Stack of the Day

Alright, I'll admit: I've made this one before. But when I have the ingredients on hand, I really can't resist the combination. I've done countless tweaks on the original, which at its core features a combination of greens, a creamy cheese (cottage or ricotta) flavored with thyme and a fried egg. The ever-buttery avocado made its debut in this version, painted on the face of toasted whole-wheat sourdough beneath a bed of arugula, cottage cheese & thyme, and a fried egg. A fork-and-knife kind of sandwich.


Zucchini and Garlic Fusilli with Pistachios

Summer produce meets fall comfort: fusilli pasta tossed with coins of garlicky zucchini and crowned with toasted pistachios, fresh Parmesan and plenty of black pepper. A flavorful trip for the tastebuds that's rooted in simplicity, it's the perfect segue to autumn. 

Click here to read the full post and recipe on Mark Bittman's website


Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton

I've recently been cooking and photographing recipes from Mark Bittman's extensive archive for his website. This week I took on the bold flavors of Bittman's Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton.

Bitter meets sweet in this perfectly balanced end-of-summer dish. Fresh endive and watercress lay a crisp foundation for sweet cooked pears and crumbled blue cheese. The pears are browned with shallots and perfumed with maple syrup, yielding a result sweet enough to be served a la mode. Atop a bed of greens the pears steer toward savory, but add the right amount of sweetness to mellow the bitter greens.

Blue cheese hasn’t particularly agreed with my palate in the past, though I must admit, the use of Stilton in this dish has reformed me. Both firmer and milder than some of its substitutes, English Stilton contributes a pungent flavor without being too distracting. It simultaneously acts as the salty foil to the sweet pears while cutting the bitterness of the greens.

Though a cast of strong personalities, each element in the salad is balanced beautifully by its counterpart. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express; see it here.

[From Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express]

Cut three or four pears into eights; toss them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, along with some salt and pepper. Thinly slice a shallot. Cook the pears and shallot in a skillet over medium-high heat until the pears are browning and the shallot slices are wilted; add a tablespoon of maple syrup during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Toss the warm pan mixture, and any remaining juices, in a bowl with endive and watercress (or any other greens you like), along with more olive oil and a bit of sherry vinegar. Garnish with crumbled Stilton and serve.


Roasted Kale and Eggplant Tapenade

Not quite a pesto, nor tapenade, hummus or babaganoush, this recipe takes elements of each and introduces a new cast of ingredients. Roasted kale and eggplant star in this unique spread, united by a process that renders one crisp, the other soft. The textural juxtaposition is balanced as the two are pureed together and infused with garlic and Italian herbs. Pistachios contribute a subtle nuttiness with balsamic vinegar adding a note of sweetness to round out the complexity of flavors in this Mediterranean-inspired spread.

A recipe that is easy to tweak according to personal taste, it is delicious at room temperature served with toasted rustic bread as a crostini, as a sauce for pasta or to top grilled meat / poultry.

Recently selected as an Editor's Pick for Your Best Greens at Food52.com.

[Makes 2 cups]


4 cups torn kale
1 large eggplant
4-5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (plus additional for drizzling)
1 tablespoon olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
dried Italian herbs (basil, thyme oregano)
sea salt
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/4 cup roasted pistachios

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel 4-5 cloves garlic and set aside.
2. Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch slices lengthwise. Lay them in a pan, sprinkle both sides with sea salt and allow to sweat for about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, wash about 4 cups of kale, pat dry with a towel and remove tough stems. Toss kale with olive oil and place in an oven-safe pan. Roast for 5 minutes, check and turn with tongs. Continue roasting for an additional 5 minutes until browned and slightly crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. After eggplant has rested, squeeze pieces between a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Cut into smaller pieces and combine with garlic cloves in a roasting pan (you can transfer the kale to a plate and reuse that pan for convenience). Drizzle eggplant and garlic with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and generous sprinkle with dried Italian spices of your choice (basil, thyme, oregano)
5. Roast eggplant and garlic mixture for about 30 minutes, checking and stirring after 15. Eggplant should be very tender and browned. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
6. In a food processor, pulse together roasted kale, eggplant and garlic with 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley and 1/4 cup roasted pistachios. Consistency should be smooth but not lacking texture.
7. Taste and tweak seasonings to your liking. Best served at room temperature atop a toasted crostini round.


Dinner Tonight: Paella with Jose

It's what Spaniards call "soccarat." A layer of brown, crispy rice that clings to the bottom of a paella pan. Remnants so tasty that they are rarely left to linger after the dish has been devoured. Such was the case tonight after my family inhaled our take on this classic Spanish one-pot wonder. The nature of paella is practical and unpretentious, embracing a free-style cooking technique that allows room for ingredient creativity. Traditionally it features some combination of meat, fish and vegetables that are simmered with rice and saffron. Our version was inspired by renowned Spanish chef Jose Andres' Paella with Chicken, Mushrooms and Shrimp, a recipe built to satisfy a hungry crowd. I adopted a stovetop strategy, dividing the chicken, shrimp and 'shrooms (plus a few rogue spears of asparagus) between two skillets to cook with simmering rice and spices. The soccarat didn't stand a chance.

[Adapted from Jose Andres]


9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Spanish), divided
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps thickly sliced
1 1/2 cups asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped red onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups paella rice (short-grain white rice)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 tsp Ancho chili powder
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth, divided
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, butterflied

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in each of 2 large (12- to 14-inch) paella pans or skillets over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add half of chicken to each pan; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken from each pan to separate large bowl. To each pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and half of fresh mushrooms and asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms and asparagus from each pan to 1 bowl with chicken. Add 1 tablespoon oil to each pan, then 1/2 cup onion and 2 garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute.
2. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil to each pan, then 3/4 cup rice. Stir 1 minute to coat. Add 1 1/4 cups mushroom broth, 1/2 can tomatoes with juice, 3/4 teaspoon ground chile, 3/8 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon saffron to each pan. Stir to blend; bring to simmer. Sprinkle rice mixture in each pan with salt and pepper.
3. Mix 1 bowl of chicken and mushrooms and all juices into rice in each pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 10 minutes (do not cover during cooking). Drizzle 1/2 cup chicken broth over each. Simmer 8 minutes. Drizzle another 1/2 cup broth over each. Simmer 8 minutes longer.
4. Arrange half of shrimp atop each paella. Cook until rice is tender, chicken is cooked through, shrimp are just opaque in center, and rice is brown and sticking to pan on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Homage to Fungi

The season for foraging is upon us. Mushrooms -- delicate yet curiously powerful in their ability to add rich meatiness in cooked dishes -- are the stars of September.

To begin the celebration of these forest-dwellers, a Mushroom and Nori Soup from Mark Bittman. The recipe calls for about three cups of mushrooms, though in my fungi-frenzy I measured on the upward of four. The ‘shrooms included a trio of shiitake, oyster and cremini -- each contributed a distinct texture, creating a rhythm of chewy, porous and meaty spoonfuls. The mushrooms swim a broth of chicken stock and soy sauce, which intensifies the earthy flavor of the dish. The addition of lemon juice gives a surprising brightness, pulling it up from its savory depths, and strips of nori add a note of the sea with a nod to its Asian influence. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. See the post here.


Light, delicate, flavorful, and unusual.

In a pot over high heat, cook about three cups of mushrooms (any combinations works; oyster and shiitake is especially good) in a couple of tablespoons of butter until they begin to release their liquid; add a diced onion, a minced garlic clove, and a chopped celery stalk and cook until the onion in translucent. Add about four cups of vegetable or chicken stock, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of celery seed, salt, and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Tear or slice a sheet of nori into strips and put in soup bowls; pour soup over the nori (it will mostly dissolve) and serve.


Adventures with Leftovers

Leftovers have notoriously been fuel for my experimentation in the kitchen -- to both genius and failed results. The frittata is one of my go-to schemes for appropriating ingredients in new ways, and an ideal vehicle to use up fresh vegetables that are on their way out the door. Forging through the contents of my fridge for ideas, I pulled out a pasta salad that was laden with fresh veggies. With the chopping already prepped, the notion of tossing it all into a frittata seemed especially attractive. But this time it would contain an ingredient from a different camp: whole-wheat orzo.

It is among the tradition of the frittata to nestle pasta in the eggy mass. Though I rarely enjoy a frittata without crusty bread on the side, I must admit, I had never incorporated grains directly into the dish. What better way to apply the technique then by using my leftover orzo salad. Suspended with its accompanying veggies, the orzo gives the frittata more substance without weighing it down. It adds a complexity to the frittata's texture as well, interrupting the fluffy egg base with al dente moments of crunch. Escaping its reputation as a boring picnic side, orzo salad is reborn as a unique breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner-appropriate main. A one-skillet wonder that leaves one less container in my fridge.


Whole-wheat orzo salad:
-whole-wheat orzo
-diced tomato
-chopped cucumber
-chopped red onion
-several handfuls of finely chopped arugula, used as an herb
-lemon juice and zest
-olive oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten with a few Tbsp of milk

1. Lightly coat a medium skillet with olive oil. Heat on medium and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cup orzo salad. Warm orzo salad, stirring constantly so pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
2. Spread orzo salad evenly over bottom of pan and pour eggs over top. Cover and allow to cook for a few minutes. Uncover and top with fresh spinach and arugula leaves. Cover again and cook until eggs are set.