Quick Bite

Squash and Radicchio Salad With Pecans from the Bon Appétit Thanksgiving issue. I made it as written to the best of my ability, given that I couldn’t find honeynut squash or Asian pears anywhere (I substituted red kuri squash and Roxbury russet apple). The vinaigrette was great, and the squash, apple, pecan, and cheese went really well together, but I did find the radicchio overpowering. I know it looks striking, but it’s just not that good all by itself. Next time I’ll make it half and half with Tuscan kale or something.

Chickpea Soup for All Souls’ Day

A little late, but, while we’re still in the right season, I wanted to share this soup, from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, which is warm, hearty, vegetarian (in fact, vegan), and tons of flavor for very little effort. You do have to like chickpeas — seriously, it’s just a bowl of chickpeas — and you must use dried ones, not canned.

You’re probably going to look at the recipe and go ‘What? That’s so boring,’ but please, trust me. You are going to love this soup!

Serves 4-6

14 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in the refrigerator in water to cover by 2 inches
Cold water
1 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium to large onion, minced
2 6-inch branches fresh rosemary
6 large fresh sage leaves
1 large bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a soup pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary, sage, and bay. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is a deep golden color. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds.

3. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the chickpea liquid into the onion pan, swish it around to pick up any brown bits, and dump everything into the chickpea pot. Simmer, covered, for 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender, but not falling apart. Season generously with salt (but not too generously – it should taste good, not salty) and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.

4. Remove the herbs, puree 2/3rds of the mixture in a blender, then stir it back into the pot. Adjust the seasoning, then ladle into bowls, topping with parsley, black pepper, and a little more olive oil if you like.

Okay, real talk: you don’t have to soak the chickpeas overnight. If you forgot or didn’t plan ahead, just go ahead with the recipe anyway. Ask me how I know. Also, the cooking time is kind of dependent on your chickpeas, but when I made it it only took two hours to cook to doneness. You don’t have to puree it (I didn’t this time), it’s honestly good either way, and it’s still good even if you completely forget the parsley, which I obviously did.

Cottage Cheese Burgers

My mom used to make these for us when we were kids, and I’ve started making them for my kids, because they’re quick, easy, fun, and delicious. How’s that for a pitch? They’re also, if the internet is anything to go by, not a very common recipe, so I thought I’d go ahead and share them.

So, it’s a very free form recipe, but I use 16 oz cottage cheese, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 2 eggs, some grated Parmesan and salt to taste, and enough breadcrumbs to be able to form the mixture into patties (I’d start with a half-cup, and add more if you need to). Then form into about 8 patties, and fry in a nonstick pan (or well-seasoned cast iron) with a couple TBs of olive or other oil of your choice, over medium to medium-high heat. When they’re brown on one side, flip them over, and continue frying until cooked through. My advice would be to pick a cottage cheese with low moisture, or even strain it if it’s too liquid-y, and the smaller curd types work better than the large curds.

As long as you’re not adding very much more liquid, you could probably season them however you like, but part of the appeal for me is their simplicity, so I usually don’t. Oh, and, this is very important, to achieve their fullest potential, serve them with Russian dressing (or whatever they’re calling ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together these days).

Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos

My cooking method these days is often to get an idea of what I want to make, Google several recipes, and then combine the best parts of each recipe, adding stuff I like, and getting rid of stuff I don’t like. Then the next time I go to make that dish, I have to recreate the whole process, so, instead, here’s a quick and dirty (and delicious) cauliflower taco recipe reminder.

Two heads of cauliflower + one can of chickpeas. Olive oil, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, chipotle chili flakes (couple pinches), salt, pepper. 400° for 25 minutes. Serve with cabbage slaw (1/2 head cabbage + olive oil + lime juice (about half a lime) + cilantro and salt), crema or sour cream, avocado, and queso fresco. Might be good with some kind of toasted almonds next time. Also, maybe double it.

Sweet Potato Chili

My daughter has decided to eat less/no meat for the time being, and I’m now realizing that a lot of our autumn/winter comfort foods are very meat-forward. Fortunately, my mom has been a vegetarian (pescatarian if you’re being picky) for longer than I’ve been alive, and she has some really great recipes. This is based on her sweet potato chili, but I kind of went off on a tangent, because I just really love these cumin roasted sweet potatoes, okay?

Serves 4-6

4 TB peanut oil (divided)
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 – 1 tsp berbere spice blend
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes, depending on your texture preference
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup apple cider
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
1/2 tsp fresh grated orange peel
Salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 TB of the oil, the cumin seeds, and some salt. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast for 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through. They should get pretty dark, but not charred. Remove from the oven and let sit while you make the rest of the chili (or roast them ahead of time, if you want).

2. Heat up the other 2 TB oil in a stew pot over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers, and sauté until golden and soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, berbere, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, or until the paste thickens up and gets a little darker.

3. Add the tomatoes, broth, cider, beans, and salt to taste, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan if you need to. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for ten minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cumin seeds, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the cilantro and orange zest, and cook for another minute or two. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve hot, with sour cream, cheese, cornbread, or whatever toppings you like on chili.

Notes: Berbere spice blends are going to vary, so taste yours first and add more or less depending on how spicy you like things. I did one heaping teaspoon, and it was on the edge of too spicy for me, but I’m like a medium spice white person, so, adjust accordingly. Also, this was very thick, so feel free to add more broth or water if you like it saucier.

Macaroni and Cheese (stovetop version)

This is my favorite weeknight mac and cheese recipe. It comes from Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine, in kind of a fancier version with country ham and a Parmesan basket, but the core of the recipe is quick, easy, and super tasty. The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of macaroni, but that’s like, super saucy. I usually make a pound of pasta, and that seems a bit more reasonable, and feeds a whole family. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reheat well, or do well in the oven (ask me how I know), so it’s not great for potlucks and that kind of thing, but otherwise, it’s great.

Serves 4

1 lb. dried tubular pasta (elbows, cavatappi, penne, &c.)
2 TB butter
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 TB minced shallot
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated aged Gouda cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but on the al dente side of things.

2. Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until soft and fragrant, being careful not to brown them (the recipe says five minutes, but it’s less than that). Add the cream, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream has reduced by a quarter, and coats the back of the spoon.

3. Whisk in the grated cheeses, and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. You can strain it at this point if you want, but I never do.

4. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce (or vice-versa, depending on your relative pot size), and simmer together for a minute or two, adjusting the seasoning as necessary.

The garlic and shallot measurements are a little silly, and I usually just go for one clove of garlic and one shallot. If you like breadcrumbs on top, you can do some extra garlic and shallot, cook them in some butter, and then add some breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and cook until toasty, then sprinkle them on top of the finished mac and cheese.

Corn Chowder

This is just a souped-up (sorry/not sorry) version of Corn and Potato Soup, which my mom used to make us for lunch sometimes. It’s hearty, and can be made completely vegetarian, if that’s your thing. It’s fantastic with fresh corn, but it’s still delicious made with frozen corn.

Serves 4-6 for dinner

4 TB butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each dried sage and thyme
6 red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-ish cubes
4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped flat parsley leaves

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until soft and golden. Add the garlic and herbs, and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

2. Add the potatoes, stir everything, then add the broth, and crank the heat up to high. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

3. Add the corn and the cream, and cook for five more minutes, or until cooked/heated through. Taste, and add salt and pepper, and more sage and thyme, if needed. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Notes: If you want to, you can start with about 4 oz. diced bacon instead of the butter. You can also use fresh herbs instead of, or in addition to, the dried ones. I don’t peel the potatoes, but you can, if you like. This time, I also threw in some diced sweet potato (that I did peel), about five minutes after the potato came to a boil.