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Butternut squash, short ribs & black bean chili

This experiment turned out WAY better than I thought it would. The complex flavors from the cocoa powder and ancho chili powder are a perfect balance with the rich short ribs. The nutty butternut squash is a winner to balance the heat.It makes a ton so call some friends!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 pounds short ribs, bone in
  • 1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T ancho chili powder
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ T cumin
  • 1 can Rotel (I used hot with habanero)
  • 1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (pulverized with your fingers)
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 14 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt & pepper and add to pan. Cook about 8-10 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onion and leeks and cook another 8-10 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chili powder, cocoa, and cumin and cook another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the rotel, tomatoes, beef broth & water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add butternut squash and simmer for another hour, until beef and squash are tender. Remove the ribs from the pot & shred the meat. Discard the bones. Add the shredded meat back to the pot with the black beans and cook for 15 more minutes.

Serve with cornbread & garnish with cilantro!

Tuscan Bean Soup with Chicken, Sausage & Kale

I’m always inspired by food when I travel and Tuscany has been my focus since I’ve been home. This soup is my combination of 2 memorable dishes in Tuscany… Dario’s beans & a bowl of ribollita for lunch on the street in Florence.

Dinner with Dario Cecchini in Panzano was the most memorable experience. He’s impressive being an 8th generation butcher with a big personality. His restaurants are fun & they are an experience… not just a meal. Surprisingly it wasn’t the 5 courses of meat I couldn’t forget … it was the beans! Here’s how it starts:

– Small bowl with some Tuscan salt & herbs (his blend**)
– Generous drizzle of olive oil
– Splash of red wine vinegar

This is the dipping vehicle for your carrots & raw vegetables. Then you find the bowl of bread and decide what the hell – dip it! Just when you think your bowl can do no more… a big ladle of white beans & broth are ladled into the remaining oil/vinegar/salt bowl.

Divine. That’s all the inspiration I need!

Buon appetito!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 stalks celery – diced
  • 4 carrots – peeled & diced
  • 2 leeks – cleaned, rinsed and cut into ½ moons
  • ½ yellow onion – diced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage – casings removed
  • 4 chicken thighs – skin-on & bone-in
  • 1 cup Pinot Grigio wine
  • 8 -10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bag Tuscan kale – washed
  • 2 cans cannellini beans – rinsed
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS

Remove the sausage from its casing and tear it by hand into bite-size pieces. Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 4- or 5-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate, leaving any rendered fat in the pot.

In the same pot, add the chicken thighs and sear until brown on all sides. Transfer to the same plate as the sausage. Set aside for later.

Add 1 Tbs. olive oil to the pot, increase the heat to medium high, and add the onion, celery, carrot, leeks, onion, crushed red pepper and garlic . Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Be sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the white wine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat.

When the broth reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the sausage & chicken along with any collected juices. Cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and pull the meat from the bone. Discard the skin & bones. Add the chicken meat back to the pot with the drained & rinsed beans.

Stir in the kale, adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, and simmer until the kale is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper & add the vinegar.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil & a splash of red wine vinegar. Crusty bread is a must!

Vietnamese lime chicken wings

The kaffir lime leaves are the star of this dish… so much aroma in such a little leaf. You will find them flavoring many Asian dishes. One of my favs is Thai Tom Yum soup. I order mine online and keep them in the freezer. If you can’t find them don’t worry – they will be perfectly delicious using lime zest (see directions on substitutions below).

Alternatively, you could grill these if you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

Enjoy & WOO PIG SOOIE!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/4 cup chicken bouillon powder
  • 2/3 cup Sriracha sauce (asian aisle at grocery)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup pureed red onion or shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Asian pear (optional)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 24 whole jumbo chicken wings
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and lime leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half – about 4-5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Set aside. If you don’t have kaffir lime leaves, use the zest of 3 regular limes and ½ cup honey as a replacement.

In a food processor, add the bouillon, ½ cup of the lime syrup, Sriracha, oil, onion, pear and vinegar. Blitz together to form a paste. Reserve some paste for brushing, and place the rest in a resealable plastic bag. Toss the chicken wings in the paste in the bag and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour or overnight.

Set a wire rack inside each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Divide wings between prepared racks and spread out in a single layer.

Bake for 35 minutes. Brush the wings with the remaining sauce and turn wings over so the other side can crisp up. Bake for another 10 -15 minutes. Turn the broiler on and leave the oven cracked and finish for another 3 minutes. Be sure to watch and make sure you don’t burn them!

Transfer to a platter and top with cilantro leaves and peanuts.

Spiced chickpeas & fresh vegetable salad

Lots of chopping I know… but lots of satisfaction at the end. I promise. Try a little greek yogurt drizzled on top – it’s delicious!

INGREDIENTS

  • 14 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 small cucumbers (10 oz)
  • 2 large tomatoes (10.5oz)
  • 8-1/2 ounces radishes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Greek yogurt (optional)
  • salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Cut the cucumber, tomato, radish, and pepper into 2/3-inch dice; cut the onion into 1/4-inch dice. Mix everything together in a bowl with the cilantro and parsley.

In a jar or sealable container, mix 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, garlic, and sugar and mix well to form a dressing, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly. (Take care when dressing the salad. I found I only needed about half of the dressing).

Mix together the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and spread on a plate. Toss the cooked chickpeas in the spice mixture in a few batches to coat well. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and lightly fry the chickpeas for 2 to 3 minutes, gently shaking the pan so they cook evenly and don’t stick. Keep warm.

Serve this salad on a plate, in a large circle with the warm spiced chickpeas on top. You can drizzle some Greek yogurt on top to make the salad creamy.

Sweet potatoes with maple curry yogurt

The new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, Jerusalem, is stunning. I’ve made it through the first few sections and love the history of the recipes and family influence that permeates his meaningful food.

On my last visit to his restaurant in London I had an amazing salad with curried yogurt. I can’t even remember what the yogurt was on top of… but I’ve not forgotten the delicious combination. The cold & fragrant yogurt on top of the warm sweet potatoes will not disappoint.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 sweet potatoes, skin on, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 shallots, sliced lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the sweet potatoes and shallots with enough olive oil to coat and put on a baking sheet. Spread out evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. When warm, sprinkle with a little salt. Set aside.

Mix the yogurt, curry powder and maple syrup all together in a bowl.

To serve, place the sweet potatoes on a plate and spoon some of the yogurt in the middle. Top with chives and pistachios. Serve room temperature or slightly warm.

Serves 4.

Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Chimichurri

This was an accident waiting to happen… the kind of accident that lots of “needy” veg in the fridge & a pool party in need of a snack brings on.

It must have been that large bunch of parsley just begging to become chimichurri.

Chimichurri wears many hats in my kitchen. A topper for eggs, a dip for bread, a sauce for lamb & salmon… a spoon full of satisfaction can go a long way. The edge of vinegar, garlic & slight heat of crushed red pepper add a delicious dimension to the sweet vegetables.

Use any green vegetable you have on hand. Green beans would be great too. Serve as a side or even better – scoop it up on a chip.

INGREDIENTS

Vegetables

  • 6 ears of Fresh Corn – cooked & kernels removed
  • Bell Peppers – 2 red, yellow or orange
  • Sugar Snap Peas – 3 cups
  • Heirloom Tomatoes – 1 pint, cut in half or quarters

Chimichurri

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

To make the chimichurri, add the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic to a food processor and pulse several times. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor running. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Remove the core from the bell peppers and cut into large pieces. Rub the peppers with a little olive oil & bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. They should be slightly soft but still have some crunch. When cool, cut into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Boil the sugar snap peas for 3 minutes. Remove the peas from the hot water and place in a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain. Set aside.

To assemble toss the corn, tomatoes, peas & bell peppers with the chimichurri sauce (you may not need all of it). Adjust seasonings. Serve room temperature.

Baked Ricotta and Goat Cheese with Candied Tomatoes

On a recent trip to Italy I visited a beautiful village in Greve in Chianti named Panzano. This small town with 12 restaurants is a picturesque postcard of Tuscany.

The best restaurant in town, in my American opinion that may not matter too much, is the family owned Cantinetta Sassolini. Apparently all of the locals agree with my #1 rating because it was packed each night I dined. On my first visit for dinner, I ordered a starter of baked cheese with a fava bean sauce. The ricotta & goat cheese was slightly caramelized on the top with that lovely chewy dark cheese flavor. I knew I had to recreate this and found this recipe on Food52.com. The sweet candied tomatoes over the savory cheese are ridiculously good.

More inspiration to come from this lovely restaurant at the top of the hill on the way to the church (after the butcher shop).

INGREDIENTS

For the baked cheese:

  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 4 ounces log goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves, or leafy herb of your choice
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • generous sprinkling of kosher salt

For the candied tomatoes:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 sprigs marjoram, or leafy herb of your choice
  • sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the baked cheese: Place the ricotta in a colander lined with cheese cloth and leave to drain for about 30 minutes, pressing down to help extract liquid.
  2. Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Brush the inside of a 2 cup baking dish with olive oil.
  3. In the small bowl of a stand mixer, beat the ricotta, goat cheese and egg until smooth. Beat in the herbs (chopped if the leaves are large), a generous amount of pepper and salt. Taste your goat cheese first, saltier cheeses require less additional salt.
  4. Spoon the cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until puffed in the center and browning.
  5. Let the cheese cool slightly, then invert it out onto a plate.
  6. For the tomatoes: While the cheese is baking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then drop in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the skins on the tomatoes start to split. Pull the pan off the flame, add the vermouth and return to the heat. Add the brown sugar and herbs and stir until the sugar is melted. Add a generous pinch of salt. Lower the heat and cook gently until the liquid is reduced to a syrupy coating for the tomatoes. The tomatoes will collapse and some may disintegrate. That’s fine.
  7. When ready to serve, spoon the candied tomatoes over the warm baked cheese and serve with sliced baguette or crostini.
  8. The baked cheese can be prepared a few hours in advance and then baked before serving. It is best served warm, but not necessarily right out of the oven. The tomatoes can be prepared ahead too and gently reheated before serving.

Moroccan Chicken Thighs

I’ve been making this dish for several years and I never get tired of it. The combination of the sweet sauce, warm spices and salty olives is addictive. It’s fast to make and leftovers are just as good the next day. If you don’t devour it all… which I usually do.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut to bite size pieces
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup quartered dried apricots figs (about 2 ounces)
  • ¼ cup chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons dry Marsala or Madeira
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. To finish sprinkle with a little more cilantro.

Serve over a bed of couscous.

Serves 4.

Sweet Potato Galettes

Another Ottolenghi masterpiece. I’m continually amazed at his combinations of flavor & texture. Bonus – it looks impressive and is super easy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche (can substitute sour cream)
  • 3 1/3 ounces goats cheese
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 medium hot chili, sliced thinly in rings
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes in their skins for 35-45 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thin slices. Or you can microwave for about 5 minutes-8 minutes and save some time!
  2. Roll out the puff pastry slightly and cut into 4 equal rectangles and prick them all over with a fork. Put the rectangles on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Take them out and brush with the beaten egg. Spread a tablespoon layer of soured cream on the pastries, leaving a 5mm border around the edge.
  4. Arrange the potato slices on the pastry on top of the cream.
  5. Crumble on the goats cheese, sprinkle on the seeds and chilli and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the underneath is golden brown.
  7. While they are cooking, mix the olive oil, garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt. Brush this over the galettes when they come out of the oven. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Blue Cheese

Our Thanksgiving Feast included these crunchy, salty & sweet morsels. There wasn’t much leftover, but what wasn’t gobbled up for lunch my sister and I polished off the next morning for breakfast. Cold.

They are that good.

Make them for Christmas or heck for go crazy and make them for breakfast with some scrambled eggs.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into small cubes (or bacon)
  • 3 pounds Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of blue cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cook the pancetta until crisp in a large skillet. Remove using a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Reserve 1/4 cup drippings in the skillet.

Combine the Brussels sprouts, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Place the sprouts on the prepared baking sheet and bake until tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar and mustard to the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle with the bacon & blue cheese Serve immediately.

Serves 10.