You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to love latkes, also known as potato pancakes. What could be better than lacy potatoes and onions made crispy in oil? I think they’re as delicious as the next person but I do not love standing over the stove making them. They’re pretty labor-intensive and they make the house (and my hair) smell like fried food. I have a solution – The Skillet Latke!Continue reading
I am headed to Long Island this week and my first stop (after I say hello to my parents) is the nearest farm stand. My father’s vegetable garden is wonderful and bursting with all sorts of goodies, but there’s no corn to be found. And I can’t be on Long Island in the summer without corn. I think my father doesn’t plant it because A) corn takes up too much space and B) when he was growing up on a farm in Italy, corn was fed to the pigs, not to human beings. He just doesn’t get it.
My oldest daughter is a freshman in college, if you can believe it. I totally cannot believe because I feel like I was just in college! She’s going to school in Texas where she is enjoying a lot of (shocking, I’m sure) Tex-Mex food. When we went to visit over Parents’ Weekend, our first meal was at Torchy’s Tacos and the first thing my daughter ordered was two quesos.
Normally my daughter is a pretty healthful eater, but I know she has a weakness for Sprinkles cupcakes and melted cheese, although let’s assume not in the same bite. Not that “queso” is actually cheese, even though that’s exactly what it means in Spanish. “Queso” in a Tex-Mex restaurant is basically doctored up melted Velveeta or a Land O’Lakes product called Extra Melt. Uh, that to me isn’t real cheese. And even if it were real cheese, pasteurized cow dairy is not awesome for you. Small amounts, ok. Fermented or cultured, a little better. Sheep or goat dairy, I’m in.
So I said to my daughter, “I can make a vegan version of this that I think is even better and won’t give you zits in the morning.”
“Whaaaat??? Since when? You’ve been holding out on me!”
Maybe so. In the meantime, I passed on the so called “queso.”
I did teach this vegan queso-type dip in my classes last year, and I figured it would be perfect to share before the Super Bowl. This recipe is actually a twist on my vegan mac and cheese recipe, jazzed up with jalapeño, black or pinto beans, and my new favorite product, Whole Foods organic frozen fire-roasted corn. If you haven’t made the mac and cheese, I am in love with it. Delicious and mostly veggies – no fake cheese, no nutritional yeast but still crazily resembles cheese sauce. And this version is a Tex-Mex-healthy-not-cheese-party that I am in love with, too.
This vegan “queso” I have used on nachos for the kids, on baked potatoes with salsa, on breakfast tacos and on spaghetti squash. Love it! I will come clean and tell you I much prefer it with butter over Earth Balance. Updated: Miyoko’s vegan butter works perfectly. If you absolutely cannot have butter, use the Earth Balance or Miyoko’s. If you have a choice, use the butter. I always use butter. Because it’s better. And then this isn’t vegan, but it’s cheese sauce made out of vegetables!!
This queso can be made a day or two ahead and reheated. It does not freeze well. Updated: it will be fine frozen, but you have to reblend it after defrosting it. But you won’t need to freeze it because you’re going to eat it ALL!! I don’t even care who wins the game on Sunday. Just give me a super bowl of queso!
2.06.21 I am updating the recipe to reflect the fact that some salts may be “saltier” than others.
In a medium saucepan, add the shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
Place the cashews, butter, salt, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne in a blender or food processor. Add the softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender or food processor and process until perfectly smooth. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning if needed.
Pour sauce back into pot, and add the jalapeno, corn, and beans. Warm over medium-low heat for 4-6 minutes. Can be made ahead and reheated.
*Options here: to save the step of soaking cashews, cook the cashews with the vegetables. OR use the same amount of RAW cashew butter or JOI almond butter base (it's blanched and raw and has no flavor) or cooked white beans if you are nut-free. **only use Earth Balance if you can't use Miyoko's vegan butter or can’t or won’t tolerate butter. The dip turns out better with Miyoko's or dairy butter, in my opinion.
A good friend from college gave a speech at our wedding about my husband’s penchant for all things that start with the letter “P.” It was something I hadn’t thought of until then, but all my husband’s favorites do begin with P — Pamela (that’s me!), Penn (where we went to college,) Pittsburgh and their sports teams like the Pirates and Penguins, pizza (his favorite food), pasta (his second favorite food) and anything with Parmesan cheese. Almost 19 years later, despite living in LA and eating my food every day which I assure you is not a lot of pizza and pasta, the man is still the same. And that’s a-ok with me since I’m still in the picture, too.
In the same way I can get our son, aka Mr. Picky, to eat almost anything in a corn tortilla, I can pretty much ensure success with my husband if I put Parmesan cheese on it. He even takes the liberty of adding Parmesan cheese where it may not really belong, but it’s his default if he thinks the dish needs improvement. And if we’re out of Parmesan, no problem! He’ll reach for the Pecorino, naturally. I saw this recipe on the Whole Foods website for a Swiss chard and potato cake that looked divine, but was loaded with gruyere which doesn’t always agree with me in large quantities. So I lightened it up a bit with Parmesan and we all loved it (except for Mr. Picky who would not try it because he is, ironically, Parmesan-averse.) Not so easy my job, is it?
Dark green leafy vegetables are so abundant right now and always the perfect, super-nutritious addition to any meal. I think this recipe, which is warm and hearty, is ideal for the transition into spring. (Don’t worry, it will feel like spring soon!) I haven’t tried this with any other leafy green, but I do think chard is perfect for the job. I love bitter greens, and if you do too, I have no doubt kale would be great here. I think spinach is a little too watery, but I could be wrong.
This gratin would be perfect for Easter brunch or dinner, especially if you’re serving lamb or poultry. Couldn’t you also imagine this with a side of soft scrambled eggs and a fresh baby greens salad? Love it! Of course you don’t need a special occasion to serve this, just a bit of time to allow this to cook. So perhaps it’s not ideal for weeknights if you arrive home at 6:30 and you’d like to eat by 7:00. Although I love this room temp and it reheats well (if that helps.) Feel free (unless you’re married to my husband) to substitute Daiya vegan cheese for the Parmesan and to use all olive oil if you’d like to make this vegan or dairy-free. Any way you make this, it’s a whole lot of goodness.
½ - ¾ cup (depending on how much you like) grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano-reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, diced chard stems and cook until onions are translucent and stems are softened, about 5 minutes. Spread onion mixture evenly in the bottom of the skillet and remove skillet from heat.
Place chard leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
Arrange a third of the potatoes in a single layer on top of the onions in the bottom of the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with a third of the Swiss chard and scatter ¼ cup of the cheese over the top. Repeat the process to layer the ingredients two more times, ending with the cheese.
Cover skillet tightly with a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper then aluminum foil and bake until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour. Gently remove the foil then return skillet to the oven and bake until cheese is browned on the top, about 10 minutes.
Set aside to rest briefly, then slice into wedges and serve.
This month I’ve been teaching a broccoli and cauliflower stir-fry in my classes. I am using only the florets since I know the stalks aren’t as popular in my house. It’s all very well and good, except for the fact that I’ve been left at the end of each week with a heck of a lot of broccoli stalks. I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I am a compulsive use-everything-you’ve-got kind of a cook. I absolutely hate to waste food! In fact, I started a tradition in the house called “Frittata Fridays.” That’s when I pull together bits of leftovers and random vegetables and turn them into breakfast. Everyone’s happy!
So in order to not throw away the perfectly good broccoli stalks, I have been juicing lots of them into our juices. But there’s only so much of that I can take. What else could I use them for? On a whim I decided to see if I could turn the stalks in a pureed soup like my Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Soup, which is one of my absolute favorites. My biggest concern was that the stalks wouldn’t have enough flavor and the soup would taste like nothing — WRONG! It was delicious. Warm, rich, creamy and using one of my favorite soup-thickening techniques (cooking and pureeing Yukon Gold potatoes with the soup), it tasted like there was lots of cream or butter when there was none.
Nutritionally speaking, the stalks are quite comparable to the florets, which is awesome since broccoli is once of those super foods you should be eating a lot of (and not throwing into the garbage!) In fact, I’m big on the whole cruciferous family of vegetables which includes all the cabbages, kale, bok choy, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collard greens and more. These vegetables contain incredible amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, cancer-fighting compounds, and even protein. Load up, people!
I enjoyed this soup straight away with an extra pinch of flaky sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. My husband stirred into his bowl a big pinch of shredded raw cheddar cheese and thought that was great. For the girls, I made them grilled raw cheddar cheese and kale pesto sandwiches on spelt bread and they loved dipping those into the soup. Even Mr. Picky finished his entire bowl — plain of course, with absolutely nothing added. This was a winner all around!
Who invented the idea of “Meatless Monday?” The U.S. Food Administration did during World War I and urged families to conserve key staples to aid the war effort, but the idea was revived in 2003 by an ad exec-turned health advocate for dietary and environmental reasons. Ironically, the Food Administration also tried to promote “Wheatless Wednesday” during WWI, which I would love to see make a comeback. But I have a feeling you won’t see the US government advocating abstaining from any big political donors major food industries anymore. However if you ask my sisters and me who invented “Meatless Monday,” we would tell you with conviction that it was our mother. Vegetarian dinners on Mondays were a part of my life growing up. I loved them since I was a vegetarian from about the age of 10 to 18. But believe me, my mother was not trying to cater to me at all. Her thought was that we tended to indulge over the weekend with heavy meals, usually centered on lots of pasta, meat and cheese and that we needed a break. My sisters, who were most definitely NOT vegetarians called it “Low Budget Night,” since Monday’s dinners tended to be less expensive and less fancy.
Beans or lentils were almost always the star of the show on Mondays and they usually found their way into a soup. This potato and white bean soup is just a take on a traditional pasta and bean soup or “pasta e fagioli,” as you might see it on a menu. I love that potatoes, a whole food, take the place of pasta, which is a (processed) food I eat very occasionally. The recipe requires so few ingredients, many of which you probably have in your pantry. And if you make your beans from scratch, this soup will cost you practically nothing. The potatoes and beans both add a rich creaminess to the soup, as well as work together to form a complete protein. Even though beans are typically bland, this soup has a nice, almost smoky flavor and feels very satisfying despite the lack of fat. A typical Monday dinner would be a nice big bowl of this soup with a side of sauteed greens or a salad and some crusty bread. Sometimes my parents would also add a wedge of good cheese (that my father smuggled in his suitcase from Italy) to the table and that was that.
My husband grew up with neither Meatless Mondays nor Meatless Any Days, so getting him to buy into a dinner of potato and bean soup took some time. Now he loves it and especially how it makes him feel afterwards (“not gross”). Lest anyone feel cheated, I happily serve both a salad and some roasted vegetables on the side. All my kids, Mr. Picky included, love this soup. It’s white! What kids don’t like white food? Of course, I can’t help but stir in some escarole in at the end. You know me and my greens. They’re going to save your life, so I’ll find anyway to include them that I can. If your local market doesn’t carry escarole, feel free to add some spinach, arugula or chard. I always plan to have extra soup for thermoses in the next day’s lunch boxes, which works out perfectly for “Trash-free Tuesday” at our school!
Have you made any new year’s resolutions? I’ve been contemplating a few, but what tends to work better for me are measurable resolutions, such as “cook dinner five nights a week” or “do yoga every Sunday.” I’ve never had luck with “eat better” or “exercise more.” Most people tend to come up with resolutions about diet and health, but they’re usually about short term weight loss or feeling better after 6 weeks of holiday overindulgence. I think “Meatless Mondays” is an easy one to try and it doesn’t mean you’re becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just means a commitment to eating more plant-based foods and acknowledging the heavy environmental footprint of raising animals in this country. Just a thought.
Talk to me here — am I the only one who grew up with Meatless Mondays? Does your family currently partake? I need some inspiration for my new year’s resolutions — feed me! Or just make this soup. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012!
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (or other boiling potato), cubed
1 6-inch sprig of fresh rosemary (optional, I like it just as much without)
3-4 teaspoons sea salt (depending on saltiness of the stock)
1 head escarole, leaves coarsely chopped
Grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired
Wash beans well and pick over for stones and debris. Soak beans with kombu in plenty of fresh cold water overnight or at least 6 hours. This can be done in a covered container or in a pot (I use the same pot for soaking as for cooking the soup) on a countertop. Refrigerate if your kitchen is warm.
Just before you begin cooking, drain the beans into a colander. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the beans and stock to the pot and raise the heat to high. You can add the kombu to the pot, if you like for additional alkalinity. Bring soup to a boil, cover, then lower to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour.
Add the potato, sea salt and (optional) rosemary. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Test the beans for tenderness. If they’re not done, continue to simmer until they’re tender. Once beans are tender, you can puree the soup to your desired consistency or leave chunky. Remove the kombu and sprig of rosemary before pureeing.
Stir in the escarole and cook until wilted. Serve with grated cheese, if desired.
If you want to use canned beans, you will need 4 15-ounce cans, or about 6 cups. I like Eden Organic. Follow the directions below:
Saute onions and garlic. Add potatoes, stock, salt and (optional) rosemary. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Add beans to pot and cook until heated through. Puree to desired consistency (or don’t). Stir in escarole.
Potatoes get a bad rap because of the misconception that they are fattening. Potatoes unto themselves are not “fattening,” but they certainly become less healthful after they have been peeled, deep-fried in over-heated, refined oil or turned into chips or mashed with their weight in butter and cream (not that those don’t all taste lovely.) The classic Russet or Idaho baking potato is a perfect example of a whole food. It came into this world as a package of vitamins (such as C), minerals (like potassium) and fiber. When eaten that way, the potato offers its maximum health benefits. Unfortunately, the majority of the potato’s nutrients are concentrated in the skin and just below. Therefore, when we discard the skin, we do miss out on the best part, nutritionally speaking.
This method for baking potatoes is adapted from Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel’s book, Two Chefs Cook for Family and Friends. No aluminum foil, no microwaves, just a perfectly cooked potato with a dry, fluffy interior and the best skin ever. I learned a while back that different types of potatoes have different levels of starch and that affects how you should cook them. High starch potatoes, aka baking potatoes, are best used for, you guessed it, baking. They likewise make terrible potatoes for potato salad (you just have to try this once and you’ll never make that mistake again.)
One of the reasons I love baked potatoes is because I can set up a topping bar at dinner and everyone can customize the way he or she wants. I find that the kids eat more of something when they are given the opportunity to control it. I enjoy my baked potato with a dollop of strained goat yogurt (my version of sour cream) and some chopped chives or scallions. I allow my 7-year-old to put a squirt of (fruit-sweetened organic) ketchup on his and the girls tend to like butter and some steamed broccoli. We can turn the potato into a meal if there’s some vegetable chili from the night before that I can dollop on top. Yum!