Category Archives: Savory

Lentil Chili

Lentil​ Chili

Being from Texas, I was raised to believe that beans have no place in chili, but that is not something I ascribe to as an adult. For one thing, I don’t want to make both a main and a vegetable side dish if I don’t have to, and for another, I happen to like beans in chili. So there.

Lentil​ Chili

Now, I do have a go-to beanless meat-based chili recipe on here, but as of today, I have two vegan variations. What can I say? I like vegetables.

The secrets to great vegetable-based chili are the same as anything else: heat, seasoning and time. The ingredients are added with intention:

First the onion, then the garlic. Caramelize the tomato paste a bit, then stir in the spices, a splash of soy sauce for depth, and most of a pound of lentils. Simmer everything in vegetable stock until the lentils are tender, then scoop some out, purée and add it back for texture. Taste for seasoning and, well, that’s it. As far as chili goes, this is simplicity itself.

Lentil​ Chili

Lentil Chili is good right out of the pot, but give it a few hours (or days) in the fridge and it’s truly spectacular. Rich and hearty and meaty in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a meatless recipe. It’s particularly good after a long day, when reheated and topped with heaps of shredded cheddar, avocado, corn muffins, and anything else you like. Because, make no mistake, cooking at home is almost entirely about making what you like.

Chili “rules” be damned. This is comfort in a bowl.

Lentil​ Chili
Lentil Chili
makes about 6 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed and picked over
7 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed 4-6 quart pot over medium heat. Add diced onion and sauté until it begins to take on color, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to take on color (about 7-10 minutes). Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa and cayenne, followed by lentils. Stir in soy sauce and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Turn heat to low. Remove 2 cups of cooked lentils to a heatproof bowl. Let cool 5-10 minutes before pureeing with an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. Return purée to the pot. Stir and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed.

Lentil Chili will taste good immediately after it is made, but is best after a few hours or a day in the refrigerator. Serve it up with cheese, avocado, scallions and/or any other toppings of choice.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

After baking my tail off for the final two months of the calendar year, I make a point of changing things up around here every January, leaning into more everyday foods and savory fare. I began this month with my tried and true formula for Crispy Chickpeas, and will be bringing you plenty of dinners and snacky things until February. There may be a cookie recipe in there too—I make and break the rules around here.

While weeknight meals aren’t my usual content, a person cannot live on cookies alone. Believe me, I have tried. As we settle into whatever fresh hell 2022 has for us, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite meals that can be made with minimal time and energy, but with plenty of delicious pay-off. Some are classics and some are masquerading as classy, but they’re all wonderful. These are my Easiest Weeknight Meals!

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Everyday Cassoulet

When people ask me for quick, easy, crowd-pleasing dinner ideas “Everyday Cassoulet” are always the first two words out of my mouth. A quick take on a slow-cooked French classic, this dish could not be easier—it’s just an assemblage of sausages, cherry tomatoes, white beans and aromatics that are roasted to comforting perfection. You can also make it vegan with meatless sausages or a couple of pounds of fresh mushrooms—love that versatility. Serve this up with a salad, a hunk of crusty bread or all by its lonesome. There’s no wrong way to Everyday Cassoulet.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Sopa de Pollo

This Mexican recipe is my absolute favorite chicken soup. It’s easy to make, with minimal knife work and no searing steps, and it simmers up in under an hour! Feel free to swap in your favorite vegetables to suit your particular tastes, but whatever you do, don’t skip the mint. It makes the whole thing.

How to Make Eggs 5 Ways

Eggs?! On a list of weeknight dinners?! Hell yes—breakfast for dinner rules. I work evenings, so when I finally get home and make dinner for myself, it’s frequently some form of eggs with whatever I have in my fridge. They’re a cheap, delicious protein and nearly everyone has a preparation that they love. In the linked post, I go into detail about how to scramble, hard-boil, soft-boil, poach and fry eggs, so you can make them however you like. Get crackin’! (Pun absolutely intended.)

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic sounds fancy, but it’s dead easy and so good. I make it extra easy (and cut the cost!) by using raw frozen shrimp. The rest of the ingredients are kitchen staples, making this an absolute snap to make. While I’m recommending you make it for weeknights here, it’s also perfect for company.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Spicy Turkey Tacos

I have made this recipe approximately 250 times over the last six years and it has never once disappointed. I mean, who doesn’t love tacos? This recipe for easy homemade taco seasoning and saucy, spicy turkey tacos is a staple in my personal chef and home-cooking repertoire. It takes half an hour start to finish and makes amazing leftovers.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese

I started making this mac & cheese while I was acting as craft services on student film sets approximately 147 years ago (2009). I learned how to make it on a sketchy hot plate that I bought at the K-Mart in Penn Station, but it works just as well in my home kitchen ☺️ Made with minimal ingredients, effort and time, this is my go-to recipe for creamy, comforting macaroni & cheese in minutes. Oh, and pro-tip: if you can’t get your hands on cream cheese right now, a scoop of full-fat sour cream works just as well.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

I used to be shocked at the number of people I know that don’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, but then I realized that maybe nobody ever taught them how to make one. If you are one of those people, this post is for you. Learn how to make classic grilled cheese low-and-slow, step-by-step, and pair it with a simple homemade tomato soup for maximum comfort and nostalgia. Once you’ve perfected the original, get fancy with my Awards Season favorite Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese—yum!

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

What’s your favorite easy weeknight meal? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Crispy Chickpeas

Crispy Chickpeas​

I first tried making Crispy Chickpeas when I moved to NYC back in 2007. They were weirdly trendy at the time, so I decided to brave the tiny kitchen I shared with five people and give them a shot. Following a recipe written by a former Food Network personality who I won’t name, I drained a can of chickpeas, patted off as much of the moisture as I could, and then roasted them at a high temperature for a short period of time. I was very excited to see what all the fuss was about, but my efforts were for nothing. The resulting chickpeas weren’t crispy at all, just vaguely dry and mushy on the outside and steamy on the inside. It may have been the recipe or user error—I don’t know. I ate them because I don’t like to waste food, but needless to say, I never attempted them again after that.

Crispy Chickpeas​

Or at least I didn’t until the last day of our trip to Maine in the fall of 2020, when I needed to do something with the large amount of chickpeas I had on my hands after using their aquafaba (cooking/canning liquid) in a multitude of vegan bakes. With limited time and groceries, I decided to try Crispy Chickpeas again. If they didn’t work, I’d just blame it on the faulty oven and call it a day.

But they did work. They worked *well.* By roasting them at a lower heat for a longer time and tossing them frequently, I ended up with a perfect crispy, crunchy snack. After that, there was no turning back. I’m a Crispy Chickpea machine, y’all.

The big secret to homemade Crispy Chickpeas is no secret at all: you just need heat and time. In 35 minutes and a few shakes of a pan, the chickpeas go from damp and soft to crispy and light-textured, perfect for a snack or garnish for soup or salad.

You can make Crispy Chickpeas in any flavor you like. Get fancy by combining miso & maple or sriracha & lime zest, or use pre-mixed blends from your spice cabinet; garam masala, taco seasoning, za’atar, and everything bagel seasoning would all be great. Oh, and Spicy Chili Crisp is perfect on them, too. Of course, you can also just mix and match whatever is in your spice cabinet or your condiment collection—you’ll need 2-4 teaspoons of flavorings total per can of beans. The chickpeas pictured are flavored with chipotle and maple. Whatever you choose, taste as you go!

Crispy Chickpeas​

Crispy Chickpeas are incredibly cheap to make, clocking in at just a couple of dollars per batch. Though they shrink a bit as they roast, one can’s-worth still makes enough for at least a couple of people to nibble on. That said, if you’re quarantining or maybe just don’t like to share, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble putting these away on your own.

Crispy Chickpeas
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
2-4 teaspoons spices or flavorings of choice

Preheat oven to 400F.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Scatter them onto a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and blot well to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes. Add spices of choice (taste and adjust as you go).

If using only ground spices/flavorings, you may eat the crispy chickpeas immediately. If using hot sauces or syrups, I recommend returning them to the oven for up to 5-10 minutes to set, if you prefer (I do!). Do not burn. Let chickpeas cool for at least a few minutes before serving.

Crispy Chickpeas will keep covered at room temperature for up to 2 days. They may soften very slightly over time.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Sage Brown Butter

Whether you’re vegetarian or just not into the usual turkey, you’re going to want to add these Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi to your Thanksgiving line-up. These little dumplings may not be a traditional part of the holiday menu, but they are tender, seasonal, and an oh-so-fun way to jazz things up.

If you’re stressed out by the idea of making homemade gnocchi, please listen to me: you (yes, you!) can make gnocchi at home during the holidays and not lose your mind in the process. Really! For the longest time, I thought gnocchi were one of those things I needed to leave to the professionals. Turns out, they are much simpler to make than anticipated. Oh, and I guess working in food for six years makes me one of the professionals—oops.

Let’s get down to it. First of all, for a beginner gnocchi maker, ricotta is the way to go. I’ve futzed around with the traditional potato variety and while that’s fun for a weekend project, it’s not the type of recipe I’m looking to take on a week before the biggest food holiday of the year. Nope. Enter ricotta gnocchi, the potato version’s just-as-good, low-maintenance cousin. It can be made in under an hour start-to-finish with no fretting over leaden results. Today’s version is getting a little autumnal flair from pumpkin purée. Yesssss.

The process of making Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi is very simple, but here are some tips for success.

  • Make sure to drain your pumpkin purée and ricotta on paper towels before mixing. This comes straight from the brilliant J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, so you know it’s important. Getting rid of the extra moisture in your cheese and purée will make your dough much easier to work with and your final gnocchi much prettier.
  • Flour your surface, knife, and hands really well. Like with other doughs, this will make the whole process much less frustrating (and sticky).
  • You don’t have to shape the gnocchi. Nobody is going to care if your gnocchi have ridges or are simply shaped like little pillows. I took the liberty of rolling mine across the back of a fork, but this is completely cosmetic and in no way required for gnocchi success.
  • You can make these ahead and freeze them! Once they’re cut, you can flash freeze your Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi on a baking sheet and store them in a freezer bag until you’re ready to cook. You can boil them straight from the freezer; starting frozen will only add 30-60 seconds to the cook time.
  • Cooking gnocchi takes just a minute or two! Boil them just until they float, then drain immediately.
  • Serve Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with any sauce you like! Despite their seasonal ingredients and color, their flavor is pretty mild and will go with a multitude of sauces. I went with Spicy Sage Brown Butter because it’s exactly what I want this time of year, but I think a seasonal pesto (kale! beet greens! pepitas! feta!) would be amazing. Get creative with it!

Y’all, these are so good. Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi are sophisticated seasonal comfort food at its finest—a perfect vegetarian dish or starter for Thanksgiving, or any fall day. They’re so quick and simple, you could even make them for a weeknight dinner like you’re Ina freaking Garten or something.

That said, if you’re dishing up homemade gnocchi on a Wednesday night, please invite me over.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup pure pumpkin purée
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (2/3 of a 15-ounce tub)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or “00” flour

For cooking:
water
Kosher or sea salt

For serving:
Spicy Sage Brown Butter (recipe below)
parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving

Line a plate with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Spread pumpkin and ricotta onto the paper towels and press 2-3 more layers of paper towels on top. Let sit 15-20 minutes. Peel off and discard top layers of paper towel and then remove pumpkin and ricotta to a medium mixing bowl. Discard remaining paper towels.

With a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir together pumpkin and ricotta. Stir in egg yolks, followed by Parmesan and salt. Add half the flour, followed by the remaining half. The dough should be a little sticky but not impossible to handle. If needed, add more flour by the tablespoon until it is coming away from the walls of the bowl in a single mass.

Flour your hands, a chef’s knife (or bench scraper), and a surface. Pat the dough into a circle, then slice it into 8 wedges.

Use your hands to roll each wedge into a rope about 3/4-inch thick. Slice the gnocchi into bite-size pieces (keep in mind that they will expand slightly during cooking). If you would like your gnocchi to have ridges, you can roll each one along the back of a fork (or a special gnocchi board if you’re fancy), but this is totally optional.

At this point you may freeze your gnocchi. Heavily flour a rimmed sheet pan and add your gnocchi, making sure they are in an even layer. Freeze for a couple of hours, until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to a couple of months.

To cook gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well. Add gnocchi and let cook just until they float (1-2 minutes). Drain immediately and toss with Spicy Sage Brown Butter (or other sauce). Garnish with cheese and enjoy immediately.

Spicy Sage Brown Butter
makes enough for 1 batch Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
20 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
parmesan cheese, for garnish

Add butter, sage leaves, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes to a small light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat.

Use a fork or slotted spoon to fish out the sage leaves (they should be crispy) and place them on a a paper towel-lined plate.

Stir vinegar into the butter and taste and adjust for salt. Toss with gnocchi and use sage leaves as a garnish.

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseAs far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster loved the Oscars. I couldn’t tell you when I first watched them, but I don’t recall ever missing a ceremony. Oscar Night is my favorite holiday. One of my best friends and I bonded over our mutual love of Oscar politics. I put great effort into predicting each year’s nominees and winners. I consider Martin Scorsese’s win in 2007 one of the happiest moments of *my* life. Put simply, I love them I love them I love them.

To that end, it will come as no surprise that I have a traditional Oscar Night meal. If you’ve been around here a while, you know by now that my Oscar dessert is always red velvet (because it’s “red like the red carpet”). The main though? I’ve never posted it. I’ve barely mentioned it. Until now, duh.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseI’ve been making Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheeses for dinner on every Oscar Night since 2005. Why? Because:

A) it’s effing delicious, as all cheesy pesto things are.
B) it’s easy, and that’s important when you’re cooking and watching red carpet coverage at the same time.
C) 20 year old me could afford all the ingredients and churn these out on the illegal electric burner I had in my dorm room. Pesto Mozzarella anything seemed very special to all my college pals and was enough to get them to watch the Oscars with me.
D) this is the height of sophistication in the category of Things I Once Cooked in a Residence Hall That I Still Make.

Anyway…this sandwich. This simple, simple sandwich. I’ve been making it for sixteen years and I won’t go an Oscar Night without it. It’s cheesy, it’s herby. It brings me so much joy on Oscar Night (and any night).Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseLet’s talk ingredients. First things first: get the good sandwich bread. I mean, whatever you have will absolutely work, but might I suggest sourdough? Or something crusty and chewy with an open structure so that some of the cheese melts through to the pan and gets crispy? Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot???Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseNext up, Basil Pesto. It’s spread on both slices of bread involved in this grilled cheese and is the thing that makes it pop! The pesto pictured is my homemade stuff, but feel free to use store bought. Keep in mind that it’s a primary flavor though, so whatever you choose, make sure you really like it.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseYou can’t have a grilled cheese without cheese! I use a mix of equal parts fresh mozzarella and low-moisture whole milk mozzarella that I shred on the large hole side of my box grater. This gives the sandwich the rich flavor of the fresh cheese with the perfect meltability (?) of the more processed stuff.

Don’t want to buy both? Don’t! You can use all of either one with good results. I am just persnickety after sixteen years and like a mix. You can also just slice and layer it instead of grating–whatever you like. A word to the wise: don’t buy the pre-shredded stuff. It just doesn’t melt right.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseThough most grilled cheeses are made with butter, I choose to use olive oil here to keep with the pesto flavor profile. I brush a little on both sides of my assembled sandwich before cooking.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseAnd speaking of cooking, as with my favorite classic grilled cheese, Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese is cooked over medium-low heat so that the bread crisps and the cheese melts at similar rates—no burnt outsides and cold cheese allowed! It’s all gooey, stretchy cheese, garlicky pesto and crispy edges up in here.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseI almost always serve these up with a green salad with cara cara oranges, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette (more “sophisticated” college food), but you do whatever makes you happy. I mean, the Oscars tend to be volatile enough that this sandwich may be the only thing that goes your way come Sunday night. But oh, what a win.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices sourdough or other good sandwich bread
2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated*
2 ounces low-moisture whole milk mozzarella,* grated (I used Trader Joe’s)
olive oil, for brushing
pinch or two of Kosher or sea salt

Lay all slices of bread on a surface. Spread about a 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of pesto over each one. Top two of the slices with the grated cheeses. Top cheese with remaining pieces of pesto-spread bread, “closing” the sandwiches. Use a pastry brush to brush olive oil on exposed plain bread. Sprinkle with salt.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches oiled-bread-side-down. Brush the exposed (plain-side-up) pieces of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Let sandwiches cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3 more minutes.

Remove to plates and serve immediately.

Note:

1. Fresh mozzarella doesn’t grate cleanly, but will still crumble nicely enough on the side of a box grater.

2. Low-moisture mozzarella is the kind that comes shrink-wrapped and is usually near the bricks of cheddar and pre-sliced cheese. Leftovers can be used in pasta dishes or for homemade pizza bagels or English muffin pizzas.

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese