Traditionally, shakshuka is a tomato-based dish (and often a fiery-hot one as well), but I based mine on baby kale and leftover roasted potatoes and onions, adding some freshly chopped grape tomatoes in homage to the origins of the dish. The key ingredient, though, is eggs — to finish the shakshuka, you simply crack an egg or two on top of your stir-fried or simmered base, then gently cook the covered dish for about five minutes to poach the egg(s). It’s a quick way to add rich flavor, fat, and protein to a vegetarian meal, especially if the eggs are from pastured hens.
Food historians aren’t exactly sure where shakshuka originated, but Tunisia seems to be a likely candidate. It’s a popular dish throughout northern African, enjoyed by nomadic Berber tribes and served by street food vendors in Egypt alike. It’s simple to customize — add fava beans or chickpeas or artichoke hearts if you like — and is a great way to make use of leftover veggies. Maybe you’d like to amp up the heat with chili flakes, too, or add a dash of Ethiopian berbere. It’s up to you!
Baby Kale & Redskin Potato Shakshuka
Makes 4 servings for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
4 redskin potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
2 Spanish onions, sliced
Double handful grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
About 5 oz. baby kale
4 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
Feta cheese for garnishing, optional
Stagger oven racks to be in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, then preheat oven to 375F. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil or melted ghee. Sprinkle on some sea salt and freshly ground pepper and toss again. Spread out on one of the baking sheets.
Repeat the process with the onion slices. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies are turning golden brown. NOTE: you can do this days ahead. I used leftover roasted potatoes and onions that I had made for dinner the day before. If you’re using leftover veggies, you can make this dish in fewer than 10 minutes.
Place the roasted veggies, tomatoes, and kale in a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and toss well, stirring often to help the kale wilt evenly. Once the kale is soft, crack the eggs onto the top of the mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and let cook undisturbed for 5 minutes or until the eggs are set.
Serve immediately, garnishing with feta if you like. Leftover shakshuka can be refrigerated for 3 days.
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Looking for an easy and incredibly delicious snack? Try making your own spiced lentils! When you sauté cooked and drained lentils in ghee for a good 20 to 30 minutes, they become crisp and incredibly flavorful, plus they can be stored at room temp for a week. You can spice them however you like: chili powder, curry powder, simple cayenne + sea salt. (I sprinkled mine with berbere because that’s my favorite spice blend of all time.) And you can use whatever lentils you like best, too, with the glaring exception of red lentils. They’ve been hulled and are therefore quite thin and quick-cooking — they’re better to include in dishes when you want a creamy, puréed texture. But black, Le Puy, green, brown, or any other kind of lentil is a great choice.
Once you’ve cooked your lentils, you can use them as croutons, garnishes, or eat-out-of-hand-as-they-are snacks … or toss them with toasted nuts for the ultimate savory trail mix! They’re also a great pair for cooked rice or any other mild ingredient that might benefit from a sudden boost of flavor. (Scrambled eggs with lentils, anyone?)
Bring a pot of water to boil and add lentils (any color but red), making sure to have at least an inch of water covering the lentils. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lentils are al dente. (You’ll be cooking them again, so you don’t want the simmered lentils to be completely soft.) Drain very well.
Melt a generous dollop of ghee or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in lentils, tossing to coat with the ghee/oil, and let cook for a good 20 minutes or more, until the lentils have absorbed the ghee/oil and are becoming crisp and slightly browned. You may have to reduce the heat to medium-low if they start cooking too furiously.
Sprinkle your choice of spices — see recipe header for suggestions — onto the lentils, using just a pinch or a hefty dusting as you’d prefer, and stir to combine. Let them cook a minute or two longer to encourage the spices to stick.
Serve immediately or serve them at room temp. The lentils can be stored at room temperature for a week. If it’s a hot sunny day, it would be better to stash them in the fridge.
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Freshly ground flour adds a delightful richness and moisture to baked goods, so whenever you get the chance to grind flour in a simple little coffee grinder, give it a try! For these cupcakes, I used my $10 grinder to make oat flour from rolled oats and almond flour from sliced almonds. Along with making a fluffy, delicious flour that hasn’t had a chance to sit on the shelf and fade nutritionally, making your own flours means that you get two products for the price of one — in one bag, you have rolled oats and oat flour, and in another, you have sliced almonds and almond flour! Not only is that convenient, it’s also a great way to save money while upgrading your baked goods, because typically, pre-ground flours cost more than their non-ground original ingredients. Sometimes flours cost a lot more: per pound, sliced almonds cost 50% less than almond flour does.
If you have a flour mill, you can also grind your own buckwheat flour from raw buckwheat — the latter is much more mild and therefore versatile than pre-ground buckwheat flour, which is almost always ground from toasted buckwheat (also called kasha). Or go ahead and use toasted buckwheat flour for a deeper, more earthy flavor. That’s not a bad idea to pair with chocolate!
These cupcakes are made using two muffin tins instead of one, but they rise so beautifully that filling each cup halfway with batter makes a cupcake that’s a too big to be considered truly “mini” and too small to qualify as a full-fledged cupcake. I quite like this halfway size, because the smaller the cake size, the better it rises in general. It’s easier to nail a perfect texture when you don’t have to overbake oversized treats that tend to dry out on the outside edges before the center is cooked through.
Chocolate-Oat Buttermilk Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Makes 24 halfway-sized cupcakes.
For the cakes:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat
1/4 cup oat flour (be sure to use gluten-free oats if you’re making gluten-free cupcakes)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched or “natural” (the natural acidity in unprocessed cocoa powder interacts with the baking soda to increase the latter’s leavening power)
2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/3 cups whole-milk buttermilk, preferably from grass-fed cows (if you can’t find whole-milk buttermilk, use 2/3 cup whole-milk sour cream + 2/3 cup water)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
For the frosting*:
1 1/2 cups mascarpone
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sucanat or palm sugar (run it through a coffee grinder to powder it)
2 tsp. vanilla
Stagger the oven racks so that they’re in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, then preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 muffin tin trays with parchment baking cups.
To make the cakes, whisk the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining (liquid) ingredients. Use a hand mixer to beat in the dry ingredients. As quickly as possible — the baking soda will immediately start to react and create bubbles in the batter as soon as it comes into contact with the acidic buttermilk/sour cream — fill each of the waiting muffin cups halfway with batter.
Pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the center-most cupcake comes out clean and warm. Let cupcakes cool on wire racks until completely cool.
To make the frosting, place all ingredients in a medium bowl and use a fork to stir well. If you want to do a mixed batch of cupcakes (see asterisk), cut the frosting amount in half and do half frosted cupcakes and half chocolate-d cupcakes. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for 5 days. They’re even more scrumptious if you let them come to room temperature before serving them.
* Or cut the frosting amount in half, frost half of the cupcakes, and gently melt a bar of 85% dark chocolate in a small pot over the lowest heat setting on your stove, stirring occasionally. Pull it off of the heat when there are still a few lumps. Stir to finish melting, then spoon over half of the baked and cooled cupcakes to drizzle them with chocolate.
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Tags: almond flour, buckwheat flour, buttermilk, chocolate, cocoa powder, cream, cupcakes, easy frosting, egg, extra-virgin olive oil, gluten-free, maple syrup, mascarpone, natural sweetener, oat flour, palm sugar, sour cream, sucanat, vanilla
While ineptly named buckwheat — it has nothing to do with wheat and is in fact a gluten-free grain — is most popular in Russia and mainland Asia, it’s getting easier and easier to find in the U.S. in the form of flour or even whole groats. I adore raw groats for their versatility: if you want them toasted (in which case they’re called “kasha”), you can toast them; if you want buckwheat flour, you can grind the raw or toasted groats into flour. Toasted buckwheat has a much deeper, nuttier flour than raw buckwheat does, so the type of groats or flour you use does make a big difference in recipes. You’ll easily see the difference, too — raw buckwheat is pale green/gray, while toasted buckwheat is brown. Ditto for raw vs. toasted buckwheat flour. See what I mean about versatility? Those raw groats can become four products (as opposed to pre-ground, pre-toasted flour that can’t be un-ground or un-toasted).
But no matter which kind of buckwheat you use, it still has a lower glycemic load than wheat products do, which is to say buckwheat won’t make your glucose levels spike the way wheat does. In fact, most grains have more of a spiking effect than buckwheat does. That’s why raw buckwheat flour is my go-to flour — you can make all sorts of indulgent treats with it that taste great and are a better nutritional bet than darn near anything made with any other kind of flour. (Nut, seed, bean, and tropical flours are also great options.)
For this quick toss, I opted to pair mild, un-toasted cooked groats with tuna, artichoke hearts, dill, and sautéed celery and garlic. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to cook buckwheat groats (depending on how al dente you like them), so by the time you’ve cooked your veggies and drained your artichoke hearts, you’ll be ready to toss everything together and enjoy your meal.
Dilled Tuna & Buckwheat Tossed with Artichoke Hearts
Makes 2 servings. Feel free to double or triple the recipe.
3/4 cup buckwheat groats, preferably raw groats
4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped (save the leaves for garnishing if you like)
Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and drizzling
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. artichoke hearts in brine, drained and quartered
1 tsp. dill (or more to taste)
4 oz. tuna fish, preferably Wild Planet or another sustainable brand
Sea salt to taste
Place the groats in a medium pot with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring the groats occasionally and checking their tenderness when they hit the 10-minute mark. Drain well.
While the groats simmer, sauté the celery in a generous splash of oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until celery is softening. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
Toss the cooked veggies with the drained artichoke hearts, dill, and drained cooked buckwheat. Stir in the tuna, breaking it into chunks. (Wild Planet cooks its tuna inside of their BPA-free cans, so rather than being packaged in water or oil, the tuna is in its own juices. Do not drain such lovely tuna! Stir it all in.)
Stir in a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt to taste. Serve immediately. Any leftovers can be refrigerated for 4 days.
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As much as I enjoy roasting fresh chestnuts, I must admit that having pre-cooked chestnuts on hand makes them a lot easier to toss into recipes …. which means that I go nuts with chestnuts during the winter months, when they’re a staple at Trader Joe’s. Some stores stock them year-round, but chestnuts are most definitely lower-priced when they’re in season. They’re a great “bready” ingredient to add to soups, stir-frys, and stuffings. You can even swap them out for brown rice in pilafs if you want to add a seasonal twist to your side dishes. The other nice thing about vacuum-sealed cooked chestnuts is that they’re shelf-stable, so you can tuck some into your pantry and have them on hand for future inspiration. I usually stash away a few towards the end of winter so that my chestnut supply lasts well into spring.
For this recipe, I paired chestnuts with cremini mushrooms and 2/3 of the classic mirepoix. (I omitted the carrots because chestnuts have a natural sweetness of their own; carrots on top of chestnuts would have been a bit too sweet.) Cooking the celery in ghee creates a rich, buttery flavor that underpins the savory chicken broth and flavorful Italian herbs. So simple!
Mushroom & Chestnut Soup
Makes 4 side servings of soup.
Ghee OR butter for cooking, preferably from grass-fed cows
4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped (save the leaves for garnish if you like)
1 1/2 lbs. cremini mushrooms*
1 Spanish onion
2 cups chicken broth, preferably from pastured hens
10 oz. cooked (steamed or roasted; fresh or store-bought) chestnuts, chopped
2 T. dried Italian herbs (basil, sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme)
Sour cream for garnishing, optional
Grated Parmesan, Manchego, or other aged cheese for garnishing, optional
Minced green onions for garnishing, optional
Melt a generous knob of ghee in a large soup pot over medium heat. (Go with medium-low heat if you’re using butter.) Add the celery and let it begin to cook while you clean the mushrooms. Once you’ve rinsed them well and trimmed off their stems, slice the mushrooms and add them to the pot. Chop the onion and add that to the pot, too.
Let the veggies cook for at least 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium-low if they start really sizzling — you want them to cook gently and slowly, letting much of the water content of the mushrooms evaporate so that their flavor intensifies. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.
Serve the soup as is or with garnishes. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for 5 days; if you do have leftovers, try garnishing it with something different — sour cream, cheese, green onions — every time you serve it.
* Hot grocery shopping tip: in many produce-oriented stores, putting loose mushrooms in a bag yourself costs 50% less per pound than buying the exact same mushrooms in their shrink-wrapped packages. Fifteen seconds of effort for a 50% savings is pretty great!
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I admit that I would much rather go to a salsa club than watch football on Superbowl Sunday, but there is one thing I like about sports-themed gatherings: the dips. Dips are a source of endless tinkering! And since the vast majority of dips are made by simply running the ingredients through a food processor, you get maximum tinkering fun for a minimum of effort. Determining the dippables is easy, too, seeing as anything bite-sized and crunchy counts as a dippable. I opted for homemade crackers, but you could use raw veggies, whole-grain chips, or even olives on toothpicks. And of course feel free to increase or decrease the amount of the individual ingredients in this dip according to your favorite flavors.
In short, if you have a food processor, you have dip! Plus, in this recipe, you’ll be using three-ingredient sour cream or yogurt (milk, cream, cultures) instead of commercial mayonnaise (highly processed soybean oil, sugar, “natural flavors,” and other less-than-stellar ingredients). Once again, the most delicious option is the healthiest option. Neat how that works out.
Herbed Feta & Artichoke Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes about 1 1/4 cups of dip. Feel free to double or triple the recipe.
1/2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, preferably in dry strips rather than packaged in oil (because generally the oil used is highly refined oil)
1/2 cup whole-milk sour cream OR whole-milk plain Greek yogurt, preferably from grass-fed cows (I used Kalona’s lovely sour cream)
4 to 6 whole medium canned artichoke hearts, drained
2 oz. feta cheese, preferably made with goat or sheep milk
1 tsp. dried chives
1/2 tsp. dried dill
Sea salt to taste
Dippables for serving (see recipe note above for suggestions)
Place the tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for at least 15 minutes or until softened. Drain briefly and squeeze dry.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well-blended. Taste and see if you’d like to add any more artichoke hearts, feta, or herbs. Note the lovely thick texture that the whole-milk sour cream/Greek yogurt lends to the dip. No need for thickeners or stabilizers when you use whole-milk products!
Serve with your choice of dippables. Dip can be refrigerated for 4 days.
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Scones are one of my favorite baked goods to make — no shaping needed! Just drop ’em and plop ’em. And they can be sweet or savory depending on your mood. When I made this batch, for example, I had Mexican food on the brain, so I made them with corn, sour cream, lime, cilantro, and a hint of cumin. If you’d prefer a sweeter version, you could just as easily use chopped nuts instead of feta and cinnamon instead of cumin (and leave out the cilantro). Keep the lime zest if you like, or swap that out for orange or lemon zest. See what I mean about versatility?
One of the flours I used in this dough was sweet potato flour, which has a very fine texture and surprisingly assertive flavor. It’s intrinsically sweet, though, so sweet potato flour is at home in lots of doughs. (Sweet potato + chocolate brownies, anyone?) You could also use potato flour or even chestnut flour if you don’t have sweet potato flour — those come closest in terms of texture and how much liquid they absorb. Or use corn flour (not cornmeal or corn starch!) to keep the Mexican flair of these savory scones.
Corn, Lime & Cilantro Scones with Feta Cheese
Makes about 18 scones.
1 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat*
1/2 cup teff flour*
1/4 cup sweet potato flour (or see recipe notes for alternatives)
1/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup sour cream, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/2 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
5 oz. feta cheese, preferably goat’s- or sheep’s milk feta, chopped or crumbled
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
Zest of 1/2 lime
2 cups corn kernels, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup loose cilantro leaves
1 stick chilled butter, preferably from grass-fed cows
Stagger the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, then preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cumin. In a smaller bowl, whisk together all other ingredients except for the butter. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture, cutting it in until the butter looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the sour cream mixture until well-combined.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheets with a standard soup spoon (about 2 tablespoons’ worth of dough). Space them equally apart, making 3 rows of 3 each per baking sheet. Immediately pop them into the oven.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, switching the sheets between racks halfway through baking, or until scones are light brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm. Let cool on wire racks.
Leftover scones can be refrigerated for a week. (They also freeze well.) Serve them for lunch, as a side, or even for breakfast. Scones are lovely at any time of the day!
* These are gluten-free flours. To make a wheat-based version, use a total of 1 1/2 cups kamut, spelt, or whole-wheat flour.
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Zucchini-turned-into-noodles is the latest hot trend, and rightly so: it’s simple (a basic spiralizer costs about $10), it’s low-carb and therefore great for anyone who’s diabetic or doesn’t want to become diabetic (squash is darn near zero-carb, whereas pasta — especially non-whole-grain pasta — is high-carb), and it’s endlessly versatile (zucchini is so mild that it pairs with anything). I’ve written about spiralized zucchini before, but I thought I’d create another recipe starring the pretty green strands since they’re just so darn easy and fun to work with. Just sauté them gently in a skillet for a few minutes with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, and they have an amazingly noodle-like texture. You can even twirl them artistically onto your fork — those strands get long! (Actually, I sometimes snap the zucchini away from the spiralizer as I’m making the strands to shorten them a little.)
In this recipe, I’ve paired the silky, ever-so-slightly-crunchy sautéed zucchini strands with roasted mushrooms and caramelized shallots. Feel free to use any roasted veggies you like, though, or swap out onions and/or garlic for the shallots. Dust your noodles with some aged Parmesan-Reggiano, and you’re in for a treat!
Roasted Mushrooms with Caramelized Shallots & Spiralized Zucchini
Makes 4 servings.
2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, either uniformly small or mixed sizes that you’ll cut into halves or quarters
2 T. dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, sage, thyme)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed
Grated Parmesan-Reggiano for dusting
Preheat oven to 375F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Clean and trim the mushrooms. If they’re of mixed size, halve or quarter the larger mushrooms so that they’re roughly the size of the smallest mushrooms. Place in a mixing bowl and toss with the dried herbs, a pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Spread out on the baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until they’re shriveled, browned, and fragrant.
While the mushrooms roast, place the shallots in a medium skillet over medium-low heat with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft, golden brown, and fragrant. They should be done at about the same time as the mushrooms.
While the shallots caramelize, spiralize the zucchini according to the spiralizer instructions. (With basic spiralizers, you just screw the zucchini through by hand.) Place strands in a large skillet over medium-low heat with another splash of the extra-virgin olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the strands have softened and have a noodle-like texture when you pick them up.
Toss the roasted mushrooms with the caramelized shallots and the sautéed zucchini, then dust with cheese and serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated for 5 days. The best way to reheat leftover portions is to gently sauté them again until they’re warmed through.
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If you’ve ever roasted a duck, you’ve had lots of rendered duck fat after the roasting. (Plus a carcass to make into lovely stock.) Unlike fat rendered from beef or lamb, poultry drippings are mostly unsaturated, which is to say that they’re soft — almost pourably so — when refrigerated. Compared to chicken drippings, though, duck fat has slightly less polyunsaturated fat, making duck fat a better choice for making french fries thanks to duck fat’s slightly better ability to handle heat. (The more polyunsaturated fat an ingredient contains, the less heat it can tolerate before going rancid.)
Note that beef tallow is another great choice for fry-making, and it’s a far better choice for thicker foods that you want to cook at a higher heat. (Higher levels of saturated fat = better ability to handle higher heat.) But duck fat has a mildly turkey-esque flavor that will bring a touch of Thanksgiving to your fries, and it’s easier to work with straight out of the fridge than tallow is. Plus, even wedge-cut potatoes don’t take long to cook compared to, say, a steak, and medium-low heat is all they need.
Since roasting a duck yields copious amounts of drippings, you might as well make good use of them! Or pick up some rendered duck fat at a well-stocked grocery store — it ain’t just for fancy chefs anymore.
Duck Fat French Fries
Figuring on 2 potatoes per serving, scrub Yukon potatoes and cut into equal-sized wedges about 1/2″ thick at the bottom. Immediately place in a mixing bowl just big enough to hold them and cover with cold water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well, then pat dry with a paper towel.
Heat enough duck fat to cover the bottom of a skillet over medium-low heat. (Use a skillet just big enough to hold about 2 potatoes’ worth of wedges.) Arrange wedges in the skillet so that they don’t overlap. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and gently flip over each wedge. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the bottoms are turning golden brown. Flip again and cook, still uncovered, another 10 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.
Transfer wedges to a colander — preferably one that’s dishwasher-safe — and immediately sprinkle with sea salt and/or dried herbs. Serve the fries while they’re piping hot, either all on their own or with a side of homemade dip or ketchup. (I made a tomato-and-olive relish to go with mine.) Leftover fries are fantastic reheated in a toaster oven.
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