Grape Leaves 2.0


By Freya Bellin

There’s a whole subset of foods that I would normally be hesitant to make at home because they sound too complicated or too messy. And until this past weekend, stuffed grape leaves would have fallen into this category. Yet, as it turns out, grape leaves—or chard leaves in this case—are pretty easy to make yourself.

I was totally impressed by the filling in this recipe. As I often find with the vegetable side dishes or fillings in this book, I couldn’t resist just eating it straight from the mixing bowl. The tabbouleh is herby and fresh, and I added raisins and walnuts for extra flavor and texture. I highly recommend that addition, especially if you’re accustomed to sweet dolmades. You could also substitute Quinoa Tabbouleh for the filling if you prefer quinoa to bulgur.

The next piece of this recipe is part arts and crafts project. The chard leaves become surprisingly pliable yet sturdy once shocked, and they’re pretty easy to work with. It took me a few tries to master the rolling, but once I got the hang of it they started to look quite professional. It’s tough to take a clean bite of the final product, but the leaves become softer and easier to bite into on day 2, probably due to the acidity of the lemon juice. You may experiment with coating the leaves with extra juice or olive oil to soften them. Needless to say, they take well to being made in advance, and you still end up with an impressive-looking, delicious new take on a classic. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Seared Bok Choy with Bacon Vinaigrette


Makes: 4 servings
Time: 25 minutes

An unusual side dish that’s lovely with a nice piece of salmon or other full-flavored fatty fish. You can grill the bok choy instead of searing it if you like.

Other vegetables you can use: bok choy, Napa cabbage (cut lengthwise into long spears), endive (halved lengthwise), or radicchio (quartered).Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Pan-Cooked Vegetables with Crunchy Fish


By Freya Bellin

When a recipe transforms winter vegetables into something bright and summery, you know you’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s exactly how this dish is; it has a tropical element despite being composed almost entirely of root vegetables. The vegetable base for the fish is like a hash, especially if you use mostly potato. (I used a combination of sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and turnip.) A food processor with a grating blade will be tremendously helpful, unless you have a particularly good hand grater (and a fearless disregard for your knuckles).

The seasoning for the dish is simple, which highlights the natural sweetness of the veggies. I used a mild curry powder, but a spicier one could work too. If you stay with the sweet and mild theme, I think there’s even room in this dish for some fruit, like raisins, apple, plantains, or mango. While the vegetable mixture makes a great side dish here, it could easily stand alone without the fish, garnished with red onion and parsley. It would also make a good potluck dish, as it isn’t temperature sensitive.

I chose striped bass for the fish, which held up really nicely to this method of cooking. You could also try halibut or mahi-mahi.  If you don’t like the idea of breading or dredging fish, you’ll be happy to know that the fish ends up with just a light coating of the flour and cornmeal mixture. It makes a thin, perfectly crispy layer that is otherwise hard to get without frying in lots of oil. Texturally, the crispy fish makes a great contrast to the soft, grated vegetable hash. Sweet, crunchy, spicy, and quite light: an excellent combination. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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7 Ways to Make Lentil Soup


Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

Lentils make soup making easy—they cook quickly and are incredibly tasty. And unlike many lentil soups, which are so thick they put people off completely, this one is nicely balanced with some simple vegetables. The lentils break down a bit during the cooking to give the soup a hearty consistency, but you can purée it if you prefer. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Easy Paella with Chorizo, Clams, and Peas


By Freya Bellin

Certain dishes intimidate me, and paella has always been one of them. It has a level of authenticity about it that makes it rather daunting to try to replicate. However, if you let go of the need to make it perfectly traditional, it turns out to be pretty easy to make delicious paella at home.

I was surprised to find that the recipe calls for neither pimentón nor saffron, both of which I associate with paella. I considered adding a dash of one or the other anyway, but the recipe is right; the dish definitely doesn’t need the extra flavor. The chorizo has a spicy smokiness that pervades the whole dish. Make sure you use the type of chorizo that comes wrapped like salami or a hot dog because you need to be able to dice it. The more sausage-like chorizo will crumble when you cut through the casing. Instead of fresh tomatoes, which are hard to find this time of year, I substituted 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes, and then used the juice from the canned tomatoes instead of 1 of the cups of water.

If you’d rather skip the seafood, this dish will still be great. Being a novice clam steamer, I overcooked mine so they didn’t add much to the paella, but it did highlight how great the rice is even without it. If you’re hungry and just want to dig in, you could skip the last step of toasting the rice, but if you can wait, your patience will be rewarded—the crust at the bottom of the pan is easily the best part of any paella.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Roasted Carrots with Cumin


Makes: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

Sweet and totally delicious, with many wonderful variations possible. Other vegetables you can use: parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, or winter squash.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 to 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots, green tops trimmed, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Roasted Carrots with Fennel Seeds. Substitute fennel for the cumin.

Roasted Carrots with Pine Nuts. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4 cup pine nuts in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.

Roasted Carrots with Sesame. Substitute 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, and 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil for the olive oil. Substitute up to 2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds for the cumin; add them in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.

Roasted Carrots with Dates and Raisins. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4 cup each golden raisins and chopped dates in the last 10 minutes of roasting. Garnish with chopped nuts, like pistachios, almonds, or walnuts, and a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves.


Charred Stuffed Poblanos


By Freya Bellin

Stuffed peppers are among the most fun foods to serve because of the surprise factor. It’s like opening a little culinary gift. And in this recipe, the stuffing is so good that you may want to make extra to eat on its own or to serve on the side. Spicy scallions, sweet raisins, crunchy almonds, and just-melted cheese? It doesn’t get much better. If your peppers are big enough and you’re careful to avoid overflow, you can probably stuff a little bit more of the cheese mixture into them than is called for below. Anything hanging out too close to the open flame will burn, though, so make sure that the peppers stay closed up.

This recipe does require a delicate touch when rotating the poblanos. The smaller you can keep the stuffing opening, the less likely you are to lose stuffing when you flip them. An even char on all sides really helps the bitter skin peel away nicely.

Poblanos are on the mild side as far as peppers go, but they do still have a kick, so be cautious, especially when handling the seeds. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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