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It’s a New Years celebration…Black-eyed peas and Collard Greens!

Fresh collards...a New Year's must!

Fresh collards…a New Year’s must!

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy I came across one of my new favorite feel-good dishes–Ribollita. Ribollita is a basic, peasant-style thick soup that is perfect for the cold winter months. Traditional Ribollita is a vegetable and bread based soup that is served reboiled the next day topped with a dash of fresh olive oil. The original recipe calls for Tuscan kale and cannellini beans; however, my own traditions call for eating collard greens and black-eyed peas  on New Years day so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to adapt one of my favorite soups for ringing in 2013! Plus, my husband has yet to acquire a taste for collard greens and black-eyed peas, so each year I look for creative new ways to sneak them into our New Years day meal 🙂  This one is a winner! Plus, if you are making a New Year’s resolution to be “healthy” this is a hearty vegetarian, vegan (depending on the bread you use) dish that will please any carnivore or omnivore out there.

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Note: The soup is traditionally made the day before serving then reboiled (hence the name Ribollita) the next day. If you are stretched for time go ahead and make it all in one day–it will still taste good.

Good Luck Ribollita

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

2 russet potatoes peeled and diced

1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 7 cups) fresh collard greens, washed, rinsed, and shredded/torn into bite sized pieces

6 whole tomatoes, peeled (can use whole tomatoes from a can, just the tomato, not the juice)

crusty bread

good olive oil

salt & pepper

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups...carrots, celery, onion

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups…carrots, celery, onion

Ribollita in the making...needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Ribollita in the making…needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil...just top with the ribollita then bake

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil…just top with the ribollita then bake

Ready to bake in the oven

Ready to bake in the oven

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot head olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until soft–approximately 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, potatoes, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, you can crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the greens and beans. Pour 6-7 cups of water in the soup and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking, use an immersion blender to roughly blend the soup to create a bit of thickness. Don’t over-blend–you want to the soup to still be rustic and chunky with a variety of textures from the vegetables and beans. Add 1 cup of torn stale crusty bread and continue to cook with the lid off to thicken the soup if needed. At this point the soup is pretty much done. You can continue the recipe at this point, but it won’t be real “ribollita/reboiled.”

To finish the ribollita, the next day bring the soup to room temperature. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using oven-proof soup crock or any other oven proof bowl add a little olive oil to the bowls to coat the bottom. Place a slice or two of crusty bread in the bottom of the bowl, then top with the soup. Bake in the oven until bubbly and heated through. To serve, add high quality olive oil to each bowl as a topping to the soup and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper.  I must admit…this soup is well worth the wait and I think it will be my newly established New Year’s lucky soup. Happy 2013!!

Lucy Ribollita

Lucky Ribollita

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Bizarre Veggies–Roasted!

Roasted Romanesco and Yellow Cauliflower

At the farmers market a few weeks ago as I was picking up my last CSA box, I encountered a bizarre veggie that I could not resist buying and figuring out what to do with–Romanesco Broccoli. Romanesco broccoli is an Italian broccoli that has a similar texture as that of cauliflower. You can use it for pastas, risotto, or as I have…just a delicious roasted side dish.  The flavor is mild, the texture is crunchy and all-together it is a wonderful combination of broccoli and cauliflower that just happens to look like it grew on Mars.

Romanesco Broccoli

So for the recipe–it is a safe, simple way to experiment with new veggies–roasting. Roasting is so simple and a great way to cook any hearty veggie. The roasting time depends on how “crispy brown” you like your veggies. I opt to have differing sizes of the veggies cut so that some pieces get really crunchy and brown while others are lighter and crisp tender.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil, enough to coat veggies
  • Romanesco broccoli
  • Yellow cauliflower
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes

To make:

Preheat oven to 400-425. In a large bowl, mix cut Romanesco broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Place veggies in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes–or until brown and crisped to your liking. You can give the veggies a stir half way through for more even browning. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Delicious, Strange, Veggies: roasted yellow cauliflower & romanesco broccoli

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Perfect Bites: Southern Pan Fried Okra

One of my absolute favorite foods is fresh fried okra. Not the over-battered kind, but the lightly dusted in cornmeal, pan-fried extra crispy (no goo) kind. This recipe is one that my mother passed along and it makes the perfect bite of fried okra every time. It is so simple and so delicious! I could eat an entire pan of this okra myself…but I practice self control and always make it when I have someone to share a few bites with 🙂

The trick to this recipe is the okra…only fresh summer okra will do. I have attempted to re-create the fried okra using frozen okra and it just doesn’t work out well. It actually ends up a soggy mess. So reap the benefits of your farmer’s market, CSA box, or garden grown okra while it lasts and fry up this Southern delight!

Mama’s Crispy Pan Fried Okra

  • fresh okra
  • cornmeal (white or yellow)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of cayenne (optional)
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying

To make:

Heat oil in a saute or frying pan (cast iron is best) over medium-high heat. I use just enough oil to cover the okra about 1/4-1/2 way. This is more of a pan fry method rather than a deep fry.

Cut the okra ends off and slice into rounds approximately 1/2 inch in length. Working rather quickly (to take advantage of the okra “goo”) place okra in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper (and cayenne if you are using). Sprinkle a heaping layer of corn meal on top of the okra and gently mix to coat the okra.

Lightly coat the okra in cornmeal, salt and pepper

If the okra is fresh enough there should be enough okra goo to make the corn meal stick. Carefully place okra in hot oil. Do not over fill the pan with the okra, you want only one layer of okra in the pan to ensure all of the sides of the okra get crispy. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 10  minutes, gently stir about 1/2 way through. Monitor the heat to prevent the okra burning or oil from getting too hot when covered. Remove cover and cook until okra has browned to your preference (another 5-10 minutes). I like a few pieces to be on the darker side (usually the smaller ones). Okra will crisp up more as it cools. Remove cooked okra with a slotted spoon from the oil and let cool slightly on a paper towel lined plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Just a little oil to pan fry this crispy summer treat!

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CSA box Veggie Chili–this is prior to the last few minutes of cooking…almost ready. A one-pot dinner filled with many healthy, delicious, perfect bites!

In trying to use up the bounty of fresh veggies in creative ways…I’ve come across plenty of perfect bites (and a handful of not-so-perfect bites).

This recipe is so easy and a great way to use up the veggies from your weekly CSA box. The “Farmer’s Market Chili” is a veggie-packed chili is full of flavor and can be adapted to be a great vegetarian main meal. This particular recipe is just shy of being vegetarian. I used beef broth but substitute vegetable broth and your meal is vegetarian…don’t top with cheese or sour cream and you have yourself a vegan chili! The portions can be increased exponentially to freeze for the upcoming chilly fall and winter days ahead. As far as the specific veggies—improvise based on what you have on hand. The key is to incorporate a few different textures in the chili. Another added bonus: this is a one pot meal! Have fun and enjoy 🙂

Simple Summer CSA Chili

3 medium zucchini, roughly chopped

2-3 medium/large yellow summer squash

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 medium/large carrot, roughly chopped

1 small American eggplant (or…one small Japanese eggplant and one small white eggplant)

2 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice level–use them to kick up the heat)

1 shallot, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)

6 oz can tomato paste

28 oz can whole tomato (tear or roughly chop tomato, save all juice)

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin (fresh ground is best)

15 oz. can of beans (any type will do, I actually used chickpeas)

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp canola oil (substitute 1 Tbsp bacon fat + 2 Tbsp canola oil if desired)

cheese and sour cream (optional for topping)

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other thick bottom pot, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add green peppers, jalapeno peppers, and diced carrot–saute until softened a bit. Add garlic and shallot, stir and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir just until fragrant. Add eggplant, squash, zucchini, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and saute for approx 1 minute–add 1/4 cup of the broth to de-glaze the bottom of the pan, continue to stir 1 more minute. Add tomatoes with juices, beans, and remainder of the broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes or until the veggies are done to your desired crispness. Add additional broth, wine, or water if chili becomes too thick. I prefer a thicker, chunkier chili but thin to your taste preference. Enjoy!

Optional: Let cool slightly, scoop into a bowl, top with a dollop of sour cream and cheese.

Farmer’s Market Chili

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CSA box–each week a wonderful surprise of fruits and veggies!

This summer my husband and I decided to participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. We thought this would be a great way to support local farmers, eat more fresh produce, and possibly trim up our waistlines! Participating in a CSA program is a great alternative for city-dwellers like ourselves to enjoy the fresh bounty of summer fruits and veggies even though we don’t have our own garden.

We decided to participate in Stillman’s Farm, which has been great so far.  If you are interested, you can follow their blog linked my Local Favorites blogroll list. We are about 5 weeks into the deliveries and are happy with the quality and selection of veggies. Lots of greens! It does take some work to clean and prep all of the produce, but the end results of delicious, fresh foods is worth it! I will be posting recipes using these fresh fruits and veggies (hopefully frequently).

This first recipe is a  fast, easy, and delicious way to use up Kale (which has been abundant in the boxes from week to week so far). The chips can me made with any variety of Kale.

Basic Kale Chips

  • Fresh kale–cleaned, stems and center ribs cut and removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Tear kale into the size “chips” you desire. Toss kale in olive oil to coat. Place kale in a single layer on a baking sheet; top with salt and pepper (or other spices–see note below). Bake in oven for approx 30 min. You can check the crispiness at 20 min. then continue to cook until chips are crisp to your preference. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

The chips are best the same day, but can last one or two more days, stored in an airtight container. The light, airy crispy kale chips will go fast, so you won’t have to worry about storing them too long 🙂

*Note: This is just a basic recipe. Add any spice you like (i.e. cayenne, garlic, cumin, crushed red pepper, etc.) to the chips to change up the flavors.

Kale chips–surprisingly delicious!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Side dish envy: Balsamic Butternut Squash

As much as I like a perfect bite of roast beef, turkey, or ham, filling my plate with multiple side dishes is my favorite part of a big holiday meal. Side dishes are often unfortunately overlooked during the holidays–a time when meats and desserts really shine. This recipe is so easy and results in a bold, flavorful side dish that will certainly be noticed. Leftovers reheat well or can be used as a tasty base for soup the next day. You can multiply this recipe to feed as many people as needed.

Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

good Balsamic vinegar

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you buy whole squash, peel the squash with a sharp vegetable peeler then dice into approximately 1 inch cubes. To save some elbow grease you can buy the pre-cut butternut squash in most grocery stores in the produce aisle. I find the pre-cut are a bit dryer than cutting your own, but peeling and cutting the squash takes some effort. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash salt and pepper and olive oil until the squash are coated. Layer the squash onto a baking pan, lined with foil, in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until browned and softened to your likeness (you can check the tenderness with a fork). Turn the squash about halfway through the cooking to get a more even caramelization/browning of the squash. I actually don’t turn them and prefer one crispy side and one softer side 🙂 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with you favorite balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy…have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Perfect Butternut Squash bites!

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One of my favorite vegetables is the brussel sprout.

Fresh from the market brussel sprouts--on the stalk

I did not eat them much growing up. I have always liked cabbage, so I figured why not give brussel sprouts a shot? They are usually available in grocery stores but my favorite treat is finding them at the local farmers market still on the stalk. This adds a bit of work removing them from the stalk, but the guaranteed freshness is worth the extra elbow grease.

This recipe is fairly basic, but is so delicious. I add garlic and crushed red pepper to give the sprouts a little kick. The roasted garlic gets sweet, creamy and balances out the brussel sprouts perfectly. This is my favorite way to cook brussel sprouts. Even my non-veggie-lover fiance devours these delicious bites of brussel sprout goodness. I like to cook the sprouts until they are very crisp–some may say borderline burnt–but the burnt’ish outer leaves are crunchy, salty, a little spicy and make the perfect veggie bite! I find the leaves that fall off and are actually burnt taste good–almost like little brussel sprout chips. If you prefer less browning, just reduce the roasting time by 5-10 minutes and cook to your preference.

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

Fresh brussel sprouts (remove a little from the bottom if buying from the grocery store because it will be slightly dry), slice in half lengthwise

6-8 cloves of garlic (use more or less depending on how many sprouts you cook), peeled and cut if cloves are large–but do not chop (approx 1/2 inch pieces is enough to hold up through the entire cooking time)

Ready to Roast!

olive oil (enough to coat the sprouts and garlic)

crushed red pepper to taste

salt and pepper

To make:

Toss all ingredients together in a mixing bowl to integrate evenly. Layer the garlic and sprouts on a foil lined baking pan or roasting pan in a single layer–do not overlap. I prefer cut side down to which allows more surface area to get crispy and caramelized–they also seem to dry out less using this technique vs. cut side up. Roast in 375 degree oven for approximately 30-35 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your sprouts to be (check at 20 minutes if you don’t want much browning, then in 5 min. increments until you get to you desired level of “roasted”). Serve warm and enjoy!!!

Crispy, salty, a little spice: Roasted brussel sprouts = a delicious way to get your daily veggies!

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