In American cuisine, “bolognese” is a bit of a catch-all term in the sense that it’s a marinara sauce (tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil) with some kind of meat added (beef, pork, or lamb). Traditional Bolognese is usually smooth since it’s made with tomato sauce and/or paste, but I’m the kind of person to choose chunky PB over creamy PB, so for my version, I used diced tomatoes and made a chunky rather than smooth sauce. That seemed to be a better fit with the sliced mushrooms and chopped olives, too.
Because my herb garden is tenaciously clinging to life despite fall being firmly entrenched, I added fresh herbs rather than their dried counterparts. The latter works, too, but I do think fresh herbs add a certain zing that dried ones don’t. (Probably has to do with their volatile oils being more present when herbs have just been harvested.) If you have fresh herbs on hand, by all means, use them, especially since outdoor herb gardens won’t be around much longer in the Midwest. Might as well tuck those herbs into a freezable sauce like this one!
I tossed the sauce with pasta, but this amped-up version of bolognese would be fantastic with chicken or beef, or you could layer it with noodles and cheese to make a hearty lasagna. Add it to scrambled eggs for an Italian version of huevos rancheros (uova rusticos, perhaps). Want a meaty quick soup? Add chicken broth. In short, the possibilities are endless.
Lamb Bolognese with Mushrooms & Olives
Makes enough sauce for 8 servings of pasta.
1 lb. cremini OR button mushrooms, sliced
1 Spanish onion, choppped
1 lb. ground lamb, preferably pastured
5 cloves garlic, chopped
6 oz. chopped pitted olives (choose whatever olives are your favorite)
28 oz. diced tomatoes
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped*
20 fresh basil leaves, chopped*
4 sprigs oregano, chopped*
4 sprigs thyme, chopped*
1 sprig rosemary, chopped*
In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms with a generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat for at least 15 minutes or until they’re started to seriously shrink in size. Stir in the onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the onions are turning translucent and fragrant and the mushrooms are half their original size. (Mushrooms are nearly 80% water, so cooking them over medium/low heat for 20 minutes or more greatly enhances their flavor.)
Stir in the lamb and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to break up the lamb, or until the lamb is opaque and cooked through. Add the olives, tomatoes, and herbs. Let simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.
Serve sauce with freshly cooked pasta and a sprinkling of Parmesan, or try topping the chunky sauce with a poached egg. (Or see recipe header for more serving suggestions.) Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 2 months.
* If you’d rather use dried herbs, substitute 2 T. dried herbs for the fresh herbs. Taste the sauce as it simmers to see if you’d like to add another tablespoon of the dried herbs.
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Although I love using citrus in recipes — the zest, the juice, whole segments — I had never thought of boiling the entire citrus fruit and then pureeing it (minus the seeds) so that I could use the entire fruit. I recently came across a recipe that called for boiling 1 1/2 pounds of blood oranges, then putting them through a food processor and stirring the resulting marmalade-like oranges into cake batter. What an interesting idea! Not surprisingly, the cake was heavy-crumbed, but it was delicious and incredibly citrusy.
That cake batter got me pondering other ways to use boiled-and-pureed citrus. Finally I hit on the idea of combining citrus with coconut milk and a dash of maple syrup to make ice cream. Although boiling the citrus takes about 30 minutes, it’s mostly hands-off, and after they’ve cooled, it’s easy enough to quarter the oranges, flick out the seeds, and puree them. The coconut milk provides a creamy, rich backdrop and keeps the citrus at a happy level.
Assuming that you have an ice cream maker, this three-ingredient recipe is a snap … and it’s just about the most citrusy thing you’ll ever taste. The high zest-to-spoonful ratio makes for a uniquely refreshing ice cream experience!
Blood Orange Coconut Ice Cream
Makes about 3 cups.
2 blood oranges
15 oz. whole coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
Wash the blood oranges and place in a medium pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally turning the oranges over (although they’ll probably bob about on their own). Remove from water and let cool.
When the oranges are cool enough to comfortably handle, quarter them and use the tip of a knife to flick away any seeds. Trim away the stem ends. Place oranges in a food processor and process until you have a marmalade-like texture. (You’ll have about 1 cup of pureed oranges.) Scoop into a large mixing bowl.
Add the coconut milk and the maple syrup to the oranges and whisk thoroughly. Taste to see if you’d like to add any more maple, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Freeze the churned ice cream in as small a container as you have — headroom will make the ice cream crystallize all the more quickly, and you don’t want that. If I know I’m not going to serve all of the ice cream at once, I like to freeze it in several small containers to minimize air space at the top. Try to eat your homemade ice cream within a week or two. You might want to leave it at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving so that it has a fluffy, tongue-pleasing texture.
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There’s a strange fluffy white substance I call the Dubious Dip. You see it sold in supermarkets sometimes, and it’s supposed to be served with fruit. What’s in it? I have no idea, although I’m guessing it isn’t nearly as simple or as unprocessed as this dip (considering that this dip is simply mascarpone, yogurt, vanilla, and maple syrup). Fortunately, as you can see by that parenthetical list of ingredients, you can make your own fluffy and creamy fruit dip in a matter of minutes. Even better, this dip doubles as frosting, or you can use it to top waffles and pancakes — think of it as a seasoned butter. Want something savory instead? Swap out the maple and vanilla for herbs and a pinch of sea salt. Mascarpone is for more than just tiramisu!
Figs with Mascarpone & Yogurt Cream
Add equal parts mascarpone cheese and plain whole-milk Greek yogurt to a bowl. For every 1/2 cup each of the mascarpone and yogurt, add 2 teaspoons maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir well. Taste to see if you’d like to add more maple or vanilla. Refrigerate until needed.
I served this with quartered fresh figs and toasted hazelnuts. (To toast hazelnuts, coarsely chop them, then place in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast, stirring occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes or until hazelnuts are fragrant and turning golden brown. Promptly remove to a cool plate.)
As a finishing touch, I dusted the cream with cinnamon. Leftover cream can be refrigerated for 4 days.
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Looking for a way to tweak a tuna pasta salad? Try using wild salmon instead! It’s has a milder flavor than tuna, actually, and wild salmon offers even more anti-inflammatory omega-3s. I also included greens in the form of chard — another anti-inflammatory ingredient — and grass-fed goat Cheddar that tasted amazingly like feta despite being from England, not Greece. But you can use any grass-fed type of cheese you’d like. Ditto for the chickpeas: feel free to swap them out for navy beans or Great White Northern beans. And raid your garden or the nearest produce store for whatever veggies you’d like to include! The more, the merrier.
Wild Salmon Pasta Salad with Chickpeas
Makes 4 servings.
4 servings whole-grain pasta of your choice (be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you’re making a gluten-free dish!)
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large leaves of Swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
15 oz. chickpeas, drained well
6 oz. canned wild salmon
1/4 of an English cucumber, chopped (if you like, seed and/or peel it)
Double handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. dill
Pinch sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Feta for serving, preferably made with sheep or goat milk
Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
While the pasta cooks, cook the pepper in a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes or until the pepper starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is starting to turn golden brown. Add the chard and cook another 1 or 2 minutes or until chard has wilted. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients except for the feta and toss well. Add the drained pasta and toss again. Taste to see if you’d like to add any more lemon juice, vinegar, dill, or salt, bearing in mind that feta is fairly salty. You may wish to drizzle in some extra-virgin olive oil, too. Serve topped with feta.
Pasta salads are always best served immediately, but you can refrigerate this for up to 4 days — just let it come to room temp before serving so that the texture of the pasta will be more toothsome.
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Tags: anti-inflammatory, balsamic vinegar, chickpeas, cucumber, dill, extra-virgin olive oil, feta, garlic, gluten-free, lemon, pasta salad, pepper, quick meal, Swiss chard, tomatoes, whole grain, wild salmon
Who doesn’t like guacamole? It’s a classic for a reason. I thought I’d try making it with a twist — instead of fresh tomatoes and onions, I stirred in roasted tomatoes and onions (and added roasted peppers for good measure). I still included my other “standard” ingredients: cilantro, lemon juice, sautéed garlic, and cumin. Maybe next time I’ll try roasting the garlic, too!
Making guacamole with roasted rather than fresh veggies gives it a more mellow, sweeter flavor … which was perfect paired with these homemade chili corn chips. Why buy corn chips with a dubiously long list of ingredients when you can fry 100% stone-ground corn tortillas in bacon grease or ghee and then sprinkle it with chili powder? (Or any other herb or spice you’d like.) Corn chips are a snap to make yourself, and DIY versions taste much fresher than store-bought varieties. Along with chili powder, Ethiopian berbere makes a great chip seasoning, although I wouldn’t serve the latter with guacamole. (I would serve it with hummus, though!) But no matter which seasonings you choose, the technique is the same.
Roasted Guacamole with Homemade Chili Corn Chips
To make the guacamole, smash the flesh of 1 pitted avocado in a medium bowl. Stir in a handful of chopped cilantro leaves, the juice from about 1/4 of a fresh lemon (or 1/2 of a lime), 1 teaspoon cumin, and either 1 raw clove of minced garlic or 3 sautéed cloves of minced garlic. For every avocado you use, include 1/2 of a roasted bell pepper (remove the stem and seeds, then cut the pepper into 8 slices before roasting it), 1 small roasted onion (cut it into slices before roasting it), and 2 campari or Roma roasted tomatoes (cut them in half before roasting them). Coarsely chop the roasted veggies before adding them to the guacamole, then stir in a pinch of sea salt. Taste and see if you’d like to add more salt, lemon juice, or cumin.
To make the chips, melt about 1 teaspoon of ghee or bacon grease in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add a 100% stone-ground corn tortilla and use tongs to press it gently into the ghee/bacon grease. Flip over and press the other side into the ghee/bacon grease, then let cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the tortilla is starting to brown on the bottom. Flip it over and cook the second side until that’s also turning golden brown. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with chili powder. After a minute or two, it should be cool enough to touch; if you like, break the tortilla into bite-sized chips.
Serve guacamole and chips immediately. Leftover guacamole can be refrigerated for 3 days if you carefully cover the surface with plastic wrap so that no air gets to it and causes the avocado to brown. If you do get any browning, just scrape off that thin top layer.
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When you think of Italian food, you probably think of pasta, pizza, and breadsticks. But why not use those as inspirations for creating something far more portable and distinctly American? I’m talking muffins. They’re compact, easy to make, and when they’re savory rather than sweet, you can enjoy them as a stand-alone breakfast or serve them as an alternative to rolls.
These muffins are particularly nice when you cut them in half and toast them, then drizzle on a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. I included cornmeal in the flour mix, so toasting the muffins gives them a little bit of that just-out-of-the-oven warm cornbread flavor … except that cornbread doesn’t typically include prosciutto and Parmesan! If you use imported prosciutto di Parma, your muffins will have an even more savory flavor. Ditto for imported Parmesan-Reggiano, which has a deeper, more nutty flavor than domestic Parmesan.
Prosciutto & Parmesan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
1 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, preferably not packed in oil
2 oz. prosciutto, preferably imported prosciutto di Parma
1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat
1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, preferably imported Parmesan-Reggiano
2 T. dried Italian herbs (which is a combination of basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram; you can blend your own and use 2 T. of your house blend)
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 stick butter, preferably from grass-fed cows (grass-fed butter is soft enough to cream right out of the fridge)
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 3/4 cups whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place them in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and let soften while you make the batter.
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with parchment paper cups. (Parchment paper = zero crumb loss when you pull the paper away from the muffins!) If you have any batter left over, you can line 2 ceramic custard cups with cups and nestle those into the oven with the tray — I had enough batter to make 14 muffins.
Place the prosciutto in a large skillet (it’s best not to overlap the slices) over medium-low heat and fry for a few minutes or until the prosciutto is crisp and golden. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, Parmesan, herbs, baking powder, and salt. Crumble the cooled prosciutto and whisk into the flour mix.
In a large bowl, cream the butter for a minute or two or until it’s fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each for at least 30 seconds. Put the tomatoes into a fine-meshed colander to let them briefly drain.
Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and eggs, beating in half of the mixture and then beating in half of the milk. Repeat with remaining flour mix and milk, adding the drained tomatoes when you add the rest of the milk. Scoop the batter into the waiting cups and promptly pop the muffins into the oven.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until the muffins are starting to turn golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm. Let muffins cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove muffins from the tray and let them finish cooling on the rack. Muffins can be refrigerated for a week. (It’s best to refrigerate them since the tomatoes and cheese will mold easily in a warm or humid environment.)
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When it comes to onions, one can be quite different from another. There are storage onions and fresh onions, sweet onions and savory onions, mild onions and hot onions. The terms “storage” and “fresh” refer to how perishable the onion is — papery bulb onions can be stored for weeks if not months, but sprouting green onions, leeks, and chives should ideally be eaten within a day or two of being picked. Sweet onions are of course sweet-tasting, while savory onions have that signature pungent scent and flavor we associate with onions. (Savory onions will also make you tear up much more than sweet onions will.) The mild/medium/hot designation refers to the sharpness of that pungency. Sweet onions and most fresh onions fall into the “mild” category, while savory onions range from medium to hot depending on how much sulfur they contain.
Interestingly, savory onions contain more natural sugar than sweet onions do, but their savory nature means that they have more sulfur. More sulfur = more of an onion flavor, and that onion flavor drowns out the natural sugars, making high-sulfur savory onions taste a lot less sugary than low-sulfur sweet onions that actually contain less natural sugar.
Those higher levels of sulfur provide more flavor when savory onions are roasted, and their higher levels of sugar mean they caramelize more. What a perfect combo! These roasted crispy onions are simultaneously deeply onion-flavored and a little bit sweet. Even better news? Savory onions — commonly labeled “cooking onions” — are also the least expensive of the onion family. Win-win!
Crispy Onion & Spiced Chickpea Salad
Makes 2 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled.
15 oz. chickpeas, drained
3 large cooking onions, sliced (which are medium in size compared to varieties like Spanish or red onions)
4 slender carrots, preferably organic and unscrubbed — just trim off the ends
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning
Double handful of mixed baby greens
About 16 small basil leaves
Double handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 T. red wine vinegar OR apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the drained chickpeas in a large skillet (they should fit in a single layer) and add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes or until the chickpeas are turning golden brown, stirring them occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt towards the end of the cooking time.
Meanwhile, place the sliced onions in a large mixing bowl. Cut each carrot into 2 or 3 pieces and cut any particularly thick piece in half. Add to the onions. Toss the onions and carrots with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the onions are turning dark brown. (The roasting time will depend on how thinly you sliced the onions.)
Toss the sauteed chickpeas with the greens, basil, cherry tomatoes, and vinegar. Add about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and toss well again. Serve each portion of salad topped with the crispy onions and roasted carrots. This dish is best eaten promptly.
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Tags: apple cider vinegar, basil, carrot, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, crispy chickpeas, crispy onions, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh onions, green onions, lettuce, quick meal, red wine vinegar, roasted onions, roasted vegetables, salad, savory onions, storage onions, sweet onions
Fish sauce is a time-honored ingredient that’s huge in Asia and almost unknown in the US … although unbeknownst to them, Americans do relish anchovies in staples like Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Those include salted anchovies, though, rather than the fermented anchovies used in Thai- and Vietnamese-style fish sauce. (Or ancient-Roman-style garum.) Either way, the salted/fermented fish provides a deep umami backdrop to everything from sauces to stir-frys.
Fair warning: unlike Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce is quite aromatic — if you’re not used to it, you might assume it’s gone bad. But if the sauce hasn’t exceeded its expiration date and has been stored in a cool, dark cupboard, it’s good to go. First-time cooks may simply wish to use a bit less fish sauce than what might be called for in a Southeast Asian recipe. Also, keep in mind that the aroma dissipates as the fish sauce cooks, transforming it from an overpowering ingredient to an integral ingredient that creates a nuanced sauce when paired with bright, acidic ingredients like lime juice and rice wine vinegar. For this sauce, I added garlic, ginger, and tamari to round out the balance of flavors.
Wild Halibut with Lime-Ginger Sauce
Makes 4 servings (the sauce is about 1/3 cup).
For the sauce:
Juice of 2 limes
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. gluten-free tamari (or use regular soy sauce if you’re not making a gluten-free dish)
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
For the halibut:
Coconut oil for cooking
1 1/2 lbs. wild Alaskan halibut, rinsed with cold water and patted dry
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
To make the sauce, place all ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt a generous spoonful of coconut oil. Add the fish with the skin side facing up. (You may need to cut the halibut into smaller filets to fit into your pan.) Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the halibut is opaque halfway up. Using a large spatula — or two spatulas, if you like — flip each filet over.
Re-cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the fish is opaque all the way through and the thickest filet flakes cleanly in the middle when you gently insert a fork and twist it. If you want to remove the skin before serving the fish, transfer the filets to a clean plate, turn upside down, and work the edge of knife underneath the skin. Peel away and discard.
Serve the filets with a drizzle of sauce and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Leftover halibut can be refrigerated for a day.
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Chocolate, how do we love thee? I admit that chocolate is one of my favorite things to post about, but I don’t think I’m alone in my love for chocolate. This cake in particular represents the depth of my feelings: it has 85% chocolate, cocoa nibs, and cocoa powder. And to complement the chocolate, I included coffee and whole milk, which adds lightness to the batter along with an undertone of flavor. Using maple syrup rather than a granulated sweetener is another way to make cake fluffier and tastier.
As I found out, stirring the juice of half of a lemon into whole milk and then whisking a pinch of baking soda into the flour results in more lift than using baking powder alone. (Baking powder already has acid in it so that it reacts with just a liquid; baking soda needs an acidic liquid to react.) I can only guess that’s because the action of baking soda + fresh lemon juice is more powerful than baking powder. Yet another handy technique for gluten-free bakers. No matter the reason, you can use both, too, and enjoy your own airy triple-chocolate heaven!
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan.
3.5 oz. 85% dark chocolate (this is for serious chocolate lovers)
3/4 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat, OR brown rice OR sorghum flour*
1/2 cup cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched (also called “natural”; this has a deeper, more chocolaty flavor than Dutch-processed cocoa)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup toasted cocoa nibs
2/3 cup cold-brewed coffee
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 stick butter at room temp, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8″x 8″ glass pan. I like to use my butter wrappers to grease my pans.
Snap the chocolate into pieces and place in a small pot over the lowest heat setting on your stove. Let melt, stirring occasionally, while you start making the batter. Remove chocolate from stove when it still has a few lumps and swirl to finish melting them.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and lemon juice. Let stand while you whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, salt, and nibs in another bowl. Add the coffee, vanilla, and maple syrup to the milk and whisk again.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for at least a minute, until it’s fluffy. You’ll notice that butter made with cream from grass-fed cows will be soft after only being at room temp for a few minutes, and it will cream beautifully. (That’s because it has less saturated fat because the cows are exercising and eating what they’ve evolved to eat, and saturated fat gets stiff when refrigerated. Less saturated fat = softer butter.) Beat in the eggs, then beat in the melted chocolate. Beat in the milk and flour mixtures, beating in half of one and then half of the other and then repeating.
Pour batter into the waiting pan and get in the oven pronto — that baking soda + lemon juice will start doing its thing immediately! Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and warm.
Let cake cool on a wire rack before cutting into it. If you like, garnish with additional cocoa nibs when serving. Leftover cake can be kept at room temp for a week, although if it’s hot in your house, you might want to refrigerate it for that week.
* Buckwheat has a lower glycemic impact than brown rice or sorghum, which is to say it won’t cause blood sugar levels to rise as much.
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Tags: 85% dark chocolate, buckwheat flour, butter, chocolate cake, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, cold-brewed coffee, eggs, gluten-free, lemon juice, low-glycemic, maple syrup, milk, natural sweeteners, vanilla, whole grain