roasted broccoli + parm pasta

pasta broccoli kale Chile

An easy, quick and comforting winter pasta with plenty of green to balance it out.  You can use any green or cauliflower or squash etc instead of the broccoli.  If you don’t want to use the oven, you can throw in the broccoli with the pasta during the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.  In the picture I used kale instead of broccoli- but you get the point, you can really adapt it to any veggie.  Just don’t leave out the parm.

2 large heads broccoli/2 bunches broccoli rabe or broccolini
dried pasta, I used 12 ounces for 4 servings
olive oil- enough to coat the broccoli + 4 tablespoons extra virgin for the rest
4+ cloves garlic
1.5 cups/1 can cannellini or great northern beans
1 lemon, skin zested finely + set aside, lemon cut into quarters
crumbly parm (or 1/2 cup well-toasted walnuts, chopped)
red chili flakes

Preheat oven to 425F.  Meanwhile, start a pot of generously salted water boiling for the pasta, and cut up the broccoli (peel the stem if tough, but use the stem + florets) into bite size pieces (if using broccolini or broccoli rabe, use it whole, trimming any tough ends).  Toss with oil and generous sprinkling of salt and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet, roasting until tender and crispy at the edges, from 15-25 minutes depending on how large the pieces are.  Keep an eye on the to prevent burning- turn pieces over if needed.

When the water boils, add the pasta and set a timer for the corresponding cooking time.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, add the garlic with 3 tablespoons olive oil and set over a medium heat, watching closely as the garlic starts to cook and removing immediately with tongs or a fork when it turns a pale gold (careful not to go over or it will taste bitter/acrid).  Set garlic chips aside on a small plate and in the same pan with residual oil, add the beans and a pinch of salt and stir to heat through.  Your pasta should be done by now- if not, just set the beans aside off-heat until the pasta is ready.  Scoop a bit of the starchy pasta cooking water out of the pot and then drain the pasta.

Into the pan with the beans, add the drained pasta and 1 tbsp more olive oil, toss well to combine, adding a splash or two cooking water if needed to moisten.  Remove from heat and add the lemon zest and a big pinch of salt.  Divide between bowls, adding the garlic chips on top and liberally sprinkling over the vegan parm or walnuts and serving each bowl with a wedge of lemon and plenty of chili flakes.

 

 

winter minestrone

winter minestrone parsley pesto vegan

This recipe is part of the third iteration of the Yay for Earth challenge, 5 days of plant based, gluten free meals, and is in collaboration with Stevie of @stevieyaaaay.  Find her blog HERE.  Find the first challenge HERE and the second challenge HERE.

I find there’s nothing better than a big, cozy, warming pot of soup bubbling away on the stove- especially in winter.  I make endless variations of this soup depending on what’s in season, and what’s in my fridge that needs to be used.  Feel free to adapt as you wish- squash works great instead of the potatoes, or a small pasta (cook separately).  The pesto is optional, but honestly it is so worth it.  You can chop it all finely with a knife and mix by hand if you don’t have a food processor.

for the soup:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small leek, sliced into half moons (white + light green only)
2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1 can of tomatoes
4 cups broth
1 can/1.5 cups cannellini beans
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped

for the pesto:

1 bunch parsley
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
small lemon, zested + juiced

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add the onion and sauté 5-7 minutes, or until onion is softened and starting to brown.  Add the celery, carrot, and leek and a big pinch kosher salt and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the potatoes, tomatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto.  In a food processor, place all ingredients + a big pinch kosher salt and pulse until a paste forms.  Taste and add more lemon, salt, or olive oil as needed.  Set aside.

Add the beans and greens and cook until greens are softened and beans are heated through, 5 minutes or less.

To serve, ladle into bowls and pass pesto alongside for everyone to dollop and swirl through their bowls.

 

nibbles for entertaining + hosting

cheese board vegan

Last night we had some friends over for dinner- a lovely vegan family that also homeschools and shares our values.  It’s been so nice to spend time with them as it can often feel so lonely when much of your life doesn’t relate to what others are doing.  Meaningful connections are something to be treasured and grateful for.  There’s nothing more I enjoy than selecting, cooking, and sharing food with others.  Coming together at the table, all eating the same food, sharing conversation and wine and laughter, struggles and triumphs- it’s religious to me.  The true sacred pleasure of life.  Everything can be worked out at the table- anxieties soothed, wounds healed, bellies filled, experiences shared.  We almost always sit down to dinner at the table together, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I try to never rush it.  Traveling to Italy at 15, this was something I admired so much, the “church” of communing together at the table for hours on end with excellent, simple, homemade food- I remember thinking, this is living, this is what life is about.

Food absolutely does not need to be fancy, contrived, or perfect to be good, in fact I would argue that the simpler the dish is, the better.  Last nights menu was nothing outrageous, just humble vegetables prepared very simply but with care.  No exotic seasonings (olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, chile flakes, bay leaf are my basics), 20 step recipes, or slaving over a hot stove in sight.  With the holiday season approaching, I’d like to share a few recent menus and also some aperitivi suggestions for you to make or take to any upcoming festive occasions.

First, to start, if it’s a dinner party or a festive occasion, I always start with some champagne/sparkling.  It just is so fun and such a lovely ritual to pop open a bottle and to all share the same drink at first.  It sets the tone for the evening, there’s no fussing of “what do you want to drink” and it gives your guests something to do and lets them relax a bit.  And of course, it doesn’t have to be expensive or even alcoholic at all.  A nice bottle of kombucha, sparkling water with a splash of fresh juice or a wedge of citrus, or sparkling apple cider can all stand in for an alcoholic drink.  I really love all of the Gerard Bertrand sparkling wines, or the Juvé y Camps pinot noir brut rosé.

cheese board

A cheese board always looks impressive and fun even though it takes hardly any time to set up.  DIY some crackers, or Mary’s brand are great and v/gf, or slice up a crusty baguette.  For the cheese, these recipes are great: almond feta, cashew garlic + herb, paprika rolled “goat” cheese.  If you’re picking up a store bought cheese, I recommend the Miyoko’s or Treeline cheeses.  Slice up a little fruit- apple, pear, pomegranate wedges are all nice this time of year.  A little wedge of membrillo, fig jam, or something else sweet pairs well with the sharpness/saltiness of the cheese.  And a nice smear of a whole grain mustard (I strongly prefer Maille brand).  Something pickled is nice to add too- like pickled onions, beets, cauliflower, radishes, whatever.

something crunchy 

Instead of (or in addition to) the cheese board, something crunchy is nice.  I love to make David Lebovitzs party mix (just sub in Miyoko’s butter)- it’s so good, everyone loves it, and you can make it ahead of time.  Another go to that’s easy to make ahead of time and that everyone LOVES is this brined + roasted rosemary almond recipe.

olives

Olives are a lovely and easy thing to put out for nibbles.  Grab them from the olive bar if you can- the green Castelvetrano olives are my personal favorite.  I always get whole instead of pitted because I think they have a lot more flavor and are more fun to eat.  Just be sure to leave a little dish for the pits.  If you’re feeling fancy, the day or 2 before, marinate them with a little olive oil, chili flakes, orange or lemon zest, and garlic.  You can even warm them a bit before serving if you like.

marinated olives

dinner 

I like to light a candle, and leave some beautiful things on the table- this time of year, pumpkins or squashes, pine or fir tree trimmings, interesting greenery, persimmons and pomegranates are all lovely.  It’s nice to have a set of pretty vintage china or silverware to make things special, too.  You can inexpensively find beautiful old things at thrift stores, estate sales, and the like.  I like to serve things in courses because it’s more fun to me that way, and it kind of forces everyone to slow down, converse, and enjoy the course more before moving on to the next.

For example, last night: we had nibbles, then moved to the table where we started with roasted veggies, then moved onto soup, then salad.  Then we moved over to the couch for conversation and later, dessert.  It was lovely.  Here’s the recipes:

for the roasted veggies:

Any mix of veggies you enjoy, cut up into similar sized pieces for even cooking- I used halved radishes, quartered smaller carrots, and romanesco cauliflower cut into florets.  Any vegetable works, try to choose a nice assortment of seasonal veggies with varied colors/textures or flavors.  Toss with a nice drizzle of oil , sprinkle with s+p and chopped herbs if you like (like rosemary or thyme) and roast at 400-ish until nice and tender- time will depend on the veggies, mine took about 20 minutes.  Toss halfway through.  Next, I layered torn radicchio (sub endive, frisee, arugula, spinach, or other hardy green) on a platter, heaped the veggies on top, and drizzled with a nice balsamic.  You can also fancy it up more by scattering toasted nuts or seeds, pomegranate arils, sliced apples, whatever you enjoy.  Serve while still warm.

roasted veggies

for the soup:

I used THIS recipe, and simply omitted the meat and used broth in lieu of water.  It was delicious and made a ton and I made it a day ahead of time, which not only deepened the flavors, but also meant that all I had to do that night was heat it up.

potato soup garbure pyrenees vegan

for the salad:

my guests kindly brought THIS salad (and just omitted the creme fraiche), and it was beautiful and festive and a lovely textural contrast after the soft soup.

beet pomegranate salad mimi thorisson

for the cake:

this flourless chocolate vegan and gf cake is excellent.  I always sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar over the top to give it a crackly crust.  I popped it in the oven soon before my guests arrived, but you could also make the day before.

chocolate flourless cake vegan gluten free

another very simple menu we enjoyed the day before:

My mother in law came over to celebrate Chanukah with us and share some stories and culture with my kids.  We had some radishes with Miyoko’s butter to nibble on while I was cooking, and I also set out some whole in shell mixed nuts with a few nut crackers.  Whole nuts are always fun for kids and adults alike and look so beautiful on the table.  I prepared a simple applesauce (peeled and cut into large chunks about 6-7 golden delicious apples, added a splash of water, and cooked them down in a pot with maybe a tablespoon of sugar, then mashed with a fork).

applesauce

Joel made the latkes- we used this gf, vegan, baked recipe this year + last year and I think they’re delicious.  I add oil to the pan, though.  This is a nice homemade “sour cream”  , or if you’re buying store bought, the Wayfarer vegan sour cream is great and has much better ingredients than its counterparts.  As a side, I cut a Savoy cabbage into wedges.  I heated some oil in a large pan and added the cabbage wedges when it was hot, sprinkled salt and pepper liberally, and let them sear until the bottoms were nice and browned.  Then, I added a splash of water into the pan (1/4 cup or so) and added the lid and cooked for 5 minutes or more until tender.  A perfect complement to the flavors of the apple and potato, beautiful, and so simple.

chanukah

For dessert, roasted chestnuts (cut an X into the top of the chestnut and roast at 400ish for about 20-25 minutes until tender, dump into a kitchen towel and crunch/twist them so their shells crunch and crackle a bit).  My mother in law brought some candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate and we had those, too.

I hope you are having a lovely week- and that these little tips are helpful for you!  If you feel uncomfortable entertaining, just remember to keep it simple, choose dishes that can be done ahead of time or are very easy/hands off, and don’t be afraid to ask someone to bring a side or salad or dessert to contribute.  Most people are more than happy to be invited and no one is judging you or checking your baseboards for dust, etc.  Just relax and enjoy yourself!  Share food and love and be merry.

xx

anatomy of an evening + red wine stew

table rose fall autumn

The evenings are so long lately, the sky darkening ominously late afternoon, it seems.  Often I find myself looking at the clock, and thinking “I can’t believe its only 5:30” or some such hour.  The good thing about this is that there’s so much time to spend cooking and eating apero, dinner, playing games or reading after, we really have a good stretch of time to unwind.  In the summer, outside beckons and we end up making very quick things for dinner- which is also nice, but it seems like a small luxury to prepare courses and let the evenings really stretch on.  I love having something cozy in the oven, nice china on the table, perhaps a candle to add some warmth.  Sipping a nice glass of red while preparing, going slowly and thoroughly enjoying the process.

leeks

I was asked to share an evening routine sort of post, so here’s our loose one lately.  Most nights, Joel comes home from work about 5.  So before he does, I prepare a few tidbits for l’apéro- also know as aperetivo, or cocktail hour.  Nothing fancy- just a few bites and something to drink.  Radishes with Miyoko’s butter + flaky salt, a few olives, spiced nuts, a cracker + wine or kombucha or even sparkling water.  Just something a little festive to signal the end of the working day and the start to the evening.  A lot of times, the kids are outside playing or catching up with friends on our street during this time- but sometimes they’re with us, too.  They usually have their snack about 4 pm, though.  Joel and I chat and share little slivers of our days with each other, enjoy the nibbles and sometimes play backgammon, gin, scrabble, etc.  Usually I’ve gotten a little start on dinner, too- chopped some vegetables, made a tart dough, or just have an idea in mind of what I’m making.

After this, I’ll head into the kitchen and start cooking- sometimes Joel cooks if I’m not feeling it, and occasionally he helps me chop or multi task, especially if I’m behind schedule.  But, mostly, I enjoy being alone in the kitchen during this part of the night + it’s such a wonderful opportunity for him to get some one on one time with the kids.  They’ll build legos together, play a board game, read, or just generally spend time together until a little later, when I call them into the kitchen.  I try to have a task or sometimes a handful of them for the kids to help with so that they get to contribute to the meal, as well.  Things like rolling out dough, whisking vinaigrette, washing salad, arranging the table nicely, stirring risotto.  Little things like this boost their confidence as cooks and as people, while also encouraging more adventurous tasting and enjoyment at the table.

red wine stew autumn dinner

We have dinner around 6:30 or 7 and we generally have it in courses.  This doesn’t have to be hard- but I find that by dividing the meal up into smaller courses, with a vegetable starter first, they are more interested in the meal and eat well.  We’ve been doing this since Vin was little, and I got the inspiration from here if you want to know more about it.

Fall lends itself to such rich flavors, and one of my favorites is using red wine to cook with.  It pairs so wonderfully with fall+winter veggies and makes even the simple ones seem luxurious.  I had had a craving for a good stew, and this one definitely hit the spot.  I hope it does the same for you on a cold evening.  A small note:  In the last 5 minutes of cooking, you could add some cooked beans such as butter beans, or lentils to make the stew more substantial.  If you do this, you will need about 1/2 cup more broth.

autumn vegetable stew with wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups mushrooms, roughly torn or cut into chunks- I used 1 large portabella

1 onion, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon all purpose flour or rice flour for GF

2 cups red wine, I used a Bordeaux

2 cups broth, more as needed

fresh herb bouquet- I used a few sprigs each thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf

3 whole cloves (optional)

1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1 inch long pieces

3 carrots, cut into large chunks

3 sunchokes/jerusalem artichokes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds

potatoes- I used 5, 2 inch long fingerling type and cut them in half lengthwise, if you use rounder or larger potatoes you will need to cut them into large chunks and the stew should take a bit less time, too

1/2 cup parsley. chopped finely

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook- DO NOT stir, so that they get a nice brown fond on the bottom.  Remove from pot and reserve.

Add in the onion and shallot, adding more oil as necessary, and cooking over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are browned, tender and almost caramelized.  Add in the garlic and cook another minute.  Add in the flour and stir well to combine, cooking for another minute or two.  Add the red wine and stir well, letting it cook down to reduce by 1/2 or so.

Add in the broth and the rest of the veggies (including the reserved mushrooms) and the bouquet garni (the herb sprigs tied together with a bit of kitchen twine for easy removal later) and cloves, if using.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low or whatever heat is needed so that it’s bubbling a good bit but not very rapidly.  You may have to adjust the heat if the boiling slows too much.  Let cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom isn’t burning and also to gauge the done-ness of the vegetables.  The sauce should be nicely thickened and the vegetables very tender.

Let sit at least 5 minutes before serving.  Adjust seasonings to taste as needed and remove and compost the bouquet garni.  Serve with a scattering of fresh chopped parsley and plenty of cracked black pepper on top.

 

preserved lemons

Preserved lemons

This time of year in California, the temperatures finally start to dip, rains come, trees are almost bare and I steel myself mentally for the winter ahead.  I’ve only ever lived in California, so don’t laugh if you live in a truly cold or snowy climate.  I’d rather be roasting in the sun, sticky sweat beading on my neck, than feel the nip of cold at my toes.

Even though winter is my least favorite season, I’ve learned to embrace the seasonal pleasures that come with it- a steaming cup of hot tea, big pots of soups, cozying up inside, taking a cue from nature and doing less + going inward.  The pitter patter soft drumming of heavy rain on the roof.  And the citrus, oh the citrus!  These gorgeous beauties carry me through the rest of the season with their bright colors, invigorating scent and acidic bite.  A friend came over the other day and brought some lemons from her backyard tree.  I rolled them over in my hand and they had the most beautiful, thin skin and floral scent- almost like a Meyer but not quite the same.  I thought about the preserved lemons I had made a few years ago, and how they were such a lovely addition to have on hand for adding a pop of bright flavor to tagines, couscous, winter pesto, and vinaigrettes.

lemons preserved kosher salt Jacobsen

Last night it rained, a deep, long rain- and this morning I woke up to a big patch of sunlight flooding through my kitchen window.  There, in that golden patch, I set up to make the lemons, which only took me about 10 minutes- and stuffed them with salt, packing them down into a jar and popping them in the cupboard.  They will be ready in a few weeks or so.  I thought I’d share here because they’d make such a treat of an edible gift to give to someone on your holiday list, or to bring as a hostess gift to a party.  They’re absolutely gorgeous in a nice jar, perhaps tied up in a bit of string, with a fresh bay, thyme, or rosemary sprig tucked underneath the bow. (more gift ideas HERE)

Preserved lemons zero waste vegan gift

Here’s the very simple recipe, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi.

preserved lemons

6 lemons, preferably Meyer or fresh, thin skinned types

6 tablespoons kosher salt (I like THIS one which is harvested from the sea in Oregon, or Diamond which is very economical and easy to source)

Pour boiling water into a quart sized jar (or a smaller/bigger/multiple jars if using less or more lemons).  Let sit a few minutes and then pour out- do not dry the jar.  Cut the lemons vertically into quarters, not cutting all the way through- leave the bottom a bit attached so the lemon stays together.  Working with one lemon at a time, gently open up the center a bit and sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt in each one.  Try to get the salt covering each cut area of the lemon.  Pack tightly into your jar, pressing down to release enough juice to cover the lemons (alternatively, you can squeeze more lemons and pour over the top if you need more liquid).  Let sit in a dark, cool place for a 3 or more weeks.  To use, remove the amount you need from the jar and rinse the peel under running water.  Most recipes use just the peel, but sometimes the flesh is used too.  The brine can be reused and eaten as well (although a little goes a LONG way- it’s very salty).  Keeps about a year or so- you can store them in the pantry or the fridge- they will just keep getting softer, but won’t spoil.

optional:  add herbs and/or spices to your lemons, including but not limited to: bay leaves, dried chiles, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, whole allspice, whole peppercorns.  Remove these spices after a few weeks, as they can make the lemons bitter if left in too long.

ideas for using preserved lemons | chop finely and mix into avocado mash on toast

chop finely and throw into the food processor when you make hummus

make a creamy pasta with them like THIS recipe– sub Miyoko’s vegan butter.

fold them into THIS spiced bulgur + eggplant dreamy recipe from Ottolenghi (sub quinoa or millet for GF)

make a tagging with them, like THIS recipe

make THIS excellent winter couscous

finely mince 1/2 of the peel of one, whisk with minced shallot, thyme, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice.  Especially excellent on hearty, deep greens, or bitter greens like escarole or frisee.

Have you made preserved lemons before?  What’s your favorite way to use them?