then some!
For example, falafel are made with raw, soaked chickpeas, not canned. The texture is a bit crumbly, not a mashed potato patty. There are no eggs in falafel. And after watching a few videos of expert falafel-makers, I really wished I had a meat grinder (which is what most of them use) to process the all the ingredients into the perfect texture. But my food processor was good enough and the next day (because I let my chickpeas soak 24 hours), we enjoyed very delicious, healthy baked falafel. And although falafel has a bit of oiliness from frying, I didn’t even notice the absence of oil since I smothered the patties with a delicious tahini sauce.
My son, who is known to be a tad picky, devours anywhere from 6-10 falafel at dinner when I make them. For sure he loves to eat them in pita, especially if the pita is homemade and warm from the oven (I used this Martha Stewart Living recipe with success.) But he (and we) is just as happy wrapping a few falafel in a big lettuce leaf with some sauce. Falafel make the perfect Meatless Monday dinner since they contain lots of protein from the chickpeas and the tahini sauce. You can also make them spicier with an extra pinch of cayenne. If I know I’m going to have a crazy afternoon, I’ll make the sauce and shape the falafel in the morning and bake them at the end of the day for a really easy dinner. Add some lettuce and tomatoes for a simple dinner or go the extra mile with pickled vegetables, pita, and some grilled eggplant.
Even though I am really against deep frying and I had great results baking these, you can certainly “sauté” these falafel in a skillet with some olive oil until golden and crisp on both sides. It is a much faster way to cook these and they will have a little bit more of an authentic greasiness. But the baked version does it for me just fine. I hope you’ll give them a try!
1 ¾ cup dried chickpeas (do NOT use canned chickpeas)
2 medium cloves garlic
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 small onion)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 ¾ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup chopped parsley (or mix with chopped cilantro)
¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour or GF flour blend or chickpea flour
unrefined cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil for brushing the pan and the falafel
½ cup tahini
⅓ cup – ½ cup warm water to achieve right consistency and depending on the bitterness of the tahini
1 medium garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Put dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water by a few inches. Soak 12-24 hours, making sure chickpeas stay completely submerged in water the entire time.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and grease the paper with olive oil.
Drain the chickpeas, and add to a food processor with garlic, onion, spices, salt and pepper, baking soda, lemon juice, parsley and flour. (Use a meat grinder if you have one.) Pulse the mixture, scraping down the sides as necessary, until it looks like couscous. The mixture will be quite crumbly.
Form the mixture into about 20 balls, 1 ½ inches each. Press down on the tops to flatten them into thick patties. You can add a little extra flour if they are not holding together. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with oil.
Bake for 15 minutes on each side or until golden. You can fry them in oil, as well (not as healthy.)
Blend all the sauce ingredients in a blender adjusting water to achieve right consistency. You want a thin sauce.
Serve falafel with tahini sauce in a pita or lettuce leaves. Chopped tomato and cucumber salad is a nice accompaniment.
There are things I have to make for Thanksgiving and things I want to make for Thanksgiving. Even though I don’t eat turkey, everyone else that shows up does, so that’s non-negotiable. As are stuffing and mashed potatoes. Thank heavens for Pinterest boards. So even if I don’t get to indulge my fantasy of an all-veggie, every-color-of-the-rainbow-Thanksgiving, I can look at it on my computer screen.
I might be alone here, but I actually think turkey is totally boring, and the veggie side dishes are where all the fun happens. I like color, texture and freshness! This Brussels sprout hash is my idea of a good time on Thanksgiving. It’s green, bright, a little crunchy and a little acidic. Compared to turkey, this hash is a party!
Unlike some Thanksgiving side dishes (sweet potato casserole,) this Brussels sprout hash is no one-hit wonder. It is incredibly complementary with turkey and mashed potatoes, but it is equally delicious mixed with whole grain pasta (my favorite) or as a side to fish or chicken. This Brussels sprout dish has become one of my favorite comfort foods and my kids actually like it, too! Plus, it’s incredibly easy and fast to fix up. Not that I am all that concerned with nutrition on Thanksgiving, this is also a pretty healthful dish.
The difficult part of Thanksgiving menu-planning for me is how to include Brussels sprouts on the menu. I have so many favorite recipes that all work beautifully, it’s difficult to choose! Although it’s a tad more work than just cutting them in half, I love the texture of the sprouts when they are cut thinly like this. If you have a food processor with a slicing blade, you can prep this in seconds. Here’s how I would tackle this for Thanksgiving:
slice the sprouts and refrigerate in a covered container or zippered bag
squeeze the lemon juice and refrigerate
toast the hazelnuts, rub with a towel to remove skins and chop. Keep in a covered container at room temp.
Day of Thanksgiving:
Cook sprouts right before serving dinner.
Look out for my Thursday posts to help you get ahead and be organized for Thanksgiving!
Brussels Sprout Hash with Capers, Lemon and Hazelnuts
Author: Pamela, adapted from thekitchn.com
½ cup hazelnuts (if you can get them already skinned, skip step 1)
3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (or just use more oil)
¼ cup capers, well drained
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed, and shredded*
the juice of 1 lemon, about 2 ½ Tablespoons
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a pie plate or baking sheet, toast the hazelnuts until the skins blister, about 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and let cool, then rub to remove the skins. If you don’t mind hazelnut skins, you don’t need to remove them. Coarsely chop the nuts.
In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the capers (be careful since they will probably splatter!) Sauté the capers for about one minute, or until they start opening like little flowerbuds.
Add the Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts to the pan and stir to coat with the oil and caper mixture. Pour in the lemon juice and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the sprouts are tender but still a little crisp.
Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
*You can do this by hand by cutting them in half and thinly slicing them with a sharp knife. Or you can slice them with the slicing disc in your food processor. If you use the food processor, remember to push down on the sprouts with the attachment while you are slicing them.
You can also add some cooked, diced bacon and/or some fried sage leaves.