Green Minestrone for Mr. Gandolfini

While on vacation in my hometown I heard the bad news about James Ganolfini, he died of heart attack while on holiday in Italy. It made me ponder how quick life can stop, end, kaput, fin you’re done. Having my Dad still recovering from heart surgery made it hit a bit close to home, it also made me realize how important it is to try to eat in a helpful manner. Healthy food choices can be the difference between life and death, Jarom and I were watching a TED talk last night and the speaker was a doctor who specializes in diets based to starve cancer tumors with nutrients. While listening to his talk I realized a lot of his mantra is based purely in eating locally and sustainably. Today’s recipe is a minestrone that is made with all green veggies (which just happen to be center stage at the farmer’s market), it is delicious and healthy, affordable, and if eaten regularly will help ward off cancer causing cells…did I mention it tastes real good?? Well it does…..
1 bunch chard
1 bunch lactinato Kale (because its the Italian variety)
½ head of cabbage, I used a small napa that was at my market
1 can cannellini beans
2 quarts stock, I used chicken
½ cup white wine, I used a WA pinot grigio
2 small zucchini diced, medium
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup pasta of choice
Olive oil
In a large pot put a glug of oil over medium heat, add onions, garlic, celery, red pepper flake and sauté 5 minutes. Add chard (chopped), kale (chopped), cannellini beans, and stock. Turn heat up to high, bring to boil, turn back to medium add wine, pasta, zucchini, salt and pepper, simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley. Top with bread crumbs (I make my own, with left over bread that I store in the freezer), and parmesan cheese. This is optional but delicious.
Well todays thought, try to eat fresh food, grown locally, and arrivederchi Tony Soprano, you left us much to soon.

Easy grilled pork chops for a crowd

Do you remember that ad campaign for pork in the 90’s it was something like “PORK, the other white meat” take that chicken! When you think outdoor grillin, pork chops probably don’t come to mind, but why not? Depending on the cut, pork chops are lean, affordable, and totally tasty when grilled over an open flame. I was on vacation to see my family and one afternoon I decided to grill the value pack o’ chops that my mom had in the fridge. I was worried there were so many that they wouldn’t all get eaten….they were gone in mere minutes.
We had a pack of random thin cut loin chops with bones (bones are good for holdin and eatin, classy style) I think there were three pounds or so. Marinated them in teriyaki sauce (not the thickened stuff), pour enough on that it covers the chops, I used about a quarter cup, juice of 1 lemon, 1T dried Greek oregano, 2 T fresh parsley, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, marinated them 30 minutes (can go overnight), grilled on medium high gas grill (I don’t have one so whenever I get a chance I like to grill on them, so easy) for three minutes per side, depending on thickness,you can also do it on a grill with charcoal just watch the heat, unlike popular belief, grilling food doesn’t mean incinerating beyond recognition. This is a fresh, easy, healthy way to serve pork chops not only was it a total crowd pleaser it was super affordable. Keep it cool inside and take your “other white meat” out to the grill, you can thank me later!

Fava time and the living is easy….

Spring is ending and with summer just around the corner, fava beans are again at their peak. I spotted them today at the farmer’s market and knew right away at $2.50 a lb now was the time to buy. They are a bit pesky to prep, but as I was googlin’ I read a post on a foraging site that said that if you add a lil baking soda (1 tbsp for every quart of water) your Fava beans will be super easy to peel. Thought I would pass that awesome tidbit of info along. I think seasonal cooking is much easier in that it take less ingredients to make a dish, if you use a few great veggies in season, a lil cooking, and a touch of sea salt you basically have today’s recipe. I prepped my favas by shelling them, blanching in a bit of water with baking soda, peeled them and added a touch of sea salt. The color alone on these favas was so beautiful, serving them crushed on a slice of baguette would be enough. I roasted one bunch of baby carrots, I just cut them down the middle, no need to peel since they are so small and fresh, coated them lightly in olive oil, and roasted for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees till just fork tender, on the same pan as the carrots I roasted my cleaned morels, for about 10 minutes…so easy! The mushrooms are earthy and hearty. These ingredients together are a wonderful introduction to what our summer bounty has to offer, with minimal oil and salt needed the vegetables own natural flavors and aromas become the star, and not only is this dish delicious it is healthy and can be eaten at any temperature, which makes it easy for a summer barbecue or potlock and can be enjoyed by everyone, including those with dietary restrictions. Add ease to your life by eating seasonally, great ingredients are the key to being a great cook.

Cauliflower “Steak” Oscar

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Farm to table chef Dan Barber’s Cauliflower steak recipe, Food 52 is the site I found it on, so basically I adapted his recipe but put the “Oscar style” spin on it. I was thinking to myself….what is my favorite steak house order? The answer is Oscar (steak, usually sirloin or tenderloin, topped with crab, asparagus, and hollandaise). I figured if I was going to replace beef with cauliflower I better make it just as decedent as a steak house meal is. His recipe calls for one head of cauliflower/seared till golden/salt & pepper/finished in a 350 oven for 10 or 15 minutes. I cut the sides off the cauliflower and used the middle to make two 1 1/2 inch slices to be consistent with a prime cut of steak. I also used a orange cauliflower, my store carries this, but you can always use regular, white cauliflower. So with the side florets you boil those in 2 cups water, 1 cup milk (you can use whatever you like, easily made vegan) for 10 minutes until very tender, in Dan’s recipe he puts the florets with one cup of cooking water and blends to make a puree, I did this as well but I added in butter, 2T (sub smart balance to make vegan hollandaise), and lemon, 1/2 juiced to make it faux hollandaise, because my cauliflower was orange it made the perfect color to be hollandaise, if using white cauliflower add 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric to get that yellow “egg yolk” shade. Blanch asparagus/prepare crab, remove shells etc. For assembly I put my “hollandaise” at the bottom, topped with the “Steak” added asparagus topped with crab (omit for vegan or use a vegan product), a lil more sauce a bit of cayenne (typical in hollandaise), and topped with some micro greens. It was AMAZING!!! Originally I was planning on a traditional egg based hollandaise but as I was cooking I realized I could use cauliflower in place of eggs and make a totally vegan hollandaise sauce! Dan Barber’s philosophy was a wonderful muse for my own creation, using veg cooked in methods usually used for meat is an awesome way to bring out the satisfying side of our veggie friends, and I think making it “Oscar style” really elevated it to a whole new level! Seriously try this, even the biggest carnivore will be begging for more and this is a healthy alternative!

Egyptian “Koshari” inspired one-pot chicken

Way back in 2006, my mother in law took my husband and myself on a trip to Egypt. We went in a travel group with some of her friends and it was an amazing, once in a lifetime trip. We sailed down the Nile, walked in the great pyramids, smoked tobacco out of a hooka in a “men only” café ,rode camels, saw king Tut’s tomb, pondered how the Sphinx lost his nose, I even did Egyptian dancing in full regalia! It was fantastic, I do however have one regret…..I never ate Koshari. Even before our trip began I became obsessed with this high carb, no meat, street food that is on every corner from Cairo to Luxor. It’s a staple for the working folks there and it’s out of this world delish. Basically, it is rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, fried onions, and topped with “Shatta” which is an Arab tomato based hot sauce that they put on the top. As delicious as it is, it is also filling and affordable. I also noticed at the food stands they served rice stuffed pigeons, being in the height of the “bird flu” scare we avoided the pigeon. This amazing experience (which may never happen again) inspired today’s dish, but Koshari is one of those “use every pan you have” dishes, I being the sole dishwasher in the house decided to fusion it out a bit and mix the idea of koshari with my mom’s arroz con pollo (one pot chicken and rice dish). My mom would make this growing up, it made the house smell so good, she never had an exact recipe but it always turned out great and was ample enough to serve an army. Since the Egyptian’s used pigeons to stuff with rice, I figured one pot chicken with koshari flavors would be a no fail.
I first made shatta, there are many different recipes, I changed mine up a bit:
• 6 oz can tomato paste
• 1 Cup water
• 6 cloves garlic
• 2 tbsp Sambal (chili paste) you can use fresh chilies as well, but to simplify things and make sure it wasn’t too hot for the kids (some recipes insist on 15 Thai chilies!)
• 1 handful cilantro
• 1 handful parsley
• 1 tsp each salt, pepper, and cumin
Blend. Easy, they use this to put on top, but I just used it to add in the rice mixture.
• 1 chicken, I butterflied mine to get the most crispy skin as I could, salt both sides
• 1 Cup each, lentils, pasta (I used broken angel hair), rice
• ½ onion
• 1 carrot
• 1 rib of celery
• 4 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup of “shatta”
• 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 1 lemon
• 2 tbsp canola oil
Method: in a dutch oven, or large pot heat canola oil on high, add chicken, brown both sides, remove chicken, reduce heat to medium high add veggies, pasta, and rice sauté till pasta is golden, add shatta and chicken stock, add lentils (add a bit of water if your mixture seems to thick, maybe ½ a cup), chickpeas, lemon cut in half and juiced, a bit of salt, and your chicken. In a pre-heated 350 degree oven bake uncovered 60 minutes or chicken is crispy and fully roasted. Add a bit of lemon zest, and cilantro to the finished product and imagine the pyramids of Egypt!


Donburi in a hurry

donSo today I just couldn’t get my act together, I wanted to make Oyako dons for like two days. Donburi is a term the Japanese use for rice bowls. The Oyako is a chicken and the egg bowl, translating to to parent and child, it has dashi, but that is about the only really exotic ingredient. During the week I don’t drive at all, I do everything in the nomadic style (on foot) with two kids which is not always an easy feat. Today the store I was shopping at didn’t have the chicken thighs or the dashi, so I changed it up. I have this badass cook book from a thrift store about Donburi’s and it had a Ma po (pork and tofu), both of which the store had so that was the new plan. Honestly though, this is a great method for any ingredients, quinoa instead of rice, brown rice, vegetarian, anything you like you can choose, and it’s a great way to use up stuff in the fridge or pantry.
I used a lb of lean, course ground pork
1lb firm tofu
1 Cup mushrooms of choice, I used button and sautéed them first so they would be golden, then I added them back in at the end
1 small shallot, I had one in the fridge and had half a medium white onion, diced both browned them with the pork
1 small zucchini, diced small added in last, not as good when overcooked, had this leftover from the farmer’s market and wanted to use it.
Thought I had a can of water chestnuts, upon inspection, I did not, so I used half a jicama diced small.
¼ Cup hoision sauce
1 tsp chili garlic paste (add what you like)
1 can of creamed corn, yeah weird I know, but I thought it was regular and wasn’t worked great actually cause it already contains a lil’ sugar and cornstarch so I didn’t need to add any extra sugar or starch.
So in a hot wok I added two tablespoons canola oil, browned meat, with onions, added tofu, jicama, hoison, chili garlic paste, added corn and a lil soy sauce to taste. Done. Serve over rice or whatever you like, we used good old short gain Japanese sushi rice. I topped our bowls with green peas, scallions, sciracha, sesame seeds, and sautéed mushrooms. This makes about 6-8 bowls so you can freeze half to use later or this is great for big groups, we just eat the rest for dinner the next day.

Hollywood Farmer’s Market

When we moved here to Portland two years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. Sure I had my ideas of what it was like, but living here has opened the door to all types of things I didn’t consider before. We live in the Northeast and benefit from many a walk-able amenity. We rent a house in the Hollywood district, where many of Beverly Cleary’s books are based. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, with tall, tree lined streets and unique architecture. I will always smile upon this period of my life, not because of its perfection…much to the contrary, more because I have started to appreciate the moment more, simple pleasures….one of those being our local farmer’s market. It doesn’t matter how lousy I feel or how tired I am, walking a few blocks to see what our local community has to offer makes me feel inspired and motivated to work on my craft.

rooty beetvana market

The feeling I get when tasting seasonal produce, or admiring the works or music of local artists is not something I could put a price on, and definitely is not something that can be experienced by a trip to Wal-mart.

romaine onion

This market is a reflection of the passion of not only the consumers, but the vendors as well. I feel like if I have to be a consumer I want to feel like I am being responsible…. and by shopping locally, I feel better about parting with my hard earned dollar, actually it is quite a nice experience, opposed the usual hum-drum shopping trip.

morrels bread herbs berry

Some say it’s “Too Expensive” to buy local….but I think its quite to contrary….you not only lose out on taste and quality but in life experience, its like the difference between driving a BMW or driving a caravan….live rich, be wealthy in experiences.

lesfleur flower bike crabby herbs


Beet eater can't wait!
Beet eater can’t wait!


I love that my kids get to have this experience while they are in their formative years….priceless.