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
I think I was 19 years old when I tried avocado for the first time. No joke. In my defense, I was living on Long Island and we ate according to the seasons, and fairly locally, in the old days. I don’t remember ever even seeing an avocado in our supermarkets, let alone my mom buying one and knowing what to do with it. Even when I went to college in Philadelphia, I don’t recall any Mexican restaurants on campus or avocado at the dining hall salad bars.
But I do remember visiting my college boyfriend in LA over Christmas break sophomore year. There was a new fast-food-style Mexican restaurant that had just opened up in his neighborhood called Baja Fresh. I was open-minded even though I had never had Mexican food before. I didn’t eat meat then, so I ordered a rice and black bean burrito with salsa and guacamole on the side. (I seriously can’t remember where I put the new lip gloss I bought on Saturday, but I always remember food.) LIFE CHANGING MOMENT. It was like the time my son tried a Slurpee at 7-Eleven when he was 4 years old and said to my husband, “Why I not have this before?” Exciting, but at the same time, a little depressing to think of all that you have missed out on.
Since then, truly since then, I have become obsessed with Mexican food. Not gross, greasy, cheesy, heavy Mexican food. I am more drawn to fresh flavors, salsas, rice, beans, cilantro, and one of my favorite foods EVER, avocado. Maybe I didn’t move to LA after college graduation to be in the same city as my boyfriend. Maybe I did it for the Mexican food. I was young and crazy. Who knows. Crazy enough that I’m still here 20+ years later and I’ve never said no to a taco.
Long story short, I am always looking for new and different Mexican recipes to try on my family. There are only so many fish tacos and chicken fajitas that they’ll put up with. When I saw a recipe for Caldo Tlalpeño soup, I knew right away that this would be a keeper. There are so many variations on this soup, which I think of as a slightly spicy, smoky Mexican chicken soup. Chipotles, which are dried, smoked jalapeño peppers, are always the star of the show. Without them, this would just be a chicken and vegetable soup. Although the ingredients in Caldo Tlalpeño vary from region to region and restaurant to restaurant, you cannot make this soup without the chiles. I have also seen versions with diced zucchini, green beans, chayote, or rice. Epazote is a traditional herb used in this soup, but it’s not easy for everyone to find, so I often use orgeano in its place. Not an exact, perfect sub, but good enough.
One of my favorite things about Mexican food is adding all those great toppings and condiments. So many of my favorite dishes are incomplete without salsa or guacamole or cilantro or radishes or all of the above. The topping bar is also my secret weapon with Mr. Picky. He’ll eat almost anything if he is allowed to top it with corn tortilla chips or diced avocado. Caldo Tlalpeño is great on its own, but I make this a full meal with a little cooked quinoa (not at all traditional, but amazing here), a pinch of sheep’s milk feta (also nontraditional, but delish,) and a squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro. So light, fresh, healthful and delicious.
Cinco de Mayo is coming next Monday, why not make this fabulous soup with a side of quesadillas or my Mexican chopped salad? For some other great ideas for the perfect fiesta, try these recipes:
1 15-ounce jar diced tomatoes (I like Jovial tomatoes in glass jars.)
4-6 whole dried chipotle chiles (use fewer for less heat*), or 2 canned chipotles in adobo (I much prefer the dried chiles.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
Sea salt (1-3 teaspoons according to whether or not your stock is salted)
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
4 cups baby leafy greens
Optional accompaniments: lime, fresh cilantro, crumbled cojita or feta cheese, cooked quinoa or rice, shredded and cooked chicken, diced avocado
In a large saucepan warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chiles, and oregano and sauté for 2 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas, sea salt and stock. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook covered until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the greens and turn off the heat. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Serve with suggested accompaniments if desired.
*4 chiles makes this soup about a 2-3 on a heat scale of 1-10. Eating them whole however, is quite spicy. You can dice them up or puree them with a little broth when the soup is finished and serve them with the other condiments/toppings for an extra kick.
Nothing is as comforting to me as a one-pot, hearty meal in a bowl. I love substantial soups and stews, especially ones with beans or legumes. I very often make soups on the weekend for lunch or for a Meatless Monday dinner. They also make a fantastic school lunch for the kids the next day. This black bean and pumpkin soup is P-E-R-F-E-C-T for a chilly fall day, especially on Halloween if you want to send everyone off with a filling, warm meal. This is almost like a chili because of the beans and the small amount of cumin and oregano, but not quite as thick. My favorite ingredient in here is the pureed pumpkin which gives the soup a little body. So much nutrition in one bowl!
This soup is a really easy one if you use canned pumpkin and canned beans. I’m so glad more manufacturers are responding to our desire for BPA-free products. There are more and more companies who are using cans without BPA. That is particularly relevant to this recipe because I know you can find organic pumpkin puree in BPA-free packaging by a company called Farmer’s Market or by Pacific Foods and organic black beans in BPA-free cans by Eden organic. A gentleman behind the customer service desk at Trader Joe’s told me they don’t use BPA in their cans, except canned tomatoes. I haven’t verified this yet with the company, but I am excited if that’s the case!
Also exciting is the fact that for the first time in a loooong time, I have Mr. Picky’s Halloween costume ready to go. This never happens in our house quite this early, as in a week before Halloween. Poor kid one year made a Batman costume the night before out of grey baseball pants and an cape from an old zombie costume of his sister’s. This year he is going as a punk rocker complete with wig and (temporary) nose ring. All of his costumes must involve eyeliner or face paint and this year will be no exception. My girls are not trick-or-treating this year. I think the novelty has worn off. That and my husband said there will be no teenage children of his trick-or-treating without a costume. I agree — way lame.
Ideally the girls will stay safe at home with a few friends and a pot of black bean and pumpkin soup on the stove and enough in their bellies that they only feel the need to eat a couple pieces of candy and not a basketful. Believe me, I am not the party pooper you might think I am. I know full well that on Halloween night, Mr. Picky will take all of his candy and hoard it behind the extra towels underneath his bathroom sink. I leave them there without letting on that I know his little secret. Until Valentine’s Day when I need to make room for the fresh loot.
4 ½ cups cooked black beans or 3 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed (click here for how to cook beans from scratch)
½ cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
1 ¾ cups pumpkin puree or 1 15-ounce can (not pumpkin pie filling) (click here for how to make pumpkin puree from scratch)
2-3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
2 ½ cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, cabbage, cumin, oregano and cayenne* and toss to coat with the oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for a couple minutes or until the vegetables no longer look raw.
Add the beans, cilantro, pumpkin puree, salt and pepper and stock. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 18-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
I have made this soup several different ways. If you want a little more heat, you can sauté a diced jalapeno pepper (do this in Step 1) and/or add a teaspoon of ground chipotle pepper (add this with the other spices.) If you want a little smokiness without the heat, add a teaspoon of smoked paprika with the other spices. You can also puree part of the soup for a thicker consistency. Lots of options!
Are we having fun yet?! Good, good. I have been running around the house yesterday and today like a busy bee, very excited that the big day is almost here. I’m taking a quick breather from the Thanksgiving marathon just to touch base and check-in with you all. Hope everything is going according to plan and that you’re enjoying the process. What I am not doing today, however, is sharing a Thanksgiving recipe on the day before Thanksgiving because I know you are all planners and that ship has sailed!
Instead, I thought I would give all you super organized and efficient people a great way to use up any leftover turkey you might have on Friday. I always make turkey stock and a simple turkey vegetable soup the day after. I have also given in to chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie with turkey. But I also think it’s nice to make something on Friday that tastes NOTHING like the dinner you just spent a month thinking about! It’s actually one of my strategies for getting everyone excited to eat leftovers even the day after Thanksgiving.
This recipe is inspired by the fabulous chili at the Deer Valley ski resort in Utah. I first skied Deer Valley in 1994 when my husband and I were engaged. He and his family have been going to the resort since it first opened over 30 years ago. It is a really special place and we are fortunate to be able to go there a couple times each year with the kids. Although I enjoy skiing and Deer Valley is absolutely stunning, I’m not super gung-ho about getting out there early and making the most of my day on the slopes. I’m really in it for the food. My favorite part about skiing is building up a good appetite and rewarding myself with a nice hearty lunch. I actually start thinking about this turkey chili when I sit down on the chair lift for the first run of the day!
Turkey chili is one of the few items that the resort serves every single day. I happen to notice the the lunchrooms also serve a roast turkey plate every single day. Hmmm, could it be the kitchen needed to find a way to use up yesterday’s roast turkey? Hmmm…. Anyway, we all love this chili because it’s lighter than a beef chili and a totally different take on the typical red, tomato-based ones that are so common. This one is lighter and tastes fresher, perhaps because of all the delicious vegetables. Regardless, all the signature shops on the mountain and many of the local grocery stores sell the special seasoning packet and the dried black beans in addition to the recipe so you can make it at home. For $7 or $8 plus the cost of the turkey, vegetables and stock, you can make this pot of deliciousness at home. Hmmm….$8 for 1/2 pound of dried beans and a few dried spices. It wasn’t long before I decided I need to figure out what the heck was in that seasoning packet!
I can’t say this turkey chili is exactly like Deer Valley’s, but it’s close enough and I’m not sure my kids have noticed. For sure I use half the amount of butter than the recipe calls for and I omitted the leeks, which I think don’t make or break this chili. I also don’t use canned creamed corn, because ugh — canned and creamed and sugar don’t go with corn — so instead I just make a little corn puree. The only ingredient you may not have lying around is masa, which is ground dried corn that’s been treated with lime. It’s what corn tortillas and tamales are made from. I have to say, it does thicken up the chili and give it a fabulous Southwestern corn flavor. It’s also not an expensive ingredient, so I say definitely go for it.
Alrighty, dear readers, that’s all the time I have today. I am elbow-deep in sweet potatoes and butternut squash and my kids are starting to bicker about who gets to pick the music we listen to while we work. Ahhh, sounds like Thanksgiving! Hoping you all have a lovely holiday. xoxo
5 cups or 3 15-ounce ounce cans cooked black beans (drained and rinsed)
Melt butter in a large pot. If using raw turkey, add half the turkey and sauté until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining turkey. If using cooked turkey, do not saute in butter, but add in step 3.
Add the onion, pepper, celery, jalapeno, and garlic to the pot and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the masa harina, spices, sugar, salt and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Return turkey and any accumulated juices back to the pot.
Add 4 cups stock, 1 cup corn and the beans to the pot. Take the remaining 1 ¼ cup of corn and puree with the remaining ½ cup stock in a food processor (a mini processor works too.) Add the pureed corn to the pot. Mix well and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered for 25 minutes. Serve with desired condiments (sour cream, cheese, minced onion, cilantro) or serve on top of a baked potato.
*If you only have stock in 32 oz. containers, no need to open a new one just for a ½ cup of stock. Puree corn in ½ cup water.
If you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have been wondering this week if I fell off the face of the internet. Believe it or not, I went back to Europe! Except this time, I traveled solo and it was all work. Last Friday I left the land of sandy beaches for the gorgeous countryside of Southwest France where I met eight fabulous ladies, several of whom are my cooking class students, for a one-week culinary retreat.
I was invited to Saint Antonin Noble Val by a lovely American couple who visited the region several years ago and decided to stay for good. During the summer, Alisa and Bruce run Raison d’Art, an art camp for teenagers. But in the off-season, they host specialty retreats for adults at a restored 200 year-old farmhouse. When they asked me last winter if I would consider leading a culinary week in their area, it didn’t take long for me to say “OUI!”
I did miss you all very much and had every intention of blogging, but my students were keeping me very busy this week and away from the computer. We started out our days with invigorating hikes in the countryside followed by breakfast at the house. But we weren’t here to relax. Several mornings involved scouring the local open markets for ingredients to be used in our evening classes. Alisa and Bruce also took us around to visit many neighboring villages and local artisans, including a family-run vineyard and a goat farm, where we bought the most insanely delicious goat cheese. And everyday we adopted the French way by lingering for several hours over lunch, not that we had much of a choice – lunch is a serious time of day where ALL the shops and businesses except restaurants close from 12-2 (or longer) and no one is in a rush.
When we returned to the house at the end of each day, we all came together in the kitchen for our hands-on cooking classes. Normally my classes back home are demonstration, but this was such fun for me to cook side by side with all the students. I even tried a few things for the first time, such as potimaron, a delicious winter squash that I have yet to see in the states, as well as a few goat and sheep cheeses that that were so crazy good. A lot of love went into our cooking and we enjoyed eating a delicious dinner together every night. All the teaching wasn’t done by me, however. After dinner, the ladies taught me how to play Canasta, an addictive card game I have yet to win. Next time!
I wish I had been able to take more pictures while we were cooking and share some recipes along the way, but I was caught up in the energy of the kitchen and the lighting in 200 hundred year-old farmhouses isn’t all that fantastic either. One recipe that I was able to photograph a bit of was this Provencal Goat Cheese Gratin that we ate with herbed flatbreads which we made ourselves. Goat cheese is something I expected to see in France, but I had no idea how incredible it would be. Nor did I expect that I’d choose to eat it twice day!
The goat cheese we bought was so fresh and made from raw goat’s milk, which is closer in composition to human milk than cow’s milk. Raw dairy from goat, sheep or cow is also much easier for us to digest. Several of the students commented that they can’t eat cheese in the U.S., but the goat cheese in France was no problem. We enjoyed local goat cheese so many different ways – from super young and fresh to slightly aged. We had it rolled in herbs or shallots, baked warm in a salad or broiled on a tartine. By the end of the week, Bruce was making us goat cheese sampler plates to nosh on with fresh bread and local wine while we cooked. Verrrry nice!
This baked gratin was a hit and it was super easy, too. We simply made a bed of crumbled fresh goat cheese on the bottom of a fluted baking dish and topped it with a quick homemade fresh tomato sauce, fresh thyme, oregano and sliced oil-cured olives. The gratin was broiled just until the goat cheese was warm. It’s the perfect thing to make as an hors d’oeuvre since it’s easy, delicious and can be assembled ahead and broiled just when your guests arrive. Although we baked our own flatbreads for scooping up the dip, I’ve also eaten this smeared on toast or fresh bread. I imagine it would also be amazing with eggs. Perhaps my next post will be titled, “How to Eat Your Way Through France Without Gaining Weight!”
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced or a pinch of dried
20 black olives (such as French Nyons), pitted and quartered
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Score the bottom of the tomatoes and place in the water for 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Peel the tomatoes, cut in half around the “equator,” remove the seeds and finely chop.
Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
Preheat the broiler.
Crumble the cheese on the bottom of a 10-inch round baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the herbs. Spoon just enough tomato sauce to evenly coat the cheese. Sprinkle with the olives and the remaining herbs.
Place the baking dish under the broiler about 3 inches from the heat. Broil until the cheese is melted and fragrant, and the tomato sauce is sizzling, 2-3 minutes.
Serve with crackers, toast, flatbread or fresh bread.
*You can also substitute 1 ½ - 2 cups jarred tomato sauce for the fresh.