This was originally published in January 2014, but I have been making it again on the regular and thought the website needed updated photos!
You know what is just the worst? Getting sick. Life is great until you feel horrible. I think most of us run around like maniacs until we’re so wiped out while our poor bodies are trying to tell us to slooooooow down and get some rest. First it’s a little whisper like feeling so tired. But we don’t listen. Then we get a sore throat. We don’t listen. Then our bodies have to whack us over the head with a crazy cold and body aches until we have no other choice but to stay in bed. A friend of mine who came down with a bad cold said to me the other day,”If I just spent a little time in bed resting when I wasn’t sick, maybe I would have stayed healthy!” I think she’s onto something.Continue reading
I receive a lot of requests for recipes – more entrees, more low-carb, more “kid-friendly” (I don’t like that phrase, by the way), and the most popular, easy. The term easy means different things to different people. In my opinion, easy means not complicated, something that a cook of any skill level can successfully prepare. Or perhaps easy implies very few steps. But what I have deduced is that most of my students think that easy implies “quick,” as in quick to put together and minimal hands-on time.
Sometimes, a little freshening up is in order. I put this chopped grilled vegetable salad on my weekly dinner planner and when I pulled the image for it, I cringed a little. The photo did not do it justice at all. This salad is one of my absolute favorites and one that I posted almost 5 years ago. In all fairness to me, I didn’t even know how to use a camera when I started this blog, and although I am still no photography expert, I think my images have improved since 2011. So I thought I would pull this post from the archives and give it a facelift, especially on the eve of Memorial Day weekend when you might be inclined to make a fantastic, crowd-pleasing salad such as this one.
I was talking to a few ladies in my class this week about the Thanksgiving meals we remember from our childhoods and how they have evolved, if at all. We celebrated with my mother’s family some years and with my father’s family other years. Even though my mother’s family is Italian-American, their Thanksgiving dinners were pretty straightforward, even including sweet potatoes with marshmallows. My father grew up in Italy and therefore Thanksgiving was truly a foreign concept. Suffice it to say, that side of the family served ravioli as a first course. No, not pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage. Cheese ravioli with marinara sauce! Cracks me up to think about that now.
Then the discussion transitioned to new recipes which have made it onto our Thanksgiving menus in the last few years. That’s a tough one, no? I’ll tell you right now, I teach 5 new recipes every November and very few make it to my personal Thanksgiving table. Not because they aren’t fantastic, but because how many recipes can you really have on one menu? At some point, enough is enough and my menu has been at capacity for a few years now.
But, allow me to introduce a favorite newcomer to my Thanksgiving spread…..green bean casserole! But not just any green bean casserole. I am not talking about canned green beans, coated with cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions. Thanksgiving deserves more respect than cans, people. Sure, we can use heavy cream and loads of butter instead, but we don’t have to.
This green bean casserole is fresher, lighter and even tastier than all of those. I use mushroom stock with a little (and I mean little) flour and butter to thicken it up. Super good flavor and super easy to make. Plus homemade crispy onions that everyone will be sneaking bites of during the day. Trust me — 100 times better than canned. Voila! The best green bean casserole ever. I have served this the last two years and I have never had a single green bean left. If you like getting stuff done ahead, here’s your plan:
Blanche the green beans the day before
wipe mushrooms clean and slice the day before
make the onions the morning of
make mushroom mixture and assemble casserole up to 2 hours ahead
bake when the turkey is resting out of the oven.
See you back here next week with some more fabulous Thanksgiving recipes and tips!
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced and pieces separated
¼ cup all-purpose flour or rice flour
2 Tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
Unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil
1 pound of green beans, trimmed
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, or flour of your choice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ cups mushroom stock (or chicken stock) + possibly a little more in case the gravy needs thinning
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the onion topping: Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl or paper bag and toss to combine.
Warm 1 ½ Tablespoons of butter and 1 ½ Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop one piece of onion in the pan to make sure it sizzles. Add as many onion pieces as can fit in the pan in one layer. You may need to do this in batches.
Turn the onions when they become golden on the bottom. Cook until crispy and golden on the other side. Transfer onions to a plate lined with a paper towel. If you have to cook a second batch, you may need to wipe out the pan and start with fresh butter and oil.
Prepare the green beans and casserole:
Blanche green beans: prepare a bowl of ice water for the green beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Add the beans and set a timer for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water bath. Drain after 5 minutes or so, pat dry, and place green beans in a 9” square or round baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet, add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté over medium until mushrooms have lost their shape and released most of their liquid (about 5 minutes).
Stir the flour and thyme into the mixture and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the mushroom stock, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 6-8 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Pour evenly over green beans, top with the crispy onions and bake at 350 degrees until bubbling on the sides and the beans are warmed through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately.
I don’t eat out that much, but one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles is Gjelina in Venice. I would probably go there more often, but getting a table at a reasonable hour is impossible! Before my first visit a few years ago, a friend strongly suggested I order the Mushroom Toast. Let me just say that when I saw items on the menu like “Crispy Purple Peruvian Potatoes!” and “Moroccan Chickpea and Black Kale Stew!,” (I used the exclamation points, Gjelina did not) I wasn’t overly excited about “Mushroom Toast.” But I trust my friend and ordered the mushroom toast and it was ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER EATEN. Delicate, earthy mushrooms in a light, creamy white wine-infused sauce, all poured over grilled bread and drizzled with truffle oil, the nooks and crannies of the toast catching every bit of mushroom juiciness. It was so delicious, I actually had dreams about it that night. True story!
The problem is that Gjelina doesn’t share their recipes, at least not with little old me. So after a game of 20 questions with my waiter, I had a game plan for attempting to recreate this dish at home. The ingredients are ones I never would have thought to put together on my own: Hen of the Woods mushrooms (what??), creme fraiche and truffle oil. Now I may not have gotten the recipe exactly right, and in fact I do believe my version is less rich and creamy, but I am so obsessed with the way this turned out, that I don’t care how different mine is. First of all, even though I don’t eat too much bread, I think anything on grilled bread is DE-licious! And grilled bread rubbed with garlic is SUPER DE-licious!
But mushrooms are the star of this show and Hen of the Woods mushrooms are so meaty and earthy with the most delicate texture. They also go by the name “Maitake” mushrooms. I found them easily at Whole Foods and I have seen them at several local farmers markets. I will warn you, they are pricey, so if you can’t find them or you don’t want to spend the money, you can use oyster or chanterelle mushrooms. You really can’t use button mushrooms or Portobellos in this recipe. I tried them here, and they’re too firm. You really need something light and delicate. Japanese mushrooms, including Maitake, are really good for you and contain loads of immune-boosting compounds and have even been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor compounds. They also have less water than traditional mushrooms, so they actually have a more mushroom-y flavor. Yum!
I really went for it and bought truffle oil at Sur La Table to finish off the dish the way they do at Gjelina. Yes, this mushroom mixture is already rich enough with the creme fraiche and the butter and the olive oil, but good gracious, a drizzle of truffle oil takes this over the top. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find truffle oil locally that was totally pure, without “truffle flavoring.” But a quick search on amazon.com provided a few choices for all-natural truffle oils (like this one from JR Mushrooms & Specialties.)
I taught this recipe in my class this month and more than one person asked, “why is this so good?” It’s really everything, and not just one thing. The grilled bread, the garlic rubbed on the grilled bread, the meaty, delicate mushrooms, the tangy creme fraiche (which is really just French sour cream), and the truffle oil all make this something so special. The way I made it in these pictures would be amazing as an appetizer on a plate with or without a fresh green salad. Or you can opt for a smaller piece of toast and serve this as an hors d’oeuvre, although it can be a tad messy. I think even for brunch with a fried egg on top would be amazing. Hoping you try this and love it as much as I do!
3 large slices of crusty peasant bread, about ½-inch thick
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil + additional for brushing bread
1 whole garlic clove + 2 cloves, minced
10 ounces Hen of the Woods mushrooms, aka Maitake, chopped or broken apart with your hands
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken, vegetable or mushroom stock
6 Tablespoons crème fraiche
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Truffle oil to drizzle
Chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)
Preheat a grill over medium heat.
Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Grill bread on both sides until toasted and slightly charred. Thinly slice the end off of the whole garlic clove and rub one side of each piece of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Cut the bread in half crosswise and arrange on a platter.
In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté until softened.
Add wine and cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed.
Stir in chicken stock and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Whisk in crème fraiche and butter and cook until slightly thickened, but still saucy.
Spoon mushroom mixture with sauce over toasts. Drizzle with truffle oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh chives, if desired, and serve immediately.
Daughter #1 is my 15-year-old who used to turn her nose at her plate if food groups were touching. So you can imagine how very satisfying it was for me when she sighed, “I could eat Kale, Mushroom and Brown Rice Bake every day.” Sigh. Actually, both my daughters are crazy about this rice and veggie quasi-frittata and I am thrilled to cook them something so healthful and substantial for breakfast, lunch or dinner. At the moment, the girls are on a brown rice bake kick and I’ve had to make it three times in the last two weeks!
With teenage daughters usually comes a little drama, even first thing in the morning. It usually involves someone borrowing someone else’s clothes without asking or someone posting a picture on Instagram of the other one sleeping with her mouth open. But who knew that even breakfast food could fuel more than just hungry bodies? Yesterday morning there was only 1 piece of brown rice bake leftover from the day before and Daughter #2 was the first one in the kitchen. You know what they say about the early bird…. Daughter #1 was not the early bird yesterday, nor is she any day for that matter, but apparently she dreamt all night of brown rice bake instead of the boys from One Direction. Do you know where this is going? I watched it unfold in slow motion as #1 opened the refrigerator looking for the breakfast of her dreams while #2 savored another forkful of the last of the rice bake. I knew what was next. “Where’s the rice bake?” No response was really necessary as my glance shot over to her sister who looked hesitant and terrified as she finished the last bite. Hell hath no fury like a hungry teenage girl robbed of her rice bake. No further details necessary.
What’s the point of airing my family’s dirty laundry? Oh merely just to share how much we love Brown Rice Bake and to encourage you to make it! Although most of us (except for Mr. Picky) love frittatas, this is less eggy and more rice and vegetables bound with just enough egg to hold it all together. The rice and (optional) sliced almonds give every bite great texture. It’s super satisfying for any meal and a great way to use up leftover cooked brown rice and whatever vegetables you have lying around. Think of this recipe as merely a roadmap to deliciousness – there is more than one way to get there. Spinach, broccoli, leeks, asparagus, zucchini – all perfect here.
I felt bad that Daughter #1 was disappointed yesterday so last night I sautéed all my vegetables and pre-measured the rice, cheese, salt and almonds, so all I had to do this morning was crack some eggs and measure a bit of milk. I was so excited to surprise my lovely daughter with a new brown rice bake when she woke up this morning. It’s noon and I’m still waiting for her to wake up. Just praying there’s some rice bake left when she does…..
Author: Pamela, inspired by Eating Well and So Good & Tasty
Serves: 4-6 or makes 12 individual "muffins"
2 Tablespoons unrefined extra-virgin olive oil or ghee
4 ounces mushrooms (such as shiitake*), chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 large kale leaves, stemmed and chopped (or more if you like)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cooked brown rice (or barley, farro or spelt)
5 Tablespoons sliced almonds, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, divided
4 large eggs
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup whole milk or unsweetened hemp milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8x8 or 9-inch round baking dish. You can also use a 12-cup muffin tin, greased or lined with silicone liners.
In a large skillet heat the oil/ghee over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms, onions, kale and a pinch of salt for about 3-5 minutes or until just beginning to soften.
Add in the garlic. Continue cooking until everything is softened and the mushrooms are golden, about another 3 minutes.
Place the rice in a large bowl. Stir in the mushroom mixture, ¼ cup almonds, and half the Parmesan cheese.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Fold the eggs into the rice mixture, then pour into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved half of cheese and 1 Tablespoon of sliced almonds.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until set.
*To clean mushrooms, wipe with a damp paper towel. For shiitakes, slice off stems and discard.
I was craving a hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soup for dinner last night. Something I could pull together before the kids returned home from school and that I could pack in their thermoses for lunch the next day. Mushroom-barley soup came to mind in an instant. I taught this soup in a class back in October and I still haven’t tired of it. It is filling, tasty and oh-so-good for you.
The recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s beef and barley soup, which was great, but these days we’re limiting our beef consumption and upping the veggies. To make up for the meat, I use lots of shiitake mushrooms and finish off the soup with a bit of shoyu, a naturally fermented soy sauce which is way better for you than chemically treated, flash-processed soy sauce. Of course you can use any mix of mushrooms you like, but I am crazy about shiitakes, not only because they have a lower water content and deeper flavor than button mushrooms, but also because they are tops in immune-boosting compounds. There’s no better time than flu season to boost your immunity!
This soup is a breeze to put together and easily adaptable to different intolerances. For the gluten-free folks, I substitute Lundberg’s wild rice blend for the barley and wheat-free tamari for the shoyu. It’s obviously a different soup, but just as tasty. Vegetarians and vegans can use vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken or turkey stock. If you are making your own vegetable stock, add a bunch of mushrooms to it to give the soup more depth.
This soup is a hit every time, even with Mr. Picky who last night did what he does best — pick out the stuff he doesn’t want. This time it was only the mushrooms. We’re making progress!
¾ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean with a damp paper towel and slice thinly
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup barley (or wild rice blend) -- I use Bob's Red Mill Barley. It says "Pearled," but it's really only semi-pearled.
8 cups (2 quarts) chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups stemmed, chopped kale
3 Tablespoons shoyu or wheat-free tamari
Melt butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery to pot and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
Place mushrooms in the pot and saute until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add thyme and barley. Stir to coat. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until the barley is tender (if you're using the wild rice blend, you will need to simmer it for 50 minutes.)
Add the kale and shoyu and cook until the kale is wilted, but still bright green, about 8 minutes. Pull out the thyme stems and taste for salt and pepper.