Khao Poon: Chicken, Red Curry, and Lemongrass Soup

Dip into this Lao soup for a winter escape:

Are you feeling the winter doldrums? January can be a blue time, post-holidays, when the dust settles and winter stretches ahead. It’s tempting to daydream about far-flung escapes to steamy destinations, away from the cold, snow, and darkness. Reality, of course, keeps us home for many practical reasons. So, as the saying goes, instead of cursing the dark, it’s time to light a candle – or in this case, the stove. If we can’t travel away, then we can bring the taste of travel home to our kitchen.

This is a perfect bowl for a winter day. Khao Poon is a traditional Lao soup with red curry and rice noodles, fragrant with lemongrass and coconut. It’s light, spicy, and aromatic, finished with a shower of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and chiles to create a meal in a bowl. Chicken is frequently added, but it’s wonderfully flexible with proteins, including pork and fish, as well as tofu for a vegetarian option. And, if that’s not enough to lift your spirits, Khao Poon is a traditional celebratory soup served at Lao weddings and other festive events. So dig in to your bowl and vicariously join the party.

Chicken, Red Curry, and Lemongrass Soup with Rice Noodles

Serves 4 to 6
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into chunky bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons prepared Thai red curry paste, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 to 6 cups chicken broth
1 stalk lemon grass, cut into 3 to 4-inch pieces, lightly smashed
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha
2 cups bean sprouts
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 red jalapeño or hot chile pepper, sliced (optional)

1. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
2. While the noodles are cooking, heat the oil in a soup pot. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot, without overcrowding. Cook until colored on all sides, then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon (the chicken will continue to cook later in the soup).
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pot. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the curry paste and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Whisk in 4 cups chicken stock and lemongrass. Taste the stock, and if you prefer a spicier soup, whisk in 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the curry paste.
4. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and hot sauce. Taste for seasoning. At this point you can dilute the stock with more chicken stock if desired. Bring to a boil and simmer until the soup is heated through.
5. Divide the rice noodles between serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with the bean sprouts, cilantro, and red chiles. Serve with lime wedges and additional hot sauce.

Lasagna with Kale

Layer it on with this cheesy-rich lasagna:

Behold the lasagna. The cooler season begs for layers – and not just when it comes to clothing. This hefty casserole is stacked and loaded with three cheeses, a meaty tomato sauce, and – wait for it – kale. Now before you roll your eyes, realize this: the lasagna can handle it. In fact, it will put the kale leaves in their place, allowing them to shine without overtaking this admittedly non-vegetarian recipe with excessive leafiness. It will invite a layer of freshness into an otherwise robust, gooey, and dense lasagna. And if you are trying to sneak a few vegetables into someone’s diet – this may do the trick.

With that preface, let me add that this recipe can easily be made vegetarian by simply omitting the meat from the tomato sauce. The choice is yours, and both versions are delicious. I’ve provided a meat sauce in the recipe, but you can simply omit it, if you prefer. And if you have a favorite prepared sauce that you swear by, then by all means, make your life a little easier and use it.

Now, back to the layers. Layer your lasagna as high as your dish will allow. And do try including kale leaves in the mix. They will soften and melt into the lasagna, tempered by the rich cheese and bright sauce, while providing layers of freshness, color, and, of course, extra nutrients. You might even have room for seconds.

 (Note: a double recipe is photographed)

Lasagna with Kale

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Makes one 9-inch square lasagna. For a larger rectangular lasagna (pictured), double the ingredients. 

Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) crushed Italian plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ricotta:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons half and half
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 box lasagna sheets 
One bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale leaves, ribs removed, torn into large pieces
8 ounces fresh  mozzarella, shredded
1 cup finely grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the beef (if using) and cook until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer uncovered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Whisk the ricotta ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
3. Heat the oven to 375°F.
4. Spoon a thin layer of sauce in bottom of a baking dish. Place a layer of lasagna sheets over the sauce, breaking them to fit to size as necessary. Smear some of the ricotta over the lasagna sheets.  Arrange the kale leaves over the ricotta and drizzle some of the sauce over the kale. Scatter the mozzarella over the kale and sprinkle with grated cheese. Repeat the layering process, gently pressing down on the layers as you stack the lasagna. (You may not use up all of lasagna sheets).
5. Cover the dish with foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the lasagna is sheets are tender when pierced with a knife, the cheese is bubbling, and the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Grilled Pizza with Cauliflower, Chiles, and Olives

An end of summer pizza recipe for the grill:

Cauliflower Chile Pizza

Late summer reaps a kaleidoscope of peppers. Homemade pizza is a great way to show off a fresh and feisty chile pepper combination. On this white (no tomato sauce) pizza, there are four distinctive peppers. Highly decorative Jimmy Nardello chile peppers are long, slender, and gnarly with a mild fruity flavor. Hatch chile peppers are a seasonal specialty, prolific from August through September. They are earthy and buttery in flavor and slightly smoky when roasted. If Hatch chiles are unavailable, mild Anaheim peppers are a good substitute. Poblano chile peppers are the fresh version of dried ancho peppers. When fresh they are relatively mild and earthy with a bite and are great for roasting. Calabrian chiles are small bright red peppers, round or conical in shape, with a moderately high heat level. They are available fresh and are also sold jarred in the Italian or condiment section of your grocery store. They make an excellent garnish with a kick of heat. Feel free to mix and match your own combination of peppers, depending on taste and availability, but try to include a colorful range of sweet to hot for the most flavorful result.

When possible, I make my pizza on the grill. Not only does it keep the heat outdoors in the warm weather, grilling yields a wonderful charred and smoky flavor to the crust. Bear in mind a few tips when preparing your pizza:

1. Store-bought dough is OK! I confess, that while I make my dough from scratch from time to time, I often purchase fresh pizza dough at the store to use immediately or freeze for later use. Prepared doughs are usually sold in one-pound packages, and yield one large rectangular pizza or two small round pizzas.
2. Don’t overload your pizza. If the pizza has too many toppings, it will be heavy and the crust can be soggy. The amounts below are for one large rectangular pizza, using one pound of fresh dough, thinly rolled or stretched. Have all of your ingredients prepped and ready, so that once you roll out the pizza, all you need to do is assemble. Use your judgment when layering the ingredients, and don’t feel compelled to use every last piece. When stretching the dough, it’s fine if it’s irregular in shape. The key is to make it uniform in thickness to ensure even cooking.
3. Parchment paper is your friend. I find it easiest to assemble the pizza on parchment paper, which is easy to slide on and off of the pizza stone. You can trim any excess paper around the edge of the pizza to prevent charring on the grill. If you don’t have a pizza paddle, you can use a rimless cookie sheet to slide under the paper.
4. A pizza stone is ideal. Whether you make a pizza in the oven or on the grill, a pizza stone is a terrific way to transmit the heat evenly to the bottom of the pizza. If you don’t have a pizza stone, then a perforated pizza pan or a baking sheet will also work, but the cooking times may vary.

Pizza with Roasted Cauliflower, Chile Peppers, and Green Olives

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Makes one rectangular thin-crust pizza, approximately 10 by 15-inches

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
1/2 head small cauliflower, florets broken into bite-size pieces, about 1 1/2 cups
3 assorted chile peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello, Hatch, and Poblano, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh pizza dough
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup loosely packed finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound fresh pizza dough
8 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella (1 ovaline or 8 ciligiene balls), thinly sliced or shredded
2 Calabrian chiles, thinly sliced (or 2 tablespoons chopped jarred Calabrian chiles)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Pichonline, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500°F or prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Preheat a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack or on the grill grates for at least 10 minutes.
2. Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Toss the cauliflower and sliced peppers with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Lightly season with salt and black pepper and toss again.
4. Roll out or stretch the pizza dough to your desired shape and thickness on parchment paper. I prefer to stretch my dough thin in a large rectangular shape.
5. Lightly brush the dough with the garlic oil, leaving a 3/4-inch border clear around the edges. Sprinkle the red chili flakes and 1/4 cup pecorino cheese over the dough. Spread the cauliflower and peppers over the crust, keeping the border clear.
6. Arrange the mozzarella over the pizza, gently nestling around and over the vegetables. Scatter the Calabrian chilies and green olives over the top and sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese over the pizza.
7. Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the cauliflower is tinged, the crust is golden brown and crisp, and the cheese is melted, 13 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the crust.
8. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and immediately brush the crust with some of the garlic oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Sprinkle the lemon zest and black pepper over the pizza. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

.

 

Sheet Pan Chermoula Chicken and Cauliflower with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Winner Winner Chicken (Sheet Pan) Dinner:

Chermoula Roasted Chicken and Romanesco

You’ve probably heard of sheet pan dinners. The term may be trendy, but the concept is not. It simply means arranging all of your dinner components on a rimmed baking sheet, coating them with oil and seasoning, then roasting in the oven – and, voilà, you have a complete dinner on a tray. While the emphasis is certainly on ease of preparation, with the right ingredients this cooking method ensures maximum flavor. Oven roasting coaxes out the flavors of vegetables and meats and is a sure-fire (no pun intended) way to cook to crispy, golden perfection. The key to building great flavor is the ingredients you use to coat and bind the dish. They can be as basic as olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, or more elaborate with aromatic marinades, spices, herbs, and citrus.

This recipe combines two ingredients that are well suited for roasting: bone-in chicken thighs and romanesco, a green brassica, which looks like a cone-headed cauliflower. Importantly, they both require a similar amount of cooking time, so they can happily team up on a baking sheet without one ingredient over-cooking while the other keeps on roasting. (You can also use white cauliflower in this recipe.) A potent, herbaceous chermoula sauce, robust with garlic, lemon, and spices, coats the whole lot and drives in flavor.

The finishing touch to this recipe – not required, but recommended – is a smoky red pepper sauce for swiping and drizzling. It’s inspired by Spanish romesco sauce (not to be confused with the romanesco vegetable!) and traditionally consists of roasted tomatoes and ground almonds or hazelnuts. This smoother rendition uses roasted red peppers to create a sweet and smoky condiment.

Chermoula Chicken and Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner

Active time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, plus marinating time
Serves 4

Chermoula Sauce:
1 1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves and tender sprigs
1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves and tender sprigs
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin

Red Pepper Sauce:
2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 red jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed (optional), coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium head romanesco (or white cauliflower)
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Combine all of the chermoula ingredients, except the oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop. Add the oil and pulse to blend. The chermoula should have a runny salsa consistency. If too thick, add more oil to loosen.
2. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Pour in the chermoula and stir to thoroughly coat, rubbing the marinade between the skin and meat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.
3. Combine all of the red pepper sauce ingredients in the cleaned bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Taste for seasoning. (The sauce may be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
4. Heat the oven to 375°F.
5. Cut the cauliflower from crown to stem in 3/4-inch slices. Cut out the cores and cut the cores into bite-size chunks. (The cores are sweet and edible, so don’t discard them.)
6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush the cauliflower steaks and pieces on all sides with the residual marinade and arrange around the chicken. Season everything with salt and black pepper.
7. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast until the romanesco is tender and the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (it should register 165°F when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part closest to the bone), about 30 minutes.
8. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.

A Very Green Frittata

Put your carrot tops and beet greens to use in this healthy frittata recipe:

Greens Frittata TasteFood

When I buy beets, carrots, and turnips at the market, they are often presented as bright bunches, crowned with exuberant stalks sprouting a cascade of green leaves. While it may be tempting to chop off the stems and discard the mountain of greens left behind with the trimmings … don’t do that. These greens are delicious on their own, sautéed in olive oil, blitzed into pestos, folded into omelets, and baked in frittatas. Rich in nutrients and ranging from sweet to peppery to earthy in flavor, they are an under-appreciated bonus attached to your roots and crucifers.

Lately, I’ve been on a beet green kick. Yellow or golden beets are sweet, nutty, and less earthy than their red brethren, and their mildness is reflected in the flavor of their leaves. I remove and store the leaves in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they can last for up to one week, ready for use in a simple side dish or, in this recipe, a frittata.

Beets Bunch TasteFood

It’s safe to say that this frittata is a very green frittata, with just enough egg to bind the leaves but not dominate. If you prefer a more eggy dish, feel free to add 2 more eggs and 1 additional tablespoon of half and half. You can use just one or any combination of greens, including the tops of beets, carrots, and turnips, as well as chopped kale and chard leaves. (If using kale or chard leaves, remove the stems and ribs before adding them to the mix.) I blanch sturdy greens, such as kale, chard, and beet greens, to wilt them just enough for a quick sauté in olive oil and garlic before adding the eggs. When using more fragile greens such as wispy carrot tops, you can omit the blanching step.

Green Frittata

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound greens
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon half and half or whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1. Wash the greens and tear into large pieces. If using kale or chard, remove the ribs.
2. Heat the oven to 350°F.
3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the greens and blanch until bright in color, about 1 minute. Drain the greens and press to remove any excess liquid.
4. Whisk the eggs and cream in a bowl and stir in half of the cheese. Mix the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs together in a separate small bowl.
5. Heat the oil in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the greens, season with the salt and black pepper, and sauté until the greens wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Pour the eggs over the greens, gently nudging the greens around to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the frittata.
7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set and the top of the frittata is golden brown in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Pomegranate Glazed Baby Back Ribs

The secret is in the sauce with these sticky, finger-licking baby back ribs.
Pomegranate Lacquered Baby Back Ribs

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and if you haven’t had a chance to escape to the great outdoors to do some grilling, then now is the time to dust off the grill, breathe in the fresh air, and cook up a platter of crispy, sticky ribs. When it comes to these baby back ribs, the secret is in the sauce. Infused with pomegranate molasses, the basting and dipping sauce yields a sweet and puckery glaze, ensuring the ribs will crisp to finger-licking goodness over the fire. No grill? No worries! You can also make these ribs in your oven.

Pomegranate molasses is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a slick reduction of pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon, and a great addition to marinades, sauces, dressings, even drinks. It’s available in the international section of your supermarket and specialty stores. You can also make your own by combining one quart (4 cups) of unsweetened pomegranate juice with 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat, until the juice is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups and has a syrupy consistency, about 1 hour. Cool the syrup slightly (it will continue to thicken as it cools) and then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Sweet and Sour Pomegranate Lacquered Ribs

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: about 3 1/2 hours, plus marinating time
Serves 4 to 6

Rub:
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

2 racks baby back pork ribs

Sauce:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Evenly coat the ribs with the rub. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat to meld the flavors, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over low heat, about 275° on a gas grill. (Or heat your oven to 275°F.)
  4. Grill the ribs over indirect low heat until the meat is tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning and once or twice. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, lightly baste with some of the sauce. (If using an oven, arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and roast on the middle rack of your oven.)
  5. Increase the grill heat to medium-high. Baste the ribs with the sauce and grill over direct heat until slightly charred and crisp, turning as needed, 8 to 10 minutes. (Or increase the oven heat to 450°F and cook until beginning to crisp, turning as needed.)
  6. Serve with the remaining sauce for dipping.

 

Pantry Dinners: Lemony Spaghetti with Tuna, Peas, and Chiles

Shelter-in-place should not be the only time you make this pasta dish. It’s a keeper.Spaghetti with Tuna and Peas

This pantry-inspired recipe can be on the table in 15 minutes, so add it to your repertoire of easy weeknight dinners.

By now we’re accustomed to digging through our pantries for dinner inspiration. I try to view it as a fun cooking challenge and an opportunity to (finally) use the stacks of canned, jarred and frozen goods that seem to have permanently populated my cabinets or burrowed themselves into the depths of the freezer. This pasta dish is a result of my kitchen foraging. The thing is, it’s also a delicious meal, and I wonder why I haven’t made it more often.

Chances are, you already have the main ingredients – canned or jarred tuna, frozen peas, and dried pasta – stashed in your kitchen. Tuna is a simple, nutritious, and flavorful addition to pasta. In fact, spaghetti al tonno is an Italian classic. When possible, use a sustainably sourced tuna, and don’t shy away from tuna packed in olive oil, especially for this recipe. It’s the oil that contributes flavor and richness to the dish. Peas’ natural sweetness brightens the pasta and complements the briny tuna. I also add fresh chile pepper. If you don’t have one, then increase the amount of dried red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon.

Spaghetti with Tuna, Peas, and Lemon

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 (7-ounce) can or jar of tuna, packed in olive oil, drained
1 small red jalapeño pepper, seeded, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute, and then add the peas and sauté until heated through, about 1 more minute.
  3. Add the tuna, jalapeño (if using), lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Turn off the heat and gently stir, without over-mixing, to break up the tuna while maintaining a chunky texture (you don’t want to cook the tuna).
  4. When the pasta is ready, add to the skillet. Over low heat, gently stir to combine and coat the spaghetti. If too dry, add some cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to moisten to your taste. Divide the pasta between serving bowls. Garnish with the dill and additional lemon zest.

Chermoula Marinated Lamb with Wilted Spring Greens

Culinary travel from the comfort of your kitchen: Moroccan Chermoula Lamb.

Chermoula Marinated Lamb with Wilted Spring Greens
In honor of Easter and Spring – I share this roasted lamb recipe. Mind you, this is not your traditional springtime lamb roast studded with garlic and served with mint (which is always a good option, of course). Instead, this roast veers to North Africa with a generous smear of chermoula, a heady concoction of aromatic spices, fresh herbs, chiles, and garlic. Consider it Easter break on holiday from the comfort of your kitchen – a spring fling for culinary travelers.

What is Chermoula?
Chermoula is a flavorful and versatile condiment in Moroccan, Libyan, and Tunisian cuisines. It’s used as a marinade and garnish for fish, meats, and vegetables, and it can also be swirled into rice and couscous dishes. Recipes for chermoula vary from region to region and cook to cook, but the gist is to use fistfuls of fresh green herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, and mint, and plenty of spice, such as cumin and coriander. While it’s a long list of ingredients, it’s easily blitzed in a food processor in just a few minutes. The end result should be bright, sharp, and aromatic with a kick of heat. Ideally, toast and grind whole spices for best flavor, but pre-ground spices will do just fine.

Moroccan Chermoula Lamb

In this recipe, the meat is served over a platter of spring greens, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. Choose a selection of sturdy greens that are a mix of bitter, peppery, and sweet. The cooking juices from the lamb will slightly wilt the leaves, for a refreshing contrast that mirrors the season. And, for best flavor results, begin marinating the lamb the night before roasting. Goodness knows, we have the time for that right now. Stay well, friends!

Lamb Chermoula with Wilted Spring Greens

Active Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
Marinating Time: 24 hours, plus 1 hour standing time
Serves 6 to 8

Chermoula:
5 cloves garlic
1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed

1 (5 to 6 pound) semi-boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups mixed spring greens such as frisée, mustard greens, mizuna, arugula
1 small handful mint leaves, coarsely torn
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley and/or cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

  1. Begin marinating the lamb one day before serving. Place all of the chermoula ingredients, except the olive oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil and process to blend. The chermoula should have a runny paste consistency. If needed, add a little more oil to achieve this consistency.
  2. Place the lamb in a large bowl and season on all sides with salt and black pepper. Rub the chermoula all over the lamb. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. One hour before grilling, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature.
  3. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  4.  Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (not touching the bone) reaches 135°F for medium-rare, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the lamb. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to collect.
  5. While the lamb is resting, place the greens, mint, and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the lemon zest over, lightly season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  6. Carve the lamb into 1/2-inch thick slices. Spread the greens on a serving platter. Arrange the lamb in the center. Drizzle any collected lamb juices over the meat and greens and scatter the pine nuts over. Serve warm.

Spring Comfort Food: Lemon Mint Risotto

Hunker down with this comforting bowl of creamy risotto:

Lemon Risotto with Mint

Here is what I think about risotto: A good risotto should be creamy, but not gummy or soupy. The rice should be tender with a little give to each bite (al dente). Any accompanying ingredients should be minimal without muddying, and, ideally, they should reflect the season.

This risotto checks all of the boxes. It’s firmly planted in spring with a lemony brightness and pucker that cuts through risotto’s inherent richness. Flecks of fresh mint and lemon zest add color and the whiff of garden-fresh flavor. The finished risotto is creamy and elegant, without being heavy. You can easily dig into a steaming bowl of this risotto and call it a meal, but it also makes a simple starter or side dish to meat and fish.

When making risotto, there are a few rules to follow for success. For a traditional risotto, you will need to purchase arborio, an Italian rice grain that’s known for its high starch content which is key to a creamy risotto. Be sure to lightly toast the rice grains in the pan before adding any liquid. This step creates a protective shell around each grain, which prevents the rice from bursting or becoming soggy while cooking. And, yes, you must continually stir the rice while it cooks. This prevents the rice from sticking to the pan, and it will help to release the starch from the rice grains, which develops the risotto’s creaminess.

This may sound labor-intensive, but the process should only take 20 to 25 minutes, and it will allow you to take pride of accomplishment in the finished result. It’s also a window of time when the only task at hand is to concentrate on the rhythm of stirring – which in itself might be considered a simple pleasure – yielding delicious results.

Lemon Risotto with Mint

Active Time: about 30 minutes
Total Time: about 30 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable for a vegetarian option)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves, plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is well coated and slightly toasted, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute.

4. Add 1 cup stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, until the rice is al dente, and the risotto is creamy. (Depending on the age of the rice, you may not use all of the stock. Older rice requires more liquid to cook.)

5. Stir in the cheese, lemon juice, mint, lemon zest, salt, and pepper and taste for seasoning.

6. Serve immediately, garnished with additional mint and lemon zest.

Irish Beef Stew

Add a splash of Guinness to your beef stew and call it Irish. Just save some to drink.

Beef Stew with Stout Beer

This no-nonsense, comforting beef stew is guaranteed to warm you, whether you’re Irish or not. As most stews go, it’s a humble and forgiving recipe. Cubes of beef slow-cook and braise to melting tenderness in a meaty broth, brightened by tomato and fortified with a generous glug of stout beer. The stout makes its mark in the stew with its sweet and malty notes of chocolate and coffee, adding depth and richness to the simple beef stock. Stout has a hoppy bitterness, so you need only add 8 ounces to the recipe for effect – which conveniently provides leftovers for drinking while you cook. This stew is also swimming with chunky root vegetables, which add earthy sweetness and round out the beefy component, permitting you to call this a one-dish meal, vegetables and all.

You can make this stew in one day, but if you have time and can plan ahead, I encourage you to make it the day before and chill it overnight. Not only does this allow the flavors to meld and develop, the fat will also have time to rise and solidify on the stew. The next day you can simply lift off and discard the collected fat. Feel free to add your favorite root vegetables to the stew. I always include carrots, and then add a combination of celery root, parsnip, and/or rutabaga.

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 1/2 to 4 hours
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 cups beef (or chicken) stock
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 pounds root vegetables, such as rutabaga, parsnip, celery root, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a lid. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. In batches, brown the beef on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining beef.

3. Add the onion to the pot and sauté until soft, scraping up any brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beer and bring to a simmer, and then add the tomato paste, sand stir to blend.

4. Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot, and then add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock to cover.

5. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meat is tender but not falling apart, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (The meat will continue to cook once the vegetables have been added.) Remove from the oven.

(At this point, the stock may be refrigerated. Let the stew cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove from the stew from the refrigerator at least 1 1/2 hours before serving and heat the oven to 300°F. Remove and discard any accumulated fat from the surface and gently reheat the stew in the oven before proceeding with the next step.)

6. While the stew is cooking (or reheating) heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and root vegetables and lightly season with salt. Sauté the vegetables until they brighten in color and are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

7. Add the vegetables to the stew. Return the pot to the oven and cook, partially covered, until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the stew from the oven and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with mashed potatoes.