Entries tagged with “Vegetables”.


On January 2, 2010, I made a colossal mistake. My reason paralyzed by the overwhelming desire to install a cookbook shelf in my kitchen, I ventured out to the Pottery Barn in Pasadena. Inside, I found myself surrounded by a scene that bore marked resemblance to my idea of hell. Noisy, crowded, lots of wicker, people wandering about willy nilly as though the world ended at their elbows. It was a mad house. The only thing missing was a continuous loop of Sandra Lee screeching DELICIOUS! while making things out of cheez whiz.

I made it out alive, shelf in hand, steadfastly recommitted to my disdain for shopping. I like buying stuff, just not the process of actually going and doing it. As a consequence I tend to stick with things that I already know work. Cosmetics are the sole exception to this rule, as I am a complete sucker for new and different products (if it promises to airbrush my skin, I’m a goner). My makeup collection has, in fact, been accused of having its own luggage. I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that statement, though I can wholeheartedly endorse the concept of a well-made train case.


Eyeshadow aside, I am a product loyalist. My favorite work pants? I have three, identical pairs. The same goes for sweaters, t-shirts, hoodies, blouses, etc. If it fits, I’ll buy several. Likewise with food staples. My tenacity for buying bulk multiples of my trusty favorites is dampened only by the storage failings of our house (note to future home buyers: there is no such thing as too much storage, there is no such thing as too much storage, there is no such…eh, you’ll figure it out someday).

One of my very favorite protein staples is turkey Italian sausage. I try to keep at least one package each of sweet and hot varieties in our fridge or freezer at all times. Lean and full of flavor, I get a lot of bang for my caloric buck out of a link or two. They bring a tempered saltiness to dishes without overpowering them like pork sausage sometimes does. Mostly, though, I adore the satisfying richness of their lean fat content; just enough to sate the mind and belly, but nothing more.


Because I keep turkey Italian sausage more readily on hand than I do pancetta or bacon, I swap them when it makes sense. When I read the following recipe, which calls for pancetta, I had a hunch that my turkey sausages would fill in handsomely. And they did. Thankfully, I have more in the freezer.

What are your favorite food staples?

(Keep reading Rotini with Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage…)


Wee, tiny versions of regular-sized things are almost always irresistible.  Mini Twix? Check. Kittens? Check. Those tiny, lady finger bananas? Double check.  Brussels sprouts? Not so much.

I think of them as an adult vegetable – one you only learn to properly appreciate when you’ve finally laid your inner six-year-old to rest so she can stop saying EWWW about such things. They’re a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins and protein.  And they are as cute as they can be, like perfect little cabbages for fairies and other small creatures interested in vitamin K.


I happen to love them.   After I was inspired to try Suzanne Goin’s balsamic braised version (amazing), I started playing around with other ways to braise these mighty balls of leafy might to perfection.  One night, I decided to use them in place of pasta under simple pan-seared scallops.  Braised in the tomato sauce, the Brussels sprouts took on a rich, tangy flavor while adding enough bulk to reasonably qualify the dish as a one-bowl meal.  Their earthy heft handily balances the scallops’ sweet, spongy levity here; add a heel of crusty bread and you have a perfect storm of flavor and texture.  It’s satisfying but not heavy which comes in handy in this, the season of dietetic good intentions.


Since it’s technically winter (even Los Angeles is hurting for decent fresh tomatoes this time of year), I stick with canned tomatoes.  I’ve been enjoying the various offerings in Muir Glen’s 2009 Organic Reserve gift box recently, and the fire roasted diced tomatoes were an absolute knock out for this sauce.  Any 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes will do, but I highly recommend looking into Muir Glen for a bit of extra sparkle.
(Keep reading Braised Brussels Sprouts with Tomatoes and Scallops…)


I’ve been putting off this post for a few weeks because I am desperately trying to remember the salient details of a story about lentil and sausage soup.  It was at least 20 years ago.  I can remember being doubled over laughing in the soup aisle of a grocery store, shrieking and crying over the hilarity of Progresso’s Lentil and Sausage Soup.  If you just stopped to reread that sentence in order to pick up whatever word you missed that would clue you in to what might possibly be so uproariously funny about lentil and sausage soup, do not panic.

That’s the detail I can’t remember.  I’ve been kicking that story stub around my poor little brain for several days to no avail, and I just can’t hold out on the recipe any longer.  It doesn’t help that I’ve had a song stuck in my head for days.  A horrible song.  It is nearly impossible to remember funny stories from your childhood when the one-hit-wonder LEN is screaming WOULD YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE?!! during every quiet moment, to say nothing of the difficulties it presents at work.  I’m not going to say that those words made it into a motion last week, just that having professional proofreaders on staff is a really beautiful thing.

The upshot of the story is this: we tried the soup, it was amazing, I fell in love with the combination of lentils and sausage, and Progresso can enjoy an everlasting bout of shingles for discontinuing it.


Since the soup is no longer available, we have to make do on our own.  But freed from the confines of the can, lentils and sausage show themselves to be equally charming without the accompaniment of broth, their trusty backup dancer.  We had so much fun with butternut squash earlier this month that I thought I’d feature acorn squash, another one of my favorites.  Petite and perfect, they bake handsomely when paired with a little butter and maple syrup. I find combining them with lentils and sausage to be particularly satisfying.  The lentils and squash are both earthy and smooth, but in slightly different ways; their textures complement each other while their flavors layer gently.  Hot Italian sausage, when paired with the sweetness of the maple syrup, is vibrant but softly restrained.  The result is a happy little barbershop quartet of flavors, portioned perfectly in its own ready-made bowl.


You will notice that you end up with a lot of extra lentils.  It’s sort of intentional.  In order to avoid leaving you high and dry without sufficient lentil coverage for any particularly robust acorn squash you may encounter, I’ve asked you to make more than you need.  Still, since it’s frustrating to end up with an extra third of a serving of something, I’ve given you a basic proportion for about three cups of cooked lentils.  This way, you have plenty to eat as leftovers by themselves, in a salad, in soup, whathaveyou.  If having extra lentils really puts a knot in your knickers, reduce as your heart desires.
(Keep reading Acorn Squash with Lentils and Sausage…)


There are two reasons why Farmer Boy is my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, and both of them have to do with the descriptions of the food Almanzo Wilder enjoyed as a boy growing up on the farm.  The Wilders spared no expense in describing the food in this novel – and I suppose it should come as no surprise to me today that I loved these descriptions so dearly as a child.

The first reason has to do with the doughnuts Almanzo’s mother made on a regular basis.  I’m a lifelong doughnut fan, having grown up around the corner from Wally’s Donuts, a true mom and pop shop that I will tell you more about another time.  To me, doughnuts were (okay, still are) food nirvana.  Sweet, soft rings of dough topped with frosting and wrapped in fragile squares of waxed paper for me by Wally’s wife; bliss.  Still, I knew nothing about how they were made until I read Farmer Boy.  I have only recently begun making my own, and I can’t help but picture Almanzo and his mother whenever I slide a doughy ring into the hot oil.  What they shared by the stove is timeless, and it is part of why I cook so much today.

The second reason has to do with the pumpkin Almanzo raised for the fair.  To ensure maximum size, he devises a way to feed the pumpkin milk as it grows by slitting the stalk just above the chosen pumpkin and inserting a candle wick, the other end of which he places in a small dish of milk.  For years, I swore I would attempt the same.  One spring followed another and another, and each year my mom and I would plant pumpkins in the garden in our front yard.  Somehow, I never got around to tracking down a wick to test the milk-feeding method.  Instead, I watched in wonder as the blossoms became little secret orbs hiding beneath the vine’s broad, dusty leaves.  It was captivating, a daily treasure every day upon my return from school.


Ever since, I have come to love pumpkins and their related squash brethren as fall’s delivery on a tiny promise that begins in late spring with a hint of a something buried under a leaf.  Slowly, so slowly, they burgeon and ripen, developing tough rinds to ward off the elemental torment of months on the ground.  They are, to me, a sweet surprise to enjoy as night begins earlier and earlier; the subtle reminder the good things really do come to those who wait.

This recipe comes to me by way of my stepbrother, Brian.  He and his lovely wife, Sarah, dazzled the family with it last year in Salt Lake at Thanksgiving. It’s a genuine beauty, both visually and in terms of the delicate layers of flavors.  As you know, orange foods occupy a special place in my heart, and this dish is no exception. The spunky little orange cubes are silky and inviting, especially when stippled with a shot of fresh mint.  Sweet, tangy, garlicky, and salty, there is something in this dish for every palate.

(Keep reading Honeyed Butternut Squash…)


October was a powerful month. It managed to pull the perpetually sunny southern California into semi-submission to its wiles. During our 12-day visit to the east coast in the middle of the month, something here changed. Upon our return, it was as though a switch had been flipped. Suddenly it was dark for the first four snooze cycles of my alarm clock. My drive home was cloaked in navy velveteen, the sky betraying its last few gasps of mauve behind inky silhouettes of palm trees that keep watch over Sunset Boulevard.  Though warm and golden during the day, dawn and dusk decidedly fell prey to the seductive, autumnal call of October.

I can’t blame them. Even in temperate zones, fall is cotton-clad warmth. Fall is cozy. Fall is a gilded, tender embrace before the year tumbles swiftly and rambunctiously into oblivion. However fleeting it may be, fall is a lovely time of year.


As I bid adieu to summer’s berry-laden bounty each year, I am quickly comforted by the sweet, earthy delights of squash and wintry greens. Enter kale, and its acerbic wit. Growing up, I enjoyed heaps of kale in a delicate beef stew, speckled at the last minute with a beaten egg. Its stiffly leafed fortitude is no match for heat; no matter how many leaves you add to the stew, it always seems to accommodate them.

Though I had planned to braise a bunch of kale with cauliflower and beans last week, I couldn’t resist tossing a few leaves into a blistering hot pan with garlic and the last ears of the summer’s sweet corn. I made this for myself one night when I was home alone, fully intending it to complement some leftover chicken but never making it that far. The back-arching tang of the lemon joins with a bit of sea salt to goad the vegetables into asskicking mode. Pay attention, they seem to say, this is going to knock your socks off. Hang on tight and keep another pair of socks handy; November is here, and it isn’t messing around, either.

(Keep reading Kale and Sweet Corn…)


In the past 29 years, I have rejected and subsequently reaccepted three categories of food in my diet: pie, soup, and Indian food. The latter was a matter of developing a taste for the flavor palette (and the result of the combined, persuasive efforts of many wonderful friends who had my best interest at heart and to whom I am incredibly grateful as I would have otherwise led a life without vindaloo). My vetoes of pie and soup were somewhat less rational. The pie thing was really a cake thing; I greatly prefer cake. Despite the fact that cake is not always available when pie is offered, I felt eating a slice of pie meant displacing the opportunity to eat a slice of cake. Much like my Doc Martens and paisley vest phases, it made sense at the time. I mean, for any given slice of cherry pie, can you really be sure there isn’t a piece of chocolate cake right around the corner? Hmm?

The soup thing…I can’t really explain. It was something about finding the combination of warm, savory, and liquid to be distasteful, though I can’t articulate anything more concrete than that. But the reason I started liking soup again was completely nutbar. At auditions for a production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in high school, I watched a line of hopefuls rattle off reasons why they each thought they would be well-suited to inhabit the role of Mr. or Mrs. Beaver. One girl (who ultimately ended up playing the White Witch), exclaimed “Mrs. Beaver just screams ‘soup’ to me, and I live and die for soup!” Thereafter, I liked soup. Nuts, right? I can’t make this stuff up.

But however it had to happen, I’m glad it did. Soup is a great anchor in the home cook’s repertoire. Most soup recipes can be doubled or halved with ease, making the output quite flexible to suit your needs. I like to make a batch and portion one or two servings into several Gladware containers – makes for easy lunches. Best of all, it’s so easy to get a full-bodied soup without adding much fat. Vegetable soups in particular offer a broad canvas for healthful creations that can, conveniently, make short work of any nearly ne’er-do-well produce lingering in your fridge. This little number served to salvage a massive wad of spinach that was starting to think about getting slimy.

As the title indicates, it’s stunningly green. If you’re looking for something a little less TMNT, add all of the spinach to the pot to simmer rather than adding half of it raw at the end.


(Keep reading Shockingly Green Cream of Spinach Soup…)