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Braised Shell Beans With Parmesan Broth

There’s nothing like fresh shell beans, in my opinion. No matter what you do, you can’t get the same result with canned or dried beans. Cooked properly, the texture and flavor can’t be beat. I used cranberry beans for this recipe, but you could substitute just about any fresh shell bean you can get your hands on. And if you weren’t already, hopefully this recipe will be a wake-up call – save your parmesan rinds! They’re a ready-made flavor booster. Throw them in soups, or use them to make parmesan stock, as we’re doing here, and then save the stock for the next time you have a pasta dish, soup or sauce in need of a kick in the seat, flavor-wise.


3 carrots
3 ribs celery
2 large yellow onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 2 T fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 rinds from parmigiano reggiano
12 C water
2 T butter
2 lbs unshelled fresh beans, preferably cranberry beans
zest of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

First, make the parmesan broth: Roughly chop 2 of the carrots, 2 of the celery ribs and 1 1/2 onions. In a large pot, combine the vegetables, half the bay and thyme, the 2 sprigs of parsley, peppercorns, parmesan rinds and water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop or in your oven, then allow to simmer about 2 hours, or until the liquid has taken on a rich, parmesany flavor. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

While the stock is simmering, shell your beans and set aside. Cut the remaining carrot, celery and half an onion into a brunoise, or very fine dice. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in long strips. Using kitchen twine or cheesecloth, tie the remaining thyme, bay and lemon zest into a small bundle.

When the parmesan broth is ready, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold the beans and broth. Add the finely diced vegetables and sweat, stirring often, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, parmesan broth and herb bundle. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook in a low wood oven or on the stove until the beans are tender and creamy inside. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of beans you are using. My cranberry beans took about an hour and a half. If necessary, add more water to the pot so that the beans remain just covered with liquid until they are done cooking.

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the remaining butter and allow the broth to thicken slightly. Immediately before serving, remove the herb bundle and stir in the chopped parsley. These beans are good enough to enjoy on their own, but if you are looking for pairings I’d say a slow-roasted pork shoulder or lamb shank would do nicely, or even some smoked ham. Or just serve over rice with some roasted broccoli alongside, and you’ll be all set.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

Red Kuri Squash-Brown Butter Puree

Here’s a quick, easy recipe that’s a perfect addition to any festive holiday meal spread. Feel free to substitute pretty much any winter squash you can get your hands on – butternut, acorn, buttercup, hubbard, sweet dumpling, pumpkin. They’re all complemented wonderfully by the nutty flavor of brown butter. The only variety I would avoid is spaghetti; the texture just won’t be what you’re looking for here.

1 medium-sized red kuri squash
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled
8 oz unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper, to taste

Cut the squash in half through the stem end. Use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and guts, just like you would do with a pumpkin. Rub the two halves with the vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place 1 clove of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme inside each cavity. Place the squash halves open side down on a small baking sheet or skillet and slide into your wood oven to roast. Cook, turning the baking sheet occasionally, until the flesh of the squash is soft. You should be able to poke the skin of the squash and feel the flesh give way underneath. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temp of your oven and the thickness of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the brown butter. Place the butter in a tall-sided saucepot over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook. First it will boil, which will then subside and be replaced by foam. Once the mixture begins foaming, stir frequently to prevent the milk solids from adhering to the bottom of the pot. When the foam begins to dissipate, you should be able to see the browning milk solids. Once they’ve reached a nice dark brown, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice to stop the cooking process. The mixture will boil violently for a moment, so just stand back and be careful.

Once the roasted squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin. Discard the thyme and garlic from the cavity. Place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the brown butter to the squash. Use the butter to taste – it will depend on the size of your squash and your personal weakness for delicious, delicious brown butter. Some squashes have more moisture content than others as well, so if your puree seems a bit dry feel free to add a small amount of water to improve the consistency.

Season the puree with salt and pepper to taste, serve and be ready to have leftover mashed potatoes at your next holiday dinner, because this creamy, unctuous little devil is going to steal the show.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (3 votes cast)

Stuffed Peppers With Feta, Pecans and Cherry Tomatoes














Our dry, hot summer here in the Midwest produced a bumper crop of peppers of all shapes and sizes. You couldn’t swing Wilbur Scoville around at my farmers market without knocking over an overflowing bin of banana peppers or scattering a pile melrose peppers across the grass. This recipe is a simple late-summer side dish I concocted to make use of the bounty. I used round of Hungary peppers here, which look sort of like small, squat, deeply ridged red bell peppers. They have a deep, sweet flavor, like red bell pepper concentrated. If you can’t find them, substitute pimento peppers or small red bell peppers – but you will probably need more stuffing to fill them.

7 round of Hungary peppers, or small red bell peppers
1/2 C pecans
6 oz feta cheese, preferably goats’ milk
1 C quartered cherry tomatoes
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1 T olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the tops off the peppers as if you’re carving a pumpkin. Use your fingers or a spoon to remove the seeds and ribs from inside the peppers.

While you are cleaning the peppers, place your pecans in a dry skillet and toast in your wood oven, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Break the feta into small chunks and place in a bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, parsley and olive oil. Roughly chop the pecans and add them to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.

Stuff the mixture into the cavities of the peppers up to the top. Transfer your peppers to a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake in your wood oven until the peppers are just beginning to get tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven. Remove the foil and allow the peppers to continue cooking until the filling is bubbly and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve. I really can’t think of much this wouldn’t taste good alongside, from burgers to bass, so go ahead and make some the next time you’ve got your oven fired up, no matter what else is on the menu.


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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Curried Cauliflower With Chickpeas and Golden Raisins


This dish is actually one of my wife’s specialties. As a cook, I work in the evenings and thus miss out on dinner at a normal time, so it is a comforting feeling when I walk in the door and can tell just by the aroma of curry in the air that my late-night meal on the couch is going to be delicious and satisfying. I’ve done a little tweaking to the recipe, adapting it for the wood oven and adding golden raisins to the mix, which I think provide a nice sweet counterpoint to the earthy one-two-three punch of cauliflower, garbanzos and curry.

1 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 red onion, sliced thickly crosswise
6 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1/4 c golden raisins
2 tsp curry powder
salt and black pepper to taste

In your wood oven, preheat a roasting pan or skillet large enough to hold the cauliflower in one layer. Add the vegetable oil to the pan – it should be hot enough that the oil is just starting to smoke. Add the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Allow to roast for 2-3 minutes or until the florets have begun to caramelize on the pan side.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir. Roast for another 2 minutes or until the cauliflower is even more caramelized and the chickpeas have begun to blister. Add the sliced onion and garlic, stir to distribute, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the onion and garlic have softened and begun to frizzle around the edges and the cauliflower is al dente.

Add the raisins and curry powder and stir well to distribute. Cook for one minute more to allow the raisins to plump and the curry to toast and perfume the dish. Remove from the oven and serve. This dish would be a great accompaniment to roasted lamb, or simply serve it over cooked rice or orzo with a dab of sambal for an easy and tasty vegetarian meal.


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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Roasted Beets With Greek Yogurt and Almonds

Don’t let the short ingredient list fool you – this easy recipe packs a ton of flavor. This is a wonderful way to prepare beets when the weather is warm; light and refreshing, this dish would be the perfect start to a simple summertime meal. I use red beets here, but feel free to substitute any that you find – golden or chioggia beets would be delicious as well.

3 medium red beets with greens still attached
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
7 oz Greek yogurt
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2 T tahini
1/4 C fresh chopped parsley
2 T slivered almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the beet greens and set aside. Wash the beets thoroughly and place on a double layer of aluminum foil. Coat with half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the beets tightly and place in your wood oven to roast, rotating every so often. Cook the beets until they are tender when pierced with a knife, approximately 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the beet greens and discard. Wash the greens thoroughly and then give them a rough chop. Heat a large saute pan at the mouth of your oven so that it doesn’t get too hot. Add the remaining olive oil and the greens, season with salt and pepper, and slowly wilt until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

To make the sauce, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and zest, tahini and chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Finally, use a small saute pan to toast the almonds in your wood oven until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

When the beets are cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can safely handle them. Using a kitchen towel (which will be pink forevermore) or paper towels, rub the skin off the beets. Slice the beets into wedges.

To plate, place a dollop of the yogurt mixture on your serving vessel. Mound the greens to one side, then top with the sliced beets. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.


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Roasted Asparagus With Romesco Sauce


This is the last time I’ll say it: Hurray for spring! Without a doubt, asparagus is one of the finest gifts spring has to offer, made all the more sweet by the relatively short time we have with it each year. I know, I know, your supermarket has asparagus all the time. Do me a favor – don’t eat it when it’s not springtime. Asparagus is just one of those things, like tomatoes, or watermelon, or scarves, that are meant to be enjoyed only at certain times of the year. (And yes, there are tomatoes in this recipe – but we are roasting them to extract some flavor. And if the tomatoes you find look terrible, by all means, substitute canned.)

Romesco is a Spanish sauce that tastes great on just about anything, which is good, because you’ll probably have some left over from this recipe. Dip raw vegetables in it, put it on fish, or just spread it on some toasted bread. Trust me, it won’t go to waste.

2 lbs asparagus
2 red bell peppers
3 roma tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 onion, quartered
4 oz raw whole almonds
1 dried ancho chili
2 T sherry vinegar
3/4 C plus 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion into a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and place in a medium-hot wood oven to roast. Allow to cook, turning the peppers occasionally, until everything is very soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The tomatoes and onions should be beginning to char around the edges and the skin of the peppers should be blackened all over. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the asparagus. If you are dealing with thick asparagus, you may want to peel the bottom third of each spear to remove the woody outer skin. Anything pencil-thickness or skinnier should be fine without peeling.

Place the almonds in a single layer in a saute pan and toast in your wood oven until fragrant, about 5-8 minutes depending on your oven temperature. Right before you’re ready to take the almonds out, add the ancho chili to the pan and allow it to toast for about 1 minute. It should darken in color slightly and puff up like a balloon. Remove the chili and almonds from oven.

When the bell peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Peel the paper off the outside of the garlic cloves. Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho. Place the peppers, garlic and ancho in the carafe of a blender, along with the tomatoes, onion, almonds and sherry vinegar. Blend until incorporated, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the 3/4 cup of olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To roast the asparagus, toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place in a large roasting pan big enough to hold the spears in a single layer. Place in a hot wood oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus has begun to caramelize and is just cooked but still has a slight crunch when you bite into it, about 4-7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the romesco. Give me a plate of this and a glass of albariño and I’m good to go, but if you’re looking for a complete meal, add a nice piece of roasted fish and some rice and you should be all set.


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Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Roasted Mushrooms With Green Garlic


Here’s another recipe to celebrate a couple of spring’s here-now-gone-tomorrow offerings. If there’s one thing to complain about spring’s bounty, it’s that nothing sticks around for very long. Oh well – enjoy it while it lasts. This recipe will make it even easier, because it will take you about 2 seconds to make – three ingredients, and that’s it. If you can find them, use morel mushrooms, spring’s fungal grand prize. I used shitakes here because I couldn’t find them (shakes fist at capricious Lady Spring), and it was still pretty darn good.

In my experience, green garlic is a farmers market-only item, but if you have a really good local green grocer, you may be able to find it there. Green garlic looks similar to green onions, except that its green part is flat instead of tubular.

5 stalks green garlic
12 oz fresh morels or shitakes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Remove the root end from the green garlic. Peel off the outer layer of each stalk and discard. Cut on a bias into thin ovals. Place in a bowl of cool water and swish vigorously to dislodge any dirt stuck in the layers. Allow the to settle for one minute, then use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the green garlic. Allow to drain on a kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, clean your mushrooms. If you got your hands on morels, split them in half lengthwise. Depending on how dirty they are, you may need to wash them in several changes of fresh water to remove all the grit. If you notice any worms or bugs, add a single drop of dish soap to the first change of water. This should dislodge any unwanted stowaways. (Morels are a wild-foraged product – there’s no way around creepy-crawlies every once in a while!) For shitakes, all you need to do is remove the woody stems. If any of the caps has a dirty spot, just wipe it off with a damp cloth. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Next, preheat a large roasting pan in a very hot wood oven. When it’s ready to go, add the mushrooms in a single layer and allow to roast undisturbed for at least 2 minutes. You want to develop delicious crispy caramelization, and stirring the mushrooms too soon is going to make them start to leach out their juices and steam instead. Stir once and allow to roast for another 2-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Stir in the green garlic and allow to cook for one minute more, until the garlic has softened and started to frizzle around the edges.

Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning as necessary. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy immediately. This would serve as a great accompaniment to an oven-roasted steak, or try throwing some inside a savory crepe with some cream sauce over the top.


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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Roasted Artichokes With Capers, Chevre and Herbed Breadcrumbs

Ah, spring. Yes, it’s getting warmer. Yes, the days are getting longer. But what I really get excited about is all the amazing produce spring brings with it. Finally gorging on asparagus, peas, morel mushrooms, green garlic, ramps, spring onions, rhubarb and more after a long winter of root vegetables here in the Midwest is a joy that never grows old.

This recipe is an ode to another springtime favorite, the artichoke. Supermarket produce sections have tricked us into thinking of artichokes as a year-round vegetable, but their peak is really in the spring. You won’t beat the flavor of a spring-harvested artichoke, and chances are they’ll be cheaper than at other times of the year, because production is at its highest.

4 globe artichokes, or 10-12 baby artichokes
Juice of 3 lemons
4 T dry breadcrumbs
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 T vegetable oil
2 T capers
3 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese)

First comes the hard part – cleaning the artichokes. If you’ve never done it before, here’s a quick primer: First cut the lemons in half and squeeze 2 1/2 of them into a large bowl of cool water. Just throw the lemon halves in there too. (Save the last half for later.) Cut artichokes oxidize quickly, so you need the acidulated water to keep them from turning an ugly gray-brown. Next, start peeling leaves off the artichoke until you get down to the tender yellow inside leaves. Use a serrated knife to cut off the top of the artichoke right where the leaves turn from green to yellow. Next, use a peeler or paring knife to remove the fibrous outer layer from the stem and base of the artichoke. Keep peeling until you’re down to the tender, green-yellow flesh. Cut the artichoke in half through the stem. If you’re using large artichokes, you will need to remove the choke, the fuzzy, sharp blossom-to-be at the center of each artichoke. Use a spoon or a small knife to dig out the hairy stuff and any pointy leaves in each half. Baby artichokes may not have developed any choke yet, and should be completely edible once peeled. Cut each half into slices, or quarter baby artichokes, and hold in the lemon water until you’re ready to cook.

Mix together the breadcrumbs and the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. You may need more or less oil depending on exactly the type of breadcrumbs you’re using. When combined, the mixture should look like wet sand. Place in a small skillet and toast the breadcrumbs in your wood oven, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and crispy. Remove and allow to cool, then stir in the parsley and thyme. Set aside.

Preheat a large saute pan in your wood oven. You want a pretty hot oven for this preparation. Drain the artichokes, add the vegetable oil to your pan and then add the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 10-12 minutes.

Squeeze the remaining half lemon into the pan. Stir in the capers and then dot with the goat cheese. Return to the oven and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese has started to melt into the artichokes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

This dish would be a great accompaniment to lamb, or as part of an antipasti spread. Go get some spring artichokes while you can, and enjoy!


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Spicy Roasted Fennel With Basil and Pumpkin Seeds


Let us all now take a moment to appreciate the humble but supremely versatile fennel plant. Its bulb can be shaved and eaten raw, or cooked in pretty much whatever manner you see fit. Its fronds are used as an herb, its seeds as a spice. Beat that, other vegetables. I like the combination of fennel and spicy flavors, so that’s what we have here, along with basil, whose anise flavor complements fennel nicely.

2 large fennel bulbs
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus 1 tsp of the adobo sauce
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
6-8 fresh basil leaves
1 T olive oil
2 T roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
Salt and black pepper to taste

Use a peeler to remove the sometimes dry outer layer of the fennel. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root end. Then, cutting at an angle, remove the wedge of core from each quarter that is holding the layers of fennel together. Slice the fennel into a rough julienne shape.

Preheat a large saute pan or roasting pan in a hot wood oven. Meanwhile, mince the chipotle. For those not familiar, chipotles in adobo are jalapenos that are smoked and dried, then cooked in a rich garlicky sauce. Look for small cans of them in the Hispanic food aisle of your market. Slice the serrano in half and remove the seeds with a spoon, then slice into half moons. Cut the basil into a chiffonade: Stack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a cigar shape, and then cut into thin strips.

When your cooking vessel is hot, add the olive oil and then the sliced fennel. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is almost tender and nicely caramelized, about 8-10 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven.

Add the minced chipotle, adobo sauce and sliced serrano to the pan and cook for one minute more. Remove from the oven and stir in the fresh basil. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the top.

This would be a great side dish for roasted chicken or fish. It would even be a great topping choice for your next taco night. Try it with anything – it’s versatile.


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Kohlrabi Gratin


Kohlrabi is a delicious vegetable that is woefully underused here in the United States. A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi has a sweet, mild flavor that is hard to pin down, but if I had to try I’d say it’s like a cross between broccoli, rutabaga and potato. When I reread that description, it doesn’t sound very good, but please don’t let it scare you away. Give kohlrabi a chance! For this recipe, I paired it with the flavors of horseradish and basil, which I think all played very nicely together.

3 lbs kohlrabi, with leaves still on
1 qt cream
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 eggs
2 T freshly grated horseradish
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter for greasing your baking dish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the leaves from the bulbs of the kohlrabi. Remove the woody center ribs from the leaves and then blanch the greens in the boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Remove from the water and allow to drain. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible and then give them a rough chop. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring the cream to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Reduce by half, then set aside and allow to cool.

Peel the kohlrabi using a knife or peeler. The tough outer skin can be thick; keep peeling until any signs of woodiness are gone and you’re left with the somewhat translucent greenish-white inner flesh. Using a mandoline or a sharp kitchen knife, slice the kohlrabi into very thin rounds. Blanch in the boiling salted water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The kohlrabi should be more pliable but still have a crunch to it when you take it out of the water. Allow to cool.

Whisk together the reduced cream, mascarpone cheese, eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper to taste. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the bottom of the dish. Next, build your gratin in layers, alternating kohlrabi, blanched greens, basil and cream until you’re within a quarter-inch of the top of your dish. Top the gratin with more of the cream mixture and use your hands to press down the gratin in order to remove any air pockets and allow the cream to seep down between everything. (You may not need all of the kohlrabi or cream to fill up your baking dish, depending on its exact dimensions.)

Place the gratin on a rack in a low-to-medium wood oven. You don’t want to cook this too hot or the cream will burn around the edges. (To be honest, my first shot at this dish got a little scorched.) This is a recipe you’ll want to try after you’ve done your high-heat cooking and the oven is cooling down. Allow to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cream mixture has started to set up and the kohlrabi feels tender when pierced with a knife. If the gratin starts to get too dark on top, cover with foil and continue baking.

Allow the gratin to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. This dish would make a great accompaniment to a wood-oven roasted prime rib or beef tenderloin.


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