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Winter Olympics Party Ideas

Winter Olympics Party Ideas

For as long as I can remember, every two years I have been glued to the television during the Olympics. I love the drama and the earnestness. I love the feel-good stories of underdogs and athletes who work their whole careers for this one moment. Add […]

Holiday Chocolate Barks

Holiday Chocolate Barks

I love chocolate, especially good quality dark chocolate. Motivated by a selfish desire to have some fun chocolate around the house this winter, I made chocolate bark as gifts for some of our co-workers and relatives. You can put almost anything on a bark. We […]

Chickpea Vegetable Pasta Soup

Chickpea Vegetable Pasta Soup

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are getting back into the swing of things with some healthier, veggie filled dinners. Growing up, one of my favorite meals my Mom made was Chickpea Pasta Soup. The soup of my childhood was pretty simple: butter, onion, garlic, thyme, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, shell pasta, and chicken broth.

Last year one of my favorite food blogs, Love & Lemons, posted a Chickpea and Cauliflower Tomato Stew that looked remarkably similar to the Chickpea Pasta Soup of my childhood but with way more veggies! I immediately got to work combining the two recipes into today’s Chickpea Vegetable Pasta Soup.

This soup has simple flavors, maintaining the base of butter, onion, garlic, and thyme of my childhood, but has been beefed up with lots of veggies to make it more interesting and filling. It is great with crusty bread on the side for dipping and is a perfect meal for a cold winter night.

I really think the butter adds a ton of flavor to this soup. And two tablespoons for four (or sometimes a little more) servings is really not that much. But, if you are butter averse, you can use olive oil or a vegan butter substitute instead.

We always had this soup with grated Parmesan cheese on top when we were kids so I still serve it that way. However, Will doesn’t like how the cheese gets stuck to his spoon. So you can decide whether you are pro cheese or not.

We start by sautéing the chopped onion, carrot, thyme, salt, and pepper over medium heat in butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the kale stems (they cook longer than the leaves), cauliflower, and garlic.

Separate the kale leaves and stems because they require different cooking times.

Sauté for 2 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes. Simmer the soup for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A tip on tomatoes: my Mom used to say that buying cans of whole plum tomatoes and chopping them yourself comes out much better than buying cans of chopped tomatoes, and I have to agree. I fish the whole tomatoes out of the can, chop them up, and then dump the chopped tomatoes and all of the juice form the can and cutting board into the soup.

Whole canned tomatoes, chopped.

For some reason those pre-chopped tomatoes don’t break down much and stay in cube form. Chopping them yourself will cause them to breakdown more and incorporate into the soup.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. Air on the side of al dente, since you’ll be adding the pasta to the hot soup after cooking. Once the pasta is done, drain and save until you are ready. Cooking the pasta separately from the soup will make sure the pasta is cooked correctly.

Back to the soup, which has simmered for 8 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth and chickpeas. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

At this point the veggies, especially the cauliflower, should be cooked through and tender. Add the kale leaves and cook until wilted and incorporated, just a minute or two.

Add the pasta and warm for a minute. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and/or crusty bread.

Pasta is added and soup is ready to serve.

 

Final soup, topped with Parmesan cheese.

 

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Chickpea Vegetable Pasta Soup

This soup has simple flavors, letting the vegetables and chickpeas shine. I think the butter adds a ton of flavor to this soup. And two tablespoons for four (or sometimes a little more) servings is really not that much. But, if you are butter averse, you can use olive oil or a vegan butter substitute instead. Served with crusty bread and it is a perfect meal for a cold winter night.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author the brave radish

Ingredients

  • 2 tbls butter
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 4 leaves of kale stems chopped and leaves torn
  • 2-3 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or crushed
  • 16 oz can of whole tomatoes chopped
  • 16 oz can chickpeas or about 2 cups if cooking your own drained
  • ½ cup small pasta, I used small shells cooked al dente
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Start a medium pot of water for the pasta.
  2. Sautee the onion, carrot, thyme, salt, and pepper over medium heat in butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the kale stems (they cook longer than the leaves), cauliflower, and garlic. Sautee for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes. Simmer the soup for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chicken broth and chickpeas. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. Air on the side of al dente, since you’ll be adding the pasta to the hot soup after cooking. Once the pasta is done, drain and save until you are ready.
  7. At this point the veggies should be cooked through. Add the kale leaves and cook until wilted and incorporated, just a minute or two.
  8. Add the pasta and warm for a minute. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and/or crusty bread.

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Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

I don’t know how food bloggers make full holiday meals ahead of time in order to post recipes, and then do it all again for the real thing! Needless to say, I am not making an extra turkey just to post it on this blog. […]

Caprese Crostini

Caprese Crostini

I am woefully behind on my posts, so much so that this one is already slightly outdated by the changing seasons. However, I am posting this recipe wishing that I still had some of these amazing tomatoes. In the last week of September, Chicago forgot […]

Slightly Modern Salad Nicoise

Slightly Modern Salad Nicoise

Usually I start dinner already having decided whether it will become a blog post. This is a dish I wasn’t planning to post. I was trying to come up with a way to use as many of my CSA vegetables as I could before we left on vacation. I was also looking for a healthy weeknight meal. However, two weeks later I am still thinking about how good this salad was so knew I had to post it.

A traditional salad nicoise is deconstructed, with potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs, and often tuna, arranged in separate piles on a bed of lettuce. My mom used to make salad nicoise on hot summer days and I hated it. The whole concept seemed weird to me. Potatoes, green beans, eggs, and tuna fish? I used to pick at the cold potatoes and green beans, asking to be excused as fast as possible. So I was as shocked as anyone when I started googling salad nicoise recipes and texted Will instructions on what additional ingredients to buy.

This Serious Eats article really convinced me to give salad nicoise another shot. This article solved many of the problems I had with the salad as a kid. As Serious Eats points out, dressing the salad and mixing all of the components together is a game changer, tying all of the flavors together and seasoning each element. I also loved the addition of basil to the salad. It adds an unexpected pop of freshness and sweetness against the spicy arugula.

For my version, I left out the tuna. Honestly, I have an aversion to canned tuna and with the eggs and potatoes I think the salad is substantial enough without it. If you like tuna, definitely add it. I think this would also be great with some leftover roasted chicken.

I also left out the anchovy, which is traditionally a main ingredient, largely because I didn’t have any and didn’t want to bother buying another ingredient. However, I don’t think the salad misses them at all though. The capers and the kalamata olives provide a good amount of briny-saltiness without the anchovy. If you want to use anchovies, reference the dressing recipe from Serious Eats for the proportions.

My salad consists of smashed potatoes, crisp green beans, grape tomatoes, soft-boiled eggs, kalamata olives, capers, and basil tossed with arugula and a classic French dressing. This salad was substantial enough for dinner. I also stored the un-dressed veggies separate from the arugula and took it to work as lunch the next day with great success.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously for about a minute until it emulsifies. This is a great versatile dressing that you could use for all sorts of salads if you like.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water for about 30 minutes. When they are done, smash the potatoes with the side of a knife to break them into large clumps.

While the potatoes are cooking, cook the beans. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring the saucepan to a boil and cook the beans until crisp, about three minutes. Transfer to ice bath to chill, then drain. Slice beans into 1 ½ inch pieces.

Lastly, cook the eggs. My favorite method, which I learned from this article, is to bring the water to a boil and immediately turn it off. Place eggs in a pan large enough that they crowd and fill with an inch of water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a full rolling boil. When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes. We wanted ours to be a little softer so we let sit for about 8 minutes. After letting sit for your desired amount of time, remove the eggs and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into quarters.

Assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Shake or whisk the vinaigrette to re-emulsify before dressing the salad. Toss gently until everything is lightly coated. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with eggs.

 

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Modern Salad Nicoise

This salad, inspired by Serious Eats, is a major improvement on the original. By tossing all of the ingredients together the flavors marry and you can ensure every piece is dressed. I left my vegetarian but tuna fish, leftover chicken, or anchovies would make great additions. If using, add them before dressing the salad.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author the brave radish

Ingredients

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbls minced shallot from one small bulb
  • 1 small clove of garlic minced
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbls white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbls water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • ¾ lbs small waxy potatoes such as fingerling or Yukon Gold
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 lbs green beans trimmed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • ¾ cup pitted kalamata olives drained and sliced in half
  • 2 tbls capers packed in brine drained
  • 20 leaves of basil torn
  • 4 cups arugula

Instructions

  1. Combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, vinegar, water, and olive oil in a jar. Shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with water. The water should be at least 2 inches above the potatoes. Add the ¼ cup salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are easily poked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. After the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them with the back of a knife so they are crumbled into large chunks.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, fill a large saucepan with water and season with salt. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring the saucepan to a boil and cook the beans until crisp, about three minutes. Transfer to ice bath to chill, then drain. Pat dry and slice beans into 1 ½ inch pieces.
  4. Lastly, cook the eggs. My favorite method is to bring the water to a boil and immediately turn it off. Place eggs in a pan large enough that they crowd and fill with an inch of water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a full rolling boil. When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes. We wanted ours to be a little softer so we let sit for about 8 minutes. After letting sit for your desired amount of time, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into quarters.
  5. Assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Shake or whisk the vinaigrette to re-emulsify before dressing the salad. Toss gently until everything is lightly coated. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with eggs.
  6. Only dress the amount that you will eat. If you expect to have leftovers, store the potatoes and beans together, keeping the other elements separate. I had good success combining all ingredients in the morning and dressing at lunch time.

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CSA Unboxing: Week 6

CSA Unboxing: Week 6

We have been enjoying the contents of this week’s box for a few days but I now have time to post about the contents. As Chicago inches towards fall the transition is really reflected in our CSA boxes each week. I think this box is […]

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Leek Gravy

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Leek Gravy

I debated a lot about posting this recipe. The thing is, the sauce is unbelievably ugly. However, for how ugly the pictures are, this chicken and sauce were amazing. The chicken was crispy and moist from being seared and then roasted. The leek and lemon […]

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

A few weeks ago some friends came over to do our fantasy football draft. It was starting to get cool out and I wanted something that could feed a lot of people easily: lasagna was calling my name. However, I wanted something light and vegetarian, which sent me to one of my favorite cookbooks, Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook.

I love Bittman’s philosophy to healthy food: sane eating. He advocates for eating less meat by using it as a seasoning in food instead of the star and incorporating as many plants as you can. His recipes accomplish this by upping the veggies and using about half the meat you would expect in a dish, or none at all. This is one of those, cram-as-many-recipes-as-we-can cookbooks that has no pictures so it can be hard to pick a recipe.

Bittman’s ‘Grilled Vegetable and Fresh Tomato Lasagna’ came out beautiful and was absolutely delicious. The amazing thing about this recipe is that there is no tomato sauce. Instead, roasted (or grilled) eggplant, zucchini, onions, and portobello mushrooms are layered with slices of fresh tomatoes and a basil-garlic-ricotta-mozzarella mixture (and of course noodles). The basil-cheese mixture was delicious and really brought the whole dish together. The tomatoes when baked let off just enough juices that the lasagna stayed moist. The result was a delicious, lightened up lasagna perfect for late summer.

Bittman wrote the recipe for the grill but in the intro suggests you can also roast them. I don’t have a grill (or outdoor space!) so opted for roasting. It took a few batches because my oven is so small but it was worth it. I did not make any tweaks to Bittman’s recipe but have rewritten it in my own words and offered advice throughout on a few things I discovered along the way.

The first and most time-consuming part is roasting all of the veggies. Cut the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise. Don’t be like me and cut the eggplant into circles without reading the recipe. Slice the onions into rings leave the portobellos whole; you can chop those after they are cooked.

Place your vegetables on cookie sheets, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. I recommend under-salting the vegetables. I salted like I would normally when roasting vegetables and discovered that once they were all stacked together in a lasagna and combined with the cheese mixture that it was a touch too salty.

Onions and zucchini ready to roast.

 

Eggplant, cut in circles instead of lengthwise by mistake, ready to roast.

I recommend organizing the veggies by type on your cookie sheets because they will likely take different amounts of time. Zucchini will be the fastest and onion the longest. Make sure to flip the veggies halfway through so both sides brown. My veggies roasted for about 15-18 minutes, until they started to get brown spots.

As the veggies are cooked, place them on a wire rack to cool and wait for assembly. Once the portobellos are ready, slice them into strips.

Full spread of roasted veggies, ready for assembly.

While the veggies cook, make the cheese mixture. In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, egg, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Blend until well mixed and the basil is finely chopped.

Basil-cheese mixture.

To assemble, start with a layer of noodles. Then spread the cheese mixture on the noodles followed by a layer the roasted veggies. I did one full layer zucchini and eggplant and then sprinkled the onions and portobellos on top. Finish with tomatoes and repeat. Bittman said to repeat twice, for a total of 3 layers but I don’t know how the is possible! I ended up with two full layers that came perfectly at the top of my pan. On your final layer, finish with tomatoes and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Because I only ended up with two layers, I had enough ingredients to make a second, mini lasagna in a smaller pan. Bonus!

Lasagna ready for the oven. I used an 8 x 8 pan.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 until the cheese on the top has melted and it looks done. Let cool for a few minutes and serve!

I don’t have a good picture of it sliced because I was rushing to draft my football team, but it was beautiful and delicious. And was great as leftovers the next day.

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Summer Vegetable Lasagna

This lasagna, from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, is lighter than the traditional lasagna and perfect for summer. Layers of eggplant, zucchini, onions, and portobellos make this a hearty vegetarian main dish. Instead of tomato sauce, Bittman uses layers of fresh tomatoes, which provide a fresh tomato flavor without heavy sauce. A flavorful cheese mixture of basil, ricotta, mozzarella, and garlic ties the whole thing together.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author the brave radish

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant cut lengthwise into ¼ inch think strips
  • 2 zucchini cut lengthwise into ¼ inch think strips
  • 3 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 large onion sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 9 dried lasagna noodles
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese chopped
  • 4 oz 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbls parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1 tbls garlic minced
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ripe tomatoes cut into ¼ inch slices

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Slice your veggies and prep the eggplant. Sprinkle eggplant liberally with salt and let rest in a colander for 20 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.

  3. Lay the eggplant, zucchini, portobellos, and onion slices out on cookie sheets. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and spread so each is covered evenly. Lightly salt and pepper them. I recommend arranging the veggies so that like veggie are together. Zucchini will cook faster than the others.

  4. Roast the veggies for 15 to 18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they have some nice brown spots. Remember, the original recipe was to grill them, so you definitely want some browning. You may have to roast in batches. As they finish, move the veggies to a wire rack to cool.

  5. When the portobellos are done roasting and have cooled enough to handle, slice them into strips.

  6. While the veggies are roasting you can start on the noodles and cheese mixture. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until tender but still too hard to eat, about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the noodles and lay them flat on towels until you are ready to use them.

  7. To make the cheese mixture, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 2 tbls of parmesan, basil, garlic, egg, and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until a thick mixture has formed and the basil has been cut into tiny pieces, about 30 seconds.

  8. Now, assemble the lasagna. Grease a 8 or 9 inch baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil. Place 3 noodles in the bottom of the pan; it is okay if they overlap. Cover the noodles with a thin layer of the cheese mixture, then layer with vegetables. I did a full layer of eggplant, a full layer of zucchini, and then sprinkled the onion and portobellos across the top. Finally, layer with sliced tomatoes. Repeat one to two more times, depending on your pan. I only had room for two layers total, Bittman says you can get three in there. Because I only ended up with two layers, I had enough ingredients to make a second, mini lasagna in a loaf pan. 

  9. On your final layer, finish with tomatoes and top with remaining 2 tbls of grated parmesan cheese. 

  10. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 until the cheese on the top has melted and it looks done. Let cool for a few minutes and cut into 6 pieces and serve!

CSA Unboxing: Week 5

CSA Unboxing: Week 5

This week’s box further proves that Fall is upon us. However, Chicago weather has decided to give us a September heat wave so it is too hot to roast or anything or really cook for that matter! Luckily, fall produce all means produce that keeps […]