In order to be in balance and to stay grounded with what is around us, we need to seek or find grounding and balance within ourselves…the best we can. Create a ritual for yourself – maybe something as simple as a 10-minute mediation to steady the mind. Or, start your morning with some gentle sun salutations and balancing postures to invigorate you and prepare you for your day. Finish the practice with a forward fold and a cozy Savansana.
One of my clients recently made me zucchini soup, and I had never ate it before. Expecting it to have a thin consistency with little taste, it was slightly creamy and surprisingly delicious. Her secret to texture and taste – leeks. Knowing that cooked zucchini is easy to digest and is good when your having gut issues (which I was) I decided to try making a similar soup myself. Not bad, not bad…
- 4 Tbs olive oil
- 3 leeks, white and green parts only, halved lengthwise
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 7 large zucchini, halved lengthwise then cut into 1-inch thick half moons
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp Allepo pepper or ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbs unsalted butter or olive oil (optional)
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add zucchini, stock, salt, pepper and Allepo (or crushed red) pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat to low-medium, cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat, and butter or additional olive oil and blend using an immersion blender or transfer to a blender. Add salt, pepper and Allepo pepper to desired taste.
This recipe is easy and the taste (and aroma) of the buttery sage with the vegetables is a delicious pairing. And to be honest, the dish is comprised of what remained in the fridge and pantry combined with a craving for sage. It could be made with a variety of winter vegetables.
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 red potato
- 4 turnips
- 3 large carrots
- 1 onion
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 15-20 cremini mushrooms
- 1 ½ Tbs fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus some sprigs for roasting
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 10 to 12 sage leaves, cut into a chiffonade
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter
Preheat oven at 400°F.
Clean mushrooms and trim ends. Place mushrooms into bowl and toss with a little olive oil. Set aside.
Peel and cut potatoes, turnips and carrots into approximate 1-inch cubes. Cut ends of onion and remove outer skin. Cut onion in half and cut each half into quarters (or sixths if using a large onion.) Put potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions onto a large baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add salt, pepper, minced garlic and chopped thyme and mix with your hand. Place thyme sprigs on top of vegetables. Roast for 25 minutes.
In the meantime, in small sauté pan heat melt butter with 1 Tbs olive oil on medium. When butter starts to slightly brown add sage leaves and fry until sage is just crisp. Remove sage with a slotted spoon or spatula and spread out on a plate covered with paper towels.
Once vegetable mixture has roasted for 25 minutes, spread mushrooms onto baking sheet and roast vegetables for an additional 25 minutes. For final 5 to 7 minutes, increase oven temperature to 425°F and roast until vegetables are slightly golden or brown. Remove from oven, mix vegetables and add the sage, salt and pepper (or a favorite seasoning) to taste.
This dish is vibrant and warming. I’ve paired with a protein for meals but it could be used as a main dish accompanied with other veggies or grains since the squash is hearty. I use a chimichurri spice blend that has 3 different dried Mexican chiles. Chili powder would make a great substitute as noted below.
The recipe will fill two large baking sheets. If you only have one baking sheet, wrap up one half of the butternut squash and put it in the refrigerator for another day. You can also half spice, chili and sauce amount.
- 1 butternut squash (2 lbs)
- 1 poblano pepper, deseeded and ribs removed, chopped
- 2 tsp chimichurri spice (or 2 tsp chili powder plus ½ tsp dried oregano)
- 1 tsp paprika (omit if using chili powder)
- 4 Tbs olive oil
- Lime wedges (optional)
Preheat oven at 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice each half, from top to bottom, into 1/3-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on baking sheets. Combine the oil and spices in a small bowl and brush the oil mixture onto the squash slices. Sprinkle the poblano then a little salt over the slices and roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash is tender. Set aside to cool.
In meantime, whisk together the sauce ingredient. Once the butternut squash slices have cooled, plate them and drizzle with the sauce. Add fresh lime juice to desired taste.
To me, this is comfort food. The warm, sweet flavor of the polenta combined with bitter rapini and salty, tangy feta and makes my mouth water. Balkan polenta is made with coarse cornmeal, which gives it a more defined texture. And while I love Greek feta, I like a softer and stronger Bulgarian feta for this and other baked dishes. I also only buy feta swimming in brine. The brine keeps the cheese moist and gives it has a longer shelf life. When first made the polenta will have a softer consistency like porridge. As it sits it will firm and cut nicely into squares. It’s also great as leftovers. One next-day idea shown in the photo below: cut it into squares; brush the squares with olive oil; and bake at 350 deg F until golden.
• 1 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
• 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• ½ cup olive oil
• 1 ¾ cups feta, freshly crumbled
• 1 cup yogurt
• ½ lb rapini, washed and coarsely chopped
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 tsp Allepo or Urfa Biber pepper (alternatively one pinch of crushed pepper flakes)
• ½ cup white wine or scant ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 Tsp fresh thyme, chopped
• Juice of lemon to taste (optional)
• Salt (optional)
Mix the cornmeal with 1 ½ cups cold water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
In meantime, bring stock to boil. Add rapini and cornmeal, stirring frequently for 10 to 12 minutes. Add olive oil and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Remove mixture from heat and fold in the feta and yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the topping, heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or until fragrant, and then add the pepper. Add the wine or stock and when sauce starts to bubble, simmer on low for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and add salt and lemon juice to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the polenta. (If sensitive to salt or lemon, I suggest adding after sauce is added to polenta.)
Dried Orange Peel: Before you peel or cut your organic oranges, remove the thin strips with a peeler. Place the strips separately on a towel/paper towel in an open dish. Leave them out to dry for 3-4 days. Once they are completely dry, put them airtight jar. Dried orange peels have a deep flavor which are a great ingredient for savory or sweet recipes. You can zest or grind the peels or add them whole into sauces or stews.
For my autumn-winter smoothies, which during the cooler temperatures I consume close to room temperature, I toss in half an orange strip, a generous amount of cinnamon and at least a 1/2-inch slice of ginger. Orange peel helps improve digestion and sluggishness in the gut, and ginger and cinnamon are both warming spices that make the smoothie more digestible during the season.
There are many variations of this dish of Turkish origin. This stuffed eggplant, or Imam Bayildi, is a variation of a recipe from Aglaia Kremezi. What I love about it is the hearty flavor of adding walnuts and pecorino to the stuffing. And, making your own favorite tomato sauce (I make mine with olive oil, onions, garlic and desired spices) will make this even better. Typically the eggplant stems are left on, but the eggplants I had on were too big and round to fit in my baking dish.
- 2 eggplants
- 1/8 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 small onions, thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers, halved, seeded and cut into ¼-inch strips
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- ½ cup raw walnuts, chopped or coarsely ground
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
- 1 large tomato, ripe heirloom if available or beefsteak, cut into 6 to 8 slices
- ¾ cup homemade tomato sauce
- parsley for garnish
Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, preferably keeping part of the stem. Diagonally score flesh in both directions with a knife. Salt eggplants generously and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse eggplants under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place eggplants on the sheet with cut side up. Brush eggplants with olive oil on both sides. Bake eggplants for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden. Put eggplants aside to cool, but keep the oven warm.
In a deep skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and 1 tsp salt and sauté until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté until soft. Next, add garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove skillet from heat. Add the cumin, Aleppo pepper, walnuts and cheese. Mix the filling and adjust seasoning as needed.
Line a deep baking dish with parchment paper and brush the paper with olive oil. Line the paper with the sliced tomato and place the eggplants on the tomatoes. The eggplants should fit snugly in the dish. Using a spoon, press into the softened eggplant flesh to create indentations for the stuffing. Fill each eggplant with the stuffing and top each with 3 Tbs of tomato sauce. Pour the remaining sauce around the eggplants. Drizzle the eggplants with 1 to 2 Tbs olive oil. Bake eggplants for 40 to 45 minutes, until bubbling and slightly browned on top. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.
This is a hearty meal and if using larger eggplants, one eggplant half may be more than enough. It works great for leftovers and tastes even better the next day.
As the Fall season arrives, I am ready for sautéed or roasted brussel sprouts. However, early Fall in San Francisco feels like summer and I’m still wanting to make salads. This salad is well rounded with taste: brussel spouts – bitter; walnuts – astringent; pecorino romano – salty and sour. The same can be said for the dressing. If you want more brightness, you could add more lemon or reduce the mustard in the dressing. You could also add a fresh herb. This dish is also great the next day, and the brussel sprouts stay crisp.
• ¾ cup walnuts, whole
• 1 lb brussel sprouts
• ¼ cup pecorino romano cheese, plus 2-3 Tbs reserved
• salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
• 1 ½ Tbs Dijon mustard
• 1/3 cup olive oil
Lightly toast walnuts on low to medium heat stovetop, tossing often. Set aside to cool.
Trim the bottom of the brussel sprouts and thinly slice them. I used a knife
but a mandolin may slice them more evenly. Place thesprouts into a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk the last 3 ingredients with a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the brussel sprouts and mix well. Cover and put brussel sprout mixture in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Taste the sprouts and add more dressing if desired.
Coarsely chop the walnuts and grate the cheese.
Add ¾ of the walnuts and ¼ cup of the cheese to mixture and toss.
Extra dressing can be added or stored for another use.
Warming Soup for the Cold Season
To start the New Year off, I’m sharing one of my favorite soups – curried butternut squash soup. The vibrant, roasted butternut squash combined with a blend of fragrant spices are enough to make you warm and cozy during the chilly season. I’ve made many variations, but for the past few years I’ve refined this one to my liking. It’s a simple soup that can be served on it’s own or paired with any meal. I love it with fish and a green vegetable.
The original recipe of inspiration was sent to me from a friend almost 10 years ago. I believe it called for peeling, cutting and roasting the squash, and I know it had cream and either sugar or honey added. When it comes to soup or purée, I lean toward less labor and roast the squash whole. I also prefer my creamier soups slightly lighter that many recipes call for. The curry blend is superb, and I’ve never changed it.
If you try this recipe, make your preferred revisions. However, if you don’t roast the squash whole as I do, I suggest roasting the first four spices for a smoother grind. Plus, it will make the kitchen smell wonderful!
• 3 Tbs coriander seed
• 1 ½ tsp cumin seed
• 1 tsp mustard seeds
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1 ½ tsp whole black peppercorn
• ½ heaping tsp whole clove
• 1 tsp fenugreek seed
• 2 Tbs ground turmeric
• 2 tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 butternut squash (2.5 to 3 lb)
• 1 Tbs olive oil
• 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus more for thinner texture if desired
• 1 to 2 Tbs butter
• ¾ cup half and half
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Puncture the butternut squash a few times and place on a baking sheet. Roast until squash is fork tender, about 60 minutes.
Once the butternut squash is done, cut it in half and allow it to cool until it can be safely handled. Remove and discard the seeds. Scoop out the flesh from the skin.
Meanwhile, on low heat roast coriander, cumin, mustard seeds and fennel until the spices release their aroma and slightly brown. Remove from heat.
Grind all the spices together, either with electric or hand grinder or by hand in a mortar and pestle. Start with grinding the peppercorn, clove and fenugreek; since the pepper can break down slower, and then add the roasted spices. Add the turmeric, chili, cinnamon and nutmeg. (Note: this curry blend will make more than needed for the recipe.)
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add the butternut squash, 2 cups of stock and 4 Tbs of curry. Warm through, stirring occasionally, then turn off heat. Purée mixture to desired texture with a hand blender. Add remaining stock and butter, and cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Add half and half. Warm the soup, but don’t let it boil. Salt to taste.
Ladle and serve drizzled with yogurt, garnished with cilantro or on it’s own.
Hope you enjoy!
It’s One-Pot Time
I complained all summer that we didn’t have a summer, and now fall is here and it feels like fall. Thank you, Mother Nature. The air has been generally cool and dry, and the days are getting shorter. It feels natural to cook one-pot meals and roast all the vegetables until my heart is content.
One of my latest cravings has been soup. Looking for something I hadn’t made before, I came across a cream of mushroom soup recipe in my One-Pot cookbook. I hadn’t had a craving for cream of mushroom soup before – my aversion of the soup in a can version that mum made lived strong – but this recipe by Jean-Pierre Challet had little cream. I dove in on chance, and it was delicious. Paired with roasted root vegetables, it was the perfect, simple feast to align with the season.
Here’s the recipe for you to try. I used a small red potato, slightly more than ¼ cup half and half, and green onions for garnish.
• 3½ oz chanterelle mushrooms
• 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 1 Tbsp (optional)
• 2 shallots, sliced
• 1 fingerling potato, peeled and diced
• 7 oz button mushrooms, sliced
• 1 bouquet garni
• salt and pepper
• 1 leek, white part only, sliced
• ½ cup whipping cream
• finely chopped chives, garnish
Sauté the chanterelles in 1 Tbsp butter until tender. Remove from heat, reserving as a garnish for the soup.
In a saucepan, sauté the shallots in 1 Tbsp butter. Add the potato and button mushrooms; sauté for 1 minute. Add about 2 cups water, or enough to cover, and the bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 10 minutes (or until tender). Stir in the leek and half of the cream. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Blend the soup until very smooth in a blender or with a hand blender. Add the rest of the cream, and if you like, blend in 1 Tbsp butter for extra richness and flavor.
Ladle the soup into bowls, placing a few chanterelles in the center. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
Let me know what you think and share photos!