Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pumpkin Kale Black Bean Stew

Now that autumn's here, it's time for fall produce! At the farmer's market this week I got pumpkins, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, greens, some purple tomatoes that looked like chestnuts ...

For these chillier nights, I decided to make PumpkinKale, Black Bean Stew - here's how I made it:


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small to medium sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cut into large dice
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. paprika (or to taste)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin butter (I use Trader Joe's)
  • 1 bunch lacinato/dino kale, stems removed, chopped 
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 fresh roma tomato (I just had one around and decided to use it)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Dash hot sauce (optional)


  1. Roast pumpkin in the oven at 325 for 45 min. or until tender when prodded with a fork. (I don't season the pumpkin or anything, just simply put the whole thing in the oven and let it roast away.) Remove pumpkin and let it cool enough to touch and then slice and scoop out the seeds and dice flesh into large chunks. *I save the seeds to bake later for snacking.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Cook onion until it begins to soften. Add garlic and diced sweet potato. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and turmeric, stirring around to distribute golden color throughout the onion pieces. Add a splash of water to the pot if the spices start to stick to the bottom, to bring up all the little bits.
  3. Add the pumpkin and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the pumpkin butter, allowing the sweet pumpkin to coast the savory roasted pumpkin, and cook out. Season with salt and pepper. Then stir in the beef broth, tomatoes, and paprika. Bring heat up, then turn down to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the rinsed/drained/chopped kale and wilt into the broth. Season the kale with nutmeg and more pepper. Add the diced fresh tomato if you have it - adds a nice contrast to the smoky fire-roasted tomatoes and peppery broth.
  5. After soup has simmered for 15 minutes, add black beans and bay leaf; simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in the sherry vinegar and hot sauce; turn down the heat. Let the stew sit so the flavors combine.
  6. Serve up the stew with some crusty bread to mop up the spicy broth - enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Egyptian Find

At our local farmer's market there's a regular who sells homemade Middle Eastern delights, from Lebanese stuffed grape leaves to every hummus flavor you can imagine, and recently I discovered this authentic Egyptian dish: spiced fava beans! Having tasted them in Cairo I had to get some - what a find. In Egypt they eat a lot of fava beans, even with breakfast actually. This was the real deal.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Anniversary Dinner

For our three-year anniversary I decided to make a nice dinner at home, combining rustic and elegant for the perfect celebratory meal. With fall upon us in New England, I went for fresh and local: seared sea scallops with roasted butternut squash, leeks and crispy pancetta.  Here's how I did it:

First, I picked up some Tuscan bread from our neighborhood Clear Flour Bakery. I served it with a couple of options to dip/top the crusty bread with - white bean spread (I pureed cannelini beans with good olive oil, salt, pepper, and mixed in rosemary and red pepper flakes), and tomato "jam" (I roasted cherry tomatoes in the oven with olive oil and salt until wrinkly sweet, mashing them a bit in a bowl to release their juices and topping with a sprinkle of parmesan), and of course good oil.

Next I made dinner:
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice and rinse a leek, spreading about half the pieces on a baking pan. Lay peeled and cubed butternut squash on the pan, tossing with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzling with good maple syrup and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Bake the squash and leeks until caramelized (with golden brown edges.)
2) Crisp minced pancetta in a pan with about 1 tbsp. olive oil until frothy. Remove the pancetta from the pan and lay on a paper towel to drain the fat.
3) Put the remaining leek pieces into the pan - yes, cooking them in pancetta grease, but only on a special occasion would I do this - and sautee until soft and the white parts translucent. (Add a tbsp. of butter if you're feeling really decadent.) Remove the leaks.
4) Increase the heat and saute the sea scallops in the pan, grating a hint of sea salt so that it forms a golden crust. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine (I used the Pinot Grigio we were drinking with dinner) to loosen up those little bits of pancetta flavor, and cook a few minutes on each side so the scallop edges are just about crusty.
5) Lower the heat and add the pieces of squash to the pan, putting the leeks and pancetta back in, so all the flavors come together. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dok Bua Thai

After years of passing Dok Bua Thai Kitchen on the way to Coolidge Corner and never once going in, despite the effusive recommendations of our good friends who frequented the place every weekend, we finally made a date to try this renowned Thai.

The restaurant was packed on a Saturday night, and yet when they told us it would be a 15-minute wait for a table for two, it was ready shortly after, crammed in the large, noisy dining room that seemed to be filled with families. The food came fairly quickly (though they forgot to bring the Thai iced tea with the meal), and it was just hands down good Thai food.

For appetizers we ordered crab rolls:

Though honestly they tasted nothing like crab to me, rather  pork rolls of some kind, so as a Maryland blue crab purist it was hard to wrap my brain around these things actually being seafood. They were good, just not pure crab flavor.

and crispy tofu:

I am a huge fan of tofu when it's cooked properly, and while admittedly these golden treats were bland without the dipping sauce, they absorbed flavor like the blank canvas they are while retaining their texture. I added some of the leftover tofu triangles to soak up the sauce in my stir-fry entree, and it worked really nicely.

For our entrees, he got the classic Pad Thai:

The shrimp were massive!

I ordered the cashew stir-fry with chicken and vegetables:

Really tasty, with crisp peppers and mushrooms in the savory sauce, and the perfect nut crunch in every cashew bite. Thai food is almost comforting for me, since it reminds me of eating with my dad, and Dok Bua hit the spot.

Rainbow Salad

Vibrant heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market - this salad was a rainbow "feast for the eyes."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tuscan Chard

I made this Tuscan chard dish using ingredients from a ribollita, a traditional Tuscan soup, but lighter for the season. How I did it:

1) Saute a few strips of bacon in a large pan and remove to drain on paper towel. Add olive oil to the bacon grease and saute a diced onion and a few cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. While they cook, roast cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan in the oven.
2) Wilt a large bunch of chard into the pan, adding chicken broth as needed. Take the rind of good quality parmesan and place in the broth so that the flavor melts in (I save these in the freezer after we've finished a block.) As liquid evaporates, mix in a can of (drained, rinsed) white beans.
3) Season the greens with a pinch of nutmeg, sage, and basil (preferably fresh.) When the broth has simmered off, add in chopped pieces of sundried tomatoes and put crumbled bacon back in. Add roasted cherry tomatoes and some cooked spinach tortellini (we had some leftover), and top with shaved parmesan and freshly ground pepper to taste.
4) Tear a few pieces of crusty bread and place around the edges to sop up the juices. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012


We recently got a new gas grill and naturally have been grilling up a storm on these summery nights. Grilling is simple and straightforward cooking, but you can still get more creative than the standard burgers, hot dogs, and fish - here, for example, are the grilled veggie towers I made for Labor Day:

How I did it:
1) Slice and salt eggplant (I got a gorgeous eggplant from the farmer's market with marbled skin of white and lavender purple) to draw out the moisture before grilling.
2) Fire up the grill. Lay slices of eggplant over medium heat (we have a gas grill, and since each grill is different of course, the temperature will vary) and cook until you have nice grill marks on the eggplant flesh, then flip to the other side. The eggplant will cook longer than the asparagus, so get it on the grill first.
3) Trim the asparagus and toss on the grill with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
4) While the veggies cook, make the fresh herbed ricotta - stir into part skim ricotta cheese freshly chopped herbs - I used basil, thyme, parsley and a bit of chives, just picked from the garden) and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
5) Remove the veggies from the grill and make the towers: spoon a dollop of herbed ricotta on top of a piece of eggplant, top with some asparagus spears, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!