Weekend Cooking – Part 1 – Chard

I hadn’t done much cooking during the week, with dinners out and social gatherings, so I had big plans to use up a lot of ingredients on Friday night. It was to be a “cook the pantry” type of night. Then it got to be 8:30pm before I started. Why so late? Well, there was some drama in discovering that one of our cats was refusing to eat the dry food we had always fed her, so there were two trips to Petco to find alternatives. Then I was so sleepy that I tried to take a preliminary power nap. And one of the floors desperately needed to be vacuumed, and that needed to be done before too late so as not to disturb the neighbors. So, I didn’t have time to cook everything I wanted before bed. Fortunately, there was time on Saturday too!

I was facing another batch of swiss chard, so I decided to try something a little different. Why not puree it? This soup recipe was great because it also utilized parsley, which I received in the farm share at the same time it happens to be thriving in my garden. With the added tang and creaminess of lemon juice and greek yogurt and the salty zing of feta, we had a pleasant summery soup on our hands.

Chard, Herb, and Feta Soup
adapted from Bon Apetit
Serves 4

I’m not sure why the Bon Appetit recipe refers to this as a winter soup. Unless you have your own green house, the fresh herbs would be a big investment at the grocery store during the winter. I’m certain you could substitute spinach in this recipe, but there is no substitute for the fresh herbs.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
, coarsely chopped (I used about 1 C of onion I had left over)
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound Swiss chard leaves (center ribs and stems removed), coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C fresh cilantro
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C plain Greek-style yogurt

Optional garnishes:
Plain Greek-style yogurt
Mixed chopped herbs
(such as parsley, cilantro, and mint)
Feta, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft (do not brown), 7–8 minutes.

While they cook, roughly chop your herbs.
Add chard, parsley, cilantro, fresh and dried mint, nutmeg, and broth to the pan.

It might seem like there isn't enough broth...

It might seem like there isn’t enough broth…

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, less than 10 minutes.

.....and then the chard shrinks!

…..and then the chard shrinks!

Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take out your immersion blender tool and go at it. DSC_4866I like the idea of an immersion blender because it is very easy to clean compared to a food processor or blender. Yet it makes a mess with its splattering. Even with an apron, I don’t recommend wearing dry-clean only clothes with this one! Especially if you want your soup really really smooth, you could purée it in batches in a blender. Return to pan.

Place a few Tablespoons of the yogurt in a separate medium bowl. Add a ladle-full of warm soup and whisk until smooth. Repeat process twice more, using the yogurt and adding a total of 1 cup more soup.

Whisk yogurt mixture into soup in saucepan. Stir 1/4 cup herbs and about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta into soup. Season to taste with lemon juice, pepper, and salt, remembering that you will be garnishing with additional feta–and my feta at least was very salty.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with herbs and feta. Drizzle with oil, if desired. Serve with a good crusty bread, ideally.

I had almost 3 Cups of leftover swiss chard stems, which I saved from disposal and pickled using this Bon Appetit recipe as guidance. I didn’t quite double the recipe–I ended up using about 3 Cups of Sugar, 1 3/4 Cups white vinegar, 4 Tablespoons Siracha, and 3/4 tsp of celery seed. Since they are supposed to sit for a few days, I have no idea how they will turn out, but I’ll let you know!


Get Pot-lucky

Last weekend was a full weekend. On Saturday, we had a friend in town visiting so we went to a Yankees day game. On Sunday morning I was participating in the Color Run and then in the afternoon had a party to which I was expected to bring something. When we arrived home on Saturday evening, I still didn’t know what I was making.

A peek into my pantry revealed that I had some neglected sweet potatoes. I wondered about making potato salad with sweet potatoes, and with a little research I settled on this. From the time I started brainstorming to the time the salad was done was probably just 45 minutes. The parsley was in my garden and everything else was in my pantry or fridge. Score!

This salad has a lot going for it. There’s potential for substitutions, it develops flavors overnight, and it can safely sit out and be eaten at room (or outdoor) temperature. My vegetarian friends liked it, but I bet it would have been even tastier with bacon or prosciutto! (Check out this recipe for a fall or winter sweet potato dish, with prosciutto, that will knock your socks off).
Summer Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from a recipe by “NINABSLOAN” on SparkRecipes
Serves 6-8 if it is a main side dish, and many more at a potluck

1.5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams (about 2 potatoes that are on the large size)
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 C pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
to taste

Set a pot of water to boil. Peel and cube sweet potatoes.
Add potatoes to water and boil until tender but still firm. Meanwhile, prepare remaining ingredients:
Combine with drained sweet potatoes and then toss with dressing.
Chill and serve. Could it get much easier?

Even better in a festive bowl!

Even better in a festive bowl!

It’s Burger Season!

Who doesn’t love a burger?

I may be misleading you with the title of this post, because what I will be featuring is a veggie burger. But this veggie burger is one of the best I have ever tasted.

I found the burger on Pinterest, drawn to this picture:

The author described the original burger, which was discovered at a well-known vegetarian restaurant, as quite burger-like, vegetarian or not!

I’m particularly proud of how my version turned out because I truly improvised on this one. The recipe called for approximately one onion. We all know that onions vary widely in size, so that kind of recipe instruction bothers me. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but a lot of times new or hesitant cooks would appreciate more precision. To represent that onion in this recipe, I used about 3/4 of a cup of “stuff”: a little bit of yellow onion, a little bit of leftover chopped red onion I had (from a recipe that actually stipulated the number of tablespoons), and—-chopped swiss chard stems! Swiss chard came in my share last week and I had yet to fully utilize it. I used a few leaves as a substitute for spinach in a blue cheese, sundried tomato, and greens sourdough bread I made in the bread maker the day before, and I saved the stems.
If you’re not familiar with swiss chard, I would say that it has more of an earthy flavor than other greens. I’m sure it has some similarities with beet greens (which could also be used here, if you have beets with the full tops!).

Beet and Bean Burgers
Adapted from theKitchn’s recipe inspired by the veggie burgers at Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio
makes about 4 medium burgers

1/4 cup brown rice (doubled if you like more rice-they say it makes a crispier burger)
3/4 cup of some combination of onion (red, yellow, white, or even green) and swiss chard stem, diced small
About 8 ounces of beets, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced (to taste…at least 2 tsp for me)
1 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 can black beans (about 3/4 cup), drained and rinsed
1/2 juice from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
, minced
2+ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste

cheese (optional) – provolone, monterey jack, or cheddar

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a handful of salt and the rice, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice until it is no longer al dente. You want it a little over-cooked. This will take at least 40 minutes, depending on your rice. Drain the rice and set it aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and swiss chard mixture, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onions are translucent and softened.


So pretty!

Stir in the beets. Cover the pot and cook until the beets are completely tender, stirring occasionally. Give it at least five minutes and then taste for tenderness.
Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan using the cider vinegar.

Empty the black beans into a large bowl and use a fork to mash them up a bit. Add the cooked rice, the beet and onion mixture, the lemon juice, the olive oil, and all the spices. Stir to combine.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir. I needed to add a little extra flour for keeping the mix together, and it still fell apart a bit. Reviewers on the recipe’s webpage mentioned using rolled oats as a binder as well.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat until it flows easily and shimmers.

Using your hands, form about a cup of the burger mixture into a patty between your palms. (Get ready to have horror-flick gory hands). Set it in the hot pan. Continue shaping and adding as many patties are you are making at one time and add to pan as they fit. Reduce heat.


What’s wrong with this picture? Answer: not enough oil in the pan.

Note: the recipe says that the burgers are best eaten immediately. The mix can be kept in the fridge for a few days if you want to save it and make additional burgers at another time. I formed a few burgers and stuck them in the freezer–I’ll let you know if they hold up.

Cook the patties for 2 minutes, working to get a nice crust, then flip to the other side. If you’re adding cheese, lay a slice over the burgers now. Cook the second side for another 2 minutes.

Serve the veggie burgers on a toasted english muffin, burger buns or sandwich bread.

Seriously, this was so delicious.

Seriously, this was so delicious.

OK, OK, I know you want to see some meat. Here’s the burger I consumed at a friend’s house a few days later, made by our own Chef Chris Davila:


The picture is blurry, but I’m sure you can see how it was cooked wonderfully medium rare.

He ground his own beef and used a combination of short ribs, sirloin, and flank steak. The recipe was from Saveur magazine’s June/July 2013 issue: Ultimate Grilled Cheeseburger. Special sauce and all.

DSC_4770And the spread:

Happy burger season!


A vegetable melee


This week’s CSA share

I came across the book Dinner: A Love Story last year when it was on display at my library as a new release. I loved the book’s story of the woman’s life and relationship with her husband and children described in the context of the different meals they cooked and ate, going from entertaining friends to surviving picky kids. While reading it, Jenny Rosenstrach kind of became my idol–I wanted to be like her and for my husband to be like hers, meaning that we would email back and forth to decide what to cook for dinner every day and then rush to make a commuter train that would allow time for making it. But my Matt will never love cooking as much as her Andy, and I’m OK with that. I’ll take his moderate interest in cooking and general willingness to try new things (as long as they don’t involve raw fruits, other than tomatoes and avocados).

I guess I didn’t realize that she maintained a current blog until this week, when it came up in my search results for escarole recipes. In this post, she shared my sentiments exactly. I don’t need to say anything more. I made her recipe almost exactly–I pared it down somewhat for using 1/2 of the block of tofu, and it still used almost the entire package of wontons. As that was more than my friend Kristen and I needed in one sitting, I froze some of the uncooked dumplings, like she said.

Getting ready to execute two tofu-eriffic recipes.

Getting ready to execute two tofu-eriffic recipes.

Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Adapted from Dinner a Love Story

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
Dash of sesame oil
3 scallions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 tsp Chinese Five Spice
a shake of red pepper flakes
3/4 a large bunch fresh escarole greens, chopped (or any other greens you don’t like)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed and drained on paper towels for about 15 minutes, and sliced into rectangles)
a few chives, supplemented by a few extra scallions, roughly chopped
a few tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
Squeeze of lime
1 12-ounce pack of wonton wrappers

Add the oils to a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the scallions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Chinese Five Spice for about 2 minutes. Add greens and cook for a minute or two until all leaves are slightly wilted.

Transfer the filling to the bowl of a large food processor. Add remaining ingredients (except wrappers) and pulse until everything is roughly chopped.

Get ready to wrap: Set up a small bowl of water, the filling, your wontons, and a platter of some kind for transferring over to the frying pan.

Dip your fingers in the water and drag around the edges of a wonton. Spoon a small amount of the filling into the center of each wonton.

Putting Kristen to work.

Putting Kristen to work.

Fold in half to make a triangle shape. Pinch all sides together; smush their centers slightly so they’ll lay flat in the frying pan–we forgot this step and it made for some rawer wonton edges.

Once all the dumplings are assembled (or, once a few are and you are too hungry to wait any longer) add a tablespoon vegetable oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Fry in batches adding more oil as needed, until dumplings are crispy and golden, about 2 minutes on each side.

Chow down.

Chow down.

Serve with soy sauce.

I happen to pick out another recipe this week that had similar ingredients. I halved the recipe so I could get away with the one block of tofu total for both.

Three-Herb and Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Soy-Honey Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Tasting Table Test Kitchen Recipe
Serves 2

1/2 one 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu, drained
2 scallions, ends removed and white and green parts thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grapeseed or canola oil, divided if necessary
a couple of garlic cloves, to taste (we did 2) finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger (about 1 tablespoon), peeled and grated or finely shopped (this is easiest to do from frozen)
1/2 jalapeño chile, seeds scraped according to your spice toleration, and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
most of the juice from ½ lime

4 separated whole leaves from Boston, Bibb or Butter lettuce
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai basil)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tablespoons peanuts,
roughly chopped

Dipping Sauce:
3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoons mirin rice wine
(Chinese cooking wine)
1/4 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce


Slice tofu horizontally into a few rectangles so that it can drain thoroughly on 3 layers of paper towels (or a kitchen towel). Press with additional paper towels (or a kitchen towel).

Crumble the tofu into a colander and use more paper towels (or a kitchen towel) to press the tofu, extracting even more liquid, until the tofu is finely crumbled and feels fairly dry. Add the sliced scallions to the tofu and toss to combine.

Prepare large nonstick skillet, set over medium-high heat with oil. For this recipe, all of the tofu will fit in one layer in a large nonstick skillet–if doing the full recipe or with a smaller skillet, cook the tofu-scallion mixture in batches.

Cook without stirring until the tofu is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until the tofu browns a little more. The tofu and scallions take on a very unique crunch texture.

With all of the cooked tofu in the skillet, make a well in the center add the garlic, ginger, jalapeño and salt.



Once the mixture starts to sizzle, after about 10 seconds, stir it into the surrounding tofu and cook until the tofu mixture is fragrant, stirring often, for about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture into a medium bowl, stir in the lime juice and set aside.

Make the dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, honey, mirin and chile-garlic sauce. Adjust to taste for more spice or more sweet.

Assemble the wraps: Set two lettuce leaves on each plate. Divide basil, cilantro and mint leaves among lettuce leaves, topping with sautéed tofu and peanuts, and drizzle sauce over the top.

Messy and delicious.

Make it quick and make it quality

Last week I let someone else do the meal planning for me. I complained that the recipes were a bit of a hassle, and the dishes didn’t even come out that well. But the result was a balanced plate of food. This week, I challenged myself to plan a satisfying meal that would come together fairly quickly. And I would do the shopping myself.

As you should know this is not my strength: I often end up spending more than an hour, somehow, bringing together a single dish. Yet the April issue of Cooking Light was jam-packed with recipes for 80 meals under 40 minutes, and I was inspired (not so inspired that I could resist substituting in a recipe that I know would add to my clock time…but at least I acknowledge my silly ways). The meal was assembled in one hour, with only a little grilling help from my husband. So here it is! Protein (yes, fish again), vegetable and starch.

Grilled Sea Bass with Tarragon Beurre Blanc
Raw Shaved Asparagus With Lemon Dressing
Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Potatoes


Game plan: Prepare the potatoes and garlic; preheat the oven. If you’re going to use this ambitious asparagus recipe (simpler alternative from CL: Asparagus with Lemon and Pecorino), start shaving the stalks and do about half before you put the potatoes in the oven. Finish shaving the asparagus, then preheat the grill/grill pan for the fish. Make the sauce while grilling the fish.

Raw Shaved Asparagus With Lemon Dressing
Adapted from Jonathan Waxman’s recipe in his cookbook Italian, My Way
DSC_4533Check out my signed copy! ———->
Serves: 4 to 6

¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
1-1 1/2 pound asparagus, ideally from a local farm
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 5–8 minutes in a preheated 350° oven; cool and then crush in a towel using a rolling pin (which helps remove the skins).

Wash and snap the asparagus spears at their base, setting bases aside for another use. Upend a small bowl, place a spear on the flat bottom and, using a vegetable peeler, gently shave long thin slices.
Eventually, I discovered that it was easier to do my first shaves with the asparagus pressed flat against the cutting board. Once it got thinned, I moved to the bowl. Be patient and forgive yourself if you can’t get all long, perfectly thick slices.

In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice with the olive oil and add sea salt and black pepper. When the rest of the meal is ready, toss the dressing with the hazelnuts and asparagus. Serve with Parmesan sprinkled around.

Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: 2

several large garlic cloves
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

14 ounces baby potatoes
1-2 small thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1/4 teaspoon kosher or ground sea salt, divided (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, if you have it

Preheat oven to 450°. If the potatoes are larger than fingerling potatoes, cut in halves or quarters. Smaller potatoes can be kept whole, but medium sized ones benefit from more surface area for crisping!

Place unpeeled garlic cloves, olive oil, potatoes, thyme sprigs, and rosemary sprigs in a large bowl; toss to coat. Arrange potato mixture on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Bake at 425-450° for 25 minutes, stirring halfway and then checking for doneness toward the end of cooking time. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of their skin and return to potato mixture. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and parsley.

Grilled Sea Bass with Tarragon Beurre Blanc
Adapted from Cooking Light again
Serves: 2

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 large tarragon sprig
1.5 tablespoons butter
, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

2 (6-ounce) meaty white fish fillets, without skin — The recipe suggested halibut, but my grocery store didn’t have it. It also said cod or tilapia could be substituted (and would save money), but I couldn’t imagine how those would stand up so well to grilling, which I had my mind set on. The meatiest looking fish they had was the sea bass.
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat; strain through a fine sieve over a measuring cup, pressing mixture with the back of a spoon or spatula to release liquid.
Discard solids. Return liquid to pan. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, stirring with a whisk until butter is incorporated. Stir in tarragon.


Even at $19.95 a pound, I ended with a piece with a bunch of bones. Grrr.

Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and ground pepper. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Note: grill pans are great, but ours can be a beast to clean up. That’s why I like about the outdoor grill. It either doesn’t need cleaning…or maybe the grill fairy takes care of it?

Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with sauce.


There it is–the makings of a great meal!


Last week, I took on the challenge of poaching eggs thanks to inspiration from a Tasting Table recipe found here. My previous attempts have not been impressive–I tend to lose a lot of the egg white. However, I liked the sound of this recipe and had most ingredients on hand. (To be fair, I substituted quinoa for bulgur and panko for breadcrumbs. I also left out curry leaves and ended up leaving my chile behind at the checkout of the grocery store. It was so tiny I didn’t even see it roll down the belt! I substituted a little green chile hot sauce I had in my pantry as a souvenir gift from Mexico from my sister-in-law. It still turned out great.) As for the poaching, well, check out the photo on the recipe page — my egg actually looked a lot like that!)
The item I did buy was parsley, for the parsley stems that flavored the poaching water.
Using up fresh herbs is tough. I ended up having both cilantro and parsley on hand, which fortunately triggered the memory of a chimichurri sauce and one of my favorite and easiest Cooking Light recipes.

Argentine Black Bean Pizza with Chimichurri Drizzle

Adapted from Cooking Light and myrecipes.com

1 of your favorite store-bought pizza doughs, or dough from your favorite pizza dough recipe

1 red bell pepper, or previously roasted red peppers in jar if you have

Black Bean Spread (recipe uses only a portion of this):
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 (15-ounce) can 50%-less-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can organic fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green
chiles, undrained (such as Muir Glen), or whatever chunky tomato product you have on hand plus something to add heat.  During the summer, I grew a jalapeño plant next to my tomatoes, so I did once attempt to duplicate this with fresh ingredients. The depth added with the fire-roasted version is nice though.

Preheat the oven to 450°, preferably with pizza stone inside.

If you are roasting a fresh pepper, cut in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Turn oven to broil and set timer for 10 minutes. Watch pepper closely until blackened (I say “watch closely” because in my house, broiling=smoke detecter goes off, even if I swear there’s no smoke or fire!). Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and cut into 16 strips. Set aside.

Combine ingredients for Black Bean Spread in blender or food processor and process until smooth.

Roll dough into the size and shape of your pizza stone or baking dish and to desired thinness. Place dough in 450° oven to pre-bake for approximately 7 minutes.  Remove from oven. Spread Black Bean Spread thickly over dough. Sprinkle with:

1-2 ounces finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese, enough to cover Black Bean Spread in a thin layer.

Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.


1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you could substitute lime juice!)
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Combine chimichurri ingredients in a small bowl.  When pizza is done and cooled slightly, drizzle mixture over.  Cut into pieces and garnish each slice with strips of red bell pepper.

Then, with remaining herb leftovers, I took advice I found online for freezing cubes in olive oil.  I also read some people using chicken broth or water.  The oil combination makes sense to me though, since I have already been freezing batches of fresh basil pesto for years. This was just whole leaves. What also makes this great is that olive oil and herbs are the start for another chimichurrri!

Any ideas for the leftover Black Bean Spread, besides eating it with tortilla chips?