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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!


  • 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 – natural sausage casing 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


Remove the sausage from DCW 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.



  • 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


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.

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.


  • 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


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.

Turkey & Sweetcorn Meatballs with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Now you see them, now you don’t…

These meatballs are really satisfying and disappear pretty quickly! I have used ground turkey & chicken and both are equally delicious. Don’t skip the sauce… it is a must. Serve warm or at room temperature (or eat them cold out of the fridge like me).


For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed
  • 1lb ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • canola or sunflower oil

For the sauce:

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small Fresno chili, deseeded
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. To prepare the peppers for the sauce, quarter them with a sharp knife and shave off the white parts and the seeds. Put them in a roasting tray and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt, then roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until soft. Transfer the hot peppers to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Once they have cooled down a little, you can peel them, although it isn’t essential for this sauce. In any case, place them in a blender or food processor with their roasting juices and add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Set aside.
  2. For the meatballs, place a heavy non-stick frying pan over a high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes, until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.
  3. Soak the bread in cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble it into a large bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the oil and mix well with your hands.
  4. Pour a shallow depth of sunflower or canola oil into your heavy frying pan. Allow it to heat up well and then fry about a teaspoon of the mince mix in it. Remove, let cool a little and then taste. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper in the uncooked mixture to your liking.
  5. With wet hands, shape the mince mix into balls, about the size of golf balls. Brown them in small batches in the hot oil, turning them around in the pan until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to an oven tray, place in the oven at 400F and bake for about 5 minutes. When you press one with your finger, the meat should bounce back. If unsure, break one open to check that it is cooked inside. Serve hot or warm, with the pepper sauce on the side.

Greek Chicken Meatballs with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

This is the one Rachel Ray recipe in my repertoire… probably because she hasn’t concocted some silly name for them, as she tends to do. I’ve made a few modifications – adding sundried tomatoes, changing up the seasonings, etc. These chicken meatballs are a go to meal when I’ve got chicken that I’m tired on grilling. Serve with pita bread, salads or just dip and enjoy as is.

My cheap tip: Make your own ground chicken. I always have chicken breasts in my freezer. Instead of buying ground chicken I but the chicken into cubes and grind in my food processor. Cheaper, easy and just as good. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or pork.


Chicken Meatballs:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for liberal drizzling
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups Greek style plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, 1/2 a palm full, cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, 1/2 a palm full, coriander
  • Salt


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl combine onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Squeeze the water out of the spinach until completely dry. Separate the spinach as you add it to garlic and onion. Add feta, chicken , sundried tomatoes and coriander to the bowl and a liberal drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the meat with veggies and feta and form 18 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Brush a nonstick cookie sheet with a little olive oil. Place the meatballs on the cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden and juices run clear.

Place yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and a little salt in food processor and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve meatballs with sauce.

Golden Chicken, Corn, and Noodle Soup with Saffron

I made this for a friend and I must agree with his statement. It’s really that good.

The fresh sweet corn takes this soup to another level entirely… but you must follow the process and “milk” your corn. Take the back of a knife and scrape out all of the juice and bits from the cob. The corn milk is sweet and adds a ton of flavor.

The flavors are fairly simple so a great quality chicken stock is the best. I had the time so I made homemade chicken stock but if you don’t have time then I suggest Kitchen Basics chicken stock (the VERY best store-bought stock).


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large ribs celery, finely diced
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in half and into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use baked chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 pound Ditalini or any small pasta, cooked al dente
  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed and cobs “milked”
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Tip: The pasta is cooked separately to keep the starch from the pasta from clouding the soup broth, and the pasta would also suck up too much of the soup broth as it cooked. Boiling the pasta separately solves both of these problems.

To prepare the corn: Cut the kernels from the cob. Take the back of your knife and run the knife down the cob, scraping all the juice and bits out of the corn.

Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, saffron, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the broth and corn and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until corn is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

While the soup simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain.

Add the drained pasta, chicken and parsley to the soup and cook for about 5 minutes until chicken is warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if needed.

Chicken Larb Gai

Not only is this Thai dish super lean and packed full of flavor… it’s yet another excuse to head to my favorite Asian grocery store: Hong Kong Market. Inside awaits an almost overwhelming selection of any Asian ingredient on your list (and the best selection of frozen potstickers – gyoza – dumplings in Dallas).

Fresh lemongrass and thai bird chiles are a must. I would also suggest a better than average fish sauce (Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce is the best). I store it in the fridge as I use it often for Vietnamese Bun and it lasts forever. Central Market also has these ingredients… but for 3 times the price. So be adventurous and check out the Asian markets.

This recipe is adapted from Giada’s Turkey Larb. You can use any ground meat for this dish but the chicken breast is great & stays very moist with the onions. She also calls for mint… I prefer cilantro and Thai basil in the dish.



  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, from about 5 limes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons honey


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 (4-inch) piece lemongrass, minced (about 1/4 cup)*
  • 2-3 Thai chiles or 1 serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced*
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
  • *Can be found at specialty Asian markets


Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce and honey. Set aside.

Larb: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, chile, and salt, to taste. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the dressing to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spoon the chicken mixture onto the lettuce leaves and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with sticky rice or steamed white rice if desired.


Spotlight Montréal: L’Express (Chicken with Mustard Sauce)


location: 3927 rue St-Denis, Montréal, QC

Any restaurant that begins a meal with cornichons, dijon mustard & bread is made for me. L’Express is a well-known Parisian-style bistro and needs no introductions for lucky Montréalers. It’s been nearly a year since I stumbled upon this gem. If you aren’t looking for it… you will stroll right by without noticing the only marking of its location: its name spelled subtly in white tiles on the sidewalk.

I’ve dined here on every trip to Montréal… and I will be back for round 3 this summer. My first experience was a gorgeous lobster risotto. This last trip I chose a chicken with mustard sauce. I could go on for quite sometime about the perfect sauce… rich and creamy with the perfect amount of lemon. However, I was equally impressed with the preparation of the vegetables: a melee of haricots verts, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and French black olives.

L’Express… I miss you. You are hands down my favorite place to enjoy a meal in Montréal. I love that your plates lack fancy garnishes and are full of only beautifully classic and simple French food. I will see you soon.


  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat an oven safe skillet with a little olive oil and place over med/hi heat until hot.
Add chicken skin side down and cook for 3 minutes per side (ending with skin side up). Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside to keep warm.

Drain most of the chicken fat from the skillet. Add the butter, shallot and garlic. Season with salt & pepper and saute until translucent.

Add wine or broth to skillet, deglaze by scraping particles that cling to bottom.

Combine flour and 1/2 cup cream, stirring until smooth; add to skillet. Stir in mustard. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Serve chicken with sauce.

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Feta

The pistachio crusted chicken at Sevan, a local Dallas BYOB Mediterranean restaurant, is a favorite in my dining crowd. There are many delicious entrées on the menu… but this is ALWAYS ordered. I gladly accepted the request to recreate this dish mainly so I can order a different entrée and know I won’t be deprived of my old standby favorite.

I have been visiting this family run restaurant for years and they consistently turn out wonderful food. If hummus is your thing – Sevan makes super creamy hummus with just the right amount of garlic and lemon. My suggestion and another “always order” is the Muhammara. An addictive spread of roasted red bell pepper, walnuts and pomegranate molasses will keep my seat at Sevan a permanent one.


  • 4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
  • 1 cup chopped pistachios
  • 3/4 cup dry plain bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ounces crumbled French Feta cheese
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (small can)
  • 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sugar (depending on the sweetness of the canned tomatoes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


To make the sauce:

In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic and onion in oil until translucent.

Add tomato paste, tomatoes, water, wine, sugar, oregano and basil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes over medium low heat.


For the Chicken:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three bowls: one containing flour to coat chicken breast, another containing the beaten egg, and the third containing chopped pistachios, breadcrumbs and oregano. Season all 3 with salt & pepper.


Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add feta cheese, 2 teaspoons chopped pistachios and 1/2 clove minced garlic to one side of the flattened chicken breast. Fold over and secure with toothpicks to keep filling inside.

Coat breast in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip chicken in egg mixture and then into the pistachio mixture. Set aside and finish breading the remaining chicken.

Heat olive oil in oven safe skillet over medium heat and sear chicken for approximately 3-4 minutes on one side and then flip over. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve with tomato sauce and garnish with feta.


Spotlight Montréal: Meat Market (Chicken Sandwich with Harissa Mayo)

Spotlight Montréal: Meat Market


I had just returned from Québec City and was on the hunt for a seat outside, a glass of wine and a wifi connection. It had been several days with no internet and I was having withdrawals (and I had a TON of photos I needed to go through).

The Meat Market fit the bill with a decent wine selection and a perfect table for me on the sidewalk. The sweet potato fries I spied on another diners table didn’t hurt either.

I decided on the “East Meats West” sandwich as it was a flavor combination I’d never considered: Grilled chicken marinated in cinnamon & orange with harissa mayonnaise. I was so impressed with the combination it sent me on a 2 day hunt for harissa in Dallas. I finally found it at World Foods but Central Market now has it back in stock.

Harissa is a North African hot red sauce or paste. Main ingredients are chili peppers (often smoked or dried), garlic, coriander, caraway, or cumin, and usually olive oil.

The heat in harissa is not a painful heat…. it’s quite addictive. When I recreated this recipe I had a few friends over for a chilly evening on the patio. On the first bite my good friend Rhonda said “At first I thought oooh it’s spicy… and I want more”. It’s good stuff.


  • 2 chicken breasts
  • ciabatta bread or rolls
  • 1/4 head red cabbage – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper

For the marinade:

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

For the harissa mayo:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tsp. harissa paste
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice


In a large plastic bag combine marinade ingredients (cinnamon, coriander. orange juice, orange zest, garlic & olive oil). Add chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. When ready to grill, remove from marinade and salt & pepper chicken. Grill or bake until cooked through and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into pieces for sandwich.

In a medium skillet add cabbage and vinegar and cook on medium until cabbage is wilted but still has a small bite to it. Salt & pepper to taste.

For mayo: combine mayo, harissa and lemon juice. Set aside until ready to assemble sandwich.

To assemble sandwich spread mayo on both sides. Add a layer of cabbage on the bottom and top with the chicken breasts.

Serves 4