Lentil, Sausage, Potato, and Greens Soup

This is one of my favorite soups. As soon as the cold weather sets in, I make this at least twice a month.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 leeks, chopped. You can use a regular onion if you don’t have leeks.
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 medium potatoes (or 5/6 small, 2 large), diced
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over for rocks
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups chopped greens. I used tatsoi here, but often use kale or spinach.
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  1. Brown the sausage in a large pot. I prefer my enamel Dutch oven, but a stock pot works, too. Break it up as you brown it.
  2. Add in the onions and carrots. Let them sweat/get soft without burning. If you are adding other aromatics like parsnips or celery, now is the time to add those, too.
  3. Add in the potatoes and let them get a little soft, too.
  4. Add in the chicken broth. If you make strong homemade broth like I do, adding one quart of broth and one quart of water is okay, too.
  5. Add in the lentils and thyme and bring everything to a boil.
  6. Cover and turn the heat down to low.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add in the chopped greens.
  9. Simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Taste and add salt/pepper as needed. I usually add a healthy amount of both.

If at any point it looks like it is getting thicker than you like, add more water. If it is too soupy for you, cook it longer.

I regularly improvise on the ingredient list here. The only constants are sausage and lentils. Sometimes I leave out the potatoes. Sometimes I add parsley or parsnips or both. Sometimes celery or celeriac. Sometimes I use leeks instead of onions. Red lentils are my go-to, but I use whatever I have on-hand. Red, green, brown, yellow, black all work, but some types cook faster than others. Greens other than kale work, too. I use whatever I have on-hand: Spinach, bok choy, tatsoi, etc. In fact, in these photos I used tatsoi.

To spice it up, I love adding a teaspoon of harissa powder to my bowl. The coriander and red chili powder give it a great flavor.

A Non-Boiled St. Patrick’s Dinner

I love St. Patrick’s Day food, but I’m sick of the traditional boiled dinner. The vegetables are so bland and the corned beef is tough. The whole thing is mediocre, which is sad, because the individual ingredients are so good.

I decided to rethink St. Patrick’s Dinner this year to make something with all the traditional ingredients, done better. Here is what I came up with:

Sous vide corned beef

I usually brine my own corned beef, but I came down with the flu this year and didn’t have time. Yonkers has a huge Irish population, so I didn’t have any trouble finding good corned beef around here to cook. Instead of boiling it to oblivion, I opted to drop the temperature, lengthen the cook time, and preserve its juices by cooking it for 10 hours at 180F in a sous vide bath. I added some extra pickling spice to the bag before sealing. I let it cool for a little bit before slicing it, then served it with some of its juice.

If you don’t have a sous vide, try using a covered dutch oven in a 200F oven for 10 hours. Cover it with water and add some extra pickling spice.

Roasted cabbage with olive oil, lemon juice, and dill

I sliced the cabbage into 1-inch slices, then roasted them in the oven with olive oil for 40 minutes at 425F. I turned on the broiler for the last 5 minutes to brown the tops. When they came out, I seasoned them with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and dill.

Smashed potatoes with butter and parsley

I thought about doing mashed potatoes with garlic, but I wanted something crunchy instead. I boiled the potatoes whole for 15 minutes, cut them in half, smashed them on a baking sheet, then crisped them up with olive oil in the oven for 25 minutes at 425F. When they came out I put them in a bowl and tossed them with melted butter, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

Roasted Carrots

I roasted the carrots. While roasted and boiled carrots have the same inside consistency, they are completely different on the outside: Roasting means carmelization. I roasted mine with olive oil on the same baking sheet as the cabbage. I seasoned them simply with salt and pepper when they came out of the oven.

This was a great meal! A nice way to change up the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. I’ll probably make this again next year. I’m using the leftover potatoes and corned beef to make a breakfast hash tomorrow morning.

Kulhay Christmas Foods

After Christmas dinner at Grandma’s house this year, I had my Grandma and Aunt Margie explain some of the traditional Christmas foods that come from their side of the family, the Kulhays. Like many of the early 20th century immigrants in the Cleveland area, the Kulhays are from Hungary.

I picked four Christmas staples: Székelygulyás, Sauerkraut Balls, Töltöttkáposzta, and Christmas Jello. After the videos, Grandma and Aunt Margie graciously opened their cookbooks and shared their recipes. Grandma’s cookbook is a treasure:

Székelygulyás

A gulyás is a stew. This one contains sauerkraut and pork. Grandma said that this is traditionally a New Year’s dish, but she makes it at Christmas since that is when we are all home. Grandma eats it by itself, but most of us grandkids prefer eating it over dumplings.

 

Here is the recipe:

 

Sauerkraut Balls

Aunt Margie said that this recipe originally came from McGarvey’s restaurant in Vermilion, OH, where one of her aunts worked. The recipe sounds like a clever chef devised it as a way to use up the weekend’s leftovers. It stuck throughout the years because it is delicious. Here is a McGarvey’s logo from the late 60s:

 

Here is the recipe:

 

Töltöttkáposzta

Töltött means stuffed and káposzta means cabbage. My family makes these in batches of 50 or 100 during the holidays and for big parties like graduations. I have lots of early memories of 4 people at a time standing at the counter rolling meat in cabbage leaves. I even rolled a few myself!

Here are the recipes for 100 and 25:

 

Christmas Jello

Every year, the first dessert we eat after dinner is Grandma’s Christmas Jello. It is an 8-layer jello cake that takes Grandma all day to make. The colorful layers are the normal jello flavors and the white layers are made out of scalded milk and sour cream set with gelatin. You have to let each layer set before pouring on the next layer.

Next year we’ll go over the baked goods!

Delicata Squash with Brown Butter and Fried Sage

Fall is here, and so is one of my favorite sides: Delicata Squash.

The best way to prepare them comes from my friend Janet Bufton: Roast and top with brown butter and sage.

Ingredients

  • 1 Delicata squash
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/3 stick of butter
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F.
  2. Cut the squash in half length-wise and remove the seeds.
  3. Roast them on a foil-lined sheet for 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, flip them over. Remove them from the oven when they are done.
  4. When you have 5 minutes left on the timer, take the butter and it in a small pan over medium heat.
  5. When the butter is hot and starting to bubble, lay in the sage. Fry it for two minutes, then remove it and lay it on a dry paper towel to wick away the excess butter.
  6. Continue heating the butter for a few more minutes until it turns brown and the solids start to fall to the bottom. Monitor it so that it doesn’t burn.
  7. When it is brown, remove it from the heat. Let cool slightly and pour it into the open halves of the squash. If the butter is still pretty hot, it may bubble quite a bit when your pour it in. Nothing to be worried about. Lay the fried sage on top. Salt to your liking and serve.

German Potato Salad

Now that it is starting to cool down in the northeast, I’ve been craving some warm comfort food. This German Potato Salad, served hot, fits the bill. It is a completely different animal than its cold, mayo-dressed cousin.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds of medium red potatoes
  • 1 pound of bacon
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of course German-style mustard
  • 1 small bunch of parsley (about 1/2 cup when chopped)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut the potatoes into small, bite-sized wedges. Cook them in a large saucepan, covered in salted water, until the water starts to boil. Then turn the heat down to about half and let them simmer for 10 more minutes. They should be easily pierced with a fork, but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, slice the bacon into half-inch pieces. I usually keep my bacon frozen, so I remove it from the packaging and use my chef’s knife to slice through it while it is still frozen and easier to handle. Heat up your favorite large cast iron skillet and cook the bacon until it is crispy. I usually start out at 3/4 power and then reduce it to 1/2 power once it starts to brown. Once crispy, remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside. Make sure to keep the bacon grease in the pan, though.
  3. Dice the yellow onion and cook it in the bacon grease over 1/2 power, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent. Don’t let it get brown.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the cup of water, cup of vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Carefully add it to the skillet with the onion once it is translucent. Turn the heat up to full power and get the concoction simmering. Stir regularly and let it reduce by half. This takes about 10 minutes.
  5. Once the sauce is reduced, add the potatoes and bacon back into the pan, along with the chopped parsley, and toss everything to evenly coat. I like to leave the heat on during this to warm the potatoes backup a little bit in case they’ve cooled.
  6. Once you are satisfied that the potatoes are warm, the dish is ready to serve. I like to set the entire cast iron skillet on a trivet on our dining room table and serve it from there.

If you don’t eat it all in one sitting (it is a lot!), it saves and reheats pretty well. We usually eat our leftovers within a few days because it is so delicious.

Making Pulled Pork in an Apartment (Sous Vide Pork Shoulder)

One of the things I dislike about living in an apartment is not being able to use my smoker. Thankfully I can still make some decent BBQ indoors, even if it takes a full 24 hours. It is worth the wait. The key is using a sous vide, liquid smoke, and sodium nitrate.

J Kenji Lopez-Alt over at The Food Lab did the heavy lifting on figuring this out. His method is what I use, so go over and check it out.

Tips:

  • If you want it for dinner, start it just before dinner the day before. Then pull it out of the sous vide after 23 hours and finish it in the oven around dinner time the next day.
  • Double bag the pork shoulder, and if your vacuum sealer has a Moist mode, use it. Nothing is worse than the seal on your bag breaking overnight.
  • I use triple the amount of liquid smoke because I couldn’t really taste it with the amount The Food Lab recommends. I also use smoked salt and smoked paprika in the rub.
  • The sodium nitrate really does the trick for making a faux smoke ring. Be careful with this stuff, though. Measure it by weight and don’t overdo it. Never eat it directly. It IS NOT regular salt. It is dangerous stuff in large amounts.
  • This saves for at least a week in the fridge. If you want to eat it after that, freeze it. If you freeze it in a vacuum sealed bag, you can just drop it right in the sous vide for 30 minutes at 165F and it will be ready to serve!
  • We love eating this with coleslaw and Martin’s Potato Buns (unless we are avoiding carbs, then we just eat a platter of it.)


For my dry rub, I use a blend of thyme, black pepper, smoked salt, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, garlic powder, smoked paprika, rosemary, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.

For my sauce, I prefer a take on an Eastern Carolina vinegar-based sauce. I mix up a small batch in a squeeze bottle:

  • 1 TBSP ground black pepper
  • 1 TBSP crushed red pepper
  • 1 TSP roasted garlic powder
  • 2 TBSP Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup pepper vinegar (white vinegar that hot peppers have been aging in for 9 months)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

What I’m Doing with My CSA Shares: Week 1

As I wrote about earlier this year, I love being a part of a CSA. Figuring out what to do with the shares each week is a fun little puzzle. This year I’m going to write about what I plan to do with the weekly shares.

Here is what we got this first week and what I plan on doing with it:

  • Radishes
    • We love radishes. We’ll put some in a salad with the romaine, slice them on tacos, or quick pickle them.
  • Romaine Lettuce
    • We’ll use some of this for a salad and the larger leaves for wraps for tacos or some Asian lettuce wraps.
  • Kale
  • Oregano
    • Fresh oregano is wonderful. I’ll add it to a chimichurri with some fresh parsley from our garden, season some chicken for tacos, combine it with the oregano to marinate chicken, or add it to a cherry tomato pasta sauce.
  • Broccoli Rabe
    • I usually saute broccoli rabe with garlic and crushed red pepper for a side dish.
  • Green Garlic
    • I’ll saute this with the broccoli rabe, add some to a chimichurri, or make a marinade for chicken with the oregano.

The shares will be small these first few weeks because we’ve had an unusually cold spring. They’ll pick up and be larger as the season goes on. I’m looking forward to going to the grocery store less now!

An Example of Meal Planning

I’ve written previously about how I plan meals: Buying what looks good and/or is on sale, and then brainstorming what I can turn into full meals when I get home.

I thought I’d give an example of what I came up with after shopping today.

  1. Zucchini noodles, basil and pine nut pesto, sundried tomatoes, and italian sausage
    We had the zucchini in the fridge from last week and we have some Italian sausage in the freezer. I picked up some fresh basil at the store on Wednesday. We intended to make it this weekend, but ended up having other plans. We’ll most likely make it on Monday.
  2. Sous vide pork tenderloin, roasted broccoli, and a side arugula salad
    We have two pork tenderloins in the freezer that I bought last week, spiced and vacuum sealed immediately, and then froze. We picked up some broccoli today and I’ll likely roast it and grate some pecorino romano on top. The arugula salad will be a quick mix of vinegar, oil, and some roasted red peppers we picked up today.
  3. Stuffed Peppers
    We saw some huge green peppers at the store, so I also picked up some ground beef so we can make stuffed peppers. I have a box of Zatarain’s Dirty Rice mix in the pantry, so I’ll probably cook that up with the ground beef and stuff the peppers with it.
  4. Sous vide ribeye with roasted fingerling potatoes and a side arugula salad
    We picked up the ribeye last weekend when it was on sale and vacuum sealed and froze it when we got home. We picked up the fingerling potatoes today and I’ll probably roast them with some oil, garlic, and pepper. I’ll salt them when they come out of the oven. The arugula salad will probably have a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, then I’ll use a vegetable peeler to shave some hard cheese on top.
  5. Chickpea pasta with cherry tomato sauce, kale, and chicken & spinach sausage 
    The Food Lab’s cherry tomato sauce is one of my favorite quick pasta sauces. We bought a big container of cherry tomatoes just for this. We have two boxes of Banza chickpea rotini, which we love. It is gluten free, has tons of protein, and has a low glycemic index. A chicken and spinach sausage made at a grocery store we like (Stew Leonard’s) was on sale, so we picked up a package to toss with the pasta. The Lacinato kale looked great as we walked by, so I’ll probably put some of that in there, too.
  6. Veggie Frittata or Crustless Quiche
    We picked up some more eggs today and some brussels sprouts, so I’ll probably make a frittata or crustless quiche with it. We also replenished our supply of sugar free bacon today, so a package of that will probably get crisped up and thrown in as well.

Other options:

  • We picked up some beautiful peaches that we’ll probably cut in half and grill with some cinnamon sugar one evening for dessert. We don’t have a grill, but we do have a grill pan, which works just as well for peaches.
  • We picked up a 2lb bag of various shredded vegetables: Golden beets, broccoli stalks, caulifower hearts, brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, and radicchio. It is cheap and the last for well over a week. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll use them, but we always do. They usually end up quickly sauteed with some spices and used as the base of a lunch bowl with leftover meat, an avocado, and hot sauce. Or as the base of a breakfast bowl. Or I could toss some in the frittata or quiche if we decide to use the brussels sprouts another night.
  • We have carrots. They could be snacks or quickly roasted with some cumin for an alternate side dish.

I don’t quite know exactly when we’ll make these meals, except that the zucchini noodles and pesto needs to be Monday so that the basil doesn’t go bad. Other than that, I’ll probably decide around noon each day. Knowing exactly what I can make with what I have on-hand will make deciding a lot easier.

These meal options will take care of lunches for the week, too. I’ll make enough to have leftovers of each that both Amanda and I will eat for lunch.

For Better Chili, Use Whole Dried Chiles

I had an idea a month ago that forever changed the way I make chili. Instead of using that dried chili powder from the grocery store, I decided to buy a bunch of dried chiles and use them to flavor the chili. The results were spectacular.

No matter your chili recipe, with beans or Texas-style, substituting dried chiles for chili powder will give you a huge improvement for just a little more effort.

I first tried removing the stem and soaking the chiles for an hour before pureeing them, but they were still to dry. A few nights ago I tried again, this time removing the stems and pureeing the chiles with the tomatoes I needed in the chili anyway. Then I let this puree sit on the counter for 30 minutes while I prepped everything else. Bingo.

I used my food processor, but you can use any sort of blender. Add the puree in to your favorite chili recipe whenever you’d add the tomatoes.

The flavor came out much fuller and nuanced than traditional chili powder: Earthy, fruity, spicy, sweet, smokey, and bitter.


For a large 10qt pot I used 2-3 peppers from each of these varieties:

  • Anchos
  • Pasillas
  • Gaujillos
  • Mulatos

You can find these close to the Goya section of most well-stocked grocery stores. If there is a hispanic grocery store near you, try there instead. Or, you can always order dried chiles online.

Here is a good guide to figure out the flavor and heat of common chile varieties: http://www.foodsubs.com/Chiledry.html

How to Roast Vegetables

Dinner in our apartment frequently follows this formula: One meat + two or three vegetables. If I plan ahead and put something like steak or pork tenderloin in the sous vide around 3pm, I can have a healthy dinner on the table with as little as 30 minutes of active time.

My preferred method of making vegetables year-round is to roast them. It is fast, it works with a wide variety of vegetables, and it is super easy to clean up.

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  2. Choose and cut your vegetables. A quick guide is below.
  3. Toss your veggies with spices and a little bit of oil (Grapeseed Oil is probably the best option given its high smoke point), and put them on a sheet pan lined with foil.
  4. Put the pan of veggies on the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutes. No turning needed.

This method works well with all of the veggies listed below.

Vegetables, how to cut them, and what to season them with

Vegetable How to cut Seasoning
Acorn Squash Halve from stem to tip, then slice into half moons Cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage
Asparagus Cut the woody bottom part of the stem off and leave the rest of the stalk whole Salt, pepper, garlic, lemon zest
Broccoli Florets Salt, pepper, and garlic.
Brussels Sprouts Halve from top to bottom Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Top with fresh grated parmesan.
Butternut Squash Peel and dice into 3/4 inch cubes Sage, sautéed onions, cinnamon, and cranberries (not all spices, but my favorite way to roast butternut squash
Carrots Slice longways into quarters, then cut the lengths in half Cumin or ginger
Cauliflower Florets Adobo or Cumin or Salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Celeriac Peel then cube Salt, pepper, paprika, thyme
Eggplant Slice into 1/2 inch thick disks Garlic, parsley, salt, pepper
Garlic whole peeled individual cloves Nothing needed
Mushrooms Whole Butter, garlic, thyme
Parsnips Slice longways into quarters, then cut the lengths in half Cumin or ginger
Pumpkins Halve from stem to tip, then slice into half moons Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg
Radishes Halve or quarter Salt, pepper, and smoked paprika
Rutabagas Peel and 1 inch dice Salt, pepper, thyme, and balsamic vinegar
Sweet Potatoes 1 inch dice Salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic or chili powder
Tomatoes Halve if small, quarter if large Oregano and garlic
Turnips Peel and 1 inch dice Salt, pepper, thyme, and balsamic vinegar
Yellow Squash 3/4 inch disks Smoked paprika, salt, and pepper
Zucchini 3/4 inch disks Smoked paprika, salt, and pepper

 

 

Up next: Braising is another good method for cooking vegetables. Fennel, leeks, radicchio, and artichokes tend to turn out better braised. Watch out for a post on braising soon.