From the category archives:


This week, I make a hearty soup that mixes kale, sweet potatoes and sausage–interesting spices give it a semi-Caribbean flavor. On the side, celery root and apple–both in season now–make an easy, refreshing slaw.


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Shopping list

    Andouille sausage (12 oz.)
    Brown lentils (1/2 cup)
    Chicken stock (at least 3 cups)
    1 small celery root
    1 medium apple
    1 orange
    Bunch fresh parsley
    1 medium sweet potato
    1 small bunch collard greens, kale or mustard greens
    1 medium onion
    4 or 5 cloves garlic
    Ground allspice
    Ground cumin
    Apple cider vinegar

Allegedly Cuban Sweet-Potato Soup

soup 108The original recipe for this soup, which my mom got from a friend, who got it from some Mayo Clinic cookbook (not promising–but proof you can find good recipes almost anywhere), says this is a Cuban concoction. The allspice definitely has a Caribbean vibe, and the orange peel at the end brightens everything up in a surprising way. I’ve strayed from the original recipe–less meat, for one thing, and I leave out the tomato puree, which is, ironically, the one ingredient my expert source says is intrinsic to Cuban cooking.

The lesson, of course, is that this soup is very flexible–actually a nice characteristic of most soups, especially chunkier ones where each bite will be a little different. You can use almost any kind of greens, as well as whatever sausage you like, and the proportions can vary according to your cravings. These proportions, for instance, are heavy on the greens and sausage, but light on lentils and sweet potatoes.

Makes 4-6 servings
Olive oil
1 medium onion
4 or 5 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup brown lentils
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 medium sweet potato
Half a bunch collard greens (see note)
12 oz. andouille sausage (see note)
Heaping 1/4 tsp ground allspice
Heaping 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Black pepper
Zest from one orange

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and set to warm over medium heat. (As I describe in the podcast, alternatively at this point, if you’re not in a hurry, you can slice up the sausage, as below, and fry it while you slice up the onions; leave the sausage in the pan as you proceed with the rest of the recipe.)

Roughly chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the pot. Stir and add a pinch of salt. While onions are softening, peel, crush and roughly chop the garlic; add to the onions and stir and fry until fragrant.

soup 095Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, along with the chicken stock. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into 3/4-inch pieces (roughly), and add this to the pot. Trim and clean the collard greens, then cut them crosswise into large pieces–roughly 3 inches across, or two or three cuts across the leaf, depending on its size. Add these to the pot and stir well to cover all with the stock–it will seem like quite a lot of greens to start with (as at left), but they will soon wilt. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low.

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat while you cut the sausage into 1/2-inch slices. Fry these in the hot skillet until nicely browned, then add them to the soup. Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to the hot pan to deglaze it: scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet into the soup pot.

Add the pepper, allspice and cumin, stir well and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or so. Just before serving, grate in the orange zest and stir well.

This soup freezes well.

Greens: Mustard greens are also tasty (a little spicy), and they take a bit less time to cook than collards. You can also use frozen collards or mustard greens–one of the 10 oz. boxes is about the same amount as a small bunch. Just add them directly to the soup pot, still frozen.

Sausage: Andouille sausage is great because it’s a little spicy as well as smoky. The smokiness adds instant depth to the soup, and the other spices (and the heat) go well with the other flavors in the soup. You could use any kind of sausage (fresh or cured), though spices/herbs like fennel (found in a lot of Italian sausages) and sage don’t go quite so well with the allspice and cumin.

Celery Root and Apple Slaw

soup 102This incredibly simple winter salad doesn’t even use oil. It’s crunchy, clean-tasting and refreshing, making it a nice counterpoint to the rich, spicy-hot soup, or any other long-stewed dish with strong meaty flavors. If you want to tinker with it, you could add a small amount of crumbled blue cheese and/or a drizzle of walnut oil. Tarragon is another fresh herb that goes well with celery root.

As I say in the podcast, grating celery root on a box grater can be folly–it is very dense and hard to grate. Either run it through a food processor or slice it by hand.

For 2 generous servings
1 small celery root (see note)
1 medium apple
Apple cider vinegar
Small handful fresh parsley

soup 098Peel the celery root and cut off the knotty root ends. Cut into matchstick slices (as at left) or run through the grater of a food processor. Slice or grate the apple (no need to peel)–roughly the same amount as the celery root. Combine in a bowl and sprinkle both with apple cider vinegar and a large pinch of salt; toss well to combine. Rinse the parsley and chop it coarsely, then toss it with the celery root and apple. Serve within an hour or so, as it can lose its crispness.

celeriacNote: If you’re making the salad for only a couple of people but can find only a larger celery root (they’re usually about the size of medium grapefruit), cut off only as much as you need and slice only that. Wrap the remaining intact root in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It should stay crisp for at least a week.


This week, I make a salad that is the perfect summer meal–easy to put together, little heat required, not heavy but still nourishing.

***PLEASE NOTE: Due to some tech problems, the egg boiling in this episode does not happen in real time–I had to cut out about three minutes. So set your own egg timer, and don’t rely on the recording. Sorry about this!***


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Shopping list

    Grape tomatoes
    Green beans
    Potatoes (Yukon Gold are good; Red Bliss also work well)
    Tuna (packed in oil)
    Olive oil
    Red-wine vinegar
    Dijon mustard

Salade Nicoise

nicoise-013This French composed salad makes a nourishing summer dinner. The basic ingredients are included here, and you can also add black olives, capers and/or fresh herbs (toss the herbs with the warm potatoes, or mix them into the salad dressing). Don’t skimp on quality tuna, however–you definitely want the kind packed in olive oil. For more on boiling eggs, see Episode 4, Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs. For more on salad dressing, see Quick and Versatile Salad Dressing in Episode 2.

For one serving
1 egg
2 or 3 baby potatoes (Yukon Gold or Red Bliss)
3 or 4 large lettuce leaves
Handful grape tomatoes
Handful fresh green beans
Half small can tuna packed in olive oil

For the dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar, or more to taste
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper

Boil the egg according to the directions in Episode 4 (short version: boil 9 minutes). When done, run under cold water and set in a bowl with ice.

Wash your potatoes and cut them into quarters (or more, if they’re larger potatoes) and boil in heavily salted water for about 10 minutes, until a potato piece slides easily of a fork. When done, rinse in cold water then drain well.

Rinse lettuce and dry well.

Slice grape tomatoes in half (see note).

Wash and trim green beans, and boil briefly in salted water, until bright green but still crisp, about 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water.

Make salad dressing, following instructions in Episode 2 (short version: shake everything together in a tightly sealed jar). It’s a good idea to make more than the amount given here, so you have the extra for future salads later in the week.

Assemble salad: lay out lettuce leaves, then place additional ingredients, including the tuna, around the plate. Keep warm ingredients (egg, potatoes, beans) off the lettuce so the lettuce doesn’t wilt. Pour over dressing. You may also want to sprinkle a little salt on the tomatoes, eggs, potatoes and beans.

Note: If you’re making enough for two servings of salad, try using the nifty slicing trick I describe in the podcast, which I learned from Saveur magazine recently. Take two lids from plastic quart containers (often used for takeout food–at least here in New York). Place one on the cutting board with the rim sticking up, and arrange the tomatoes on the lid.


Then set the second lid on top, upside-down.


Hold the top lid in place and slide a serrated knife across to slice through all the tomatoes.



This week, it’s that old-school standby, sloppy joes. On good crusty bread with an interesting side salad, it makes a very easy, very satisfying dinner.


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Shopping list

    Crusty sourdough bread
    Ground beef (1 lb. for 4 people)
    1 medium onion
    Ketchup (1/2 cup)
    Red wine vinegar (about 1/2 cup)
    Brown sugar (couple tablespoons)
    Dry mustard, or regular dijon-style mustard (couple tablespoons)
    Ground cloves or whole cloves
    Celery seed
    Yogurt, ideally thick Greek-style (about 1/4 cup)
    Mayonnaise (big spoonful)
    Miso OR anchovies
    Lemon (one)
    Salt and pepper

Sloppy Joes

sloppyjoe-009Nothin’ fancy about these guys. But they are shockingly easy, they use almost no fresh ingredients (not a goal, obviously, but it’s good to have a few dishes like this in your repertoire) and, most important, they taste great.

For about 4 servings
1 medium yellow onion
1 tbsp butter
1 pound ground beef, not too lean
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp dry mustard or prepared Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp ground clove, or 5 or 6 whole cloves
Salt and pepper

For serving:
Good crusty sourdough bread or rolls

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Set a heavy skillet on the stove on medium-high to preheat while you chop your onion into rough dice. Melt the butter in the hot pan, then add the onions and stir to coat well. Add a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to medium and let the onions soften up while you mix the ketchup, vinegar, sugar, mustard, celery seed and cloves together in a large measuring cup. Add another big pinch of salt and some grinds of black pepper if you like.

When the onions are translucent, or even a little brown, add the ground beef, breaking it into pieces with the edge of your spoon. You want the meat crumbled up fairly well, but a few larger pieces are OK for variety. Pour in the ketchup-etc. mix. Give your measuring cup a rinse with a couple tablespoons of water and pour that in too. Once the mix is bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and put a lid on the pan. Depending on your stove and what else you’re doing, you may want the heat on its very lowest setting.

sloppyjoe-001Simmer about 20 minutes, until the flavors blend and there’s a nice sauce around the meat. (If you get distracted and the sauce cooks away, you can add a couple tablespoons more water and let it simmer again for another five minutes or so.)

About 10 minutes before the sloppy joes are done, stick your bread in the oven to heat up — if it’s fresh, splash it with a bit of water to make the crust extra-crispy.

Serve on hot buttered bread or rolls.

Green Salad with Radishes, Avocados and Creamy Basil Dressing

sloppyjoe-005Smooth, nutty avocados combine nicely with crispy, peppery radishes. I didn’t have them on hand for the podcast, but thinly slice red onions or chives would also be a good addition to this salad.

For the dressing, miso and anchovies serve the same purpose: an underlying saltiness and body. Use whatever you happen to have on hand, or invest in one or both. A tub of miso lasts for months, perhaps years, in the fridge, as do anchovies. You could also use other herbs–parsley, mint, tarragon–though probably in slightly smaller quantities.

For 2 generous servings
Half a head of lettuce
4 or 5 medium radishes
1 avocado

For the dressing:
2 heaping spoons thick Greek-style yogurt (or a bit more regular yogurt)
1 heaping spoon mayonnaise
1 large handful fresh basil
1 teaspoon miso, or 1 or 2 anchovy fillets, or a big squeeze of anchovy paste
Juice from half a lemon or lime
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Salt, perhaps

Rinse your lettuce and arrange in a bowl. Chop up the radishes and avocados as you see fit. (Slicing rounds of radishes is extra-pretty, but difficult to keep stable on your cutting board–that’s why I usually do half-rounds, as the flat side makes them easier to slice.)

Combine all the ingredients except the salt in a blender and whiz to combine. Taste for salt–whether you want or need it depends on your miso or anchovies. If the mix is tarter than you want, add a dollop more mayonnaise and reblend. Pour the mix over your salad and serve.


Episode 7: Pad Thai and Cucumber Salad

April 26, 2009

This week, I demonstrate the relative ease with which you can make this takeout staple for your own sweet self. Plus, absolutely no wok required! The shopping list might look a little daunting, but all the odd stuff will keep in your pantry a very long time, so whenever you have a pad thai craving, […]

Read the full article →

Episode 5: Arroz con Pollo, Fennel-Orange Salad and Raspberry Clafoutis

April 12, 2009

This week, I make a yummy early-spring dinner of Arroz con Pollo–saffron rice with chicken–with a crunchy fennel salad on the side. And there’s time for dessert–an eggy, fruity clafoutis with raspberries.

Read the full article →

Episode 2: Pasta with yogurt, caramelized onions and bacon, plus green salad and homemade dressing

March 22, 2009

This week: a simple dinner of pasta and salad, but with an interesting, Greek-inspired combination of flavors (plus bacon!) in the pasta, and a fresh green salad with easy homemade dressing.

Read the full article →