Category Archives: Veggie Delight

Late Summer Zucchini Tian

The summer veggies are hanging in there, but we’re definitely bridging into squash and apple season. I’m looking to you, potatoes, to help us across that divide, by adding a little heft to the rest of the zukes and tomatoes.

Behold the tian, which is basically a whole lot of veggies layered over each other in sequence, each layer blessed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The whole shebang is then topped with cherry or grape tomatoes and breadcrumbs and then melded together in the oven. It’s pretty brilliant in its simplicity and humble (until I bragged about it) elegance. 

This recipe has the clever touch of being assembled over a low burner so the potato base layers get a little head start cooking. I’m including the whole recipe—as written by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame—but also giving you the Cliffs Notes, because this is more technique than exact recipe.

You’re melting the butter in the bottom of a big pan, making a base of two layers of sliced potatoes, then covering that with successive concentric layers of onions, zukes, potatoes, onions, zukes and finally all the tomatoes and a sprinkling on breadcrumbs. Each veggie layer  gets its own drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt, and cooks along as you keep slicing away.

You can futz with amounts, but there are some key points to follow, starting with the your slicing. To get an A+ tian your potatoes, onions and zucchinis all need to be sliced thinly, hence the mandoline. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend springing for it. My $12 beauty is admittedly bare bones but it does the job and I still have all my fingers, so there’s that. On that note, do pay attention and use the protective pusher when you get anywhere near the end of your veggies. Those blades are sharp!

Also, the stove-top steaming step is key to cooking the potatoes. I got lazy and made a second  tian by layering everything in my baking dish (some of us only own 1 cast iron pan) then putting it in the oven. It was good, but not great, mostly because the potatoes were not as perfectly cooked. If you go that route, cover your vessel with foil for the first half hour of cooking and leave it in for an extra 15 minutes, uncovered.

I also distilled the comments from the New York Times version of this recipe, which are many. They separate into two camps, both pretty indignant. The “How can you possibly not include garlic and fresh herbs in this?” camp and the “Keep it simple and let the fresh ingredients sing” camp. The latter crowd reminds us that the dish originated from a nonna in Puglia, and Pugliese hate garlic. Who knew? Thankfully, pretty much everybody agrees that blanching the tomatoes is only for teacher’s pets, and quite unnecessary.

Anyway, the bottom line is that both camps like this dish a whole lot, and with a long potato season in our future, it seems like a good time to get comfy making tian.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 ounces)
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 zucchini (about 12 ounces), washed and wiped free of any clinging grit
  • 1 pint yellow Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup coarse bread crumbs

Method

  1. In a pot, boil 2 inches of water for blanching tomatoes (OR NOT). Place an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet on a burner over low heat, and add butter to melt.
  2. Peel the potatoes, and slice on a Japanese mandoline into 1/4-inch-thick disks, then arrange in a single layer circle covering the bottom of the cast-iron skillet with its melted butter, keeping the skillet on the burner and leaving the heat on while you start to build the tian.
  3. Add a second layer of potato slices, and season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and cover with a lid to slightly steam while you slice the yellow onion.
  4. Peel the onion, then slice into even ¼-inch or thinner rounds. The Japanese mandoline is sometimes too narrow to use for this, so you may have to use a sharp knife and do it manually.
  5. Layer abundantly half the onion rings evenly around the pan on top of the steamed potatoes, season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and recover the pan with a lid while you slice the zucchini.
  6. Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and layer half of them in concentric, just-overlapping shingled circles over the onions to create a neat layer. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil and recover with the lid while you blanch the tomatoes.
  7. (FOR OVERACHIEVERS ONLY) Season the now-boiling water with a few good pinches of salt, and drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as their skins split — about 30 seconds — retrieve the tomatoes and run under cold water to quickly cool enough to handle; set aside.
  8. Build another ring of potato around the tian on top of the now-steaming zucchini, this time just a single layer. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and recover with the lid to steam a bit while you slip the skins off the tomatoes (IF YOU MUST).
  9. Layer the other half of the onions as before, season and drizzle and replace the lid as before, while you split the tomatoes in half horizontally with a small sharp knife.
  10. Add final layer of zucchini to the tian, and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover, and let steam while you heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  11. Place the tomatoes around the top of the tian evenly, and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top evenly. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.* (If your skillet threatens to bubble over, slip a sheet pan underneath to prevent any burned wreckage in the bottom of your oven.)
  12. With a spoon, baste, and drizzle the pan juices that accumulate in the tian over the top when you remove it from the oven at the end. Allow the tian to cool, settle and kind of meld for an hour before eating.

*I’m pretty sure this is meant to go in uncovered though none of the bazillion comments actually answered this. Mine goes in uncovered, and it’s darned good.

 

Coolest Cucumber Soup

Labor Day be damned summer is NOT over yet. Well, not totally. Sadly, I was skunked at two corn suppliers yesterday, so that ship is quickly sailing. But cukes and zukes are still going strong. I’ve got a pretty epic zucchini creation coming soon (I was so busy marveling at it that I forgot to take a picture), but while we’re waiting, here’s a cool way to use up some of the many cucumbers you may be experiencing.

I discovered while searching for a soup that involved zero cooking or warming of any kind, and could all be made in the blender. Slackers delight!

This one goes out to you Californians and westerners who are feeling the heat, and the smoke, and the earthquakes. As a bonus, it involves an avocado. The original recipe calls for the avocado on the soup, but this is not my first soup rodeo. Adding the avocado to the blender adds heft and creaminess without actual cream.

I hope this soup helps you soak up every last bit of summer, and frees up some space in your fridge.

Coolest Cucumber Soup

 Adapted from The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or use 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup water) *
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional) **
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste ***
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste (omit if using miso, then add if needed)
  • ½ avocado ****

All The Options

  • 4 slices toast of choice
  • ½ avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
  • Fried shallots or onions (if you’ve got ’em, why not?)

* Vegans, you have your milks. Use them here, soured with vinegar or lemon juice
**I used 2 tsp miso paste instead, for saltiness and funk, or what one might call “umami,”
*** I used 1 Tbsp lime juice (half a lime)
**** I threw the avocado intended as a topping right into the blender. Save the other half for toast…or throw it in as well. Did anyone ever complain about too much avocado? Ok, except for my husband?

Method

  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. Smash avocado slices on the toasted bread. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, squeeze the juice of the lemon half over the top and finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and some pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve avocado toast on the side.

 

 

 

Corn Star: A One Ingredient Summer Fantasy

We’re hanging on to summer here, even if it was the weirdest summer ever, with the haziest boundary on either end. We’re not sure when it started but it is definitely ending. I know this because it is corn season.

Cooking inspiration has been lacking in this household, thanks to the general laziness that goes along with hot days. For a recipe to get me back in the game and try something new it has to be really good or really weird. When it is both…Hallefreakinlujah!

First, some context on why this recipe is so perfect right now. I mentioned corn season, and my people take it very seriously. More nights than not, we’re having fresh corn. Our compost pile, with its layers of corn husks and watermelon rinds, pretty much tells the story. That means we have plenty of opportunity for corn experimentation.

This recipe came via Sister A, purveyor of all things Vegan, who knows I appreciate weirdness. It is a little bit of food magic and alchemy that turns corn first into milk and then into butter. Basically, you’re cutting corn off the cob, pulverizing it, straining it,  then cooking the resulting “corn milk” for just a few minutes until it thickens up into creamy deliciousness.

The result is a summer fantasy—the essence of fresh corn in a luscious spread. It does not taste like butter, but it looks like it, spreads like silk and is simply delish.  It has the added bonus of being Vegan, which you can either use as a selling point or keep to yourself. 

Slacker note: Now that I’m on to it, I’ve read versions of this recipe using canned corn, and that don’t even call for straining the corn. I will likely try that come November when fresh corn is a distant memory. But for now, I’m sticking with this version, which is a bit labor intensive but sublime.

If corn on the cob is your jive, there’s no shame in that. But if you’re looking for other ways to enjoy the bounty of the season, I highly suggest giving this a whirl. It pairs well with zucchini “butter,” another brilliant recipe that will use up the August veggie filling your fridge.  

Sweet Corn Butter

From Whitney Wright via Food52

Ingredients

  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn (or less), shucked
  • Salt and butter, to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Cut off kernels: Use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels from each ear. 8 ears of corn will yield 4 to 5 cups of kernels (I got way more). If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape the back of your knife along the cob to get the juice.
  2. Blend: Put the kernels in a blender or food processor and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
  3. Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear, about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
  4. Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy, and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt and pats of butter (defeats the purpose of this exercise I’m thinking, but do what you must). The corn butter will keep for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

How do you use it? The original author, a fancy pants chef, suggests these ways, to which I added:

  • Slather onto cornbread, a muffin, toast or fresh bread instead of butter
  • Use it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
  • Put it in quesadillas or omelets
  • Fold it into sautéed spinach with onions, and finish with just a touch of cream for killer creamed spinach
  • Dribble it onto a hot dog for a DIY corn dog
  • Stir it into risotto and finish with Parmesan
  • Blend it with vanilla ice cream for a crazy delicious milkshake
  • Top tacos or fajitas with it. Or…pizza anyone???
  • Mix it with shredded cheese, a little sour cream, and a jar of drained jalapeños, bake and serve as a LIFE ALTERING (and so not Vegan) dip for tortilla chips
  • Layer it on zucchini or tomato anything

Pure buttahhhh

 

Stay-In Sesame Noodles 

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you, too. As we’re entering month four of a full house, I’m just tired of coming up with new things to make and serve, so I’ve been relying on my tried and true. It’s not the worst thing to get reacquainted with these no fail recipes that are easy to prepare and even easy to learn by heart.  

Best of all, these recipes can fill the local army with homemade fare without breaking the bank, or spending all day cooking.  I’m talking about Easiest French Bread Ever, Maple Oat Breakfast Bread and Everyday Granola in the morning, a constant supply of blender salsa and chile crisp, plus a big bowl of broccoli salad whenever I need a no cook veggie fix, which is pretty much always. It’s also the perfect time to fill your freezer with a Tupperware of Frosecco or any other frozen concoction. The slurpee mothership is kind of like your sourdough starter of cocktails. Just keep scooping it out, and adding more as needed. Is that a problem? Do I care?

Now that we’re getting out a little, I am running in to people who have been spending more time cooking while in quarantine. They have been making some Bring It all stars, which are also excellent for entertaining. Things like Funitella Bruschetta (recently updated!) and, of course, Hero Slaw. And for dessert, Loosey Goosey Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Beach Pie because, ‘tis the season!  

Along the lines of no-fail fare, I give you my new favorite go-to recipe, which already feels like an old fave. Add this to your repertoire, and buy yourself some time to think about something other than “what’s for dinner?”  

Takeout (or Stay-In) Noodles 

From the New York Times

 Ingredients 

  • 1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh 
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash 
  • 3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (or tahini; see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste 
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks 
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts  

Preparation 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes (or recommended amt if using dried). They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste. (You can also use an immersion blender or regular blender)
  • Just before serving, pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts. 

Notes:  

These are infinitely adaptable, and for suggestions, scroll through the many comments on the original NY Times post here. I hit the high points and recommendations here, in case you are sharing your paltry Internet connection with many young, curious, ever- streaming tenants. 

The Chinese toasted sesame paste called for here is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of raw, untoasted sesame. You can use tahini in a pinch, adding a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, or make your own from scratch with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil.  

To prevent dry noodles, serve immediately, or hold the sauce. I usually multiply the sauce recipe many times (I use a stick blender), and add a fairly minimal amount of the sauce to the noodles when they’re still warm. Chill the undersauced noodles until you are ready to serve, and then mix in as much extra sauce as you need 

Mind your noodles. The recipe says fresh or frozen, meaning egg noodles. It’s totally ok to use dried, as in regular spaghetti (my fave) or linguini, but 1.5 or double the sauce for a full pound of dried noodles.  

This is serious picnic fare, and can accommodate Vegans and carnivores alike with a variety of toppings like: shredded duck or chicken, tofu, cucumber, sweet red pepper, hot pepper, scallion, jicama, carrots, etc, all cut to roughly the same size.  

 

 

It’s the weekend— Have a ball!

Props to the McNultys of Hanover, for coming up with the idea of theme dinners to turn these Saturday nights in quarantine into something a little less, uh, quarantiny (as in, the state of restriction vs the popular cocktail). Last weekend they kicked it off with an après ski theme featuring Bring It’s own Guinness Fondue.

Their outdoor firepit version was not only inspiring, but also an excellent choice considering our fine spring weather. With the polar air expected this weekend, fondue is a solid option.  

Or….might I suggest, balls! Meatballs and “meat” balls are very versatile, can be made ahead and can accommodate many dietary needs. We’ve got Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, these quite excellent gingery sheet pan meatballs that I have made many times and never managed to capture on camera, the vaunted Ikea meatballs (secret recipe just revealed) and, featured here today, the shockingly tasty and “meaty” meatless meatballs.

This is a great recipe to have in your arsenal especially now that the shortage du jour is meat of all kinds. Whether you are trying to eat less or no meat, or you just can’t get your hands on the stuff, you need a good vegetarian meatball recipe, and here it is friends.

They take a bit of elapsed time, because you have to cook the water out of the mushrooms and let the whole shebang sit in the fridge for a spell, but they’re totally easy. And hey…we’ve got time! You can even show off  your domestic skills, make a double batch and stock your freezer.

As a bonus this recipe comes with a soundtrack suggestion suitable for any stage of creating or eating your Saturday night special. Crank yourself up some Queen because, well, we’re having such a good time, we’re having a ball.

Where’s the picture? Have you ever tried to get an appetizing picture of meatballs? Enough said…but how about another pic of fondue night? Happy weekend all!

 Ooh la la! Just another typical night around the fire pit.

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs                                                                      

Barely adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients
Makes 20 meatballs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 453 gr white mushrooms, finely chopped (use the food processor to save time)
1 tablespoon butter*
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup quick cooking oats
4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese*
½ cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, divided*
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper

3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese you prefer, or no cheese at all).*

*Vegans and Vegan dabblers you’ve totally got this. I’ve made these with Vegan butter, your favorite cashew parm, aquafaba and no cheese on top and they were delicioso.

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with one pinch of salt and cook, stirring every so often until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the butter, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add onions and sauté for 5 further minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 further minute, until fragrant.

Transfer mushroom mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Stir in oats and mix until thoroughly combined. Add Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 egg, salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne pepper (if using).

Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Stir in remaining egg and mix to combine.
The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight best).

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture, and with dampened hands roll into meatballs.

Arrange on the lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the meatballs until ready to use, or use immediately.
Bring tomato sauce to a boil in a large skillet (or saucepan), lower to a simmer, and gently stir meatballs into the sauce until coated.

Simmer meatballs in sauce for about 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, cover with a lid and let the cheese melt (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve over spaghetti, zoodles, spaghetti squash, in a meatball sub or just plain nekkid.

PS. Can’t get enough Vegan balls? Got more cans of black beans than you know what to do with? Try these from Minimalist Baker, who never steers you wrong.

           Eat UP people!

Easiest Tomato Soup: Beating the lunch curve

Gluten has made a serious comeback in our house, mostly out of desperation. Baking, once a rarity, is now a daily or twice daily thing, as the little darlings (read locusts) can work through two loaves of Easiest French Bread Ever in a day. To keep everyone fed, I’m turning to old favorites I can crank out with minimal effort. I’d love to try new recipes, but now is not the time to gamble precious ingredients—especially flour, the new toilet paper—on anything that might not work out.

I’m also trying to make mornings more pleasant by getting ahead of the breakfast curve the night before: making granola; mixing up batter for popovers, blueberry muffins, victory bran muffins; or stirring together the dough for Maple Oat Breakfast Bread.  

All those freshly baked goods may earn you some peace and joy in the morning, but by lunchtime—just when the coffee is worn off—it turns out you also need something to go with the carbs.

Fortunately, for inspiration we have the chain letter of favorite recipes that’s pin-balled through everyone’s inbox a few times already during lockdown. If you want a deep dive into why we do these chain letters, here you go  (Thanks NoPo, for being on the pulse with this analysis). I went looking through the emails for a soup that could be ready in less than an hour, without adding to the kitchen mess.

A lot of favorite recipes are labeled as “best” and “easiest,” tall claims that make it hard to choose what to try first: Best, easiest, best, easiest. It will surprise nobody that I opted for the one, from cousin Michelle, entitled “Easiest Tomato Soup.”

A quick look at the ingredient list confirmed that this would satisfy the recipe trifecta, by being: easy, cheap and requiring no trip to the store. I’ve been burned by minimalist recipes that taste like they are missing ingredients and steps, so I wanted to see just how good this was, exactly as written. I resisted every urge to add a little bit of this or that, things like: Maple syrup; a glug of sherry; a squeeze of basil from those yummy herb tubes; a splash of cream.

For a serial recipe tweaker this abstinence was tough, but I did it. I am so glad I did, because I can now attest that this soup over delivers on its promise. Maybe the simplicity is why it is so good, though it must also have to do with cooking time. Don’t cheat on the 40 minute simmer—that’s where the magic happens. Confession: It was not until writing that line that I realized this is essentially a pureed version of Marcella Hazan’s pasta sauce but with garlic and broth. Mystery solved. Of course it’s good!

As further endorsement, I barely had time to stage a photo of this before my family ate the shot and then the entire batch. The next day, I doubled it, amortizing the minimal effort over even more servings.  

Enjoy a bowl of this with a grilled cheese, or any of the aforementioned carbs, and consider yourself comforted…at least until dinner.

Really Truly Easiest Tomato Soup

from Michelle Prioleau

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • Butter (4 tbsp)*
  • White onion (1 half)
  • Garlic (1 large clove)
  • Canned tomatoes (2 cans)
  • Chicken stock (1.5 cups)*

Method:

  1. Finely chop onions and mince garlic
  2. Melt butter in large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are softened
  3. Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock to pot, and cook uncovered for ~40 minutes
  4. When done cooking, pour soup into blender and blend until smooth (an immersion blender works beautifully too.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste
  6. That’s it!

*Edie’s note here. Don’t tell my family (God knows they will never ever read a food blog), but I used fake butter and veggie “Better than Bouillon.” So, yes it can be Veganized if you like, and the carnivores won’t even notice.

Raising the Potato Bar

Are you ready for the world’s easiest recipe? You’re in luck, because the world’s second easiest recipe—baked potatoes in a crock pot—wasn’t seamless. They were ok, but when we’re faced with the whole day to contemplate lunch and dinner ideas, and the whole Internet to peruse them, “just ok” doesn’t cut it.

This little miracle of low work/high reward cooking hacks comes to you from your crockpot or, in fancy talk, your slow cooker. Ever since discovering that you can cook beets by simply washing them and chucking them in a crockpot (than you Auntie Tina!), I’ve had new four season respect for my crockpot.

Sweet potatoes are just as easy as that, but provide a much wider range of options for a wider range of tastes. These come out perfectly cooked and even crisp on the outside.

Best yet, however, is that all you do is wash them, and load them in the pot. Here’s where they have it on straight up russet potatoes, which need to be pricked, oiled, salted and wrapped in foil before they go into the crock pot. Granted, that is far from difficult, but the russets also didn’t have the same texture as potatoes baked in the oven. I’m not giving up on them, but I’m also not ready to rave about them.

Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside crockpot sweet potatoes, however, are now my jam. I hope they solve many of your, “What am I going to feed these people today???” moments, or just make YOU happy one lunch at a time.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes to fill up the bottom of your crockpot (I’ve done up to 5)

Method:

Wash sweet potatoes and fit them into the crockpot in one layer. (You can probably stack them but I’ve never needed that many)

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Crockpots all vary, especially ones that are 20 years old. My potatoes were totally good at 3 hours on high and 7 hours on low.

Top with standard baked potato toppings, or whatever makes you happy. A few of my go tos, if you’re feeling saucy: liquid gold sauce, chile crisp, balsamic black beans, as easy peanut sauce and of course any salsa or guacamole.

 

 

Puppies, Squat Racks and Pasta Sauce

I had you at puppies, right? Apparently, now that the toilet paper hoarding issue is getting sorted out, the two things where demand is grossly exceeding supply is in puppies and home exercise equipment. Some people were prepared for the apocalypse, and had put in their puppy orders and built their proper home gyms. For the rest of us, I have this pasta sauce. Small consolation, but it’s something, and it comes from the master of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan*.

This sauce can be made with any canned tomatoes you have in your pantry (San Marzanos if you are fancy), plus an onion and butter. Five Tbsp of butter sounds excessive, but if we’re being entirely honest about the effect on our diet of all this time indoors, it is probably a drop in the bucket. There are more irresponsible uses of butter that are far less tasty.

So, with no further ado, and before I embark on a grocery mission which involves many russet potatoes (hint hint on what’s coming), I give you the easiest, tastiest darned pasta sauce you’ll ever make. Stay safe and healthy and well-fed!

Marcella Hazan’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 

*Etna, NH, has its own master of Italian cooking, Teresa Lust. She read from her new book, a Blissful Feast, at the Norwich Bookstore, earlier in March, on what feels like the last time anyone could gather anywhere. I’m getting the goods to make her breakfast biscotti in the hopes that she will let me share them with you here. In the meantime, you can support the Norwich bookstore and Teresa by buying her book, which is a fun, interesting and delicious read about a part of Italy that is suffering hard right now. Have I mentioned puppies? Pet them if you’ve got them, while the rest of us visualize.

 

Liquid Gold

At a time like this, we all have questions. For the less pressing ones, I have an answer, and it involves sauce. The one, big, solvable daily question we are all facing is this: how am I going to make all these random leftovers into a meal without going to the store? This leads to satellite questions like, how much broccoli salad can one person eat in a day (answer: a shocking amount); and, when we’ve reached that point, what am I going to do with all this tahini I bought for that recipe

I’m so glad you asked. Thankfully the internet is now mobbed with tips like this on how to use the things that have been hanging in your pantry, waiting for their moment and your desperation. As mentioned in “get saucy with me,” (a darned useful collection of taste sensations), the right sauce or dressing is sometimes all you need to pull together humble ingredients and make them a feast.

Even though tahini opens up many options, you may need to wait for your next store run to make this baby that minimalist baker calls “liquid gold.” It is easy, fast and delicious, but requires some advanced pantry staples, all of which I promise we’ll use in the weeks to come. Namely, you’ll probably need to wrangle up some nutritional yeast and chickpeas* (Vegans can relax–I know you have these on auto delivery). The rest of you for sure have curry powder, right? And likely turmeric, from that time you vowed to mix up a comforting mug of golden milk to drink after your daily yoga. Or maybe because you actually are drinking golden milk after daily yoga. Namaste you! The rest is all pretty standard pantry fare.

This goes well as a dip or a dressing, and can transform rice, pasta, baked potatoes, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, etc into something a little more exciting that “that stuff in Tupperware.” Bake up a couple loaves of easiest French bread ever, and you’ve just bought yourself a day off from lunch and snack duty.

Check out Lunch Deconstructed as a solid starting point for how to make leftovers into a feast, and stay tuned for some crock pot clinics on mass production of foundational lunch/snack fare. Does it get more exciting???

I hope you all are staying healthy, sane and well-fed!

*careful and prompt readers will note that the first version of this called out raw cashews. In my isolated state I somehow forgot that no cashews will be pulverized for this sauce. Bonus!

Liquid Gold Sauce

From Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or sub lime)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (or cashew butter)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin (for milder sauce, omit the cumin and use only curry powder)
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional // omit for less heat)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (plus more to taste)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed

Method

  1. To a small blender or food processor (though it won’t be as creamy), add chickpeas, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon, tahini, salt, ground turmeric, curry powder, ground cumin, cayenne (optional, but c’mon), maple syrup, and water.
  2. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add more water as needed until a thick, pourable sauce is achieved.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, curry powder for spice, tahini for creaminess / nuttiness, lemon for acidity, cayenne for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness.
  4. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. You can also freeze it up to 1 month and thaw before use (do not heat) although best when fresh.
  5. Perfect for use on just about anything — think roasted sweet potatoes, burrito bowls, salads, and more!

Going for the gold!

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad

Bring It is back! No need to drag you all through a long preamble, but the short story is this: For the first time since New Year’s mama’s got a kitchen again… just in time for eating in place! OK, it’s alllllmost a full kitchen, but it involves running water, a fridge and a dishwasher, so we’re good to go.

I’m going to be serving up recipes with an eye towards feeding all those bonus people —less than 10 but more than two—who may be back in your house. If you don’t have a full house, you may be cooking for someone who doesn’t feel safe getting out to the grocery store or to pick up takeout from the local restaurants. Whatever your jam, chances are it involves more cooking and more time at home.

This is a funky time for sure, and because you may not know what’s available in the grocery store even if you can get there, we’re doubling down on our Bring It ingredients credo, which is: “Love the one you’re with.” As in, modify and substitute as needed, with conviction. Also, because you may find your self needing to provide actual breakfast vs leftovers or cereal, I highly suggest revisiting these overnight sensation muffins and popovers. Minimal evening effort + pantry staples = happy morning tribe.

So, on to today’s recipe that I’ve made countless times since discovering it. It came from my quest for a healthier version of that guiltiest of picnic pleasures—the sweet and creamy bacon broccoli salad. This transcends age, gender and most dietary restrictions. It is a hit with pretty much everyone who eats vegetables. As with most salads, it’s all about the dressing, which features tahini and maple syrup. So, it’s not low fat or low sugar, but you can dial the sweetness (and the amount of dressing you use of course) up or down…or live a little and enjoy it as written.

This is how I make it, but feel free to riff on the options. There’s no wrong answer here. You’re eating raw broccoli fergawdsakes, protecting yourself from the inside out. Go you!

I hope you all stay healthy and happy and are eating well in place.

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 medium heads (3/4–1 lb) broccoli
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (or toasted sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1–2 shallots, thinly-sliced (or red onion in a pinch)
  • 1–2 tsp white sesame seeds (not a dealbreaker. This slacker has never used them)
  • optional: 1/4 cup feta or ricotta salata cheese (same as above)

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3–4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely-minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Method

Uh…WASH YOUR HANDS (as if we’d forget, but still)

Make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, 3 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and honey until combined. Add up to another tablespoon of oil to thin as desired. Stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Or, if saving for later, transfer to an air-tight jar. May be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized florets. Pro tip: See here how to butcher your broccoli. Basically, hold it by the stem and shave the broccoli tips with a sharp knife, like you’re giving it an all over hair cut. Save the stems for broccoli stem pesto, or soup or whatever moves you.
  2. Toss together the broccoli, shallots, and raisins or cranberries with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Just before serving, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and feta, if using. Serve chilled.