Carrot-Ginger Soup

A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend asking what I had been cooking over break. I immediately sent him a picture of this carrot-ginger soup, and got a recipe request in response along with the accusation that I had “staged” the photo. True, I did set up this picture on the floor of our kitchen near a full-length window, but nothing about this soup is fake–the flavor of carrots is as prominent as the orange color suggests, and the texture is perfectly silky without any milk or cream to deaden the spice from the ginger.

What makes this recipe so revolutionary is the addition of just one simple pantry ingredient. Cooks’ Illustrated came up with the recipe of course, seeing as the test cooks there remained unparalleled in their use of kitchen chemistry in recipes for the home cook’s advantage.  Just half a teaspoon of baking soda added to the simmering carrots raises the pH of the soup enough to break down the cell walls of the carrots in record time. It’s the same trick that I use to make stir-free polenta, tender braised green beans, and nutty broccoli pesto.  Twenty minutes later, the carrots get pureed into an unbelievably silky soup that is quickly brightened up with a splash of cider vinegar, which is added at the end of cooking to keep the pH in the basic range. The short cooking time has advantages beyond just saving time, too; having the soup simmer for less than half an hour prevents the flavor and heat from the ginger from fading into the background. No fussy straining or special techniques are needed, just sauté some aromatics in butter with ginger before adding the rest of the ingredients, then blend the soup quickly and serve, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich made with good bread and sharp cheddar.

I made this when I was in the always-temperate Palo Alto, but I would love a bowl of this to combat the twenty degree weather in Massachusetts. No matter the weather outside your house, this soup is a simple, healthful meal that everyone will love.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Serves 6

Adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (If you need to make the soup vegan, use canola oil or another similarly neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed.)

2 onions, diced fine

1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger (store your ginger in the freezer to make it easy to grate)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

5 ½ cups water, divided

2 sprigs fresh thyme

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger, garlic, two teaspoons table salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to high, and add the carrots, 4 ¾ cups water, thyme sprigs, and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered until carrots are very tender, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Discard thyme sprigs. Puree the soup in a blender in two batches until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Return soup to a clean pot and stir in remaining ¾ cup water and vinegar. Return to simmer over medium heat, then serve. Soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

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ABC Kitchen’s Squash Toast

I like to think that college has turned me into somewhat of an opportunist—go explore Boston or Sommerville for a day? Sure, why not. Take a butternut squash from the dining hall’s autumn display and stealthily walk out of breakfast with a suddenly much heavier backpack? Of course. There were plenty of other decorative gourds where it came from, anyways, and I couldn’t bear to see such a seasonally appropriate food languish on top of the salad bar when I knew it could become so much more.

The butternut squash sat on my desk for nearly two weeks, staring me down every time I sat down to finish a problem set or write a paper. Last Saturday I finally decided put it to good use. This dish we made, a recipe for butternut squash toast with ricotta and caramelized onion jam is certainly nothing new, but the recipe from the John-Georges Vongerichten’s famed ABC Kitchen has been a favorite recipe of many home cooks for the past few years, and the combination of good cheese and fully caramelized, seasoned vegetables sounded too good to be true after eating dining hall food for the past few months.

So, with a few friends, a cutting board and a mixing bowl bought from Goodwill for two dollars each, the squash, a few drinking glasses of oil, vinegar, and a bowl of sliced onions taken, again, from the dining hall, we sat down in the dorm kitchen and had our first dinner party of the semester. After having eaten nearly all of our meals in the bustling dining hall—the kind with tall ceilings that noises reverberate off of so that that every meal is punctuated with the clatter of dropped plastic cups and the whir of the soft-serve machine—it was such a treat to sit down in a cozy kitchen and enjoy hearty bread topped with creamy ricotta, spicy roasted squash, and caramelized onion jam. The vegetables were cooked but still had life in them—a delicate balance to attain when cooking 5 gallons of broccoli florets for hundreds of students, but straightforward when roasting a single pan of sliced squash—and the contrast of the mild sweetness of the squash against the tangy onions tied all of the flavors into a perfect autumn tartine. It may have been our first dinner party of the semester, but it certainly won’t be our last.

Special thanks to Tufts University Dining Services for creating such a practical autumn display and for having all kinds of vegetables and vinegars in the salad bar. My friends and I are most grateful.

ABC Kitchen’s Squash Toast

Recipe from ABC kitchen found via Smitten Kitchen and adapted for dorm living

Serves 4 as a light main course

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion thinly sliced—I used 2 cups of sliced red onion, which worked well

1 teaspoon table salt

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar—I used red wine vinegar, which served in a pinch

3 tablespoons maple syrup—I used an equal amount of brown sugar

1 medium butternut squash, 2 ½-3 lbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons table salt

½ teaspoon red chili flakes

8-10 slices of hearty whole grain bread, a nice Pain au Levain or any sort of seeded rustic boule will work well

Extra olive oil, for brushing the bread

4 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature

Optional garnishes: chopped fresh mint, a few pinches of kosher or sea salt

  1. Heat the 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt, and saute for 10-15 minutes, until beginning to turn golden brown. Then add the vinegar and maple syrup or brown sugar, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until the onions are thoroughly caramelized and jammy, 15-20 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel and seed the butternut squash, then cut it into ¼ inch thick slices (see the photos above for a visual). In a large bowl, toss the squash slices with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and chili flakes. Spread into an even layer on the prepared baking sheet, then roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the squash is tender and beginning to turn golden brown.
  3. Once the squash is finished, remove the sheet from the oven and transfer the squash to the bowl with the onion jam. Mash the squash into the onions with a fork until combined but not too homogeneous. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Toast the bread under the broiler element until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil, then spread with a heaping tablespoon of ricotta. Place a layer of squash on top of the ricotta and top with mint and salt, if desired. Serve immediately.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Fresh Pasta: Malloreddus and Fettuccine

About once or twice a year I get the urge to make fresh pasta. I don’t make it all that often because it’s a pretty involved process and our (very active) family of four can put away a significant amount of pasta, so you really have to be ready to spend a chunk of the day pretending you’re Lidia Bastianich behind your kitchen counter. When I want to take the extra time to roll out fresh pasta, I seize the opportunity, because there is nothing quite like a hot plate of pasta that just minutes ago was rolled out on the countertop. The pasta strands are unbelievably light and tender without being mushy, and the clean wheat flavor really shines through a simple sauce.

There are two main types of pasta dough that Italians make: pasta all’uovo, or fresh pasta dough made with eggs, and pasta fresca di semola di grano duro, or fresh pasta made with semolina flour. A few nights ago for dinner, I made fettuccine from pasta all’uovo and malloreddus from semolina dough. Although the ingredients for the two pasta doughs vary slightly, the mixing and kneading process is quite similar. The steps below are shown using the pasta all’uovo.

The dough can be made either in the food processor or on the countertop with just a fork—the food processor will save you some time and effort, but I almost always use the countertop method because I would rather spend a few extra minutes kneading pasta dough rather than use up precious dishwasher space to clean the food processor.

Start with a mound of flour, then create a deep cavity in the center of the mound with your fist.

Pour the eggs into the cavity, then pierce the yolks with the tines of a fork, and begin gently beating the eggs while slowly incorporating more flour into the beaten eggs.

After a few minutes, you’ll end up with a shaggy mass of dough that you can begin kneading with your hands. After 15-25 minutes (or one episode of The Mindy Project), the dough will be smooth, supple, and feel like a dry earlobe. Then it’s time for the dough to rest; it takes at least 30 minutes for the gluten molecules to relax and allow for the dough to hydrate fully, so wrap the dough in plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge, and wait for a bit before you start rolling the pasta into the sfoglia, or pasta sheets.

As a comparison, the photos above show what the semolina dough looks like before and after kneading.

Once the dough has rested, it’s time to roll out the pasta dough. The dough can be rolled with either a rolling pin or a pasta roller, but the pasta roller is so much easier and faster to use than doing it by hand. The dough is cut into portions, then rolled starting on the widest setting to the thinnest setting, with about 3 passes though each numbered setting. The pasta dough is properly rolled when it’s smooth and thin enough that light can pass though it and your hand is clearly visible when placed beneath the pasta sheet.

Once you’ve rolled out the sfoglia, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes so that it will cut more cleanly into fettuccine. While it’s resting, you can roll out the remaining portions of dough.

Cutting the dough into the fettuccine is the easy part. Either roll the pasta sheets like you would a yoga mat and cut crosswise into strips, or cut it on a fettuccine-sized attachment on a pasta machine. Liberally dust the cut pasta with all-purpose flour, then pile the noodles loosely on a dishcloth dusted with flour while you cut the rest of the pasta.

Thin, fresh pasta like this cooks almost instantly, so it needs just one to two minutes in boiling, salted water before it’s perfectly al dente. Toss it in a simple light sauce like pesto, butter, or a light tomato sauce (pictured above is a sautéed garlic and olive oil sauce), and serve the hot pasta immediately with a little parmesan.

Now for the semolina dough:

Semolina dough is much sturdier than pasta all’uovo, so I use it to create pastas like cavatelli, or small dumpling shapes like these malloreddus. Malloreddus are originally from Sardinia, and occasionally include saffron in the dough for color and flavor. You can sometimes find them sold as dried pasta, but they can also be made fresh. They’re much less time consuming to shape than any sort of noodle or filled pasta, but they do take a little bit longer to cook. The dough gets rolled into long ropes about half an inch in diameter, then cut into half-inch pieces, a little smaller than a piece of gnocchi.

To give the malloreddus a curved shape and ridged exterior, they’re traditionally rolled on the back of a wicker basket, but a cheese grater is commonly used as well with similar results.

Malloreddus take about eight to nine minutes to cook in the pasta water before they get tossed with sauce (pictured below is a brown-butter and shallot sauce) and served.

Pasta all’uovo for fettuccine

Serves 4

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

  1. Mound the flour on a countertop or large cutting board, then create a deep cavity in the center of the mound with your fist.
  2. Pour the eggs into the cavity, then pierce the yolks with the tines of a fork, and begin gently beating the eggs while slowly incorporating more flour into the beaten eggs.
  3. After a few minutes, you’ll end up with a shaggy mass of dough that you can begin kneading with your hands. After 15-25 minutes (or one episode of The Mindy Project), the dough will be smooth, supple, and feel like a dry earlobe. Then it’s time for the dough to rest; it takes at least 30 minutes for the gluten molecules to relax and allow for the dough to hydrate fully, so wrap the dough in plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge, and wait for a bit before you start rolling the pasta into the sfoglia, or pasta sheets.
  4. Cutting the dough into the fettuccine is the easy part. Either roll the pasta sheets like you would a yoga mat and cut crosswise into strips, or cut it on a fettuccine-sized attachment on a pasta machine. Liberally dust the cut pasta with all-purpose flour, then pile the noodles loosely on a dishcloth dusted with flour while you cut the rest of the pasta.
  5. Thin, fresh pasta like this cooks almost instantly, so it needs just one to two minutes in boiling, salted water before it’s perfectly al dente. Toss it in a simple light sauce like pesto, butter, or a light tomato sauce, and serve the hot pasta immediately with a little parmesan.

Pasta di semola di grano duro for malloreddus

Serves 4

1 lb. semolina flour

200 ml (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) filtered water

  1. Mound the flour on a countertop or large cutting board, then create a deep cavity in the center of the mound with your fist.
  2. Pour the water into the cavity, then use the tines of a fork to slowly beat the water into the semolina flour.
  3. After a few minutes, you’ll end up with a shaggy mass of dough that you can begin kneading with your hands. After 15-25 minutes (or one episode of The Mindy Project), the dough will be smooth, supple, and feel like a dry earlobe. Then it’s time for the dough to rest; it takes at least 30 minutes for the gluten molecules to relax and allow for the dough to hydrate fully, so wrap the dough in plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge, and wait for a bit before you start forming the mallorredus.
  4. Cut the dough into six pieces, then roll each piece into a long, even rope about ½ inch in diameter. Cut the rope into ½ inch pieces, a little smaller than a piece of gnocchi. Roll each piece off the ridged side of a cheese grater (see pictures in the post for more details), then place the malloreddus on a dishcloth dusted with flour.
  5. Cook the malloreddus in boiling salted water for 8-9 minutes, until al dente. Drain and toss with sauce, then serve immediately.

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Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce


As anyone who reads food blogs or has researched Italian cooking will know, this sauce is nothing new. In The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the late Marcella Hazan outlines a recipe for what may be the most simplistic tomato sauce yet. Imagine a sauce made solely of simmered San Marzano tomatoes, butter, and onion—no olive oil, garlic, basil, or oregano to overpower the delicate tomatoes.


You’re probably skeptical at this point, as I was too. There’s no browning of aromatics, rounds of deglazing the pan with wine, or other steps that cooks typically use to build flavor in a long-simmered sauce. It goes against the grain of loud, theatrical recipes designed to wow dinner guests. Yet once you try this balanced, fully flavored sauce you’ll know that Marcella was right all along. It’s smooth on the palate without any jarring bits of minced garlic—or worse chopped carrot or celery—and goes wonderfully with a pot of pasta. It’s all you need for lunch, along with your appetite and a little bit of parmesan.


(You may be blanching at the significant amount of butter in the photo above, but I doubled the recipe for the sauce so that there was a stash in the freezer for future pasta nights when I’m on the other side of the country and Aidan’s at a loss for what to make for dinner. Besides, five tablespoons of butter for one batch of sauce is not an exorbitant amount, so trust the recipe and go with it—there’s still less fat in the recipe than in a batch of pesto.)


After 45 minutes of slow simmering, you’ll see that the sauce has reduced slightly, and that the butter has fully melted and rises to the top of the sauce. The onion has done its job, so it gets discarded, and a pinch of salt is added for seasoning.


I prefer a smoother sauce, so I used a food processor to break down the larger chunks of tomato, but you could absolutely leave it as is for a more textured sauce.


Toss the sauce with hot al dente pasta—I prefer a short, tubular shape like rigatoni but I’ve seen longer shapes like spaghetti used with great success—and serve it immediately. Toss the pasta with just enough sauce to coat the pasta without leaving a pool in the bottom of the bowl, which works out to be about 1 ½ cups per pound of pasta.


Add parmesan and serve immediately.


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Makes enough sauce for 1-1 ½ lbs. of pasta

1, 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

5 tablespoons salted butter

1 onion, peeled and halved

Salt, to taste

  1. Pour the can of tomatoes into a large pot or saucepan, then gently crush by hand. Add the butter and onion, then place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the fat floats free on top of the sauce, crushing the tomatoes gently with a wooden spoon occasionally.
  2. Remove the onion from the sauce and discard.
  3. Adjust the salt according to your preferences. With the variety of salted butter that I used, I found I only needed 2 healthy pinches of salt, but add salt until the sauce tastes well-seasoned and like something you would like to eat.
  4. If you would like a smoother sauce, transfer the sauce to a food mill, blender, or food processor and process until it has reached your desired level of smoothness.
  5. Toss the sauce with hot, al dente pasta, about 1 ½ cups of sauce for every pound of cooked pasta. Serve immediately with parmesan cheese.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Baked Penne with Spinach and Mushrooms

Everyone has a few quirks about the food they eat, and our family is no exception. Three out of the four people in our family (myself included) avoid mayonnaise, sour cream, aioli, and any sort of white, creamy condiment meant for savory food like it’s our job. No mayonnaise on our sandwiches, ranch on our salads, and certainly no sour cream in our burritos. As a result, I’ve never really cared for pasta dishes with creamy sauces. A big pour of cream mutes all the lively flavors the recipe worked so hard to achieve, and rather than tasting the al dente noodles, you’re left with an overwhelming slick of dairy in every bite. Because of this, I generally avoid baked pasta dishes, which more often than not laced with creamy béchamel sauce. Or at least I avoided them until I discovered this dish for baked penne.

It starts off with a generous pan of mushrooms and onions seasoned with oregano—which I used to think was an overused herb reserved for mediocre pizza parlors, but now know adds a serious punch of flavor when called into actions—that creates just enough sauce to keep the pasta from drying out. A little blanched spinach provides some greenery, and small cubes of a flavorful cheese provide richness without a creamy sauce. Along with a pot of penne (undercooked by just a hair on the stove to prevent mushiness after baking), you have a one dish meal that can be prepared well in advance. Just throw it in the oven with a sprinkle of good parmesan on top until golden brown, and dinner is served.

I don’t have a picture of the pasta once it was baked because I was at work until late in the evening and didn’t get to see the finished dish before it was dug into, but that one missing picture of a steaming hot pan of pasta with pockets of melted cheese shouldn’t prevent you from making this pasta. It has everything you would want in a pasta dish, from al dente pasta to caramelized onions, without any sort of (dreaded) creamy sauce.

Baked Penne with Spinach and Mushrooms

Serves 4 generously

Adapted from Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to grease the pan

½ yellow onion, thinly slices

2 lbs. crimini mushrooms, quartered

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons dried oregano

10 oz. baby spinach

1 lb penne

Kosher or sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. semi-soft cheese with a good flavor, cut into ¼ inch cubes (I used Toscano, and other good choices are Fontina, Asiago, and Comte.)

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

  1. Brush a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with olive oil and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the onion and mushrooms and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have begun to release their water and have slightly shrunk in size. Add the garlic and the sea salt and sauté for another 10-15 minutes, until the mushrooms are golden brown but are not yet completely dry. Add the red pepper flakes and oregano, then sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant, then set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot, then add the spinach and blanch until wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove the spinach from the water with tongs or a kitchen spider, and set in a colander to drain. Squeeze out the excess water from the spinach either with your hands or a pair of tongs. Add the penne and 1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt to the boiling water, and cook until just 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot. Add the spinach, mushroom mixture, and the cubed cheese to the pasta along with the pepper, and toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking pan, and sprinkle the parmesan cheese in an even layer on top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. (If you would like to prepare this dish ahead of time, prepare it up through step 3 and store it covered in the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead of time, then increase the baking time to 40-45 minutes to ensure that the center of the pasta is hot before serving.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Pasta with Fennel Braised in White Wine

This dish is for anyone who has declared an aversion to black licorice or fennel seeds. Despite what you may think, fennel bulbs—unlike fennel seeds or black licorice—are a much milder flavor than the name indicates. I don’t care if you won’t touch black twizzlers (because everyone knows that red is the best flavor), but have you ever tried fennel bulbs braised with onions in white wine, olive oil, and lemon juice until the fennel bulbs are so tender that they yield under the slight pressure of a fork and marry perfectly with al dente pasta? It’s nothing to be afraid of.

You see, once the fennel has the chance to cook down for a little bit, the flavors mellow out and become sweet, but not overly so. By the time the pasta water has come to a boil and the pasta is cooked, the scent of the fennel braising in the pan will become irresistible.

When the pasta and vegetables are both ready, the dish gets finished with a sort of faux-Gremolata. Gremolata is an Italian condiment used to finish a dish consisting of garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and olive oil. To preserve the delicate flavors of this pasta dish, I omitted the garlic and used a mixture of fresh basil (to mimic the anise flavors in the fennel) and parsley for the herbs. A shower of parmesan cheese completes this pasta dish, making for an elegant meal that can still be made on a weeknight—even if you don’t like black licorice.

Pasta with Fennel Braised in White Wine

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 bulbs fennel, cut lengthwise then cut crosswise into ½ inch slices

1 onion, cut in half and sliced with the grain into ¼ inch slices

Sea Salt

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, or a combination thereof)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 lb. of a short pasta shape, like shells, penne, rigatoni, or fusilli

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the fennel and onion and sear for 2-3 minutes until the fennel and onions are beginning to turn golden brown. Add ½ teaspoon sea salt, the red pepper flakes, and the white wine, then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook for 20-25 minutes until the fennel is golden brown, very tender, and the wine has reduced. Add the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute, until slightly reduced.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the chopped herbs, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot, then add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and place in a large bowl. Add the fennel, and bowl of herbs, then toss until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasonings to taste, then serve immediately topped, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Farro with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

I don’t know about you, but I think that quinoa becoming a mainstream food set off a grain revolution in America. Cooks everywhere started experimenting with all kinds of cereal grains once the general population was open to new varieties of carbohydrates. It seems like rice and wheat were the dominant grains for a long time, but once quinoa got introduced, it’s not uncommon to see millet, barley, teff, freekeh, wild rice, and farro in grocery stores and restaurants.

I think that farro is the perfect variety of grain to try if you’re interested in branching out from pasta because it’s an Italian relative of wheat that’s mild in flavor and easy to cook. Like pasta, it cooks in boiling salted water until al dente—no rinsing, soaking, or toasting necessary—and it has the added benefit of being a whole grain.

Aside from cooking farro into a farrotto, I also love using it to make a hearty side salad for potlucks and lunches. Its nutty flavor needs a bright, acidic dressing to counterbalance the earthiness, a few vegetables for textural contrast, and something with a little fat, like cheese or toasted nuts to complete the dish. Here, I tossed the cooked farro with some blanched green beans (just throw them in the same cooking water as the farro until bright green), oven roasted cherry tomatoes, and a creamy goat cheese. A little red wine vinaigrette ties the whole thing together.

I loved how all of the colors complemented one another to make the dish visually appealing, and the sweetness from the roasted tomatoes and the tang from the goat cheese made sure there was something exciting in every bite. Farro salads can be served warm or at room temperature, making this recipe the perfect make-ahead summer dish.

Farro with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Serves 4-6

1 lb cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

Sea salt

1 cup semi-pearled farro

4 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths

3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and place the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, then roast for 20-25 minutes until the skins have shriveled and the juices have been released, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a saucepan and add 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Add the farro and cook for 15-20 minutes until al dente—the cooking time will vary slightly depending on the brand of farro that you use. Remove the cooked farro from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the green beans to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes, until bright green. Drain the green beans and place them in the bowl with the farro. Add the roasted cherry tomatoes and the crumbled goat cheese to the bowl with the farro.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon of sea salt, red wine vinegar, and the pepper. Pour the dressing over the farro mixture and toss gently to combine, then adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

What We Eat When We Eat Alone

A little over a year ago I read the book by Deborah Madison of Greens Restaurant, What We Eat When We Eat Alone. The title says it all, but essentially the book explores what different types of people from all walks of life eat when the only person they have to feed is him or herself. Everyone from the single woman buying a boneless, skinless chicken breast and a bottle of chardonnay to a restaurant cook meticulously searing a pork chop on his night off. Even the classic cereal-for-dinner meal has its variations, as a few paragraphs are allotted to describe how different people decide how much milk to pour on their frosted flakes—some people stop once they can just see the milk around the edges, while others wait until the cereal is fully submerged. There are a few recipes—a tofu curry for one, a grilled cheese, among others—but on the whole it is an interesting narrative that is a fun and fast read.

Seeing what people will decide to eat when they have no other palates to please other than their own is pretty fascinating. Cooking for one has its limitations for sure; you must scale portion sizes appropriately and are sometimes left with a large amount of an obscure ingredient, but I think seeing the result of a meal prepared to precise preferences is one of the best ways to learn about someone’s personality. Some people see solo nights as an opportunity to ramp up the spice on a dish or use an especially pungent cheese. Sometimes it is an opportunity to prepare a favorite meal from childhood that has its roots in a past generation’s home country. Others still will prepare an expensive ingredient—they may not be able to afford black truffles for a family of four, but a few slivers on a single plate of fettuccine is more budget-friendly.

For example, when the rest of my family is off at various evening activities, I often go for one of three choices:

Tofu noodle or brown rice bowls with peanut sauce, because tofu is simple to prepare and rice noodles just have to soak under boiling water for a few minutes. If I don’t have rice noodles, I tap into my stash of cooked brown rice that’s already in the freezer.

Pasta with cauliflower because pasta is simple yet delicious, and I happen to love cauliflower. I rarely bother with the breadcrumbs if it’s just me that’s eating, but with the last few ounces of a box of pasta, some cauliflower, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan I can have a really great meal in just 20 minutes.

Sometimes I warm some pita bread or Afghan bolani to serve with hummus and feta cheese. As a self-proclaimed hummus lover, it’s rare that I go a few days without having some with pita, crackers, or carrot sticks, but the rest of my family is not quite as hummus-crazy as I am, so I save it for nights on my own.

My brother often goes the route of a large quantity of pasta (gnocchi in this instance) with tomato sauce or two grilled cheese sandwiches, sometimes with an Izze in a frosted Batman glass. My mom, on the other hand tends to go the route of eggs and toast. One of my friends will eat oatmeal topped with lots of cinnamon, while another will prepare a steaming hot bowl of udon noodles with broth. Some meals fall squarely in the simple, comfort food camp, but I’ve found they can run the gamut from obscure (fried spam with cottage cheese, or a spaghetti frittata) to elegant (seared rib-eye steaks).

I love hearing what other people eat for their single-serving meals, so you tell me in the comments, what do you eat when you eat alone? I’d love to hear!

Tempeh and Cauliflower Rice with Tahini Harissa Sauce

In the past few years, Cauliflower has become the new chameleon food. Cooks everywhere are turning it into pizza crust, grilling it in place of steaks, and pureeing it until it resembles mashed potatoes. I’m pretty sure that the Paleo diet craze should take all of the credit for creating all of the cauliflower hype. In the past year in particular, cauliflower rice has become the new “it” food. Essentially, it’s raw cauliflower that is chopped into grain-sized pieces, then sautéed until tender and served just like any other grain or starch.

I have to admit, I was pretty apprehensive about trying cauliflower rice. I enjoy cauliflower when it’s tossed with pasta or cooked into an Indian curry, but I wasn’t sure about what I would think of it disguised as rice—I was sure it would still taste like a raw crudités platter. It was a pleasant surprise then when I found that the taste and texture is remarkably similar to traditional rice. The “grains” are fluffy and tender without being mushy. Best of all, they absorb sauce just like actual starches.

To accompany the cauliflower rice, I sautéed some tempeh slices to serve on top. On top of the tempeh and cauliflower rice is a simple tahini sauce with harissa and honey for a rich contrast to the rest of the dish. The sauce is slightly spicy and sweet and brightens up the plate—any leftovers would be especially delicious on falafel. Tempeh, in case you’re wondering, is an Indonesian fermented soybean cake with a nutty taste and firm texture. When I first heard about tempeh, I found the description somewhat off-putting, when in reality it’s more like a hearty vegetable burger with notes of walnuts and bulgur. It’s much more filling that tofu, and has lots of protein and healthy fats. Like tofu, it is sold in the refrigerated section and can be safely served from the package, but most people choose to cook it. Serving tempeh uncooked can make it taste bitter, but once pan-fried in a little oil until golden brown it becomes much milder. If you’re a vegetarian that’s had enough with lentils and tofu, it’s a great new food to try that adapts well to a variety of dishes and cuisines. Cauliflower rice and tempeh are new foods for most people, but don’t let them intimidate you: although they’re relatively unknown, they’re simple to prepare and work with a wide range of flavors.

Whether you’re looking for a new alternative to rice, want to try new ways to prepare vegetables, or want to jump on the cauliflower bandwagon, this a great dish to try.

Tempeh and Cauliflower Rice with Tahini-Harissa Sauce

Serves 2-3

Cauliflower Rice

½ head cauliflower, cut into 4 inch chunks

1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt


1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

8 oz. Tempeh, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices

Tahini Harissa Sauce

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon honey

¼ teaspoon salt

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon harissa

2 teaspoons minced parsley

  1. For the Cauliflower rice: Place the chunks of cauliflower rice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower has been broken into small pieces that resemble grains of couscous or rice. This will take 10-15 1-second pulses. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the cauliflower and sea salt and sauté for 6-8 minutes, until the “rice” is beginning to turn golden brown and tender. Transfer the “rice” to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
  2. For the tempeh: Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining olive oil and heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh slices in a single layer and sauté until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes a side. Turn off the skillet and set aside.
  3. For the tahini sauce: whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. To serve: Place a portion of the cauliflower rice on a plate or in a bowl, then top with the tempeh slices. Drizzle the tahini sauce on top, then serve immediately.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Eggplant Tartines with Goat Cheese, Honey, and Olives

Recently, I’ve started listening to the Spilled Milk Podcast, which is (no surprise here) a food related podcast hosted by two Seattle-based food writers, Molly Wizenberg (of Orangette and Delancey) and Matthew Amster-Burton. Other than America’s Test Kitchen and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, it’s the only podcast I listen to. Each episode is about 20 minutes long and revolves around one ingredient. It’s so nice to know that there are other people out there who could talk at length about something so simple yet complex as onions, dried beans or even jam, and I think my friends are relieved that know they no longer have to listen to me discuss the pros and cons of various pasta shapes.

Thanks to the honey episode (not the eggplant episode, as you might think) of Spilled Milk, I came up with this idea for Eggplant Tartines with goat cheese, honey, olives, and fresh mint. They were talking about savory dishes with honey and Molly mentioned pairing eggplant with honey, goat cheese, and green olives. Obviously I had to try out that combination, and thought on and off about it for a few days when this tartine idea came to me during a long swim practice.

It all started with a batch of crusty bread (much like my No-Knead Walnut Bread, sans walnuts) and a pan of roasted eggplant.

Once the eggplant was nicely browned and tender, I layered it on some thick slices of the bread, then added fresh chevre and a drizzle of honey. (I used lemon flower honey because I like to collect those sorts of things much like other people like to collect state quarters, but any regular clover honey will work.)

After a quick stint under the broiler, the tartines were topped with Sicilian green olives, fresh mint, and a little black pepper. Even after just one bite, I knew that I had come up with something good. The goat cheese melted into the tender eggplant and the honey offset the pungency of the olives just enough to keep the flavors in balance. The mint tied everything together and enhanced all of the Mediterranean aspects of the dish. Two of these tartines is the perfect springtime lunch dish that’s filling and nutritious but not heavy. For those of you that think eggplant is bland or spongy, give this recipe a try—this is eggplant at its best.

Eggplant Tartines with Goat Cheese, Honey, and Olives

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer

Inspired by the “Honey” episode of the Spilled Milk Podcast

2 teaspoons olive oil

4 Italian eggplants, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 3/8 inch slices (Italian eggplants are on the small side, about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Use 1 globe eggplant if you can’t find any.)

½ teaspoon sea salt

4 slices artisan bread

2 oz. fresh goat cheese

2 teaspoons honey

¼ cup green olives, sliced (I used pitted Sicilian green olives)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 500F. Spread a rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil, then lay the eggplant slices out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the salt, then roast on the top rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Using a metal spatula, flip the eggplant slices over and then return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until both sides are golden brown. Remove the eggplant pan from the oven, then turn the oven to the broil setting.
  2. Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet, then place the eggplant slices on top of the bread slices. Put ½ oz. of the goat cheese on each slice of the bread, then drizzle each tartine with ½ teaspoon honey. Place on the top rack of the oven under the broiler element, then broil for 2-4 minutes until the edges of the bread are toasted and the goat cheese is golden brown. Remove the tartines from the oven, and place 1 tablespoon of the olives on each tartine. Scatter the fresh mint over the tartines, then top with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!