Greek Tomato and White Bean Stew with Feta and Ouzo

 A splash of Ouzo and a sprinkle of feta add Greek inspiration to this hearty vegetable stew:

White Bean, Kale, Tomato Ragout with Ouzo and Feta

I love hearty vegetable soups in the winter. They are quick to prepare and non-judgmental when it comes to emptying the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator for a healthy dinner. One of my favorite stocks is Italian inspired and tomato based, sometimes with a splash of wine, and often with a rind of cheese added into the mix to exude delicious umami flavor while the soup simmers. I’ll then finish with beans or grains and handfuls of winter greens which wilt in the simmering stock just long enough to soften without discoloring. For this soup, I tweaked my favorite method and took a detour further south to Greece for inspiration. A splash of Ouzo (a Greek anise liqueur) amplifies the fennel in the soup and adds an extra layer of flavor that rounds out the tomatoes’ natural acidity. Rather than submerging a rind of cheese in the stock, I sprinkled feta over the soup for garnish. I must say I was pleased with this little detour, and I hope you are too.

Greek White Bean Stew with Tomato, Feta, and Ouzo

Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian option)
2 to 3 tablespoons Ouzo or anise liqueur
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale (or chard)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Crumbled feta for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, and the onion is translucent without coloring, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste to blend and then add the wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced by about one-third, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, 2 tablespoons Ouzo, the bay leaf, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and add a little more salt or another tablespoon of Ouzo if desired.
3. While the stew is simmering, remove the tough stems from the kale, stack the leaves, and slice crosswise into thin ribbons. 
Stir the kale and white beans into the stew and cook until the kale wilts, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. If the stew is too thick, top off with additional chicken stock and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and serve garnished with crumbled feta and the reserved fennel fronds.

30 minute Baked Pasta with Chorizo, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Easy one pot pasta dinner in 30 minutes

Who doesn’t like a steaming creamy mac ‘n cheese, coated in bechamel, rippling with cheese and crowned with crispy breadcrumbs? I would never throw shade at this comforting classic – and goodness knows we can all do with a little comfort these days – but I will say that you can have your baked pasta and cheese, and riff a little, too. What you get out of the deal is variety, an excuse to use up any lingering vegetables in your fridge, and an opportunity to add some extra goodies, like sausage if you’re so inclined. Simply mound them into a baking dish along with the al dente pasta and gads of cheese, bake until melty and golden,  and no one, I dare say, will dream of objecting.

I make dishes like this when I am looking for a quick solution for an easy dinner. It can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and it’s likely to be devoured in half that time. It’s lighter than mac ‘n cheese, and loaded with veggies. To moisten the pasta (there’s no bechamel sauce, after all) I toss the pasta with some of the pasta cooking water and add fresh mozzarella for creaminess.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4

12 ounces pasta, such as gemelli or farfalle
Salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces chorizo or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 bunch lacinato kale leaves, tough ribs discarded, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1 (8-ounce) fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or part Parmesan)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until 1 to 2 minutes short of al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup water, then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil to prevent sticking.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown the slices on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel and pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet.
3. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and sauté until they release their juices and soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until the leaves soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved water and stir to combine. If the pasta seems too dry, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the pasta is moist but not wet. Stir in the mozzarella and 1 cup Pecorino.
4. Sprinkle the remaining Pecorino over the top of the pasta and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the top begins to color and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Winter Greens and Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

beet salad Lynda BalslevMarinated Beets, Arugula, Spinach, Pistachios, Feta, Mint

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have a salad. In fact, winter is a great time to eat a bowl of healthy greens – chock full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber, a sure-fire way to keep the doctor away. While summer salads are often light and ethereal, winter salads have heft, laden with all sorts of goodies like nuts, cheese, and dried fruit.

winter greens

Winter Greens and Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is brimming with baby kale, spinach, radicchio, and chard, sprinkled with nuts and seeds, and sweetened with roasted beets. A rich and potent vinaigrette naps the leaves, taming and binding the bitter, nutty, earthy flavors. I make a dressing, with rich, sweet and viscous balsamic, and slightly thicken it with Dijon mustard, so the dressing is sure to cling to the leaves. Mix and match your favorite greens from what’s available in the farmers market. Be sure to include a combination of bitter and mild flavors as well as a variety of color and texture. For this salad I used spinach, chard, baby kale, radicchio, and arugula, and flowering broccolini as a garnish.

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1/2 pound baby or small beets, roasted, peeled, cooled
8 cups assorted greens
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon pepitas

Whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Cut the beets into quarters or halves, depending on the size. Place the greens in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Scatter the beets, pistachios, and pepitas over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing to taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains

winter vegetable soup tf

I make a version of this soup throughout the fall and winter. The recipe is easy and delicious, following a simple template which I switch up with different seasonal vegetables, often a grain, and sometimes beans. The basic stock is chicken, to which I add a can of Italian plum tomatoes for fruity acidity, plus a hunk of Parmesan rind which breaks down while cooking, adding a little oomph (aka umami) to the broth. From there I embellish, adding a grain, such as farro or barley, and chunks of sturdy vegetables, such as fennel, butternut squash, and carrot. If I crave more substance (think one-pot dinner), I’ll dump a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas into the mix. Finally, I stir in chopped hearty greens, such as kale, mustard, or spinach, and simmer until they just wilt but remain bright and fresh. You can do this too – use the following recipe as your template, and mix and match the veggies and grains to your taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (or 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash)
1 small fennel bulb, fonds and end trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked barley or farro
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
6 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
1 (2 to 3 inch) Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (optional)
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (or spinach)
Grated Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot or squash and the fennel. Saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, cheese rind, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock as necessary. Add the beans, if using, and bring to a boil, then add the greens and simmer until bright green in color and just wilted. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with grated cheese.

 

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.

Veggie Fried Farro

Veggie FarroPosted by Lynda Balslev

Farro stands in for rice in this easy stove top dinner. Cooked farro is added to a sauté of seasonal chopped veggies – in this case cauliflower, peppers and purple kale. It’s a great way to use up your veggies  Almonds are an optional addition, adding extra protein and great crunchy texture to this satisfying dish.

Veggie Fried Farro

I used what I had on hand from the farmers market, including bok choy flowers for garnish (not necessary but very pretty).

Serves 4

1 cup farro
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
Salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 small head cauliflower, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
2 gypsy peppers (or 1 sweet red bell pepper), stemmed and seeded, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 heaping cup coarsely chopped kale leaves
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the farro, stock or water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is tender, about 45 minutes.

Heat the oil and red chili flakes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and carrot and sauté until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, cumin, and paprika  and sauté  until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until the kale wilts, about 1 minute. Stir in the farro, almonds and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm.

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus, Kale and Egg

black lentils bowl tastefood

Black lentils are the star of this salad. These tiny pellets are nicknamed Beluga lentils since they resemble caviar. They remain firm when cooked, which makes them a great addition to salads, and their shiny blackness provides vivid contrast to colorful vegetables. Like their brown or green brethren, black lentils are a superb source of iron, fiber, protein, folate and magnesium. Plus, they are easy on the wallet. Not bad for a little legume.

black lentils salad tastefood

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus and Egg

1 cup black lentils
6 to 8 thin asparagus
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
2 cups coarsely chopped greens, such as spinach or arugula
2 spring onions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
1 small red jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 hard boiled egg yolks, crumbled

1. Rinse and sift through the lentils for any small stones. Put the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pan and simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. While the lentils are cooking, bring a wide pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the asparagus and blanch until they are bright green and crisp-tender, no more than 1 minute. Drain and rinse the asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut off and reserve the tips and cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

3. Whisk the garlic, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the lentils and stir to coat. Add the asparagus tips and stalks, the greens, spring onions, jalapeño, parsley, and mint. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning – you might need more salt. If the salad is too dry at this point, drizzle with a little extra oil or a squeeze of lemon.

4. Transfer the salad to a platter or divide among serving plates. Alternatively, arrange over a pile of greens. Garnish with the crumbled egg yolks and black pepper and serve.